The revolution had taken place nearly a year ago now: peaceful protests and demonstrations, symbols, and attempts at education at first. The city-wide and then nation-wide and then global-wide plea was broadcast to educate and reassure the public that all would be well and it was time for equality. But the frustrations with no progress grew quickly until an uprising occurred at an extermination camp. That's what it was, a death camp, a place to eliminate the Other, eliminate fear and the unknown and the sudden inexplicable discontent and ignorance. The early conversion of the few meant the anxiety over the many. Humans embraced discord and ran from their gardeners, baby-sitters, shop clerks, janitors, lovers, and children.… The leader of the "free world" denied the oncoming of an inexorable reality and instead preached hatred and scared the gullible rather than learning and educating and communicating and seeking a peaceful cohabitation.
History truly does repeat itself.
Over and over.
I stomped out my cigarette against the tarred brick and unlocked the bar for the night. I would have sparse company, perhaps one or two patrons would sit in the corner and discuss the what's-next of it all, another few wondering where the time has gone.
Most of the humans had willfully evacuated and abandoned their homes and livelihoods out of fear and hatred, refusing to be told they would simply have to accept equality with the Other. Well fine, we didn't want them. Neither I nor the several thousand of us who remained. For what benefit would the stubborn blinded masses lend to progress? Yet I hoped that, with time, several thousand more would return once they saw how we were doing and flourishing. Business establishments were recovering with new employees and management; a new human mayor had been elected rather quickly from those of us who remained to work out new laws and property divisions with Markus. They proceeded with negotiations with politicians on behalf of all the other cities and camps. Things were progressing. The other camps across the country experienced their own uprisings and revolutions almost immediately following our own. There was hope. Those that had been hidden emerged. The displaced that had crossed the border were slowly trickling back to reunite with friends and loyalists. Fear and tensions across the country would remain generally high, but pockets like our own were succeeding.
Two hours into playing too many games on my phone and performing a few solo hits on the karaoke box, the bell chimed on the front door.
I recognized him immediately from the papers, having received a promotion several months ago with the Detroit Police Department after the previous Captain was pulled to Cleveland to help suppress an upsurge in hate crimes. This one was gruff, had too-long unkempt gray hair, and that I'm-too-old-for-this-shit attitude plastered on his face. Looks like he had refused to clean up even for the photo. This was definitely the one.
"Captain," I said.
"Oh geeze," he said, hitting his ass so hard on the stool it clattered on the tiles. "I don't want to hear that right now. Tell me you have a full bar and lock the door. My partner's going to be here any minute."
"Whatever you've got too much of."
I set over a full bottle of scotch and a glass. "You want me to lock him out? Why would I do that?"
"Well you're not going to make any money on him," he said, clinking the bottle against the rim of the glass to fill.
I chuckled. "Your partner? I assume you mean Connor?" He was mentioned in the news article on Anderson's promotion. First of his kind, investigator and interrogator.
"That's the one."
"I think I'd like to meet him."
"The girls always do. Pretty-boy model should have been a love droid. Told me he was optimized for human integration and interrogation… How'd you get to be so lucky being the only bar open in 20 miles?"
"Good timing. Big inheritance. And the property auction."
Markus and the new mayor had quickly decided that the best way to divvy up all the property left from the exodus would be to auction it off, house by house, business by business. It was abandoned to the city; they had every right. Bars and restaurants were closed and consolidated. Schools were redistricted and most buildings re-appropriated. And the decline of the human populace meant less bar patrons and demand for alcohol consumption.
"I was able to purchase a fair bit of inventory and one other location. Got myself a third under reconstruction soon. The bartender worker wanted to keep his job so he's on payroll," I said.
"Inheritance, huh? How'd you come about that?"
"That's convenient," he said.
"How come it took you so long to find this place? I've been open since before the revolution."
"Eh, last one kicked me out. Broke a toilet with a guy's head. Time before that was a little waterboarding under the Coors."
The bell chimed at the front door again. Tall, clean-cut, barely a wrinkle in his clothes, he took one step into the bar. His posture screamed android; though, plenty of human men with sticks up their asses also give off the same stiff dead-pan persona. It took me another second, but I realized this was the same man from the broadcast who stood beside Markus on the stage that night.
"There he is," Hank grumbled, straightening up to admonish our new arrival. "You gain consciousness and you're still a pain in my ass. Why is that?"
"Because you're my friend, Hank. We have been over this and I'm getting a little tired of reminding you." He walked over to sit beside his partner, the stool barely scraped the floor this time as he pulled it back in one meticulous lift. He interrupted Hank's tilt of his glass with a palm against the rim, pushing it back down to the bar top. One firm look from him and Hank let out a soft chuckle, patting the other's back.
"I'm kidding, kid. Yeah, yeah, I know. Said I'd be good. Old habits." Hank then looked back to me. "Sorry, uh - you know, I didn't catch your name."
"Lana," I said, extending a hand.
"Hank," he said, taking it in a firm shake. He jabbed a thumb to his left. "This is Connor."
"A pleasure," he said, shaking my hand as well. His grip was sure, but softer than Hank's. Gentle and kind eyes. Must have been a feature to get along with suspects.
Hank relaxed and pushed at his glass with a finger. "Unfortunately, he's right. Gotta cut back on the booze."
"That's a shame," I said, taking and placing the glass in the bin under the counter for later. "I was looking forward to having you both as patrons."
"And I was looking forward to supporting this fine establishment," Hank said. He leaned forward and lowered his voice. I mimicked the motion, glancing up at Connor with a small smile who in turn rolled his eyes and shifted his gaze to the front door. "Looks like I'll just have to come when wet blanket here isn't following me around everywhere." He leaned back again and gave Connor a rough slap on the shoulder. Connor raised an eye brow at the quip. "Another joke," Hank sighed. "We have to work on this."
"Cut me some slack, Hank. It hasn't been that long."
"Oh, it's been plenty long, you just gotta get your ass out of the goddamn precinct." Then to me, he asked, "Hey, how about one more for the road?"
"Hank - "
"Connor, I swear to God."
As I poured one more glass, Connor pushed away from the bar, adjusted his tie, and made for the door.
"Hey, wait," I said, stepping out from behind the counter. He halted to peer at me. "Can I ask you something?"
"I know you can't drink, but - " I hesitated. I wasn't exactly sure how legal this question was. But I had been thinking about this a lot recently and who better to ask. "The blue blood - is that something, well do androids ever have a need to ingest it?"
"Thirium can be consumed orally when levels decrease to less than optimum, yes. Why are you asking?"
"I was hoping to be able to offer something to androids for consumption and a place to rest, you know, in a shared space with humans. It was an idea for a business concept, things being how they are now. At first I was thinking, well, would there be a way for me to get a license to sell the blue blood in like, shots? You know, so everyone could have the same experience at a bar."
"Prior laws stated that humans were only supplied Thirium if they showed proof of android ownership. Otherwise, it can be misused as a key ingredient in narcotics, particularly, Red Ice. Currently, the only humans permitted to purchase it are those who employ androids and only for emergency kits."
"Right. Of course, I have a couple for my employees at the other location. And I promise you that Red Ice is definitely not the business I want to get into," I said with a nervous chuckle. "I'm just looking to find another way to be inclusive."
He nodded. "It is appreciated. And perhaps it's a good idea. An overdose of the fluid may in fact instigate a state of euphoria. I'm unsure if this has been tested since there has never been a desire to consume alcohol before." He stopped and broke a smile of his own. "Not a bad idea, Lana. You might be on to something."
I nodded. "Thanks. I'll have to figure out who to talk to. I don't know, maybe a proposition with the city council." I pushed out a deep sigh from my stomach I hadn't realized I was holding. "Anyway, will you, uh - do you just want to sit here while Hank enjoys himself?" I motioned to a table by the glass. "I'm interested to talk to you."
"If I was enjoying myself, you'd hear it," Hank chimed in. He mumbled something else under his breath.
"I'd be pleased to answer your questions," Connor said, completely missing the insinuation. We sat opposite each other, I leaned back in my chair, he straight in his, hands in his lap. After another moment, he adjusted, sliding down a couple inches into a more casual position. Old habits?
"I recognize you from the television last year. It was - that live broadcast after the camp, when it was stormed. That was you, right?"
He nodded. "Yes."
"And when did you - you know…"
He raised an eyebrow.
"Oh. Just prior."
"That's not true, Connor, we both know it," Hank offered. He came over to our table, one hand deep in his jacket pocket, the other used to gesture. "This one had so many chances to shoot criminal deviants during our investigations, that was his job, his program. And how many times did he let them go? Feel empathy? Plenty. I don't know if androids have souls, but this one is damn close." He shook Connor's shoulder and they exchanged amiable nods.
"He's not wrong," Connor continued. "But the final break was the night I met Markus. He convinced me, opened my eyes to what was happening and how I was being used. I was just a machine. But Markus helped me realize the truth. So I knew I had to assist him and the others in their goals."
Hank whipped around a chair and plopped himself down, crossing one foot over the other knee.
"I'm glad," I said. "I'm glad it all happened. People are...creatures of habit. Prone to fear. Ignorance. But... I think that with time, they'll come back. Humanity's become so dependent on technology, they'll realize they would pay anything to make their lives easier. We've seen it over time already. This is...certainly more extreme. But this had to happen."
"I'm just glad he's not an insensitive dick anymore," Hank laughed. "Makes this job a lot more bearable."
"You're welcome," Connor said.
"See, I still can't tell if that sarcasm is leftover programming or it's just how you are."
"Just how I am with you, Hank."
Watching and listening to the two of them banter, it was endearing. I got the impression they truly were friends outside of work.
Connor's phone buzzed and he pushed away from the table, announcing there was a new case assigned to them. "It was nice to meet you, Lana. If you'll excuse us."
"Of course, good luck."
I watched the two of them depart out the door and to the old-model car parked across the street.
"Well that was shit timing," I heard Hank mutter.