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      Noise… He heard the noise all around him, and felt the shock that there was armed resistance there to meet them. No one was supposed to know about the raid on the warehouse. Why did they know? The automatic rifle fire caused him to shake with its recoil. The tall man was aware of the blood and sweat on his face. His body ached, but he had to move on. He had to see this through, regardless of what happened. It wasn’t over, so there was still a way to make this end with them being victorious, and the Insyndicate scum in the lock up where they belonged.

        He heard the radio call from his partner with piercing clarity. It physically hurt his heart that the man was in so much pain because of him. There was no choice but to get to him and see if they could get him out. The run over there was more dangerous than anything else. It was a gauntlet, and he was led in by the unfeeling MX units who were assigned to the operation. They followed orders and continued to fire at the retreating gang members, while Kennex covered them until he got to Pelham’s position by his squad car. Everything had gone to hell. It wasn’t supposed to be this way! How had they found out about the raid?

        Pulling Pelham up and trying to get away back into the relative safety of the tunnel was the only option. With the damn MX abandoning them to protect everyone else, it was up to them to get themselves out. Damn synthetics and their damned cold, unfeeling mechanical hearts. Humans could handle themselves, and make the judgments the robots couldn’t even begin to think of. Before they could get too far into the tunnel a shocking pain in Kennex’s right leg caused him to tumble forward. He crashed to the ground as everything around him went white and he was met with unimaginable pain. He rolled over and looked down at himself to take stock of his body, and why everything hurt. He saw that his leg was missing above the knee and that a pool of blood was forming beneath it.

         “John.”

         Someone was calling his name. He looked around to see who was talking to him, but he didn’t see anyone, until people pushed through the smoke at the opposite end of the alleyway.

        “John, wake up.”

        A grenade was being thrown at him, but before it could reach his target, it was batted away by his DRN model partner. The android had caught the incendiary device and flung it back at the assailants before turning to Kennex crawling on the ground while trying to get away. Dorian came to Kennex’s side and kneeled, pulling him up off the ground. It had been his voice barking out his name. “Wake up, John!”

        The detective gasped loudly and tried to fight with the android holding him by the shoulders. He hadn’t come to his senses in his own time, and responded like a man frightened out of his wits by what was going on. His eyes were open, but he wasn’t seeing anything around him yet. He clawed at the face of his newest assailant, until the hands holding him started giving him quick shakes with a soothing voice insisting he awaken and calm down.

         It was only another moment before John stopped attacking Dorian with frenzied blows  and finally recognized the face beneath his hands. He took a deep breath and dropped his hands to his stomach, looking just a bit embarrassed of his actions, but unwilling to apologize for them. “Dorian. What are you doing here? I’m not late to work, it’s my day off. Why aren’t you at Rudy’s showing him a night on the town?”

        The android smiled lightly aware that the detective had forgotten about everything that had happened the previous day, which was understandable as a common human reaction to trauma. John pulled himself up into a sitting position, keeping himself covered with the blanket, a momentary sense of modesty. “You invited me to stay yesterday. Per your instructions, I called Rudy and asked him to bring my charging station, which he did, and is now set up in your back room. I made sure that you will have no trouble viewing your football trophies when are in there exercising, White Cheetah.”

        Dorian was quite sure of himself, a smirk on his face about it all. He knew it would aggravate his partner, but it wasn’t enough to make him turn violent, just enough to get him to think and remember all of the events from before. “Do you want a video playback of it, man? I can do that for you. Including what lead up to it.” The smirk turned into a smile, as if his word would be enough to have John believe him without needing the visual reminder, though Dorian had been pleased with the turn of events and wouldn’t mind replaying it for the detective.

        “No, I don’t need to see it. I remember now… But you’re going to show me anyhow, aren’t you?” He asked with his usual acerbic tone. The man frowned darkly and looked at the tablet being pressed into his hands, while the lights on Dorian’s face indicated he was accessing his recorded memory. “You don’t have to…” John fell silent when the video showed him with a thoughtful expression touching the android’s face. The detective saw Dorian’s analysis of his vital signs, and pupil dilation, though he was glad it didn’t have textual inferences. He already knew what those were. John pursed his lips, he knew the signs of someone who was lonely and thought they were in love. “You recorded this? This was supposed to be…” He ground his teeth, watching himself lean forward and kiss Dorian. John looked away a bit prudishly; he appeared not to enjoy watching someone showing affection, even if it was himself.

        The playback ended and Dorian took the tablet back. “Supposed to be private. I remember you telling me that last night. You didn’t want anyone to know we kissed, and I respect that. No one will know but us.” He assured his partner with a warm smile, watching John’s heart rate slow down to a more normal level now that he didn’t have to worry about the entire police force knowing about his extracurricular activities. “When I came in, you were moaning and grasping at the sheets. You were in REM sleep, and appeared to be panicking during your dream. Do you often have nightmares, John?” Dorian stood up from the bed and returned to the door where a tray laden with a basic breakfast covering the major food groups with complete nutrition.

        “Not that it’s any of your business,” he responded tersely, moving to lean against the headboard so the tray could be put in his lap. Breakfast in bed. Perfect. This is what husbands did for their wives on Valentine’s day, so what did that say about him if he accepted it. “But yes. I don’t sleep well.” It was unexpected that the android made him breakfast, but somehow it didn’t seem out of the realm of possibility. He did have the partner with a bleeding heart who appeared to be quite domesticated. “And no, I don’t want to talk about it.” John added quickly to forestall any attempt by the android to goad him into discussing the nature of his dreams. He finally looked down at the tray on his lap, examining it for signs that it might be undercooked or otherwise inedible. “You made me breakfast? How can you make me breakfast if you don’t know what I like to eat? And serve it to me in bed as if I was some sort of girlfriend you were trying to impress?”

        “As amusing as your hyperbole about my motives versus your sexuality is, I know that you don’t take care of yourself, and while you are recuperating from the stress of your leg failing, I have taken it upon myself to ensure you are taken care of. I’ve prepared a standard breakfast that is nutritionally balanced and portioned for your body size. I think you’ll find that it tastes better than you are expecting, even if it is not your typical Asian fare.” The android wasn’t offended his partner didn’t trust him cooking a meal, or being looked after by anyone. He knew that the last time he opened himself up to someone; it had not ended well for him.

        “You’re not going to let me get up until I eat this are you?”

        “Studies have shown that a healthy breakfast improves mood and productivity, as well as improving concentration, strength and endurance for physical activities. So, in short, no, I won’t get your crutches until you eat this. Which I suggest you do now since cold eggs frequently do not taste very good.” Dorian didn’t need to raise his voice to get his partner to understand his point of view usually, and this time was no different. He laid out a logical argument in a way that ensured he would not be argued with over something little, along with a perfectly amiable smile about the situation.

        While Dorian blathered on about the virtue of eating breakfast, John picked up his fork and proceeded to do so. He couldn’t deny that he’d been hungry, but he had thought to eat some of the leftovers in his refrigerator. “Fine, but I want my ‘typical Asian fare’ for lunch, if I haven’t blown out your mechanical skull before we get that far in the day.” He grumped, but continued to eat the food in front of him. He glanced up at Dorian while eating. He made faces the android had come to associate with the man not wanting to reveal a truth they both knew. Instead, John snorted loudly and bent back over the food once more, finishing off the eggs and sausage with a bit more rapidity than he might normally have. “You mentioned crutches earlier? I don’t have any. I don’t use them.”

        “I know. You should consider using them to get around when you don’t have your prosthetic attached. They’re easier to use than a wheelchair, and offer you a greater range of motion. You’ll be able to reach things on the shelf, and manage yourself when I’m not around to do things for you.” The android was thorough with his analysis of why John needed to use crutches, and it was evident that John would be without that leg for more than a day.

         “Rudy wasn’t able to fix my leg?” The man didn’t sound pleased, but he was enigmatic about how disappointed he was on the issue. He snorted about the crutches, thinking about simply ignoring the comment. If he wanted those damn things, he would have had them already. “How long am I going to be laid up? We need to get back to kissing… Working. We have cases we need to be working on. Like finding the Insyndicate hideout. It’s probably across The Wall.” While he spoke, he looked at Dorian, deciding that if he ignored his slip, the android would as well. But he knew it had been heard and picked up on, and he couldn’t deny that he had enjoyed it. Perhaps he’d forgotten how enjoyable kissing actually was. It’d been over two years since the last time he’d had anyone close enough for intimate contact like that, and he barely registered the oddness of the synthetic skin.

        “He hasn’t given up on fixing your leg; it just might take a bit longer than previously estimated.” Dorian had quite a bit of faith in the technician, but he knew his partner would need something before too long. He wasn’t one to lounge around his apartment, left to the torments of his own mind. “And until it is complete, I’ll be staying here to make sure everything is taken care of. That is what you asked of me, isn’t it?” He kept his eyes focused on John’s cloudy and uncertain ones, though internal ocular sensors flashed to the man’s chest for a read on his pulse and his lips for rate of respiration. Dorian remained in a neutral position while John thought about a response to the posed question, though he began to process that such a thing would not be welcome.  Before speaking, he pursed his lips and lowered his head the way someone might when they wanted to manipulate another person. “Of course, I will leave if you ask me to. I know how you like to be alone.”

        “You really are a pain in my ass, you know that? You think you can just guilt me into doing what you want? Well, you’ve got another think coming.” The man frowned darkly, his eyebrows furrowing. He watched Dorian’s smiling face and thought about simply ordering him from his sight so he could be alone again, but his eyes betrayed him when they dropped to Dorian’s lips. He thought about them, how it felt to kiss them. His own lips parted slightly, John’s breath came in short and shallow huffs. He knew he shouldn’t be falling for his partner, but for some reason, he wasn’t able to stop himself. He thought about what it felt like to hold someone and be held in return.

        The detective closed his eyes and looked away, a pained expression coming to his face. He hadn’t realized how silent he’d fallen and that Dorian was simply watching him, taking stock of the physiological changes he was undergoing. John thought about what it would mean to start a secret relationship with his partner, he could trust the android where he couldn’t trust anyone else, but his most recent experience with a lover indicated that it was a lie that anyone would be loyal to him. He wondered if Dorian would ultimately betray him as well, despite what they had gone through as partners on the force. He wasn’t sure if wanted to open himself up to another. He didn’t want his heart broken so traumatically again.

        “John, it’s going to be alright.” Dorian’s voice cut through his internal thoughts, quickly drawing him back to reality, and the fact that he had been acting strange. “I’m not going to hurt you while I’m here, nor am I going to force you to accept my companionship outside of a professional setting once your prosthetic has been repaired.”

        The voice was kind and patient, Dorian really did have an excellent way with people who were upset, John thought to himself. He felt his head bobbing up and down while he returned his eyes to Dorian’s beautiful face. He saw the concern in the android’s expression, but wasn’t quite able to say anything further. He was still wrapped up in his thoughts about whether or not he could actually trust someone to get close to him again, but if he didn’t trust his partner, who could he trust? Who could he trust with his darkest secrets, especially if there was an unexpected emotional response and those secrets came to light? “Uh-huh…” was all he managed to get out vocally. Suddenly, it was becoming all too clear that he wasn’t prepared to have any kind of conversation like this with anyone, let alone his partner who was staring at him expectantly. Had a question been asked?

        Before he could say something, Dorian moved the tray and its empty dishes aside and to the back of the bed. Dorian smiled again, a smile that was calculated to inspire trust in who saw it. With the space open between them now, Dorian pressed the advantage he had gained while John was distracted. He scooted closer on the bed and wrapped his arms around the John’s torso, pulling him close for a kiss that carried more passion than the previous ones. The android used the non-visual cues John gave off to surmise that it was what he wanted. There was only momentary resistance from the human, until he could figure out exactly where he wanted to put his hands around Dorian’s back.

        Dorian felt John relax in his arms and slowly leaned forward, pushing his partner back onto the bed. From John’s appreciative and unconscious sounds, the android could surmise that the affection was not unwanted. The kiss ended when John pulled away in favor of pressing his lips to Dorian’s neck and ear. John couldn’t be certain whether or not Dorian had that level of sensation in his skin, but the android wasn’t going to suggest to his human that he didn’t have the same level of feeling John did when Dorian did the same things to him.

        When John was lying completely on his back, Dorian pulled away, a satisfied smile on his face. He put a hand gently on his partner’s stomach, stroking it as he would a loyal dog. “That must have been acceptable to you, John. You look as if you might not see straight for several days. How long has it been since you’ve kissed anyone like that?” With the colloquialism routine running in the background, he could express his amusement in statements that shouldn’t have been taken to mean anything other than noticing the detective enjoyed their activities. His eyes swept down over John’s body, making a quick scan of him to ensure his body was functioning as it should, and to take note of the physiological changes that were happening.

        “Go put away the dishes, Dorian,” John started, lifting a hand to distract the android from his scans. He was well aware of what would be picked up, and decided he wanted to avoid that little embarrassment for awhile yet. He waved his fingers when Dorian’s eyes got to his stomach. Clearing his throat, the detective pushed himself up with one hand, the other sticking a finger into his partner’s ear.

        The move was effective enough to stop Dorian who made a bewildered face and noise. His systems registered that it was an odd thing to have been put in him. He stared at the wall opposite him, while internal diagnostics were run, showing the size and shape of the invasive probe in his ear. Pulling away, Dorian turned his confounded expression on his partner, as if asking for an explanation. He studied John’s face, and noticed a smirk growing across it.  “Why did you do that? It’s incredibly rude to put things in someone without their permission.”

        “Yeah, well, it’s rude to scan someone after kissing them, so I guess that makes us even.” The detective was quite proud of himself, and chuckled about what he’d done. He didn’t care that the android wasn’t pleased, he was trying to save himself from Dorian noticing that he’d become a bit more excited than he had been in a long time. “Go put the dishes away while I get a shower, or at least go to the bathroom. My wheelchair is out in the living room; bring it to me when you come back.” Briefly, he wondered just how much damage had been done to the leg that it wasn’t fixed yet. Cleaning himself while balancing on the one leg would be difficult at best… Shower later; get Dorian out of the room now.

        “Alright, I’ll clean up after you. I know what you’re trying to hide, but you don’t want to talk about it, so I won’t make you this time.” The android stood up from the bed, an amused smile on his face now that he had been able to figure out why his partner felt the need to stick a finger in his ear. He walked to where the tray of used dishes had been moved and picked it up carefully. “I’ll talk to Rudy about your leg, see if he’s gotten anywhere with it.” He turned with the items and strolled from the room.

Chapter Text

          While he walked to the kitchen, Dorian thought about the changing dynamic of their relationship. He reviewed the captured data about the situation, paying specific attention to how John now spoke to him while they were in private. He made the assumption that such a thing would not carry over to their professional association. Carefully, Dorian set his burden down on the counter. He picked up the dishes one by one and set them into the sink in preparation for cleaning them and returning them to the cabinets where they belonged. While he washed each dish, he wondered what might have happened to cause his partner to choose him for intimate contact and not detective Stahl.

          She fit his description of his ideal woman, but that hardly seemed to matter in Dorian’s eyes. Based on recent events, he began to wonder if John’s revelation about his most recent relationship with a woman turned him off to the gender entirely, or if he had indeed been rebuffed by Stahl. Dorian shook his head slowly; coming to the realization that he hadn’t had someone could simply bring him down when he got hyped up. Their personalities complimented each other in many ways, and it was likely more of a reaction to that. Is that what love was? He did a quick search, ignorant of the lights on his face that indicated data being processed, and found all the information he could handle.

          Sifting through it, he was able to process that love appeared to be a chemical reaction within the brain, present in three distinct stages with their own neurotransmitters that were akin to narcotics. A question for another day was why an odd heart became the symbol for it. Humans used strange symbology for their emotions. With the data present for the lust, attraction, and attachment phases of human interpersonal relationships, he returned to the scans of his partner’s body, respiration and other vital signs. He determined there was a distinct correlation between John’s actions, and what the researched showed about lust and attraction. Was this why the man had been insistent on him staying over? Signs pointed to it, but he would need to ask directly.

          He recalled John’s response to being in the sexbot sales building. They had been surrounded by female models that all seemed to have John’s eye, and lust. Dorian began to wonder if it had been a fluke, or that his partner had simply been alone so long that anyone who showed interest in him on a personal level would have done. Or, more likely that a woman he loved being the cause of his current predicament caused him to no longer find women to be suitable mates, but he could still appreciate the female form enough to be aroused by it. He needed further information that could only come from the source itself, so Dorian bent down to finish the dishes, while replaying how John responded to him while they were kissing, the sound of his bated breath and the moans.  Most women would find John was handsome enough that if he could get out of his own way, he didn’t need to be alone, and if he had anything to do with it, neither of them would ever be alone again. He wanted to know where the man was most sensitive; he made interesting sounds when under the influence of external stimuli.

          The corners of his mouth twitched up in a smile, while he imagined how the conversation would go when he asked John for their arrangement to be permanent. He sensed the detective hadn’t been as enthusiastic about him returning to Rudy’s lab as he might have been at some other time. The smile faded when he thought about how the world at large would view such a relationship. Humans and robots were separate, and very different. There weren’t many of his kind still in use, and fewer still that had the same learning module and could properly adapt to being in a relationship. Dorian rested his hands on the edges of the sink while he thought about it, and accessed data about anti-human/robot relationships. Robots were second class citizens, and barely referred to as anything other than ‘it’, but he was different. He knew he was different, and he knew John was different too; they would be able to overcome those sorts of prejudices if they appeared as a couple in public. Or as police officers, they wouldn’t show that outside of the man’s apartment, which seemed to be a much more likely scenario.

          While he was so engrossed in himself, Dorian missed that his partner was hopping out of the bedroom. John sighed at seeing the wheelchair and moved to slide into it. Well, Dorian did bring it. He sat down slowly, content to take care of himself for the moment. Crutches… Those are painful, and it’s not like I move around that much here. Running a hand through his hair, John reached down to unlock the wheels and propel himself out into the rest of the place. When he got out far enough to see that the water was still running, and Dorian was simply staring into the sink, John got a bit confused. His face lights were on, so he knew the android was processing some kind of data. “Hey, Disco-face,” he started conversationally, not immediately getting his attention. “Dorian, I think the dishes are clean enough, turn off the water.” What was going on in his mind? Where their actions making him malfunction? Maybe he shouldn’t have kissed him.

          It finally sunk in that someone was talking to him. Dorian reached out to turn the water off. Setting the plate on the drain board, he turned to look at his partner looking at him with a confused expression. The android smiled and turned back to the counter to get a dish towel so he could dry his hands off. “I thought you were going to shower, John. I didn’t hear the water, and you don’t seem the type to take short showers, especially while you had something else to take care of.” With his hands dry, he walked closer to the human, coming around the counter to see him sitting in the wheelchair as if it’s the most natural place for him, despite his earlier insistence on crutches. “I approve of you walking around in shorts. Your leg is quite sexy; a sexiness I can’t really see when you’re wearing pants.”

          “You’re looking at my leg, Dorian? That’s my body you’re ogling.” He seemed to be in a much improved mood now than he had been yesterday with the recalcitrant suspect and immediately failing leg. John felt at ease in his apartment now, and enough trust had grown between himself and Dorian that he could let down his guard. John lifted a hand to rub at his cheek, and then look around at the light flooding in through the windows of his apartment.  “Just don’t scan me anymore, unless I really need it because I’m having a heart attack, or my leg falls off and I collapse face first in the dirt. No bioscans…” He failed to add in what that it might be necessary should things progress to being more intimate than simply kisses. Though, he trusted himself to let the android know what he enjoyed and what he didn’t.

          “No bioscans,” Dorian agreed. He turned around to one of the walls and produced a pair of crutches for his partner to use temporarily. “I’ve got these for you, Rudy brought them by when he came to pick up your leg. I think it will be easier for you to get around, John, and you don’t have to worry about trying to stand up if there’s a problem with something being out of reach. And there’s something I want to talk to you about before Rudy gets back.” He pursed his lips after the fashion of his partner, uncertain about whether or not this would be a good idea to begin with. “It’s important, and Rudy will be coming by today.”

          John looked at Dorian while he was talking, then the crutches. He frowned darkly and shook his head. “I don’t think so, Dorian. They’re uncomfortable. I tried using them when I first came out of the coma. The chair is easier, especially since I don’t have to go for very long without my leg. I put it on the charger and go to bed, and then I wear it all day.”  He shook his head and waved off the crutches, deciding he wanted to remain sitting for the moment, it gave him a new perspective on everything he could see.

          The android frowned and turned to set the crutches down. “You don’t want to make it easier to hop around? I won’t force you to use them, but I’ll give you a demonstration about why you should have them.” He noted that the brakes had been put on the wheels, locking them in place. “You’d be able to get away from anyone who wanted to come at you.” He took several quick steps forward and bent down to grab his partner under his armpits. Dorian lifted John out of the chair without a thought and turned to set him up on the counter. He ignored John’s protests, with an unsympathetic smile. “You weren’t able to get away from me, John. So I put you exactly where I wanted you.” He put his hands on the counter on either side of the man’s hips. “So now I can talk and you have to listen.” Dorian smiled, willing to go as far as John would allow him before he shut down and rejected the android.

          John protested being picked up. He didn’t enjoy the feeling and nearly panicked in Dorian’s hands. “No! Put me down!” When his bottom hit the counter, he grunted impatiently. This hadn’t been what he meant, nor was it what he wanted. But with Dorian now invading his personal space enough to make it nearly impossible for him to jump down, the detective had little choice but to do as he wanted. He considered the idea of kicking Dorian in the chest, but ultimately rejected that idea, thinking he didn’t have enough space to do it. He didn’t want to go down without a fight, so he lifted his knee up quickly, but not quite fast enough to prevent Dorian’s hips from connecting with the countertop and locking him firmly in place. “You can’t just do what you want, Dorian. It doesn’t work that way.”

          The android dropped his head to laugh while moving his arm in response to John’s antics. He really could be childish when he wasn’t getting what he wanted. Dorian grabbed the knee in his armpit and held it firmly against his side. “I’m not doing anything inappropriate, John. We’re going to talk. This was just the most effective way of making sure I had your complete attention.” He noted without looking that the blue shorts his partner was wearing had slid up, revealing a toned thigh. Gently, he rested the fingers of his hand on the exposed skin, studying the changes in his partner’s face. He would have to take things slower, judging by the startled expression on his face and the rigidity of his muscles, he wasn’t expecting anyone to make such an intimate advance on him. “I know you will think we would be moving much too fast, but given how long we have been partners, I don’t believe it should come as any surprise that I would feel this way, or ask you to feel the same.”

          He’s using that voice again. He’s treating me like a victim. John frowned, listening more to his voice than his words, but not making the distinction that Dorian was speaking honestly about what he felt. In his mind he heard what was being said, but the words didn’t compute for him. He didn’t understand what was being asked of him. Why would he need to feel the same way as Dorian about something? That didn’t make a lot of sense. They were very different in many ways, starting with him being human, and Dorian not. He looked everywhere but at his partner, thinking about anything that wasn’t what the android wanted to talk about. But one question stuck out in his mind. He froze when the question was asked. It was a dangerous question, dangerous for him, and for the android himself. John’s eyes grew wide while he stared down at the floor; he was aware of how it must look to the concerned android and swallowed nervously, his mouth suddenly painfully dry at the prospect of needing to answer him verbally.

          “John, talk to me…” Dorian sounded worried now. His eyes flicked to different points on the man’s body, checking him for signs of something other than anxiety. He noted that John’s heart was beating at an accelerated rate. His words had had an undesired effect, and he started to doubt himself about asking, but it was quickly becoming something he wanted. No one treated him quite the way his partner did, and he appreciated it, even when they fought about something. He looked up into John’s face, calculating his respiration and found it to be shallow and elevated. “John?” He tried again, worried at how silent the usually recalcitrant detective had become.

          “That might not be such a good idea, Dorian.” He admitted slowly, choosing his words carefully so he wouldn’t worry as much about Dorian growing angry and reacting with violence. “You don’t want someone like me for this. You read the medical profile of me when I returned to active duty?”

          “I did.”

          “Then you know I suffer from: depression, mental atrophy, trauma-onset OCD, PTSD, and a psycho--!”

          The man’s self-deprecation was silenced by Dorian’s smile and a lingering kiss. It didn’t last as long as John thought, the android dropping back to stand fully on his feet with a self-assured smile. After having viewed several videos of movies about people in love, he had found that to be a common tactic to get the protesting party (usually the female) to quiet down and accept what was happening. He had taken a chance that it would work on his partner, and was pleased to see the shocked expression without revulsion. While he might have been denying what was being requested of him, he wasn’t outright rejecting it, only indicating that he wasn’t worthy enough to be a part of it. “If I wanted someone perfect, I’d ask detective Stahl.”

          The detective snorted, recognizing that she would always come up for something or another. He liked the girl, but he knew better than to try pursuing her after his swing and miss at declaring his intentions for her. He shook his head and tried to shift, which only brought his leg further up on Dorian’s side. “I’m just saying it’s not a good idea. You know that humans and robots aren’t supposed to have that sort of relationship, even one as unique as you are. If Sandra found out about it, we’d be split up, and you’d be shot up into space.” To emphasize his point, he jerked his index finger into the air to indicate how fast that would all happen. “I shouldn’t have kissed you, Dorian. If I’d known it would have caused this to happen, I probably would have tossed you out on your ear once you got me home yesterday.”

          Despite speaking with some alacrity, John’s expression was pained. It would be difficult for anyone to even comprehend that that was exactly what he felt, or if he was simply trying to maintain the status quo with the Synthetic Soul. It was evident to Dorian that the attraction must have been mutual based on what he understood about the chemical reaction that love was within humans, and that at no point had the detective protested being kissed or having someone that close to him. “I am willing to keep a relationship between us a secret, John. Willing and more than capable of doing so. No one will find out from me about any of it. If you are capable of the same, then I see no reason why we cannot break a rule like that. Love should not be bound by whether or not you are human and I am not, or vice versa. You appreciate me being here to help you, and I appreciate you trusting me enough to allow me to be this close emotionally and physically. I’m capable of forming these sorts of bonds; it’s why most of the people we interview warm up to me faster than you. This would just be a different sort of bond, an intimate one only for you and me.”

          John snorted again and shook his head. He didn’t think he was worthy of being in a relationship with anyone with his myriad of problems, let alone a crazy synthetic from the scrap heap. “You’re not going to let this go are you?” Dorian shook his head in response, causing John to sigh and lean back against the cabinets. “And just what do you know about love? You can’t learn that stuff from reading webpages. It doesn’t work that way. Love isn’t that easy. You can’t just fall in love with me because I wanted you to stay over for a few nights while my leg is being repaired…”

          “We’ve been partners for over a year now, John.”

          “And you think that qualifies us to be boyfriend-boybot? What would that even be called?” John’s voice rose in pitch and speed with how agitated he was becoming with the topic. He was starting to come around to the fact that it wasn’t likely Dorian would accept no, without it coming out in that particular language, and probably a physical rejection. “And now you’ve got me up here on this counter so you can play, what?” The man was getting himself worked up into a lather about the situation, exposing how afraid he truly was to allow someone else into his life, even someone who had saved him several times and whom he trusted almost implicitly.

          They both recognized that this was mostly a response from his psychological issues regarding his previous relationship, but only Dorian appeared to be keeping a cool head. Neither of them heard the knock at the door, someone outside wanting access to the apartment, though the knock was loud enough.. “I know you’re scared, John. If I’d gone through what you had, I would be too. I’d swear off any woman that could put me in that sort of position again, but I’m not like your ex-girlfriend. I’m your partner, and I think I’ve proven that you can trust me more often than anyone else in your life besides Captain Maldonado. I’m not asking you to commit this instant. I’m asking you to give me a chance, take it slow. We’ve kissed several times now, and I’ve noticed the change it causes in you. Your breathing, your heart rate, and other physiological changes. You enjoy it, and respond to me in a way I’ve never seen you do with anyone else.” Dorian was firm with his tone, his free hand emphasizing certain points with a light pounding on the counter. “You’ve already admitted to being amenable to dating someone in your profession. I think it can work for us, and I’m willing to try.” Again, he spoke as the voice of reason between the two of them. He stared up at the man with a pensive look and a simulated sigh.

          John deflated when things were put to him that way. He recognized the truth in the android’s words and lifted a hand to massage at his forehead. This can’t be happening to me. His lips pursed again, and for the moment, he concentrated all his effort on simply breathing at a regular rate to calm himself down. It wouldn’t do to give himself a heart attack just yet. He had to save that for something really special, like when Richard started riding him too hard. He sighed again, wanting to believe that this was a good thing for him. “I don’t know, Dorian. We would have to keep everything under wraps. Only in my car, or here in my apartment. We can’t hold hands or anything else where someone who might recognize us can see.” He didn’t want to admit to being fearful of another traumatic event causing their break-up, but he had to be willing to recognize that it could happen if they were caught on any camera anywhere that a police facial recognition software was active, which was just about everywhere. But there was more than one way to ensure they could be a couple in public.

           “I know you want to say yes. So I will assume those conditions placed on our relationship are a sign of your consent.” Dorian smiled widely, displaying happiness that he had managed to convince John that they could do what they wanted, and keep it secret for a good while. There would be few impediments to anything, especially if no one knew what happened. At some point he would need to return to Rudy’s lab, considering that is where their supervisor had given permission for him to stay. He doubted that Maldonado would give permission for him to move in with John without the detective’s explicit request, which would not likely happen, given both their understandings about the taboo nature of what Dorian was suggesting of him. “It’s going to be alright, John.”

          Slowly, the android reached up to touch John’s cheek. He would view more movies about romantic situations tailored to men specifically like this one, trusting that it would work well enough to give him a clue as to how to make things work. However, since neither of them was female, it would make this research much more difficult. To begin with, he started flashing through as much data as quickly as he could, aware that John could see the processing lights flashing around his face while he examined the data.

          “That’s fine. Just stop the light show,” the detective mused, his fingers searching out the traces of where they belonged on his partner’s face. They were interesting, but a bit disconcerting while they were discussing something as significant as a relationship.  “Whatever you’re trying to figure out, it’s not going to be appropriate for this situation. You can’t rely on what everyone else says about everything.”

          “Including romance movies?”

          “Especially romance movies. Those are just the worst when it comes to portraying a real life experience. Humans just take things as they come, Dorian. They say variety is the spice of life. It’s supposed to make things better somehow.”

          The lights stopped, Dorian’s search put on hold for the moment. He didn’t buy into what the detective was telling him, but he would comply for the moment. “Alright. Then based on your personal knowledge, what is it that we should be doing to strengthen our newly forged relationship?” Neither of them heard the door swing open, and the grunts that followed someone new entering the apartment apparently carrying an ungainly packaging.

          “For starters, you can let go of my leg and get me down off this counter. It’s cold, and just a little painful for my bony ass.”

          John’s return to sarcasm amused Dorian enough to cause him to nod and wrap the arm not holding the bare leg firmly against his side around John’s torso. He pulled him clear of the countertop and lowered him enough to still trap him there. The man took little effort to move around thanks to the strength built into the DRNs for lift capacity. “I like your legs. Your fake leg is really sexy, John.” He said it this time without mimicking Stahl’s voice.

          The compliments made them both laugh, and kept John from protesting his new position just them. To stabilize himself without having any limbs touching the ground, he wrapped his arms around Dorian’s shoulders. He held on with the intention of dragging the robot on top of him should he start falling. “Stop it,” he said with a laugh, he shifted again and leaned close enough to press their lips together. If they were going to be in a relationship, he might as well teach Dorian how to kiss, before he tried to figure out anything else, or change his mind about everything. He tightened his grip on the android, a sign to him that he should do something similar. Without realizing it, he closed his eyes and sighed appreciatively. He took control of the kiss, pressing his tongue to Dorian’s lips lightly. John preferred hands-on learning experiences to academic learning.

           “Detective, I really must insist that you stop using the robotics as a pincushion. Do you have any idea how many circuits and other synthetic pieces you managed to destroy with your little stunt? Including some of the measures I put into it specifically to protect your leg. That it lasted this long is truly a…” The voice of the technician making his way into main part of the apartment was not enough to stop the partners from kissing each other. They appeared not to even notice his presence immediately. Rudy stared at the two and swallowed nervously. They were kissing. Partners weren’t supposed to be doing that, certainly not one who claimed to hate robots the way John Kennex did. His blue eyes went wide with shock and he nearly dropped the precious cargo he was carrying. He cleared his throat hastily and turned away to give the pair a few seconds to compose themselves, trying to make sense of what he had just witnessed. He’d seen a human detective who disliked synthetics with his tongue down the throat of one of those things he didn’t like… Was it Topsy-Turvy day?

          The arrival and subsequent noise from the technician caused both officers to pull away from each other. They looked over at Rudy while Dorian had the foresight to release John’s leg slowly so he wouldn’t collapse to the ground unceremoniously. John hopped behind a counter, aware of how embarrassing the entire scene was, while Dorian simply turned to look at Rudy with his arms down at his side. “Don’t you know how to knock, Rudy? It’s rude to come into someone’s house unannounced.”

          “Unannounced?” The geeky man turned back to face the pair, taking John’s jab as a sign that it was alright to look once more. “I was talking while I walked inside. You didn’t hear me because you were snogging Dorian and moaning at him.” He couldn’t help but express his dismay at the show of intimacy. He knew as well as they did what would happen if anyone caught wind of what happened between them, and he knew he was a terrible liar should someone ask him about it. “Were you trying to run some sort of diagnostic on him, John? Because he’s not a sexbot. He’s a DRN, a highly sophisticated robot designed for police work.”

          John lifted his hands from the counter to fend off Rudy’s charges, a bemused expression coming across his face. “We weren’t ‘snogging’, Rudy.  I got up on the counter to get something, and Dorian was helping me down.” He looked at his partner for assistance, his eyebrows going inward while he twitched his head to indicate that the android should take up for him and toe the line, though he could tell by the smile on Dorian’s face that it wasn’t likely to happen that way.

          “You had your tongue down his throat. That’s snogging.” Rudy took a deep breath to catch up with himself and put together more suitable arguments for why it shouldn’t be happening.

          “Or I was checking his throat for synthetic tonsillitis.” John interjected, though it had no effect on cooling Rudy’s ire about him.

          “Do you know what Captain Maldonado is going to do when she finds out? You’re not supposed to be intimate with a robot, especially not one you work with. You hate robots. You leap at every opportunity to remind us all about it.”

          “Woah, Rudy, listen. I don’t like robots. I like Dorian. I want to spend time with…”

          “Doctor Lom, it’s alright,” Dorian finally broke in. He took several steps closer to the skittish man. “He’s not doing anything to me that I don’t approve of. I trust him, and he trusts me.” He held his hands out in front of him to show that he was not a threat currently, despite the tirade that had just happened. “If he was doing something I didn’t want, don’t you think I could have stopped him without any effort? Captain Maldonado already knows that I am staying with him while his leg is being repaired, so it is unnecessary to go to her with anything about what’s gone on, unless you were unable to repair his leg.” Dorian emphasized the appendage in Rudy’s arms, indicating that there should be an end to the conversation about what had been seen.

          The attention shifted, and John sighed quickly, relaxing now that he wasn’t having an argument with the technician about his activities with the android. He settled himself against the counter and watched while Rudy frowned and tried to make more statements about why he didn’t want to see the pair in anything other than a professional relationship. He watched Rudy’s shoulders sag and the fire go out of his eyes after Dorian’s speech. Apparently, being consenting adult and robot was all that was needed. “Were you able to fix it, Rudy?” John tried without the accusations or the anger from before.  “If you did, I’d like to put it on and go get dressed.”

          “Huh?” The squirrely man looked at the detective in some confusion when his attention pulled away from Dorian assuring him that nothing untoward was happening. “Your leg? Oh! Your leg, right.” He shook his head quickly and walked further into the kitchen area of the apartment.  “I’ve fixed it, but don’t go stabbing a knife into it again. You never know when you’re going to need to escape your SINs.” Rudy offered the leg thigh first while staring hard into John’s eyes to make sure he understood the meaning.

          John pursed his lips, aware that Dorian was completely out of the loop on the exchange that was just happening, and about to ask about such an odd exchange. He frowned darkly, ignoring the expressions on Dorian’s face and questioning sounds he made. “So it’s set up then?” They were speaking in a code, though the words could have been germane to the topic at hand. Clearly they would have been talking about the leg to anyone that might have been listening.

          Slowly, he leaned forward while John turned to put his thigh up. “It’s going to need to calibrate itself to your body again, but that shouldn’t take long. I estimate you should be able to run on it before midnight. Which you should do. Run to the park, the store, and back.” Rudy pressed the synthetic appendage onto John’s thigh and twisted it to lock in place. The device maintained its silver appearance while Rudy opened a panel on it and the calibration was started. “The Queen needs us.”

          With that settled, the technician stepped away from John who finally sat on a stool. “So don’t go trying to do anything foolish. Let the leg finish its calibration before you go for that run. You know how you hose it when it’s not calibrated.” He turned away and moved to the sink to wash his hands. “I expect some sort of recompense for this, John. You’re really one of the worst…” He stopped short at a hissed noise from the detective, and became acutely aware of Dorian’s presence and that he wasn’t aware of what they might be discussing if they went too far into personal details. “Well, with this all taken care of, I should get back to the lab. Lots of androids to repair, you know?”

          “See you later, Rudy,” John said with his usual alacrity, while waving him off. He needed to get things ready for that night, which meant sitting comfortably while his leg did what it needed to do. He could tell it had a full charge and would last well into the night. There was no need for him to worry about that. Carefully, he came around the table. He trusted Dorian to see Rudy out while he went to put on pants and get out of his shorts. He would have to leave as soon as the leg finished calibrating, and Dorian was in his charging station.

          He ran a hand through his hair while thinking about exactly how he was going to slip out of the house with the android around. He needed to turn off his locator chip and make sure he had enough ammunition for what he would need to use it for. Rudy hadn’t been able to give him much information about what would be happening because of Dorian’s presence, but it would be alright. He had several hours.

          While he was thinking, the detective pushed his shorts down over his hips. He yawned and failed to hear Dorian approach and stare at him. John wasn’t wearing anything beneath the shorts, so the android could see everything that usually remained hidden beneath dark pants. The android returned from the door and shifted his weight on his feet while he stared at his partner. He took in everything, a smile growing across his face at John’s forgetfulness. He watched the half-naked man bending over the bed where his black pants were laid. Tilting his head slowly, he watched John’s shirt ride up his back and give him a perfect view of the pasty white behind. He ran a quick scan of the man’s body, when John’s legs parted enough for him to see everything. A diagnostic window popped up, targeting his testicles, and their capacity. He noted that they were near capacity. He inferred that at some point, his partner had made time to empty them, if only a little.

          Curiosity got the better of him. He found that he would prefer to know if John was being completely honest with him from the outset of their relationship. “John, are you sleeping with anyone?” He asked in a conversational tone while John put his legs into his boxers, affording him a good view of every part of John’s unclothed legs.

          “Am I what?” John jumped into a standing position, yanking his boxers up over his hips. His quick movements prevented him from getting them on quite right. In his haste he managed to miss getting himself all the way into his clothing while he turned to face the android questioning him. “Am I sleeping with someone? Dorian, what’s the matter with you?” He stared at the android, then down at himself where he noticed that he was not quite dressed.  John turned around to finish getting himself dressed, completely embarrassed about being seen that naked.

          “I did a bio-scan while you were getting dressed,” he freely admitted to his partner. “I was checking you out.” Dorian pursed his lips and looked pointedly at John’s crotch when the man finally turned around after zipping up his pants. “I noted a physiological change. The first time I scanned your testicles they were full, but this time they were not. I concluded you must have expelled the contents at some point recently, therefore you most likely slept with and engaged in sexual activities with someone that was not me. So, I’ll ask again, for the sake of honesty in our relationship, are you sleeping with anyone?”

          “You’ve got to be kidding me…” John muttered darkly while Dorian spoke so casually about scanning his body again, John lifted a hand to his mouth to cover his complete shock and dismay. During the android’s spiel, John finally burst in with words of his own. “I can’t believe you, Dorian! We just talked about this. Don’t scan me unless I need it! We aren’t at a point yet where I’m comfortable being naked around you.” He fell silent when Dorian asked his question again. John stared at Dorian and his concerned expression. He was unable to truly brush off his concern and finally walked closer, despite the protesting synthetic leg.

          “Dorian, listen. I’m not sleeping with anyone. Sometimes I take care of my needs on my own.” He considered the idea that he might regret what he was doing in the long run, but it didn’t prevent him from doing it anyhow. He stared into Dorian’s blue eyes while fiddling with the catches on his belt and pants. Pushing them down to his thighs, he forcefully grabbed at his partner’s hand and forced it between his legs, palm up around his scrotum. Still frowning, he let himself be fondled, tremors running down his arm with his effort not to respond. “Next time you want to scan my balls, you do it like this, or I’ll chuck you in the river,” he threatened vehemently, pointing out the window at the shimmering water just outside. “Got it?” When John felt like he’d had enough of the robotic hand exploring his body, he pushed Dorian back with a strong hand so he could rearrange his clothes. “You’re unbelievable, Dorian,” he murmured breathily, unable to prevent himself from stumbling just a bit.

          Dorian stared at John while his programming indicated that he should close his fingers around the delicate skin, as indicated. He was careful not to apply too much pressure, but he did notice the texture and registered each twitch of his partner’s body as well as the change in respiration. Apparently, this was an area he desired to be touched, so Dorian made a note of it for future use. At the push, he backed away, unwilling to appear too eager and overbearing. He looked up at his partner when the grumpy man turned and went to the curved couch to make himself comfortable while the leg calibrated. “I was checking you out, man. You’re really good looking, despite your questionable haircut and disgruntled attitude. Can you really blame me for wanting to get a look at your body?” He smirked as if that would cover up his mistake and followed after his partner. Dorian was unsure of how fast they should be moving, but he trusted John would give him an indication of when things needed to slow down for their relationship. He saw the disproving look John made about the statement, but a close-up of an eye gave the android a different view of how the human experienced his compliments.

          “Yeah, I guess I can’t blame you for wanting to look at all this, but we’re gonna take it slow. I don’t want to rush head-long into something like this again.” He tried to play the worry off by arranging himself more comfortably on the couch and kicking his leg up onto the round table in front of him. Despite all the nice things in the apartment, he was not quite the high bred man that looked as if he should live there.

          “You’re worried I’ll break your heart and betray you, like what happened last time.”

          John flicked his eyes up, a flash of anger in them at having been so easily called out. Finally, he simply nodded and looked away, searching for something to distract them both. He needed to get a bit of sleep. “Tell Sandra we’ll be back on duty tomorrow, after my leg has calibrated itself.” He dug into a nearby bin for a remote to control a large viewing screen that settled itself over the area where his leg charged up. “Then come sit over here so we can watch a movie. I got the perfect one.”

          He flipped through what was available for viewing and finally picked an ancient movie from well before his time. He noted Dorian’s hesitation after the blue lights on his face stopped flashing. “Come on. Sit next to me, you won’t want to miss this. Robocop, from 1987.” John smiled in the way he did when he wanted to be aggravating toward the android and he wanted to avoid a specific topic of conversation. “It’s about you from back before you were even thought of.”

          Dorian pursed his lips, making a face about the description of the movie. He noted the playful nature of the detective sitting on the couch now that his mind was occupied away from the unpleasantness from a moment before. He knew John meant what he was saying, but he also knew what was being avoided. Briefly, he ran through a routine to determine if there was a conversation they truly needed to have. “John, are you homosexual?” He watched the man stiffen and bristle at the unexpected question.

          “I don’t… What?” He hadn’t thought he would be answering that question. He stared up at his partner, drawing his foot down from the coffee table so he could spring up from the couch if he needed to. “Why does…? Why would you ask me something like that?”

          “I ask because you responded to us kissing as if you had imagined it happening before, not just once, but multiple times. You seemed perfectly comfortable, and enjoyed putting my hand between your legs to indicate how you wanted me to scan you. I felt the change in your body, and saw the way your pupils dilated while I touched you.” Dorian rambled off his observations of the human’s response, and how it played into his reasoning for questioning. “So, I’m asking if you’re homosexual. It’s alright; you wouldn’t be the only cop who is. Detective Pa—“

          “Dorian!” John finally broke in, holding his hand out to halt the flow of words out of the android’s mouth. They would always have these sorts of conversations about any topic his partner decided was important enough to question him about. “No. I’m not. Ah! Stop!” He made a disparaging noise and shook his finger to indicate Dorian needed to keep quiet. “Stay shut up. You asked me a damn stupid question when I said I wanted to watch a movie with you. Now, I’m going to watch this movie, it’s one of my favorites. You can sit here with me and watch it, or go in the back and charge yourself.” The man was unhappy and looked away from his partner at the viewscreen paused on the opening for the ancient movie they were going to be watching. He was going to be unpleasant and refuse to speak until he could calm down enough to realize Dorian wasn’t his enemy and asked because he didn’t know, and didn’t have all the social mores that humans learned as they grew up.

          The android accepted the invitation after a moment of silence between them. He could tell by the racing heart and clenched jaw on John’s face that the man was still harboring some kind of resentment about the situation around the question. It was a sensitive subject that Dorian now realized he should not ask about again. He came to the conclusion that John would confide in him when he desired to, and to force him into doing something would have a deleterious effect on their budding relationship, a relationship Dorian now desired to protect and encourage to grow as it seemed to be helping his partner to have that sort of hope. Despite John not looking, Dorian stepped forward and sat down on the couch with the same amount of space between them that they had in the cruiser they rode in. “Let’s watch the movie.”

          John visibly relaxed once Dorian was seated. Slowly, he put his leg back up on the table and flicked the play button so they could watch the movie. While the opening credits started, John shifted uncomfortably, his facial expression changing. He swallowed down the nervousness and finally sighed. “Dorian, I’m not…” He shrugged his shoulders and twitched his head to indicate the previous question. “I just don’t discriminate, okay? It’s no one’s business who I sleep with but mine, and whomever I’m with. When I find someone I click with, and I want to be with them, then we get together. I guess this means androids too.” He swung his face around to look at his now attentive partner, though he still only spoke over his shoulder. John wasn’t comfortable sharing his feelings, and it wasn’t going to change overnight.

          “Don’t.” He lifted his right hand to forestall any of Dorian’s further conversation about the matter, pressing his fingers to the synthetic lips. “Just watch the movie.” When Dorian nodded and turned his attention to the action coming onto the screen, he moved his hand to rest on the back of the couch. While the movie progressed, John’s hand slipped lower and lower until it was wrapped around the android’s shoulders. With it finally on him, John pulled his partner in against his side, letting the hand move down until it rested on Dorian’s hip and he was comfortable with its placement.

Chapter Text

          Detective Richard Paul glanced over at the desk assigned to Detective Kennex furtively. He had been keenly aware of the man’s absence after the months of his constant and aggravating presence. To the outside observer, it appeared that he hated the man, and resented his reappearance at the Detectives and Investigation Division of the City’s Delta section they were both assigned to. They may not be partners, thanks to the General Orders they were subjected to while Kennex was in his lengthy coma, but that didn’t preclude them from constantly being in each other’s faces in the close quarters of the Divisional squad room.

          Paul leaned back in his office chair, shifting his feet unconsciously in an effort to get more comfortable while his attention was captured by the empty desk. Then his attention shifted to the other chair where the outdated DRN unit sat when Kennex allowed him to do so because they had no active cases to pursue. He imagined the bot sitting there and recalled the scuffle he and Kennex had in Captain Maldonado’s office about the unstable man having destroyed his MX.

          A threat against Dorian had produced a completely unexpected and violent response from the tall detective. “Don’t even look at Dorian!” Kennex… John, had told him. Those words had rankled in Richard’s mind. He was starting to understand that the man didn’t have his head on straight if he wanted to be that protective of a synthetic he called a toaster. Briefly he wondered if there was something going on between the pair. However, he dismissed it almost immediately, believing John wouldn’t break the rules quite that far, and it wasn’t like the gimp could still get it up if Dorian even allowed him to get that close.

          He pursed his lips and forced himself to think about something, anything, else. Richard dropped his eyes to the terminal in front of him. He thought about the tall man again, instead of open cases that could use fresh eyes. It was almost infuriating that John kept popping up in his thoughts in various emotional states. Richard closed his eyes to watch the latest of his secret imaginings.

          Richard had always been able to hide his feelings behind a cold wall of unpleasantness and cross words. He doubted anyone had an inkling of how he actually felt, how he fantasized about turning the tables on the cocksure detective. In his mind’s eye, he watched John swagger into the squad room; he always seemed a bit disheveled, and masculine, as if he had just rolled out of bed before coming in. His aftershave was an appropriate one for someone their age, though sometimes he wore just a bit too much, not that it detracted much from him. Richard watched his imaginary John bend over the desk to check his terminal, giving him a good view of his backside outlined in the dark material of his pants. He wanted to cross the room and run his hand over it. He wanted it to be soft and pliable in his hands…

          Without realizing it, Richard made a light moaning noise that was picked up by his MX unit partner. The robot turned its head to stare at the man. “Detective? Are you alright? Is there something you require?” The MX asked with a calm voice devoid of emotion, it did not have a personality the way Dorian did, and would only use cold logic and an adversarial tone when necessary. “Your vital signs have become erratic. Do you require medical attention? I will contact the precinct’s medical staff to come to your aid if…”

          “No! I’m fine. Just leave me be. I fell asleep for a minute.” Richard sat upright in the office chair, alarmed that he had let himself be so caught up in his fantasies that his synthetic had noticed something wasn’t right with him. He cleared his throat nervously and lifted a hand to his mouth to wipe away imaginary food debris around it. “Go get me a coffee. Black. Two sugars. Hurry up.” Richard watched the white-skinned bot stand up from the chair and disappear to get the requested drink.

          Now alone, Richard ran a hand over his bald head. “Shit,” he cursed to himself and turned away from the offending desk. If he didn’t look at it, he wouldn’t fantasize. That tactic worked for a little while. He looked up at Valerie coming toward him when she entered his field of vision. “Valerie, got something for me? Something interesting?”

          “Yeah, Richard. This strange information came across the wire, but it doesn’t make any sense. The young brunette brought down a cello for the other detective to take a look at. She smiled at Richard and waited patiently while he activated the crime intelligence report. “There’s some kind of robbery going down tonight, but there’s so much trash chatter that I can’t figure out what’s real and what isn’t.” While the older detective examined the document, she leaned in to point out certain places, unintentionally using her feminine wiles on him, to no effect. “It points to a group of people called shadowrunners, but they have no organization that we can find. They’re all independents working on their own, I think. There’s no concrete evidence of what exactly that means, but I’m sure it isn’t good.”

          “Shadowrunners, huh? Sounds like a fun name for a bunch of crooks.” Richard was dismissive of them out of course. He didn’t give criminals much stock in being able to do things and keep themselves off the grid for more than a few months. This also meant there wasn’t necessarily anything they needed to be worried about. “I guess you haven’t been able to identify a target or we’d be setting up an op to bring these guys down, right?” He leaned back in his chair, escaping her sphere of influence, and to more fully examine the young woman. He could understand why John was attracted to her. Valerie was a beautiful woman, a perfect example of DNA manipulation creating an amazing human specimen.

          “Right.” She sighed and dropped her weight back onto one leg. The inability to figure out certain things within the intelligence gathering was always a blow to her ego. Valerie shook her head and pulled over her chair so she could sit and discuss what they knew. She would rather have spoken with John, but with him out on sick leave, Richard was the next best detective. And they needed to be on the same page when they finally went to Captain Maldonado about what they knew.

          “It looks like there are two names here. ‘Overlook’ and ‘MirrorCourser.” Richard observed, pointing at the two names, highlighting them with a quick tap. “They seem to appear together frequently. Maybe they’re codenames. Have you run them through the databases yet?” The brown-skinned man watched Valerie answer with the practiced eyes of someone who was used to interrogations.

          “Of course I did, Richard. I’m not a rookie detective, despite the large gap in our ages.” Valerie grabbed the thin plastic from the man’s hands so she could make further notes. “These names have appeared together before, but nothing real has been found. No targets, no heists. It’s as if these names just appear and then fade back into the internet. I went back the last thirty years on a hunch. These names have popped up together for the last fifteen years, but the name ‘MirrorCourser’ has been whispered since 2022. That’s twenty-six years for whomever this is, Richard. While ‘Overlook’ is never far from ‘MirrorCourser’, ‘MirrorCourser’ also works independently. He has his own operations. There’s something going on, but I can’t find records of these two being caught or things that may have happened in conjunction with their names showing up online.”

          “So ‘MirrorCourser’ and ‘Overlook’ are partners doing something. We don’t know what. We don’t know where. And we don’t know why.” Richard sighed and shook his head. There wasn’t much they could do without filling in at least two more of these gaps. “I’m sorry, Valerie. We’re going to need a lot more than that if we want to really take a look into it.” The senior detective gave an apologetic look at the younger woman. He didn’t like to disappoint her, but there wasn’t much they could do without evidence of some kind. People did still have rights, and this could be a smokescreen. “Why don’t you keep monitoring it and if anything happens, let me know.”

          The crestfallen woman brightened up when Richard indicated she could continue her investigation into the strange occurrences even if she wouldn’t necessarily find much. At least she was staying busy. “Maybe I’ll call John and see if Dorian can help.” She stood and walked back to her desk on the other side of the room, hoping that the data she needed would start appearing soon and if some of it had already been scrubbed away. Vaguely she wondered if there was a special unit that handled these shadowrunners, since the name was quite foreign to her. She needed to get back into the darknet and see what she could find.

          The short detective shifted his weight forward, resting his elbows on his desk. Finally the MX returned with his coffee cooled to the perfect temperature. The machine had learned his preferences, which kept him from wanting to shoot the thing. Richard pressed the cup to his lips and swung his eyes around to look at John’s desk again. He considered the idea of an early lunch so he could spend sometime alone thinking. Richard’s mind started to wander again, his thoughts growing more and more lewd with each layer of fantasy that was added.

          He liked the idea of meeting the tall detective late at night when the bots were charging, and the other detectives had gone home. He imagined John at his desk, his shoulders tense with the worry and frustration about whatever case he was working on, and the personal demons that still plagued him. Regardless of how much he tried to hide them, they were always obvious. John’s expressive face rarely showed happiness. He was always bitter and reserved. He must be handsome when he smiled. Richard wanted nothing more than to touch one of his stubbled cheeks, run his fingers across the skin, then a thumb over the small lips. John could be distracted from work for a moment.

          Without meaning to, he nibbled on the rim of the cup, likening it in his mind to kissing the detective.

          He decided he wanted John to resist him a little. He liked fighting with John for dominance, but not too much. He didn’t want there to be too many bruises yet. Those were to be made in the bedroom. But hair pulling was alright… He grabbed the back of John’s head and yanked back on the short hair so he could kiss at the exposed neck. “Richard… Cut the foreplay and take off your pants.” Imaginary John was whispering in his usually rough voice laced with lust.

          Richard was only too happy to comply with his fantasies, but he needed to be alone to finish what he started in his mind. He looked around the squad room and decided he could afford to get up and go out for awhile. The short man set down the empty cup of coffee, which served two purposes: something to drink and an excuse to leave his desk to take care of a personal issue. He barely noticed the MX while it watched him walk purposefully out of the lowered area and around the corner to the bathroom on the floor. Theirs was a bit more private than other ones in the station, being able to handle only one person at a time. Richard smirked and followed his imagination inside the small room, locking the door firmly behind him.

          The detective smiled now that he was alone and pushed away from the door. He didn’t want to stand to try and take care of his business. It wasn’t the first time he’d spent time in that room with his fantasies, though he always preferred to be at home on the soft bed with the pillows to prop himself up on. While he made himself comfortable, he unzipped his pants and pushed them down far enough to make sure he didn’t make a mess of them when he finished. He licked his dry lips and stared at the wall opposite of him while he got back into his fantasy, soon after closing his eyes to watch it more fully. It was a good one this time. Imaginary John was putting up more of a fight than usual today.

          John stood up when Richard released his head. He was going to try and use the difference in their heights to top that round, but it just wasn’t going to happen that way. Richard reached out to wrap his fingers around John’s wrist when the pale man tried to grab him. He laughed and pulled the captured wrist closer. The movement was one learned in the Academy during defensive tactics training. Richard stepped around John’s side, pulling the hand up behind his back.

          He chuckled darkly and forced John to bend over the desk, scattering files and other knick-knacks. “Not this time, John. You’re mine. Always mine.” Richard laughed lightly, using his free hand to pull out a pair of his handcuffs, putting one of the steel rings around the captured wrist. “I don’t think I want you moving around too much today, John. I just want to make sure you understand your place here.”

          John laughed at the short detective, struggling while Richard grabbed his other hand and forced it behind his back to put into the other ring. The dark-haired man struggled with the cuffs, making notes about them. Finally, he stilled and laid his forehead against the desk so he could regulate his breathing. “Hinge cuffs? You are a cruel bastard, you know that? I’m too big for those.”

          “Yeah, that’s why I’m using them, cupcake. I want you to hurt some while I take care of you.” Richard chuckled aloud at the squirming John did. He knew the hinge cuffs were made for discomfort, so it only made sense he’d use them on his dream love. The short man hooked his arms through John’s and forced him into the position he wanted the tall detective to be in. He could get used to having his aggravating coworker like this more frequently. Richard was satisfied with how he’d have John laid out over the desk. “The more you resist the more damage I’ll do.”

          “Yeah, whatever you say Richard. I don’t think you can hurt me that much at your height. I could roll you into my locker and no one would notice that everyone’s favorite midget had gone missing.” He grunted in some discomfort when Richard pulled him far enough off of the desk so he could push John’s pants down around his knees and get his own off. John struggled against his captor again, only to find his face pressed hard into the desk.

          Richard kicked John’s legs apart, though they didn’t go far with the constricting fabric of John’s pants. The shorter man released John’s body just long enough to divest himself of his own clothing. Quickly, he flung his tie up over his shoulder to keep it out of the way. “Yeah, but you might notice me not being here to do this to you. Shut your mouth, or I’ll fill it up. Maybe I’ll do that anyway, but not first off.” Richard was eager to have John’s body writhing beneath him. “If you need to say something, just moan it.”

          While John laughed and tried to pull away once more, Richard grasped at his hips. He took a moment to fondle the pale skin, chuckling that it was soft and pliable like he wanted. “Try not to scream. Wouldn’t want to set off any alarms, right?” Richard was going to enjoy every moment he had with the detective. His breathing became shallow while he imagined how good it would feel to finally take what he wanted from the man below him. Grunting lightly, he spread John’s cheeks, grinding himself lightly against the warm skin. “I’m really going to enjoy this a few times,” he murmured, getting ready to press into the tight body of the other detective.

          Before his fantasies could reach their peak, there was a heavy pounding on the door to the private bathroom. “Detective Paul!” Came the monotone voice of his MX unit. The voice caused Richard to grunt unhappily, his dark eyes snapping open. He looked down at himself and the erection in his hands. He hated being interrupted so insistently.

          “What?” He called out in aggravation, wanting to continue what he was doing. He kept his eyes closed and tried to concentrate on his fantasy, but the entire image was fading with the MX continuing to knock on the door. Giving up on it, he stood up and put himself away, his mood significantly darkened. He pulled up his pants and belt before turning to flush the toilet, remembering the ruse he was using. He washed his hands quickly, before turning to go to the door. He flung it open with aggravation and glared up at the white-skinned bot. “What do you want?”

          “Detective Paul, you have been in here for five minutes. I came to ensure you were not experiencing any medical emergencies as a part of your erratic heart rate from earlier this morning.” The robot was aggravating, and inquiring about him for no reason. It stared at the man awaiting a response to his reason for being there. “Detective Stahl sent me to find you. She has found something she believes will be helpful to the case she is putting together.”

          “Fine! I’m fine,” he growled at the MX and stepped out of the bathroom to follow the machine back to his desk. “Just get out of my way.” He was angry now, not getting to finish had given him a painful reminder of why he shouldn’t fantasize at work. Richard walked back to his desk and sat down carefully to compose himself before dealing with the young woman and her eagerness. He resettled his tie and grasped at the arms of his chair, Richard knew he needed to calm himself. It wasn’t her fault that he had been trying to take a few personal minutes at work. He’d finish things at home when shift was over. Pushing up from his chair again, he walked over to the younger woman’s desk, leaning over it slowly. “Whatcha got, Valerie?” He started examining the screens on her terminal. “Find something we can use?”

          Valerie finished examining the thread before turning her face up to look at Richard and his grumpy face. She made a curious face, though she didn’t ask questions about it and only smiled with her latest accomplishment. “I think so. I went digging around in some forums where people discuss just about everything, and I found something weird. You might want to sit. There’s a lot of information.” She offered the chair as an afterthought after noticing how uncomfortably tight his trousers appeared, though she was ready to admit it was a mistake.

          She waited until he was sitting and could easily see the screen she was looking at. “This forum is a public one, though it’s off the mainstream internet. They talk about everything, including a few people that like to discuss these shadowrunners, but they talk about them as if it’s just a fantasy. What kind of gear they’d use, mostly illegal, targets they’d hit, things like that. In another section of the forums, they talk about romance amongst this type of people. One person calling herself ‘Orange Queen’ talks about having a special boyfriend who is apparently a wizard with anything technological, but especially drones.” She points to a few highlighted posts by this specific person, noting how the conversation following each post asks for more details about the man she’s dating. “This ‘Orange Queen’ seems to be a beloved member. Everyone loves her and how personable she is, it seems like she has many people willing to do anything for her. Like this one who says he would ‘hunt down the techno if he ever hurt her’.”

          “Techno? What’s that?” Richard stared at the offending post, finding it to make no sense, nor why any of this would have been important enough for her to call him over to look at it. “And why would that matter to us?” He started going through the posts on the page she wanted him to see, reading through the posts themselves, many about the ‘Orange Queen’ talking about whatever it was people came to her with, until a specific question prompted the discussion about her personal life. “It says this boyfriend is an online one. I guess they haven’t met in person?”

          “I haven’t figured that out yet. But from my other research, ‘techno’ is a derogatory term for a technomancer. A technomancer is someone who can affect computers and other technology without terminals or devices to act as intermediaries. They can just access the tech by thinking about it. It seems like it’s magic.” Valerie shakes her head as if it didn’t make a whole lot of sense to her. “It’s really rare, if it even actually exists. But I’ve found a few forums where the posters seem to be making plans to hang out in a certain corner of the internet and have virtual tea and cookies.” The young woman sat back slowly and crossed her legs while Richard took his time sifting through the data screens. “In one of her posts about him she said ‘he was easily Overlook’. She used those words exactly. Now, if we were to say something like that, we’d say: ‘he was easily overlooked’. That leads me to believe this ‘Orange Queen’ knows at least one of the people we’re looking for. I’m trying to get in contact with her, and see if I can’t figure something out. I don’t want to get our hopes up, but this is the most solid lead we’ve had about this. Maybe someone will slip up and let us know what they’re targeting.”

          Richard nodded and sat back to think about what they could do. Without a target of some kind, they couldn’t put together an op to be ready for them. But at least there was a chance now that they could monitor the chatter without people becoming suspicious. “That’s great, Val. We just need a little more information, but I can start putting together a plan. Keep looking for a target, but be careful. We don’t want these crooks to get suspicious of someone lurking their forums.” He patted the young woman on the shoulder before standing up to go off and see what sort of resources could be pulled for a raid somewhere.

Chapter Text

          While Richard returned to his desk, Valerie turned her attention back to the BBS she had found. She needed to get herself into it, and somehow talk to the Orange Queen. She seemed to be an odd character, and someone she was certainly interested in getting to know. It took her only a few minutes to breeze through the registration process. It was all just so curious that these people lived life this way, and continued to want to do it. They didn’t want to necessarily be productive members of society, but live on the edge of it and only occasionally emerge to do something before fading into the background once more.

          The registration was surprisingly simple, though she was nervous about whom to put as the person who referred her. It was a required field, so whoever it was would have to vouch for her at some point. Biting her lip nervously, she only knew one hacker’s moniker. Maybe no one would track him down and ask if she put that reference. Without any further hesitation, she typed in the name Aphid on the line and did the basic verifications. Would Aphid know Krom8t if someone asked? Would someone even ask? With that done, and her account verified, it was time to get down to the business of drawing out her intended informant. She changed her generic avatar to a carefully manipulated picture of herself when they had to go undercover for the hacking party with the purple wig on her head, and a black bandana obscuring all but one corner of her face including an eye.

          She started by searching in other parts of the forum. She needed to learn more about shadowrunners to begin with, and read what others might know about Overlook and MirrorCourser. She was able to find out that one of them was brains and the other was brawn, though none of them had ever been witness to, nor worked with either one of them. They hadn’t even spoken to the two legendary runners personally, and some doubted they even existed outside of the virtual world.

           Krom8t: So no1 even knows them? Do they exist?
           Stomper: Course they do. No1 that aint real has legends like theirs.
           Krom8t: Has the Orange Queen seen them?
           Blight: Have to ask her. She knows about all the elite runners.
           Coke-n-Grate: And she always knows what everyone is doing.
           Krom8t: I want 2 meet them. Do a run w/them
           Coke-n-Grate: You and me both sister.
           Stomper: They don’t take n00bs. Only experienced runners with cred and gear.
           Blight: Yeah. You aint got any of that. Try again in a few years.
           Krom8t: I heard Orange Queen and Overlook were dating

          This makes things more difficult. Valerie thought to herself. She wasn’t sure exactly what she needed to make of it, but she could get in touch with the Orange Queen. Everything seemed to point that way. And no one was responding to the rumor yet, as if they were all suddenly quiet. She hoped they were looking into it. Everyone seemed so interesting. She might have to stay around in the forums to see what she could learn about this strange subculture. She had been pointed to the Orange Queen, so it seemed like sending her a private message would be a good idea. She sat and composed one, hoping it wouldn’t be enough to turn the person off entirely. She also didn’t want to immediately out herself as a cop.

          Krom8t: Orange Queen, I’m sorry to approach you out of the blue like this, but there are a few questions I need to ask you about some people you might know out of this virtual reality. I tried asking others. They said you knew everyone.
           Orange Queen: If I know who they are, I may be able to tell you something. But if I don’t know them, I certainly can’t. And it may depend on the type of information you want to know about them. I certainly cannot be giving away certain information without assurances that it will only be used for good reasons.
           Krom8t: I understand that, but I need to know if you know two runners who go by the names Overlook and MirrorCourser. And maybe if you know how I can get in contact with them. I want to learn from them. I heard they were the best, and I want to be the best too.
           Orange Queen: I know MirrorCourser is private. No one contacts him directly on any social networking sites. You’ll have to bump into him in the shadows if you know where to look. Overlook is someone very dear to me. He is the sweetest man I’ve ever had the pleasure of making contact with in the Matrix. I would count him as an ally.
           Krom8t: Is Overlook the one you referred to as your boyfriend? Have you met either of these men in person?
           Orange Queen: I haven’t yet met MirrorCourser, but Overlook speaks fondly of him. Overlook is indeed my boyfriend. We made it official last night. That’s why I was talking about it on the forums today. I wanted everyone to know how happy I was.
           Krom8t: I’m detective Valerie Stahl with the police department. I need to meet with you in person as soon as possible. Preferably today within the next few hours. I understand this is short notice. But it’s important.
           Orange Queen: Of course that would not be a problem. Do you have a very large meeting room that I may occupy?
           Krom8t: Our interview rooms here at the station are most likely big enough for any space concerns you may have.  It’s a large area. Thank you for your cooperation.
           Orange Queen: I will be there as soon as I can.

          Great! She’s willing to help. Hopefully this will all work out. Valerie gathered up a few things and made a call to the officer at the front desk to expect a large woman to be coming in to visit her, and to let her know as soon as she arrived. She returned to her desk to poke around in the forums a bit more. She was unaware of the true nature of her visitor, and that the interview room would actually be severely inadequate.

          Valerie returned to the bulletin board system, continuing to explore it for the next few hours. She started to learn which people didn’t know much about what they were talking about, and who knew more but didn’t speak about it. She did searches as she could about the two names she wanted. She smiled while examining certain threads, giving herself a crash course in this strange new kind of people. While searching for Overlook, who was now becoming a bit of an obsession for her now, she found many different rumors that he wasn’t technomancer at all, but someone with extensive cyberware for jacking into the Matrix. There were several discussions about what kind of cyberware was used and why it was superior to other pieces. However there were a few threads were both groups met and argued over what exactly he was, however, they all agreed that Overlook was a legendary runner, and no one, save his partner MirrorCourser, was better or more desired.

          While she was surfing, the private message notification lit up on her screen. The small window announced it was from someone called Aphid. The message caused Valerie’s blood to run cold. She didn’t know how quickly the other would have been made aware of her presence, nor was she sure it would be Rudy on the other side of the internet. She’d known it was a risk using that name. She also needed to play off who she was, just in case it was Rudy. She couldn’t risk him finding out that they were doing, and it would destroy her budding credibility amongst the strange people.

           Aphid: Why did you use my name to register? I don’t know you.
           Krom8t: I wanted on the forums, so I used your name. I’m a huge fan of your work.
           Aphid: A fan of my work? Do you know who I am? I could have you banned without a second thought, and your history here erased for this fraud.
           Krom8t: I thought it would give me some cred when I started posting. And I thought it would get your attention so we could chat.
           Aphid: Are you a cop?
           Krom8t: Why are you asking?
           Aphid: Your web address tracks back to Delta Section police station. It would take little work to find out which terminal you’re using.
           Krom8t: I’m not a cop. I just hacked into their systems to get myself unlimited access. No one questions the cops.
           Aphid: You’re lying. But you say you’re a fan, so you must know that I can trace these things back through your proxies. It’s stupid to try and hide them from me. Tell me who you are, and I won’t out you to the administrators.

          Valerie stared at the PM for several minutes. Something was wrong. She knew that was the name Rudy did his hacking under, but she didn’t believe it was the same man who spoke to her now. She couldn’t out herself to him yet, just in case it wasn’t actually him on the other side of that name. Fortunately for her, a call came from the front desk announcing that she had a visitor and to come collect her.

          Finally! The call she had been waiting for. Locking her terminal, Valerie rose from her chair and walked out of the office to the elevators that would bring her down to the front lobby. The officer didn’t give the woman’s name, but Valerie doubted she would not miss the overweight woman she was expecting. It was only another moment before she got to the desk, leaning over it casually to greet the officer, thanking him for his patience. A quick glance around the lobby yielded no overweight women. “I thought you said I had a visitor,” she ventured quietly, looking around a bit more now. She noticed a few people milling about, some waiting for loved ones to be let out of the lock-up, but only one woman who appeared to be standing and waiting.

          “You do, detective. She’s right there.” He raised a hand and waved to the tall woman, beckoning her over. “This is Hestaby. Ma’am, this is Detective Stahl. She’ll take you where you need to go.” The officer didn’t seem to think anything about it. He didn’t know the detective had been expecting someone else entirely. “Thank you for your patience. Here is your visitor pass. It will allow you into the appropriate areas of the building.”

          The striking woman approached the desk gracefully, and took the badge assigned to her. “Thank you.” She pinned it to her the lapel of her blue suit jacket and turned to smile at Valerie. “I came as soon as I could. There were just some things I was unable to put off.” She nodded her head that she would follow wherever she was lead, wanting to make a good impression on the policewoman about her cooperation. “I’m Hestaby, the Orange Queen. I hope I have not kept you waiting too long, Detective Stahl.”

          Valerie had a moment to look over her visitor. She was not at all expected. The woman in front of Valerie was slender, and perfectly in proportion to herself. Her visitor was extremely attractive, as noted by all the men in the lobby of the police department practically drooling over her and her lightly bronzed skin and long auburn hair. Instinctively, she offered her hand to the woman, a welcoming smile on her face. “Thank you.” Valerie waited for only half a second before dropping her hand, deciding someone who called themselves ‘Queen’ wouldn’t want to touch a commoner. “Please, follow me to my office. I just have a few questions.”

          The detective led the way to the elevator so they could quickly get to the detective’s floor. “I wasn’t expecting someone like you,” She admitted, giving Hestaby a sheepish look. “You’re very beautiful,” She admitted, not giving voice to what she really expected Hestaby to look like, her mind quickly trashing the image of an overweight woman with thick glasses and matted hair, though she expected her to find it an inappropriate line of conversation.  Luckily, the elevator ride was short, only five levels, just to the middle of the building. The doors were opening before Valerie could put her foot any further in her mouth.

          “Thank you, detective. I decided to come like this since your office isn’t large enough to hold me as I truly am.” The tall woman stepped out onto the floor after Valerie, her phone making a noise to indicate receiving a message. Without thinking, Hestaby pulled it from her purse and glanced at the text message, pursing her lips at the text.

          Someone in the police department knows who I am.

          The text was enigmatic, but enough to convey an entire wealth of information to someone who knew what it meant. The visiting woman stopped long enough to reply, while glancing quickly around the floor. She saw the lifeless androids and shook her head at how unpleasant they were, as well as a Hispanic detective leaning over his terminal, trying to work something out he saw on the screens, but otherwise no one noted her passage, except to stare at her. Meeting with Valerie Stahl. She asked about you on the forums. Goes by the name Krom8t.

          Don’t tell her anything.

          Only that you’re the sweetest man I know. By the time the little exchange was done, Hestaby looked up to see that Valerie had made it all the way over to one of the interview rooms and looked perplexed that something was keeping her. The woman cleared her throat and put the phone away so she could continue around to where the detective was coming back to meet her. “I apologize for keeping you waiting once again,” she said from across the room, though her voice did not rise much in volume.

          Valerie came up short when Hestaby spoke again. The woman’s voice sounded as if it came from immediately next to her, though there was quite a distance between them. Her jaw dropped at the sound not quite matching what she heard, but she decided it wasn’t important for now. She just wanted to find the needed information so she could find out who these criminal masterminds were that had been on the run for so many years. Pushing her confusion aside, she turned again to walk with slower steps to the interview room they would be using. Valerie opened the door and let her visitor go in first so she could close the door behind them, while obscuring the windows so they won’t be observed. “Please sit, and make yourself comfortable.”

          When they were both settled comfortably, Valerie shifted forward in her chair. She put both hands on the table between them, the fingers of one hand resting on the other. “I want to congratulate you on finding a boyfriend, Ms Hestaby. I hope you two have a long and healthy relationship.” She smiled, wanting to keep things calm and the woman talking for as long as possible so she can learn about the man she was investigating known as Overlook.

          “Thank you. He is quite a wonderful man.” Hestaby tucked her legs beneath the chair as a proper lady. Despite it being a normal hard-backed chair, it was transformed into a throne for her regal bearing. Before Valerie could ask for further details about the man himself, the Orange Queen took control of the interview without much effort, used to being on control of things. “I’m curious about why you wish for me to give you details about him, however. Is it normal for the police to peruse forums on City time?”

          “We have information that someone going by the name Overlook is going to be involved in a crime tonight. We need to find out who he is, what he’s doing, and whether or not he is the same Overlook that has been whispered about for so long on the internet.” Valerie quickly gave up the information she wanted to know from the woman. She hoped that her good faith would be returned in the form of the information she wanted to know.

          “How do you know they are the same person?”

          “We don’t. That’s why we’re looking for any information we can get.”


 

          Across the room, Detective Paul sat and looked over many scenarios that could be used to take down the criminals they were looking for. Without much information to go on, he could hardly select the proper one. It might have been necessary for them to simply let it happen and collect the drone information afterwards so they’d know what they were looking for. However, the idea that the men they were tracking had been working for as long as twenty-six years made it difficult to believe that they didn’t have any security footage from anything.

          While Richard thought about looking through the open and cold case files for signs that they could tie to these people once they get them arrested after they can identify them… The whole thing was just turning into a farce. He shouldn’t be going along with the woman’s wishes, but it was something to do that wasn’t fantasizing about someone who would never give him the time of day. Without realizing it, Richard put his fingers to his lips, pinching them between his fingers before tapping them lightly.

          During his deep thought, the MX unit assigned to him rose from its chair and walked out as if it had received remote orders from someone else. The robot walked stiffly away from the squad room with a proper sense of purpose. It returned several moments later with a visitor in tow. The MX informed the male visitor that he should sit in the chair that had only recently been vacated. “Detective Paul,” the MX stated once the blonde lanky man was seated. “You have a visitor. He calls himself NoName, and refuses to give any further identification, nor will the system give any. However, he states that he has information regarding a theft that will be occurring tonight.”

          The robotic voice of his robot brought Richard out of his reverie very quickly. Richard looked up at the android, then at the blonde man in front of him. He took in “NoName’s” appearance, while crossing his arms across his chest. The younger man had shoulder length blonde hair that looked as if it hadn’t been washed properly in several weeks. His pale skin was ashen and pockmarked from years of bad acne. Richard noted that NoName appeared to dress like someone who had a home, but preferred a homeless clothing style. The detective nodded once his assessment was finished, pursing his lips with a note of aggravation. He sniffed unpleasantly and pointed to a corner near his desk where he wanted the MX unit to stand. “Stand over there and pay attention.”

          With the robot out of the way, Richard leaned forward on the desk. “You have information for me, NoName? Why come here, instead of calling a patrol station? And why don’t you want us to know your name?” The shorter man could exhibit some patience if the information turned out to be credible. However, he had no intention of just letting the witness walk out the door without giving them a name. They had a special lock-up for people like that, and he wouldn’t hesitate to use it. He didn’t like everything not being in a neat row for him. No boxes to check off. “We can offer you protection if that’s what this is all about.”

          NoName looked apologetic, but also a bit afraid of what it was he was about to do. The man went deep into thought; he had to mentally prepare himself for the ultimate act of betrayal he was going to commit. “If this gets out to the community that I’m here, there won’t be any protection in the world you can offer me that will be enough to keep me alive.”  NoName turned on the nerdy charm, though it only succeeded in making Richard more uncomfortable with the entire situation. “I’m committing a cardinal sin by even coming here and revealing my name to you.”

          “NoName isn’t a name,” Richard said with a hint of exasperation.  He sighed and pressed a hand to his face. He needed to calm down if he wanted the stranger to trust him and give up the information. Too many years in Vice had given him a bad way of looking at things. “Listen, no one’s going to know you helped us. You can testify remotely if your information is good and we catch these guys. They’re going to cause someone else a lot of pain for their own pleasure. So whatever sin you might be committing according to their rules, shouldn’t weigh nearly as heavily on you as the sin they’re going to be committing if you don’t tell us what you know.” A little pressure in the right spot frequently yielded the correct results. It was a tactic he used when he was busting up illegal gambling rings, usually by leaning on the women they hired to ‘entertain’ at their events. “And if the information turns out to be bogus, you’re going to need to pray you can get over the Wall before I get back to the station and get my hands on you.”

          The detective’s vehemence gave the blonde man a bit of a start. He hadn’t expected to be seated in front of the hard-nosed one. He thought they’d all be soft and willing to do anything to get the information he had. He never expected to be threatened, though it made sense to him now that good cops were not too different from the crooks they chased, they just worked on the side of the angels. It was too late for him to get up and run away now, though. He had to do it, or risk giving out false information. Either way, he was taking his life in his hands, and he knew it. NoName swallowed nervously and looked around, losing his feigned unwillingness to give up what he knew. “Okay, okay. You don’t have to threaten me. I was going to tell you anyhow. But you have to protect me. If you get this right, you’ll have two of the most legendary Runners in custody, but one of them is dangerous. I’ve seen him kill without a second thought.”

          Richard’s eyes flicked to the MX who would be making mental notes of the information for later perusal. He looked back down at his desk for some way of making a few notes about what was going on, but decided that he would just remember everything and compare it with the data from his bot later. “I’ve been hearing that term a lot. They can’t be that legendary if they’re going to be so easy to capture.”

          “I didn’t say they’d be easy to capture. MirrorCourser won’t go down without a fight. He leaves bodies in his wake, and your body armor won’t be enough to protect you from the heat he packs. He and Overlook are going after something expensive. It’s a high risk job, but that’s the only kind he takes.” NoName took a breath to see what sort of emotional effect he was having on Richard. Seeing none, he got nervous again, starting to drum his fingers on the desk. “Can I have some water? It’s a little warm in here”

          “No. You can tell me where they’re hitting, and then how you know all this is happening.”

          Once again shocked into submission, NoName wondered if all Knight Errant officers were like this. “Yeah, well, when I can’t talk because I’ve gone parched, how are you going to get the rest of the information from me?”

           “I’ll put your head under the faucet myself. Now talk. Sundown is in three hours, and I have to move assets into place before this little party you’re outlining gets going.” He made a few motions with his free hand, ordering a standby MX to find something to drink for NoName, thinking the man only wanted him or his MX to leave the desk so it would be vulnerable to whatever sort of machinations these shadowrunners used.

          “Hot-to-trot, huh? Is there a promotion in it for you if you bring this guy down? I doubt he’s been on your radar before.” NoName was certain Richard was bluffing about a lot of things, but he valued his face being right where it was, and if he could take out two birds, or two runners, with one stone, it’d give him a few more jobs to choose from. “I wanted to go on the job. I said I’d worked with them before. This time they cut me out. Overlook cut me out. He said I wasn’t fit to run with them. I’m a liability because my hacking skills aren’t as good as his, and I can’t fight like MirrorCourser. I’m not any of that.” The words started flowing out without a filter, the young man quite distraught by the situation which had become bad enough to warrant him going to the police to give up information about these two. “I’m not a liability. I’m just not as experienced as they are. They have their pick of the jobs. They have complete control over it all, and it leaves us with the junk runs so we can’t prove ourselves, and get what they have.”

          The outburst had been unexpected for Richard. He stared at NoName, secretly wondering if this was all just some bizarre lover’s quarrel that he was being forced into the middle of. He crossed his arms and leaned back in the chair to watch the strange man come to his senses and lower his voice, which had risen in both volume and pitch, though it wasn’t enough to disturb the two women in their clouded interview room. “Life isn’t always fair. Sometimes you have to just do what you can and know you’re trusted without getting any feedback.” He grit his teeth, recognizing how he felt professionally about John Kennex. He had said similar words to a few people who always had the same advice for him.  “If you tell me what they’re hitting and where it is, I promise no one will know it was you who told us. We’ll change your face for the trial, and you’ll testify remotely. If there is a trial.”

          “They’re going to rob a tech company. They’re taking money, not tech. So they may not even go into the building itself. I can’t stress enough for you to be careful. MirrorCourser has amazing skills with firearms, and has a good grasp of up close and personal fighting. I don’t know how he got his training or what else he might know.” NoName returned to his chair while the map was moved away for use later. With the biggest question answered, now it was time to give the police the fighting edge they needed to bring down his rival. “They always use a small team so it’s harder to find them all. MirrorCourser is a tactical genius. He doesn’t usually go in with much of a plan, but always comes up with ways to use what he has on hand to his advantage. He and a drone will be easier to spot than Overlook. Overlook will be holed up somewhere accessing what they need. MirrorCourser likes to use a drone to watch his back if things go south. Last time we worked together it did go wrong, but he made sure Overlook and I got out before he got out himself.” NoName held back the knowledge that he was the one who caused them to get caught, refusing to believe that that was why they didn’t want to work with him anymore.

          Richard nodded. That would be more than enough information if it all panned out. He leaned back in his chair, suddenly wanting to trash all the plans he had been working on. “That’s great. So we’re looking at most at a three man team. One person hidden from view, and one protected by a drone. The third is a mystery. Fine…” The detective frowned, not liking that things would be quite a bit more dangerous now. “You’ve been a lot of help. I hope this all pans out for you.” Richard stood up from his chair now and adjusted his pants, pulling them up just a bit. With that taken care of, he lifts a hand to beckon over the MX unit from the corner. “Take him down to the lockup, give him this when he’s secured in a cell.” The detective took the cup of water from the secondary MX that finally returned.

          His white-skinned robot put its hands on NoName’s shoulders. “Stand up. Put your hands behind your back.” The order was given without a hint of emotion, though NoName verbally protested what was being done to him. However, NoName did not physically resist, which kept the MX from using more physical coercion. After securing the prisoner with flexi-cuffs, the MX marched NoName out of the squad room and down to the room where there were a number off holding cells, many holding only one or two people in each. It pushed NoName into the cell before removing the cuffs and handing over the cup of water. It was very good at following orders.

          NoName protested again, contemplating throwing the water into the android’s face. “Do you know how easy it is to take a bot like you over? Your security protocols were written by children with fingerpaints.”

          “Sit down and be quiet. Detective Paul will return to you once he has acted on the information you have given him. Thank you for your cooperation.” The MX gave its last bit of advice to the man and turned to return to its partner. When the robot got back to the desk, Richard was frantically putting together different scenarios and thermal imaging units so they would be able to find the human components, as well as gathering requisition orders for the MX units they would need to subdue them all.

Chapter Text

          John had been paying attention to the movie for the most part. However, he wasn’t able to prevent himself from wanting to do more. He hadn’t been able to spend a meaningful amount of time with anyone who actively showed an interest in him personally. Toward the end of the movie, his attention started wandering to things more intimate. He shifted closer to Dorian, tightening his grip on the android’s waist and tugging him closer against his side. “We can skip the credits if you wanted to…” He let his voice trail off with an indication that he wanted to do something else. To put impetus behind Dorian’s decision, John turned on the couch to press his lips lightly against the synthetic neck.

          “We should watch the credits, John. These people put their time and effort into making this movie for us to enjoy.” Dorian was able to resist the physical advances of his partner without any effort. “The least we can do is pay our respects to their memories, as they are all dead now.” The exasperated sigh from John brought an amused smile to his lips. It would never stop making him chuckle that the man could be so easily put off, though it hardly surprised him with how old-fashioned he proclaimed to be. “Afterward, we are free to do as you please with more vigor and without any distractions.”

          Entirely thrown off his game by the admonition, John sat properly there on the white couch. He pulled his arm from around Dorian’s body, putting the hand onto his synthetic knee. The detective stared straight at the scrolling names on the screen. It frustrated him when he wasn’t able to have the affection he wanted, but he knew better than to argue with the android when he’d made up his mind. The promise of intimate contact would have to be enough for him. But the darker skinned fingers snaking between his brought a smile to his dour face and went far to banish the unhappy thoughts.

          They sat for several minutes holding hands like an actual couple watching a movie together. To an outside observer, they appeared to be quite content. They enjoyed each other’s company and certainly didn’t lack for creature comforts in the lavish apartment, despite everything being in one large room. If there was no data to be processed, no one would have any idea that one was an android and the other human. When the credits finally stopped, and the studio’s logo flashed across the screen, the white half of the couple squeezed the hand he held. “How did you like the movie, Robocop? See some similarities to yourself?”

          Dorian turned to face John fully, releasing his hand now so he could put it on the back of the couch. In a perfect mimicry of Joel Kinnaman’s voice for Robocop he answered “Only that I want to kiss my wife.” He smiled at John’s disdained expression. He knew the man didn’t enjoy the comparison and would protest it, despite the amused smirk on his face. Instead of moving in closer to kiss the detective, Dorian scooted away, giving John enough room to put his gray synthetic leg up behind the android. “Are you my wife?” Dorian asked, deciding he would take things as far as he could for his own amusement.

          John made himself completely comfortable while the android had his fun. “Only if you want to take a long swim out there,” he indicated the water outside his home. There was a light buzzing noise from his pocket, a sound which was quickly ignored by fingers pressing against the sides of the comm. “Otherwise, I like the idea of kissing, but since I’m the top in our relationship, you’re my wife-bot.” He held his hands out to Dorian, urging him to come closer between his legs for a kiss. John wrapped one arm around the android’s neck, the other slipping around his torso. While pulling Dorian close against his chest, he felt the buzz from his pocket once more.

          “Are you going to answer that?”

          “Are you going to let me kiss you?” He was determined to ignore the call and bent his head down to kiss his partner’s neck an appreciative noise on his lips. “Are you wearing my aftershave?” He asked, the hand on Dorian’s back sliding down to tug up slowly on the gray shirt. “Or am I smelling me on you?” John moves his lips upward to kiss at Dorian’s cheek and finally to an insistent kiss to his lips. He knew the lines were bad, but it didn’t matter. He had what he wanted from his partner more than the kisses. He had someone he could trust, and didn’t hide it. They might have a few differences where their police work was concerned, but that didn’t stop them from being an amazing police team.

          John remembered when he thought he felt that way about someone else. They worked well together, but they weren’t suited for a relationship. While pressing his tongue into Dorian’s mouth, he pushed those thoughts away, and the insistent buzzing vibration in his pocket from the secret secured comm. He suspected Rudy was trying to let him know what time and where to meet him, but he didn’t want to take his hands off the android. Slowly, he leaned back, shifting so the comm didn’t vibrate quite so noticeably against his thigh, sending a shiver down his leg. He pulled Dorian with him, quickly establishing that he enjoyed being under his lover for kissing, though there was no indication to how he enjoyed his sexual encounters.

          Dorian did his best to accommodate John’s desires. He was frequently assessing the human’s enjoyment of their coupling. He noted the change in heart rate, vital signs, and respiration again, recognizing this now as the lust building within the man’s body. He did his best to foster that mood, paying attention to the number of times the comm in John’s pocket buzzed and fell silent. When he was pulled closer, the android put his hands to the human’s hips, his fingers digging into the fleshy part. Before Dorian could push up John’s shirt, following the lead of a racy video he’d found on the internet, his body stiffened, the lights on the side of his face processing an incoming call that would not be ignored. The android sat back, despite John’s grunt of protest.

          “Dorian, it’s Rudy.”

          “Yes, Rudy. How may I help you?”

          “Is John with you? He won’t answer me, and I need to speak with him.”

          “Of course he is. He’s making ugly faces at me now. Would you like me to patch him through on this call?” Dorian returned the ugly face, pursing his lips while lifting his fingers to the small ear on the side of John’s head.

          “No! I mean… No, thank you. I need him to pick up on his comm. Make sure he does it, please. It’s an emergency.”

          Dorian nodded, his expression changing to one of considerable concern that the technician didn’t want to speak with him on the matter. “I’ll make sure he answers this time.” The android rose from the couch and straightened up. “But you can tell me if something’s wrong. We are friends, Rudy. You can trust me.”

           “I know that, Dorian. It’s just not the right time. I promise you’ll know when the time is right. I’ll talk to you later.”

           When Rudy hung up the line, Dorian turned to John and pointed at the pocket. “Rudy needs you to answer. He says it is an emergency, and I don’t think he was kidding.” He reached down to assist the taller man in getting to his feet, noting that the calibration had not finished, though it worked well enough for the detective to move around slowly. He took note that a different physiological change was happening to his human companion. He saw an adrenaline spike marked by an increased perspiration on his exposed skin, as well as the shallow breaths that did not accompany their kissing actions moments prior.

          John frowned and turned his back to Dorian. From his pocket, he pulled out a commlink that was very different from the one he normally used for his public activities. This one was black with a heavy casing around it to prevent several types of signals from getting to it. “Rudy! Hey, what’s going on, man?” He started things off conversationally, as if he hadn’t been trying to avoid the technician for the better part of the previous fifteen minutes. While greeting his friend, John grasped the handle of the door that would allow him to go outside and stand on his balcony overlooking the water. The door closed and locked behind him, meant to keep Dorian away from his conversation.  He moved to the far end of the mooring station, while still visible to his android partner, with his back turned, and speaking in a low voice, there was little way he would be able to be overheard. “Okay, Rudy. I’m free for a round of Killing Floor.”

          The code was a signal to Rudy that everything was fine for them to discuss what they needed to. “John, we’ve got a problem. The police know who we are. They’ve been searching for information about us on the internet all day. I spoke to the one they have on the forums. She claimed to be hacking into the internet and using it to throw suspicion off herself.” Rudy spoke quickly, wanting to impart as much information as he could in as little time as possible. He was panicked, and rightly so. He worried their operation, the one they had spent many years putting together, was falling apart before his eyes all on the say-so of one intrepid officer who wanted to make a name for herself.

          “Rudy, calm down.” John tried, knowing it wouldn’t work. He wasn’t able to keep the old man calm when he decided to panic about things, but it didn’t stop him from trying. “Do they have a name? Do they have your name?” He had to ask simple questions, yes/no ones were the best, they elicited the most information. He needed to have his partner at the top of his game for what they needed to do that night. “Do they have my name?” John ventured, believing the answer to be no, though he couldn’t be certain. But if they did, his contacts would have warned him, and the drones around his home would have alerted him to the approach of a tac-team.

          “Well… No… Not exactly.” The voice was still panicky, Rudy wanted to run, and it was evident. But their reputations couldn’t withstand that sort of bolting. “I’m in one of our safe houses, and everything is disconnected, but someone has an inkling of who we are. They know my hacker name. The only people who know that name and my face are you and detective Stahl. I believe it was detective Stahl who was phishing for information about us.”

          “Rudy, even if she is, she’s not savvy enough to put everything together. If they don’t have a name, they don’t have evidence, only hearsay. They can’t come after us.” John’s heart was racing, but he knew that his contacts could easily sweep anything under the rug. He knew his reputation was well known throughout the community on his own and with Rudy. “You have to calm down, Rudy. We’ve got a job tonight. A job you haven’t briefed me on it yet, but right now I’m not in the mood. I’m getting to know my partner. We were moving to second base…”

          “You don’t understand! She has my girlfriend in her interview room! She’s not going to let her go until she gives up all the information she has on us! Why are you so calm about this? You know who is over there, and what they can do to us if they catch us!”

          John made a face at Rudy continuing to get himself excited over the issue. “Listen, Rudy. This isn’t the first time some hot-to-trot pawn has gotten close to us. What happened the last time one of them actually got your name? Remember Seattle?” Slowly, John turned around on the mooring area on his waterfront property. He looked into the apartment and saw Dorian watching him with a curious and concerned expression.

          Rudy was quiet for a moment, thinking the answer, but not quite willing to say it now. “You… Walked up behind him and assassinated him by blowing a hole in his chest with your Ruger.” The panic seemed to finally be leaving his voice, though he still had his reservations. “You violated your code to protect me.”

          “I violated my code to protect you on that op. That’s right.” While his face was visible to Dorian, John’s lips barely moved, aware the android could read his lips with the same skill he could. “I’ll do it again if it comes down to it. Worry about it when it happens.” He tried to smile at his partner, his hand coming up to make a signal that his phone conversation was just incredibly too long. In a flare of romanticism, he blew a kiss at his partner, as a way of promising to come back in soon.

          Dorian smiled with some of his hidden excitement about the amusing little quirks he was discovering about his partner. John was more romantic than he wanted anyone to know, and with that romanticism went a desire for affection. He hadn’t expected the man would want to spend so much time holding hands or being pressed against him. Despite it having only been a day, Dorian could recall the previous night when he helped John into the bed and the man had looked at him with a strange kind of longing. While he waited and thought, he noticed more and more how it appeared that John didn’t want him to know what he was saying.

          Normally, he could have read the man’s half of the conversation from his lips, but now he was being secretive.  Frowning lightly, the lights on the side of his face activated while he tried to access the comm. John was using. He wanted to know their mutual friend was alright. Finding that he couldn’t easily get into the device, he shifted on his feet, pushing a little harder into the secured comm’s defenses. A sudden jolt went through Dorian’s systems, his body shut down. Dorian’s body collapsed to the ground, his blue eyes going wide and lifeless, and the rest of his body returned to a generic pose.

          “We need to steal three hundred thousand dollars to get something for your girlfriend? We’re meeting at the park at 2338 and walk three blocks to the target…” John’s eyes flashed up when he saw the android collapse, caught completely unawares by it. “Rudy, I have to go,” he interrupted the man on the other end of the comm. “Dorian collapsed, You may have to come over here. Or float through the Matrix. Whatever it is you do.”

          “Dorian collapsed? Why did he collapse? There were no triggers set off by his programming. What did you do to him?” There was panic again in Rudy’s voice, but this time from his worry about the pet android. “You can’t run him so ragged.”

          “I didn’t do anything! His face lit up and then he keeled over.” John moved back to the apartment, putting his hand slowly on the door. “He was accessing data somewhere. I just have to figure out what he was trying to… Rudy, did you put Black Ice on this comm? It’s a secure line you gave me, you told me it had something to prevent anyone from getting to our conversations.”

          “Black Ice? You think Dorian triggered that?”  Rudy fell silent for a moment. John knew that he was looking back at the logs of the programs that had been installed and which one had an event. “He tried to access our comm. It shut him down before he could breach the firewall.” Rudy’s voice lost much of the hysterical edge that it had now that something was radically wrong with the android. “You need to reboot him. I can’t really do it remotely, so I’ll tell you what to do. It’s like when your leg failed on your first run with it. You have to initiate the reboot sequence.”

          John snorted at the idea, but recognized that it was his only choice to get his partner back in operation. “It’s kind of funny to see him like this, Rudy. Maybe I should take a few pictures.” Without thinking, the man pulled out his public commlink. It took only a few seconds for him to activate the camera, despite Rudy’s insistence that he not do that and to take things more seriously. “Not a chance. He fell over in my apartment; I want him to see what happens when he tries to listen in on my conversations when I’m outside.” He chuckled to himself and moved the android’s hands. “I’ll send you these, Rudy. They’re great.” The first place Dorian’s hand goes is to put one thumb in his mouth. With those photos snapped, John moved the hand once more, this time putting the index finger into one nostril.

          While the man chuckled, he was unaware of Rudy on the other end of the line about to exact his revenge. It took only a second for the laughing to stop, followed by an unpleasant tumble to the ground and a foul string of curse words to let the technomancer know that his work had not gone unnoticed. “Rudy! Reactivate my leg!” John hollered into his private comm. “We have a job tonight, and it’s not done calibrating!” The man was quite indignant about his body being fooled around with.

          “Say you’re sorry.”

          “Come on, Rudy…”

          “Say it, and I’ll turn your leg, and you partner back on.”

          “I’m sorry.” He ground out angrily. He didn’t want to admit he’d done anything wrong. John lay on the ground, rolling into a sitting position so he could right himself as soon as he felt the leg whirr back into life. This gave him time to take a few breaths and calm down. He knew Rudy would keep his word. “We’re going to have to cut the line once Dorian comes back online. He’ll try to access this comm again if we’re still on it. Just turn us on. I’ll meet you at the park an hour early. I’ll call once Dorian’s charging so you have time to get things together.”  He started speaking much quicker once it became evident that Dorian’s systems were coming online again.  “Why did you wake him up first?”

          “Because I wanted him to see you on the ground again.”

          “Make sure you reboot my leg or I’m going to wring your neck…” John threatened quickly before he hung up the line and slipped the commlink back into his pocket when Dorian’s eyes returned to their normal blue color and he gasped in air as if it was filling a set of lungs the android didn’t have. John watched Dorian sit up and look around, trying to get his electronic bearings while updating his files on what happened. “Dorian, this isn’t naptime.” He fired the initial salvo, making it his partner’s fault that he was laid out and needed to be rebooted. It was, but that was beside the point.

          Dorian blinked, his eye-sensors taking in his surroundings, and his position relative to those surroundings. He heard his partner’s voice, and noted that he was no longer standing outside and on the phone with someone. “Naptime? Why did my systems shut down, and how were you able to reboot me without Rudy’s help?” He rolled to the side and quickly hopped up onto his feet. The android turned around in confusion and noticed his partner seated on the ground with his synthetic leg laying out at an odd angle. “Did something happen to your leg?”

          “Yeah, Rudy happened to it.” John felt the limb start to respond again. Slowly, he moved it, keenly aware of the phantom pain from the leg initially being blown of. John closed his eyes against it, his fingers curling into fists. The detective swallowed nervously, staring straight across the room, a cold sweat suddenly beading on his face. He couldn’t see his apartment around him, all he saw was the dirty alley he was about to die in. John’s breathing became erratic once more, his honey-brown eyes glazed over and distant, proving how far afield his mind had gone.

          “John…”

          There was that voice again, cutting through the ringing in his ears from the parabolic pulse charge. He looked around wildly, still seeing the dirty alley, but now there were people emerging from the opposite end. People dressed in black. The ones he was there to arrest. They were a rival gang, but he’d played everything about that investigation straight. No one could connect his activities to crossing their path, but they knew who he was. They knew he was coming for them as a Knight Errant officer, it was just good business to take out the competition that used brutal means and threatened the way of life for many who lived in the shadows.  The voice called to him once more, but he saw the charge coming at him and turned to crawl away. John pulled himself roughly across the smooth floor of his dirty alley apartment.

          Before the grenade could explode, John woke up and found himself grasping at Dorian’s body. His fingers were fisted in the gray shirt his partner always wore. He breathed erratically, his mind racing to get a hold of itself. He saw his moderate living space and the bright sunlight flooding in through the windows, and started trying to process it all. John became aware of the hands wrapped around his torso and the mechanical body he pressed against. Finally, the detective managed to calm down, his heart rate slowing to a more normal pace so he could finally relax. When he got that under control, John heaved a sob into Dorian’s shoulder, his fists clenching in the shirt once again. He couldn’t deny what happened, and how visible it had all been to the android. John was thankful Dorian wasn’t speaking, wasn’t asking questions. He knew he was being scanned, analyzed for other medical problems that would warrant a visit to the hospital. “Dorian…” He whispered hoarsely.

          “Sssh. It’s alright, John.” The android tried cautiously. He could still feel the thrum of John’s heart against his chest, and wondered if this sort of episode happened frequently. There were many questions he wanted to ask, but knew that to do so would not be conducive to recovery at that point in time. “You are safe here. No one can hurt you now.” When he felt the man start to pull away, Dorian lifted himself up onto his feet, pulling John, whom he had not released, along with him.  Once again, he put John back on his feet and brought him to the couch to sit down. “Is your leg malfunctioning again? I can see that it currently working, and nothing appears to be wrong with it.” It was time for questions now, so he could see to his partner and make sure he was cared for.

          “No, nothing’s wrong with my leg. Rudy shut that down before he brought you back online.” John sounded resigned and unhappy. He closed his eyes and leaned back on the couch, his chin tilted up so he would be looking at the ceiling if he looked. “It happens sometimes. He’s got a wicked sense of humor. I just need to rest; I’ll be alright, Dorian. Why don’t you go charge yourself?” It was clear that he had little desire to have more social contact for fear that the conversation would get too personal for comfort. He didn’t want to talk about the trauma. He didn’t want to let Dorian know that it was not an infrequent occurrence that he woke up in a cold sweat. John shifted, ready to get up and go to lie down on his bed, despite the sunlight still streaming in on them.  It would take effort to get out of his pants and into his shorts, but it would be more restful to be comfortable. He walked to his bed, picking up the blue shorts he liked to sleep in.

          “Do you want to talk about it?” Dorian’s voice was calm, with a calculated note of concern for his partner. He wanted to make sure John was alright mentally, so they could return to active duty the following day. Slowly, the android approached and reached out, resting a hand on John’s shoulder. “I don’t need to charge until the end of the shift. We may not be on duty today, but I’m worried about…”

          “No. I don’t want to talk about it. I want you to let me be so I can sleep. Turn your back, I’m going to change.” John was frustrated with it all, and shrugged off the gentle hand on his shoulder. “Not everything needs to be discussed like you’re my therapist.” He waited until Dorian had indeed turned so he could slip out of his pants. He was aware when his partner turned back to watch him change. He turned to face Dorian and the aggravating smirk that always accompanied it. The brunette pointed toward the back of his apartment, indicating exactly where he wanted his partner to go. John moved enough to hit a switch that darkened his windows, and saw the confused look on Dorian’s face while he tried to figure out the cost of such a luxurious item that made the bright room suddenly appear as if night had fallen.

          “Then we’ll talk about it when you’re ready, tomorrow morning. Do I get a good night kiss? Studies show that couples who share simple affection tend to stay together longer.” Dorian stepped closer, having every intention of taking what he wanted, even if the detective protested. He was pleased to see the man purse his lips, but lift his head in agreement. Smirking slowly, Dorian reached out to put his hands on John’s hips. He grasped them and drew the man in against his chest. He smiled and leaned his forehead against John’s, wanting more simple affection before stealing a few kisses. “I would like to sleep in your bed, John. In case you need me, I can be awakened instantly.”

          “Not tonight, Dorian.” The man murmured, lifting his hands to place them on either side of Dorian’s neck, his thumbs stroking against the synthetic cheeks. It would be easy to let his guard around Dorian, but it had been easy with Anna, or whatever her name was, too. But Dorian seemed to be different. Or he wanted Dorian to be different so he didn’t have to be alone anymore. He sighed about that and started to pull away, only to find the android’s grip tightening on him, the hands moving to wrap around the lower portion of his back for only a moment, before releasing him.

          Dorian took a step back and inclined his torso shallowly. “Sleep well, John. Wake me up before your run to the park, I’ll go with you.” He mentioned the run Rudy told the detective about casually, believing it to be a simple bit of exercise. He didn’t question the timing of it then, believing it had been used to save John’s ego, should the leg fail again. At John’s nod, the android turned away and walked around the bed toward the back room where his charging station was. If things went well for himself and John, he would ask about being able to charge in bed.

          Alone once more, John pulled back the blankets and sat on the edge of the bed. He suddenly felt tired, and unhappy that he wouldn’t trust the android enough to admit to the horrifying visions he got sometimes when things went wrong with his leg, or he was sleeping. He didn’t want anyone to know the toll it took on him, body and soul. Sighing, he laid back on the soft mattress. He turned on his side finally and pulled the blankets around him. Noticing how large the bed felt without anyone near him, he laughed sardonically and flopped onto his other side so he could finally get a few hours of sleep.

Chapter Text

            When the alarm went off, quieter than usual, John awakened quickly and shut it off. He didn’t want Dorian to hear the thing and come out to investigate. That would be a nightmare for him. He had to move quietly, which wouldn’t be a problem. He wouldn’t put his shoes on until he’d gotten outside of the apartment. John needed to dress himself inside, however. Going into his home-office, he walked around the table where his leg charged and moved to the back wall where a small panel hid a button that opened a wall to reveal a myriad of different kinds of gear arranged in different utilitarian ways.

            John’s armory was meticulously arranged. All his clothes, mostly black in color with various patterns on them. Shedding his tank top, the detective put aside his knowledge of the law and police procedure. He left behind his name and title in favor of becoming something else. He slid his blue shorts to the ground and replaced them with a pair of briefs. Choosing from the array of pants was the easiest choice he would make. He selected a pair of armor plated pants and slid them up over his slender legs and hips. He secured them properly with a simple belt onto which pouches for extra magazines, ammo, and other small supplies could be secreted away from prying eyes. John took the time to fill these pouches with what he thought he might want. Into the holster at his side went the Ares Slivergun with a suppressor attachment. No attention tonight, Rudy was scared enough.

            Before going through his shirts, John took a moment to look at himself in the mirror. He saw each of the scars that covered his chest and remembered the runs that gave them to him. He hoped there wouldn’t be a new one he needed to explain to the Recollectionist while he got patched up. That conversation usually didn’t end well.

            Turning once more to his wardrobe, John pawed through his shirts of all different styles. He wanted to be able to move freely, but still be protected if something went horribly wrong. Finally, he picked up an armored shirt and checked it over. John made sure the armor went all the way around without any flaws or gaps. Satisfied, he pulled it over his shoulders and covered his medium frame. John settled it around himself and strapped it down with a double shoulder holster that could hold two guns. That was tightened so the butts of the pistols would rest directly beneath his armpits. John needed to select his guns next. He dressed in layers, and this was just the next one that needed to be put on.

            The process for selecting weapons was a proprietary one. John ran his hand over them all. He touched each handle of each gun and weighed it mentally against the next one. It was nearly a ritual by now. Most would not think it made any sense for him to do what he did, but he waited patiently for the correct gun to come into his hand. Once he did that, it was a matter of being able to recognize that it was the gun he wanted to be holding. Each gun made its opinion known when John’s fingers touched the grips. Many of them were instant refusals, their metal being cold and unresponsive. The ones who warmed up to the idea took a second touch to determine their motives. However, a pair on the end, much older than any of the others got hot to the touch as soon as John’s hands came to rest on them. They were eager to see use and would have jumped from their rack had they been sentient beings. The man stopped there and pulled each pistol out to examine them. They were old, guns he’d kept since he started running. They were trusted and needed.

            Without returning to the indecisive ones, the hot pieces were put in the shoulder holsters. They might not be pulled, but the runner needed to be prepared and his most trusted weapons were the ones he would take with him. There were only a few more things he needed to do to himself. He walked over to his coats and selected a simple one. There was armor in this piece of clothing, but not much. Not enough to stop more than a handgun bullet. He trusted his shirt to be able to take the brunt of anything else that came at him. He pulled the coat around his shoulders, tugging the short coat down into its proper place. John ran his fingers through his hair, using gel to hold it in place in a messy state, before putting on eyeliner and eye-shadow so his eyes appeared darker than they were.

            Finally, ready to go, John gave himself one finally look-over in the mirror. He felt his name fade away completely. Detective John Kennex was gone, and in his place stood MirrorCourser, the gunslinger adept who was worth his weight in cred for what he could deliver to his clients. The runner walked away from his mirror and the armory, grabbing the non-descript boots from their place by the door. As he walked away, the wall slid back into place, creating an impenetrable seal that would take anyone searching for it a long time to get through. MirrorCourser walked out the back of his apartment and slipped into his heavy boots. Lacing them up took just a moment, and he finally was ready to get the party started.

            Straightening up, MirrorCourser took a quick look around while locking the door to his apartment. Briefly, he wondered if Dorian thought John Kennex paid rent each month, rather than owning the entire property. It hardly mattered what John Kennex did. Tonight, was about MirrorCourser getting his work done. The runner moved away from the door and walked down the driveway, purposefully passing by John Kennex’s vehicle. Near a dumpster, a biolock using a sequence of fingerprints to open a miniature void holding a motorcycle. Like many things, this bike could send a message if he needed it to. That wasn’t necessary for that night, so MirrorCourser pulled the bike from the void and closed the panel. He straddled the Harley-Davidson and kicked it into life.

            The motorcycle roared long enough for MirrorCourser to feel it, before he put the kickstand up and got himself underway. He rode down the street without a care. He knew no one would be following him and getting to the park quickly was of the utmost importance for him. Overlook would be waiting already, with his paranoia clothes on. In his mind, MirrorCourser thought about everything they had talked about earlier, and if they would need someone else involved to watch a secondary location just in case Overlook’s worry was not just wild imaginings.

            The trip lasted less than ten minutes by bike. When he arrived, the runner needed to hide the bike. It took only a few minutes to find a proper tree to obscure his ride. With the bike stored away, it was time for the runners to meet up. He ran across the park from shadow to shadow, avoiding the CCTV cameras deftly. MirrorCourser found Overlook leaning against a tree. Overlook was fretting, the pale man jumping at small noises, and the rustle of a few leaves was no different. MirrorCourser came up in front of the technomancer, though his paleness seemed to fade even more into the background.

            “Overlook,” he called into the man’s face, his accent foreign to the voice that came from the throat of John Kennex. He reached out dexterously to grab the shoulder of the man panicking at someone calling his name. “It’s just me, Overlook.” He spoke like a man from New Zealand, the accent was flawless. MirrorCourser was a native of that country, though most people would have expected him to be from Australia, and the truly ignorant ones from England. “You wore the armored jacket I bought you. Good.”

            “MirrorCourser…” Their running protocols were put in place for a reason. When they met up outside of their day jobs, things changed. They were not who they used to be, and now were something else. “Yeah. It’s surprisingly easy to move around in, even if it’s heavy.” Overlook glanced around searching for anything that seemed amiss while they got the necessary details out between them. “I should tell you about the job. It’s a personal one. There may be a follow-up if it goes right. I brought your favorite drones to keep the police ones away.” Overlook didn’t change his voice, but it wouldn’t be necessary. They didn’t communicate verbally once a job started, unless it was important. Only MirrorCourser’s voice was usually heard.

            “Sally, Jessie, James, and Rupert?”

            “Those aren’t their names. But yes. All four of them are currently in the skies over our target. It should be clear of police presence within the hour.” Overlook was different now. He wasn’t quite as mousey as he tended to be in the lab. This was an operation that could net them a large amount of money, and his bodyguard was standing beside him, so there would be almost nothing that could get at him without MirrorCourser taking it out first. “Then I have an hour to get into their security, get the money, and get out without their systems thinking anything has happened. You don’t need to use your guns, unless the drones fail. And they never do. Dorian would have been a great…”

            “I’m not bringing a police officer into our operations, Overlook.” MirrorCourser said with an edge to his voice, warning how much he didn’t like that line of conversation.  “They can be remotely accessed by someone other than you. That’s why we don’t use any repurposed police robotics, except those drones.” The dark-haired man glanced around again, while his fingers absently slid over the hilt of the weapon at his side. He thought of the extra magazines at his belt, before another thought came to him. “Did you bring Jynx? Does she have my ammo?” At Overlook’s nod, MirrorCourser turned in the direction of their target and offered his arm. They would be walking the distance and appearing to be a couple would throw off most suspicion, and only get them half a glance, since they were clearly both males. “We need to get in and get out. There were a few more patrols than usual. Something has the Pawns spooked.”

            “Should we call it off?”

            “No, just get going.”

            Overlook took MirrorCourser’s arm and lead him toward the tall building they needed to get into. “I just need to get into a small alcove around the south side of the building where the visibility is non-existent for aerial reconnaissance and most of the ground surveillance.” Overlook walked with his partner to the proper crosswalk. They knew better than to draw attention to themselves when they were about to do something illegal.

            When they reached the other side of the street, MirrorCourser reached up to his lapel and drew a dark cloth across his face, obscuring him from easy view. “Alright, love. We don’t have forever. Let’s make this happen.” The gunslinger was ready to do what he needed to do. He was a bodyguard only this run. Infiltration happened from outside. MirrorCourser drew Overlook into the alleyway between two buildings when he heard the heavy bootsteps of a MX walking down the street toward them. He pressed his companion against the side of the building and leaned in like they were kissing, until a flashlight beam shone on them, followed by a mechanical voice.

            “Move along citizens. This is private property.”

            “Yes, officer.” MirrorCourser responded automatically, raising his hand to acknowledge the orders. He turned and continued along the alley, holding Overlook’s hand. While they walked, the gunslinger took stock of their surroundings and how best to watch his partner’s back. He escorted Overlook around the south side of the building and almost immediately could see the alcove Overlook wanted to hole up in. “There’s a dataport here?”

            “Yes, but I don’t need one to get what I need, only a Bitcoin stick. I just need the all-clear from my drones, which is coming in now. Any final instructions you want to give, dear?” The waifish man was already walking away from his partner while asking that question. He knew what would be said. There was no doubt, since it never changed.

            “Keep your head low and get out if shots are fired.” MirrorCourser turned his back. He needed to concentrate his mind on enhancing his vision and hearing abilities. He would be tired when he returned home, but that would be hours. Maybe he would crash at one of their safe houses. “This can all go bad in a hurry, love.”

            Overlook was quick to nod. He remembered how sideways their ops could go, mostly due to an inexperienced runner MirrorCourser was trying to mentor. It amazed him that he had the patience to do such a thing, and tonight was no different. While the skittish man made a bee-line for the alcove, a young runner dressed in all black with heavy boots came tromping toward them. He didn’t have the sense to walk slower so he didn’t make much noise, but the glow around his eyes gave him away. Overlook didn’t have time to deal with one of MirrorCourser’s rookies. He’d received a notice from his drones, their hour had started, and police drones would be out of the area without alerting their home base about a change in their flight patterns.

            MirrorCourser watched the glowing eyes approach him and waited patiently until the youngster was close enough to stop in front of him. He looked the dark-skinned youth over for a moment before reaching out to snatch the glowing glasses off his face. “How many times I have to tell you, Glowstick, we need to be inconspicuous. Nothing to draw attention. We’re not at a rave, we’re on a job where we can’t be seen.” While he didn’t throw the offending things away, he folded them and put them into his protégé’s pocket.

            “Yeah, fine. Just don’t call me Glowstick. That’s not my name…”

            “Your name is Glowstick. It’s going to stick, because I have that kind of sway. Don’t worry, kid.” MirrorCourser smiled, his foreign accent charming. It always had a way of putting people at ease with him, even if he was about to screw someone out of a lot of money or beat them to a pulp. “You do right by me, and I’ll make sure you get work.” The man grasped at the younger man’s shoulder and started drawing him down the side of the building. He was confident in himself, and what they were doing. “How good are your eyes?”

            Glowstick instinctively reached for the glowing glasses. “I can’t afford cyber-implants. So I have these.” He watched his mentor cringe and realized in an instant exactly why the veteran runner didn’t like the things. “I know they stand out, but I’m working on a way to get that color to turn off. Once we get paid from this, I’m going to get the implants.”

            “You have to live first. And get more training in your specialty. I see that broken sword. It’ll do tonight. But I won’t blame you if you want to back out. Tonight’s run is going to be more dangerous than you realize. We think we’ve been compromised… Can’t be sure. But I promise that if you leave, I’ll bring you on another run.”

            The young man scoffed at such a suggestion, drawing back with a bit of an offended look. He couldn’t bear that he was being shuffled off something that was going to have a huge payout for him. “What? Are you kidding me? You can’t cut me out like this. I don’t care if the Pawns come sniffing around. I’m staying.” He crossed his arms over his chest and stared at MirrorCourser, indicating that his decision was final. “Just tell me what I need to know. If we’re going to be doing high risk runs together, I need to get my feet wet sometime.”

            MirrorCourser nodded slowly, licking his lips nervously. He could make the boy go away, but it would be bad for his reputation, and he needed that to remain intact. “Fine…” Looking around again, he pointed at places where nasties could hide. “I don’t always know when I’ve been set up to take a fall, but Mr Johnsons know not to double-cross me. You aren’t that fortunate. Sometimes things hide in the places that are darkest. Stand here, watch the approaches. Don’t engage the police.” MirrorCourser took his student’s arms and drew him into one of the shadows against the wall. He explained the advantages of having real dark skin when it came to infiltration, and what to do if someone did come around the corner that could jeopardize their operation. While he talked, he took the glasses once more from Glowstick’s face, turning them over in his hands. He touched them carefully and caused the glow to fade away, before turning off entirely so he could hand them back. “There now. Much better.”

            “If you get hurt, and we get separated, Glowstick, this is important. You need to get here. He’ll fix you up. Give him my name. But you only get one free one.” He slid a piece of paper into the young man’s hand. “If this goes side-ways, one of the drones will come get you and take you somewhere safe. Just stay hidden.” He grasped Glowstick’s shoulder again and moved back toward his original position on the building. He chuckled about John Kennex’s cohort not realizing exactly what sort of person the young man was when they met at the homeless shelter.

            MirrorCourser passed by the alcove and snapped his fingers in a small sign to his companion that they were ready and watching the technomancer’s back. It was all a crapshoot, and up to Overlook to get inside the building’s systems so they could steal what they needed and get going. With the silence around them, the gunslinger felt uneasy. There should have been more noise from the streets, from the businesses on nearby streets that had more foot traffic. Everything seemed unusual, but with the insistence that the objective be taken now, MirrorCourser put aside his misgivings in favor of simply doing what he was there to do and protect his team from harm.

 

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            In a building to the north of where the job was taking place, Detective Paul organized the officers and the MX-units. They knew the building they were looking for, but they were only able to see one side of the target. Richard ran a hand over his bald head before adjusting the bullet-proof vest on his torso. He wanted the gimp there to assist in the raid, knowing John was much better at planning these sorts of operations. He’d sent Valerie out to the man’s apartment to retrieve the detective and his outdated partner.

            Shaking his head, he pulled over the screen with the thermal imaging of the building and frowned. There were too many heat signatures. Too many in various parts of the building and no one appeared to be out of place. “Hey! Didn’t we send a message to this company to have their people cleared out by dark?” Richard turned around, grabbing another officer by the edge of his vest. Had the company blatantly ignored police orders that were designed to keep them safe? The officer didn’t know which only seemed to stoke Richard’s ire. “Whatever. Has Detective Stahl come back with the gimp yet?” He had ulterior motives for wanting to see John, but no one knew about those.

            “Right here, Richard. Don’t pull out your hair… Oh, too late.” Valerie walked through the large group of MX-43 units. Following after her was the brown-skinned DRN who wore a concerned expression on his face. “I brought Dorian. John wasn’t home, and his locator chip isn’t functioning for some reason.” Valerie put her bullet-proof vest on with practiced hands, though she wouldn’t be going with the rest of the tactical unit on the raid. She would remain behind and coordinate from the view screens.

            Richard looked over his rival for John’s affections, a dour expression on his face. He wanted to refuse the robot, but any shield between him and whatever threats would be coming at him was better than nothing. “Yeah… That’s fine. You got any information? Did he leave a note about where he was going?” He spoke dismissively to Dorian, not quite willing to put him on the same level as himself, despite the very human qualities he displayed. “Did you try calling him?”

            Dorian assumed a proper position, standing up straight while he responded to the direct questioning of another officer. “Detective Kennex left no word about where he was going. Nor were attempted calls answered. His comm goes straight to voicemail, indicating that it is powered down. When Rudy returned his leg to him this morning, Rudy indicated he needed to take a run in the park. However, I do not know which park he meant, and with his locator chip non-functioning, locating him will prove to be difficult.” The android used a plain voice, answering Richard’s questions without stretching the truth. He appeared not to be hurt by the other detective’s callous tone, caring only to do his work. “Detective Stahl asked me to come without my partner; I can only assume it is important to have as many units available as possible. Why are we here?”

            Richard shook his head and turned away from Dorian. Nothing was said that would be enough for him to get the android removed from the scene. “We’re here, because there’s going to be a robbery on that building.” Richard pointed at the target on the map. “The drones haven’t made it in yet, but they’re en route. We should have visual in a minute.” While he spoke, new images popped up on screens. There was little that could be seen of the area; however, there was little in the way of new information presented by them. The thermal imaging still showed multiple heat signatures inside the building, everyone moving around as if they were simply working late into the night. Richard studied the images with Valerie and Dorian. “Our informant wasn’t able to tell us if the suspects would be going into the building or accessing it from outside. So, we’re going to swarm the building from all sides, and go from there. Thermals indicate there are several people still in the building, so just secure everyone, until we can figure out who they are.”

            Dorian frowned, his mind assessing all the threats. He ran algorithms, causing the lights on his face to light up. “There is space on the south side of the building where a smaller group could access a certain set of data ports. They were originally put there to have a terminal for the public to use, but that idea was rejected. It is likely that any robbery of a technology company would involve the theft of data, rather than physical items.” The android’s analysis of the building’s structure and potential targets was logical and well thought out in the moment that it was presented. “Detective Paul, allow me to take a few MXs around that side of the building…”

            “No. Dorian, listen to the rest of plan.” Richard lifted a hand forestalling anything else from him. “That’s not exactly how it’s going to go.” He turned back to the building view, pointing at all the approaches they were going to make. It wouldn’t be easy to come from the east and west sides of the building, so they’d mostly come from the north. “I’m going to be taking you,” he pointed at Dorian, obviously trusting him to watch his back, “and twenty MXs to come from the southwest corner of the building, taking the south side. Jones will be coming from the south east. We’ll meet in the middle and enter the building through there. Detective Stahl will stay here and coordinate our efforts. Get a group and meet me one block west of here.” Richard started to explain everything to the rest of the human officers. They all knew the robots would follow orders without question.

            Dorian nodded, accepting the orders. He gathered the required group of MX-43 robots and led them to the place Richard wanted them to meet. With a few extra moments of time, Dorian organized the robots. He put them into rows, giving them all access to what he could reason about the building, and where the targets likely were. Based on the heat signatures, he reasoned them to be on the south side of the complex, though he was unable to figure out exactly what part of the building they were in.  Briefly, he wondered why the drones weren’t going in further to assess the area. Shifting his head, he concentrated on accessing the drone network, communicating to a nearby one where he wanted it to go.

            “DRN-0167, there are unidentified drones in the airspace around us. They are not on the police network, and do not respond to our access protocols.” One of the MX units attempting to access a police drone found that it could not and immediately reported it to a fellow officer. “Relay the information to detective Paul, while I attempt to make contact with the unidentified drone and bring it down.” The logic-based system lifted its assault rifle and aimed at the light whirring thing that hovered a distance off the ground.

            Before the robot could take the shot, Detective Paul arrived in front of the squad he would be taking around the back of the building, causing the light brown-skinned MX to stand down and return to a ready position. “Whatcha got, Dorian?” The man asked, looking between the MX and the DRN. They were discussing something, and it might have been important to relay the information to Valerie. “Something wrong with the drones in the area?”

            “Detective Paul, MX-1108 has noticed unidentified drones in the airspace above us. They have no registration, and do not respond to police hails. MX-1108 was about to shoot it down.” Dorian relayed the information from the android officer to the senior detective on the case. “I am continuing to hail it with no success. Additionally, it appears to be keeping routine police drones at bay.”

            Richard frowned and looked up into the sky. He wasn’t able to see the drones immediately, but he knew they could be a problem later. “Let’s ignore it for now. Valerie, keep an eye on those drones, and get ours in the area.” He said over the radio, so everyone was aware of what was going on. “Let’s move. Three blocks south, one block east, one block north. Keep me posted on the thermals.” They were simple directions. Necessary ones for making sure everyone was on the same page with everyone else. “Let’s get these bastards in one go.” The short detective turned in the direction they all needed to go. Richard started running, having traded his tie and trousers for a set of tactical clothing that moved freely. Behind him in lockstep, the twenty MX-units and Dorian fell in behind their commander, determined to do their duty without question.

 

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            Back out the south side of the building, in the alcove, Overlook kept in contact with his drones while he prepared himself for stealing what they needed from the company inside.  He had a small list from their employer on what was necessary. He knew better than to try and take anything else in addition to their target information. Sighing heavily, he leaned back into a more comfortable position against the cold marble. Overlook reminded himself that the woman he was doing this for would be eternally grateful to him, and his companions would be flush with cash for a long time to come.

            For one brief moment, he checked with his drones in the air. They were safely buzzing about the building, doing random sweeps across it to simulate police drone activity. They reported back to their creator that nothing seemed amiss. No one was in the area to hinder or harm him. Satisfied with everything, Overlook closed his eyes, his consciousness slipping from his body without much effort, while the Steel Lynx bounded out of its hiding place to gather his body and keep it safe. He had somewhere to go, and little time to get there. He stepped straight into the invisible network that surrounded the building. He could see the ones that were on other buildings, but those didn’t matter, and the chatter from his babies in the air only served to intensify how quickly he needed to move. This one had something his girlfriend needed, and only he could get it back for her.

            In the Matrix, the dataport represented a door through which he could enter the building. Overlook knew there were likely going to be alarms on that door, but they were inactive for the moment. He touched the door, sending a small pulse through it that would throw anything set to come in for him off that idea. Finding nothing that would be an immediate threat to him, he wondered why the company had not bothered to protect all approaches to their system. Briefly, he considered that this run was a set-up, despite his knowledge that the Orange Queen wouldn’t do that to him. Lifting a hand to his fedora, he resettled it on his virtual form.

            As he pushed the door open, he checked it for wires, for anything that would be out of the ordinary that would set off alarms. He knew there was something inside that would be guarding the place where he needed to go. They would be stupid not to do that. However, he was confident enough in his abilities that he wouldn’t step on any pressure-plates that would alert the security programs to his presence. He knew he was treading on dangerous ground, and there was no way this should have been quite as easy as it was turning out to be.

            Overlook went through the first five floors without encountering anything that wanted to keep him out, nor did he find the information he was looking for, but that was to be expected. His mind cried out at the strangeness of what he was not seeing in the building’s Matrix. When he reached the door to the sixth-floor area, Overlook stopped and glanced out into the hallway. He didn’t want to set anything off, before he moved through it and into potential danger, he leaned back against the wall and sunk down to be out of sight. He needed to reach out to his partner. It was the most important thing right now. He reached out with his mind for the signal of his partner’s personal comm. Finding the signal, he sent a short message requesting advice from his companion. “Halfway up. No IC. Continue?”

            The technomancer heard the reply in his ear as if MirrorCourser had whispered it to him. “Three floors and out. Check drones.” Leave it to the gunslinger to want to continue despite the obvious red flags. But three floors would be easy to clear. Their target was on the seventh floor, so making it this far had been good on his part. Satisfied with the answer, Overlook adjusted his vest and tie finally. He needed to be at the top of his game, he needed into his target and to be able to respond to any threats that might crop up.

            “Fine…” He said to himself and pushed off from the wall. Overlook shifted and examined the next floor, that was between him and his target. That would be the difficult part, but he was able to do anything in the Matrix. Confident in himself, and psyched for where he was going, Overlook slipped through the door. He sent his feelers out for anything that might be passively looking for someone that shouldn’t be there. While he hunkered down, he shielded himself, he made a quick contact with the four drones around the building. They were scanning for everything and running interference with the police drones who were now starting to show up. Their hour was almost up, but the police drones were simply flying in their normal pattern, but getting closer, and starting to move in specific ways. Continue monitoring.

            With no other red flags on the outside, Overlook ordered the drones to report to MirrorCourser while he continued. He stepped out confidently into the corridor of the sixth floor. He knew things didn’t seem quite right, but it felt more normal when a ping went out from one room off the main hall.  Overlook watched it come for him and quickly ducked until the wave went by. Things were starting to get intense. He couldn’t dodge them all, but the ones he couldn’t dodge, he could probably disable. Many of them ran on older technology, their programmer having very little in the way of imagination. Overlook crouched by the door of the office who was starting to ping a bit faster.

            Making a slight noise, it drew the attention of the security guard program. The helmeted male humanoid walked forward, red glowing lines accenting portions of its black clad body. While it was certainly intimidating, Overlook did not fall for it. He waited patiently for the guard to get closer before he put his fingers to a glowing ring on its knee. The red light flared brightly, an alert being generated. Before transmission could be initiated, the red lights suddenly turned blue, indicating the now passiveness of the security program. It returned to its office and continued to send out pings occasionally, though they by-passed Overlook’s signature and allowed him to continue through his mission.

            The rest of the floor cleared easily enough. With one program reporting there was no problem, the others did not sense him either. The ones who tried to were quickly disabled with only a few thoughts and a touch to the knee. Overlook began to believe that there would be nothing to stop him from doing what he needed to do. He only vaguely thought it was odd that the security for such an important tech company would pose no threat to even a seasoned hacker like himself. He had written some of the programs that companies used, but this was ridiculously easy.

            Still determined to move on, Overlook approached the stairwell to the next floor. This was proving to be a lower risk job than the Orange Queen had pitched it. He wondered what it was she needed the information for, but it wasn’t his place to ask those sorts of questions. He stepped out into the hall and heard nothing. There was nothing on this floor but a giant pedestal in the middle of the room. He doubted it was nearly this open outside of the network. But the pedestal was promising. It hummed with data. Overlook’s eyes widened when he saw it. There were small data streams swirling about it. All he needed to do was reach out and touch the glowing thing. He walked forward deliberately and put his hands out. It wouldn’t take long to gather the bits he needed. The protective wall around those files shouldn’t have been too thick.

            He sifted through the data. All he knew were file names, which was more than enough to get him to where he needed to be within the datastream. He found them buried near the bottom, and slowly drew out each one so he could inspect it for signs that the file was corrupted or incomplete. He secured each of them to himself, so coming out of the Matrix through his datastick would leave the information exactly where he needed it. In less than ten minutes Overlook got the information he needed from the pedestal. He closed the terminal down and stepped away where he could examine his handiwork from a wider angle. The wageslaves won’t find it until morning.

            Just as the technomancer turned to leave, alarm bells started ringing throughout the node he was accessing. Overlook paused in his tracks and turned around in time for the walls opening and revealing more than a dozen soldiers like the ones downstairs, only all of these had red running lights, and looked much more brutal. They came running out toward Overlook, determined to kill him where he stood. Without thinking, Overlook started running in the opposite direction. He needed to make a hasty retreat out of the node. He had to get back to his body, had to warn MirrorCourser that it had all gone wrong. He didn’t know what was going on outside, he stopped contacting his drones now that everything was about survival.

            Overlook blasted through the floors between himself and the exit he wanted to take. He thought his body was still right outside. As he made his escape, he destroyed everything in his path. The entire building’s network was left in shambles, data lying strewn about, while the furniture and walls collapsed. With each floor he descended through more and more alarms were triggered. The entire building was going into lockdown and Overlook couldn’t take the time to override it. There wasn’t enough time to try it. Overlook raced for the doorway, his fingers prying it open before the closest security program managed to grab him. His consciousness flew out of the datastick, and instead of searching for his Jynx which was close by, he went straight into one of the waiting police officer robots who were only a few blocks from the imploding network and at the back of the unit closing in on the runners’ location.

 

-----

 

            MirrorCourser kept himself close to the building. He was listening for more than the whirr of drones overhead. Occasionally, he would stroke the Lynx that stalked near him. This one held the body of his friend, but also held his extra ammo. In case of emergencies he was on his own. He would send Jynx away faster than anything, and hope it was smart enough to grab Glowstick. A buzz at his comm indicated there was something important, so he drew it out, hoping it wasn’t Overlook again with anything other than he was coming out of the building. The message came from the drone he called Rupert. It had one code. The code that meant someone was on to them.

            911

            “Shit!” The hour wasn’t up, but Rupert was able to determine that the drone wasn’t flying under its own sweeping protocols. Stepping out from his covered position, the gun at his thigh called out. It was the one that needed to take the shot. Without hesitation, MirrorCourser drew the Ares Slivergun and pointed it up at where the drone would come from. As soon as it cleared the building, MirrorCourser took the shot. The sound of the gun firing was only a minor noise thanks to the suppressor on the end of it. That technology had come a long way since the early twentyfirst. He stepped back into the darkness, aware of Glowstick leaving his post to come confer with his leader while the drone fell from the sky where it crashed at MirrorCourser’s feet.

            He looked up when Glowstick got close enough to him. He didn’t know how close the police where, but he knew exactly where they were going. “You need to leave.” He ordered imperiously while moving to Jynx. MirrorCourser pulled open a hatch on her flank and removed several magazines for his guns. He needed to be able to reload without searching for it. He put the ammo in his pockets, before tapping Jynx on the hip, ordering her to leave the area with Overlook. “You need to leave now. The police are coming, and you’re not ready for that.”

            Glowstick shook his head. He wasn’t going anywhere while there was still a chance he could be useful to the run. “I’m ready. Don’t worry about me.” He turned and moved back from MirrorCourser so they each had their own approach to guard. He drew his broken sword and simply waited. The marching sound of nearly two dozen boots could be heard coming up the area between the two buildings directly south of their target. “Here they come.” The young man warned, moving closer to the southern building. He was going to try a sneak attack on the first few assailants that came around the corner.

            “Don’t kill the human cops. Only the MXs.” MirrorCourser instructed. His orders left no room for question, and no doubt that he believed the robots to be worthless, but the humans meant something, even if they were attempting to stop them.  He slipped the Slivergun into its holster and reached for the two under his arms. They were hot again, eager to be used. Licking his lips once more, MirrorCourser stepped back into the alcove where Overlook’s body had been. He glanced down at the datastick, aware suddenly that it wasn’t for bitcoin transfers. He didn’t know if he’d been lied to, but he worried about it. That needed to wait. There was a small light on it, indicating a transfer of data had been completed. Bending down, he yanked the stick out of the wall and slid it into a secret pocket of his vest. He would return to his partner when they reconnoitered.

            “You got it.”

            It was only a few more seconds before a wave of MX units rounded the corner of the building. They all had their automatic rifles up and ready to take shots at anyone they saw. They pointed their guns around, using their normal sensors to find any threats to them or the officers they protected. Before the last ones had cleared the building, Glowstick sprung into action. He brought the broken sword down hard against the necks of the MX units closest to him. He wanted to impress MirrorCourser, make it clear that he could handle himself in a physical confrontation. And he knew that he had to keep the focus on him, this gave the other man freedom to shoot without being threatened. Glowstick was smart enough to keep his grunting and other noise to a minimum, thanks to the tutoring from MirrorCourser prior to the event.

            The starting attacks caused all the robots to turn their heads and assess the man attacking and putting down a few of their numbers. As one they ordered Glowstick to drop his weapon, an action that wasn’t going to happen. “Surrender your weapon!” They ordered a second time, however Glowstick continued to attack. He had taken out four robots by the time the third order was given.

            Before Glowstick could get to the fifth robot, Dorian was rounding the corner. Dorian pushed Richard back, needing to protect the human from the armed assailant. Without giving any further orders to Glowstick, he lifted his handgun and fired one shot, the bullet ripping through the young man’s shoulder enough to cause him to drop his sword and collapse to the ground, writhing in pain. Dorian scanned his body for any further weapons, and determined that he was indeed no longer a threat, and that the wound would not necessarily be life threatening.

            While the MX units closed in on the young samurai, MirrorCourser took a breath and started firing. He’d violated his tenants again by not reacting fast enough. He had seen Dorian, John Kennex’s partner and hesitated. He hadn’t expected to see that one. Why would the police have brought him? Then they know Kennex isn’t at home. His green runner had gotten hurt because of his hesitation. So long as the boy didn’t do anything more, the drone he called Rupert could get down to him and help him get away. But Rupert needed cover. The first bullet left his handgun at that revelation. It tore through the closest MX and dropped it like a stone. MirrorCourser presented a new target, but a much faster acting one. He used his skills to give him speed and accuracy with the shots while running. He had to keep on the move for now, draw the police away from his comrade.

            The MX robots turned to follow the man now firing on them. A few ordered him to drop his weapons, while others took the opportunity to prepare to return fire on him. Dorian remained behind to secure the injured prisoner. The android moved closer, kneeling to inspect the human beneath him. “Stop moving,” he ordered, kneeling beside Glowstick. He assessed the wound, making a call to have the emergency services come to his location. Dorian tried to indentify the young black man but came up with nothing on his facial recognition.

            The android’s activities were quickly halted by one of Overlook’s drones flying down from the air. It had been sent to collect Glowstick, however he now had to save the rookie instead. Rupert shot at Dorian several times, its bullets ripping into the blue jacket, shirt and synthetic body beneath it. Rupert forced Dorian back while Glowstick crawled away from the scene until Jessie could make it down to collect their target instead. In the dark, no one noticed Glowstick escaping to the place MirrorCourser wanted him to go, using the drone as support.

            Dorian retreated instinctively but pulled his gun out and pointed it at the drone. He tried to access and shut it down, but only met resistance from the thing.  They exchanged bullets for several seconds. Dorian’s bullets were deflected, until one lucky shot caught it in the motor and forced it down. Rupert crashed to the ground at Dorian’s feet, its systems going dark within seconds of the fatal hit. Instead of trying to inspect it, Dorian turned to watch the MXs fall to the bullets of their third target. Dorian walked through boldly. He had to take down the assailant, and it appeared none of the MXs were up to the task.

            MirrorCourser moved fast. He darted in an odd zig-zag pattern, meant to keep the robots from being able to target him properly. It worked very well, and he could maintain it while he fired at the robots coming toward him. He felt the bullets they were using as they hit his body armor. They fell away mostly, leaving only bruises where they impacted against him.  The magazines emptied. Fresh ones needed to be put in without delay. He hit the drop button causing the empty ones to fall and threw the guns upward. It was a trick that didn’t always work, but it drew the attention of his attackers while MirrorCourser pulled fresh magazines from his pocket and positioned them for the guns to fall on. Grabbing the handles again, he slid his feet along the ground and used the empty magazines as their own sort of projectile distraction.

            There were five robots left, and back up hadn’t arrived. He would have to figure out what to do when it was just the human, Richard Paul, and the DRN. Richard was barking orders to his back up. They needed to converge quickly, because shots were fired, and MXs were going down. No one seemed to see the one MX not firing its weapon while backing away from the fracas. MirrorCourser saw, and in an instant, knew there was something wrong, Overlook hadn’t made it back to his body. With extreme prejudice, MirrorCourser pumped two bullets each into four of the five robots, before turning his guns on Dorian who had made it close enough that any bullets fired would have been lethal. The bullets stopped flying instantly, MirrorCourser locking eyes with Dorian, giving Richard enough time and distraction to run around the side to get a clear shot at their assailant.

            “Put down your weapons.” Dorian ordered, his ocular sensors running diagnostics on the man in front of him. His facial recognition software was unable to pick up more than the upper half of his face. Dorian was unable to identify the man immediately. “Surrender yourself, and I promise no harm will come to you.” Dorian’s voice was calm, urging the criminal to go with them willingly. “There are only twenty-six bullets remaining in your magazines. That will not be enough to stop the sixty MX-43s that are converging on our location.”

            “You don’t know how much ammo I’m carrying, bot.” MirrorCourser responded easily. He made sure not to relax his accent, knowing Dorian could identify his vocal patterns without difficulty. “I’ve got enough to put down the whole bloody fleet of ‘em, Including you.” While it wasn’t an outright lie, MirrorCourser did have a lot of bullets, but he didn’t want to shoot Dorian. He let his guard down, the barrels of his guns dipping only slightly with his internal revelation that he wouldn’t pull the trigger on John Kennex’s partner. They needed each other.

            The hesitation was long enough for Detective Paul to get all the way around MirrorCourser. He shot at the shadowrunner only twice, one bullet hitting him square in the back which only served to throw the man off balance. Richard’s second bullet hit the tall man in the pelvic girdle, the round high-powered enough to cause the armored plate to warp and press hard into the wearer’s skin. Richard dropped his arms, thinking he had dropped the suspect.

            Before Richard could reset for firing on the front of the suspect, MirrorCourser whirled around. He fired several shots, one piercing the cop’s arm. The runner was unable to fire anymore due to a pair of brown-skinned hands coming down on his body. One hand landed on his shoulder, the other on his side. With both hands in place, electricity suddenly jolted through the man’s body. MirrorCourser’s body locked up while Dorian tased him. The electrocution lasted only a few seconds, but for MirrorCourser enduring it, it felt like a few minutes. As soon as it stopped, his body went limp in Dorian’s arms, the guns falling to the ground.

            Dorian wrapped his arms securely around MirrorCourser’s body. He knelt slowly so the suspect could be laid out on the ground and handcuffed properly while he was incapacitated, but not unconscious. The android secured MirrorCourser’s hands behind his back before rolling him over to inspect his face and put a name to the face who had laid waste to a squad of MXs. He put a hand on the black cloth obscuring half of the face and pulled it down. “Suspect secure, detective Stahl. Detective Paul requires medical attention and so does…” Dorian’s voice went silent as the pale face of his partner was revealed. “John!” He exclaimed, looking into the dazed hazel eyes. “What are you doing here, John?”

Chapter Text

            The number six interrogation room at the police department’s building was cold and harsh. John found himself on the opposite side of everything. He knew it had been a complete shock for the officers who watched him propelled through the hallway of the building in handcuffs. His guns had been taken from him, their ammunition taken as well. He had nothing he could use, and while he could summon something, it wouldn’t help him. John made a face while Richard slid open the door to the room he would be in and nearly threw the tall man forward until he crashed over the table in the center, a grunt of pain escaping his lips when his chin struck it. They were both not above violating a few civil rights it seemed…

            John started to chuckle darkly when he thought he wouldn’t be thrown around anymore. “I didn’t realize you were that strong, Richard. Or that you liked to put your hands on suspects.” The New Zealander accent was gone now, replaced by his normal American one while he spoke to his coworker. He pushed himself up off the table so he could fall into the chair next to him. The brunette ran his tongue over his teeth and lips, taking stock of himself to make sure there was nothing broken. “I didn’t think you idolized me so much.” He started to laugh derisively while the door opened one more time. He knew the MX-unit entered the room, being standard operating procedure for a synthetic unit to record interrogations. “Gonna cuff me to the table, Richard? Make it easier for you to get what you want out of me?”

            The short detective’s blood ran cold, he wondered if John knew about his fantasies regarding the man. He didn’t know if he’d been found out, but he didn’t want it to happen. Instead, a sneer crossed his lips. He moved forward and reached out with his hands to secure one wrist. Richard knew better than to trust any of his suspects, especially one who was familiar with police procedure. Lifting a hand, he waved to the MX to secure the wrist opposite him. “Hold him tight. This one’s a fighter.” With both wrists secure, Richard unlocked one manacle and forced John’s hands beneath the table where they were secured once more. “I thought I’d forgo the formality, Detective Kennex. Or should I call you MirrorCourser? But you like being locked down right? So I’ll keep you that way.”

            The Asian version of the MX looked at John after the handcuffs had been secure once more. The lids of its eyes blinked in a strange pattern when the accused detective watched his face. A realization grew in the suspect’s eyes, the man realizing exactly where his technomancer friend’s consciousness had gone. He didn’t need to worry about him anymore, unless the MX started to “malfunction” in the eyes of the police department. John smirked and leaned back. With Rudy there to watch the interrogation, it wouldn’t matter how it went, it would be captured on video for whatever would have been useful to make sure the police stayed off his back. He could give away quite a bit of information, but he had to be careful about giving up too much of his operation…  The smirk relaxed finally, his mind having come up with a plan of how to handle the situation.

            “I don’t care what you call me, so long as you remember my name when you’re screaming it later.” John laughed and leaned back as far as he could in his chair. He had no idea the other detective found him physically attractive. The tall man looked quite comfortable in the chair, despite the handcuffs, and he was quickly taking control of the situation around him. He was a master of his craft as a police lieutenant and a shadowrunner. He didn’t want Richard to know he was a little nervous that he might give up too much information about his operations.

            Richard shook his head about the whole thing. John really was too sassy for his own good. He shifted uncomfortably and decided against sitting on the desk near the man. He turned his back and walked toward the wall so he could lean on it and watch his quarry. “We’re just going to start with a few simple questions. Try to answer honestly and without your usual attitude. Remember, this is being recorded.” He waited for a grunt of recognition from his suspect before he began the interrogation. Everything needed to go smoothly. This was going to get him a promotion at the expense of his fantasy lover, and a man he respected as a fellow detective. He knew the man wouldn’t take things seriously, but until the hammer truly fell it was necessary to play at treating him like a suspect. “What were you doing outside of the City’s largest technology company tonight?”

            “I was offering technical support to empty their bank accounts.” John smiled brightly, aware that it was an admission of some form of guilt. He answered that way and turned to smile at the MX who was recording them. He winked and blew a kiss at the robot, before turning his aggravating smirk back to his interrogator. “They needed help, and as a public servant, I couldn’t say no. How’s the arm, by the way?” The smirk faded while he nodded at the bloody bandage on Richard’s arm. “You’re lucky that round only grazed you. It was armor-piercing.”

            “I’m fine. I’ll take it out of your ass later. Stop trying to change the subject.” Instinctively, he shifted his injured arm and shook his head. “You’re not dressed like an officer. You’re wearing body armor in many layers.” Richard finally came to sit in the chair across from John. He wanted to be comfortable and sit where he could easily see John’s eyes while he asked questions. “If you’re offering tech support why do you need to wear that kind of gear, and carry those kinds of firearms with what was it? Armor piercing rounds?”

            “In case a squad of heavily armed, and highly hostile MX-43 units come around the corner with their guns pointed at me.” John’s tone was acerbic to meet Richard’s. He didn’t like being in the hot seat. He hadn’t been captured on one of his runs in more than twenty years. His father had freed him back then and quashed it all. John quieted down while he thought about the man who had taught him everything he knew about being a runner. Including the fact that sometimes things went sideways, and the police got involved.

            "You're not that tech savvy, John. Why would you think you could break into someone's network? What's in that building that you wanted so bad you were willing to risk your life, career, and reputation?”

            John lifted his eyes to Richard’s dark ones, pushing the thoughts about his mentor away for the moment. He smirked again, needing to remain in control for his partner’s video. "People. Information. The CEO has a bowl of jawbreakers on his desk. Guess what I was going for, Richard. They tell me you’re a detective."

            “John, I need you to take this seriously. IA is going to come down here and crawl up your ass without wine and dinner, unless you level with me about what you were doing.” Richard’s expression darkened dangerously. He was getting fed up with the snarky attitude of his fantasy lover and thinking up plans on what he could do about it. He wanted to kiss the man. That would shut him up.

            “You think I’m worried about that? What makes you think I wasn’t under direction from someone? Was I working alone? Did I have help? Is someone pulling my strings?” John asked several questions in rapid succession. He and his partner in the form of a robot needed to know how much knowledge the police had about them, and potentially where it came from. He knew they had spoken to someone, and vaguely he wondered if Rudy’s girlfriend was real, and had she betrayed them?

            While the pair had their verbal sparring match, the MX unit recording the interrogation started acting on its own. It didn’t move away from the wall, but it began seeking out a neural network connection with the DRN unit sitting outside at detective Kennex’s desk. It took less than a minute for Rudy’s consciousness to connect with Dorian’s, and even less time for the footage of the interview to be shared with him. It allowed Dorian to make his own assessments and inferences based on the MX’s bioscans of John showing an increase in respiration, heart rate and relative level of stress, as well as other non-verbal data provided by John’s body.

            “Real cute, Kennex. You aren’t the one doing the questioning tonight. I am. You know I already have your partner in custody, so why don’t you drop the act. You’re already going to lose everything, including your job…” Richard had grown angry now. He was at a breaking point, but he wasn’t completely out of cards to play. “It’s just a matter of how you want to land after the shit hits the fan.” The short detective rose from his chair and came around the desk to John’s side.

            Before he submitted his report, a portion of the MX’s memory would need to be erased. Richard’s actions were reckless, but it wouldn’t stop him this time. He knew what he wanted, and this might have been his only opportunity to get it. If things worked out the way they did in his fantasy, John wouldn’t outright deny him. He reached out to grab a handful of John’s dark hair. Richard watched the brief look of confusion cross the man’s face when his head was yanked back on his neck, along with a light grunt of pain.

            “You’ve been waiting for this for a long time, haven’t you?”

            “Since you walked back into the station…” So, his desires hadn’t gone unnoticed. He had been sloppy, but it didn’t matter anymore. “Then you know that I can take care of you once this is over.” He leaned down to whisper in John’s ear, before pressing their lips together. Richard wanted to be dominating over his captive. It didn’t take long for him to force his tongue down John’s throat. Richard tightened his grip on the hair, using it to hold the head in place while he took advantage of his captive, despite the noises of displeasure and sudden increase in stress responses registered by the MX’s sensors being passed along to Dorian.

            Both men grunted about the non-consensual kiss. One enjoyed it, the other did not. The one who did not was able to take the upper hand after only a moment. John allowed the kiss to happen long enough for him to gather as much information as he needed about Richard’s obsession with him. When he’d had enough, John tried to pull his head away. Finding that he couldn’t, John only had but one recourse to end it. He bit down hard on Richard’s tongue drawing blood and a surprised yelp from his attacker.

            While Richard pulled away and used his fingers to make sure his tongue was still there, the door to the interrogation room slid open. Dorian walked in and looked between the two humans who now both had blood in their mouths. John was smiling and laughing gruffly while Richard didn’t look nearly as amused. “John?” He asked his partner. “John, what’s going on here? Detective Paul, why are you both bleeding from the mouth?” He walked to his partner to inspect him for new injuries, worried for the man he wanted to start a relationship with.

            John turned slowly in his chair. He shook his head at Dorian. “Richard and I just decided to play a little tonsil hockey. I won.” He would have to elaborate on that later, judging from the confused expression on his android’s face. “How much longer am I going to be here, Dorian? My leg needs to come off and be charged.”

            It was a legitimate question; one Dorian didn’t have an answer to. He looked at Richard and tilted his head questioningly. Richard sighed heavily then shrugged and looked at his watch. “We’ll set him for arraignment in the morning. But first we need to know who your partners are. What are their names, and where can we find them?”

            “You’ve already spoken to my partner,” John admitted, though he kept his eyes on Dorian’s, unwilling to give away more information. “You said you had him in custody.” He didn’t realize that it might cause Richard to think about anything that seemed unusual about that statement. “And now I’m done talking. Charge me or let me go.” He spread his hands under the table, aware of the slowing down of his synthetic limb

            Richard sat back down, continuing to examine his tongue while he tapped a few buttons on the pad with the booking information about John Kennex. He wasn’t going to give the man any special treatment, but with only NoName down in the pens, he didn’t think that would be a problem. They would be far across the room from each other. “We don’t have any way to charge your limb. I guess you’ll have to hop around. Take him down to the lockup.”

            The short detective gave his orders expecting both Dorian and his MX to carry them out without question. He wasn't disappointed. Dorian reached down to uncuff John from the table. "Stand up, John. You'll be down in the pens until the final disposition of your arraignment. We'll furnish you with what we can, since you are an officer." He waited until his partner had gotten to his feet to recuff him to the front in case his leg failed again, and he fell to the ground.

            MX-1108 took hold of John's arm while Dorian led the way down to the holding cells. The pair of runners moved slower, needing to have a short discussion. "They are handling you with kid gloves..."

            "Yeah, whatever." John interrupted his concerned friend. "Find out where they're holding their informant." John said quietly. He needed to know who betrayed them so that person could be properly dealt with. "Who is it?" He asked while taking a quick glance around the squad room to see who was in attendance and could see his perp-walk. John smiled suddenly when they rounded a corner and found themselves running into Captain Maldonado who only stared at the captive, unable to properly respond to his appearance in handcuffs and leathers. "Sandra, fancy meeting you here. How's your night, Captain?"

            "Keep moving." Rudy-MX pushed John along the hallway, acting as a proper officer of the law dealing with a suspect. While they walked, Rudy-MX moved closer to the man toee how well he could touch him without anyone noticing the robot engaging in strange actions. "There is only a material witness currently being held in the station's holding cells. I can't find a name for him. It says "Name, No". Wonder what that's supposed to mean." The robot put a hand down to its waist where the heavy-duty belt rested, its fingers running over the magazines in their proper slot. He knew what John would ask for next. "The Pawn put him in there but didn't put down any details."

            "That's fine. I know who it is." They had reached the elevator now and caught up with Dorian, which meant a cessation on the shadowspeak. John stepped a bit too close to his love and ran the tip of his boot over the android's calf. He took a breath to say something reassuring, only to find himself grasped by the lapels of his jacket and thrown forcefully against the back of the now open elevator. John gasped in shock. His eyes grew wide when he was cut off by a loud and intense voice interrupting his protests.

            "What's the matter with you? No, don't answer! I'm not done yet." Dorian exerted his superior strength, bruising the pale skin beneath the armored shirt. "You left me in your apartment, and didn't wake me when you went out, like I specifically asked you to do. I was worried when detective Stahl woke me because you weren't in your bed, and your locator chip was turned off. I didn't know what to tell her, except that you were going to the park for a run. But where did we find you? Where, John?!"

            "Outside a tech company..."

            "Outside of a tech company, robbing the place!" Dorian was angry now, angrier than he had been during the power shortage. "AH!" He lifted a hand to stop his partner from interrupting him, the same way John had done the previous day now. "No, John. You need to listen to me. I don't know what's going on, or why you were there, but this is serious! You're in a lot of trouble!" He yelled at his lover, anxiousness replacing the anger in his blue eyes. The situation truly made him despondent. "I need you. Why are you trying to throw me away?"

            While the android hollered at him, John slowly slumped on the wall. He closed his eyes against the growing pain in his backside until Dorian shook him awake to ask his final question. He gasped awake and groaned when he shifted higher on the wall. Before answering, he looked and saw that his actions had the unintended consequence of putting Dorian's career in jeopardy. "Dorian, stop. Listen to me." He lifted his cuffed hands to press against the android's chest. He pulled him close, wanting his love to feel that he was sincere about his answers, and try to put some of those fears to rest. "You can't understand what's going on right now. Nothing is quite the way it seems. And I can't tell you anymore without putting you in danger."

            John lifted his chin slowly, whispering so only the DRN would hear him. "I like your legs. I expect to have them wrapped around my good one in bed when this is over." The words may not have made a lot of sense and were entirely inappropriate for their setting, but it was enough to convey to the android that he actively wanted Dorian to believe him. The flippancy of it gave Dorian pause. The lips tugged up at the corners in a small smile. Having his message delivered, John's hand slipped to his partner's chin, drawing it closer to his. He pressed their lips together, making sure that the MX unit standing behind Dorian didn't turn to observe them, so it would have plausible deniability if anyone caught them. John felt his partner resist him, but the cuffed hands grasping at the collar of his gray shirt were enough of a deterrent to keep him from moving away.

            However, before the kiss could last longer than a few seconds, the elevator reached the bottom floor, the doors opening to reveal the way into the secure jail cells. Dorian turned to lead the way out. He paused when the other detective lurched off the wall. "Dorian, I need medical attention. I need an iron pill if I'm going to be down here in the cold... And there's a bullet in my ass..." John hobbled forward, keenly aware of the sharp pain from the broken pieces of armor in his pants that were only splintering further.

            "MX-1108, notify the medical staff of Detective Kennex's situation. Advise them of it being a gunshot wound, and to come down here to take care of it." Dorian turned to watch the Asian-designed robot pushing John forward. He had no idea that their mutual friend inhabited it at that moment. "Once he is secured in his cell, remove his synthetic leg and bring it to me so I can take it to Doctor Lom's lab for charging." Dorian was oblivious to the MX and John both expressing their shock at the technician's mention. The android left after Rudy-MX acknowledged his new marching orders, leaving the two shadowrunners alone.

            "You need to get back to your body..."

            "Already on it." The lights on the side of the robot's face lit up, first with a message being sent to the medical staff as directed. Then an encrypted message was generated and sent out to someone who had influence. -Help! Shit happened! Come save me!-

            -What happened? What can I do?-

            -Bring Jynx. I need my body. MirrorCourser got pinched.-

            -Oh dear... The same station I came to before?-

            -Yes. Please hurry. One of them shot him in the behind.- While sending the messages back and forth, Rudy-MX pushed John along the hallway. He didn't pay attention to the other units, or to his prisoner taking his time to examine the only other human down there

            John smirked slowly, his dark eyes fixated on NoName as he walked by. The detective studied the airflow and acoustics while he made his plan to dispatch the one who so willingly betrayed their kind. He watched the panic growing in NoName's eyes. The brat started to cause a ruckus in his cell, claiming he was now in mortal danger, and detective Paul promised he would be safe from anyone that tried to get at him. The single MX unit assigned to the holding cells left his post to give orders to the first inmate to calm down. This gave the runners enough time to get into a cell that had the least coverage from the security cameras. "I'll take that iron pill now, Rudy." John ordered quickly, needing everything to happen in a specific order. "Good job getting me to a place where no one will see this coming..." He turned around, so his handcuffs could be removed. "Make sure that other bot leaves in half an hour. I don't care what pretext you use. I need half an hour to do this."

Chapter Text

            In the Captain's office of the Investigations and Detectives Division, Sandra Maldonado sat and stared at the recovered video from the downed MXs. She watched it carefully, trying to figure out why one of her officers had gone rogue and been caught up in something this illegal. Not just one of her officers. Her best one, and a dear friend. She watched in wonder how the man could save his injured companion and lead the officers away from him while firing his guns. The obscured man in black appeared not to be paying much attention to where he was firing, but their bullets always found their mark.

            The footage now switched to the video from the squad's lone DRN unit. This footage was different. Dorian's eyes noted the respiration and heart rate of the assailant, as well as other notable features that were visible to him, including a close-up of the eyes when the guns were suddenly pointed at him. Dorian made a note that there was a sudden anxiousness and surprise at seeing that particular model. When the gun barrels dipped, Dorian noted that too, considering it a sign that he would willingly give himself up once the command was given. Dorian's video showed that the covered man was never given the opportunity to as detective Paul came around the side of the android and man looking for a way to even the odds. The bullet caused Sandra to jump, her ears attuned to the background noise. She heard the armor plate breaking and watched pain explode in the suspect’s eyes, when he turned to shoot Richard in the arm. Even in pain he didn't take a kill shot. Dorian's video ended when he tasered and revealed John's face. The electricity had truly incapacitated the officer, making it easy to arrest him.

            The shift commander couldn't fault her officers for what they had done. However, she was coming to realize that there might have been something more at play, but without any information from her detectives, she had no way of knowing exactly what that was. She didn't want to cause a stir amongst them, nor did she want this to go to Internal Affairs, despite that being where this would naturally have to end up since an officer was involved in the confrontation, and there was significant damage to City property. The woman sighed and reached down into the bottom drawer of her desk to grab her bottle of whiskey.  She knew there was the potential for this all to go south very quickly, and wasn't willing to give up her favorite human without a fight, even if he had done something wrong.

            Sandra pulled the bottle out and poured herself a quick drink. She needed to get a handle on everything... But her thoughts were stopped when a strange woman simply walked into her squad room. The tall woman looked as if she had been there before, and knew exactly where she was going. Sandra watched her for a moment, until her identity finally dawned on her. The captain rose from her chair and made a quick few steps out of her office. She needed to waylay the younger looking woman in hopes that there were a few answers for her, and that none of her people needed to worry about being eaten.

            When Sandra exited her office, she noticed a large creature following along behind the other woman. She had little idea that the creature was there with a very specific purpose in mind. The divisional captain, called for the woman using a noise that seemed to go unnoticed by the humans, but gave all the robots brief pause to ascertain its origination. {To what do I owe this honor?}

            Hestaby turned toward Sandra and tilted her head curiously. There was little doubt in her mind that she was feeling a bit strained to have one of her elders strolling into her territory, despite the need for her to show deference. Hestaby smiled and walked through the middle of where the detectives had their stations. Detectives Paul and Stahl looked up when Hestaby walked through, however a quick motion from Sandra kept them from getting up and trying to find out what she needed. It became evident to the dark-haired youthful looking woman that there would be just a hint of animosity between them until things were explained.

            Sandra lead Hestaby into her office and blacked out the windows so no one would be able to see anything going on in there. {This is my territory. These people are under my command.} Sandra bristled, though her tone and the words were only just shy of being insulting to the great dragon who visited her. {I am unable to provide you many pleasantries, or hospitality.} The police captain offered her more comfortable office chair to the dignitary, while she took a different chair. {A situation has arisen with one of my--}

            {Yes, I am aware of this.} The woman responded quickly. She patted the large piece of machinery beside her. Hestaby smiled amicably at the younger dragon before her. {I do not wish to step on your toes, young one, but there are things happening that you must retain plausible deniability about.}

            Sandra watched her elder with some confusion. She didn't want anyone to come down on her if she could help it. {Plausible deniability? I'm not interested in throwing any of my men to the wolves. What's going on?} She stood up now, aware that her favorite human was somehow involved with the great dragon and whatever she had her hand in. {What is your connection to Detective John Kennex?} It was in her nature to be interrogatory, that's why she had been chosen for the police department, so they could keep everyone under surveillance. Sandra took her seat once more, watching the other woman carefully, she attuned herself to facial twitches that could indicate an untruthful response. {Is he working for you in his spare time?}

            {I don't know who that person is. I am here on behalf of Ghostwalker to retrieve someone that belongs to him.} She spoke evenly, leaning back in the chair she sat in. Hestaby crossed her legs slowly, wishing there was an easier way to get what she wanted. First, she needed to find where her beau was, then deal with the arrested runner. {The human is his, and he wants him back before people higher up are notified. Your cooperation will always be appreciated.} Instinctively, she glanced up at the door of the office, thinking quickly of a way to get to Rudy to get his consciousness back into his body, and out of the station without anyone questioning it. {Since you are of my clutch, it is as a courtesy that I come down here to speak to you. Now, I need an escort to take me down to where your detainees are so I may assess the health of his man.}

            {I will escort you there myself if you are ready.}

            {No, a MX escort.} Hestaby was quick to interject. She rose from her chair and walked to the window controls against the wall so it was easier to decide which robot she wanted. A quick hand gesture returned the windows to translucence with several robots standing about, but one came around the corner with its eyes fixed directly on the Captain's office. It nodded when its eyes met the dragon queen's before looking away and moving to a position to watch the squad room in line with the other robots. {I want that one. 1108 is its designation. Order it to take me to who is down there.}

            Sandra rose obediently, unable to refuse her superior anything she wanted. She was fully committed to Hestaby's cause of protecting the humans around them and sought to show that commitment in any way she could. Bowing her head, she walked out of her office, leading Hestaby out to where it would be easy to call the synthetic officer. "MX-1108," she called, summoning the robot with her sharp voice, and a flick of her wrist. It took only a few seconds for the robot to cross the distance to them, standing perfectly still while receiving orders. "MX-1108, take Ms Hestaby downstairs to the holding cells. She is an inspector here to make sure our facilities are in good order for continued use."

            "Yes, ma'am." It said mechanically before lifting its eyes to the woman it would be escorting. "Follow me." MX-1108 turned away from the Captain and Great Dragon. It took several mechanical steps forward, everything appearing to be perfectly normal to all eyes watching. It gave no thought to whether or not Hestaby followed him. MX-1108 took its time to bring the woman around the squadroom. It waited patiently at the corner where it originally came from and turned to await Hestaby. The MX unit was keenly aware of the other detectives and officers milling about watching Hestaby as she walked. This made the human consciousness bristle within his robotic host. "Please keep close, you will get lost."

            Hestaby smiled at the odd words coming the robot and did pick up her pace just enough to catch up with her escort. "Do I detect a hint of jealousy, MX-1108? Are you even capable of such emotions?" She reached out to take the MX's arm, expecting it not to complain about being a proper escort for the moment. She was glad when it didn't and they made a hasty retreat for the elevator that would take them where they needed to go. Hestaby noted all the security cameras in attendance, and how lax all of the officers felt in their own home. Perhaps she would need to have another conversation with her devotee about making sure the humans are always on guard to protect each other. Perhaps she needed to give Sandra a boost through the ranks to more of a leadership position within the department so she could actually change things. Once they were in the elevator, Hestaby released the MX and reached down to touch the steel lynx beside her. "I need to take Jynx out to relieve herself. She seems to have eaten something that is not agreeing with her stomach."

            They reached the floor where the holding cells were, and Hestaby led the way out. As they passed through the doors, Rudy-MX started the timer. He would give his partner three quarters of an hour, just a bit longer than requested. It would be plausible, but first they had to get rid of the other MX watching the two humans. Rudy-MX called to the other initially. "407, Captain Maldonado requires a status report on the detainees while Ms Hestaby inspects the facilities." Rudy-MX lifted a hand to indicate the direction of his partner in the shadows. The words between the pair of robots was enough to get the guarding MX to leave so it could give a report of the humans to its superiors.

            With MX-407 gone, MX-1108 turned to look around the room it noted that the runner who betrayed them remained in his cage, though he showed quite a bit of fear in his eyes. That hardly mattered to the android who wanted its consciousness back in its body. "That's him, ma'am," the MX stated, pointing directly at John who drew himself up as tall as he could while remaining seated. "He has a medical issue. He's been shot in the buttocks, but the medics haven't come down."

            Hestaby looked over the dark-haired man in the cell. She found him to be handsome, though the smug look on his face told her everything she needed to know about his personality. "Shot in the behind?" It amused her, the slow smile spreading across her face while she ribbed him about it. "The great MirrorCourser got shot in the ass and wants medical attention? Have you lost much blood?"

            The man leaned his head back against the wall and shifted slightly to be more comfortable. He needed to get the problem taken care of soon. As it was, he would need all his strength to commit the murder he needed to, and that would take away from his pain tolerance, though the drain on his energy would be enough to make that a moot point. He licked his lips finally, winking at the dragon. He reverted to the New Zealand accent for the benefit of his target who would die believing he was still a hotshot runner. "No more than that pawn who stuck his tongue down my throat. But significantly less than the man who put me here. Are you here to kiss my ass and make it better?"

            John's answer made Hestaby draw back briefly, not certain how to respond to being asked about kissing him. It had been a strange response, but the look on John's face gave her an indication that he thought she knew about the forced kiss. "Yes... Well, I've spoken to your handler. He'll be coming to collect you within the hour." She turned and quickly walked away, Jynx following along behind her. Hestaby only glanced at NoName when the man started screaming about the danger he was in if he was left alone with the older runner. She didn't answer him, though she knew that street justice would find its way to him. "Come, MX-1108. Return me to Kimyra. I've seen enough. down here." She walked to the elevator, waiting while the MX housing her boyfriend's mind approached and pushed the button. "Now's your chance. Wipe most of its memory when you leave." She murmured while stepping inside the elevator, Jynx and the robot following behind.

           As they entered the elevator, the robot's movements became a bit jerky and unpredictable. It wasn't a malfunction in the robot's body, but the consciousness of the technomancer leaving it for the safety of his own body inside the steel lynx while rebooting the systems on the MX unit. When the creature's eyes glowed with a different color, the dark-haired woman relaxed and waited patiently for the elevator to go to the floor they needed to go. Hestaby reached out to stop the elevator on a different floor, letting the machine with her boyfriend in it out so he could make an escape from the building and return to his lab. They would be able to talk about the botched run later, as soon as everyone could reasonably regroup.

-----

            When the lynx got out of the elevator, it immediately went to a blind spot in the building's surveillance system. It opened quickly to let the man inside step out of his cocoon, though Rudy nearly fell again when he tried to walk, not having been quite prepared for his body to not respond mechanically. Rudy shook his head and managed to get his legs under him, though it still took a few minutes for him to be able to walk soundly.

            Rudy made his way back to the elevator, fixing his hair and his ID badge. He didn't look exactly fresh. But it was hard to do that at three in the morning after a late night of fretting over his operation that had not gone as planned. He knew they had failed, and that the data he'd managed to steal was still at that building which would have much stronger security measures now making it nearly impossible for him to go back and get what his girlfriend needed. The man sighed heavily as he waited for the elevator's return. He would simply walk out the front door and not answer any questions. The spindly man stepped between the opening doors patiently, though his nervousness prevented him from ever looking completely at ease.

            The doors opened again on the ground floor, but before Rudy could step off and make his escape, a tall man stepped forward, intent on getting on the elevator followed by a police officer in a well tailored suit.  The man put his hand up to prevent the technician from leaving the elevator, a cordial smile on his pale face. The timorous man stepped back obediently, keenly aware that they were looking for him. Rudy's eyes went wide when he looked into the pale blue eyes of the man who was several inches taller than his partner. "Can... Can I help you?" He looked at the man in the suit next, instinctively pressing himself back against the wall of the tiny elevator. It turned out that he would not be leaving the building anytime soon.

            The tall man opened his mouth to speak. However, Rudy didn't understand the language and looked at his companion for an explanation of it. Luckily the shorter man wearing a badge denoting him as an investigator with Internal Affairs seemed to understand everything being said and repeated the words in English for Rudy. "I'd hate to Overlook someone just because the Mirror cracked."

            Rudy's eyes widened even more, until they threatened to pop out of his skull. This strange man knew who he was, and who he worked with. He was also aware of the run having gone bad. Rudy stammered a response while the doors to the elevator closed again, locking the technomancer inside with the strange men. "Being Overlook is not always a bad thing, and the Mirror is hardly cracked. Though a NoName took a hammer to it." He had to be careful about revealing himself to anyone when John wasn't around, but if this man already knew everything, it was a safe bet that everything was all right. "Who are you? Why are you stopping me from leaving?"

            The tall man tilted his head briefly, staring unblinkingly at the squirming man. Soon enough, he lifted a hand to his head, pushing the hair back from his face. To his interpreter he spoke privately, wanting this comment to go untranslated {He is not as cautious as my man deserves. However, his insistence that MirrorCourser is not to blame is admirable. Tell him we are here to collect our runner and see that the leak in his operation is plugged.}

            {You spoke to him in the code they used, My Lord. You can hardly expect him not to reveal certain details.} Giving a quick dip of his head in acknowledgement, the investigator relayed the message. He showed his credentials to prove that in fact, he was a commissioned police officer, despite the company he kept. "We are also here to learn about an incident that occurred during the interrogation of Detective John Kennex. An incident MX-1108 was kind enough to provide us security footage of." The investigator took the time to watch Rudy and his reactions to them. It would be telling as to if they needed to consider other options, however Rudy appeared to be passing their tests. "How was it able to obtain this footage?"

            "Uhm..." Rudy bit his lip and looked away nervously. He didn't have any idea how he should respond. He'd been trained, as had most people who worked for the police department, not to trust the men and women of the "Rat Squad", but this man was different. He accompanied a Great Dragon who knew about their activities. Was this the dragon John’s family had dealings with? "The MX android that was present in the room during the interrogation." Basic answer without voluntarily giving away too many details. They already knew who was in the room, no need to reinforce that.

            Before more questions could be asked, the doors to the elevator swung open allowing Rudy to visibly relax. He fell back against the wall and panted while the other two exited out onto the floor where the other detectives were. Rudy didn't want to sit in on the meeting that Dragon was going to have, but he needed to go out to the floor and remotely monitor what was going on down in the lock-up so he could prevent anything from being known about the murder that was going to take place. John needed half an hour at least.

            The technomancer went to John's desk, noting that no one was sitting there and sat down on the terminals. He put his hands on the desk and sent his mind out into the network surrounding the entire building. It was a closed network that had little that went outside except when specifics were requested. Rudy moved past it all in favor of seeking where the cameras were. They needed to be disabled fast, so John could work his magic. He hated doing these ops when there was such a high risk involved. They were in the stronghold of Knight Errant. Anyone would be able to tell when the cameras went down if they just died, so he needed to feed in a loop of several minutes where nothing seemed out of place.

            When he found the proper selection of footage where both men simply seemed to be staring at the walls, he patched it in to the camera there in the detention area. No one would know, except John who had been looking for a small light to go out that indicated he had the time to do what he needed to with his bullet before he collapsed onto his cot, and NoName bled out in his cell.

-----

            MX-407 stared at the wall in front of it while it delivered the report to Sandra about the conditions in the detention area. The report was cut short when the Internal Affairs investigator pushed open the door and held it while his superior walked into the office where the other two dragons were seated. The first one on her feet was Sandra, the youngest of the assembled dragons. She quickly moved away from the other comfortable chair in her office, offering it to the white-haired man who came in. Sandra ducked her head quickly, showing proper deference to the Dragon’s station. {Ghostwalker. You needn't have come. Hestaby and I were listening to the report of your man's condition before I could have him released. The case has, of course, been dropped...}

            Ghostwalker waved dismissively while moving to sit in the chair she had vacated. He crossed one long leg over the other. He listened to Sandra's words patiently while his hands grasped at the arms of the chair. {I came personally to see that he was not harmed in any way. He is in my employment when he is not answering to you. But it isn't just his safe release I am here to secure. There is something more concerning that you must be made aware of.} There was a small flick of a pale wrist, prompting the Internal Affairs man to look up at the Captain and offer a small tablet to her with the video queued. She needed to watch it before they spoke to the offending officer. {Is this the caliber of officer who works for you? I was assured you chose your humans with more care. Which is why my humans in this place serve under your command.}

            Sandra watched the video of what happened during John's interrogation, including the conversation about requiring medical attention and the charging of his leg. The woman's expression darkened when Richard forced his tongue down John's throat. She didn't have any idea how she could have missed that type of situation brewing under her nose and what they could do to make the problem go away. {He's never done anything like this before. Let me call him in so you can ask him yourself, detective.} She spoke directly to the man who had accompanied Ghostwalker to her office, he would be the one asking Richard questions, and there was little chance he would come out unscathed. Her knowledge of Ghostwalker was that he took things seriously when it came to his humans. Sandra walked to the door and pushed it open. She went out and called loudly for the bald man sitting at his desk. "Detective Paul!" She waved her hand, beckoning the man over, glad he didn't hesitate to do it. She imagined this would all come as a shock to him.

            Detective Paul rose from his desk and straightened his clothes reflexively. The man grabbed a tablet, thinking he was simply being called to give his opinion about something, and present his findings to his superior. He ordered the MX to remain where he was while he had his meeting. The short detective crossed the room quickly, looking appropriately sure of himself, despite the number of people he would be reporting to. He hadn't met all the higher-ups in the Police force, so he simply assumed the other woman and white-haired man were big brass. Richard took a breath when he entered the room, prepared to greet everyone. However, when his eyes fell on the interpreter who was sitting back in his chair, watching everyone with the practiced eyes of a rat, the detective's greeting was caught in his throat. He wasn't sure what to say just then, believing somehow, he'd made a grave mistake in kissing the other detective...

            "Detective Paul," the Captain was saying, while returning to the fourth seat in her office, arguably the most uncomfortable one reserved for visitors who really made her angry. "We need to hear your report on the theft, including your capture and interrogation of Detective Kennex." Sandra nodded while she spoke, her eyebrows arched with the interest she had in hearing what he had to say about the whole thing. Vehemently, she hoped nothing would go wrong, and that it would be a simple affair to have everything dismissed. Despite his shortcomings, Paul was a good man and an excellent detective. She worried about her human downstairs, after how much trouble she'd gone through to keep him on the payroll after he'd lost his leg.

            The short man lowered his tablet and cleared his throat while he looked around the room at the white-haired man, copper-skinned woman, and the Internal Affairs man. He ultimately decided again, without a proper introduction for the other two, that they were higher ups in the department, chiefs, or assistant chiefs he had never met. Taking a deep breath, he started in on how they arrived at the warehouse via the anonymous tip from NoName. He described the man without using the handle, though he described the sort of 'work' NoName did, before going on to indicate how Valerie started to investigate the shadowrunner's realm that started in the dark web, and that she was continuing to do so and develop contacts within the bulletin board system she found, even going so far as to speak with someone calling themselves 'Aphid', and someone called the 'Orange Queen', though those names meant nothing to him at that stage of the investigation.

            While the "Orange Queen" was being described, the dragon in question glanced up at Ghostwalker, aware that he would take it as a bit of an affront that she had been so open with the humans about certain activities. However, before they could stop him to discuss it, Richard started to describe how he put together the operation that involved the technology company. At this point, the Internal Affairs officer lifted a hand to stop Richard's report, deciding he had heard enough. "Detective Paul, why was Detective Kennex not given prompt medical attention before you and he returned to the station after his arrest? He must have told you he was injured, and the booking file compiled by DRN-0167 indicates he was tasered and received a gunshot fired from your firearm. Regulations state that those prisoners be given medical treatment on the scene."

            Richard's voice stopped immediately. He worked his jaw while trying to figure out an appropriate response to them about John's actions, and his actions. "Why didn't I get him medical attention after he had been taken into custody?" He didn't want to answer those questions after the investigator's nod. He hadn't followed procedure, he knew that, and there was no way to refute a report filed with video from one of the android officers. Swallowing nervously, he ground his teeth in his mouth, biting on the inside of his lips while he considered the answers to the questions being asked. Lying was out of the question, but perhaps a carefully spun story would work. There wasn’t time to come up with something convincing.  He didn't know it had been Dorian who filled out the booking file. It was supposed to have been his MX who filled that out. "I uh... I was in such a state of shock about learning the masked man's identity that it must have slipped my mind."

            "Regulations slipped your mind? What about when he informed you of his need for medical attention during the interview?"

            The detective's mouth went dry, the color draining from his face. He couldn't blame his brain for that one. "I haven't filed that report yet. I only just concluded that interrogation..." He no longer spoke with the bravado. "Medical has been notified they need to come see him. I haven't followed-up to find out if they've actually come..."

            "They haven't. But there's something else we are curious about, Detective Paul." The investigator pursed his lips for effect, watching Richard squirm as if he knew exactly what the next question would be. "Why did you do this?" He asked, tapping a few buttons on the tablet he held. Within seconds, the video of John Kennex's interrogation from the point of view of the MX assigned to Paul. The investigator stood and moved to the large viewing screen behind Captain Maldonado's desk, pointing at the obvious civil rights violation. They watch Richard and John's tense exchange of words, culminating in Richard grabbing John by the back of the head and yanking it back on his neck.

            Richard turned his head away from his actions, aware that he was likely to be forced to resign his position, or take a demotion in lieu of losing his job completely. He swallowed nervously, clenching his teeth shut as if that might keep him from saying anything that will only make the situation worse. He heard his commanding officer giving him an order to answer the investigator's question, but none of his excuses made enough sense in his head. He didn't want to come out and say it was the only way to get the man to notice him, nor did he want to admit he'd fantasized about having the other detective tied down that way. He swallowed and closed his eyes briefly. "I got caught up in the moment..."

            "Caught up in the moment? Do you usually use interrogations as ways of finding dates, or was this a special case?" Hestaby suddenly spoke. Casually she leaned forward in her chair, putting her weight on the arm of it. The bronze-skinned woman rested her chin on one hand while considering the man standing before them.  She thought about needling him further about the situation, however the flash in his eyes told her everything she needed to know about the man. There was anger at the initial question, followed by worry that he'd gone too far in his mistake, though he seemed stern enough not to answer her question. Lowering the hand to her knee, she looked at Ghostwalker across from her tilting her head slowly, as if baring her long neck would more easily get the short human out of the mountain of trouble he'd found himself in. {Ghostwalker...} She started solicitously. {He's in love with your runner. There's no need for punishing him harshly. He thought having him tied down and kissing him would be the way to show that love. Humans really are quaint creatures.} She turned her smile to Sandra, offering a light smile as if she thought she'd be able to make there be less pain and suffering from the fallout.

            {Your pets have amusing ways of dealing with each other, Kimyra. But I am not without mercy. It is doubtful my man has taken any permanent damage. All I desire is his freedom.} Ghostwalker turned his head toward the subordinate of his equal. He watched Sandra carefully, lifting a hand to prevent the interpreter from saying anything regarding their little conversation. {Can I count on him being able to walk out under his own power?}

            {Of course. Once we finish with Detective Paul, I'll have your man released. The pending charges have been dropped.} The strange voice coming from Sandra caused Richard to stare at the woman. He didn't know what to make of it, only that there was something going on that he didn't know about but would undoubtedly be sworn to secrecy. The woman walked to the door of her office once again, pushing it open. She called out for Dorian, the android seated at John's desk next to Rudy, the technician taking that moment to check that everything was running at peak performance.

            The android rose at his name being called. Gently, he pushed Rudy away from him so he could find out what was wanted with him. "Yes, ma'am." He answered easily, crossing the room to stand in front of her. He smiled amiably, eager to please the woman. "Is there anything I can do for you? Questions I can answer?" Briefly, his face fell, aware that if things remained the way they were, he would be sent up to the space station to fit tiles and do other menial work that wasn't what he dreamed of doing. "Is everything going to be all right with John?" He asked seriously, keeping his voice down so that only Sandra would hear it. "If there is anything I can do..."

            "It's all right, Dorian. I'm here to give you an order about him. You don't need to worry. He's going to go home tonight." Sandra shook her head, a smile lighting her face. "Go downstairs and retrieve him. Bring him up to my office. There is something we need to discuss, but I'll have to ask you to remain at his desk for that conversation." She gave the order easily, despite needing to keep the android out, she was glad that it didn't appear to bother him after receiving the news that his partner would be free. Dorian's lips curled upward in a smile, and he quickly turned to carry out his orders. With him gone, Sandra returned to her office, and the assembled group. Richard still appeared to be contemplating the end of his career, while the elder dragons had their conversation about the way Sandra, Kimyra, ran her operation, and if she needed to be moved up in the ranks to ensure that something like this never happened again. "Have we come to some sort of agreement?" She asked in the human language for Richard's benefit. "My detective's been twisting in the wind long enough. Your man is being freed, and he will here shortly to make his report."

            The perceived insolence from the youngest dragon made Hestaby smile, though Ghostwalker glowered, clearly displeased with the words being expressed. He took a deep breath and stared at Sandra first, then Richard. He spoke in his booming voice, though it was his interpreter who spoke in a way that Richard could understand. "There won't be an Internal Affairs investigation so long as Detective Kennex is freed and brought here, and Detective Paul agrees to performing in a public service announcement about stopping rape. No means no, especially when one hasn't been invited to engage in intimate contact while their intended partner is attached to an interrogation table in a police station."

Chapter Text

            Dorian waited patiently for the lift. They trusted him to handle himself more than any other android on the force. He was grateful for that, and now he needed to prove it. He took the elevator down to the detention level of their building. It was meant to be a short-term facility, so no one stayed there long unless there were extenuating circumstances. An officer being arrested was one of those circumstances, but he understood from Captain Maldonado that he was being released. Dorian replayed his orders in his mind, finding the entire thing to be curious.

            Pushing those thoughts to the side, he stepped out onto the detention level and turned to go to the cell where he'd left his partner. He noted in passing that the MX unit who would normally have been stationed there was gone. He made no comment, nor did he try to find it. His mission was to retrieve his partner.  Which he was eager to do. He wanted to have John at home and check him over for any injuries from the scuffle they all had earlier in the night. Dorian crossed the distance quickly, his eyes searching out the cell where John should have been. He noticed John's body slumped to the right, his synthetic limb laying at an odd angle. Immediately, he initiated a bioscan on his intended, checking respiration, heart rate, and the status of the limb - which was completely drained. He determined John to still be alive, and somehow conscious despite what it looked like. "John? Are you high?"

            "High...?" He murmured in confusion. He didn't think he was. He hadn't ingested narcotics in quite sometime... At least, nothing other than his Membliss, which he needed to take soon. Sighing, he finally realized there was someone opening the door to his cell. The runner pushed himself up awkwardly on one hand. John was unaware of how odd he looked and sounded. He flailed his arms and human leg in his attempt to sit up. John stopped when the darker skinned android approached and held his hands out to him. It did nothing to put his mind together, but he accepted his companion's help. He wrapped his arms slowly around Dorian's neck, despite that not being the intended action.

            "John, I need to take you upstairs. Captain Maldonado wants to see you." Dorian tilted his head back while slowly stepping back so John is forced off the bench and onto his feet. "No, don't do that, John." He protested when a pair of pink lips sought his. "We're on camera..." He tried again, leaning his head back further so the lips fell against the skin of his neck. The synthetic nerve endings registered the moan in the human's throat, causing Dorian's chest to rise and fall in a simulated sigh. "John, what did you take?" He repeated the man's name several times while talking, as if that would bring his partner out of the haze he seemed to be in. "Your leg is down, so I'll help you on that...!" Dorian's voice caught in his throat when a hand found itself exactly where it did not need to be.

            The lips on the brown throat curled up in a smile, evidently John wasn't as out of his mind as he'd let on, at least, not anymore. He chuckled slightly while taking several seconds to massage the large object Dorian's creator had put there. Simulated human existence indeed. "Might want to get used to little scenes like this. It won't be the last time I grab your junk." John pushed himself up onto his one leg that still worked, he smiled, though there was still a bit of distance in his eyes, as if he wasn't quite as present as his sarcasm indicated.

            "We're supposed to be discrete, John. Touching me in the station does not qualify as that." Dorian shifted around to John's right side. He pulled an arm over his shoulder, while wrapping his left arm around the detective's torso. "So please keep your hands to yourself while we're on the clock. Especially when you get upstairs. Captain Maldonado is in her office with someone from IA, and two others from the top brass, but I cannot identify them." He walked slowly while guiding his partner to the elevator. They made slow progress, with only three legs moving properly. "Detective Paul was called on the carpet for his actions during your interrogation, but I wasn't..."

            "Stop talking." John shook his head, his brain finally processing the words coming out of his partner's mouth. There was something going on upstairs. Two people Dorian's files couldn't identify was a problem, it could be a much larger problem if the people were a threat to his operation. "Tell me who-Describe to me who is in with Sandra. What did they look like?" Panic started to fill the man's heart. He ran through several scenarios about who could have been visiting his commander, and why. Very few people knew of both his secret life in the shadows, and his day job serving the public good. Without thinking, John reached out to touch the button to call the elevator.

            As soon as the doors slid open, Dorian looked up at the top of the elevator before stepping into the car with his lame partner. "A male and female. The male is a tall man with white hair. He appears to be middle-aged, and seems not to speak English, as when I watched his lips move, they formed no words in any language I have been programmed with. He seemed to command the room. Everyone showed proper deference to him, and I have never seen Captain Maldonado afraid to speak. He seemed to be in control of everything. However, the woman did not seem to be afraid of him. She had darker skin, much like mine. Very regal." Dorian appeared to be impressed with the woman's demeanor. "They appeared to treat each other as equals, but he didn't want to. She seemed to be much more pleased to speak with Maldonado and treated her well." While Dorian spoke, he assisted his partner in getting to the elevator, his fingers massaging the man through the shirt gently.

            John hardly responded to it, pulling away once they were moving up to the proper floor. He leaned back against the wall of the elevator, thinking hard about the information he has been given. Snorting darkly, he looked away, staring at the display on the elevator as it took them where they wanted to go. "I know who they are, Dorian." He sighed again, knowing things hadn't gone as planned if HE had to show up and take care of business. "Just be ready to get out of here when they're done with me. We might have to escape." The man laughed finally and reached out once more to wrap his arm around his partner's shoulders, so he could be helped across the room now. "Rudy will bring me downstairs."

            They exited the elevator and walked across the room, John able to keep a normal pace despite the protesting warning beeps from the synthetic limb quickly using the last of its charge for the day. The detective thought he might need to be carried out of the building and down to his car, or he would play like he would. "Rudy!" He called when they got close enough to the detective's section for him to be heard. "Are you fogging the glass on my terminal? I have to work there, you know?" His words, while they carried sarcasm, also were meant to impart to the technomancer that he wouldn't be gotten rid of so easily. He smirked and tilted his head while Dorian shifted to beckon him closer. "Come carry me in to the office so I can get my spanking from mommy and daddy."

            John's refusal to behave caused Rudy and Dorian both some angst. The android handed his partner off to the technician and moved to wait patiently by the desk. He rocked back and forth on his feet, agitation growing within him about it all. Rudy traded places with Dorian, though it was easily evident that he was not meant to carry such a burden, even though the man was not very heavy by human standards. He supported his friend and moved him carefully toward the office where the three dragons were, whispering now so their conversation wasn't overheard. "I could shut your leg down without a thought, John. Are you sure you really want to tease me about your terminal?"

            "It's almost out of juice anyhow, I can feel it not want to respond. But we've got bigger problems to worry about. You know who is in that room?"

            "Ghostwalker, and my girlfriend. Isn't she beautiful?"

            "Not just Ghostwalker and Hesta... Did you just call her your girlfriend?" John frowned about the words. He turned his head while they hobbled the several yards between his desk and Sandra's office where their bosses waited. "Girlfriend? You can't be serious. You're dating a dragon? Do you want to get us eaten?" He snorted at the situation, becoming infinitely uncomfortable now that they were having to go face down the girlfriend who could make their lives a living hell, if she didn't like how things had gone. John seemed to forget about the trump card in his waistband, waiting to be handed over to the intended recipient, and the news he needed to share about their boss.

            "Yes, John. I did. You know I have a social life outside of our partnership. Is it really so unexpected that a smart and beautiful woman like her would be enamored of me?" The technomancer spoke about himself as if he was a great prize outside of the matrix, despite his squirrely looks, and nervous habits. He swallowed nervously, waiting just outside the door when John himself hesitated to go in. "What're we waiting for?" He looked down at the leg, sensing it finally going completely limp as the small mechanical voice announced itself.

            "Synthetic leg, offline." It insisted once, speaking up again three seconds later. "Synthetic leg, offline."

            The detective groaned lightly, knowing it meant that he needed to drag the appendage with him now. He leaned a bit heavier on his friend's shoulder, clinging to him tight enough that the near petrified set of his mouth and eyes seemed to be permanent. "We're waiting for you to go through the door and confront the three dragons who are likely about to eat us for what happened last night." The corner of his mouth twitched upward in a smile at the wide eyes being turned on him. John knew that look, and he knew the look that would come immediately after it. There was no disappointment from his friend, whose eyes soon narrowed with the concentration it took to determine the veracity of the claim. "Sandra is one. I don't know any more than that. So, let's get in, and get out with our skins." He pushed at the door that separated them from their superiors and soon stepped into the room. The tall detective straightened up and lurched forward, waiting for Rudy to catch up before he hopped into the room to stand before the assembled upper echelon of his society.

            Sandra smiled nervously when the two men walked in. The android had obeyed her orders perfectly. She'd expected that much. "John, welcome back. I trust your stay in the cell wasn't too bad." She had no more chairs to offer them, and so allowed them to remain standing near the door where they were. She didn't think Ghostwalker or Hestaby would want either of them getting too close to them, which was fine. There would be no bloodshed in her office that night. The dark eyes flicked to certain points on her favorite detective's body, inspecting him for any signs of distress, other than the limp leg that had been drug along the floor. Their eyes finally locked, an instant conversation happening between them. She looked into the hazel eyes that gazed so easily back at her. She always knew he could see more than he let on. Sandra saw a recognition in them, he knew everything, but a slight twist of her head received an acknowledging tilt from the man across from her. "You certainly don't look worse for wear."

            "I enjoyed our hospitality. It was nice not having to drive all the way home to get a good night's sleep." John smirked, aware of the shock from a few members of the delegation. He shifted his balance on his legs, glad the synthetic one could still hold some of his weight while it was off. The man seemed blissfully unaware of the dark circles around his eyes from not getting proper rest after using his adept abilities. "With everyone here, am I going to get a promotion? I haven't taken my Captain's exam yet, and I don't remember sleeping with anyone..." He lifted his eyes, an arrogant smirk on his face. John knew it grated on Ghostwalker when he didn't show proper deference to his presence, more so than it did Sandra, but he hadn't been given permission to acknowledge knowing his client, and the dark-skinned woman had covered her mouth to hide her own smile at the impudence.

            "No, John. You're not getting a promotion," Sandra started, matching the man's impertinence with her own sparkling wit. She shook her head with incredulity, and expression to match. "The thought of us being the same rank, lieutenant, is quite frankly too traumatizing to even consider. So, don't mention it again." The youngest dragon tilted her head to the side, a smile growing across her face at the change that came over her detective. She noted the way his growing smirk faded, leaving behind lips that were slightly parted, and hazel eyes opened into near circles rather than the usual half-lidded indifference he gave things.

            The expression faded quickly, when a shock went up the man's leg, causing John to turn his head to look at Rudy who glared at him sternly, his eyes nearly bugging out of his head now that they both had more knowledge about their commander. "I mean, I was very comfortable in my cell, thank you." Even he could figure out when it was time to behave and put aside his usual way of acting in favor of getting business done. He was there to deliver a report, so long as he was given the proper indication. Instinctively, his eyes flicked to Ghostwalker watching his barely contained look of exasperation. John dropped his eyes briefly before returning them to his commander.

            Before anyone else could speak, and to stem the sarcasm, Ghostwalker took his turn. He didn't want to be amongst them any longer than he needed to be. {Your mouth will get you killed, boy.} Ghostwalker tilted his chin down slowly when John returned his attention to the dragon. {Tell us what happened. Leave nothing out.} The interpreter seated beside the man said nothing when he recognized the look of understanding.

            John understood his orders. He knew more than he let on and straightened up. Only a few select people had the power to make him behave with just a few words, and clearly the great dragon was one of those people.  The dark-haired man pursed his lips, a sobered look settling on his face. He shifted his glance to the pair of women who were around. He understood he needed to speak in front of Hestaby, but with his commander there, things could get a little sticky. in his estimation. "Captain Maldonado," he addressed the woman with a formal tone, letting her know that he needed her to pay attention to his words. He was grateful they had a strong relationship and knew each other's tells. "Please go check on Dorian. I might have damaged him during the firefight."

            Seeming to understand the meaning behind the words, the youngest dragon rose from her chair. "Of course, John. I wouldn't want your partner to be out of commission while you're able to run around and get in trouble. That wouldn't make much sense." She smiled slowly and nodded at him while moving toward the door, ignoring the graying of the adept's face while he leaned a little more heavily on his partner. She stepped out of the office and closed the door behind herself. Before she'd gotten more than two steps away, she heard the lock click into place, and the soft hum of the windows tinting so her office would be opaque to anyone viewing it from outside. She did as she was asked, crossing the short distance to the android who sat patiently at his partner's desk with a thoughtful expression on his face.

            When they were alone, John pointed at the chair that had been vacated, he felt himself sagging from the drain of using his adept skills, the loss of blood from the bullet, and the effort of dragging his dead limb. With Rudy's help, the detective hobbled across the room and sunk gratefully into the seat. "You already know how it ended," he answered the previous question flippantly, earning a chuckle from the dark-skinned woman. "But we were set-up. The police got a tip about our target and were given our names. That leak has been plugged. Permanently." John waited while the Interpreter relayed what had been said to Ghostwalker, a formality only, as the Dragon spoke the common human tongues. After being given the nod, he launched into a full accounting of how Rudy got into the building with himself, and the young street samurai acting as bodyguards for him while he worked his magic. "The drones found a large amount of police activity.  I tried to send the young man away, but he refused and was injured in the melee with the police. I lured them away, only to point my gun at my counterpart’s partner, and get shot in the ass by that dwarf ork."

            Hestaby smiled at the description of the shorter man, her dark eyes sparkling with amusement about it. "Dwarf ork? How appropriate a name for that man." She kept her laugh down while John looked at her with his mouth slightly open, and his eyes wide with more than a little concern that the dragon may have gone 'crazy' in the human definition of the word. "Were you able to get what you went after?" She leaned forward while she spoke, seeming to be personally vested in the outcome of the run. Her eyes no longer held the laughter from before, everything down to business.

            John turned his attention from Ghostwalker, somewhat concerned now that the other dragon seemed to be the one who had set up the run, and Ghostwalker had merely given his permission for the two runners to work for another dragon. He cleared his throat and looked up at Rudy while shifting to get pressure off his wound. The man's distress was becoming more obvious to everyone in the room, but he knew better than to beg for a reprieve. "Rudy can answer that better than I can. I was just the muscle on this one." He nodded his head at the technomancer, while slipping a few fingers slowly into his waistband. He wrapped his long fingers around the datastick. He would hold on to it if Rudy gave the wrong answer, but for now, he could slip it out of its secret pocket. Luckily none of the searches of his person had revealed it. He breathed deeply, his eyelids sagging with the exhaustion building in his body. He would be sleeping through the day when he finally got to leave.

            Rudy dropped his head, his lips pressing together to keep it all in place. He took a deep breath through his nose, steeling himself for what he had to admit to in front of the dragons. He knew their reputation would take a severe blow. They only rarely failed to complete a run, even under poor conditions they could usually pull themselves out of the fire, but this time had been different. They'd failed. He'd done his part, but he hadn't gotten his prize. It was still stuck in the side of the building for anyone to walk by and take... "I failed you..." He admitted, not looking up. The mousey man bit his lip and seemed to deflate even further now that he had said the words. "I took what we wanted, but I wasn't able to take it with me when the police arrived." The man lifted his eyes to John's who slowly moved his head to acknowledge what had been said.

            Their client, Ghostwalker, grunted and rose from his chair. He had heard enough from the two and would not endure anymore. They knew the consequences of failing him; they wouldn't receive their usual payment for a job well-done. {We're leaving... You won't be receiving payment. I hire you to do jobs, not foul them up with excuses.} The tall dragon moved around the desk, walking closer to his oldest pet runner, instead of the technomancer, showing favoritism, but also that he wanted to have his dominant hand free should it be necessary.

            The Great Dragon was unable to go beyond the gunslinger, because John stuck his hand out to the dragon. He had twisted his chair around by sheer force of will so he could face the other. He pretended not to remember that Ghostwalker never shook hands with humans, finding it degrading and embarrassing for someone of his stature. The pale man stared hard down at John, then the hand being offered, and the insistence with which it nearly touched him.

            "I'm sorry, Ghostwalker. It won't happen again. We'll be more careful." John was saying. He couldn't get up to make the statement formally, but at least he could pass on something that was needed by the dragon. He had no idea the information was going to the Orange Queen, but he only dealt with the one dragon. Two, now that he'd found out about Sandra... They would have to discuss it later over drinks, which he'd make her buy... Only he wouldn't let her go through it. The insistence seemed to work. Ghostwalker took John's hand, tilting his head to the side when he felt the datastick between their hands. "You'll know where to find us." He murmured, while pulling his hand away, leaving Ghostwalker with what they had been hired for.

            The white dragon dropped his hand to his side, the stick still held against his palm by a folded in thumb. He snorted at the assembled group and walked from the office, pinning the youngest dragon with a stare as if to remind her of the consequences of letting anyone know what had transpired. Her nod allowed the him to sweep from the building and set up a separate meeting with Hestaby to exchange the datastick for a large amount of money to be transferred to his pets. While he walked from the building, he thought about how often John had come through for him, much the same way Edward had during their decades of association. He was certainly glad the egg had not rolled far from the clutch.

            With one fire put out, John reseats himself in the chair. "Well that's one bullet dodged," he said to himself, finally turning further to see his partner settled quite comfortably in the darker woman's lap. Curiosity filled John's head, his expression changing to reflect that. They didn't get involved with dragons like that... They were giggling at each other, and she was petting Rudy's back while he pressed into her. The technomancer seemed quite comfortable with the fact that the dragon was holding him... Then they were kissing! John's eyes grew wide, his jaw hanging slack, with surprise and something akin to disgust. "You're gonna do this here?" He tried to get their attention, but was suddenly aware that both were more interested in each other than him. The gunslinger swallowed dispassionately and forced himself onto his non-synthetic leg, so he could lean over the desk and make a call to his desk. He wouldn't be able to make it outside under his own power, but at least he could get someone to come and help him while his partner was otherwise occupied. "Yeah... I'll just get Dorian to come and get me."

            "What was that, John?" Rudy asked without looking up. He wrapped his arms even tighter around Hestaby's neck, just glad to be able to see her again without the fear that they were going to have awful murderous things done to them. He didn't think Ghostwalker would have them murdered, but he knew they wouldn't be paid for their failure as a team. He was ashamed, but Hestaby was there! She wanted to hold him and maybe she would carry him around... So, John could just take care of himself.

            "Nothing, Rudy." He grumped, putting in the number to his desk.

            The phone rang twice, Dorian answering it as soon as he noticed that the call was coming from the Captain's office, though the woman was standing there beside him. "John Kennex's desk. How may I help you?" He answered cordially, carrying out his duties as a police android, despite knowing who was likely on the other end of the line.

            "Dorian.  It's me. Rudy's too busy to help me leave. But I need to go to the doctor. Come get me before I pass out." He sounded breathless, the entire ordeal finally catching up with him. He leaned back in his chair, allowing himself to relax enough until he was almost asleep. The pain and blood loss was finally catching up with him. The Recollectionist was going to have a field day with him. Fortunately, he paid well enough to buy silence… and good medicine. John managed to look up when the door swung open, both Sandra and Dorian coming into the room. He smiled, and held out his hand to the android, though he could tell they were distracted by the kissing beside him. "Dorian." He called, breaking the android's distraction.

            Dorian turned to look at his partner, his processor taking quick diagnostics of the man. He walked over to John, assessing that he had lost quite a bit of blood, and needed immediate medical attention. "John, let's get you to a doctor. All the charges against you have been dropped. But you shouldn't try to walk. You've lost too much blood, and your leg has turned off." The android ducked down far enough to be able to pick his partner up. He would carry the man, despite his protests. Dorian put one of John's arms around his neck while wrapping his own arm behind the man's back, the other going beneath his knees. He stood up in a swift movement, bringing his partner against his chest. There wasn't any fight in the man, a testament to how poor his health was. He ran another diagnostic on the man's body, information that would be useful to the doctor when they got there.

            The android carried his partner to the elevator, his mission clear and there was no processing space for anything other than that. He stepped onto the elevator when it arrived and turned to watch the doors slide shut. "John... We should have taken care of this before now." He pursed his lips and looked down at the graying man. He could feel now how wet the thigh against his arm seemed and only shook his head. "Why weren't you saying anything?"

            "I tried... All I got was a tongue down my throat that wasn't yours," John murmured in response. He chuckled as if it amused him that it was the response he got. "We're going to have a long talk when I get patched up. Take me to the Koln Avenue District. I'll tell you where when we get there." He shifted to rest more comfortably against Dorian's chest, the fingers of one hand sliding slowly around the other's shoulder, until they made it to the parking structure where John's take-home car was. Dorian accessed the car's computer system and unlocked the door before they got there. He opened it without jarring his lover too hard and slid the tired body inside. "Don't fight me on this, Dorian. It's important we go to this specific place to get me fixed up. He'll be expecting us."

            Dorian straightened up after buckling the seat belt around John's body. He didn't like the idea of going to a potentially black market medical facility. “John are you sure about that? I won’t take you somewhere shady.” He walked around to the driver's seat and repeated similar procedures of securing himself and starting the car without the use of John's key fob. "The same place I found you the day we first met, detective? That’s where you’re directing me?" He turned in the seat to smile at his partner, a gentle indication that he knew where he was supposed to go, even if he didn't like where they were going.

Chapter Text

            John groaned lightly as he hobbled down the hallway to the recovery rooms the Recollectionist had. The basement was for John's memory treatments, but the upstairs was for the black market medical practice for those runners who contracted with him. He closed his eyes while moving the crutches forward and using them to vault his human leg forward. His synthetic limb had been removed and put on a charger, leaving him to handle his business with only the one leg.

            "You don't need to move so fast, MirrorCourser. The boy isn't going anywhere. I pulled four bullets from him when Overlook's drone got him here. He's lucky to be alive."

            The Asian man's voice followed the officer down the hall. He'd nearly forgotten that he was supposed to be a runner now. He couldn't be a police officer, or it would blow his entire reputation out of the water. John slowed himself down, standing just outside the room his doctor indicated was occupied by Glowstick, his young teammate. The gunslinger took a deep breath, taking a moment to get himself prepared. Gunslinger, remember. The boy doesn't know you. MirrorCourser reached into his pocket for a small silver stick. He glanced over his shoulder at the Street Doc waiting by the top of the stairs for him to acknowledge that he had spoken. They had an unusual relationship, but it was one John Kennex/MirrorCourser paid handsomely for. "No worries, mate. I won't keep him long. And you'll get your money for all this." He jerked his chin up, his accent different now, giving the Recollectionist assurances that he was no longer the cop who needed to remember, but the confident gunslinger with an ambition that never quit, though only a few people knew his face.

            "I'm not worried about your money; I'm worried about him. He is very young to be in this life, even under your guidance."

            MirrorCourser slipped into the recovery room where the dark teen laid under his blankets. There was old medical equipment hooked up to him, monitoring him for any signs of medical emergency. He shut the door behind himself, locking it so they wouldn't be bothered by a well-intentioned doctor. The gunslinger moved over to the bed, taking note of the chair that wasn't far away. MirrorCourser leaned the crutch from his left side against the wall. He took hold of the simple chair and lifted it from its place by the wall. With the chair in hand, MirrorCourser swung around and set it next to Glowstick's head. He hopped over to it and sank into the chair. Now that the crutches weren't needed, the man stretched his arms, grumbling about the pain those things caused him. When his arms no longer protested, he put a hand on Glowstick's shoulder, shaking him awake. They needed to talk.

            The young man eyes snapped open, his limbs flailing to find purchase while he still believed he was under attack by an unknown and unseen assailant. He managed to strike MirrorCourser across the face, only to find himself in even more pain when the arm was forced down onto the bed and an angry face hovered over his. Glowstick tried to pull up on his trapped hand, but soon relaxed when he recognized that it was his mentor who looked down at him. "MirrorCourser...?" He asked slowly, thinking it may have only been a dream that he'd been shot multiple times by the police androids. "What happened?" The dark-skinned youth pulled himself into a sitting position when he was released. He scooted back against the wall, pulling the covers up over himself as he did so. "The last thing I remember; this ugly yellow machine was shooting at me."

            MirrorCourser sat back in the chair, reaching up to rub his cheek where the hand hit him. He cringed at the truncated version of exactly what happened. The man couldn't answer everything, it would simply open himself up to too many questions about how he escaped the police station without being charged. "You got shot when the op went left. Then you woke up and slapped me, mate. I can't tell you much more than that without having to hit you back. But then I'd have the Recollectionist gunnin' for me with his knife, and I'd prefer to remain amongst the living for now." He leaned back languidly in the chair he was comfortably seated in and stretched his one leg out, making it quite clear that he intended to be in the room for some time.

            "That's not what happened, Mirror. Those were police bots that came after us. How did they know where to find us? Who snitched on us?" He looked around and reached for the glass of water that had been left by his bed. Glowstick finally looked down at MirrorCourser's legs, seeing only the one there caused him to gasp and look up in some alarm. "Mirror! Your leg! Did that happen tonight? How did you lose your leg? Did the Lawmen do that to you? That's police brutality!" He tried too fast to get up and get to his mentor's side, only to come crashing down onto the floor while the older man just smiled and shifted on the chair. "Why aren't you concerned about it? " He asked, noticing the gunslinger wasn't panicking.

            Mirror shifted on his chair. He couldn't pull the other up from the floor if he stood, but he could if he remained where he was. He pulled his leg back under himself and reached down to take Glowstick's hand. "I ain't worrying about it, because it ain’t new. The leg's been gone a few years now, mate. No use cryin over spilled milk." Grasping Glowstick's hand, he pulled the youth up onto his feet and urged him to lie back on the bed. "We've got plenty to discuss, so don't go fallin out of the bed no more." He waited while the man settled in. He deserved a more complete run down of what happened.

            "Okay, shoot."

            "You already know someone snitched to the Pawns about what we were up to. Gave 'em details only someone connected to our team would have." MirrorCourser was careful to use the crafted accent, knowing that the level of detail he might give would be enough for Glowstick to identify him in his mundane life. "Someone I might have once invited to be on the team, but you were a better fit, and he was... Stupid. He walked into the precinct building and told them what he knew about our target, and about myself and Overlook. You weren't mentioned. Potentially why the drones were able to get you away from the scene without more than a slug or two in your belly." Mirror shrugged about it, personally glad the young man hadn't been taken out by his wounds. He knew Richard had given the boy money for a hotel room that he didn't get to use, and it went into purchasing his first weapons, which brought him to the seasoned runner's attention when he tried to move too much too fast, and he didn't have the smoothness to get a job on his own.

            "Yeah... Well, those bots aren't too fast on the uptake, are they?" Glowstick chuckled, lifting his shoulders up in an amused shrug about a situation that likely wouldn't change, and the responding snort of derision from his companion. He shifted his hips, bringing himself into more of a sitting position on the bed in his make-shift hospital room. The dark-skinned youth groaned lightly as the movement stretched his injured body too far, with a piteous look on his face, he lifted a hand to rest on his chest where the first slug buried itself. "I’m sorry… I didn’t want to be a burden. I was trying to help. I wanted to prove myself to you…”

            “Good to know… I thought you mighta had it in for your mentor.” MirrorCourser spoke with amusement about the apology. It was a signal that the words meant nothing to him, nor did the reason for those words. He remembered what it was like to be a green hand at all this. His dad had saved him more often than he wanted to admit to anyone that didn’t know him from back then. Not that there were many still in that category. “Next time I order you out, get out. I give orders for a good reason.”

            “Yes, sir… The doc said I was gonna make it. And that I could leave soon. He’s a wiz. Thanks for getting me to him.” The young runner leaned back against the bed, running a hand through his hair. He didn’t understand what was going on, but he wasn’t sure if he really wanted to. It was going to be too much work to try to keep up with everything. “Has the leak been plugged?”

            “Of course.” MirrorCourser stood up from his chair and offered a hand to Glowstick. “Be lookin for me, kid. I’ll call you when there’s more work. But y’ain’t ready for that kind of job.” As they shook hands, MirrorCourser gave the boy a bitcoin stick in the same way he’d delivered something to his patron so many hours previously. He left the room while the kid was still imagining how much he’d been given from the elder runner.