I always liked thrillers a bit murky. The relationship between the RK900 and Gavin Reed can fit perfectly into this literary genre so it's both a romantic and a thriller fiction, which involves an investigation that broaches really sensitive topics, and exposing them might put you on the way then I keep them in silence. In any case: I won't write anything too explicit about the dark sides of the investigation, if however you really want to read but fear to be shocked by the subject that I keep secret, don't hesitate to contact me, I may give the answer.
I intend to make a trilogy on this couple: three fics for three different surveys with a relationship that will evolve throughout. So this first fic is like a first book.
I'm French and I translate my own fanfiction myself (Original version is La Horde des enfants). So some sentences may sound odd since I don't have any beta-reader, I'll try to keep the French and English writing at the same pace.
(c) for the illustration : edit by duftonb on Tumblr.
Chapter 1 — Familiar face
The sheets smelled of sweat. The sensual one that slipped between the breasts of a woman and cooled on a skin still burning with orgasms. The night had witnessed the most animal attitudes, but the morning was now drifting into Detroit, ending the nightly passions.
Gavin Reed cursed after a loud sneeze, barely awake. He was so fine there, just lying on that mattress marked by the imprint of his back since fifteen years. A calm morning of September and he could take his time. But he needed a pinch of motivation to get up: his bedroom needed to be ventilated. Technology had invented the electric shutters but it still needed an Android to open the window or do it yourself.
Gavin did not want to think about androids anymore: Detroit was celebrating the tenth month since the machine revolution. Although peacefully conducted, the blue and red blood had run on the snow and, while some had rallied to the cause of humanoid robots, many had given up adopting an AX400, an AP700 or a BL100, either out of distrust or altruism. The era of insensitive technology had come to an end, opening on a questioning period to screw the strongest beliefs up. Like those who had rejected heliocentrism in the past, a majority denied this new form of life, preferring to consider androids as objects to reassure themselves in their old habits. But a new Renaissance had begun, despite Gavin Reed's stubborn belief that they were just machines. Once the shutters pushed, the man was glad to see fewer robots in the street: from the window, he could see five humans in their morning routine and only a robot, docile and peaceful with its empty shopping bag in hand.
The bed in the bedroom was also empty and Gavin thought for a moment that Fathia had already left. The lady of the night sometimes disappeared before the first light, running from the day, renouncing a world to which she did not belong. But while putting on a pajama, Gavin noticed the young woman's leather jacket still folded on the back of a chair. There was also the black skirt and the apricot tank top, still there after he had removed them from her before going to bed.
Coming in the kitchen to prepare his coffee, Gavin saw his guest sitting at the table. The sidewalk rose was still naked, as if the clothes has never concerned her.
"Hi. Did you sleep well?"
He nodded. Judging by her swollen face, she had not been awake since a long time.
Her figure seemed modeled by scissors and the blades in their path, a long time ago, had slashed her skin. On her forearms, on her thighs, the marks left by the kisses were old but still puffed up. Gavin had already asked her if she had kept these bad habits but she answered she did not, and indeed: no trace had appeared since he had seen her naked the first time. On the other hand, he did not understand how the young woman was able to expose them, indifferent to the glances that slipped on them.
"Can't you put something on?"
"I'm fine, it's warm in your apartment."
He settled in front of her. The black fringe weighed heavily on her huge doe eyes, darkening her olive skin. In silence, the coffee on the edge of his lips, Gavin began to enumerate the freckles that flecked her nose. As a modern witch, she wore on her nails dark purple, the ancient color of mourning though she had no one to cry. Her fingers were crossed on the warm surface of the cup, feeling the comforting warmth before swallowing a sip of coffee that always seemed less bitter during hazy mornings.
"You lost weight."
Her observation snatched a groan from Gavin. He could not contradict her.
"A shame. I liked your little belly."
"I had to be careful, anyway. At least I've some margin now."
He glanced at the calendar to remember the day: September 6th. If Lieutenant Anderson had not committed suicide last November, the police station would have celebrated the fifty-fourth birthday of this grumpy man. Gavin Reed had been more affected by Hank's death than he would have thought: he had stayed when some of his colleagues had gone into depression or had done everything to be transferred, but the shock had not passed within the team. And the memory of the RK800 still awakened an unappeasable anger: it was the fault of this machine if Hank had pressed the trigger.
That plastic bastard. Gavin should have turned it off with a bullet in his thirium pump right from the start.
Fathia pulled him from his thoughts, suddenly asking:
"Hey. Do you know if there're any rights for androids?"
"What do you mean by 'rights'?"
"Laws that protect them. With all that happened, I wondered if these things had changed."
"No," his answer sounded like an icy chopper, "and certainly not after all that happened."
Fathia did not insist. She knew of course the dislike of the detective for androids but her heart was weighed down by a secret she would have liked to share without daring to venture on this ground.
They were not together. Fathia was a prostitute in police contact, a sort of a fink, offering witness statements or information when they needed it, leaving her alone with her harmless solicitation. Their little carnal nights were secrets of corridors, but no love pulsed in their affectionate embraces. Fathia greatly appreciated Gavin despite his attitude sometimes infective, able to separate his flaws and his qualities. On the pillow, he had shared with her memories and in the dark, he had agreed to reveal his wounds so she could heal them. Since then, her tenderness had risen like a golden sea and Gavin bathed there as often as possible. Human beings are always thirsty for affection.
And she left a bit of her soul in this gray room, in this kitchen that smelled of coffee, remaining because, surprisingly, Gavin had always comforted her, making her laugh with his casual answers, reassuring her with his strong character. "They can go fuck themselves" was his answer to all the social problems: boring customers, shabby parents, aggressive brother, heavy looks, they can all go fuck themselves, and this modern wisdom made her laugh. When her throat unfurled, the young woman had the feeling that her worries were exorcised in her hilarious bursts.
Yes, in a way, she had left a little of her here, even adopted by Gnocchi, Gavin's cat, a huge Norwegian, despite his young age, with a tiger robe quite common but fluffy and long. The tomcat finally left the sofa from the living room and came to eat in his bowl already full. If the detective did not have children, he took care of his tiger with paternal affection, despite the stupid name he had given him.
"You enjoy yourself, Gnocchi?" Fathia leaned forward and her fingers slipped into this wild coat, triggering the purring machine. "He didn't lose his little paunch."
"With all the grub he devours, no risk."
The lady of the night lifted the cat from the ground and set him on her knees that were too small for this mass of tenderness. Lying like a baby on the thighs, Gnocchi allowed himself to be satisfied as the happiest of princes, leaving the human scratching his barrel-shaped belly.
"Do you want me to come back tonight?"
"Only if you want to. I'm finishing late today anyway, so don't come before midnight."
"I'll tell you about nine o'clock if I've much work."
In the sector of the world's oldest profession, humans had competition with androids, but the success of the machines had dropped and Fathia was returning to a very lucrative work pace. The Eden Club had lost almost a third of its clientele and while last year the owner boasted about business discretion, he had to install cameras in some rooms to make sure that no deviant would attack a regular.
Fathia stretched her long legs, thin as matches, and stood up, rinsing her cup in the sink. The steel gleams tried to cover her nakedness with their coldness, increasing the contrast of her tattooed skin, but despite her fragile silhouette, she shined with a unique energy and attracted Gavin's admiration. He knew that their relationship counted as a malpractice, but the detached affection she bore him, the two dark lakes she had for eyes, that ethereal tranquility in this crazy world were too precious for him to pass on. If they were not in love, they were close friends.
"I'm going to take a shower, you mind?"
"No, you can go, I start in three hours anyways."
Some business recovered on the way and she disappeared behind the door. He heard her singing under the shower and the water attenuated the clumsy notes.
Yes, their relationship was a malpractice, but since Lieutenant Anderson's suicide, Gavin needed to take refuge in those spindly, fragile but strong arms. Fathia was a night ghost, a futuristic witch, a creature who made him forget how ugly the world had become.
He did not love her as one does with a lover, but she was dear to him in a certain way.
Before leaving his apartment, Fathia had wished him a good day. Without kissing, without hugging, but with that tired smile that made her so ephemeral, like a nocturnal fairy who goes out at the same time as the stars.
She was human, with her imperfections but, according to Gavin, she had a charm she got from fantasy orient, an aura that androids could never have. Despite the efforts of CyberLife, robots lacked naturalness and especially heat: humanoid computers could not feel, so they could not express affection. And it was with sweetness that she had wished him a good day, a touch of attention that a machine could not reproduce.
But this sincere sentence was going to get stuck under the detective's skull to resonate and haunt him until the evening. When he arrived at the police station, the detective came across some colleagues together. Their arms crossed and their brows frowning betrayed a feeling of anger.
"What's happening? You all look like death warmed up."
"Don't try to be a smartass, Gavin, you don't know the news yet."
A policeman pointed to Captain Fowler's office. These large glass surfaces as walls served a misplaced indiscretion: their captain could not clean his nose or spill his coffee without being watched by his entire team. Just like he could not argue with a CyberLife agent without being targeted by the dark looks from his men, eyes slipping heavily on an android who stood behind the technician.
"What the fucking—"
In a few strides, Gavin moved to have a better view, recognizing the short cut hair, the brown lock that fell negligently and the strong jaw. Followed by a colleague, he heard her say:
"The day of Hank's birthday, can you believe that? I'm sure these sons of a bitch purposely sent us their new prototype today."
It was Connor. Without a doubt, it was him.
"I thought they had disabled it?"
"For a few months of work? No, they surely improved it and sent it back again."
"Improve? Like he won't push anyone to suicide anymore?"
This humor covered anger still vibrant. The RK800 had only blue blood on its hands, but many were convinced that Hank's brain had spread in his kitchen because of this android. Of course, everyone knew: Lieutenant Anderson had suicidal tendencies since the death of his boy, but the deviant case had motivated the old man, pushing him on the road to recovery, and he had teamed up with the RK800, the latest wonder of CyberLife. Five days later, he had planted the ultimate bullet in his temple. The short time was obvious for the team. Many police officers had not digested this conflict, feeling both sadness and anger for their once brilliant lieutenant.
Judging by Fowler's scowl, the presence of the android did not make him happy either, but he seemed unable to contradict the technician. When the man raised a hand toward the captain, Fowler pretended not to see him and left his chair, turning away.
As CyberLife's envoy was leaving, Fowler asked his men to come together to greet their new 'colleague'. When Connor placed himself respectfully behind the captain, Gavin noticed a detail: the brown eyes of the android were of an icy gray. Where did this physical change come from?
"— I couldn't refuse. In spite of everything that has happened, CyberLife continues to have some power and intends to establish itself in the police. So here's their latest prototype: the RK900. Like the previous model, I had to assign it to someone," Fowler pointed to Lieutenant White and added firmly, "I've assigned it to you, Aubrey. Sorry."
The lieutenant had just become livid, already sick with the idea of being assisted by the machine. The android walked down the steps, hands crossed behind his back and presented himself in front of his new partner.
"Hello, Lieutenant White, I'm Conrad. I have been designed to assist you in your work."
CyberLife even used a similar name, associating it with an identical voice. The face was also the same, except that piercing look like a December breeze. It was a really bad joke. All of a sudden, Gavin remembered what Fathia had told him this morning. This 'good day' had just taken on an ironic and bitter meaning.
The rain began to fall, carrying in its fall the brown leaves, announcing a wet and sad autumn.
Early, winter had already rushed into the police station, pushing men to keep their arms crossed and head back between the shoulders. The hot drinks were drunk in austere silence, heavy as a snowy sky. Lieutenant White did not know if the RK900 was feeling the hate that tried to stab him or was unaware of it. Like the RK800, this new model was cold calm, imperturbable like a stone sentinel.
Under the glance of her colleagues, Aubrey White was trying to focus, the RK900 sitting right beside her. He had spent a whole hour standing behind her, before the woman cracked and asked him to sit down and remove that white jacket to look more normal.
"Of course, Lieutenant. I hope you will forgive me for this misconduct: my sociability program is still processing."
Gavin had burst out laughing: a year later, the latest prototype CyberLife had the same offbeat expressions and he stank of the same automatic politeness as its predecessor. And the detective knew where those smooth manners had led Lieutenant Anderson.
The detective had spent the afternoon imagining low blows without applying them: the registration form for the sergeant grade had been online since that day and he had coveted it long enough to manage to ignore the RK900. The presence of the robot did not change his plans and Reed postulated for the next rank, judging that the plate "Detective" had enough dust on his desk.
The years passed and the paperwork remained the same: he had been in the Detroit police for nine years and the software was still asking for his date of birth. His fingers tapped on the tactile keyboard with sustained speed, accustomed to the same eternal questions. At least, the forms no longer asked for the sexuality of their employee. He remembered that Tina Chen had written 'pedophile' a few years ago, just to annoy the administration. At this memory, he began to sneer.
Gavin looked up. Precisely, it was officer Chen. Her colleague was coming back from patrol and could finally blew, but before getting a cup of cappuccino, she had settled on the edge of the detective's office to discuss quickly.
"I suppose you've already met the android?"
"Just the general presentation: since the technician is gone, it sticks to its new leader like glue."
Tina Chen glanced at the unfortunate one's desk. Aubrey White was a confident woman, deserving her lieutenant grade because of her composure, however the RK900 seemed to weigh on her shoulders. The profile of the android brought the officer few months back, at a time still carefree where the robots were docile, this period of calm before the storm caused by what was called Markus and the terror that Connor had thrown within the team.
"I was already suspicious about CyberLife, but hey, they've exactly the same face. The new and the old one, don't you think it's done on purpose too?"
"That or they are big slackers. Maybe it was created by other androids that recycle what little they know," Gavin replied, still completing the form line-by-line. With an icy aplomb, he added, "but I'll always be suspicious of these machines and this company."
"Wait and see, like we say."
"And see if this tin can survives."
Tina shook her head without hiding her laugh. If she did not harbor any rancor against machines last year, it was different today. What was CyberLife thinking about by sending them a new android?
Concentrated on work, Conrad did not give them the slightest attention. His mission was very simple: integrating and doing the same job as a police officer, maybe even better? What had happened with its predecessor did not concern it.
At the end of the day, Lieutenant White felt tremendous relief at going home and leaving the android behind. He weighed like a curse, a human-shaped plague. She knew she was influenced by bad memories, but she could not help wondering if in five days she would still be sane.
"I wish you a good evening, Lieutenant. See you tomorrow."
"Nine o'clock without fault."
The woman grabbed her purse and left the android. It was nearly eight o'clock in the evening and several policemen had returned to rest, a concept unknown to Conrad who knew it was an exclusively human necessity. Its own battery could last three months, leaving it a greater autonomy than other androids that must recharge every month.
Still sitting at the office, the RK900 was inspecting the surroundings, spotting its marks. There was the staff room where its new colleagues drank their coffee, still the cafeteria was further away. The android had no need to go there. That way, the corridor led to the cells, which numbered six, it counted them. Conrad had of course recorded where Captain Fowler's office was, its lieutenant's office, the others were very secondary, plus the names were on them. It heard ringtones from cell phones, as landlines no longer exist, discussions of unknown subjects.
Conrad thought that the evening would finally be quiet, but it was wrong and the android was going to meet curious samples of humanity, especially with such a function.
Around ten o'clock, as Gavin's day was nearly over, a patrol had brought back a regular from the sobering cell. A certain Florent Le Dantec, blond like the beer he loved so much and capable of giving headaches similar to those of a hangover. The drunkard bawled with a French accent until the detective got up.
"Florent, don't start: you go to your cell in silence."
"Ah! If detective Reed du cul(1) gives an order, you must obey him!"
Gavin had never understood this joke, though often repeated by Le Dantec, and he had never asked for the translation to avoid being ridiculed, somehow, he was the only one whose threats managed to calm the drunkard. The RK900 got up and approached, on the lookout for the first violent movement as against an animal.
Once on the other side of the window, the Frenchman dropped on the bed with such brutality it seemed he wanted to break it. Gavin started to walk away, but the drunk man began to sing again, so he slammed the window with his fist.
"You came to the United States without being able to understand English? Shut up."
"You told me to enter in silence!"
But the inmate lowered his head, realizing that the detective was not in the mood to laugh. Arms crossed, Gavin sniffed a blow before throwing:
"I can smell wine from here, Florent."
"Wine! Wine!" The man rose, one hand on his chest, offended. "In my country, monsieur, we drink chouchen!"
"I don't know your shit, sorry."
And finally, he turned his back to return to his office. Gavin noticed that the android had got up to approach, analyzing Florent.
"What are you doing here? Go put yourself in sleep somewhere, you'll be useless tonight."
"I don't need to be on standby, detective Reed, and I wanted to help you in case the situation escalated."
"I'll tell you again so you can record well, Playmobil: you won't be needed tonight. If Lieutenant White isn't here, you sit in a corner and wait she came back."
The RK900 quickly realized that detective Reed was hostile to it. It quickly inspected the individual, noting his three-day-old beard, the scar that barred the bridge of his nose, the dark circles under his gray eyes, and the stiffness over his shoulders. A glance at his fingers and the android realized that Gavin Reed was a smoker who was trying to slow down his smoking. Humans who were trying to slow down smoking were often irascible and Conrad put this mood wing on this difficult resolution.
"I just wanted to help you, Detective, to apprehend an unpredictable individual."
"Florent? He's a regular, it's the same show every week." Gavin started to overtake the machine. "For your two marbles that serve as eyes, we're only piles of meat, but we figured out pretty fucking well before your arrival, we will also figure out pretty fucking well after."
Impassive, Conrad observed his interlocutor and tried to coax him:
"Do you want a cigarette, detective?"
Gavin almost suffocated:
"I want you to get out of my face. Move!"
Stoic, Conrad decided to obey the man, returning to its place. Somehow, it thought it was a boon that Lieutenant White was more serene, despite the signs of fear it had perceived without understanding them.
The next day, Captain Fowler hung up and was about to swing his phone across the office. These screens were deemed indestructible but he did not dare to check those advertising slogans. His lieutenant, Aubrey White, had seen a psychologist and obtained a sick leave for depression. He had heard this excuse so often for ten months that the old man thought that it would be him who should consult soon.
In the space of a few hours, the reasons for Lieutenant White's absence were known and already, the attention was on the orphaned RK900. Fist under his chin, Gavin stared at the android standing in the captain's office and thinking of the form he had filled the day before. Yes, he wanted the rank of sergeant and was going to prove to Fowler that he deserved it.
He got up and walked to the glass door, knocking to ask permission to enter. With a gesture of the arm, his superior invited him to come and sit down.
"I'm sorry to hear what happened to Lieutenant White, Captain."
"Me too, she puts me in the shit. Depression, my ass!"
Fowler apologized half-heartedly: he had always been an angry person, unable to control the words that crossed his lips when he felt his guts boiling and his skull flare up. He did not believe for a moment the depression of his lieutenant: Aubrey White was just afraid to come back to work with the RK900.
"You know it as well: nobody wants this machine. Especially not after what happened with the old one," difficult to refute the detective, so Captain Fowler kept listening. "And I'm willing to volunteer to work with that."
"You? Gavin? You volunteer to work with the android?"
Dubious, the captain looked in turn at Conrad and Gavin. He was not sure that was the right decision, especially since he was unaware of the detective's intentions when he remembered seeing Reed's name among the candidates for the rank of sergeant. If Gavin wanted to prove himself with the RK900, Fowler would not stop him: it was a service that was not selfless, but it was a service anyway.
"Ok, Gavin, if that's what you want". Fowler then addressed the impassive RK900: "From now, you team up with detective Gavin Reed."
The LED went yellow for a moment, indicating that the machine was processing the information. When Gavin got up to go out, Conrad was on his way.
"Come on, Connor."
"Detective, I must inform you that Connor was the name of the previous model, I'm the model RK900 and I was named Conrad."
But its new partner did not listen to it anymore. Conrad could not understand why but Gavin Reed smirked and winked at Officer Chen.
(1) You will understand the joke soon.