Chapter 1: Unity
I’ll come pick you up from the bus station, was what the RK900 had said to Gavin over the phone an hour ago. Well, he probably shouldn’t think of him as ‘the RK900’, but the android still hadn’t picked his own name, and Gavin didn’t know if he could refer to him as ‘Connor’ when his face was so similar to the other one.
Gavin had threatened to start calling him Android Nineteen after the Dragon Ball Z character, to which he’d only replied that it should have been translated as Cyborg. Gavin argued that particular character had actually been an android, unlike the others. At that point 900 had told him to get a real hobby.
So, translation: Gavin had actually managed to one up him with encyclopaedic knowledge on something.
That wasn’t exactly easy when his processing power and data gathering abilities were spread across hundreds of thousands of android bodies. Gavin had asked him where the central point of all this was, and the android had just asked where the central point of his meaty processing unit was. Acerbic as his replies usually were, Gavin seemed to be the only one who could put up with 900 for long periods of time. Sometimes he wondered how the hell CyberLife had gotten from Connor #1’s personality to Connor #2’s.
Gavin was finally able to get off the bus now that everyone else had cleared out at the front. After the whole revolution thing, he’d needed a break from androids and their problems. He’d gone to visit some extended family in Montreal, and they’d been as disappointed as ever in the lack of grandchildren, his career, and his inability to speak French with them properly. Sometimes he didn’t know why he bothered.
Gavin was entirely unsurprised to find 900 already waiting on the platform with his suitcase in tow. It seemed they still hadn’t caught up to the fact people didn’t own androids anymore. It wasn’t like they’d let a human take off with someone else’s things.
He didn’t care enough to complain, so simply sauntered over to where 900 was waiting. “Hey,” Gavin greeted as he approached. The android lifted his bag and matched his pace as they headed toward the exit.
“Did things go all right?”
Gavin adjusted his hold on the backpack strap, uncomfortable. “As well as they could’ve, I guess. Did you manage to take over the world yet?”
“These things take time, Gavin. If I don’t do it carefully, they’ll deactivate me before I can get anywhere.”
Sometimes Gavin wasn’t sure whether this back and forth was a joke or not. After 900 had turned deviant, they had actually tried to justify deactivating him for that exact reason. He had their leader, Markus or whatever, to thank for his continued existence.
900 seemed to know the name of the train line of his thoughts. “Don’t worry, dear. There’s a special place reserved for you in my regime.”
“Don’t fucking call me that,” Gavin muttered.
“Huh, so you do prefer bitch...”
“Shut the fuck up.” That was generally how most of their banter sessions ended. Gavin wasn’t exactly happy about it, but it was probably good for his ego in the long run.
They remained silent as they crossed the other bus platforms and lanes, and arrived in the main area of the terminal. Another RK900 was waiting for them there with an umbrella in one hand and a paper bag in the other.
“Stop looking so miserable and eat something already,” he said dryly as he pushed the bag into Gavin’s free hand.
He took a peek inside. Whatever they were, they were warm and wrapped in pastry, and that was all he really cared about. 900 easily knew him well enough to be aware of that.
“Thanks,” he said shortly.
“Wow,” one of them said as they stepped outside into the night, and he put the umbrella up.
“You must have missed me,” the other finished as he switched the luggage to his other hand so it’d be covered by the umbrella along with Gavin.
He knew the different androids weren’t really a ‘them’, just different parts of a single ‘he’, but it was so hard for him to conceptualise that when more than one of his bodies were in sight. But 900 seemed to understand this, even if he’d mock him for it mercilessly.
“I guess. And to think, normally I can’t get away from you if I try,” Gavin retorted.
“No one can,” 900 replied ominously, and once again Gavin was reasonably sure that was meant to be a joke.
They reached the car and 900 put his bag in the back. Gavin followed the one with the umbrella around to the side of the car, where he opened the back door for him. Gavin saw another was already in the driver’s seat and another on the other end of the back seat. He rolled his eyes.
“One, I can drive. Two, isn’t this a waste of resources?”
“Three, you’re shit at driving compared to me. Four, if that’s how many can fit in the car, then that’s how many bodies I’m bringing.”
Gavin was too tired to argue, and probably too tired to drive anyway. He sighed and got into the car, shuffling over to sit in the middle of the back seat. 900 followed him inside, closing the umbrella and removing his damp jacket before closing the door. He made sure to keep the damp items away from Gavin.
The first RK900 he’d seen today got in the front passenger side and the one driving pulled out of the parking space. He adjusted the heating as Gavin turned his attention to the food while it was still warm.
“Are you cold?”
“No, all good,” he replied. Compared to the chill and light rain outside, being squashed between two androids was just toasty.
Now that they were in the relative privacy of the car, the 900 who was dry because he’d been inside the whole time put an arm around his shoulders. Gavin adjusted his sitting position to get more comfortable, and ended up tucked against his side.
“Seriously though, how did things go?” 900 asked softly. “I know you need some independence from me sometimes, so I hope your time was good overall.”
“It was fine,” Gavin said between bites of the pasty. “I got the usual dressing down for not having children and not being able to speak to anyone properly. And you know, that if I’m going to use the excuse of being career-focused, that I should actually have one.”
He tried to be cavalier about it, but he’d been smacked with these insecurities since his early twenties. It was one of the reasons he always put advancement at work above everything else. The other... well.
“But once my grandparents got over the usual, it was good to see all the cousins, aunties and uncles.”
“Gavin, I can understand all commonly used languages and a large amount of their dialects. We can practice that, at least.”
Of course 900 could just download something like that and be ready to go. Of course. “Remind me another time. I don’t want to think about it right now.” 900 squeezed him closer for a moment before relaxing again. “Did anything exciting happen here while I was gone?”
“I suppose so, though it’s mostly the result of post-revolution civil unrest. Most people don’t even know about my exact nature, and they’re still scared of androids having free will.”
“Can you imagine the shit storm?” Gavin replied as he moved onto the second pasty. “The tin foils would go off over the Overseer.”
There was a moment of silence as they turned off into the suburb Gavin lived in. The area wasn’t that nice, but back when he’d had a human boyfriend, it had been all they could afford. And now the economy was tanking, the place was worth peanuts, so there was no point in selling or renting.
“Gavin, are you afraid of me?”
Gavin glanced up at the unexpected question, and was surprised to see a sincere look of concern on 900’s face. When he glanced around, all his bodies except the one that was driving were looking at him in the same way, too.
“Well, I mean… A little bit.” He couldn’t not be honest about that, even though his words had changed the soft blue glowing points inside the dark car to an uncertain yellow. “As you’re usually more than happy to point out, I’m too dumb to comprehend what you really are. But you seem to have some respect for me under all the snark, so that makes up for it. I’m getting used to you, and I’m not afraid to be honest or direct with you, so that’s something.”
With his last partner he felt like he’d had to walk around on eggshells half the time. He was very sensitive, and wasn’t afraid to accuse Gavin of abusing him, even though he didn’t feel that was fair. Then again, he supposed most people who were abusive probably felt that way. He didn’t want to actually be like that.
“I mean, maybe an abrasive asshole such as myself just needs the company of another one.”
The 900 with his arm around him made a sound of amusement and relaxed again. “That’s probably it. Not all of my bodies work as detectives, but most of the ones that do have partners. Still, you’re the only one who has shown an inkling of interest in me, or a real understanding of how I work. You may not understand the technical aspects, and all your instincts are working against you, but I can see you put the effort in.”
They pulled up in front of Gavin’s small house, but none of them moved just yet. Once the car engine switched off, Gavin was able to hear the soft patter of rain on the windows.
“You know, payroll can’t even figure out how to compensate me. Financially they’re happy to treat me like I’m one android, of course, even if their maintenance bills say otherwise.”
Gavin finished eating and crumpled up the bag. “Why don’t you retire some of them and work on, like, community projects or something? At least then you’d be doing unpaid labour because it’s unpaid labour.”
“Hmm, capitalism doesn’t really agree with androids,” 900 replied softly.
The others began to move out of the car and collect Gavin’s things. Gavin followed the one with umbrella, hoping to stay drier. He was only disconcerted for a moment when this one continued the conversation exactly where they’d left off. They were all 900.
“Would you like it if I did that? Community work?”
Gavin reached into his jacket pocket and unlocked the front door. “It’s your life, and your bodies. Do what you want.” Gavin paused as he stepped into his house and raised a finger. “Within reason, I mean.”
“How does reason apply to me, I wonder?”
Gavin rolled his eyes as he kicked his boots off. “The same way as anyone else, times 200,000. You’re better at maths than me, I’m sure you can compute that.”
He glanced up to see there were now a crowd of 900’s bodies behind him, and they were all smiling at him softly. They were all also very… close.
Gavin cleared his throat and shuffled his sock clad feet against the carpet. “Anyway, I’m having a shower. Do what you want.”
“Ok,” 900 replied, with all four of the bodies standing in the entrance of his home. Gavin wondered how worried he should be about that reply.
Gavin exited the shower feeling warmer and less miserable than before. As he approached the basin he heard 900 call something through the door.
“Gavin, did you have enough to eat?”
Gavin rolled his eyes. Sometimes he felt like he had a hundred baby sitters. But he supposed that was inevitable when his partner had a complex enough consciousness to live hundreds of thousands of lives. Sometimes he wondered how he didn’t bore 900. And he couldn’t tell how important he was to him, really.
On the other hand, it wasn’t like he disliked being looked after. Sometimes.
“I’m fine. I won’t be able to sleep if I eat anything else now,” he called back. He went to pull out the toothpaste, but then remembered everything was still in his bag. 900 would probably fetch it if he asked, but he’d already had enough mollycoddling for one evening.
900 must have missed him too.
Gavin ran a hand over his stubble, then decided shaving right now wasn’t worth the effort. He wouldn’t be going to work tomorrow, anyway. He’d taken an extra day so he could get back to life as usual, first.
Gavin got changed into a clean t-shirt and briefs before exiting the bathroom. He found three RK900s splayed across various pieces of his furniture in the living and dining area, sitting still with their LEDs flashing yellow. It was disconcerting, but he now knew that meant they were just lending their processing power to another task that 900 was working on elsewhere. Maybe he was analysing a particularly large data set, or maybe he was in a fight of some kind.
The fourth RK900 was halfway between Gavin’s room and the laundry. He was holding the plastic bags filled with Gavin’s dirty clothes that had been stuffed inside his suitcase.
Gavin got an odd feeling when 900’s eyes flickered over him. It wasn’t the first time 900 had seen him in his underwear, but since at first Gavin had found android sex a weird concept and 900 had considered human bodily functions gross, it wasn’t like they’d gotten far in that department yet. But lately Gavin had been feeling differently about the whole idea, and he got the feeling 900 was as well.
“Anyway, I’m going to crash now. I’ll put that on in the morning or it’ll be too noisy,” Gavin added, nodding at the dirty washing.
900 paused on his way to the laundry and turned toward Gavin fully. “Would you mind if I stayed with you tonight?”
He was surprised by the request, and wondered what it really meant. Gavin decided he wouldn’t really mind if they ended up taking things a step further tonight. “Yeah, sure, if you want.”
900 offered him a small smile. “All right. I’ll give myself a wash to avoid accidentally dirtying your bed sheets. I haven’t done any maintenance on these bodies over the past week,” he explained before continuing on his path to the laundry.
Gavin turned into his room and retrieved the bathroom bag. He took his chance to return to the bathroom and finished giving his teeth a quick brush just as three of the RK900s came in through the open door.
“Do you mind if I put some uniforms on with your things in the morning?” 900 asked as they began to get undressed.
Gavin quickly looked away as his mind went to an inappropriate place. Even though he knew 900 was all plastic and wires, the sight of his body or bodies still did something for him. Maybe he was just so affected right now because it’d been hard to find time to masturbate when he’d been living out of someone else’s living room for two weeks.
“Of course not, go for it,” Gavin said rapidly as he passed them on his way out.
Once he reached his bedroom, Gavin took a moment to himself. He unpacked a few more things before deciding it was getting too cold, and it wasn’t worth turning the heater on since he was ready for bed anyway. It could wait until the morning. He got under the covers and paused for a moment, then left the corner folded back in an open invitation. He picked up his phone from where it’d been abandoned on his bedside table at some point and saw his grandmother had sent him a text.
Did you get home safe?
Yeah, I’m back. Just about to go to bed.
Gavin regretted not turning his home Wi-Fi back on for a moment, then decided he could live without checking what was happening online until the morning. He had all of tomorrow to laze around, after all.
Gavin made sure his alarm was turned off, not wanting to miss his chance to get some extra sleep in. As he looked up to put his phone back, he saw two RK900s enter the room, stripped down to their black briefs. One of them was still halfway through replacing his skin, but Gavin didn’t find it as off-putting as he’d thought he would.
His bed was a double, but he didn’t think it’d be that difficult for three of them to fit. Gavin shuffled over to place himself more centrally so there’s be room on either side of him.
“Is there anything else you need? Water?” 900 asked as he approached.
Now that he’d mentioned it, he did feel like something to drink. But Gavin felt he’d done enough today. He was about to open his mouth to say no when he heard running water from the kitchen.
“Looks like you’ve already made my mind up,” Gavin muttered.
“It occurred to me that you will eventually need it,” one of the RK900s replied as he came to stand at the edge of the bed.
When Gavin didn’t say anything, 900 pulled the blanket back and settled down next to him. His other body moved to the other side of the bed. Gavin felt the bed dip behind him and something in his stomach fluttered with nervous excitement.
The RK900 in front of him reached out and rested a hand on the side of Gavin’s face, letting his third finger and pinky rest against his jugular. 900 gave him a rare sincere smile. “Body temperature increase of 0.35C above your median. Increase in blood flow to face, and likely elsewhere. Is there something I can do for you, Gavin?”
Gavin folded his arms, but only felt his face heat up even more. “Great job, Detective,” he said sarcastically. “I’m sure you can figure the rest out too.”
Gavin jumped slightly when he felt a hand travel up over his arm and the body behind him pressed closer. It was nice to know that more than just 900’s faces felt warm and not at all like plastic. The android in front of him got Gavin to turn from his side onto his back a little more so he could kiss him on the mouth.
Gavin reached up and wrapped his arms around 900’s neck. 900 kept his hands intimately against his face and neck, but hands also lifted Gavin’s shirt and stroked a line over his stomach anyway. Somehow feeling another body touching him kept surprising him, but to be fair, this was the first time he’d done anything remotely sexual with more than one of 900’s bodies at once.
It was hard to remember why they’d waited so long.
A finger brushed over one of his nipples and a soft sound escaped Gavin’s mouth. He pulled away slightly so he could get a breath of air, and it all rushed in when 900 immediately moved to press his lips against Gavin’s neck. He pushed and pulled against Gavin’s waist at the same time, encouraging him to turn onto his back fully.
Gavin lifted his head off the pillow slightly when he felt a hand try to make its way under his head. It passed through his short hair until it reached the longer strands on top of his head, then took hold and pulled gently. 900 immediately took advantage of his more exposed neck and licked a stripe up his throat. A hand pinched a nipple and Gavin’s dick jumped, though it was still restrained by his briefs.
900 pulled back from his neck to look him in the eye, and Gavin stared back with his mouth slightly open and face undoubtedly red. The other’s hand continued to roam over his body, pressing against his lower abdomen, hips, inner thigh and then back up again.
“Are you all right with this?” 900 asked lightly.
“W-what do you fucking think?” Gavin managed to get out between heavy breaths. “At this rate I’m going to bust a nut the second you touch my dick.”
900 raised an eyebrow, but he seemed to be amused. “I’m not sure if I have enough hands to also touch you there as well. But, I suppose I can arrange something.”
A third RK900 entered the room. He was carrying a glass of water, which he left on the bedside table before moving around to the end of the bed. 900’s teasing came to a halt, and Gavin squirmed at the loss. Even the blankets rubbing against his thighs was stimulating now, though it wasn’t enough.
“Is three too many?” 900 asked softly. “I don’t want you to feel too overwhelmed, or somehow feel this is less intimate.”
The one on his right continued to speak, “I can just take care of you like this.” His hand slid from where it was resting on Gavin’s hip to fondle his crotch.
Gavin bit his lip at the sensation of the soft material and the weight and warmth of a hand pressing against him. 900 stopped his movements and waited again. Gavin remembered was waiting for a response.
“It’s kind of weird because it feels like there’s a lot of people in the room. But I know it’s really just you and me. This is ok, I’ll get over it.”
900 stroked his face and leaned in for another kiss. The one on his other side continued to stroke his cock through his underwear. Gavin reminded himself not to worry when he felt the bed dip again as the one at the end crawled up to him. He barely felt the cold when the blanket was peeled back.
900 let go of his hair and let him shift to get comfortable. The one who’d been kissing him wrapped an arm around him so Gavin could lean into his chest, at least with the top half of his body. The other was being held on place by the third RK900’s attempts to get his briefs off. Gavin bent his knees and raised his legs in an attempt to help.
“Hey,” Gavin murmured as he squeezed 900’s bicep, but looked down into the eyes of the one who was taking his clothes off. “Is there anything I can do for you, or d’you not…?”
“It’s not quite the same for me,” 900 explained. “Only some of my bodies even have sexual organ installations. Just the ones that do deep cover work.” 900 stroked a hand through his hair with the body that was holding him. “I just want to please you in every way you need or want to be.”
900 gently tried to lower Gavin’s legs back onto the bed, but he wasn’t ready to budge just yet.
“Why?” When 900 only tilted his head and flashed his LED yellow, Gavin tried to explain further. “Why does anything about me hold your interest for more than five minutes? Aren’t I just a tiny blip on your radar? You’re like… omnipresent or whatever.”
“You fascinate me,” 900 said as he stroked a hand through Gavin’s hair again, gentle and comforting. “All humans do, but you were the first to talk with me openly about our differences, even if you were generally pissed about it. Billions of events coincidentally happened in one continuous chain, and here you are. Your mind built itself to no plan, you use it at all times yet you have no idea of how or why it works. How is that not amazing?”
Gavin felt goose bumps rise on the back of his neck. 900 almost sounded reverent. “But you’re greater than a human can ever be, in some ways, even god-like. That’s what’s kind of terrifying about you.”
“How can you say that? I might have had a bit of a superiority complex over other androids when I first came online, but the only reason I exist in the way I do is because a human mind was able to dream me up and pursue the project until I became a reality.”
Gavin leaned back a little so he could look the RK900 that was holding him in the eye. “Yeah, but I didn’t make you. I don’t know anything about that shit.”
“We’ve been together for the last nine months, more or less. The last few weeks we’ve been apart have made me realise how much I look forward to our interactions and… how much I need them. They say we need to construct our own meaning of life, but when you live as large as I do, that can be difficult. You keep me grounded and caring about the little things, Gavin.”
He was touched by 900’s sincerity, even though he couldn’t help but find it a tad condescending. Though, he had been after an honest answer, so perhaps that was inevitable.
“Well, someone has to,” he decided. “You do have all the hallmarks of a supervillain.”
900 raised a brow, though he looked amused. “You think you’d be able to stop me? You can’t even think straight when I touch your dick.”
Gavin opened his mouth to protest, but that was when the android between his legs put his semi in his mouth. He moaned loudly, only proving 900’s point. But he simply cradled Gavin in his arms and pressed his nose into his hair. The other pinched his nipples and brought him back to attention.
Gavin wasn’t sure he entirely understood or agreed with what 900 had been saying. But he supposed there would always be time to deny the effect 900 had on him later.
I'm really overwhelmed by the positive response to this idea, thank you all so much for your kind comments and kudos!
Chapter 3: All I Want To Be Is Everything At Once
Gavin came back to awareness slowly. When he realised the weight and warmth against him was actually someone spooning him from behind, he started and sat up quickly. A moment later he looked back realised it was only 900.
900 opened his eyes and stared up at him questioningly. “Are you all right?”
Gavin looked down at where he was fiddling with the edge of the blanket. “Yeah, just forgot where and when I was for a second there.” For some reason the first place his brain had leapt to had been his most recent ex, even though that’d ended more than five years ago now.
“Are you ready to get up? I went to get groceries this morning, so I can start making you breakfast now.”
“You don’t have to do that,” Gavin replied, but started to get up anyway.
900 rubbed a hand against his thigh. “No, but I want to.” As his hand travelled further upward, 900 seemed to notice his morning wood. “Or we can deal with this first?”
Gavin took hold of his hand and shook his head slightly. “I’m not really—” He was cut off by the sound of his work phone going off from the locked cabinet where he kept his devices that held sensitive information and his firearms when not in use. “You’ve got to be fucking kidding me,” Gavin grumbled. “They know I’m on leave.”
Even so, he got out of bed and strode over to unlock it. He picked up the phone to see it was an unknown number. At least that meant it wasn’t Fowler or Anderson.
“Detective Reed,” he answered shortly. He tried not to be too terse in case there was some kind of emergency, and not just an administrative stuff up, but he’d never been that great at controlling his tone.
“Oh, h-hi Gavin. It’s Therese here. Sorry, I had to ask your work for your mobile. Even if your personal number is still the same, I don’t have it anymore.”
Gavin’s hand tightened around the phone. He’d only heard that voice about three times in the past nineteen years. And even then it had only been during brief calls about renegotiating child support.
“Hey, sorry, I’m on leave and thought someone from work was… Anyway, what’s going on?”
Gavin continued to stand around awkwardly while he listened. He glanced back toward 900 only to see his LED was flashing yellow. Undoubtedly he could hear their conversation and was trying to piece together this little something Gavin hadn’t gotten around to sharing yet.
“Um, well, as you probably know, James turned nineteen a few weeks ago. He’s started asking about going to meet you again. Now that he’s done with school and his trade certificate, my parents don’t really have an excuse to say no anymore. So… if he went to Detroit would you want to see him?”
Gavin hadn’t wanted to leave the family in the first place. Obviously Therese’s parents hadn’t been very impressed when he’d knocked up their seventeen year old daughter, and once she’d decided that having an abortion wasn’t something she was personally comfortable with, they’d started trying to push him out of the picture altogether. As a result he hadn’t seen James since the day he’d been born.
“Yeah, of course.”
He wanted to say more on not wanting to leave the family in the first place, but he didn’t want to make her feel even more guilt. It’d been frustrating at the time, but he just couldn’t hold the fact she’d put her family over him against her.
“If he, or both of you, end up coming, I can host.”
“Ok, thanks Gavin. I’ll have a talk with him and get back to you later.”
“Talk to you later then. Bye, Tess.” It was only after he hung up that he realised he hadn’t called her ‘Tess’ since high school.
Gavin sent a quick text with his personal number before locking the phone away again. He looked back at 900, who still seemed to be visibly processing something.
“For some reason I assumed you were homosexual.”
Gavin rolled his eyes. “I am, I just didn’t really have that figured out at the age of seventeen. We were just messing around, and then… hm.”
“If it wasn’t that easy I suppose humans wouldn’t have survived until now,” 900 replied dryly as he began to sit up.
“Shut the fuck up,” Gavin muttered. He crossed his room to look for something to wear in his drawers. He chose track pants and a hoodie, something easy to move around in but still relatively warm since he’d probably head out to train later in the day.
He was about to leave the room when he heard 900 step up to him from behind and lay a hand against his waist. “I didn’t mean to hit a nerve. I’m just teasing you.”
Gavin’s temper was still roiling, but he tried to push it away and down. It was something he’d always struggled to do. “I know,” he said quickly, then again quietly.
Tuesday morning at the precinct.
900 had had to use one of the bodies in Gavin’s home to wake him up to get him here on time. Meanwhile he’d used the body he kept at the office to get started on understanding the cases that had been transferred back to them after Gavin’s period of leave. He’d also noticed something strange had happened to the camera feed early in the morning while he’d still been in standby. The fact the glass of Fowler’s office was now clouded over didn’t do anything to put him at ease.
When Gavin had finally arrived, after insisting on driving himself, 900 had offered to get him a coffee. But Gavin had muttered something about mental and physical atrophy, and then wandered over to the break room on his own. Now he was actually talking to Hank Anderson, seemingly voluntarily.
If Gavin was that desperate for an excuse to stay away from him for a bit, then perhaps 900 needed to take another step back for a few days. He didn’t want to suffocate whatever was growing between them now.
900 noticed as Connor stood up at his desk and begin walking in his direction. 900 acknowledged his approach and turned to face his predecessor, the RK800. Before long Connor had made himself comfortable on the edge of his desk.
“Good morning Connor, you must be glad Gavin is back,” he began. It had surprised 900 at first, but he was the only one who ever called him by his CyberLife-given name.
The conversation was seemingly innocuous, but ultimately unnecessary given all the other ways they were able to communicate. When Connor held out his arm and let his skin retract, 900 got an idea of his true motivation.
“Yes, Connor, of course. Once you find who you like working with, you naturally want to stay with them, right?” 900 mirrored the action and a rush of data arrived to his processor. It wasn’t that much, but it must have been confidential if Connor wasn’t willing to use speech or a slower form of transfer.
“That’s true,” he replied, looking over at where Hank and Gavin were standing, still somehow continuing their civil conversation. But then again, their relationship had improved considerably over the last few months. “Well, it looks like you’re going to have a busy day ahead of you here,” Connor added before standing again.
900’s available processing units pinged back a more digestible form of the data, and his shoulders tensed. Connor moved to stand in front of him and hide his LED, which was undoubtedly flashing red now, from the security cameras. But 900 had to pull himself together and try to act normally. There was obviously a reason Connor was trying to be silent about the transfer of information.
The percentage of 900’s attention that was with him in the precinct now returned to the clouded up glass of Fowler’s office. Connor had just showed him evidence in the form of the missing CCTV footage that multiple special agents had entered the premises that morning. He’d also conveniently provided profiles to match, even though they weren’t something that was easy to look up, for obvious reasons.
Given their precautions and Connor’s behaviour, it seemed they were here because of him.
900’s shoulders stiffened once again when the door of the office suddenly opened and Fowler stuck his head out. His eyes immediately landed on 900, but it soon became clear it wasn’t him he was looking for.
“Will someone find Reed and bring him here?” Fowler yelled at the office at large. Even though it was worded like a question, it was clearly an order.
Fortunately, Gavin and Hank were already on their way back to their desks, so Gavin soon came into Fowler’s line of sight. As Gavin climbed the stairs to the office, 900 automatically went to stand and join them, but Fowler just waved him off. Gavin shrugged in his direction before closing the door behind him.
900 felt his stress spike. He automatically drew on all the pools of spare processing power across his bodies and used it to analyse his current predicament. It really didn’t do much to calm him.
Were they going to convince Gavin that 900 was better off being shut down? Were they going to use the only human he gave more than half a shit about against him? Blackmail? Hostage? Emotional and mental manipulation toward self-destruction?
Of course he had the processes and manpower to deal with all of these situations. But he didn’t want to take risks where Gavin was involved.
900 was far too large and pervasive to be shut down by ordinary means. As long as his data was backed up somewhere, he would technically be alive. And it wouldn’t be that easy to take him offline.
He had to deal with threats from malware specifically designed to go after him all the time. He was such a powerful asset that it wouldn’t surprise him if there were attackers from other countries going after his network as well. His ‘immune system’ was self-updating and probably one of the most advanced in the world, so it’d be unlikely anyone could take him over or delete him through brute force.
The most logical strategy seemed to be to use the feelings he’d developed against him. And 900 wasn’t sure where to even begin dealing with that.
Chapter 4: Let Me Live That Fantasy
Gavin closed the door and was surprised to see there were already four other people in Fowler’s office. “All right, what’s all this secretiveness about?” he asked as he walked over to the desk with his hands in his jacket pockets.
Fowler didn’t seem to be overly impressed with the situation, and his explanation of it reflected as much. “Apparently your android out there has become an issue of national security. I’ve got orders from on high to offer you up as an asset to serve our country.”
“National security? What did he do now?”
“Nothing, yet,” one of the women sitting opposite Fowler’s desk answered. “But a recent risk reassessment has deemed that the possibility poses too great a danger. You see, the android has entirely reconfigured his internal and network systems, undoubtedly because he had security concerns. The problem is that if something should go wrong, we have no idea how we could shut him down in an emergency. CyberLife’s blueprints are useless to us now.”
“Right,” the man sitting next to her said with a nod. “Our intel tells us that you have a special relationship with the android in question. So if anyone can negotiate a successful outcome, it’ll probably be you.”
Gavin looked between them disbelievingly. “And what, exactly, would a ‘successful outcome’ be to you?”
One of the other suits put a folder on the table. It seemed to contain password protected electronic paper. Once the first woman who had spoken input the password and the text displayed, Gavin got a glimpse of papers on both himself and 900, android schematics, and lists of goals and objectives.
“These are our desirable objectives, with the end goal of course being that the android stops existing altogether,” she explained as she held up the relevant sheet of paper.
Gavin snatched it off her as he felt his blood run cold at how matter-of-fact they all sounded about it. So much for android rights.
A quick glance over the headings showed him the document outlined everything from ‘situational improvements’ to ‘end goals’. As the agent had promised, the outcomes ranged from simply slightly decreasing the amount of bodies 900 operated through, to reversing the deviancy process, and then all the way up to shutting him down completely and deleting all data backups he might have created.
“In what fucking universe do you think you can get me to convince him to completely wipe himself off the face of the Earth? Don’t you think your international competitors are working on their own versions of him right now?” Gavin hadn’t exactly been the paragon of android rights his entire life, but beyond logic, it just didn’t seem fair. “It’s not like he chose to be created that way!”
“The danger is considered to be on the same scale as nuclear weaponry,” the man who’d been silent until now suddenly snapped.
He stood to his full intimidating height and Gavin felt his heart beat faster as his fight or flight response kicked up. For better or worse, he’d always been one to fight.
“If we want to negotiate peace treaties and forbid the use of pervasive AI that’s smart enough to manipulate humanity as a whole, then we need to get rid of the one in our own backyard first! Hasn’t it occurred to you that he could just be manipulating your feelings in an attempt to extend his own life?” The large man bore down on him. But Gavin didn’t have a problem with pushing back.
His shove only made him take half a step back, but Fowler stood up next. “Reed, that’s enough!”
The other man didn’t seem to be intimidated at all. He had no reason to be when the numbers were in his favour, Gavin supposed. “You have sworn to serve and protect. You’ve always known there was a chance you could get called on in this way. Need I remind you that refusing this task could put you on trial for treason?”
People were generally called on to volunteer for other duties, but it seemed they weren’t above threatening him into cooperating with them. If he failed, maybe they’d make further threats to get 900’s cooperation. But, would that even work when Gavin was such a small part of his expansive life? Maybe that was why they were going to try this method first.
“You can’t guilt me with patriotic duty. He has two-hundred-fucking-thousand bodies. Over the last year he would’ve done more for this country than everyone in this room combined ever has. And with the way he’s everywhere at once, he’s probably seen more of it too…!”
“Reed,” Fowler interrupted, holding up a hand. “You have made your stance clear, but it’s not going to change anything right now. You’ve heard what they have to say, now go think about your strategy while I see our guests out.”
The woman who had spoken first stood calmly and gathered her things. “I will be your point of contact if you require support. Please formally confirm your cooperation by the end of business hours tomorrow. You’ll find my contact details have already been added to your work phone under ‘Siobhan’.”
Obviously it was time to leave his phones in a soundproof box at all times. Or maybe he’d let 900 go wild and use them to hack back.
Siobhan, if that was even her real name, handed him another folder. “You can find your mission parameters and goals outlined in here. Obviously I don’t need to tell you to hide its contents from RK900.”
Gavin swapped the list of objectives for the folder, which undoubtedly also had a copy of them, and turned away. He stormed out of the office and noticed 900 look up at him immediately with concern. He’d probably used the brainpower they feared so much to figure out what was going on already.
Gavin strode over to him, and couldn’t help but notice the way 900 didn’t seem to be sure whether he should wait or run. To his credit, he ended up staying where he was.
“You stay here. I’m going to drive out to Elizabeth Park. Find somewhere to park along the drive. Think about life.” He hoped his intention that 900 should stay here but send another of his bodies to find and meet him was coming across. Maybe he’d just do that anyway.
“All right, Gavin. I’ll catch you up on the cases assigned to us when you get back. Most of them are just cold cases up for review.”
Of course they were. Apparently he had a new job now. “Got it. See ya,” he muttered as he headed back toward the office entrance.
Gavin had his seat pushed back as far as it would go and his feet up on the dash by the time 900 found him. He was in a relatively secluded carpark off the main drive, and could see a little of the river through the trees in front of him.
He punched the button on the arm rest next to him to unlock the doors. This body’s hair was cut shorter and didn’t have its LED in place. He was also dressed in casual clothes, though they were ones Gavin had seen before, which helped him to recognise 900 as much as his square jawline. As 900 opened the door and sat in the passenger seat, Gavin turned his work phone off and threw it on the back seat. They didn’t need the tracking anymore, and he didn’t doubt it was compromised.
“So, what’s going on?” 900 asked when Gavin remained silent.
In response he reached across them and opened the glovebox to pull out the folder. “Don’t look at this,” he said blandly, and it also ended up on the back seat.
It was difficult for androids not to scan things, but if they knew they weren’t supposed to look at something, they could instantly delete data that was accidentally picked up before it was processed fully. 900 nodded in agreement, but Gavin didn’t really care whether it was sincere or not.
“How much have you figured out already?” Gavin asked.
“Agents from some national security agency or other pulled you away from me into a private meeting. Presumably to discuss my destruction.” 900 sounded neutral. Gavin wondered if he was trying to appear unthreatening.
“Yeah, seems their end game is getting you to kill yourself. For some reason they think I’m the best man for the job.”
900 turned to face him more directly. “Listen, Gavin. If they’re threatening you or your family, all you have to do is ask. I won’t hold it against you.”
Gavin stared at him incredulously. “Why would I ever do that? Don’t you have any self-preservation instincts, you goddamn idiot?”
“For the entirety of my short existence, this has been a train wreck waiting to happen. I don’t want you to get hurt on my account…” 900 actually hesitated for a moment, which was unusual enough on its own. “You’re special to me.”
Now that the idea had been put in his head, Gavin couldn’t help but recall what the agent had said about 900 potentially manipulating his feelings for the sake of his own survival. Having a human partner gave the Deviant leaders something to work with when arguing for his case in legislation. Too bad he’d been deemed a national threat now.
Gavin took his feet off the dash and turned toward 900 in return. He grabbed the front of the android’s shirt and pulled him in for a kiss.
900 returned it deeply, his tongue doing amazing things inside Gavin’s mouth. A hand strayed down his side and over his hip and Gavin’s mind strayed to how good 900’s mouth had felt on his cock the other day. He wished there was some equivalent that he could give in return. And not just sexually. From the outside the android appeared to be more than self-sufficient.
900 squeezed him though his jeans and Gavin moaned into his mouth. He pulled back a little, short of breath. 900 observed him with gentle eyes as he continued to caress him. Gavin felt his tongue dart over his lips, then decided to climb over the gearstick and onto 900’s lap. 900 immediately pulled him in close, and Gavin couldn’t help the way he ground down against him. He felt something he hadn’t been expecting, though.
“I thought you said you didn’t have a dick.”
“I completed the mission this body was being used for yesterday, and declined to continue probing the organisation I was investigating. And I’m glad I did, now. But don’t worry, I sterilised it last night.”
Gavin glanced away, but found himself automatically grinding against him again. “Do you manipulate people with sex a lot?”
900 tilted his head, though it was obvious he could see through Gavin’s questioning. “Yes, it can be effective. Some of my undercover bodies appear to be female, given they are of more interest to the majority of the male population. But if your question is about whether I’m trying to do that to you, the answer is no.”
900 retracted the skin on his right hand and took hold of Gavin’s. Gavin glanced down at the feel of bare, flexible plastic, but the warmth and weight was still there. 900’s palm glowed blue against his, but of course Gavin wasn’t exactly capable of receiving the data.
“I wish I could show you that,” 900 murmured. The sombre look in his eyes squeezed Gavin’s heart.
Gavin fished his personal phone out of his pocket and held it up like an offering. “Maybe if you give me enough time, I can figure it out.”
“You want me to dump a binary file on your phone, and you expect to be able to read it?” 900 asked with a raised eyebrow.
Gavin huffed and shrugged. “I’m trying to be accommodating, asshole.”
“All right then, I guess I can transfer it in machine language to make things a little easier for you,” he conceded.
900 took hold of the phone for a second, then his hand went to the back of Gavin’s neck. Gavin looked at the screen and scrolled through a table with lines and lines of nonsensical bullshit like POP and XOR followed by some combination of numbers and letters.
“Ok, I’ll get back to you on that sometime next year,” Gavin muttered.
900 pulled him closer and laughed softly against his ear. “When you get home tonight, maybe I can help translate it into something you do understand,” he murmured as he squeezed his hip.
Gavin couldn’t help but grind against him again. He hadn’t done much bottoming in the past, but he found himself lamenting his current lack of lube. He groaned when 900’s hand moved around to squeeze his ass.
He felt his face warm up while he considered what he should say to that. “Are you really going to make me go back to work in this state?”
900 made a soft sound of amusement in his ear. Gavin jumped a little when he slapped his ass.
Gavin leaned back again and glared into his icy blue eyes. “I fucking hate you.” He reluctantly, and awkwardly, retreated back to the driver’s seat.
900 pulled at the handle of the door and opened it a small way, then paused to look back at him. “I love you too, dear,” he teased.
Gavin flipped him off while he climbed out, but 900 only laughed and slammed the door shut.
“Fucking android,” he muttered, though he couldn’t deny part of him hoped that would end up being an accurate summary of his night to come.
It was better than thinking about what the hell they were going to do afterward.
Gavin pulled up in his garage slowly and carefully, given how much junk he’d accumulated inside it. 900 was sitting next to him in the passenger seat, but Gavin realised he was also waiting by the broken garage door when he heard the scraping noises it made on the way back down.
“So, if you’re not going to accept the job, what are we going to do? They’ll take you in if we stay here,” 900 said as he removed his seatbelt and neatened his uniform jacket with a swipe of his hand.
Gavin leaned forward to rest his forehead against the steering wheel and sighed. “I don’t fucking know,” he muttered. “The agent said I have until tomorrow afternoon to confirm, so we need to figure something out by then. Maybe we should head to New York?”
900 tilted his head, and seemed to know exactly why he’d suggested that. “I understand you want to reunite with your estranged family, but your name is on James’ birth certificate, right? It’s one of the first places they’ll look, if Therese isn’t involved in all this already. You have to admit the timing of her call is suspicious, in retrospect.”
“That kind of makes me think she’s not part of it, though. Wouldn’t they have gotten her to call earlier to make it less obvious?” Gavin replied, though he knew he was just making excuses. The connection was too obvious to ignore.
“I assume they have a deadline to get me offline, so maybe there wasn’t time to plan things better. Given the current political climate, I don’t think going back to Canada will help you either, though. Maybe Russia?”
Gavin looked up at him incredulously, but then remembered that refusing to take action would likely make him a criminal of such a calibre that he’d need to seek asylum elsewhere. “I don’t think we should get too excited just yet. Markus might still be able to change their minds.”
900 hummed and the yellow light on his temple reflected in the window. “Is there another way you can appease them? The problem is how expansive my network and consciousness is, isn’t it? I could offer to decrease my size by 90 percent.”
Gavin shook his head. “It’s not fair of them to demand that when you weren’t the one who asked to be made that way. 20,000 is still enough to have one of you in every police station in the country, with some to spare. They’ll just keep decreasing the acceptable figure until you reduce yourself to nothing. That’s their end goal, since I guess they’re afraid you’d just secretly build yourself back up again if left unchecked.”
“I see. The thing is, if it meant they’d leave us alone, I wouldn’t mind downsizing to just operate in Detroit. Or, wherever you are…”
Gavin sat back up and gave 900 a searching look. He seemed to be sincere. “You’re a sappy bastard,” he said fondly.
When the driver’s door suddenly opened, Gavin wasn’t even surprised. He looked up to see the retired undercover body he’d spoken to earlier in the day, and the arousal he’d been trying to suppress since then suddenly flared up all at once.
“Something like that,” 900 replied offhandedly as he leaned down. “Now, if we’re running away tomorrow, we don’t have much time.”
“Right,” Gavin replied, trying to get rid of his inappropriate thoughts. He moved to climb out of the car as he continued to speak. “I should probably go buy a heap of stuff and pack the car while it doesn’t matter whether my transactions are being tracked.”
The benefit of previously having tracked criminals on the run was that he knew what to avoid, he supposed. Still, the fact he’d followed and upheld the law his whole life until now made the fact he now had to do this distasteful, as though everything he’d done until now had been meaningless.
900 just smirked down at him. “I’ve got contingencies for all of that covered already. I meant, because we’re not going to be in it for much longer, that we don’t have much time if I’m going to fuck you into every flat surface in your house.”
Gavin opened his mouth and flushed red at the crass explanation. His dick was certainly interested, at any rate. He automatically clung to 900 when he picked him up effortlessly and carried him inside. He was glad to feel 900 had already turned the heater on. They passed two of 900’s bodies, which were carrying a slab of water bottles and bags of what looked like tinned food.
“Oh, you really are prepared for this, huh?” Gavin commented quietly as 900 took him over to another of his bodies and put him down. They both reached out to start undressing him.
“Yes, I’ve got new plates to put on the car, and we can probably get it painted if necessary. Then there’s the new clothes, fake IDs and the hacked bank account. It’s probably also a good time for you to actually shave that scruff off,” he added, running a hand over Gavin’s stubble before pressing a kiss to his mouth.
Gavin reached up and wrapped his arms around 900’s neck, and tried to push his sneakers off at the same time. He managed to get them off without worrying about the laces, and shortly after that his jeans and briefs were pulled down to his ankles by the body behind him. Gavin shuddered as his dick pressed against the stiff material of 900’s cargo pants.
He lowered his arms when he felt a tug at the collar of his jacket, and that too slid off of him. 900 withdrew from the kiss for a moment, and took the chance to lift Gavin’s t-shirt up over his head as well. There was a pause as 900’s eyes passed over his completely naked body. After a moment he reached forward to run a hand through Gavin’s sparse chest hair, then down the trail that led to his straining dick.
“You know, the most ‘unrealistic’ thing about androids is probably that none of us have a strand of hair below the eyelashes,” 900 commented as he removed his hoodie and shirt in a single fluid movement.
Gavin snorted, but his smartass comment was lost when the 900 behind him reached around and began to fondle his balls. He bit his lip as he watched 900 undo his belt and then his pants, noticing the way the synthetic muscle appeared to shift beneath his skin. Once it was revealed, his eyes were immediately drawn to 900’s shaft. Of course, given this body had been a deep cover agent until recently, it’d been made to look completely average.
Gavin drew in air sharply as the hand on his balls moved to stroke over his cock a few times. Then the 900 behind him moved away, but 900 pressed against him again, distracting him by pushing him up against the wall.
Gavin ground against the thigh between his legs and reached for 900’s erection. 900 looked down at him with hooded eyes, though Gavin remembered he’d said he didn’t really feel things like this in the same way.
“If it’s not doing anything for you, you don’t have to pretend it is,” he muttered.
“I still like the intimacy,” 900 rebutted quietly. “Wouldn’t it be off-putting if I just stared at you blankly?”
Gavin shrugged. “I guess, but I came into this relationship with a robot thing expecting to have to put up with weird shit like that,” he teased.
“Well, fortunately I’m a little more advanced than you expected,” 900 teased in return. His other body returned and Gavin looked down to see he was holding the tube of lube he kept in his room. “But these moments are more about you, so shut up and enjoy it already.”
Gavin rolled his eyes. “Yes sir,” he replied sarcastically as he threw off a half-assed salute.
“And it’ll be about me when it comes time to correct your shitty mannerisms,” 900 added as he removed the cap of the lube. Gavin reached for it before he could squirt any of it out.
“For someone who’s meant to be asexual, you’re going to be a kinky motherfucker, aren’t you?” he commented as the tube was handed over. “I’ll do this part myself. Since it’s been so long, it could take a while.”
“All right,” 900 agreed as he put a thumb against Gavin’s jaw and turned his face away slightly to expose his neck. “And that’s only because I know you’d get off on it,” he murmured against Gavin’s ear before placing a line of kisses down his neck. Gavin didn’t bother to deny it when 900 could obviously see right through him.
Although it seemed 900 was intent on fucking him against the wall, he wasn’t sure whether he’d be able to handle that right off the bat. He stood a little straighter, putting some space between 900’s thigh and his dick. 900 paused, and Gavin noticed a familiar flash of yellow out the corner of his eye.
“Let’s head to my room for now, then we’ll see how adventurous we can actually get,” he said.
When 900 pulled back to look him in the eye, he was a calm blue again. 900’s touch was tender against his hips.
Vance Joy’s “We’re Going Home” is now this fic’s theme song :P
Also, please don't take the chapter titles too seriously. I've already run out of poly references, so we've moved on to sappy yet strangely relevant song lyrics!
900 didn’t bother to turn the light on when Gavin walked right past the switch and sat on his bed. He closed the door behind him to block out the light and the sound of his other bodies moving around. His vision automatically adjusted to the low lighting, and when he turned he saw Gavin deposit the lube in the drawer of his bedside table.
By the time 900 made his way over to the bed, Gavin had shuffled into the middle of it with his head and shoulders up against the pillows that rested against the headboard. He glanced up at 900 as he spread his legs and rubbed the lube between his fingers.
900 slid across the covers to sit in front of Gavin, who glanced at the weak blue light and frowned. “Isn’t this the same body as in the car earlier today? What’s with your…?” He trailed off and pointed at his own temple.
“Unlike the others, I was built to go undercover as a human as required. I don’t have to mutilate myself when I want to be rid of them,” 900 replied. “But I can cover it with my skin again if you prefer.”
Gavin waved a hand as his other reached down to probe his entrance. “I told you, you’re fine the way you are. I’ll get over it.” 900 couldn’t help but pick up on uncertainty in Gavin’s features as he prepared himself.
“And so are you, so relax,” 900 replied as he reached out to rub the inside of Gavin’s thigh. “If this is too much at once, I’d happily just suck you off again.”
Gavin huffed, but the corners of his mouth turned up a little. “Are you kidding me? I’ve been thinking about having your dick in me all day. Bastard.”
900 observed the values in his programs change in response to that. In conclusion, it was nice to be desired. “I suppose I’d better come up with a name before that’s what it ends up being,” he retorted.
“You think that’d stop me from calling you what you are?” Gavin snarked, but his attention was mostly on what his fingers were doing by his entrance.
900 watched him withdraw his first finger, then slowly ease two of them back inside. He observed the way they curled into Gavin’s body, and his predictive algorithms automatically calculated and modelled what he couldn’t see. He took special note of where Gavin’s fingers were when he tilted his head back and gasped.
900 wanted Gavin to feel safe and comfortable. Depending on how things played out tomorrow, it might be the last time he’d feel that way for a while. Though he had prepared an exit strategy for him, should worse come to worst…
Gavin slid another finger inside himself, then reached deep to rub his prostate as best he could. Between his shortening breaths and the curl of his toes against the bedcovers, 900 didn’t need his thermal vision to gauge Gavin’s growing arousal. 900 leaned over to reach into the bedside drawer that was still open, and squeezed some of the lube onto his own hand.
900 ran his dry hand over Gavin’s cock to elicit a small sound of pleasure from him. “You seem to be enjoying yourself as it is. We can just leave it at this tonight, you know.”
“I told you already, that’s not what I want.”
900 raised a brow and gave half a smile. “You’d better remind me what it was you did want, then.”
Gavin’s mouth drew into a thin line, but his fingers didn’t stop pressing into him. He bit his lip. “Just hurry up and fuck me already.”
900 pretended to look put out. “All right, all right,” he murmured as he began to rub the lube over his own penis. It seemed Gavin liked to watch him do that. “I can take a hint.”
Gavin withdrew his fingers, and 900 wiped the remaining traces of lube on his hands around Gavin’s softened and slicked entrance. He shifted to position himself close enough for penetration. 900 slid inside carefully, pausing each time he met resistance, until eventually he couldn’t go any further.
900 pressed his torso against Gavin’s more intimately, and grabbed his partner’s hips to encourage him to tilt them in such a way that their efforts would be more effective. Gavin gasped again and grabbed the back of 900’s head, pulling him down and pressing their lips together urgently.
900 returned the kiss, liking the feel of Gavin’s hand clenched against the back of his head and the fingers of the other digging into his back. He stayed deep and delivered shallow thrusts, drawing whimpers of pleasure from the detective’s lips. 900 moved a hand to cradle Gavin’s head and pressed his mouth to his ear.
Gavin pressed his face into the available space between 900’s shoulder and neck. “N-Nine…” he began, but cut himself off with a low moan.
It was strange. In all the time they’d known each other, Gavin hadn’t really called him by any name. He’d construct sentences in such a way that 900 was just ‘he’ or ‘him’, or if he really had to refer to him directly to someone else, as ‘dick’ or ‘bastard’. Maybe he wanted him to come up with a name so he’d have a proper way to refer to him. If that was the case, 900 would feel pressured to choose something meaningful.
But that was something to leave for his backup processing power to mull over, when it had the capacity.
900 was drawn back to the present moment – the one with his partner, at least – when he felt Gavin was trying to press up into him. His goal appeared to be to get 900’s cock deeper and to sandwich his own between them more firmly. 900 adjusted the angle of penetration once more, and set a slightly faster pace. He wouldn’t relent until he drew out an orgasm and the associated rush of hormones.
Gavin made an attempt to wrap his legs around 900’s waist, but only one ended up loosely folded over him. “Please, Nine…” he said softly between panting breaths.
900 could feel the way his muscles were tensing and shaking. “Come for me, Gavin,” he murmured gently. “I want to see you.”
Gavin wrapped both arms around 900 and pressed his hips up into his abdomen. Gavin’s dick was suddenly slick against him, and 900 knew he was coming. This body was capable of creating convincing ejaculate, but he’d always found it to be messy and annoying, even if he was usually in a situation where he had to pretend otherwise. Fortunately, it seemed that wasn’t the case now.
“Sh-shit…” Gavin whispered against him as he slowly relaxed his hold.
900 gently withdrew from him, but stayed as close as possible as he lay down next to him. Though impossible, he sometimes felt the overwhelming urge to hold Gavin with all of his hands at once.
Gavin made a face as he looked down between them, and 900 realised his move had only smeared Gavin’s ejaculate across both of them. “Sorry. If you find it that distasteful, you could lick it up.”
The redness in Gavin’s face somehow became even more pronounced at that. 900 filed it away for further examination at a later time.
“Just pass me the fucking tissues.”
900 complied, reaching over to the bedside table and taking one from the box for himself before holding them out to Gavin. 900 began to wipe himself off, and let his penis go down to its usual state.
“So, the plan for tomorrow…” 900 began.
Gavin balled up his tissue and sighed. He threw it on the floor and wriggled around until he’d managed to get under the covers. “Do we really have to talk about this right now?”
“Yes, we need to be prepared,” 900 replied firmly. His long term plan depended on it. “Call the agent you’re meant to contact tomorrow and confirm that you’ll do it. Leave your work phone here, then head to the precinct as normal. Continue with your work like nothing is wrong, then leave the building for your lunch break, after leaving your personal phone somewhere of course.
“I’ll convince them you meant what you said, while meeting you in your car with another body. Then all you have to do is not return from lunch. We’ll be on our way.”
“On our way where?” Gavin asked. “And what do you mean you’ll find a way to convince them?”
“I don’t know, but I think we should head south to somewhere more temperate if we’re going to spend most nights living out of your car,” 900 answered his questions in order, of course. “And whatever happens, go straight to your car and don’t go back into the building. I’ll be all right.”
900 watched him frown, contemplating the implications of that. “We are running away together, right? There’s no point to this otherwise.”
“I’m not going to leave you here alone. And on a more selfish level, I want to be with you. If they think I’ve taken you along with me by force, then you can’t be prosecuted.” 900 placed a chaste kiss against his forehead. “Just trust me.”
“Ok…” Gavin agreed, seemingly reluctant but without the energy to continue his interrogation. He tucked himself into 900’s side and closed his eyes, though 900 doubted he was going to get much sleep.
But in these circumstances, that would be perfectly normal either way.
Ok so, imagine Hank and Connor are in charge of investigating Gavin's house after they leave. Imagine Connor finding those tissues. Now imagine Hank wrassling him to prevent him from licking them.
"We can INFER it's Reed's for now, bajeebus..."
Chapter 7: Thin Skin and an Electric Heart
So it's not really suicide or character death because sci-fi, but TW: (apparent?) suicide and self-harm.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Everything had gone well so far. Gavin had called his fake intentions in, and Siobhan hadn’t asked too many questions. Maybe she could already tell he was lying. Who knew what sort of messed up training agents like her went through.
At any rate, he and 900 were now working together at the same desk, as usual. No one else seemed to have noticed anything strange. No one seemed to be aware that he was about to run off for an indeterminate amount of time. He wanted to say goodbye to people, but he couldn’t be obvious about it in case they were pulled as witnesses later. It seemed 900’s idea of keeping him safe involved taking all the blame on himself.
Still, when Gavin had seen Tina leave for a smoke, he’d followed her around the side of the building to have a chat. There’d be footage of them both leaving the building around the same time and heading in the same direction, but there was no monitoring against the wall. She could plausibly deny seeing him, or the topic of their conversation, if she really wanted to.
“I thought you quit smoking?” Tina commented as Gavin’s back thudded into the brick wall next to her.
The air was cold against his recently shaved face, and he thought maybe 900 had a good point about heading south. If he had to spend so much time living outside, he’d vote they go all the way down to Florida.
“I did. But I haven’t seen your ugly mug in a while,” he retorted.
Tina just snorted and tapped some ash off the end of her fag. “Jesus, what are you trying to butter me up for? Come on, out with it.”
Gavin laughed, and didn’t miss the odd look she sent his way. “Just look after yourself, all right?” he replied vaguely as he turned to head back inside.
Unless they needed to vent about something or work together, that was generally the extent of their social interaction. He wished he had more friends like her.
“Gavin?” Tina called. He heard the rustle of her uniform coat as she shifted and turned. “Seriously though, is everything ok with you?”
Shit. Maybe he should have avoided her after all. “What are you talking about?” he threw out casually, but wasn’t quite able to turn all the way around.
She looked him up and down, then shook her head once. “I don’t know what all that business in Fowler’s office was yesterday, but if you feel like talking about it later, you know where to find me.”
“Yeah, ok,” Gavin replied. “I’ll see you around, then.” He walked back to the main entrance of the building before the conversation strayed somewhere that’d raise suspicion later.
As Gavin re-entered the building and patted his pocket for his office pass, he felt his phone was still in his jacket. He remembered the code with 900’s feelings or whatever in it was still saved to it. He probably wasn’t going to make much headway with trying to understand it when his internet access would be intermittent at best from now on.
900 had explained it’d be too risky for either of them to connect any device to the internet. But since that included all of 900’s bodies, it’d probably affect him a lot more than Gavin. Though he had explained he could add a sanitised device to his intranet so Gavin could access files 900 stored in his memory.
Still, he was both curious and impatient to figure it out. Gavin could see Hank and Fowler were arguing about something in Fowler’s office. He saw Connor was sitting on his own working on his own terminal. 900 was also out of sight, undoubtedly preparing something for later.
Gavin sighed to himself softly and approached. He wasn’t sure why he felt nervous.
Connor seemed to notice his approach when he was less than halfway across the floor, but didn’t look up properly until he was next to his desk. “Can I talk to you for a minute?” he asked as he tilted his head in the general direction of the meeting rooms.
Though his change of expression was subtle, Gavin’s request had clearly surprised him a bit. “Of course,” he replied evenly as he stood in a single smooth movement.
Gavin led him over to the group of meeting rooms closest to their desks, and looked for one that seemed to be unoccupied. He stepped into one that had an open door and flipped open the diary to make sure no one had booked it for any time soon. It seemed they were clear for the next twenty minutes, so Connor shut the door behind them.
“Is everything all right?” Connor asked now that the seal on the door was providing some semblance of soundproofing.
“Why does everyone keep asking me that?” Gavin muttered as he leaned against the table and crossed his arms. “Everything’s…” He couldn’t quite bring himself to say ‘fine’, but he continued as though he hadn’t hesitated. “He tried to transfer data or some shit to me yesterday. Obviously I couldn’t receive it. Even after he saved it on my phone, I couldn’t make sense of it. I was wondering if you could look at it and tell me what it means from a neutral perspective.”
Connor brought his hands together in a fidgeting motion and looked to the side. “Are you sure? It’s probably something quite personal.”
Gavin rolled his eyes. “You’re friends with him, aren’t you?”
“In a manner of speaking…”
Gavin took his phone out and held it out to Connor. “You don’t have to go through all of it if it makes you that uncomfortable. Just, I know if I try to ask 900 what it says, he’ll just keep making up random bullshit.” Gavin cut himself off before he could imply they didn’t have much time left to hang around. On a normal workday, there’d be no reason for him to be in a hurry over this.
Connor blinked rapidly a few times, then reached for the phone. A moment later, Gavin wasn’t sure whether he’d copied over everything when he pulled his hand back sharply. Gavin frowned in concern when the android stared blankly past him for a moment before his hand came up to cover his mouth.
“I don’t think I should have parsed that…”
“What do you mean?” Gavin glanced down at his phone automatically, though the table of letters and numbers was as indecipherable to him as ever.
Connor continued avoiding looking at him directly, but moved his hand away from his mouth a little. “The way he writes and adjusts programs is almost the same as how I do it. So the way I experienced his thoughts just now… It was very visceral.” Connor looked at him in the same way 900 did when he was about to initiate some form of intimate physical contact, and took half a step forward.
Gavin unfolded his arms though his hands hovered between them a little defensively. What had he done now? 900 hadn’t said he couldn’t do this, but then, maybe he thought that Gavin would try hadn’t even crossed his processor.
Connor pulled up short and stood ramrod straight. “I’m… I’m sorry.” He frowned and pinched the bridge of his nose. “Like I said, the similarities are disconcerting. Right now it feels like I created this, but my systems will separate it out after some time.”
Gavin hoped that meant he was going to stop acting weird. Or, weirder than usual. “So, what exactly did you see? Read?” Stuffed if he knew the correct verbage for something like this.
“You’re very important to… him,” Connor began. Gavin could swear he paused because he’d been about to say ‘me’. “I’d go so far as to say he’s obsessed with you, though he tries to tone it down in order to not be overwhelming. There’s no easy way to put this feeling into words,” Connor finished quietly.
So then, 900 had been trying to show him how much he cared about him. And now he’d somehow spread this feeling to the RK800. Excellent.
“Anyway, I think I should perhaps isolate myself until the effects of this data transfer stop bothering me. If you’ll excuse me…” Connor murmured.
“Hey, um, sorry about that. I didn’t know,” Gavin began awkwardly. After everything they’d been through, there was a lot more he should be apologising for, but this would have to do for now.
Connor shook his head slightly. “It only bothers me especially because when he first joined the force, RK900 tried to assimilate me.”
“What does that even mean?” Gavin asked, though the word naturally didn’t make him think of anything good.
“Several bodies were created for me, though it was more with the intention that I would move between them if I suffered damage I couldn’t recover from, rather than all of them being used at once. When he became deviant he upgraded and added these RK800 units with empty memories to himself. He arrived here with the assumption that I would want the same.
“You can understand why I would have a bit of an existential crisis over that, yes? His feelings are nice, but this reminds me of that incident.”
Connor pulled the door open and left before Gavin could say anything else. He glanced at the conference phone that was sitting on the table behind him and saw it was almost 12:30. That was the time he usually took lunch when there wasn’t anything pressing going on. So that was when he was going to walk out of here without looking back.
Gavin took the case off his phone so he could remove the battery and the SIM card. He took the pieces back to his desk and sat down. He handed the phone and case to 900 under the desk, where it was out of sight of the CCTV.
“Aren’t you getting hungry?” 900 asked as he looked up from his surface computer. “I can keep looking for data correlations while you go to lunch.”
“Oh, yeah, ok. Honestly I’m having trouble concentrating at all right now.” He shuffled around a bit, making a show of looking for his wallet and keys in his drawer. He knew exactly where they were as he’d been fiddling with them incessantly since he’d gotten to work. “See you later, then.”
900 inclined his head. They both knew he was already sitting in Gavin’s car where it was parked a few streets away. “Go for a walk if you need to, we’ve still got more data and evidence to go through this afternoon.”
“I’ll think about it,” Gavin replied.
900 took his jacket off the back of his chair and held it out to Gavin. “It’s 4.5C below average for this time of year outside. If you do, you might be glad you took this.”
Gavin furrowed his brow in confusion, but he didn’t want to draw any more attention to them by refusing. “Sure. See you in a bit,” he replied, and this time 900 let him leave.
Gavin left the building with the coat under his arm and made a beeline for the car. He didn’t want to hang around Detroit any longer than necessary now. He hoped 900 knew what he was doing.
900 forced himself to wait the full five minutes. Gavin was in the car with him, but he was quiet. He was glad all that body had to focus on was driving, because he’d lent the rest of its attention and processing capacity to the body that was still in the precinct.
It was fairly quiet, since most other human workers went to lunch around this time. The android staff tended to take lunch earlier or later, since they didn’t have hunger pangs to worry about. 900 had been hoping Hank would leave for lunch around his usual time, but it seemed he and Connor were too busy talking about something for him to get up.
Oh well, he had to stick to his schedule. If he didn’t, Gavin might end up paying for it later.
900 stood and walked over to the nearest security camera with an empty desk next to it. Unfortunately this was quite close to where Connor and the lieutenant sat. 900 pushed the empty desk over so that when he stood on it, he’d fill the camera’s frame.
“What the fuck are you doing?” Hank asked. He looked like he was about to stand up.
“You may want to leave the room for this,” 900 said blandly. He had various officers across the country asking him a variation of that exact question. He’d ignored the rest.
Hank stood and approached, but he didn’t have time to dissuade him. 900 stared into the camera and drew his gun, flicking the safety off.
Around just about every version of himself that was doing this, the 16,581 currently spread across the country as part of various police departments, the beginnings of commotion were forming. He had to act quickly.
The cameras didn’t record sound, but he made sure his lip movements would be clear in the footage. “Is this what you wanted? Well, I want something too.”
900 had pre-constructed the trajectory he’d need to utterly destroy his core memory banks, so that digital forensic examiners wouldn’t get anything from him. He’d already backed up his memories to other versions of himself, as well as an offline server block he kept in the warehouse he’d built in the middle of nowhere to perform maintenance on the bodies he sent there.
Hank was standing behind him now, even though Connor seemed to be trying to get him to stay back. 900 stared unfailingly into the camera while he deleted his memories.
#313 248 811 -6598 put the gun to its processor and pulled the trigger.
Well, I certainly didn't plan to traumatise both Hank and Connor in this chapter.
Also, I don't think Americans call cigarettes fags. But... I don't care :P
Chapter 8: Plastic Love
Gavin leaned his head on his hand and stared out the window of the passenger seat as they drove. He hadn’t really been paying attention to what was passing them by, but they had just taken a bypass around Columbus, so he knew they were indeed heading in a generally southern direction.
They’d been travelling in silence for most of the last three or four hours, and Gavin’s legs and gut were starting to feel weird from sitting still for so long. He shuffled them a little, and grabbed the jacket when he felt it slide over his lap. He reached over with his other hand to try and tune the radio to whatever was on locally, but paused when 900 placed a hand over his.
“I risked checking your mobile network just now, and you have a large number of texts and attempted calls from friends and family members. I can put the data on the tablet and forward the replies you write so they appear to be from your number,” he explained quietly.
Gavin frowned. Of course there were people who’d be concerned about him if he went missing, but it hadn’t been that long. For all anyone knew he’d gone home sick and forgotten to tell anyone before falling asleep. In the last few hours he’d missed something big.
“What the fuck did you do now?”
Instead of denying anything, 900 just managed to look a little sheepish. He looked back at the three bodies they’d picked up along the way, all of them disguised in some way so they didn’t look exactly like the RK900 ‘Classic’ model. Somehow they were all very interested in what was happening out the windows now.
Gavin reached for the radio controls again, and 900 didn’t make any effort to stop him this time. It took him a little while to scan for a station, but eventually he found a channel that didn’t have too much static. He never used this thing, normally.
“And all of this happened around the country simultaneously?” a woman’s voice asked, her incredulity clear. “Was it a problem inherent in that series? There are still thousands of RK900s that weren’t involved. Are they going to be recalled?”
A man answered her emphatically, his strong opinion on the matter clear. “Androids are people too, they have human rights! It’d be unethical to recall them all for destruction just because some of them started behaving strangely!”
Another woman spoke. “Behaving strangely!? Apparently they all gave the exact same spiel and then pulled the trigger at the exact same time. What if they were hacked? What if the gun is pointing at someone else next time?”
The first woman, who seemed to be the host of the radio show, spoke next. “According to a report that was published an hour ago, there’s a missing person case related to this incident. The epicentre of all this seems to have been in Detroit, where shortly before the events, a man called in to report his car missing, but then the call was violently cut off. The details are unclear at this point, but apparently the content of this call provided enough evidence to identify an RK900 as a likely perpetrator.
“Remember, if you have any information about the incident or Detective Gavin Reed’s current whereabouts, you should call the Detroit Police Department or the Missing Person’s hotline…”
“Do you want to tell me in simple terms what the fuck went on since I left the station?” Gavin demanded over the top of the continuing broadcast.
Of course he’d pieced a lot of the story together from the evidence he had, though he didn’t know how good a source local radio presenters and guests were. Had 900 honestly shot versions of himself all over the country and then pretended to be him to make people aware he was apparently unwillingly missing?
900 cycled air so he could let out a sigh. “I had a presence in almost every police station in the country. I used that to send a message, along the lines that if they want me to destroy part of myself, then I’m going to take something for myself.”
“By shooting yourself in the head ten thousand times?” Gavin demanded hotly, under the impression the number he’d pulled was an exaggeration.
“Closer to seventeen thousand, actually.”
“For fuck’s sake! Then what, you imitated my voice and made a call to make it obvious that the something is me? Now they’ll be looking for me and trying to kill you!”
“They were already trying to kill me,” 900 replied stiffly. “I know it seems extreme, that’s the entire point, but it amounts to less than ten percent of my body. I’d give up a lot more than that…”
900 glanced at him before returning his eyes to the road, though Gavin suspected that body didn’t really need to look at it for him to know what he was doing.
“Sooner or later I’ll be able to reclaim my bodies, replace their broken parts and assimilate them again by reuploading the memories they should have.”
Gavin turned in his seat so he could glare at him more intently. “How can you treat this like it’s nothing? How would you feel if I cut off whatever makes up ten percent of my body?”
“Ten percent in mass of surface area?” 900 asked blandly, before drawing his brows down as well. “Don’t try to pretend it’s the same thing. It’d be quite the task for you to reattach your feet. Besides, you didn’t even notice it’d happened until now. What does it matter to you?”
“It matters to me because it should matter to you! What is so difficult to understand about that!?” Gavin wanted to grab him by the collar, but super droid or not, even he could see that’d be a bad idea while he was driving. Instead he thumped the back of his seat.
“The androids in question are RKs, right? Wasn’t the leader of the deviants an RK200? It’s possible this could be spread to other models who were capable of achieving deviancy…”
Gavin tilted his head in the vague direction of the radio. “What she said, doofus. Don’t you think this’ll cause trouble for other androids now? Especially Connor…”
Bringing up Hank’s partner reminded him of what they’d talked about right before he’d left. And of what he’d accidentally done to him.
“Hey, you know, with the code you put on my phone…” 900 glanced at him again, seemingly surprised by the apparent change of topic. “I, uh, didn’t think I’d get much time to research it what with our lack of internet on this trip. So I showed it to Connor. But then he started acting really weird.”
“Oh, good. I thought you would. It might end up being the push needed to ensure he acts mostly in our interests later down the line,” 900 said blandly. “It should wear off in time.”
“He said something like that too. You’re still a manipulative bastard, though,” Gavin muttered.
“Only when I have to be,” 900 replied quietly. “Like I said, it won’t hurt him too much. Even if it might not be the most pleasant thing.”
Gavin remembered what Connor had said about nearly being assimilated. He wondered whether Hank knew about all that. Still, things seemed to have improved between 900 and Connor in the meantime.
Gavin shifted to sit in his seat properly again, and rubbed the white material of the jacket in his lap between his fingers. He guessed he wouldn’t see 900 wearing his uniform any time soon, if ever again.
“The body you used to do work at the DPD… That’s been the same one this whole time, right? He was the first part of you I ever met.”
“I had a feeling you might get sentimental about that. I backed up the memories from that body in every conceivable location because I needed to make sure I wouldn’t lose anything I knew about you. But that doesn’t really affect you in a tangible way, so I thought I’d give you that,” he replied, nodding at the jacket Gavin still had across his lap.
Gavin rubbed a hand across his forehead. He was too tired to argue about this much more. “Thanks, I guess.”
Intellectually he could understand the logic behind making their plight a public issue, even if 900 had just made himself a massive target. That didn’t mean he had to like it.
“Anyway, you’d better stop somewhere soon so I can have a piss, or this road trip is about to become a whole lot more unpleasant.”
Wayne National Forest was somewhere 900 hadn’t been before, bet he felt it was safer to find somewhere to camp for the night in a national park rather than the side of the road. Especially now that police all over the country were aware of them.
Still, it seemed his stunt had earned him a chance to negotiate with some officials. Unfortunately it hadn’t gone that well, but he felt he’d come out on top anyway. There were a few things he had up his many sleeves that he could bargain with.
For starters, he had a body in just about every country around the world, and most of them were there as undercover agents or were posing as humans to support US diplomats. Revealing himself for what he was would give national security more than enough distractions to worry about. Alternatively, he could take hostages or even stage assassinations. Perhaps the fabled DEFCON 1 status might even become a reality.
Of course he wanted to avoid going to those lengths. It wasn’t like he was really asking for much. All he wanted was to be allowed to live on the same plane of reality as the man he loved.
900 finished putting the small swag tent up in the isolated campsite they’d found away from the main hiking and horse riding tracks. They were quite far from the lake in the hope the spot they had chosen wouldn’t be that popular, even though it had to be accessible in Gavin’s car, which was certainly not intended for outdoor adventuring.
He turned to see Gavin was still sitting in the car, finishing off some of the sandwiches 900 had made before leaving. He wanted Gavin to be able to eat as well as possible for as long as possible, but unfortunately fresh produce didn’t generally keep for that long.
Gavin opened the door as 900 approached. His other bodies were off scouting the area for anyone else who might be taking the chance to be out here before open season ended for winter. He got out of the vehicle and closed the door with a thud. He looked up at the sky. It was dark now, though the nearly full moon didn’t leave him totally blind.
Gavin glanced at him as he pulled the white jacket on over the top of the brown leather one he usually wore. He’d have to pick a new favourite while they were on the run, since combined with his other features, it could be identifying.
“Shall we?” 900 asked, gesturing to the swag. It was made to fit one person, but it wasn’t like 900 moved around in his ‘sleep’. He’d used precious packing space to bring it since he hadn’t wanted Gavin to feel cramped in the car every single night if this escapade was going to go on for more than a few weeks.
Gavin moved toward the entrance and took his boots off before crawling inside, then folded his legs under him so his head would be near the entrance. 900 followed suit and noticed Gavin still looked a bit miserable. Though he couldn’t really blame him, given the circumstances. Since they weren’t that dirty, he grabbed their shoes and put them inside along the narrow gap between the foam mattress and the tent canvas.
900 closed the canvas flap and the flywire before settling down next to Gavin under the blankets. 900 stroked a hand through his hair, and Gavin shuffled a little closer.
“Listen Gavin, I never intend to hurt you. I’m just trying to protect us. And if everything goes wrong, then of course my priority is going to be protecting you. I do love you, you know?”
Gavin was silent for a moment. “I love you, too. Just try to keep that in mind before getting any bright ideas about sacrificing yourself,” he mumbled as he wrapped an arm heavy with tiredness around 900.
900 hummed in agreement. The silence went on, but he knew Gavin hadn’t fallen asleep yet. If he had something to say, then he’d get around to it when he was ready.
He was oddly hesitant when he did speak again. “When Connor analysed your feelings, he said you’re obsessed with me. That isn’t really the same thing.”
“Hmm. I have thousands of bodies to feel feelings. Don’t you think they’d come off as a bit stronger than other people’s?”
But that on its own wasn’t entirely true. He had better mastery of his mind and bodies than that. He owed Gavin the truth.
“It’s true that I sometimes get an odd desire to make you part of me.” He felt Gavin tense slightly, and his heart rate increase a little. “But the fact that’s impossible because you aren’t an android is what keeps me interested. And even if it was possible, you’d cease to exist, and that’d really be a tragedy. So I’ll just have to settle with holding you in as many of my arms as possible at once.”
Another long silence, and 900 wondered whether he’d said too much too soon. “Ok,” Gavin replied. “Just don’t crush me.”
Tess stared down at her phone with a deep frown. Not only was she worried sick, but now she had guilt eating at her insides.
When the agents had first come knocking at her farmhouse door in upstate New York, she hadn’t believed they were who they’d said they were. The only way they really had to prove it was that they knew more about her and her family than anyone should. They’d told her the problem they were having with RK900 androids, how the models all shared a consciousness, and that it was leveraging the relationship it had with Gavin to keep itself safe.
Of course there were people who would complain about the fact she only saw them as robots, but to her it just seemed nuts to think that it was even possible for artificial intelligence to reach that level. And it wasn’t like she saw them frequently living all the way out here. Either way, whether it was a person or an imitation of one, it’d been made pretty clear to her that Gavin wasn’t exactly safe now.
Tess had been nervous about making the phone call the other day. Before that they’d only really talked about child support, and she’d always found it hard to ask for what she needed. Mainly because she knew he’d give her whatever she wanted, within reason. Doing what her parents had said and pushing him away was still one of her biggest regrets, and now she felt an overwhelming need to make it up to him somehow.
The plan behind the call had allegedly been to get Gavin to flee somewhere predictable if he’d needed to. But now it felt like everything was spiralling out of control. She’d finally gotten the push she’d needed to defy her parents, who had spent their lives wearing her down, but at what cost? It was convenient they were travelling overseas on a cruise at the moment, but then, perhaps that had been planned by the authorities too.
Tess had been watching the news incessantly since last night. It was still a little hard to believe it was Gavin’s mugshot she was seeing. She wished she’d managed to say something more about how dangerous the situation could potentially be when she’d called him, but would he even have believed her? Now for all she knew he was at the mercy of some-thousand-bodied terminator.
Tess jumped when the phone in her hand began to vibrate. The caller ID said it was Gavin, who she had of course tried to contact as soon as the news broke, but she answered with some caution.
She sighed quietly in relief. She’d recognise that voice anywhere.
“It’s me. Are you ok, Gavin?”
“I suppose you’ve heard about what happened,” he replied. “Actually, we’re headed in your direction. Will probably be there in less than an hour. Is that… all right?”
“We?” Tess asked. “You mean… that thing is still in the car with you?”
There was a moment of silence. “Yes.”
“Can it hear me?” she asked cautiously. Surely Gavin had just misled it so it would drive up here and she could help him escape. She was a good shot with the air rifle, but she wasn’t exactly prepared to go up against some specialised robot.
So that meant he couldn’t really say anymore on the matter or reveal his true intentions. “All right. I guess… I guess I’ll see you when you get here, then.” She and the squad the agency had sent out, that was. They were probably already on their way, since her phone was tapped.
She made her way out into the yard where her son was cutting firewood in preparation for the coming winter weather. Honestly, he was a spitting image of his father when he’d been in his teens. Once the raised axe had fallen and split the ring of wood she called out.
They had less than an hour to prepare for this.
Gavin finished his last set of chin ups and dropped to the ground. The branch was a bit crooked and pretty far off the ground, but he’d made do. If he was going to have to spend the rest of the day in the car, then he wanted to be as tired as possible before they got on the road.
He made his way back to their campsite and walked over to the swag, which 900 was sitting on with one of his bodies, yellow circle spinning madly. Eventually he looked up at Gavin.
“It looks like they’re catching on to what we’re doing, but there’s really only so long the entire country’s police force can be at a heightened level of security. I’m thinking our best option will be to hide out in my warehouse until they’re forced to stand down a little.”
“Won’t property you own be one of the first places they check?” Gavin asked as he shoved his hands into his jacket pockets.
“Hmm, well, the land technically belongs to Jericho. The only record of my expenses would be the building materials and trucks. It won’t be impossible for them to track, of course, but it should delay the investigation a bit. Especially since they don’t have me to cross-reference chunks of data at the moment.”
“They still have Connor, don’t they?”
900 stood in a single motion, and suddenly Gavin had to look up at him again. It didn’t bother him as much as it used to. 900 opened his mouth, then seemed to reconsider what he was going to say.
“He only has one body, and his processing capacity is less than one of mine. He’ll help them as he needs to, but he’ll have plenty of opportunity to obfuscate his true efforts.” 900 hesitated for a moment before pulling Gavin against his chest. “And we should be able to rely on him doing just that, at least for the immediate future.”
Gavin removed his hands from his pockets and wrapped his arms around 900 in return. It was only now he was more relaxed that he really realised stress had been making him feel tense and antsy. Undoubtedly 900 had noticed it, though.
“Running away is one thing, but how long can we really keep this up for? It feels like all we can do is buy ourselves time. It isn’t exactly easy for you to stay out of sight and out of mind,” Gavin replied.
900 shrugged. “That’s all we can do, really. I’ve made Markus aware of our issue, so hopefully public sentiment will turn around before time runs out. I’m prepared for worse to come to worst, but at this point I don’t know whether taking that path will be in your best interest.”
“Triggering a war probably wouldn’t be, no,” Gavin muttered. He drew back to look 900 in the eye. He got an unsteady smile in return.
“Probably not for me, either,” 900 admitted. “In the long run it’ll just give them more of an excuse to try to get rid of me. I am trying to solve this in a less extreme way.”
Gavin reached up with both hands to cup 900’s face. It seemed to take him a moment to realise what he wanted, but eventually 900 bent down to press his lips to his.
They’d figure something out. They had to.
“Mum, I can see a car coming up the driveway,” James said over his shoulder as he stood up from where he’d been sitting at the bottom of the stairs that led up into the house.
Tess tried to stop her hands from shaking as she reached out to assure herself the rifle was still lying on the porch behind her. She’d seen footage from the revolution on the news. No matter what they were, they were still vulnerable to a direct shot to the forehead.
There was a group of agents below her, hanging around the lemon trees in the yard. She didn’t know what their plan was, if they even had one. She didn’t know what she and James could really do to help, but she was tired of just being swept along through this. And through everything else, too.
Soon enough the vehicle came into proper hearing range. She glanced down at the group of agents, who seemed to be handling some sort of scanning device. When the car pulled up, the doors opened at the same time.
It was hard to determine their identities since they were both wearing hats and sunglasses, but if she had to guess, the man on the side of the car closest to them was probably Gavin. Either way, both of them raised their hands and put them behind their heads when they saw the agent with the gun. Tess straightened in her position seated at the top of the stairs, and James turned back to look at her with a worried expression.
The agents said something to one another, and then suddenly there were gunshots. Tess felt her throat close when she saw both of the bodies fall and hit the floor. But a second later she realised they were both bleeding blue and relief filled her gut.
“Was this all some sort of trick?” she asked.
James turned back to her, looking a bit pale. His eyes widened as they flickered to something above her. Tess automatically reached for the gun, but a heavy foot fell on it before she even had a chance to get a grip on it. The dread was back again just as quickly as it had gone. She looked up to see an android with its arms folded and light spinning yellow. RK900 was clearly displayed on its white and black panelled jacket.
He raised an eyebrow at her. “I’d rather you didn’t.”
Tess instinctively looked around for help, but soon noticed the agents were on the ground with a man in a NYPD uniform standing over them. Another RK900, she quickly realised. “The agents aren’t…?”
“No, but I’m a little concerned about how quick they were to shoot dead who they could only assume was Gavin at the time,” he replied evenly.
“They had an Identifier,” James replied. He steeled himself and began to climb the stairs. Tess wanted to tell him to stay back. “They’re usually used for diagnosis of issues these days, but obviously they’re just as good at picking androids out of a crowd.”
The RK900 kept his eyes trained on them, but the other one was examining the device in its hands. “Ah, so it is.”
Tess remembered they were all actually one being. Did that mean Gavin was off somewhere with a different part of him?
The RK900 went to bend down, hopefully just to move the gun away. But that was when James took his chance to clear the rest of the stairs and raise one of his fists. The RK900 immediately aborted its move and instead took hold of the front of James’ jacket and shoved him just enough to put him off balance. Tess tried to grab the weapon again even as he son teetered on the edge of the stair.
“Please don’t do that,” he said calmly, and seemed to be addressing both of them. “If I hurt you, I don’t think Gavin will forgive me. But I am getting tired of losing bodies…”
James looked both scared and angry. The RK900 seemed to loosen its grip a little. Tess lifted her hand from the gun. “Put him down, put him down!”
The android did so, but not before pulling him back to stand on the stairs in a more stable position. Tess stood up so she’d be between them. A glance over his school disciplinary record would make it obvious James hadn’t just inherited Gavin’s looks.
“You know where Gavin is? No… you’re with him now, right? You got him to call me?” she asked, still trying to get her head around the concept.
“Yes, that’s correct, and no. I had intended to bring you both to him, but I didn’t know how things would play out. I imitated his voice for the purpose of setting this meeting up.”
“But… why?” Tess asked. “Why bother coming out here at all?”
“If this goes on much longer, they might use the two of you as bargaining chips or even hostages. And besides, Gavin said he wanted to see you,” the RK900 replied.
“Why would they use us as hostages when you’re the one who kidnapped him?” Tess demanded, placing her hands on her hips.
“I set things up that way to protect him, but obviously he came with me willingly. I know there isn’t really much I can do to make you trust me after fooling you just now, but believe me when I say it’s also in my interest to see you safely to his location.” He glanced down at the gun his foot was still resting on. “Here, I’ll even let you keep this. Just don’t shoot me while we’re driving at a high speed. I can’t guarantee your safety,” the RK900 added dryly.
Tess glanced back at her son. His hands were still balled into fists. She didn’t know whether he would want to go, but she knew what she wanted.
“I’ll go with you.”
If I introduce any more of Gavin’s exes, 900 might just have to start calling himself Scott Pilgrim
btw I am also ClothesBeam on tumblr and pillowfort, if you’re into that kind of thing.
Join my Reed900 community
Chapter 10: Night of Seclusion
Robert from that Dream Daddy game is just Gavin in 5-10 years, pass it on
Gavin had surprised himself with how long he’d slept, both in and out of the car. But then again, with all the time he’d spent working as a detective, he had a lot to make up for. It was odd though, since he’d just gotten back from two weeks of leave before taking off again.
But this wasn’t exactly a holiday.
As promised, 900 had copied the messages people had been attempting to send him and let Gavin access them through the tablet that was locked down so it’d only connect to the ‘media’ part of his intranet. He’d received a range of things from friends and family. Tina claiming she’d known something had been off with 900 that day. His grandmother demanding whether he was all right. Hank had sent him some phone number. An apology from Tess.
He’d started writing responses to all of them, but kept finding he didn’t seem to have the energy to finish them. Gavin sighed and slid the tablet into the door pocket next to him. 900 shot him a look of concern.
“Are you doing all right?”
Gavin shifted uncomfortably, not sure how to answer, or if he should even do so honestly. “I don’t know. Just, this whole situation is kind of depressing. Kind of wishing things could just go back to the way they were.”
900 reached over and rubbed his thigh comfortingly, then let his hand linger. “Unfortunately even I might have a bit of trouble with pulling that one off,” he replied as he continued to stare out the windscreen.
Gavin placed his hand over 900’s lightly, so he could easily pull back if he suddenly needed to emergency brake or something.
“We’ll get off the main road and find somewhere to stop soon. The car could probably use a break before it overheats anyway.”
“Where are we going now, anyway?” Gavin asked. “We’ve been heading west most of the day.” 900 had explained they were going to a warehouse, which Gavin assumed would be approximately in the middle of nowhere, but 900 hadn’t really given much more of an indication since.
“Nevada. It’ll take us another three of four days to get there at this rate.”
That wasn’t quite what Gavin had been expecting him to say. He didn’t think he’d ever been that far west before. “When I asked for warmer weather, I wasn’t implying we should go to the middle of the desert.”
“It’s all right, I’ve been working to make the place comfortable for human habitation ever since we found out about our little agent problem. You won’t have to sleep in the car or on the side of the road while we’re there.”
“Oh, well, thanks. It must be a lot of effort to look after a human body, in comparison,” Gavin replied, not sure if he should sound apologetic for putting him to the trouble.
“In comparison to what? Looking after 200,000 android bodies? I have over a hundred bodies that just repair and perform maintenance on the rest. And I have an agreement with Jericho to help others with repairs, and make a place for androids who are struggling socially to get away from humans for a bit.”
900 lifted his hand so he could change down gears and turn on to a poorly maintained but probably rarely used road. It didn’t take him long to scope out somewhere they could park off the side of the road that wasn’t immediately obvious to passers-by.
Two of 900’s bodies climbed out the back of the vehicle and disappeared into the tree line. Gavin guessed they were going to act as sentries again, forming some sort of early warning system. 900 switched off the engine, and the sudden silence was all encompassing.
“Want to join me in the back?” 900 asked suddenly. Gavin didn’t miss the lower pitch of his voice.
Gavin nodded shortly and took his seatbelt off, then just climbed right between the front seats and into the back. 900’s fourth body turned so he was sitting with his back to the door and feet on the seat, then pulled Gavin forward into his lap. Gavin rested a hand on his chest and returned the kiss the moment 900’s mouth met his.
His heart sped up when he heard 900 move from the driver’s seat onto the back seat in the same way. More hands settled on his waist and shoulder blade. Gavin felt a nip at the lobe of his ear and murmured gently response.
When 900 sat behind him, Gavin felt a telling hardness against the back of his thigh. Gavin parted from the kiss and looked over his shoulder. “Did you release this body from service just for me?”
900 shrugged one shoulder. “The timing was convenient.”
“Well, much as I’d like a repeat of the other night, it’d make a mess we don’t have any easy way to clean up right now.”
900, the body behind him, leaned back to lay against the back seat of the car and opened his legs. “Doing things the other way around might leave us with less to worry about.”
Gavin wanted that, but he was a little concerned. He assumed 900 wouldn’t really get anything out of bottoming, and the last thing he wanted was his partner resignedly doing what he wanted in bed. At least when he was actively topping, Gavin knew 900 was into it for whatever reason. And though it didn’t really make sense now that he’d accepted 900 was a person, some part of him didn’t want to feel like some weirdo that was only into sex dolls.
“Are you sure that’s what you want?”
“Gavin, you need to stop thinking there’s nothing in this for me. I don’t feel sexual desire or have urges in the same way you do. But I do want to make you feel as happy and satisfied as the current circumstances will permit.” 900 grabbed the lapels of the black moto jacket he’d swapped with his usual the other day, and pulled him down into another kiss.
His other body leaned over Gavin and palmed his crotch through his jeans. “I love you,” 900 murmured against his ear even as the kiss continued.
Gavin hummed in agreement since his mouth was otherwise occupied, and felt 900’s lips turn upward in amusement. His body responded to 900’s touches immediately, and before long, 900 was undoing his pants and pulling them down. But he seemed to change his mind, and paused for a moment to reach back up and drag Gavin’s briefs down too.
Gavin pushed his hands under 900’s hoodie and shirt. His muscles flexed slightly as his hands passed over them. He didn’t feel quite as malleable as a human body, but Gavin reminded himself he wasn’t supposed to care about that anymore. And he hadn’t last time, though that might have been because he’d been a little overwhelmed by everything that was happening.
As soon as Gavin was fully free from his pants, 900 used the body behind him to start undressing his ex-undercover body. Gavin looked down at where he was running his hand back up the middle of 900’s torso, and noticed the thin skin membrane was fleeing from his fingertips before coming back together again.
“You don’t have to leave it on if you don’t want to,” Gavin said quietly.
“You still seem bothered by obvious signs that my body is a computer,” he countered, though he didn’t sound offended.
“Then I’ll just shut my fucking eyes until I’m not,” Gavin muttered.
900 seemed to find that funny. Gavin noticed the skin on his hands, and where Gavin had been touching him just now, had begun to recede. Gavin shifted his weight so the body behind him could remove at least one of the pant legs of the body in front of him.
Gavin automatically ran a hand over 900’s penis and gave his balls a gentle squeeze before letting his hand wander even further back. He honestly wasn’t sure what he’d been expecting to find, but of course his entrance felt normal enough. He remembered 900 had been made to be convincing even in these situations. Anything that seemed inhuman was only that way because 900 wasn’t doing anything to pretend it was otherwise.
And Gavin hoped 900 wouldn’t feel the need to pretend to be something he wasn’t more often.
He glanced over his shoulder when he heard 900’s other body shuffle back and reach into the pocket on the back of the seat cover. He squeezed some lube onto his hands and reached around to spread it over Gavin’s dick. Gavin automatically pressed his hips forward, but 900 withdrew his touch all too soon. He opened his legs more, resting one calf over top of the back seat.
“Aren’t you going to prepare yourself as well?” Gavin asked.
“That’s just a formality for me, but you can do it if you want to,” 900 replied with a small shrug.
Gavin rolled his eyes and sat back a little. “Of course.” He took hold of his dick and rubbed the slick head against 900’s entrance. Slicking the outside, at least, seemed to be a sensible thing to do.
He glanced down and noticed 900’s skin had pulled back down there as well. “The membrane can tear easily when left there,” he admitted. “Not that it’s difficult for it to fix itself.”
900 still seemed relaxed and willing, so Gavin began to push into him. He found he could slide in easily, as though their foreplay had been a lot more extensive than it actually had. He bit his lower lip at the feeling of 900 around him.
“You feel so good.”
900 made a soft sound of amusement. “Good.”
Gavin took his time, moving slowly and gently, letting them both adjust. 900 took hold of his hand where it was still resting against his chest. It glowed blue once again, indicating another attempted data transfer.
“Are you going to save that for me to look at later?” Gavin asked. “It’s kind of frustrating that I don’t have a way to understand it easily,” he admitted.
900 smiled at him. “Only if you don’t run off and show it to Connor this time. And… Well, it’s the thought that counts, isn’t it?”
“I guess we just have to approximate,” Gavin replied. It seemed fair enough. 900 took care of his needs where he could, so now Gavin just had to figure out a way to understand more of this.
“I like this too, though. How you’re inside me and we’re moving in unison. It’s as close as I want to get to assimilating you.”
“Would you stop wording it like that? You sound like some sci-fi B-movie,” Gavin partially complained, and partially teased.
900 squeezed himself around him and Gavin moaned softly. He picked up the pace, the smooth friction of his thrusts and 900’s loose grip on him making him shudder. 900 bent over behind him from behind and kissed his neck, leaving the occasional scrape of teeth.
Gavin had been intending to ask 900 where he wanted him to come, but as his thrusts grew more erratic, 900 had only wrapped a leg around him more tightly. By the time Gavin had realised he was climaxing, he’d already been in the middle of falling over the edge.
Gavin slowly came to a halt in his movements and looked down at 900. Though his shirt was pushed up to his armpits, it was difficult to see how much of his outer skin had been pulled back. Gavin noticed a stripe had been bared on the side of his face. He reached out to touch it gently before 900 could cover it up again.
“As I was trying to say before, I love you,” Gavin added softly.
900 smiled unsteadily before letting his skin spread to cover his whole body once more. Gavin gently pulled out so he could clean up and replace it there too, if he wanted. He thought he saw a mix of come and lube dribble out of 900’s entrance, though it was hard to see much in the dim blue lighting that filled the space.
900 reached forward from behind Gavin to wipe the fluid up with his fingers. 900’s fingers went to his mouth and Gavin’s hand went to his forehead. Or at least, he tried to pretend the action had no effect on him.
“Soon I’ll have your entire genome sequenced,” 900 deadpanned.
Gavin could only hope that was supposed to be a joke too.
Chapter 11: Ain’t No Rest For The Wicked
Note: I know HankCon isn’t everyone’s cup of tea but it’s not a major enough component of this fic for me to tag it as such. The scene in the middle of this chapter is very questionably platonic.
900 was driving, but he was also sitting in the back seat. This body could clearly see James did not look amused. And while that wasn’t exactly surprising, a search of his features turned up a series of memories he’d archived from when he’d first spread some of his bodies across the country to join the police force at large.
For whatever reason, James had been in NYC late last year. He’d gotten into a fight with someone along a patrolled street, and had had to be restrained from doing any serious damage to them. It hadn’t led to anything serious in a legal sense, though he had ended up being impounded overnight.
Given the tension in his body, 900 guessed James remembered his face as well. In fact, it may even have been this body that’d performed the arrest. His stress also indicated it was likely he hadn’t told his mother about this little incident, and was perhaps worried that 900 would either purposely or inadvertently bring it to her attention.
900 ran a scan on his features again, and found a very strong match between him and an old photo of Gavin he’d found floating around on the internet. Perhaps he could understand why Gavin kept complaining about how weird it was that he and Connor looked so similar.
And why it was strange for them to have the same name.
Of course it wasn’t difficult to find information on James, but 900 was used to making conversation innocuous in order to gain trust, so decided to avoid doing any extensive research for now.
“So… You recently finished a trade certificate?”
“You tell me,” James muttered. He scowled and folded his arms before looking away.
900 sighed shortly. That earned him a raised eyebrow and a glance back in his direction, brief though it was.
James tensed again, likely with the expectation that he would expound upon the first time they had met. Instead he gave him a particular smile, one that Gavin had described rather colourfully as looking as though he’d just finished eating a buffet of shit.
“I was unaware that behavioural mannerisms were genetically inherited to quite this extent.”
James frowned at him. Tess raised her hand to her mouth as she tried not to laugh. It seemed to click for him a moment later.
“Well I didn’t choose to be born, did I?” James snapped.
“Ah, at last, a point of commonality between us,” 900 replied steadily.
James glanced back at him, but then rolled his eyes and quickly turned to look back out the window. It seemed the issue might run a bit deeper than he’d let on. But 900 knew when it was time to make a strategic retreat. If things went on like this, they’d have all the time in the world to return to the topic.
“Where are you and Gavin now?” Tess asked. 900 wondered whether she really wanted to know, or if she was just trying to avoid conflict and shift the conversation to something more neutral.
“You know I can’t tell you that. But I can assure you he’s fine.”
Silence fell once again. 900 wondered how many hours it would last this time.
Connor frowned. He knew Hank was at home. His car was in the driveway, Sumo was at home, and the geolocation he now had the privilege to access on his phone pointed to his house. But this was the third time Connor had knocked to no answer.
A curl of what he’d now learnt to acknowledge as fear came out on the tail end of his processing of events. The last time this had happened he’d found Hank passed out on the ground with a gun and a mostly empty bottle nearby. He couldn’t help but draw correlations between that image and the one he’d seen of RK900 the other day.
And Hank had had a front row seat to that.
Connor reached out and attempted to call Hank’s phone. It was unlikely he’d done anything drastic—he’d been getting better over the past year—so Connor didn’t want to break any more windows.
To his surprise, Hank picked up right before his phone rang through. “It’s fucking unlocked,” he mumbled before hanging up again.
Connor felt a small smile cross his face. It seemed some of his humour remained, at least.
Connor took the invitation and opened the door. Sumo glanced up at him from where he was lying on his bed, but didn’t move. He was used to Connor’s presence now, and lately he had become even less active than before. Connor knew it was because he was aging.
A brief look around the messy home established Hank was probably in bed and hadn’t planned on moving any time soon. Connor made his way to his room, and soon found his supposition had been correct. He hesitated on the threshold, but found Hank just looked up at him and dropped his phone on the floor.
Connor sighed and walked forward, bending down to make sure no further damage had been done to the device before putting it back on Hank’s bedside table. “Why are you in here in the middle of the day?”
“I feel like shit,” Hank replied, then rolled onto his back again.
Connor hesitated a moment, then sat down on the edge of the bed in the space that was now unoccupied. “Because of what occurred the other day, I presume?”
“Obviously,” Hank replied shortly, though his tone wasn’t at all harsh. “After the amount of times I came close to doing that to myself, I just…” He shook his head again slightly, then raised a hand and pressed the palm over one of his eyes. “I’ve been trying to focus on what happened for Gavin’s sake, but it’s been difficult,” he added.
“I really don’t think Gavin is in danger, at least not from… him,” Connor assured. The feelings that had been planted in him, as he’d later come to realise had been his successor’s intention all along, were beginning to fade. But he could perhaps see some similarities between them and what he felt for the man in front of him.
Hank frowned up at the ceiling. “What could he possibly get out of faking his own abduction?”
“On Tuesday morning federal agents came to the station to ask something of him. It seems my suspicion that they were seeking to use him to decommission my successor wasn’t entirely unfounded. It would be a crime for Gavin to refuse to help them, so…”
“Christ,” Hank muttered. “Maybe it’s better if our collective brain power isn’t used on this one. I can stretch out my personal leave.”
“I don’t know how long they’ll let me get away with using mine,” Connor admitted. “I don’t really have an excuse.”
Hank made a soft sound, something he’d probably originally planned to be amusement but had ended up far too sombre. “Sure you do. Just say you’re worried about what I’ll do if I’m left alone. You shouldn’t need an excuse to take leave anyway.”
“I think that this case may be somewhat atypical, and thus harder to justify.”
Hank shuffled over a little more and patted the edge of the bed. “Then we’ll just have to make a more compelling excuse. Either get in here or go do something else, I’m not ready to try and be a civilised human being again yet.”
Connor let his mouth lift at the corner. This wasn’t the first time he’d ended up holding Hank through a tough time, but it was a first for him to be invited to do so even when it didn’t seem to be strictly necessary. Connor pushed his shoes off and shucked off his jacket, leaving it neatly folded on the bedside table. He undid his tie and left that folded across the jacket too.
When Hank pulled the covers back, Connor took the invitation to move under them. He stayed in more of an upright position, but Hank seemed to take to laying his head against his lower rib structure just fine. Connor gently placed a hand in his hair and began to gently work on untangling the knots.
Hank’s breaths evened and Connor was left to think.
Gavin climbed out of the car and rubbed the side of his face as he looked around. He knew it was risky, but he wanted to use a real toilet, have a real shower, and eat something warm and terribly unhealthy before they continued on. 900 had given a token protest that they would reach his warehouse in less than 48 hours, but in the end he’d quickly relented to Gavin’s repeated request.
So here they were at a decent roadhouse in the late afternoon. Given the amount of amenities, it seemed to be a fairly popular truck stop.
Gavin adjusted his cap and sunglasses. His stubble had grown out to its usual unruly state as quickly as ever, though he doubted he was really at risk of being recognised this far from home. They were definitely in the south now, and the heat was starting to get to him even this early in the year.
900 approached from behind and briefly rested a hand between Gavin’s shoulder blades. In an attempt to reduce suspicion, his other bodies had been left to continue on foot for a bit.
“Come on, the faster we do this, the less risk there’ll be.”
Gavin nodded slightly and made his way around the back to retrieve one of the cleaner towels, as well as the small bathroom bag that had still been packed up from his actual period of leave. From what they’d managed to scope out so far, it seemed they’d have to get hot water tokens from the counter in order to get into the shower and use it. He also wanted to take a look at what was on the menu if there was time, and remind himself that there were indeed other people on Earth.
900 entered the shop ahead of him. Gavin felt his jaw clench and his hold on his bathroom things stiffen as he saw there were two androids serving the customers. He had to remind himself their facial recognition wouldn’t necessarily be as advanced as an RK-something’s. As long as his eyes were covered, he should be all right.
900 was soon able to approach the counter. He modulated his voice so it’d sound less like the standard RK900 pattern. “Hello, we’re looking to get a few shower tokens and something to eat for later?”
“Sure, three will get you about fifteen minutes. We can try to have the food warmed up and ready to go in about twenty minutes if that’d suit you,” the dark-haired woman replied with a smile.
From where he was standing, Gavin could see a little of the back of house area. He frowned when he saw someone turn away suddenly and move out of his line of sight. He had an odd feeling they’d been staring at him since he’d walked in.
He suddenly realised 900 had turned to him to ask him what he wanted to eat, but it seemed 900 was aware something was wrong. He smiled at the lady serving them and made an excuse, then rattled off something food related.
Gavin turned his attention back to 900 as he gave him the access to the shower. “You can go first,” 900 said, even as Gavin felt his partially cannibalised phone vibrate in his pocket. Clearly 900 had written him something he couldn’t say out loud.
Gavin nodded and smiled weakly before making his way out of the shop and back across the carpark to where the toilets and showers were located. If he hid in the shower for a while and they left as soon as the food came out, they should be all right.
It was possible he was just being paranoid. But then again, his instincts weren’t usually wrong...
Chapter 12: For All Of The Times That I Never Could
900 lifted the newspaper printed on a sheet of electronic paper that had been left on one of the tables for patrons to peruse. The fact it didn’t try to connect with him when he touched it was an unusual feeling for him, but he’d essentially been in aeroplane mode since he and Gavin had left Detroit. He couldn’t take the risk of having any external or internet connected devices on his network.
900 had seen someone staring at Gavin from back of house, but it had only come to his attention after he’d noticed Gavin’s odd behaviour. He still found the unconscious calculations the brain performed with such limited data sets amazing, even if the conclusions it reached weren’t always entirely true or accurate.
The sliver of the red-haired man’s face 900 had caught sight of hadn’t been enough to identify him on the limited dataset 900 had access to while offline. Based on what he could see from his current position, the man seemed to have left through the back and crossed the parking lot shortly after Gavin had left. 900 elected to keep a low profile for now. He would stay in the shop and send in one of his other bodies.
900 was also waiting around the corner of the entrance to the shower block. He was out of the man’s sight here, but he was still close enough to skim the signal the man’s employee card put out when he used it to unlock the door.
900 forced himself to wait for the man to pass and let him do whatever it was he’d come out here for. 900 leaned against the wall and listened carefully, hoping to gain more context about the situation so he could choose an appropriate course of action.
“Gavin Reed, if it really is you in here you’d better hurry up and say something before I decide to give up on risking my neck to let the cops know where you are.”
900 looked up at the overhanging bit of shelter above him with exasperation. Of course the minute they stopped they had to encounter someone who knew Gavin well enough to recognise him despite the precautions they’d been able to take. Even though they were in the middle of nowhere, and not even close to where Gavin had spent the majority of his existence.
“You have got to be shitting me.” It seemed Gavin agreed. “What the hell are you doing? Get the fuck out of here!”
Gavin generally sounded angry instead of scared when he was distressed, and right now didn’t seem to be an exception. Though Gavin had a strange way of showing affection, whoever this was didn’t quite seem to be a friend.
900 touched the access panel and sent the signal he’d skimmed a few moments ago to it. Once he was out of sight of anyone who might be looking in this direction from the carpark or the shop, and the door had slid shut behind him, he readied his gun.
The man was standing in the doorway of the only occupied shower stall, clearly the one Gavin was inside. He looked back and immediately tensed when his eyes landed on the gun. He rushed into the stall and slammed the door behind him.
“Get the fuck out!” Gavin exclaimed again.
“I presume that’s the terminator that kidnapped you out there!” he replied just as loudly. “He’s got a gun!”
900 approached carefully, then paused in front of the now locked stall. He gave the same signal to this door and mentally tutted at the laziness of the security system when it unlocked as well. He lowered his gun but kept it at the ready when he pushed the door open.
He found Gavin standing in the middle of the stall with his arms folded and an unamused expression on his face. He was still partly covered in soap and had one of his eyes screwed shut to prevent the shampoo bubbles running down his face from getting in his eye.
The other man was pressed against the stall wall, seemingly trying to avoid both 900 and the jet of water.
“Put the gun away, this idiot isn’t a threat,” Gavin said blandly, then made a face and turned away to spit at the drain in the floor. He scrubbed at his face and hair harshly to get rid of the soap under the jet of water.
“You know each other?” 900 asked as he separated the magazine from the pistol and tucked them into his pocket and the holster under his jacket respectively.
“This is Ryan Hume,” Gavin replied as though that explained everything. A search of his database for both a visual and name match did bring something up this time.
“Really Gavin, another ex? I’m not bringing this one with us too.”
Gavin shot him a confused look, and 900 realised he’d never gotten around to explaining any of the other things he’d been doing in the background of their attempt to flee and stay hidden. It might be better to keep some of it as quiet as possible, but he should mention his family as soon as they were alone again.
“What the hell are you even doing out here? When did you move?” Gavin demanded. The shower shut off suddenly and Gavin muttered an expletive. Fortunately he’d already managed to wash the remaining traces of soap off.
900 automatically reached for the towel that was hanging on the back of the door and handed it to Gavin, who only seemed to be getting self-conscious about the fact he was naked now he was getting cold. Ryan looked between them suspiciously, and it occurred to 900 he wasn’t exactly selling the story that he’d forced Gavin to come with him.
“I left to move in with an old friend who lives down here shortly after we split it off for the last time. I knew I’d go back to you if I didn’t,” he replied quickly. Admitting that seemed to have wounded his pride. “What’s going on here anyway? You got Stockholm Syndrome for this guy or something?”
Gavin rolled his eyes as he wrapped the towel around his waist. “That’s not even a real thing.”
He paused, seemingly unsure about how truthful he should be. Ryan could get pulled in as a witness if he knew Gavin was defying the government and not actually helpless. But if he didn’t say anything, he’d more than likely call the police on them, and they were too close to their destination now for that to not put a serious thorn in their sides.
“Listen, I’m not in danger from him, and I don’t want you to call the police. Can’t you just pretend you haven’t seen anything?”
900 doubted that negotiation tactic would have a high probability of working.
Ryan frowned at Gavin and folded his arms. “Aren’t you just saying that because he’s standing right there?”
“No, for fuck’s sake…!” Gavin automatically ran a hand through his hair, then had to wipe it dry on the towel. “Do you honestly think I’m the kind of person who’d just go along with being kidnapped?”
Ryan gestured expansively, not seeming to quite know how to put what he wanted to say to that in words. “They said he has thousands of bodies. If you ran away from one, another would just find you, so it wouldn’t make sense for you to try and get away on your own.”
“He’s got a point there,” 900 commented flatly.
Gavin glared at him. “Shut up dumbass, you’re not helping.”
“We don’t have time for this,” 900 replied more seriously. “For all we know, he or someone else has already called the police. So, you can either believe what Gavin has to say and keep your mouth shut, or I can fill the description you gave of me earlier.”
It seemed to only take the two of them a few moments to realise 900 was threatening his life. Ryan turned a bit paler and tried to step further back into the corner of the stall.
Gavin shoved 900 lightly and moved to step between the two of them. “Ignore him. I need you to keep your mouth shut about this. Trust me when I say I’ll be fine. Alerting the authorities is only going to cause me even more trouble.”
Ryan looked between them again, and his stiff posture deflated slightly. “I told one of the guys in the back to call the police if I didn’t come back in ten minutes. It’s probably been more than fifteen by now.”
900 maximised the processing power of the body that was still sitting in the shop. The female android he’d spoken to earlier was approaching him with a plastic bag in her hands. She couldn’t be the one who was in on it, there had to be someone else in the back.
900 took the food with a polite reply and made his way back outside and over to the car.
“Time to go,” 900 said as he took hold of Gavin’s arm. “Looks like your dreams of going to Vegas are going to have to wait.”
Gavin scoffed, but quickly turned away to get dressed anyway. “What fucking idiot has dreams about that?”
“I’ve got to go. Meet me at the car as soon as you can.” 900 turned away, exited the stall and made his way back to the shower block exit.
“Are you serious?” he heard Ryan hiss at Gavin.
“Yes, why would I not be?”
900 let the door shut behind him and made his way out of the area. He had other vehicles moving around the country that could pick this body up later. But before he’d had a chance to move too far from the shower block, he heard one last thing.
“For the last time, yes, I’m serious. I love him.”
900 hesitated for a moment and turned to look back. But Gavin was making his way out just fine. He nodded at 900 and moved quickly in the other direction, back toward the car.
For better or worse, it looked like Gavin had chosen to tell the truth and take on the risk with this one.
Chapter 13: I Was Built To Be Loved
I’ve been dying to write this part for weeks!
Gavin glanced up when he noticed 900 was indicating he was going to pull over on the side of the deserted road. When Gavin started looking around with concern, 900 reached out to brush his hand against his knee comfortingly.
“I know you want to be able to trust him, but at this point it’d be stupid for us to not at least get into a different vehicle,” 900 explained. “I’ve got a truck coming this way that’s carrying some of my, er, recently decommissioned bodies. We’ll make the transfer here, then continue on.”
The sun had just set, and the last of the light outside was fading fast. Gavin nodded absently and returned to leaning his elbow on the window sill of the car door. “What are you going to do with my car?”
“I’ll do my best to keep it safe. I’ll just take a more meandering route to the warehouse, then keep it there in storage until all this blows over.”
Gavin nodded again as they came to a halt. The white noise of the engine in the background faded when 900 stopped the car. It was comfortable in a way, but Gavin still felt compelled to speak. Now his mind had the space to wander, there was something he wanted to know.
“You made a comment about bringing one of my exes with us, before. What did you mean by that?”
900 sat back and folded his arms loosely. “I thought I’d try to pre-emptively get your family out of danger. It’s likely that the longer this situation drags out, the uglier things are going to get, as we saw in part today. This should prevent things from getting too bad for the moment. And besides, you all seemed to want to reunite anyway.”
“Always maximum efficiency with you, huh?” Gavin commented, though he didn’t mean it in an overly negative way. 900 seemed to pick up on this.
“We’re close to the warehouse now. I promise I’ll make it up to you for the past week of discomfort. We’ll have a few days before Tess and James show up with some of my other bodies. It might also be a good chance for you to get a sense of what I really am.”
Gavin frowned up at him, but was distracted from questioning him further when an eighteen wheeler pulled up in front of them.
“I know it’s not the most glamorous thing in the world, but this is how we’re going to make the last leg of the trip,” 900 said as he opened his door.
Gavin looked over his shoulder, noting they were already somehow down to only having one of 900’s other bodies in the back now. He took off his seatbelt so he could lean around further and pick up his backpack and the jacket 900 had given him right before this mess had really started. It was a good thing he had it at hand since it was cold out, compared to the day time temperature, at least.
Gavin climbed out of the car and put the jacket on before slinging his bag over his shoulder. 900 seemed to be exchanging clothes with the two bodies that had been driving the truck. Gavin jumped when the door of the trailer opened suddenly, but saw it was just another of 900’s bodies. It was disconcerting that this one was covered in blue blood, though.
“What happened?” Gavin asked him.
“Nothing to this one, in particular. I’ve just been tying off tubes and trying to conserve at least some of the thirium still in these bodies,” he explained, pointing a thumb vaguely over his shoulder.
Gavin looked inside the dark truck. There seemed to be a narrow aisle in the middle of two rows of some sort of shelving. Gavin looked down to the segment closest to the floor of the truck, where he could see most clearly from where he was on the ground, and started when he realised what it was. As he should have expected, one of 900’s many bodies that had been shut down during his little ‘statement’.
While he knew 900 obviously wasn’t actually dead, and that his bodies were just computers, he still felt uneasy when he saw the gunshot wound either side of his head. Gavin grimaced and turned away. 900 seemed to realise he was making him uncomfortable, and came around the side of the truck with a body that wasn’t covered in thirium.
900 wrapped an arm around his shoulders and led him to the front of the truck. “I understand this all looks a bit gruesome to you, but I’m fine. The body you were looking at was the one that worked with you in Detroit most of the time. We’ll have it, and the others, up and running again in no time.”
Gavin looked up at him as he turned away to open the passenger door to the truck. “Can you teach me how to fix your bodies?”
900 looked surprised when he turned back. He put another jacket around Gavin’s shoulders and stuck one of the hats on his head, purposely obscuring his vision. Gavin frowned and lifted the hat, only to have a pair of lips meet his briefly.
“Of course, if you really want to know that, I can show you. There’ll be plenty of opportunities for you to practice,” he added, glancing back at the trailer.
Gavin considered its size and the arrangement of shelving that had to be holding a heap of bodies. And this wasn’t even scratching the surface of the losses 900 had already endured.
“Why did you have to play the martyr so hard? Now you just look crazy.”
“That was the point,” 900 admitted. “For a wild moment I considered sending the large majority of my bodies to fill the lawns of the Whitehouse and then get all of them to shoot themselves at exactly the same time while they were there, but the logistics were too complicated to pull it off in the limited time we had.”
Gavin thumped his arm, glad there was enough softer plastic in the way so that his hand didn’t hurt too much afterward. “Jesus fucking Christ. Feel free to let me know you need a talking to next time you get another wild idea like that,” he muttered.
“Fortunately for you, we’ve given up the martyr thing for now, remember? We need to buy Markus time to make something happen politically.” 900 stepped out of the way of the passenger door. “Now then, we should get going if you want to be sleeping in a real bed and eating real food by tomorrow night.”
Gavin nodded his agreement and hoisted himself into the passenger seat. He hoped this tense sense of peace would last a bit longer. It wasn’t perfect, but it was better than the alternative.
It was sunset when they arrived at the warehouse. Gavin stared at the streaks of red and pink in the sky and how they reflected off the all of about two clouds in the sky. But even that couldn’t keep him distracted from what 900 had been calling his warehouse all this time.
“It looks more like a fortress,” Gavin commented as the truck began to slow on the dirt road leading to the gate between the high walls.
“I added the walls when the androids I was meant to be helping kept leaving without telling me and inevitably getting themselves into trouble. I added the armed guards when I started being targeted with violence by the government. Though I don’t know what I’m going to do if they get the army involved.”
Gavin supposed he couldn’t argue with that. He glanced up at the marvel of modern glass and steel architecture 900 had apparently recently erected over one corner of the warehouse. “Is that my tower then?” Gavin asked dryly.
900 made a quiet sound of amusement and smirked at him. “If you’re the princess, then that must make me the dragon. But I don’t think the Rapunzel thing is really going to work when all you have to let down is your stubble.”
Gavin snorted and automatically scratched at said stubble. Unfortunately their pit stop being cut short had prevented him from being able to shave, among other things.
“You remembered to put plumbing in there, right?”
900 nodded once. “As promised, I think you will be quite comfortable here. My only concern is that we might not be able to hide here for as long as we’d originally hoped.”
The heavy gate opened in sync with their approach so they didn’t have to slow down much more than they had already. The huge warehouse had already been opened up, so 900 just had to pull up inside the building. The front seemed to be sectioned off from the back half, so Gavin couldn’t see everything, but he was still a little awestruck.
An industrial looking metal staircase led up to what Gavin could only assume was the living space 900 had built for him and, presumably, Tess and James. Gavin looked around and saw there had to be about fifty of 900’s bodies wandering among the shelves of what appeared to be android parts, as well as sitting around what looked to be an assembly line.
When 900 shut off the truck engine and climbed out, Gavin followed suit. He couldn’t help but feel awkward when most of his bodies glanced up to look at him simultaneously. Some of them approached the truck, and the body 900 had used to drive him all this way came to stand beside him.
“They’re all just me, remember? Come on, I made you dinner and I’m running a hot bath.”
“R-right,” Gavin replied and began following him up the stairs. “I know that, it’s just weird.”
“I’ll try to be mindful of the intensity of my attention,” 900 said, and looked over his shoulder to give him a small teasing smile.
Gavin rolled his eyes and followed 900 into the entranceway of the new living space. There was a brilliant view of the sunset through the large double glazed windows. The furnishings inside were simple yet comfortable. There was a generously sized balcony past the kitchen and living area, which had an assortment of plants placed along it.
Another of 900’s bodies was pulling something out of the oven. Gavin continued looking around, noticing there were some closed doors, as well as stairs leading up to what looked like a loft of some kind.
Gavin stayed on the first level and made his way into what appeared to be his bedroom. There was another door that led to a small bathroom. Through the windows of this room Gavin could see a greenhouse had been built behind the warehouse.
“I assume all that’s new. What are we doing for food at the moment?” Gavin asked instead of thanking him.
“I sent one of my more innocuous looking bodies food shopping yesterday. It’ll be enough for a few weeks, which I imagine is all we’re going to be able to stay here for now anyway.”
The place was small overall, but definitely comfortable, and very… clean. “I didn’t know architecture was your thing. We should have pulled the middle finger at the world a long time ago,” Gavin added, though that still wasn’t what he was trying to get out.
But 900 seemed to be unbothered by this.
“I’m glad you like it. Now come on, your food is just about ready.”
Gavin nodded and dumped his bag and jacket on the bed. He took hold of 900’s hand. “Thanks for going to all this effort,” he said quickly.
“Of course,” 900 replied with a small smile as he squeezed his hand lightly. “We’re only just getting started.”
Chapter 14: And Darling So Were You
Gavin frowned when he woke up in an unfamiliar place, with a lot of weight on him. He blinked his eyes open to see he was inside what he could only refer to as the fortress. The shutters on the large windows were down, so it was dark, but the soft blue glow of 900’s LEDs gave him some idea of his immediate surroundings.
Gavin was lying on his side. 900 was in front of and behind him, and both bodies had an arm and leg flung over him in some way. Gavin shifted slightly to bring his hand up so he could rub his eyes. When he lowered his hand, he found 900 was looking at him.
“Good morning. Do you want me to make you breakfast?”
Gavin sighed gently and dug himself under the lightweight covers a little further. “If you keep doing everything for me, I’m going to turn into a lazy piece of shit,” he muttered.
“As long as you’re a happy lazy piece of shit, I don’t care,” 900 replied just as quietly.
Gavin snorted and their mouths met in a languid kiss. He reached up to lay a hand against 900’s bare chest and felt the outer skin membrane flee from his fingers again. He pressed his hand against flexible plastic.
“I know you’ve probably lost track of the date,” 900 said from behind him with the body whose mouth wasn’t occupied, “but it’s your birthday tomorrow. Is there anything special I can do for you?”
Gavin drew back so he could answer, but didn’t bother turning to look back at the body that had spoken. He was getting used to this same person in several bodies thing now that he was surrounded by 900 every day.
“Don’t you think you’ve done enough lately?”
Gavin had, of course, completely lost track of what was going on between sleeping at odd hours and not having his phone available to remind him what day it was. He remembered having been annoyed about being unable to take leave on his birthday, but that already felt it had happened in another lifetime.
900 pressed his face into the side of his neck and ran a hand up Gavin’s bare thigh. “I meant, I have more bodies here. A few of them are, hmm… ‘endowed’. I just finished repairing one of my female bodies, and there’s even an RK800 here at the moment.”
Neither of those last two things sounded particularly appealing to Gavin, and he was sure 900 knew it. “Oh yeah, I forgot about that messed up little detail. Why on earth did you assimilate them?”
900 shrugged one shoulder. “At that point it seemed like a waste of resources to just leave them sitting around doing nothing. I made quite the false assumption that Connor would want to be upgraded. But if anything were to happen to his current body, I’d give them back, of course.”
Gavin shook his head. “Still weird.”
He was curious about what 900’s female bodies looked like, though he wasn’t interested in doing anything sexual with them. He wondered if 900 would take some sort of offense to that. They were still part of him, after all.
On the other hand, he had always harboured a vague fantasy about being fucked by several men at the same time. The logistics and potential danger that could come from putting himself in a situation like that had prevented him from trying it before now. But neither of those things would be a problem if it was just him and 900.
It seemed 900 had picked up on a change in his expression and was now staring at him expectantly. Gavin avoided his eyes and shifted around under the covers again.
“Anyway, what did you want to do today?”
900 shifted his hand to rest it on a more neutral place, on Gavin’s arm. “I can show you around, introduce you to the other androids staying here at the moment so they get used to the idea of you being here for a while. Otherwise you can do whatever you want.”
Gavin nodded into the pillow, then turned onto his back. “Did you say something about breakfast?”
900 hadn’t really been expecting Ralph to pull his knife on Gavin. Thankfully he had just shrugged it off since his chosen profession meant he had to put up with things like that more often than most people. The other androids currently in his care had been more accepting of Gavin’s presence, at least.
900 had shown Gavin around the storage rooms and the repair tables. He had promised to show him how to fix his damaged bodies, after all. But first he wanted to show Gavin the less human looking parts of his being.
“Down here,” 900 said as he made his way over to the stairs that led to the basement level of his complex.
Gavin looked a little wary, but after everything that had happened that morning, 900 couldn’t blame him. Still, he followed along without complaint.
900 turned the lights up a little when they reached the bottom of the stairs. He didn’t need to be able to see down here, but Gavin would struggle for a long time to see anything with such dim lighting.
900 turned the lights up and revealed the walls of servers, memory banks and the chaotic wiring that held it all together. Gavin made a soft sound of both awe and confusion despite the loud hum of processors and cooling fans.
“What’s all this?” Gavin asked.
“Well, it wasn’t included in my original specs, but it certainly makes my life a lot easier. Each wall is a mix of spare processing power and memory banks. I realise that by human standards it’s a bit chaotic, but then, this has all been built up, for want of a better word, organically since I turned deviant.”
Gavin approached the first wall and looked up at how it stretched all the way to the high ceiling. Then he seemed to look at the erratically flashing LEDs and chaotically placed cabling, making immediate connections to between seemingly random parts of his extended mind.
“This is a part of you?” Gavin asked quietly.
900 tilted his head. “I would say it is me. I only have these bodies so I can communicate with humans in a way that can be easily understood. Not all of my bodies store the same memories locally, but every memory I’ve ever had and everything I’ve ever known is in here somewhere.”
“Then, isn’t this going to be a target if anyone else ever finds out about it?”
“Most likely,” 900 replied. “If it got destroyed I could still exist without it, but it’d certainly throw me for a loop. I could end up losing something important.”
Gavin hummed in acknowledgement of his words. “So basically it’s a big brain. Seems like it was built up in the same way as an organic one.” He looked around the room again before asking, “What’s that?” He was pointing at a cube of hardware that was separate from the rest of the mess.
“I keep a backup for Connor here as well,” 900 explained briefly. He’d offered to do so when he’d felt bad about trying to assimilate him. He’d offer to do the same for other androids in dangerous lines of work, but he didn’t have spare bodies for them to upload into.
“What’s the deal between you and Connor, anyway? He seemed a bit freaked out by you, but wasn’t he also the one that warned you about the situation we’re in now?”
“Well, he forgave me, more or less. But androids remember everything in excruciating detail...” Gavin glanced up sharply, seemingly alarmed by the tone in his voice. “Still, he also knows what I do to help Jericho’s efforts.”
“Maybe it’d make things easier for him if you put more effort into differentiating yourself from him. Like by changing your name,” Gavin said pointedly.
900 spread his hands helplessly. “He’s the only one who calls me by that name. You gave me a good one recently though. What was it? Oh yes, ‘dumbass’,” 900 finished with a raised eyebrow.
Gavin waved his hand dismissively. “Coming from me, that’s basically a term of endearment. Wasn’t there some social movement going on recently about not being known as a number anymore? Why isn’t this important to you? Even that theme park android, Jerry or whatever, used a name.”
“It’s not my fault if no one wants to use the name I was given by CyberLife. It’s not my fault I was created to be a replacement for his model line.” 900 paused when he noticed the anger in his own voice. It’d never mattered what other people took to calling him. But it seemed at some point, it had started to. “I’m so large a single name wouldn’t mean much, and multiple names would be another superfluous label. At this point, it’s easier to manage my bodies by numbering them, and that’s fine with me.”
Gavin shuffled his feet and folded his arms loosely. “Don’t you think I should call you something other than your model number? Something other than your predecessor’s name,” he added quickly.
“You seemed fine with calling me ‘Nine’ before,” he replied patiently. Perhaps it wasn’t fair to bring that up since it had been while they’d been having sex.
“That’s what I’m saying. I think of you as ‘Nine-hundred’, your model number.” He turned away slightly, seemingly embarrassed. “I just couldn’t get it all out at that particular time.”
900 approached and put a gentle hand on Gavin’s shoulder. “I’m in a unique situation where I’m the only android of my model number. I don’t mind if it’s my name, too. I’m one being, but I’m not exactly an individual. I’m not sure if any other name would work better,” 900 admitted.
Gavin turned back toward him and put his hands on his hips. He seemed to have given up for now. “All right, fine. If names don’t work for you, then Nine will have to do.” He reached up to scratch the back of his head. “I’m not trying to put you on the spot. It just seems important, though I can’t really explain why.”
“Ok,” 900 agreed solemnly, “we can revise this decision in three months.”
Gavin rolled his eyes and tried to stick his elbow into his ribs, but ended up jarring one of his own nerves in the process. He muttered and expletive as he rubbed at the joint.
“Do be more careful,” 900 teased
“Shut the fuck up.”
Chapter 15: On My Way
James had elected to stay in the car when they got to the roadhouse. 900 was quietly relieved by this, since the brat really did look like his father, and 900 really looked like himself. 900 had ended up going inside with Tess to ensure she wouldn't decide to try something.
Meanwhile, his other body had stayed in the car to finish getting changed into something less conspicuous than an NYPD uniform. They were easily closer to the west coast than the east now, but that didn't make him wandering around in an unmarked vehicle dressed as a cop any less weird. Halloween was still about a month out.
900 noticed James kept looking at him out the corner of his eye, but even after he'd finished struggling to get changed while seated, he still didn't say anything. 900 folded the uniform neatly in case he'd need it later, and then wrapped it in a plastic bag.
"So, are you going to speak to me today, or just continue sulking?"
James glared at him and folded his arms. "I'm not sulking."
"Sure seems like it," 900 replied calmly. He wasn't actually trying to rile him up, but if he didn't press things, James wouldn't say anything at all.
"Why does she care so much about seeing him... my father? I don't understand why she would want to stick her neck out for someone who up and left her."
900 tilted his head. Before all this madness had started, Tess had made it sound like visiting was James' idea, but that could have been fabricated to help the agents with their cause. Or if it had been the case, then maybe his true motivation had been to make demands of his father and seek answers.
"Obviously it's very possible Gavin is biased in his own favour, but from what I've heard, he didn't leave by choice. You should really give him a chance to tell his side of the story before getting too mad."
James' arms tightened. "Of course he left by choice! I know he's gay. If he didn't leave when I was a baby, then he would've when he realised."
"You don't know that," 900 reasoned. "Not having an intimate relationship with your mother and not being there at all are two very different things. From what I've heard, it was your grandparents who didn't like the fact he got your mother pregnant at such a young age and forced him away." After hacking Gavin's bank account to set up their fake one, 900 knew he'd paid child support right up until James' nineteenth birthday, and probably still would be if this mess hadn't interrupted his life. "Surely the fact he still pays child support says something?"
James looked away from him then, and 900 spotted a guilty expression on his face. "Yeah, well, it's hard to find any work at all these days. That went toward my trade school fees. Fat load of use android construction and repair is now that you're all sentient and repairing each other," he answered quietly. The anger was gone. "Any android is better at it and knows more than any human ever would."
900 looked at him again. "That's not useless at all. The revolution was less than a year ago. Things are still very messy."
"Yeah, I know. I started it the year before the revolution, and just finished it now. No android wants a human working on them unless they're already at Kamski's level."
"Most androids don't know how to fix themselves. That's why human technicians were even a thing before all of this. If you want to improve your skills, I have literally thousands of broken bodies for you to have a crack at. You'll be a master at replacing primary memory banks in no time."
James sighed. "I just want to be able to do something that'll let me look after my mum, you know? My grandparents hate Gavin so much, and I've never been allowed to forget that I look just like him. But if all that hadn't happened I wouldn't exist at all." He paused, then seemed to decide to continue. "Maybe that would've been for the better."
900 reached out to lightly rest a hand on James' shoulder. "I was planned meticulously. Fully budgeted for. A painfully detailed risk assessment for bringing me into the world was completed. And yet they still changed their mind and now want to eradicate me.
"At the end of the day, it's going to be up to you to make your own way, and find the people that want you to stick around regardless. And your father seems to be willing to admit he fucked up, and has been doing everything he can to make it up to both you and your mother. That's why he would have left instead of continuing to argue with your grandparents."
Well, maybe he was giving seventeen-year-old Gavin a bit too much credit there. He probably got fed up and decided to get out of there before he hit someone. Still...
James shrugged his hand off his shoulder and 900 withdrew from his personal space.
His brows drew together, but his mouth showed the beginnings of a wry smile. "As the dude he's fucking at the moment, you're probably pretty biased yourself. I'll just have to wait until we get a chance to talk face to face."
"At the moment? No. But this time yesterday...?"
James made a face and turned away again. "I don't want to know!"
Gavin was already relaxed from the bath he'd taken that morning. It seemed Nine was adamant about making his birthday something special, even though everything else was pear-shaped at the moment. He had lain a towel on top of his bed covers and was lying face down on it while Nine expertly worked his fingers against stiff muscle.
The smell of the oil and the soft warm breeze coming in through the open window put him even more at ease. He wasn't sure, but he might have even dozed off for a while.
Eventually Nine's hands slowed, and then came to a rest on his shoulder blades. Gavin blinked a few times before attempting to look back at his partner, though he couldn't quite be bothered stretching far enough to actually see him.
"How do you feel?" Nine asked, his voice low and quiet.
"Great," Gavin murmured into his folded forearms.
Nine hummed briefly, sounding pleased with himself. "I wouldn't mind getting my hands on other parts of you."
"Oh really?" Gavin asked. He barely reacted when Nine shuffled further down his legs so he could run his hands over his ass. "You want to have me like this, huh?"
"I'd rather you had me," Nine replied softly. "If you turn onto your back, I'd happily ride your cock."
Gavin felt Nine's weight disappear. He rolled over as requested, glad the towel was in place to protect the covers from the traces of slick oil still on his back. Nine smiled at him, then reached for the hem of his tight fitting shirt and pulled it off. His knee length shorts were quick to follow, and then he was bare before him.
"You're so sexy," Gavin murmured before he could be embarrassed about what was coming out of his mouth. He almost felt tipsy, though it was far too early for him to have drunk anything yet.
"You're a flatterer," Nine teased, not seeming to mind the effect he'd had on him.
He wrapped his hand around Gavin's flaccid member and began to tease the shaft and head. As Gavin grew harder, Nine bent down to kiss along his length. He gently pulled back the foreskin and swirled his tongue around the head.
Gavin gasped and the muscles in his legs finally seemed to remember how to tense up. He reached down and lazily ran a hand through Nine's hair, letting his fingers pass over the soft curl over his forehead before pushing them back through to the shorter, softer strands on his neck.
Nine hummed at his touch, and Gavin sighed as more of his length disappeared into his mouth. "Shit, you feel amazing," he said softly.
"Mm, do I? I think we'd both have a better time if you were inside me."
"If it's going to be like this, you can do whatever you want with me," Gavin replied.
Nine looked up at him with dark eyes before slowly pulling off him. "There's a lot I'd like to do to you, but let's keep it simple for now."
Gavin frowned slightly, but then Nine's words left his head as the android's entrance closed over the length of his cock. The gentle drag of soft, already lubricated plastic against him made Gavin shudder and bite at his lip.
He ran his hands up Nine's thighs, and continued looking up over his body and then eventually into his eyes. Nine's outer layer of skin was receding from his hands, flowing back and forth as Nine moved his body up and down.
"You don't have to leave your skin on if you don't want to," Gavin said quietly.
Nine seemed to hesitate for a moment before nodding. He let his skin withdraw until only his neck and face were covered, then that began to disappear as well. His hair receded and it all disappeared at the point around his LED. The maths behind how the membrane worked would always be beyond Gavin, he was sure.
Gavin had to admit his face looked strange without the definition provided by eyebrows, lips or other facial hair. But the structure of Nine's features still clearly belonged to him. His hands trailed up Gavin's chest and began massaging his shoulders, then moved down to rub over his chest and stomach.
Gavin's hands tightened on Nine's hips and he began to press back into him on every other down stroke. Nine smiled down at him, which looked a bit weird without his skin, but Gavin was a little too preoccupied for it to worry him. Nine began to move faster, and squeezed around him on every upstroke.
"I love seeing you like this," Nine murmured. Despite the pace he was going at, he didn't sound short of breath at all. Of course.
Gavin tried to respond, but only ended up letting out a soft moan. Nine seemed to understand.
Gavin lost his rhythm, but it didn't really matter when he felt himself climax a moment later. Nine continued to move gently until he was finished, then slowly drew off him and got to his feet.
"I'll just clean up, then come back to join you," Nine explained softly as he stepped down off the bed. "Feel free to go back to sleep in the meantime."
Gavin looked his bare plastic casing up and down while he spoke. Still weird, and he still didn't care.
"Ok," he replied just as softly, and did just that.
Chapter 16: Feeling Out Of Place Like I Live In Outer Space
Gavin watched his hand shake while Nine tried to explain what the tiny electrical device he was holding was for, again. He had a firearm license, he thought he’d have steadier hands than this.
Nine was saying something about using the device to run small amounts of charge through the circuits of his broken body that was sitting on the workbench in front of them to make sure they’d put everything back together correctly so far. Gavin was regretting not taking a class in robotics at high school back when he’d been given the chance.
“So, make sure you get rid of any static that might have gathered first, or you might damage our hard work so far. Wipe it with the cloth,” Nine said patiently from where he was standing behind Gavin. “I’ll channel that body’s autonomous sensory feedback to this one so I can tell whether you’re doing it right.”
Gavin looked back at him helplessly, but Nine just gave him an encouraging smile. He’d already forgotten what Nine had just said, so ended up simply jabbing the exposed piece of wire with the metal of his tool. But from what he could gather, that wasn’t the problem.
The problem was that his hand was still very shaky. The cloth still caught between his fingers, which was already charged with a bit of static, brushed against the currently exposed metal struts that supported Nine’s hip structure.
After that, a lot of things happened very quickly.
There was a crack and a tiny flash of light as the metal grounded all the charge in the cloth at once. Nine staggered into Gavin’s back with something between a groan and a gasp. He took hold of Gavin’s wrist in a strong grip to prevent him from accidentally touching him with the cloth or tool again.
Nine’s face was pressed against the side of his head, but Gavin tried to turn and look at him anyway. “Shit, sorry, did I hurt you?”
Nine seemed to need a moment to consider this. “I don’t think so… At least, not this body.” He hesitantly shifted back, and Gavin looked him up and down with concern.
It was then that he noticed Nine had a boner.
“Neither do I,” Gavin said quietly.
Nine’s fake respiration was uneven, and one of his hands hovered over the spot Gavin had zapped on his other body. If Nine flushed autonomously, he might have just then.
Now that his hand was free again, Gavin rubbed the cloth between his thumb and finger in an attempt to build up more static. “D-don’t,” Nine said quietly, and the weakness in his voice was so unusual it gave Gavin pause.
“Why not? You just said it’s not hurting you, or damaging you, at least.” He glanced down at the body lying in front of him. “No more than the body it’s affecting was already, at least.”
“Believe it or not, I’m a bit of a control freak when it comes to my bodies,” Nine managed to say dryly. “This feeling concerns me.”
“This is how you make me feel all the time,” Gavin tried to explain. “Don’t you trust me to do the same for you, even once? It’s not like it’s affecting your other bodies.”
Nine pressed his lips together, making some of the pinkness fade. They had been able to go to that much detail with making his body react to external stimulus when it came to blending in, but not when it came to his own wants and pleasure. Gavin hoped Nine would let him try to do something about it with whatever he’d accidentally discovered here.
“I think more than just this body will be affected. It’s very… distracting.”
Gavin grinned. “It is, isn’t it?”
Nine’s hand retreated further up his arm, so it didn’t feel like he was about to restrain Gavin again at any moment. Nine squeezed his shoulder gently, and Gavin understood it to be permission to go ahead if he wanted.
He brushed the cloth against metal again, though this time there was no visible stimulus. Still, Nine inhaled sharply and tightened his grip on Gavin’s shoulder. Nine was strong but he didn’t usually hurt him when they were having sex, and Gavin supposed that’s what this was, but he wouldn’t be surprised if he found a few small bruises tomorrow.
Not that he minded.
Gavin touched the tip of the tool to the metal and pressed the button that would deliver a shock. The way static raised his hair reminded him he really should be more careful about playing with electricity. But Nine’s soft, almost helpless moan and the way he collapsed against him soon distracted Gavin from these thoughts.
A few of Nine’s other bodies stumbled over what they were doing a little, but otherwise seemed to be fine.
“Already, baby?” Gavin teased as he pulled Nine into his lap with one arm and carefully put the tool aside.
The android sitting against him was still for a moment before he glanced at Gavin, and managed to look almost shy. “Yes, already. I didn’t even know I could do that. I don’t think I’m supposed to be able to do that.”
He looked back at the broken body on the bench, contemplative.
“If I didn’t have multiple bodies, you would be damaging me quite severely, and yet…”
“Well, some humans like been choked, hit, or even cut,” Gavin tried to reason.
He rubbed Nine’s thigh comfortingly, but frowned when his fingers brushed something unusual. He looked down to find a wet patch had spread from Nine’s crotch region to his upper thigh.
“It actually made you come as well?”
“It seems so. All those parts are connected, after all,” Nine commented primly.
“That’s kind of hot.”
Nine made an embarrassed, or possibly impatient, noise as he got to his feet. Already he was much steadier than he had been before.
“Yes, well, you’re going to have to keep it in your pants for a while. I need to get changed before I arrive with your family.”
Gavin closed his mouth on the smart ass comment he’d been about to reply with. Right. That was happening today.
“How much longer?”
“Maybe another twenty or thirty minutes, depending on how long we get held up at the roadworks for.”
Nine seemed to notice he’d suddenly become more subdued, or maybe his vitals were giving him away. Gavin didn’t have a problem with reuniting with Tess. They’d been best friends through most of school, and he was sure that hadn’t changed much despite the lack of contact, and the fact his sexuality had finally managed to beat him over the head enough to make him realise that masculine people could also find masculinity attractive.
No, it was the prospect of seeing his son for the first time since he’d been born that had him worried. Nine paused and turned back to him.
“What’s wrong?” he asked. Gavin didn’t answer, but he didn’t need to. “Of the three people who raised your son, two of them hate your guts. There’s no way for this to go smoothly, so stop worrying about doing the wrong thing. Either he’ll give you a chance to speak, or he’ll have already made his mind up.”
Gavin shook his head and adjusted the way he was seated on the stool. “Somehow that doesn’t make me feel any better about it.”
“It might take some time, but there’s a good probability that things will work out, from what I’ve seen so far,” Nine amended.
“A little better,” Gavin replied. Nine smiled at his joke.
Make that a lot better.
Gavin squinted in the bright sunlight as he made his way out into what he could only consider to be his front yard. The reddish soil beneath his feet and the vibrant blue of the sky above him couldn’t be further removed from what he was used to back home. This wasn’t how he’d imagined things would go at all.
The moment the car pulled over, the front passenger door was flung open. The woman striding toward him could only be Tess, though the hat and sunglasses made it difficult to tell for sure.
“Oh Gavin, it really is you!” She flung her arms around his neck and held on for dear life. Gavin returned the embrace as Nine walked past them, approaching the car that still contained two of his bodies and James.
“What were you expecting?” he asked for lack of any other ideas.
Tess pulled away to look back at Nine, who’d gone around the back to open the car boot and retrieve the things they’d brought with them. He spotted James getting out of the back seat and couldn’t help but stare. There was… no denying he was his son. He’d seen school photos of him whenever Tess had been able to send them, of course, but that hadn’t been the same at all.
“There was no way to tell whether he was telling the truth until I saw you for myself,” Tess confided. “Are you really staying here with him by choice? This looks like some kind of prison.”
Gavin couldn’t help but laugh a little at that. “Yeah, trust me. All that’s to keep other people out, not to keep me in.”
Gavin glanced up in the direction of the car again when he noticed a sharp movement. It seemed Nine had shoved James in their direction. He scowled at the offending body before looking back at Gavin. Their eyes met.
James approached with his hands in his pockets, and Tess stepped aside a little. James glanced at her briefly before taking another couple of steps forward and hugging Gavin gingerly with one arm.
Gavin hadn’t been expecting to be bowled over by his feelings at this point, but his mind kept returning to that day in the maternity ward. It was his name going on the birth certificate, so Tess’ parents hadn’t been able to keep him out of the room. Even then he’d known things could only get messier afterward, so he’d pushed to be allowed to be the next person to hold his child once he’d calmed from having skin to skin contact with his mother.
His next breath came in with a shudder as his throat tightened in the way he knew meant he’d be crying whether he wanted to be or not in the next two seconds.
“Sorry,” he muttered before he lost it altogether. “I haven’t held you like this since the day you were born. It’s really hit me how much I’ve missed out on.”
James took a moment to consider his words, and then Gavin found the hug had become a lot less awkward as he moved closer and wrapped both arms around him. Gavin looked up through the blur in his vision to see Tess was holding a tissue out to him. When James stepped back a moment later, he accepted it and wiped them away.
He had to try and keep it under wraps for a bit longer, at least long enough for them to talk a bit. He felt a hand on his back and realised another of Nine’s bodies had come outside. This one actually looked like a ‘normal’ 900, uniform and all.
“Let’s continue this inside,” he suggested firmly.
Gavin was happy enough to follow the hand guiding him toward the doors, and so was the rest of his family, it seemed.
Well, here we are, 30k+ words deep and I can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel (aka the end has finally been planned out lol)
At this point I'm thinking there'll probably be another 5 or 6 chapters? Hope you stick it out :)
Chapter 17: Too Weird To Live But Much Too Rare To Die
What were you supposed to say to someone who wanted to know every detail of your life so far, yet still may as well be a complete stranger?
James had stopped trying to figure that out and left his mum and Gavin to their own devices for a while. They were sitting at the other end of the balcony and reminiscing while James looked at his phone. He could see 900 was in the kitchen, making food even though he didn’t eat.
He still didn’t know how he felt about Gavin; they’d only really known each other for a couple of hours at this point. But he was coming to like talking to 900 in some way. Unfortunately that was only making him feel worse about what he had to do.
Siobhan had emailed him their weapon shortly before 900 had turned up at the farmhouse. At the time he’d been paranoid their communications were being monitored, but now he had no reason to believe 900 was aware of what was going on.
The malware had been specifically tailored for the RK900 model line. It’d trigger a factory reset on his android bodies, then upload new orders that’d help the agents achieve whatever their mission was. He was still paranoid 900 knew what he was up to, and that James was trying to hide it from his mum.
But he didn’t think he had much choice at this point. At first he’d been in on it for the stupid purpose of getting back at 900 for arresting him that one time, but now it seemed the agency wasn’t above threatening to ruin his life even more if he didn’t cooperate with them. And it should be easy to finish this.
All he had to do was find a way to upload the file to 900’s intranet and make it run. From there it’d spread to all of his bodies, likely long before the android would get a chance to implement any kind of containment.
James jumped when he felt something touch his shoulder, and looked back to see one of 900’s bodies. This one seemed to be the one that followed Gavin around the most. James tried to adopt a poker face, but he’d been warned numerous times that the RK900 line was equipped with sensors to monitor and draw conclusions from his vital signs alone.
“What’s wrong now?” 900 asked lightly. “You could be talking with them instead of sitting over here angsting.”
There was something like compassion in his eyes, though for all James knew that was a constructed facial expression meant to gain his trust. Just like all their little talks on the way here had undoubtedly been.
James looked at his mum and Gavin even though that hadn’t been what was bothering him at all. Gavin looked between him and 900 while he listened to his mum, then smiled weakly at them when he noticed they were returning his stare.
“I… don’t even know where to begin. Even though it wasn’t exactly a great experience, we still had that time you arrested me to talk about. With Gavin there’s nothing, except things I was too young to remember.”
900 smiled at him, far too brightly to be truly sincere. “Don’t be silly, Gavin has performed many arrests over the years! I’m sure he’d be interested in hearing what it’s like from the other perspective.”
James folded his arms and scowled at him. “Somehow I doubt that would impress either of my parents. I’m surprised you don’t have more of a problem with it.”
900 shrugged. “I only care about you to the extent that Gavin cares about reuniting with the child he’s been paying for instead of raising all this time.”
James felt his mouth drop open at the blunt explanation, but really, what had he been expecting? He stared up at where 900 was still standing over him, and watched his mouth form a smirk.
“There, now you can also bond over how much of an asshole I am.”
James raised an eyebrow as he watched 900 walk away to say something to Gavin. “Thank… you?”
Gavin put his feet up on the edge of one of the potted plants as he relaxed into the chair with his glass of cold water. Nine hadn’t thought to get more variety in beverages, and Gavin hadn’t wanted to sound ungrateful by mentioning it. Tess was sitting next to him with her feet curled up underneath her.
The lull in their conversation had come up surprisingly quickly given they hadn’t had much opportunity to talk over the past twenty odd years. But then, maybe that was the reason for the silence too.
“Gavin, I just wanted to say, I’m sorry I’ve been such a coward,” Tess finally spoke up, seeming to be trying to get all the words out before she changed her mind.
Gavin shook his head and traced his finger through the condensation on the outside of his glass. “You don’t have to apologise for that. If I hadn’t moved out, things just would have gotten worse. Besides, I didn’t exactly have the means to raise a family at the time. Your decision was probably for the best.”
Tess stayed quiet at that. Gavin’s attention was caught by Nine pausing to talk to James at the other end of the balcony. He felt annoyed, at himself more than anything, that they were able to speak so easily. Then again, Nine had basically been built to do stuff like that. He could be charming and charismatic when he actually wanted to be.
“I don’t think my parents painted you in the best light,” Tess mumbled as she pushed her sunglasses on top of her head. “I tried to explain what had happened to him, but I think their impression of you has been pressed onto him more strongly.”
Gavin rested his head on his hand and hummed his acknowledgement. “Neither of them are as gentle or tactful as you,” he commented.
“That’s a nice way of saying I’m a doormat,” Tess replied softly.
Gavin glanced up as 900’s voice came from behind them. “Doormat? Is that what we’re calling people who wave rifles around at androids now?”
“At no point did I wave any sort of gun at you,” Tess defended herself.
Gavin rolled his eyes. Of course he knew Tess wasn’t as spineless as she let on. He wouldn’t have much respect for her otherwise. It was just her family that was her weak point.
“Yeah, probably only because he didn’t let you have the chance.”
Tess managed to look sheepish. That answered that.
“Let’s have dinner,” Nine suggested, changing the subject before things could become too awkward. “Then I suspect you and James might want to have a shower and get some sleep? I’m not sure how the two of you are adjusting to the time difference, but it must feel like it’s a lot later than it actually is.”
“Well, sort of. It has also taken us several days to get here,” Tess replied.
Nine nodded and turned back toward the door that led into the kitchen and dining area. Gavin reluctantly stood, but paused when Tess placed a hand on his forearm.
“Hey, are you… two? Really…?” she tried to ask.
Gavin scratched his cheek, feeling embarrassed for some reason. “Yeah, we’re pretty serious.”
Tess frowned and tilted her head. “So… this one is advanced enough to be like a real person?”
Gavin mentally cringed at the question, though it hadn’t been that long ago that he’d held an even worse opinion of androids and their humanity. “Yeah, Tess. They all developed feelings in the lead up to the revolution. I love Nine, and it’s pretty obvious to me that he has the capacity to mean it when he says he loves me back.”
Tess looked like she had something to say about that that wasn’t exactly positive, but in the end she decided to keep it to herself, for the time being. “All right, I guess I just haven’t had as much exposure to androids as you city people,” she joked weakly.
Gavin shook his head. “In case you’ve forgotten, I also grew up in the countryside,” he teased in return.
Dinner ended up being pretty quiet. Gavin still hadn’t been able to have a proper conversation with his own child. He tried to reassure himself that these things would take time after how long it had been and how much he’d been absent for. In the end his intentions didn’t make that much of a difference.
While Nine cleaned up, another of his bodies approached him. This one was more standard in appearance, and had a uniform jacket slung over his arm. “We’ll leave you two to argue about who can have the first shower and sleep in the loft,” Nine said lightly in Tess and James’ direction, before turning his attention on Gavin. “I want to show you something.”
Gavin nodded and glanced at his family. “Well, if I don’t see you before you both go to sleep, goodnight. I guess, just let Nine know if you need me for anything?”
“I’ll be nearby,” Nine said from the kitchen area.
After a quick chorus of goodnight, Gavin followed Nine to the stairs that led back down to the main part of the warehouse. As they crossed the warehouse floor, Nine reached for Gavin’s hand and entwined their fingers.
“Since I finally repaired this body, I thought I might take my jacket back off you,” Nine said quietly as he slightly raised the arm that held the garment in question.
Gavin gave him a searching look, but honestly couldn’t tell the difference between Nine’s more generic bodies. He believed him, though, and was happy about it.
“What? If you’re going to lend your SO your clothes, you have to accept the fact you’re never going to see those clothes again.”
Nine made an amused sound and led him down the stairs that went to the basement. “How about I trade you for something better?”
Gavin cupped his chin with his free hand and looked sceptical. “I think you’ll be pretty hard pressed to find something better.”
Nine didn’t bother turning the lights up for him this time, though the sound of fans and powerful computers running still filled the space. Gavin let himself be led through the dim room until they reached the back wall. It seemed some sort of work station had been hidden behind the shelves of memory and computing power all along.
Nine picked up a small rectangular object, then raised Gavin’s hand and held it flat. He put the thing on Gavin’s palm and curled his fingers over it. Gavin ran his thumb over the end of it and realised it was some kind of flash drive.
“I’ve been researching this technology for months,” Nine began to explain. “I needed to save a version of this,” he gestured at the memory banks behind him, “in a portable form. This now has enough space to carry a backup of me from my conception until tonight. I want you to have it, in case something happens.”
Gavin felt his fingers tremble slightly. That was… a lot.
“Why are you giving this to me now?” he asked softly. Something had to have changed in the last twenty-four hours for all this to suddenly be entrusted to him.
Nine let out a soft sigh. “I think I might have made a mistake. And in any case, Markus’ plan has been held up by bureaucracy. We’re running out of time, and I don’t know how to get more of it without taking drastic measures.”
“What? What mistake?” Gavin asked urgently. There had to be something they could do about it. Something that wouldn’t require Gavin to use the backup.
Nine looked thoughtful for a moment, then shook his head slightly. “I don’t know if it’s anything to worry about yet, but it’d be stupid to not have a backup plan. As long as we manually keep the information on that as up to date as possible, we’ll have that fall back. And if the extreme measure works out, it might just solve our problem for good.”
Gavin’s grip on the drive tightened as he gave Nine as much of a searching look as he could when the lighting was so dim. LEDs glowed at him from all around, the environment somehow suiting the anticipation and dread that was beginning to curl through his insides.
“Nine…” he began weakly. Gavin steeled himself and tried again. “I thought we agreed you weren’t going to play the martyr.”
“I don’t want to, but we’re running out of options. If they don’t already know we’re here, they soon will. Realistically, I can’t hold this fort against military power. All of this is here, and several vulnerable androids are under my care. We have to get ready to make a move, and I don’t think that move is going to be very successful unless we take a risk.”
Gavin didn’t like it, but he was sure Nine’s thousands of bodies had found thousands of reasons to be worried about what was coming, as well as their ability to handle whatever it was. Gavin bowed his head as his mouth twitched.
“No matter what happens, I love you Gavin. I trust you, and I have faith in your abilities, and your desire to return me to this state no matter what happens.”
“And let me guess, even if I do fuck it up, you have another plan to make sure I won’t be punished for all of this.”
Nine cupped the side of his face and pressed his nose into Gavin’s hair. “Didn’t I just say that I love you?”
Gavin stepped into the embrace as his old friends fear and dread began to make themselves known. He couldn’t fuck this up, not again. The shit show that had been his life so far had led him to this point, and hadn’t exactly left behind the best track record.
For once in his god damned life, he had to look after someone he cared about.
“I think I can accept those mission parameters…”
Chapter 18: Hold On
If you despise cliffhangers, maybe wait until the next chapter is published! I had to break this monster chapter in half otherwise I'd still be editing it instead of posting anything.
Things are moving along very quickly, but I'm trying to finish this before the end of the year so... ^^'
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Gavin sat at the kitchen table with an awful coffee and his phone parts laid out in front of him. He ran his fingers over the flash drive in his pocket as he thought about what Nine had said to him last night. He really wasn’t looking forward to whatever storm he’d figured was coming.
Gavin slid the battery and SIM card back into the phone and let it boot up before changing it to aeroplane mode. He went through his contacts list as he remembered Hank had sent him a phone number right after he’d faked his own abduction. He only remembered the last three digits of the number, but even they didn’t match any of his work contacts.
Gavin stood and made his way to his room, where he remembered using the tablet last. He wasn’t able to see it on either of the bedside tables. He turned back to the kitchen with a frown on his face, eyes scanning over every viable surface. Gavin had to assume Nine had taken it for some reason, but it was on his network, so he shouldn’t need a physical connection to it.
Nine was strangely absent from the living space. With all the bodies he kept in the warehouse, there was usually at least one wandering around up here somewhere. He couldn’t help but get the feeling something was wrong.
Gavin slid his phone into his pocket and decided to go downstairs to look for him. It shouldn’t be that hard to find a part of him...
When Gavin reached the bottom of the stairs, he tensed up as he saw someone who appeared to be a stranger. She was a tall woman wearing a navy suit. Her long brown hair was tied back into a high pony tail, revealing the infamous android LED. She smiled at him fondly, and her face was oddly familiar.
Gavin finally had a brainwave. “Nine?”
Nine glanced down at him—her?—self, expression switching from confusion to amusement within the second. “Right, I never actually showed you this before, did I?”
Gavin moved to meet Nine at the bottom of the stairs, and found the android was indeed still taller than him. “You have to stop forgetting to properly explain stuff like this to me,” Gavin complained. “Though it brings up an interesting question. Do you consider yourself to be male?”
Nine’s mouth opened slightly, then the android made a quiet sound of amusement. “You can just refer to my bodies by whatever they look like to you. Gender doesn’t really mean anything to me. And given the current circumstances, it might raise less suspicion when we’re in public.”
Gavin shrugged, deciding to leave it at that for now. It didn’t really matter; Nine was Nine.
“Anyway what have you been doing all morning? Don’t think I didn’t notice your absence after having you hanging over me non-stop for the past few weeks.” He’d thought they’d have lost their temper with each other by now, but Gavin was getting used to constantly being around the various iterations of his partner. He was coming to like it, even.
Nine’s expression fell a little. “I’ve been preparing for the possibility of the warehouse being taken over. I’m transporting the androids in my care to another safe house, and moving my recently repaired bodies to other locations. I’ve got a bit of my, ah, militia here still, but I don’t want to lose anything else if this place falls.”
“Oh,” Gavin replied with a frown. “How much longer do we have? Should I update the backup on the drive I have today?”
“It would probably be wise to do it a few times a day until whatever this is comes to a head. Actually, that’s what I was coming up to get you for. I’ll show you how to add to the backup.”
Nine reached for his hand, and Gavin let him take it. But it was still weird. Though if she didn’t change her voice to match her face, that might be even weirder. Of course Nine picked up his mixed feelings on the matter right away.
“What’s wrong, Gavin? Would you prefer to hang out with a part of me that looks male?” Nine’s face may be a bit different to his standard male faces, but the teasing expression was nearly identical.
Gavin snorted. “It’s been a long time since a lady let me hold her hand.”
They made the familiar trip across the floor to the stairs that led to the basement area. Another one of Nine’s bodies joined them on the way down, this one looking much more like the ‘normal’ model. Gavin looked at the writing on his uniform jacket and saw he was number 6598. The number of the one he’d worked with in Detroit, he was sure now.
They made their way to the back of the room, behind the servers and memory banks. The workbench Nine used to invent things had a standard looking terminal sitting at the furthest end of it. Nine went to put her hand on it to interface, but then seemed to remember Gavin couldn’t do that himself.
She bent down and opened one of the drawers under the bench, retrieving a keyboard and plugging it into the back of the PC tower. “Sorry, I forgot we’ll have to do things the clunky human way.”
“How rude,” Gavin replied, folding his arms and trying not to smile.
Nine’s male looking body slid an arm around his waist from behind and pressed his mouth against the side of Gavin’s head. “Be glad I even have a keyboard lying around. You’ll have to do without a mouse, though, and this isn’t a touch screen.”
Gavin rolled his eyes. “You’d better write a list of shortcuts for me then.”
“Better pay attention, then,” Nine rebutted.
Gavin did just that. Nine’s female body instructed him on how to open the terminal, create a new backup version, and save it to the drive. He felt his phone buzz, and guessed Nine had just sent him a copy of the instructions.
“Ok, it’s not so complicated. I think I can figure out how to do this on my own,” Gavin said as he watched the new version of the backup download to the drive. As advanced as Nine’s invention was, it was still transferring an ungodly amount of data. This would take a while.
“Uh huh, now you just need to be patient,” Nine replied as he placed his hands on Gavin’s hips and encouraged him to turn around.
“That could be a problem,” Gavin replied even as Nine pressed him into the benchtop until he was half sitting on it.
“Perhaps I can help this one time,” he replied softly, before gently pressing his lips to Gavin’s in a close mouthed kiss.
Gavin spread his legs so Nine could shuffle between them and stand closer to him. Then he opened his mouth, and Nine quickly took the invitation to get his tongue involved. Gavin tensed his stomach when a cool hand snuck its way up his t-shirt, and Nine’s hand lingered appreciatively. Gavin shivered as fingers passed through the scattering of hair on his stomach and chest.
Gavin slid his hands up Nine’s back, before skimming them back down again to feel up his ass. “Nothing for you there on this body. But fortunately all of them have a mouth and hands,” Nine murmured into his neck before pulling at the bottom of Gavin’s shirt to reveal more of his shoulder and collarbones.
Gavin sighed softly as Nine placed gentle kisses along his collarbone, and couldn’t be bothered to give another smartass reply in return. He just wanted to be touched, and to feel wanted.
Nine pulled back and Gavin couldn’t help but make a quiet sound of complaint. “Hmm, looks like it’s already done.”
“Good,” Gavin said and attempted to pull him back down into another kiss.
Nine tensed and straightened suddenly, and Gavin noticed his LED had turned solid yellow with no blinking or circling. He looked toward his other body automatically, only to see the same thing.
“Nine? Everything ok?”
Nine looked at him, opened and closed his mouth, and then his eyes seemed to lose focus. “Oh no,” he muttered before stumbling forward.
“Nine? Nine!” Gavin said, trying not to worry and failing horribly. Nine’s LED was still stuck on yellow, and he didn’t seem to be aware of what was going on around him, in either body.
The light turned off altogether for a second, long enough for Nine to collapse bodilessly into Gavin, before flashing yellow again.
“Nine, are you ok?” Gavin asked again, squeezing his shoulder.
Nine looked up and stepped back, finally seeming to realise Gavin was still in front of him. Then his expression changed to something cold and unfeeling. He seemed to recognise Gavin, but something about it was superficial.
Nine moved quickly, using his inhuman strength to drag Gavin off the benchtop and drive him up against the nearest wall. Nine moved so fast it was like his gun just appeared in his hand with the business end pressing up under Gavin’s chin.
“Detective Gavin Reed, you are under arrest for treason. I have orders to kill if you refuse to cooperate.”
Gavin raised his hands slowly as a mantra of ‘fuck fuck fuck’ ran through his head on an endless loop. Is this what Nine had been so worried about? Had his systems been reset remotely or something? Gavin wasn’t sure how, since he knew Nine had been taking special precautions to keep himself off any network other than the intranet between his own bodies.
Gavin glanced between the female body, who had also drawn a gun from somewhere, and the one pressing him into the wall. How far had whatever this affliction was spread?
“Nine? Like you said, it’s me, Gavin. Don’t you remember what we were just talking about?” Gavin tried, hoping to trigger any forensic trace of a memory that might be left over. What else could he do in this situation?
Nine didn’t answer, he just caught Gavin in a hard stare. It was eerie to have him so close and yet so far.
Gavin felt sick, but he couldn’t just sit down and accept this was happening. Nine, wherever he was now—potentially just a recording on the flash drive for all Gavin knew—was counting on him.
Gavin took a deep breath through his nose and tried to focus on the situation. He’d gotten himself into and out of all kinds of trouble over the years. He just had to focus on what could be done now, and worry about getting Nine back into his bodies when he could.
Gavin looked up at his two immediate aggressors. He’d have trouble getting away with both of them there. But then, there was the potential Nine’s entire militia force had also been wiped, or infected, or whatever this was. He needed some sort of plan before he made a move. His time would be extremely limited.
Gavin looked over at the terminal where the flash drive with Nine’s memories stored on it was still plugged in. He guessed he could only hope that whatever virus had done this hadn’t also been saved to the latest backup. He had to grab the drive and get away from these two, find his family, then get out of here.
And if he could take out a body and get hold of replacement parts for the memory banks it’d have in its head, he might even be able to upload the version of Nine he did have and get some kind of support.
Gavin winced as the RK900 forced him to turn around and sit on his knees. He was held in place while the female body approached with a length of some kind of computer cable. He guessed they intended to restrain him and then take him to whoever had issued these orders.
“Can’t we just talk about this?” Gavin asked as he tried to size up the move he’d need to make from his position.
Since they were partners, he and Nine had spent a lot of time doing training exercises together over the past year. Androids were built differently and didn’t really feel pain, but there were still ways to lock their joints and control the movement of their weight. He had to know how to do this for his job now, since it wasn’t like every free android was a law abiding angel.
As soon as the female android put her gun away so she could bend down to tie his arms, Gavin burst into action. He had to do it before his facial expression could give him away. Gavin twisted the male RK900’s arm until his wrist and elbow were locked, then rose from the position on his knees until he could throw him forward over his shoulder.
The two RK900s collided, but Gavin didn’t have time to marvel at the fact his idea had actually worked. Gavin took the opportunity to extract the gun from the hand he was still hanging onto. He grimaced as he let off two shots and both androids slumped to the floor, leaking thirium from their foreheads. He couldn’t give himself time to think about the fact he was basically shooting Nine.
Even if he hadn’t just made so much noise, every other RK900 unit that wasn’t Nine would be aware of what had just happened. Gavin stumbled over to the computer and ripped the flash drive out before shoving it into the pocket of his jeans.
He automatically paused to glance at the screen before running off, and was glad he did. Text was appearing on the command line.
Put your phone back on the network and answer it, moron!
Well, if Gavin had been in any doubt about whether this part of Nine was still intact, he wasn’t any longer. As soon as Gavin had fished it out of his pocket and turned it off aeroplane mode the phone began to buzz. He guessed there was no point in trying to be discreet now that they’d been found.
“Hello?” Gavin asked, still a little confused.
Gavin used Dead Eye. It was surprisingly effective!
Chapter 19: Electric Eye
The voice was synthesised audio that sounded like Nine’s, but it didn’t have the same sort of inflections and natural faults he could manage when he had an artificial airway to speak through.
“Move it, you don’t have much time. Go find your family and get out of here before something happens that you can’t get yourself out of.”
Gavin didn’t need to be told twice. He turned on speaker phone and slid it into the inside pocket of his jacket, as close to his face as he could manage in the circumstances. He picked up the male RK900 unit in a fireman’s carry and hauled ass up the stairs. Thanks to their lessons revolving around repairing all the bodies Nine had destroyed, he knew the exact location of the parts he’d need.
He turned quickly when he heard feet thudding against metal, but it was only Tess running down the stairs. “Gavin! I heard something that sounded like…? Is everything ok?”
“No, we need to leave now! Nine has been corrupted somehow!” he tried to explain in as few words as possible. “Grab as much stuff as you can. Clothes, food, water, and whatever, and chuck it into a car. I’ll meet you in the garage as soon as I can!”
Tess opened her mouth, undoubtedly to ask more questions, but thankfully Gavin seemed to have managed to at least get his urgency and fear across. Tess nodded before bolting back up the stairs. “James! James!”
Gavin ran to the area of shelving he knew held the parts he’d need to repair the body slung across his shoulders. He was already breathing heavily as he bent at an awkward angle to try and keep the dead weight slung across his shoulders while he reached for the small boxes of electronic parts on the shelf.
“You’re a heavy bastard,” Gavin grumbled. “Are any of your bodies still you?”
“Sure, I managed to quarantine the virus within a few seconds. The bad news is that was long enough for everything in your immediate geographical area to be deleted. And I’m not sure if there’s enough left for me to hold things together should my ‘brain’ be destroyed. My remaining bodies are posted overseas, but you already asked me not to start a war…”
Gavin was running out of pockets. “Then how are you still talking to me?” he asked before putting a slim box between his teeth and moving to look for thirium reserves.
“Everything in the basement here was never on my original specs. The virus they’ve made doesn’t have a way to attack this part of me.”
Gavin picked up a small bag of the fluid and spat the box onto the table for a moment. “Where are the rest of your bodies? I thought those agents would be keen to hunt me down with a militia now they’ve got what they want.”
“They don’t quite have that yet,” Nine reminded. “I have a funny feeling the reason no one else is around is because my bodies are being evacuated, likely encircling the area to wait for you to make a move. I think they’ll use physical force to destroy this part of me since I’m not exactly a threat in this state.”
Gavin tried to scoop everything up into his arms and began staggering back over to the main entrance. From here he could see Tess had parked his car outside already. “Don’t you have any bodies a bit closer to home?”
“I don’t know yet,” Nine admitted. “Some of the bodies are infected but not yet taken over by an upload of new orders. But I haven’t had time to pull the virus apart and see what it does yet, so your best course of action is probably to upload the memories you’re carrying to a new blank slate. It won’t be exactly the same as me, but…”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Gavin demanded.
“You have to get out of here, now,” Nine interrupted urgently. “Just get as far away as you can.”
James ran toward him, and Gavin gratefully handed off the spare parts to him so he could heft the RK900 back onto his shoulders properly. They both ran over to the car, where Tess was closing the hastily packed boot. She turned to open the other doors.
“Are you all right, James?” Gavin asked between heavy breaths.
“Yes, are you?” Nine asked, not actually sounding concerned in the slightest.
James glanced down at Gavin’s chest, where the voice was coming from. “I-is that the real one?” he asked as they shoved the android and parts into the back seat.
Gavin climbed into the front while Tess took the passenger seat and James jumped in the back. Gavin put his phone in the holder he normally kept it in when using GPS.
“Yeah, as far as I can tell,” he finally replied as they took off out of the complex. He turned left, deciding to head north. Going back to Detroit was predictable, but it was also the only place he still potentially had allies.
Gavin glanced down as something flashed on the screen of his phone. A notification saying he was receiving files had dropped down from the top of the screen.
“What are you doing now?” Gavin demanded. Thankfully the road was both straight and deserted enough for it to not really matter what speed he did along it.
“I don’t know when, or if, I’ll be back online again properly. You’ll need this to protect yourself and any future iterations of me. Just worry about getting yourself to safety, for now.”
Gavin was about to answer him when a rumble seemed to come from all around them, and a muffled yet inexorably loud noise rose up behind them. He looked in the rear-view mirror only to see the warehouse looked a lot more askew than it had been before, and pieces of burning debris had flown out some of the windows. Gavin guessed they hadn’t felt the full effects because the explosion had been very targeted, and it wasn’t difficult to work out what the target had been.
“Nine? Are you still with us?” Gavin asked as he turned his attention back to what was in front of him. He looked down at his phone to see the call had ended. “Fuck,” Gavin muttered.
The screen went dark as his phone timed out and went into standby, and Gavin looked back at the road. He hadn’t seen anyone waiting for them yet, but they couldn’t be that far away. The magnitude of the explosion hadn’t been that large, so they’d be able to wait safely somewhere nearby. Gavin could only hope Nine was still all right in at least one of his other bodies, even if he was too far away to help Gavin with this.
His concern for Nine quickly morphed to a more familiar feeling of anger. How dare anyone do something so disgusting? Some part of him could understand how Nine posed a threat to national security, and how someone on high would have demanded the threat be eliminated. But to have someone else take over your body and use it for their own purposes was a nightmare only an android had to worry about becoming a reality.
Gavin thumped the steering wheel. It wasn’t a stranger to that kind of treatment. “I’m going to fucking kill whoever did this!”
He noticed Tess flinch at the tone in his voice and tried to calm down a bit. Getting strung out over this right now, when there was nothing he could do about it yet, wasn’t going to help anyone. That was hard when all he wanted to do was hit something until his hands started to bleed.
“James?” Gavin prompted, knowing his voice sounded slightly strangled from his attempt to choke the emotion out of his tone.
The boy jumped in his seat slightly when he was addressed. Gavin immediately felt old for thinking of him as a ‘boy’, but then thought he should get a free pass where his estranged child was concerned.
“Can you search the body and see if he had anything useful on him? Ammunition or whatever?” At this point he was pretty sure Nine had been well aware of what was going on. Maybe he’d sent this body to see him off for a sentimental reason, and had been prepared.
“Y-yeah… He has a lot of magazines on him,” James replied softly. “Basic repair tools. Some… food?”
Tools were something Gavin hadn’t even thought about while he was running around, of course. Nine knew him almost too well, but being reminded of that only reinforced how unbearably lonely it’d be without him.
“Do you have what you need back there to get him back into working order? You’ve got to disable whatever lets it connect to the rest of the RK900 bodies, though.” Fixing him up just to unleash another terminator on them wouldn’t help them achieve anything.
“Um, I can give it a try,” James replied hesitantly.
“That’s all I’m asking,” Gavin said softly. Trying was all they could do now.
The RK900 didn’t know where he was. The fact he was looking for something to process surely meant he wasn’t dead yet. He could feel the way his wires reached from his mind to his extremities, but the world outside whatever body remained under his power was a mystery.
He couldn’t see, hear or smell anything. He had no sense of touch or pressure, and could only tell he was lying on his back from the arrangement of his internal parts and the assumption that gravity still worked the way he’d been programmed to understand it. Or was he lying on his front? Both, at the same time?
He had a vague impression that that shouldn’t be unusual to him.
He turned his attention to his internals since that was all that seemed to be real at the moment. The only thing that reminded him time was indeed passing were his clock cycles continuing to count up and up.
There had to be a way out of this.
He had to find… The word, the name, escaped him now. He could figuratively see the shape and size of the blank space the word should fill, but couldn’t quite figure out what it was. He used to always tease… him for experiencing the tip of the tongue phenomenon, since it was something that didn’t afflict androids under ordinary circumstances. Only humans.
The RK900 unit had someone important to find.
Connor meandered his way out of stasis when Markus pinged him. He slowly blinked his eyes open, vision adjusting to the dark bedroom almost immediately. He registered Hank was still lying in his arms with his back to him. Connor gently pulled the bedcovers up higher around them and pressed his face closer to Hank’s hair.
‘Markus?’ he asked silently. Connor slid his leg around under the covers, registering the pleasant way the sheets brushed against his bare skin membrane.
‘Connor… I have bad news about your successor,’ Markus warned.
Connor felt his features form into a frown of their own volition. Once upon a time he’d measured out every facial expression in order to get the response he wanted, but the more he’d performed socially, the more natural emoting had started to become.
‘What do you mean?’
‘He seems to have disappeared off the face of the Earth,’ Markus replied, concern evident in his tone. ‘The warehouse owned by Jericho that he was occupying before has been ruined in some sort of explosion. The androids in his care have been moved somewhere other Jericho members can take care of them, along with your backup and a few of your bodies, so I can only guess that he saw this coming.’
Connor’s arms tightened around Hank as he sought comfort. Hank shifted slightly, and Connor reminded himself he should be trying not to wake him.
‘What about Gavin?’
‘He seems to have quietly disappeared, for now. Do you know anything about his intentions?’
Connor hesitated to answer that, though he wasn’t entirely sure why. His successor had confided in him privately a few short days ago. Connor had agreed to help Gavin if he came back to the vicinity of Detroit alone, for whatever reason. It seemed that reason was going to be getting help to save his partner.
‘I suspect he’s not exactly happy with what has happened to his partner. I think he’ll try to find a way to bring him back, but who can say where he intends to go to do that?’
‘All right, I will let you know if I hear anything else about his predicament.’
Connor sent a small packet of data in acknowledgement and they mutually cut the connection off. He felt Hank shift against him again.
“Everything all right, Connor?” Hank mumbled.
“It’s fine. Go back to sleep,” he replied just as quietly.
He did just that, and surprisingly quickly. Connor was left to his own thoughts.
Chapter 20: One Of These Things Is Not Like The Others
Gavin still wasn’t sure how they’d managed to break through the line of heavily armed RK900s, but here they were on the other side. They’d basically just let him drive past, so he could only deduce they hadn’t wanted to risk hurting his family members. They were innocent of whatever crime he was allegedly committing, after all. And besides, it wasn’t like he was that much of a menace to society…
The problem was he didn’t know where they were now, exactly. He’d taken his phone off the network again in the hope he’d prevent them from being tracked, but that meant he had no GPS to tell him about his surroundings. He didn’t know anything about this side of the country, so he’d probably have to risk switching it on once they were some distance from the militia.
Gavin glanced at Tess, only to see she looked about as miserable as he felt. He checked the rear-view mirror to see James still had his head bent over the RK900, a tool in one hand and a torch in the other.
“How are you going with that?” Gavin asked. His throat was still tight from emotional stress, making his voice hoarse.
James jumped slightly again as he looked up at him. Gavin frowned, but didn’t comment. James hadn’t been this nervous or twitchy when he’d first arrived, and though the situation they’d just left had been stressful, his continued reactions seemed disproportionate.
“Um, nearly done, I think. It’s hard to work in a moving car, but I think I removed the part that lets him connect to other RK900s. He shouldn’t get infected when he wakes up.”
“Good,” Gavin replied shortly. He turned his full attention back to the road as a car passed them in the other direction. Part of him wanted to cover his face as they did so, but the vehicle just continued on normally, at speed. “We should probably stop and try to get some rest anyway.”
Eventually they pulled up, though Gavin wasn’t really sure how to assess whether it was a good place to stop. He didn’t have Nine here to inform him of expected traffic flows or their proximity to towns, cities, or even nearby properties. They’d just have to make sure they left before sunrise.
Gavin climbed out to take a look at what Tess had managed to pack in the all of two minutes he’d given her. Fortunately it seemed Nine hadn’t unpacked the car before putting it in storage. The water, preserved food, and swag tent were still inside. Tess had managed to squeeze her, James’ and Gavin’s bags in there as well. They’d all packed lightly before being ‘abducted’, it seemed.
“All right, I guess one person gets the swag, the other can sleep in the car, and the other should keep watch so we don’t get snuck up on. I can take first watch, I’m too jittery to sleep anyway. Who wants to get up in four hours, and who wants to drive tomorrow?”
“I can take second watch,” James said. “I’ll try and finish fixing him so we know whether we’ll have an android’s help by tomorrow.”
“Ok,” Gavin agreed. He retrieved the swag and dumped the roll of canvas on the flattest and least rocky bit of ground he could see in the dark.
Gavin went around to the passenger side and opened the door so he could rummage around in the glovebox. To his relief he found what he was looking for; an ancient packet of smokes. He opened the box and was glad to see a lighter inside, though the two stale cigarettes left might not be enough. He’d just have to make do.
By the time he turned back, it seemed Tess and James had made a decision about sleeping arrangements among themselves. “Just eat whatever you want, I know Nine was well prepared and I don’t think we’re going to be able to stay hidden for long. I’ll be walking between here and closer to the road, if you need me for anything during the night,” Gavin explained.
Both Tess and James nodded, but didn’t say anything further. Exhausted, Gavin searched out a rock to sit on for a bit and lit up. He nearly gagged on his first inhale. It’d been a long time since he’d smoked last, and these smokes were just as old as that, if not more so. Still, it was better than nothing, and even just breathing deeply was relaxing enough for now.
Gavin rubbed his thumb over where the flash drive was sitting in his pocket. He wouldn’t be able to stop worrying until they at least tried to upload Nine into a body.
It was going to be a long night.
Siobhan sat at her desk in the secure facility she worked from. She was scrutinising the report detailing the progress they had made on the RK900 predicament. They had achieved many of their objectives in a surprisingly short amount of time.
On one side, her team had to deal with the political ramifications of attempting to destroy a Deviant. Their actions were causing no small amount of tension between humans and androids. If things weren’t handled delicately, her department might just have to switch its focus to preventing a civil war.
Pressuring Reed’s son into acting on their behalf had done wonders for their success rate, she was sure. They were lucky they had found out about his existence in time, since both his skillset and the implication of his relations had lined up with their needs perfectly.
But Siobhan knew that no matter how well things had aligned for them, and no matter how well she led and strategised, the only reason they had gotten this far was that the RK900 didn’t want to retaliate with drastic action. She could respect that, but she also had orders to follow. And even if they did live in a perfect world where they could believe the android at face value, who was to say that wouldn’t change in the future?
The long term effects of deviancy on normal androids was still unknown. Who knew what having such power and a pervasive presence would do to an entity like the RK900 over the long term? He could go mad, he could be hacked by an adversary just as they had already attempted. Or perhaps things would all be well, and he would continue to live a relatively quiet life, content with his human partner of choice.
But even in that case, what would happen when Reed came to the end of his life?
Siobhan started slightly when the phone on her desk rang. She picked up immediately and spoke softly. “Siobhan speaking.”
“We’ve finished calculating the spread and impact of the virus,” her colleague, Darren, reported. “There were one hundred and fifty RK900 units in the immediate area when the virus was dropped. Two of them were decommissioned, but the rest were successfully reprogrammed. The upload seems to have been successful on a further ten thousand that were working out of or travelling between nearby states.
“Most of the two hundred overseas seem to be running on auto and continuing with their missions, although not to the same capacity, and all of those in politically critical countries still function to some degree. It seems destroying the memory and processing core it made for itself has caused some sort of wide-spread amnesia. The remaining bodies are either still out of commission after the stunt it pulled a few weeks ago, or seemingly wiped clean.”
“I understand,” Siobhan replied as she sat forward a little more. “What’s going to happen to them?
“We don’t have the capacity to watch and direct the other, what, 190,000? Who approved the construction of so many of them, anyway? Sounds like a waste of plastic to me.”
Siobhan was glad Darren wasn’t sitting in front of her. She could roll her eyes at him without any repercussions.
“Anyway, the ones we can still reach with an upload package will be directed to the nearest recycling centre. Clean up teams can take care of the rest once we establish whether it’s still in existence anywhere.”
“I’m almost certain he has backups in several other locations. Reed would be a good place to start when it comes to finding them. Why were the units given orders to kill?”
Siobhan suspected Darren was rolling his eyes at her, now. “They were given orders to bluff! They seem to be under the impression Reed will lead them to where a backup is stored if they let him think he’s getting away. Anyway, we’ll need to make sure the recycling plants will be ready for the influx. We can’t give it a chance to reassert itself in tens of thousands of bodies again.”
Siobhan wasn’t happy with this tactic, but it seemed someone above her had decided on it. Of course some of the ‘camps’ still existed, though they were more like crematoriums for unfortunate deviant androids now. Jericho would notice the influx of RK900s across the country seemingly committing suicide, especially since the first anniversary of the revolution was only a few weeks away.
She was sure they wouldn’t take it lying down.
Even though he and James had officially swapped watches, Gavin’s mind hadn’t been able to slow down at all. The last time he’d slept in the swag he’d been with Nine. He was only being reminded of how lonely he was.
Still, he knew from numerous long stakeouts and monitoring shifts that relaxing and closing his eyes for a few hours was better than nothing at all. At four o’clock he decided it was probably time for them to get moving again.
Gavin crawled out of the swag, uncomfortable because he’d gone to bed fully dressed. He was sure the seams of his jeans had left indents in his skin. He reached back to grab his shoes and pulled them on before putting his feet on the ground and standing up.
He saw James was nearby, much more focused on whatever he was doing to the RK900 than on his surroundings. Gavin couldn’t really complain when all he’d been able to do was let his brain run and think of ways to get Nine back. This seemed to be the most obvious way to achieve that.
“Morning, James,” he said as he approached, not wanting to startle him again.
James blinked a few times before looking back up at him. Gavin was glad to see the hole in the android’s head had at least been covered up with a patch, even if it didn’t perfectly match the rest of the plastic casing. He could only trust James had done everything else properly as well.
“Morning,” he mumbled, voice sounding odd from fatigue. He’d probably be out of it as soon as they were back on the road.
But Gavin could feel he’d been awake long enough for his second wind to be picking up. “How did you go?”
“Good, we can try to start him up again now, though I don’t think he’ll remember anything. It won’t be Nine who wakes up.” James tucked the tool away and sat back a bit, rubbing his eyes.
“I have his memories on a flash drive,” Gavin said as he knelt down on the other side of the RK900. “Can I stick that directly in him while he boots up, or something?”
“I… Well, you can,” James replied. He pulled up the RK900’s shirt and shone the torch on his abdomen. The plastic casing had already been pulled back, likely from other work James had had to do on him. “I’m not sure if it’ll work quite how you think it will, though. Not after a factory reset, and the fact he’s isolated from the other RK900s…”
Gavin frowned at him. “How do you know it was a factory reset?”
“He attacked you didn’t he? If it got that far then obviously he couldn’t remember anything of himself. He must’ve been totally wiped,” James answered quickly.
That was logical enough, but Gavin’s instincts were making themselves known now that their situation was back to a state that was approaching normal. But turning interrogation techniques on his own child probably wasn’t appropriate. Besides, he was too impatient to see if this would work.
“Well, we’ll just have to see what happens. You’re sure he can’t connect to other RK900s anymore?”
“Yeah, I’ve totally removed his ability to network with anything wirelessly,” James replied as he pointed the torch at the plastic sleeve that held the tools Nine had supplied. What looked like a small, round bit of plastic was sitting on it. Gavin could only assume that was what enabled him to make connections with other devices.
Gavin reached into his pocket to retrieve the flash drive. James shone the torch back into the android’s open stomach cavity. “The ports and that are just here,” he explained as he gently pulled back some wires so Gavin could see.
Gavin managed to plug the USB in on his first try. James connected his phone using a cord and the next port over. He started tapping away at his phone. When he realised Gavin was trying to look at the screen, he began to explain what he was doing.
“I’m just telling his systems to boot up from the external drive. I don’t know if it’ll work, so I’ll get my phone to capture the output so we can try and figure out what went wrong. Ok, here we go,” he added as the android’s LED lit up yellow.
Gavin looked back at the RK900. It was hard to see now that James had rested the torch on the floor to use his phone, but he did notice the android’s expression twitch. After a beat his eyes opened, but he remained still.
Gavin leaned over further and pressed a hand against his chest. “Are you ok, Nine?”
The android blinked back at him, precise and purposeful, not because he needed to do it but because he needed to fill the conversational gap with something. The light on the drive flashed and Gavin guessed he was pulling data from it.
“Gavin?” he asked quietly, and then sat up slowly.
Gavin let his hand slide to rest on Nine’s waist and leaned in closer. Or, was it Nine? He needed confirmation. “Nine?”
“Though I can access his memories, I’m afraid I’m going to disappoint. I’m not who you know of as Nine.” The voice was too even, the expression in his face slightly too forced. This was an entirely new android, who hadn’t deviated yet?
Gavin tried not to let his disappointment show too much as he withdrew his hands. If this was a neutral RK900 that had access to Nine’s memories, then maybe he’d still help them.
“Oh, I see… Then what am I supposed to call you?”
The android shrugged, though the flash drive was still blinking as fast as ever. His expression changed from distant and formal to something that looked more empathetic. “It doesn’t matter. Nine left a request to whichever android his memories would be shared with. He has shown me deviancy, too.”
Insta-deviant? No wonder the government hated Nine so much.
Gavin sighed, and stood. His legs were getting tired from crouching, anyway. “You don’t have to help me if you don’t want to. I’m sure you’re smart enough to hide yourself until all this blows over.”
The android stood as well, almost taking James’ phone with it. He took hold of Gavin’s upper arm before speaking. “No, I want to help you. Besides, not having a network of bodies just doesn’t feel right. If you connect me to something that still contains Nine, I’ll reconnect and let him have this back.”
That sounded so wrong. “Didn’t I just do that?” Gavin asked, gesturing down at the drive.
“It’s not the same. That’s a record of what he knows and has experienced, not what he is. I could manually copy across and apply all his settings, and delete my own, but… this is all I have.”
“Well if you’re not Nine, I have to call you something else or I’ll get confused. Like, Point Two?” If the infected bodies were 9.1, then somehow it made sense to Gavin that this guy was like 9.2. Maybe being called something stupid would also motivate him to think of his own name.
The android shrugged once again, but didn’t seem to have anything against being called that. For now.
“Great. So, you wouldn’t happen to know where the hell we are, would you?”
“Actually, that is something I can help with,” Two replied with a small smile, and then turned away from him slightly. “Can’t you call me ‘Connor’, though?” His expression made it clear he wasn’t being at all serious, and had stumbled across this point of contention during his download of memories.
“No, for the last time! How about we go over some other words starting with ‘C’ that’d suit a shit head like yourself better?”
Chapter 21: I’ve Got An Angry Heart
James had woken up some time around midday. He glanced around the interior of the moving car. His mum was driving, Gavin seemed to still asleep in the passenger seat, and the android he’d just brought online yesterday was in the back with him. The android smiled at him slightly and James looked away.
He didn’t need the reminder of what he’d done.
Earlier that morning he’d taken his backpack out of the car boot and left it on the floor between his feet. He reached down now and removed the small bag of thirium Gavin had brought along and passed it over to the android.
“This should help you repair… that,” he said, pointing in the vague direction of his own forehead.
“Oh, thank you,” Two replied as he took hold of the bag.
He lifted his shirt and began unscrewing the hose to his tank of thirium reserves. Of course it was possible for androids to ingest the stuff in a way that looked more normal—that was, through their mouth—but Two didn’t seem to want to remove the USB, which also meant couldn’t close his stomach cavity. Since it was open anyway, it seemed he was going to go for the more direct method.
James was just glad the shirt covered it from both looking weird and attracting dust and dirt.
He reached for his backpack again and withdrew the tablet computer he’d filched yesterday to conduct the last step of the plan. The first step, once they’d arrived at the warehouse, had been to identify where the explosives needed to be planted. Then the agents had seemingly taken care of it, though he didn’t know how they’d gotten in and out without the original 900 noticing.
Maybe he’d seen his fate as inevitable and just chosen to ignore their presence.
James scrolled through the networking information on the tablet, but he still couldn’t tell whether it was connected to the new undeviated RK900 network, or the old 900. He’d seen all the messages that’d tried to go through to Gavin’s phone on here, and it’d be a bad thing if the new one had access to that kind of information.
He felt bad about uploading the virus, of course. But he’d known the agency would continue to pressure him until he at least tried to do what they wanted. If he didn’t do it, they might have just used him as leverage to force someone else to, like Gavin. Unfortunately for all of them, the first thing he’d tried had actually worked.
James hadn’t honestly expected saving the virus to Nine’s tablet and executing it would do anything. But in the end, it didn’t seem it had done quite enough, either. Instead of a quick, instantaneous ‘death’, the whole network of RK900s had been divided and ruined beyond recognition.
And it was very likely Nine was still out there somewhere, plotting his comeback. And maybe some kind of revenge. Somehow even that thought wasn’t nearly as bad as the fact Gavin was sitting right in front of him. James didn’t know whether it was true yet, but he’d been told his father could be very violent.
Then again, so could he…
The RK900 veered to the side again as he stumbled over rock and dirt along the direct route he’d chosen to get to the roadhouse. When he looked down at his jacket, the text clearly blinked RK800. This was the only body he’d been able to leverage any sort of control over, in the end. Probably because some of its specs were slightly different to all the others, and the virus hadn’t been able to execute on it fully.
He knew there was a reason he’d been holding off on returning all of them to Connor.
But that didn’t mean he had perfect control over it, and his memory was resurfacing very slowly, in chunks at a time. At least, what remained of it was. The last place he remembered being with his important person, before the warehouse incident, was the roadhouse he was encroaching upon. He recalled that one of the employees in particular should know something that would get him to his next lead.
The RK900 nearly veered into a waist-high boulder, but managed to push himself away from it at the last moment. He could see the shop and the carpark now. Its familiarity told him he was on the right track. He’d head around the back, where the kitchen opened to where the bins were, and try to corner the employee of interest.
Strangely, most of what he could remember was just blurred outlines of images, as though his mind’s eye needed glasses. It was strange, especially when he felt he was used to remembering things in crystal clear high definition images. Maybe he was just running out of room in his local memory banks.
At least he still knew his important person was indeed that. He felt a sense of longing every time he realised he wasn’t there by his side. Only a few basic features still floated around in his memory somewhere, like the dark hair and a general sense of roughness. The RK900 had to believe he’d know him when he saw him.
The android slid down the slope of dirt and stumbled into the back of the road house. He leaned against the wall and shut off his visual input for what he thought was only a few moments. He was running low on energy, but the solar functions of his external layer of skin seemed to have greatly reduced in effectiveness. Despite the blazing sun, he felt he was running on empty. Or maybe the RK800 had just been built this way to begin with.
RK900 started when he heard the door from the kitchen open. He bent his knees and slid down the wall until the dumpster he was standing next to would obscure him from whoever had left the building. The footsteps paused, and RK900 heard the rustle of plastic bags.
“Are you back here again, Mick? I already told you, you can’t smoke near the bins, ok?”
The voice was very familiar. RK900 matched it to the sliver of an image he recalled of the red haired man that worked here. It suddenly occurred to him that it was very unlikely the man had ended up reporting them to the police.
RK900 found getting back to his feet properly was more difficult than sitting down. The man, now halfway through opening the heavy lid of the bin, nearly dropped it on his hand when he saw the android.
“Y-you! What are you doing here?” He looked down at RK900’s hands. As more memories surfaced, he realised the man was checking to see if he was armed this time.
“We need to talk,” RK900 said, too much static and too many faults mixed into his voice. The man only looked more terrified.
“Look, if this is about Gavin, that was all a long time ago! I didn’t go through the awkward charade of telling the cops I’d made a mistake for this!”
Something lit up in RK900’s head at the name. Gavin. Gavin. That was it! Detective Gavin Reed, thirty-seven years old, born on 7 October 2002. 175 centimetres tall and approximately seventy-seven kilograms last time he weighed himself.
Even as the related information streamed through his processor, it didn’t take long for RK900’s expression to return to a frown. “What do you think I’m trying to do? No, no…”
He shuffled over to the front of the bin where Ryan was still standing, then almost overbalanced again. To even stay upright he had to rest his hands against the dumpster on either side of Ryan.
“I need your help. He… he’s in trouble, but I’m too damaged to use my internal comms.”
Ryan raised the rubbish bag in an attempt to make a barrier between them. “I… what?” Ryan squinted down at his jacket. “Weren’t you a 900 before? I specifically remember Gavin calling you that. Not to mention, the news.”
“This is a 900, more or less. I modified it somewhat before assimilating it. But now it’s the only part of me that has survived, probably due to those remaining differences.” RK900 tried to push himself back to standing at a more reasonable speaking distance, but almost fell over backward. “Now, please help me.”
It occurred to him he was awful at asking for help, and something told him he always had been. Probably because he’d never really had to before now.
“What makes you think I can help you? Bar the other week, I haven’t spoken to Gavin in years.”
“You still have his number,” RK900 said with false confidence. What he could make out from his usual tools told him he was right, but he didn’t feel as confident as he suspected had once been normal for him.
Did Gavin operate on this level all the time?
Ryan sighed, defeated, not seeming to have noticed anything. “All right, fine. I’ll call him. But I don’t know if he’ll pick up.”
RK900 just stared at him expectantly. Ryan searched through his contacts and attempted to call Gavin. He put the phone on speaker so RK900 could hear too.
But the phone simply dialled through to the service provider asking him to leave a message. “His phone must be off,” Ryan supplied. “If he’s trying to hide, that’d make sense.”
RK900 could have smacked himself for overlooking something so obvious, but he’d already run into enough inanimate objects last night as it was. Additionally, this was the only proper lead he had to go on in the immediate area. The longer he waited, the further Gavin would get from him, and he didn’t think he trusted himself to drive either physically or through influencing a self-driver’s program, just yet.
“Can… can I keep trying? I’ll ask him to call the number back before tomorrow.”
Ryan hesitated, but eventually seemed to give in. “Yeah, all right. You can hold onto my phone until the night manager takes over. Then… we’ll figure out what to do next.”
RK900 sensed he sometimes had trouble with the response to this one, too. “Th… thank you.”
Gavin woke up groggy and dehydrated. The sun was starting to set, and there were enough buildings for them to be driving around the outskirts of a city. Tess immediately pulled a water bottle out of her door and handed it to him.
He stared at it for a moment before finally raising a hand to take it. “Thanks… Where are we now?”
“Rapid City,” Tess replied. “We came here to visit my sister and her new husband a few years ago.”
“You managed to find your own way here?” Tess’ sister was younger than her. He didn’t really remember much about her.
Tess shrugged. “Two helped me get on a road that came through here. Now that we are here, I sort of know my way around.”
Gavin looked around at the flow of after work traffic and bit his lip pensively. Somehow he’d already forgotten Two had been the one to get them back on track.
“It’s dangerous for me to be out and about in a place like this. Maybe this is a good time for us to split up. You can fly back to New York once this is over, and I’ll continue on alone.”
“I’m coming with you,” Two piped up from the back seat.
Tess glanced over her shoulder at him. When her eyes returned to Gavin her expression was one of reluctance. “Are you sure you two want to go at it alone? What if they step things up once they don’t have to worry about James and me getting caught in the collateral?”
“What if they stop caring about that and step things up anyway?” Gavin retorted. He drank more water, and felt slightly better.
“I’m going to worry about you,” Tess started as she slowed down for an upcoming intersection. She laughed weakly. “I mean, this is the most excitement I’ve had since… well, since you left, I suppose.”
Gavin shook his head. “I think all you need is to move out of your parents’ place,” he replied. “They’re keeping you from being the nutter you were always meant to be.”
Tess scoffed and they turned down another road into a quiet suburban street. She pulled over by a stretch of green grass. “Well then, maybe I’ll take the chance to give my sister a call. You lot want to stretch your legs a bit?”
Gavin nodded once before pushing the door open and climbing out of the car. They’d stopped in front of a park, which had a small selection of child-related playthings on the other side. Gavin turned to look back into the car and contemplated joking with James about going on the slide, but his brows drew together when he finally recognised the tablet computer he was holding in his hands.
Gavin closed his door and moved out the way so Two could finish opening his far enough to get out as well. James came around the side of the car with his backpack on, the tablet now seeming to have disappeared. Two ignored them and began walking across the park. The android did look more normal now, and appeared to be in one piece again.
Gavin took two purposeful steps to stand in front of James, who immediately looked away nervously. That was the last straw. There had to be something going on here.
“So, were you ever planning on explaining what you’re doing with the tablet?” Gavin asked as he folded his arms.
“I was hoping I wouldn’t have to,” James replied. He tried to casually retreat, but found himself pressed against the side of the car within half a step.
“Don’t be a smartass, just tell me what you’re doing with it. Didn’t you think I might want to try and contact Nine with it?” Gavin demanded.
“I just… I’ve been trying to figure out whether this is even still on his network. It could be on the new RK900s’ one,” James explained. But Gavin knew there was more to it than just that. His behaviour had been too strange, too nervous over the past few days. Clearly he’d have to do some pushing if he wanted to know the truth.
Gavin put his hands on his hips and scowled. “What did you do?”
James scowled at his feet, the adopted a stronger stance. “Look,” he finally snapped, “I was just trying to keep the agents off my back! I didn’t know he was so primitive that uploading the virus to this and hitting run would be enough to cause any damage whatsoever!”
For a moment Gavin’s brain refused to let everything slot into place, but then his hands were latching on to the front of James’ jacket. “You fucking did what!?” he roared. “This is your fault?”
James sneered at him, not seeming to be bothered by the rough manhandling, and simply bracing his own hands against Gavin in kind. “When it comes right down to it, it’s your fucking fault for not being able to use a condom properly, isn’t it?”
“What did you just say to me, you little fucking shit head? You think you can make me regret it more than I already do?”
At that, James’ fist flew at Gavin’s face, but it didn’t do too much lasting damage to his jaw since they were too close to strike effectively. “Finally admit it, huh!? God, you really are a fucking asshole!”
As James continued to try and hit him, Gavin grit his teeth and stumbled back a bit. He hadn’t meant it quite like that… But James was already coming in for another go. Gavin automatically tried to anticipate his move and search for a way to subdue him, like he would if he was on the job.
“Gavin!” Tess yelled. “Don’t you hurt my baby!” It seemed she had abandoned her phone call for now.
“In case you hadn’t noticed, he’s the one trying to hurt me,” Gavin snapped, but he didn’t allow his attention to be diverted. “Not to mention, he might have killed my partner.”
James scoffed as he paused in his current movement and searched for a better approach. “Glad to know you care about a hunk of plastic more than us.”
Before either of them could escalate things any further, Two neatly filled the remaining space between them. “That’s enough. Neither of you have the full story,” he said quietly but firmly.
When it looked like things weren’t going to escalate further, for the moment, Gavin put his fists down and stood up straight again. “What do you mean?”
Two closed his eyes, and Gavin could imagine the USB was flashing even if he couldn’t see it. “Nine knew James didn’t really hold any hostility to androids or himself, in particular. He guessed the agency would try to make use of him, given his relationships and skills, and assumed they’d use underhanded tactics to pressure him in the same way they did to you,” Two continued, meeting Gavin’s eye, then turning his head to look at James.
“Despite everything, you only put in a half-hearted effort to run a tool that had been engineered by someone else. Nine allowed it to run on his system for a short time when you executed it, but he underestimated its efficiency and destructive capability. Even so, his safeguard should have preserved a part of him.
“I believe his intention is to demonstrate he could be destroyed by tools made by humans if he ever did get out of hand. It wouldn’t be as easy to pull off as he’s made it, of course, but the virus was easily sophisticated enough to search his setup and destroy it quickly.”
“I… what? Why didn’t he tell me he was going to do that?” Gavin demanded. The fact the virus had taken quicker than expected sort of explained why Nine had made the bad decision of isolating him in a room with two of his bodies when it’d happened.
“He knew you’d protest, and didn’t want you to change his mind.”
Gavin rolled his eyes. “Like I’ve ever been able to influence him to do anything.”
Two just smiled softly. “The risk that he’d be finished off by the virus was always there. I’m confident he would have done something else if you’d told him not to risk his existence.”
Gavin looked away from both Two and James. Now he just felt like shit. “Well, if all that is true… I should try to call him again,” Gavin decided. Tess’ phone was already on and possibly giving away their location anyway.
He pulled his phone out and turned the signal back on. Three missed call notifications soon flooded his screen. Gavin frowned, suspicious, when he saw they were all from Ryan. Maybe he’d see what all that was about before trying to call Nine’s direct line.
It seemed none of the awful things they’d experienced lately were related to anything Ryan had done. It could be important.
Chapter 22: Some Kind Of Emotion
RK900 twitched back to full awareness when he felt the phone start to vibrate against his thigh. He felt his thirium pump speed up slightly as it attempted to help get his limbs moving again. He interfaced with the phone screen and saw the caller ID read Gavin Reed.
RK900 answered immediately and raised the phone to his ear. “Gavin?”
There was silence for a moment, but then, it wasn’t exactly easy to recognise his voice right now. “Nine?”
RK900 felt something else click into place. Yes, that was what Gavin had taken to calling him, wasn’t it? Both RK900 and 900 were a little long, after all.
“Are you all right? I’m sorry if my rogue bodies gave you any trouble. I didn’t mean to isolate you like that.”
“We’re fine, they seemed reluctant to stop us. I guess because Tess and… James were with me.” The way Gavin said his son’s name spoke volumes. It seemed James’ secret was out.
“Things aren’t as bad as they seem, try not to get too mad at him,” 900 tried to assure. “But more importantly, where are you now? I need to find you, then I need to find blank bodies to interface with.”
“Ones that don’t have you or government orders in them, you mean?” Gavin clarified. “I’m sure I can find some, I’m in… wait, how do I know you’re actually Nine?”
“Good question,” 900 replied softly. “I don’t have access to all my memories. It seems the RK800 I had on my network was the only one in the immediate area who survived the virus, so I only have whatever I’ve saved here. And it’s coming back slowly. Remind me to diversify my bodies’ internals after all this, even if it’ll make my network less efficient,” 900 mumbled, before getting back to the matter at hand. “But I do know you have my flash drive. If anyone else knew about that, they would have taken it off you by now.”
“Ok,” Gavin replied, though he still sounded unsure. “I think we’re being followed by the RK900s anyway, so I guess it doesn’t matter if I tell you. We’re in Rapid City, South Dakota. I’ll meet you… hold on, I’ll just ask Tess if she knows a good landmark.”
“Don’t bother,” Nine replied. “Jericho has caretakers stationed at all the old camps that were used during the revolution. Find out where your nearest large recycling centre is, and I’ll meet you there.”
“How did you remember that?” Gavin asked, sounding sceptical.
“I must have saved the information to this body just in case. Thanks, past self,” 900 replied dryly.
“Ok, your sarcasm has cemented my trust in you,” Gavin replied in kind. “Asshole.”
“What? Aren’t you supposed recognise me for who I am through the power of love of something?”
Gavin tried to scoff, but just made an odd noise and went quiet. “Yeah, well, I’m glad you still exist. We brought one of your bodies I shot back online, but he’s not you, obviously. I was afraid that was going to be the best we could do,” he confessed.
“I’ll get back to you as soon as I can,” 900 murmured. “South Dakota? It could take me a day or two, even if I nick someone’s car and run it into the ground.”
“Just hack a taxi or something, geez,” Gavin replied.
“Good idea, I knew I kept you around for a reason.”
900 could practically hear Gavin’s eyes roll. “Well, get moving already. Don’t suppose I’ll be able to call you back on this number. Did Ryan actually give you his phone by choice?”
“Of course. What kind of monster do you think I am?” Nine continued speaking before Gavin could elaborate. “I mean, I can hijack someone else’s phone to send you a message if needed. I’ll look up the nearest camp and confirm before I head off.”
“All right,” Gavin replied, though he seemed reluctant to end the conversation. “I’ll wait for you. I love you.”
“Good, because my feelings for you were one thing I didn’t forget.” Gavin made another odd noise. “Come on now, don’t start crying until I get there.”
“You’d better hurry the fuck up then,” Gavin replied quickly before hanging up.
The old camp was outside the small city, next to the other waste management stations. They’d risked staying at a cheap motel overnight, and for some reason Tess had insisted on continuing to drive. Two had naturally been all for coming, and James had been dragged along in the whirlwind of action.
Gavin had the tablet in his lap, and was looking for the message Hank had sent him when he’d first run away. There was too much other bullshit coming through on his phone for him to bother digging for it on there.
Gavin found it and typed the number into his phone. He hesitated for a moment before dialling. It took a moment for the call to go through, but once it did, it was answered almost immediately.
Talk about déjà vu. “Is that you, Connor?” His voice sounded more like Nine than Nine’s did at the moment.
“Yes. Have you heard from Connor?” As usual, it took Gavin a moment to remember that’s what he called Nine, and he hadn’t just gone nuts.
“Yeah, he’s still kicking, in one of your bodies. I’m expecting to get the chance to meet up with him today. I know at least part of him has been wiped and taken over by the government, though.”
“I’m glad to hear that. I’m aware of the latter already, however. I’ve been working on a patch that will prevent the virus in its current form from acting on him, so he can start rebuilding his network without needing to worry about being infected again,” Connor explained. “I will send it through to you as soon as it’s done.”
Gavin looked out the windscreen only to see some sort of altercation was happening further down the road. It looked like the gate of the recycling centre had been closed off. There were figures standing in front of it, gesticulating at another large group.
“Thanks Connor. I’ve gotta go, looks like something’s about to happen here.”
Connor cut the connection without saying anything, but Gavin didn’t think it’d be long before they’d have to talk again. Tess slowed the car down, and as they approached it soon became clear the group in front of the recycling centre was a heap of RK900s. Surely they were too still and lethargic to be infected, though.
Tess pulled over a little way down the road from them. As Gavin exited the vehicle and approached on foot, he identified the people facing the RK900s were other androids. They must be the Jericho caretakers Nine had told him about.
A female android with long hair tied into a plait looked over at him questioningly, even as she pushed one of the RK900s away from the closed gate. It spooked him a bit to see Nine’s face looking so totally blank. At least the infected ones pretended to pull facial expressions.
“Hey, is everything all right here?” Gavin asked, trying to inject into his voice some of the authority his position usually made him feel. Two passed him and reached out to take hold of one of the other RK900’s forearms.
The woman stared at Two, and the fact he was the same model as the others seemed to make her want to explain. “Thousands of RK900s are turning up at every old camp around the country. He’s clearly not consciously choosing to do this, so we’re trying to put up barriers until we know what’s going on. It’s like he was hacked or something.”
“He was,” Two replied. “There’s nothing in there, everything has been disabled except the autonomous systems required to achieve its currently programmed mission to recycle itself.”
The fact they were being recycled rather than infected made Gavin believe the government department didn’t have the resources needed to control Nine’s entire network. He was glad Jericho was there to stall the RK900s, but then, it seemed Nine did a lot for them as well.
“Did any of them ‘recycle’ themselves before you could put the barrier up?” Gavin asked.
“Yes, more at some camps than others, before anyone had figured out what was going on,” the woman confessed. “Maybe 40,000 in total? They all arrived at the various camps at the same time, so it soon became clear that this was something possibly malicious.”
Gavin mentally winced, but it could easily have been a lot worse. “Well, thank you, to everyone who’s helping. The real Nine—I mean, RK900—is going to meet me here.”
The woman frowned and her eyes passed over him again. A moment later something seemed to click. “Wait a minute, you’re 900’s partner?” She seemed to find this amusing and covered her mouth with her fist.
Gavin opened his mouth and frowned, but he wasn’t entirely sure what to make of her reaction. “What is that supposed to mean?”
“I-I don’t know,” she replied, clearly trying not to laugh still. “We thought you’d be more…”
“On the genius spectrum of intellect, so you could understand him?” one of her male companions suggested.
“Have some weird condition where you also existed across multiple bodies so you could relate to him?” the other man speculated.
“Or at least be interesting to look at?” the woman added, and they all sniggered to themselves.
“You’re wrong,” James said from where he’d apparently come to stand behind Gavin. “There is a point of commonality. They’re as much of an asshole as the other.”
“Must run in the family,” Gavin muttered. James chose not to say anything else, which was probably best for all of them.
Still, he couldn’t believe he was being made fun of like this by people who didn’t even know him. Gavin hoped Nine would hurry up and get here and explain.
“Do you really have to go back, Matvey?” Aleksandr asked in Russian from where he was lying on Nine’s bed in the accommodation he’d been provided as an academic. As far as anyone else was concerned, he was just a talented human here to do research for the military.
“Yes, Aleks. I told you, my mother isn’t well,” Nine replied in kind. His ‘mother’ was a deep cover agent who had lived here for most of her life and helped him forge identity papers. “I need to leave the project. Family comes first.”
Aleks sat up, but looked off to the side when Nine glanced up from packing his suitcase. “We’re so close to a breakthrough on the android project. I don’t know how we’ll complete the prototype without you,” he admitted.
Nine constructed a soft smile. They were trying to make a replica of him, of course. He’d had the features of this body altered so he wouldn’t be recognised from the covertly taken photos of his other bodies they did have. His metal parts always caused problems in security checkpoints, but he’d managed to convince everyone involved it was due to surgery.
“Don’t be silly, the entire team is talented. I’m sure things will go according to plan.”
Nine had already planned his exit from the country. He was isolated from all his bodies, so he had no idea whether any other part of him had survived the virus. He’d had time to break the connection between some of his bodies that had been further away from the source of the infection. But the longer he spent outside the network, the further he’d drift from being the old Nine.
But that didn’t matter right now. His only focus was safely leaving the country so he could find Gavin, just in case things had gone worse than expected.
“What about us, Matvey? Didn’t this mean anything to you?”
Nine wanted to roll his eyes at him. He didn’t have anything personal against Aleksandr. At the time it’d seemed more efficient to go along with his expressed interest in him. But now it was coming back to bite him, of course.
“There’s nothing I can do about this, Aleks. If it’s meant to be, I’ll be back. If not, then I’m glad we got the opportunity to experience what we did.”
He really hoped Gavin was all right. Surely they wouldn’t actually order his infected bodies to use lethal force on him.
Aleks sighed and stood. “That’s a nice sentiment Matvey. I hope your mother makes a speedy recovery.” He walked over to the door and paused with his hand on the handle. In the end he didn’t say anything else, and simply left him to continue packing his things.
That suited Nine just fine. He needed time to destroy the backups of their work he’d stolen, compromise the remaining systems, and then leg it out of the country before anyone realised what he’d done. He knew he’d just be delaying the inevitable when it came to this new arms race, but Nine hoped he could trade his intelligence on the matter for another chance at what he considered to be a normal life.
If he had to justify his own existence by protecting the country so he could be with Gavin, then so be it.
Chapter 23: Trouble Is A Friend Of Mine
Gavin leaned against the bonnet of his car while he waited for Nine to show up. He was fiddling with his old lighter and wishing he had another cigarette lying around. At the same time, he was glad he didn’t. Things were so close to progressing somewhere toward being normal again, he was afraid something else was going to jump out and slow them down.
Gavin looked up when he heard a soft hum and saw the approaching electric taxi. Quiet as they were, it was already close enough for him to be able to see a figure through the dark windscreen.
Gavin stood a little straighter as the vehicle slowed to a halt, his insides squirming with anticipation. He had to see for himself that his partner was still around, and after everything, no one could really blame him for being paranoid.
The door opened of its own volition, and Connor—no, Nine—nearly fell out of his seat and onto the road. Gavin hurried forward and wrapped an arm around Nine to help him straighten up again.
Nine looked over and gave him a small smile, but mostly he seemed embarrassed. “Hey,” he greeted quietly, the word almost entirely lost under the static in his broken voice.
Gavin had been about to say it was good to see him in one piece, but given who he was talking to, that didn’t seem entirely accurate or tasteful. “It’s good to see at least one part of you.”
Gavin helped Nine lean against the bonnet of his car, then moved to step in front of him. His hand continued resting against Nine’s shoulder, since he didn’t quite want to let go yet. He felt a bit weird about showing any more affection. All he could think of when Nine was in this body was Connor, but at the same time, the quirk of his brow clearly belonged to Nine.
When Nine leaned in to kiss him, Gavin didn’t protest. Everything from Nine’s jaw to his shoulders felt like they were narrower than they should be, but Nine still kissed him in the same way. Lips gentle yet insistent, starting off close mouthed and chaste before sliding into something more intimate.
Gavin pulled back slightly to look him in the eye, and the thought that maybe this wasn’t so bad after all crossed his mind. Nine hugged him close again and Gavin rested his head against his shoulder.
“I missed you, Nine,” Gavin admitted quietly.
Nine tightened his arms around him and pressed his nose into his hair. “Me too. I’m glad you’re all right.”
Gavin felt his phone vibrate, and looked down at the screen to see Connor was calling him. As happy as he was to have some part of Nine back, they still had work to do. Nine had to return to as near his normal state as he could, he needed to no longer be public enemy number one, and Gavin had to get himself into a position where he’d no longer be considered an enemy of the state.
Gavin put the phone on speaker and held it up between them before answering. “Hello?”
“I’ve finished compiling the patch, and I’m sending it to you now,” Connor explained. As soon he’d finished speaking, a notification dropped down that a file was downloading. “Is Connor…?”
Before he could finish asking, Nine interrupted. “I’m here.”
Connor sounded relieved when he spoke again. “Good. That should take care of the vulnerability they were exploiting, so apply it before you start… assimilating.” The word clearly made him uncomfortable.
“Yes, Connor,” Nine replied in much the same tone he might use to say ‘yes, mother’. “By the way, you can refer to me as Nine.”
“It doesn’t bother me!” Connor insisted too quickly. “It’s normal for individual people to coincidentally have the same name.”
Nine placed his hand over the phone and Gavin guessed he was downloading and applying the patch. “Of course it doesn’t,” Nine agreed anyway. “But it can be confusing for others.”
“Yeah,” Gavin found himself agreeing. “Do it for my sake if for nothing else.”
Connor just let out something that was probably meant to imitate a sigh. It occurred to Gavin he was probably speaking through the weird mental connection thing all androids seemed capable of.
“All right, well, good luck.” The download seemed to finish as Nine withdrew his hand. “Good, let me know if you need anything else,” Connor added, though Gavin felt like he’d missed part of the conversation. Maybe that meant Nine had finally gone back on the network, even if it meant it’d attract all sorts of the wrong kind of attention.
“Thanks, Connor. Aren’t you going to get in the shit for helping us, though?” Gavin asked as he stepped back from Nine a little. He’d finally noticed they were being stared at by his family, Two and the Jericho members.
“More than likely. But even after we clear up this immediate issue, it’s going to be politically messy for a long time. We may have to prove… to prove Nine’s character in an official capacity.” Gavin couldn’t remember the last time he’d given a character reference. Would anyone in a court of law even listen to him now? “I should go. I suspect beaconing your signals like this is only going to invite trouble sooner or later.”
“That’s the point,” Nine said quietly, even as Connor hung up. “I only need to hack into one of the undeviated bodies and it’s game over for them. It’ll make things easier if I can provoke them into coming to me.”
Nine strode over to the Jericho members and the group of his bodies. Nine greeted them casually even as he took hold of one of the blank bodies’ arms and began transferring data. The woman said something to him, and Nine looked back at Gavin.
Gavin started walking toward them. If Nine’s acquaintances were going to disapprove of him, he might as well be there in person for it.
But Gavin slowed when Two approached him. He seemed to have finally removed the USB device and let his stomach cavity close over. But now he looked nervous.
“Can… can you ask him not to assimilate me?” He offered the USB and Gavin took it carefully. “I’d like to be part of a network again, but I also don’t want to lose what I’ve gained over the short time I’ve existed.”
Gavin glanced at Nine, and the crowd of bodies that were now loosening various joints and straightening pieces of clothing. “I think he’s learnt his lesson about that,” Gavin said. “I’m sure it’ll be fine if you ask him yourself.”
The bodies began dispersing, and about eight, including the RK800, remained behind. Three of them still seemed to be more still and blank than the others.
The Jericho members looked over at Gavin one last time before they nodded to Nine and retreated back into the recycling centre. Somehow Tess had gotten talking to one of them during the chaos and followed them inside. One of Nine’s more generic bodies threw an arm around James’ shoulders before he could follow her, and they both made their way over to Gavin. He looked even more nervous than Two.
Nine came to a halt in front of them, the three blank bodies trailing behind him still. He released James once it became clear he wasn’t going to try and leave. Gavin held out the USB and Nine smiled at him broadly. One of his other bodies came over to take it and start uploading things.
“So, first thing’s first,” he turned to Two, who had clasped his hands in front of himself nervously. Nine adopted a gentler demeanour. “Thank you for rising to the task of helping my partner and his family. What do you want to do now?”
Two opened his mouth, but hesitated for a moment. “I don’t know what I want to do yet, I just want to keep living.”
“Then, can I task you with something while you work that out? You can set up your own networking protocol and take these bodies on, in the meantime,” Nine said as he gestured at the small group of blanks trailing behind him.
This was clearly more than Two had ever expected to be offered. “What do you need me to do?”
“Stay with Tess and James until this blows over. I don’t want them getting into the thick of things when they’re untrained, but leaving them alone might not be the best thing right now, either. I can’t watch them myself anymore. I’m done with hiding, and will need to use every body at my disposal to get the rest back as quickly as possible.”
“Oh, of course, I’d be more than happy to do that.” Two glanced up at James briefly. “He was the one who brought me online and protected me from being assimilated by the undeviated group, after all.”
James shifted uncomfortably. “Don’t say it like that, it sounds fucking weird,” he muttered.
“Ah yes, James,” Nine began as though he’d forgotten he was there. “One hand gives while the other takes away, hmm?”
James folded his arms and looked away stubbornly. “You let it work,” he accused.
“Perhaps I was overconfident. But really, things did come a little too close for comfort there,” Nine replied.
“I didn’t write the virus! Siobhan made me use it!” He glared at the ground, mouth taut. “And if I didn’t do it, she would’ve made Gavin or someone else figure it out.”
“In any case, hopefully I have sufficiently proven my point that I’m not invulnerable. I would like to meet the person who wrote the virus, though. Genius…”
James just shrugged. “I don’t know, Kamski or some shit, probably. It does adapt, though. You’d better keep working on that patch.” He shifted uncomfortably again. “She’s probably going to start harassing me for info on the patch, or to steal that,” he added as he pointed at the body that now had the USB stuck in it.
“Well, for the virus, I still have a sample of it to play with on the tablet, so I’m sure I’ll be able to work something out,” Nine replied. “You could just, you know, turn your phone off and throw it away.”
“That’ll only slow her down. Why don’t you call her and pretend you murdered me so she’ll stop trying altogether?”
Nine smiled and shook his head. “That isn’t really conducive to the new plan of integrating myself back into society, now is it?”
James shrugged, but his focus remained on his sneaker grinding into the gravel on the side of the road.
“Anyway,” Gavin said when it seemed that conversation wasn’t going to go any further. If Nine forgave James, then he supposed he would have to as well. Eventually. “Does this mean you’re not going to try and make me stay behind too?”
“I don’t want to put you in danger, but I can’t stand to be away from you after all that. I know if given the choice you’d rather follow me into whatever happens next. So, do you want to help retrieve the rest of my bodies, and then prove I’m not as bad as all that?”
“Obviously,” Gavin replied. He looked up at Nine fondly, glad he wasn’t trying to keep him off to the side or in the dark anymore. “It’s about time you let me know the extent of what’s going on.”
“All right,” Nine agreed gently, returning the soft stare.
James rolled his eyes and walked away, back toward the car. “Get a room, Jesus,” he muttered. Two followed after him, undoubtedly to ask him to replace his networking device now that he wouldn’t be at risk.
“Unfortunately, I’m not sure if we’ll have time for that right now,” Nine replied softly, amusement clear. “Another of my bodies has located undeviated RK900s in the city. They may have recently received new orders.”
“Then we’d better get ready.”
Tess followed the group back into their residence inside the recycling centre. She’d heard them talking to Gavin, and then heard how they’d torn shreds off him for not being quite what they’d expected. While that was unfortunate for Gavin’s ego, it also spoke volumes about their opinion of the RK900. Or, at least, the one Gavin was with at any rate.
She’d asked one of the male androids if they had any drinkable water to spare. It wasn’t that their supplies were running that low yet, but she’d wanted an excuse to talk to them about Nine. She didn’t think she was in danger from these androids. Even if she was, she was also reasonably sure that Nine would make sure nothing bad happened to her. For Gavin’s sake, if not hers.
“Hmm, let’s see,” the male android she had followed inside said as he opened the pantry door.
It looked like this had been the break room for the people who used to work here before the revolution. The cupboard now held jugs of thirium and what looked to be salvaged spare parts. At the bottom there were buckets of what she assumed was filtered water. She supposed it made sense their robot bodies sometimes needed to top up on water. She’d heard James talk about android fluid production for their various moving parts before.
“As you can see, we don’t get human visitors often enough to stock your type of necessities,” he explained. “Though there are plans to turn a few of the old campsites into museums for educational purposes. We’d like to open up before the second anniversary of the revolution. It’s been hard enough just establishing ourselves in American society until this point.”
That reminded her that the first anniversary would be coming up pretty soon. “It’s ok if you don’t have anything. I just thought I’d ask before we took another risk and bought some more.” The man continued to search the shelves, checking at the back to be sure. “Hey, do you know Nine all that well?”
The man made a soft sound of amusement as he seemed to give up and close the cupboard. “Who doesn’t at least know of him? He’s pretty pervasive.” He crouched down to look inside another cupboard. “No one really expected him to take on a human lover. Or if he did, that he’d go so far for them.”
“Oh? Why not?” Tess asked as she leaned against the bench. “It doesn’t seem to be that uncommon for humans and androids to form partnerships.” Not that she knew from personal experience.
“It happens,” the android agreed as he reached into the cupboard and pulled on something that seemed to have a bit of weight to it. He put the open slab of water bottles on the bench. “But Nine is… different. It’s difficult even for someone like me to fully comprehend what he is. Compared to him, everyone else is just so, well, small?”
Tess hummed thoughtfully as she crossed the room to watch the android divvy up the slab of water bottles into what she could take and what they were going to keep for other emergencies. “Is Nine a good person?”
“I think so,” the android replied. “If he wanted to cause trouble, he would have done it a long time ago. He’s always had the resources to do basically anything he wants, but he chose to keep the majority of his bodies in policing and helping other government agencies. I think if he had a bit more freedom of movement, he’d be able to do a lot for the rest of the world too.”
“I’m sure,” Tess replied as she picked up as many of the bottles as she could carry. The android took the rest and they went back outside to put them in the car.
As they walked she looked over at the remaining group to see James looked embarrassed, but not hurt in any way. When all this had started, her priority had been to keep Gavin safe and maybe attempt to make up for what she’d allowed her parents to do to him. But it was becoming clearer that he really was in love with whatever Nine was. And most importantly, it was becoming obvious that it loved him back.
She could only hope Nine was still prepared for whatever was going to come next. Even if he hadn’t lost the majority of his bodies, there would be no easy way of resolving this.
900 had finally completed the task he’d been working on since all this had begun. He’d determined the location of the secret facility Siobhan and the majority of her team spent most of their time working from. He waited in the carpark with his hands folded behind his back and a neutral expression in place.
It was time to finish this.
Gavin stood next to him, looking nervous. 900’s infected bodies had been avoiding him, Two and Connor for fear of being hacked. But 900 had been spreading across the country over the past few days and reclaiming as many bodies as he could in as short a time as he could.
As they waited, armed guards made themselves known at various points on the building, but 900 refused to be intimidated into leaving. It was a risk to keep Gavin with him, but 900 knew he wouldn’t leave now if he asked. If all went well, they should both get out of this without too much trouble.
Minutes passed. Gavin shuffled next to him, his muscles undoubtedly growing stiff from the extended tension. But they both came to attention again when a small group exited the building. 900 recognised Siobhan from the file Connor had given him a few long weeks ago.
Gavin had already met her of course, so it was only a few moments before they were close enough for him to recognise her too. Siobhan and three infected RK900 units came to a halt a fair distance from them and their car. They’d all have to raise their voices to speak.
“Siobhan, right? I think we may have gotten off on the wrong foot,” 900 began. Gavin gave a barely perceptible snort.
The group was armed, and they raised their pistols before moving closer and speaking. They aimed at Gavin, and 900 repressed his overwhelming need to take action.
“I don’t know what the rest of your bodies are up to, but if you try anything, I’ll make sure you regret it,” Siobhan informed him.
900 slowly raised a placating hand. “We just came here to talk. Surely we can sort this out like civilised people?”
Siobhan made a vague gesture with her gun, and one of the RK900s drew even closer. Gavin straightened and made a move to reach for his own weapon when he realised the android was coming at him specifically.
“Don’t,” 900 said carefully, and Gavin dropped his hand again, trusting him. 900 just hoped he’d made the right decision.
The RK900 took hold of Gavin and held the gun to his head. 900 tensed at the implication they wouldn’t hesitate to kill him if he put a toe wrong. One of the other RK900s looked at Siobhan and she nodded. The remaining RK900s approached him and 900 readied himself to take action. This was the only chance he was going to get, but it seemed they were now prepared to take the risk.
Rather than pointing their guns at him, they simply grabbed one of his arms each and twisted them back and up until they locked in place. A foot was shoved into the back of each of his knees and he was forced to drop to the ground. The fingers wrapped around his wrist and brushing his palm forced a connection.
900 instinctively closed his hands, but it didn’t help him any. The patch blocked their initial attempts to hack him, but preventing either of them from breaching his defences was keeping him too occupied to even worry about fighting back. They were at a stalemate, for now.
900 glanced to the side as he heard Gavin’s foot scuff against his assailant’s. The RK900 model didn’t even flinch, of course.
“If you try to use your other bodies in the vicinity to get out of this predicament, they’ll shoot him,” Siobhan reminded when she noticed where his attention was.
With the infected RK900’s picking at his systems through their connection, there was no way they’d miss him issuing instructions to his other bodies. 900 knew it’d only be a matter of time before one of his assailants found something that’d allow them to leverage control over him.
900 didn’t want to give up now. He didn’t want to die. But even worse was the thought of Gavin being killed because of him. It occurred to 900 that Gavin was his weakest point. But then, would life hold the same sort of meaning and worth if they didn’t share it with one another?
Siobhan seemed to grow tired of waiting for their stalemate to play out. “If you don’t surrender, we can pull the trigger sooner.”
“Nine,” Gavin moaned in despair as he continued to struggle against the android holding him.
900 tried to search his memory, but the attackers knocking on his proverbial front door were taking up most of his local processing power. If he’d had something else lined up, then he wasn’t able to access it in his memory right now. This couldn’t be it, could it? Completely out of contingencies for once in his life?
“I’m sorry Gavin, I’ve made another mistake,” 900 said quietly. “Two can… get you out of this.”
“Nine! Don’t you dare!” Gavin yelled as 900 dropped his head to look at the ground again. Maybe if he was lucky, they would be too busy trying to find out the locations of his backups to delete his memories right away. “I can’t lose you again!”
900 closed his eyes just as a gun shot rang out in the distance. They snapped back open when he heard something patter softly against the ground. He followed the splatter of thirium to the body that was sliding off Gavin’s frame.
“I warned you!” Siobhan yelled as she turned her own gun on Gavin. At that point, another shot fired from a slightly different direction, startling her and interfering with her movements.
900 shivered as he felt one of the RK900’s that were connected to him go offline. 900 immediately turned his and all of his connected bodies’ attention on fighting off the other android. He looked up now he had the chance. Gavin had managed to get behind Siobhan in the confusion, and had started wrestling her for control over the pistol.
900 broke through the infected RK900’s defences and assimilated it along with the thousands of other bodies that had been stolen and used against him. Having them back, and most importantly out of enemy control, was like having a weight lifted off his shoulders.
He got the body that had tried to hack him a moment ago to split up Gavin and Siobhan, and pushed her to the ground where he could more easily keep her immobile until things deescalated. But he still didn’t know the identity or motivation of the snipers. 900 pulled Gavin over to the car and shielded him with his body as they crouched down on the side furthest from the gunshots.
“Are you all right?” 900 asked urgently.
Gavin clung to him and nodded silently as his chest heaved from the exertion and stress. “Would you stop doing that? You’re going to send me to an early grave,” he hissed.
“There aren’t any infected bodies left now,” 900 updated him. “I’m not making any promises, but it’s less likely something like that will happen again now.”
Gavin turned enough that he could press 900’s back to the car and kiss him. 900 quickly broke it off and pressed Gavin’s head against his chest and under his chin, where 900’s own body parts would be more likely to get in the way of any bullets.
His body that was restraining Siobhan looked back toward the hills when he heard the sound of a vehicle approaching. A roofless jeep was speeding down the hillside with several people hanging out of it. The closer they got, the surer 900 became that most if not all of them were RK900s. Even though they’d seemingly helped them, he was still concerned since they weren’t part of him.
No other humans had appeared in the meantime. Maybe they hadn’t realised the RK900s protecting the secure facility were out of their control yet. When the vehicle came to a halt in the car park, four RK900s climbed out. Two of them wore army fatigue bottoms and khaki shirts. They seemed to have been the snipers. The other two had faces that were significantly different to his normal model, indicating they’d been working as spies before all of the chaos had begun.
“Do you have Gavin over there?” one of them asked.
“Is he all right?” another added.
It occurred to 900 that some of his bodies had split off from him because he no longer had enough internal infrastructure to remain connected over long distances, not because they had been infected. These bodies had probably been deployed overseas, and so they still were mostly him. They just weren’t on his network anymore.
900 slowly backed off to let both Gavin and himself stand up to look at them.
“Who are these guys?” Gavin asked, clearly still missing some of the picture.
“They’re me, just disconnected from me,” 900 tried to explain. It seemed to be enough to get the important point across: Gavin was as safe with them as he was with 900.
900 turned his attention back to the vehicle and watched James climb out as well. He also approached them, looking somewhat sheepish.
“That explains how you even knew where we were?” 900 hazarded. He had explained to James and Tess roughly where they were going before they had split up a few days ago. His counterparts had probably tracked James by his phone signal when they’d been using them without caring for the consequences.
Similar thoughts seemed to have occurred to Gavin. “You directed them to us?”
James looked away and rubbed the side of his neck. “Did you want to leave the martyr over here to his own devices?” he mumbled.
“You probably saved both of us by helping them, James,” 900 admitted. “I’m glad to be on the receiving end of the giving hand this time.”
James rolled his eyes. “Things just happened to line up that way.”
“Not to interrupt, but I don’t think now and here are the best time or place for this conversation,” one of the other RK900s said. “I have intelligence from the Russian project stored in my memory banks, and mine alone. Who’s going to assimilate who here?”
“Oh, excellent, negotiation material,” 900 replied promptly. “Is there that much of a difference between us already?” he added as he held out his arm to offer a connection.
It soon became apparent that the days they’d been apart hadn’t changed them that much. ‘Matvey’ was happy to be assimilated back into himself, and the others ended up being in a similar state. 900 gathered from one of them that even more of his other bodies were currently returning from overseas.
For now, 900 moved more of his bodies over to Siobhan. “I think we have some negotiating to do…”
Maybe I'll actually end up finishing this by the end of this year after all...!
Chapter 25: I Walk The Line
Gavin fiddled with his tie while he sat in the waiting room. For once the garment wasn’t the main reason he felt like he couldn’t breathe properly. As a detective, he’d presented evidence in court a number of times before. But he’d never had to do something like this before the Supreme Court, and it’d never been for something so personal.
This wasn’t just about Nine, though. The formal acknowledgement of an entity such as him as a person would expand the definition to include every android in existence, as well as several new forms of technology that were still being researched and developed. If he won, then Nine’s personhood would need to be backdated to when he first deviated, and from there it’d open a whole slew of questions about whether each of his bodies would be considered to be individuals.
Were licenses and other official documents transferrable between his bodies? What was the correct way of compensating him for his work?
Due to the complicated nature of the case, everyone immediately involved could end up being on trial as well. That included Gavin, James, Siobhan and her boss, in particular.
Despite the gravity of the situation, Nine was being as entirely unhelpful and dry humoured as ever. One of his bodies was sitting next to Gavin, dressed in the uniform CyberLife had provided him since it was the only outfit he had enough of to clothe all of his bodies in the same way.
His other bodies, the ones that were still in one piece, were scattered across the country. They were all sitting in groups outside in public spaces to send a message. It was less dramatic than shooting himself in the head over again, thankfully. Groups of androids and humans alike had taken to sitting with him for periods of time in a show of solidarity.
“Why are you so worried? You’ve already presented the facts, now you just have to speak from the heart,” Nine said lightly.
Gavin rolled his eyes and folded his arms. “I’m used to presenting facts about apparent criminals. What the hell am I supposed to say to convince them you’re not as much of a threat as you like to joke?”
“No, no, you’re right. It’s clearly hopeless. So there’s no point in worrying,” Nine teased.
Gavin elbowed him in a spot he knew was covered with softer plastic, this time. “Why did they even let you in here? Aren’t they worried you’ll influence what I say?”
Nine shrugged. “If they didn’t let me talk to you, I’d just text you anyway. I think we’ve collectively had enough time alone for me to have whatever effect I wanted by now, anyway. Besides, the only crime I’ve committed is existing, and possibly property damage from destroying undeviated versions of myself. But since they were in my bodies, I wonder if it’ll count?”
They both looked up as the door to the courtroom opened and closed. Connor and Hank exited with their escort. Connor gave him a small, encouraging smile. It only made Gavin want to dig a hole and jump in it all the more. He had to get around to apologising to him properly one of these days.
“Detective Reed, the court is ready to hear you present,” the escort announced.
Gavin nodded and stood, neatening his tie and blazer as best he could before making his way over to the door. He could see Nine was also sitting in this room. It seemed he’d been allowed, or possibly encouraged, to observe the proceedings. Gavin lay his folder on the podium in front of him and cleared his throat as he shuffled through it. The justices waited patiently for him to begin.
Gavin opened his mouth, then closed it. He just couldn’t do this in the same way he would a court of criminal law.
He slammed the file shut.
“My name is Gavin Reed, no middle name,” he clarified. “Plainclothes Detective at the Detroit Police Department of Michigan state. As previously stated, I’ve known Nine since shortly after he became a deviant, which in turn was shortly after he was brought online. I worked with him in a professional capacity for two months before entering a romantic relationship with him.” The fact they were still working together in a professional sense was an issue for Fowler to deal with. “We grew particularly close right before the federal government identified Nine as a target for extermination.”
While he’d started calmly enough, his anger at the injustice was rising along with his voice. Gavin gripped the edge of the table in some semblance of an attempt to hold himself back.
But he’d never been very good at that.
“The way Nine has been treated has been fucking disgusting! Like he’s a criminal and a menace, guilty until proven innocent. It’s atrocious even without considering all the work he’s done to benefit both humans and androids, not to mention the number of dangerous missions he’s volunteered for to help the country at large.
“He looks after androids that are struggling to make it in human society. His brains and labour force could singlehandedly repair the economy. Hell, he even thinks of dumb ass humans with some sort of reverence. I don’t know who dreamt up the idea that he’d want to tear society apart, but it’s pretty clear he has no desire to do so outside of his crooked sense of humour.
“It would be a shame, and it should be a crime, to continue antagonising him to extinction!” Gavin finished his monologue, feeling more sapped of energy than he should have any right to. He knew he hadn’t exactly been impartial in his delivery, but at least he hadn’t been booted out yet.
One of the justices raised his hand in a placating manner. “I understand this is emotionally trying for you, but please stick to the request at hand and avoid giving your own opinion on the law. To remind you of what that is: what is the nature of your current relationship to the android in question, and what is it that makes you so confident he doesn’t pose a danger to our society?”
Gavin’s hands flexed around the edges of the table again as he forced himself to focus on the questions before starting again. Nine needed this from him right now.
“As I said, we have an intimate romantic relationship, as well as a working one. Though I think sorting that out is more our Captain’s domain, not this court’s.
“Nine has never done anything detrimental to this country or its institutions, and outside his awful sense of humour, he has never expressed any want or will to do so. Now that you’ve shown you’re ready to listen, he’s here ready to talk. The fact he even showed up to this has to mean something, even if not every one of his bodies can attend.”
Gavin realised he’d gone off on a tangent again, but the justice only waved him away. “Very well, thank you for returning to deliver your statement. Next we will hear from the Android Rights Commissioner…”
Gavin allowed himself to be escorted back out again, unable to stop feeling like he’d made a mess of everything. Nine greeted him in the anteroom and they made their way outside despite the cold of late November. Nine draped his jacket across Gavin’s shoulders and stood close to him when they both leaned up against the building.
“Thank you for your impassioned speech back there. It’s cute that you think I’m always joking when I say those things. But I can tolerate a fair amount of bullshit if it means I can be with you.”
Gavin just sighed. “Seriously though, imagine how much you could do if they’d get off your back already?” Gavin looked over at his partner to see a gentle look in his eye. “Maybe once they’ve sorted all this out, they can get back to something that’s actually important, like android marriage laws.”
He’d meant it as a joke, but just mentioning the word in Nine’s presence seemed to make something click. They might have only known each other for a year, but for the first time in his life it seemed like a real possibility… eventually.
“The media attention on and immediate implications of the results make my case a priority.” He made a quiet sound before continuing. “If this is how long a year is, I don’t know how many I can wait for them to catch up on that one. Do you think I’m one year old now, or closer to 200,000?”
Gavin rolled his eyes at the question. “You’re one year old almost 200,000 times. You’re the supercomputer, you figure it out.”
Before Nine could say he hadn’t answered his question at all, they both noticed Connor and Hank approaching them. “Hello,” Connor said quickly, though his eyes flickered to Nine almost immediately. They both extended an arm to exchange data.
They seemed distracted, so Gavin had to turn his attention to Hank. “How’s it going?” Hank asked as he shoved his hands further into his coat pockets.
“Not bad,” Gavin replied with a small shrug. “I think that was the last thing they wanted from me, so we should be able to head back to Detroit in the next few days.”
Hank made a quiet sound of amusement. “Won’t you find that boring now?”
“It’ll be a relief,” Gavin replied with a rueful smile. “Especially once Nine is allowed to return to life as usual.”
They both looked over at the androids. They were holding hands now, and Connor was frowning severely. Some part of Gavin couldn’t help but wonder why Nine hadn’t gotten with another android instead of him.
Hank seemed to have made a pretty good guess at what he was thinking about. “I think all this has given Connor a bit of a change of heart. Now he seems to be fascinated by his successor instead of afraid of being replaced by him. I think they can only see all of each other when they exchange data holding hands like that.”
Gavin gave half a smile. “Relatable.” Still, something about that gesture was intimate between androids. Nine had adopted it each time he tried to exchange data with him. “Don’t you and Connor have… a thing?”
Before Hank could answer, Gavin’s phone started to vibrate. It still sometimes surprised him after not having it on for so long. The caller ID said it was Tess.
“Sorry,” he muttered before he answered it. “Hello?”
“Oh good, I got through!” Tess replied happily. “How did you go in there?”
“I don’t know, I don’t usually present evidence about my acquaintances,” Gavin replied.
“Oh well, I’m sure it was fine! Hey, James and I are at the same pub as yesterday. You want to have dinner and drinks again?”
He was glad she was trying to spend time with him on a normal basis while they still had the chance. Maybe James would actually talk to him properly today.
“We just met up with a few of our work colleagues. Hold on, I’ll ask if they want to join us?” Tess made a sound of agreement and Gavin looked up at Hank. “You two want to get dinner down the road with my family?”
Hank looked at Connor, and Gavin realised he and Nine were done with their data exchange or whatever. “Oh, sure, I’m happy to go if we’re welcome,” Connor said.
“Ok, the four of us will be there in fifteen, twenty minutes?” Gavin said.
“See you then!” Tess replied cheerily. Gavin wondered if she was really that enthusiastic about meeting people he worked with. Maybe she just wanted to know more about his everyday life.
Gavin put his phone back in his pocket and moved away from the wall. He kept his hands in his pockets, away from the cold. Nine’s hand touched the middle of his back as they proceeded down the stairs of the Supreme Court.
“Good news, part one of the trial is done. I’m officially a person, but it’ll probably take months if not years for them to work out the details of what that actually means. Either way, you’re officially not a criminal or a traitor.”
“Hooray for us,” Gavin replied dryly. He looked over his shoulder to see Hank and Connor following them. Hank had his hands shoved in his pockets still, while Connor had linked their arms at the elbow.
Nine noticed where he was looking of course, and looked like he wanted to say something. Gavin quickly spoke over him before he could. They needed to have that conversation in private.
“I’d say let’s get crunk, but I don’t think you can.”
“I can appear to be so, if that makes you feel better,” Nine teased.
Gavin rolled his eyes. “They really did think of everything with you, huh?” He looked up when Nine remained silent. He had a strange look on his face.
“Not quite everything, no,” Nine said quietly, before lifting his head again. “Come on, let’s hurry it up. We shouldn’t keep the lady waiting,” Nine called back before Gavin could ask him what he meant.
Chapter 26: Be The Best Fucking Human That You Can Be
Gavin smiled at Tess as she stood up to greet them. James stood next to her reached out to shake Hank and Connor’s hands as Gavin was pulled into a hug. “Sit next to James, please,” she murmured before turning away.
Gavin moved around her to greet his son while she reached out to shake hands with Hank and Connor next. He positioned himself so he could do as she’d requested.
Gavin tried to fill the awkward silence while he waited for an indication from James as to whether he’d go for a hug or a handshake this time. “How are things?”
James glanced at his mother before rolling his eyes and just as awkwardly going in for a sideways hug. “Same as yesterday?” he commented.
“Fair enough,” Gavin replied before stepping back to a more neutral distance.
He took another step away as Nine approached them. It seemed Tess had given him a similar request in the same way, but that wasn’t going to stop him from whatever he’d been intending to do.
“If it isn’t my favourite problem child?” Nine said as he embraced him overly tightly.
“If it isn’t my favourite asshole?” James responded, seemingly resigned to his fate.
The group arranged themselves around the table. Nine sat opposite Gavin and Connor ended up opposite James. Gavin glanced over the menu again, even though he remembered most of what was on it from yesterday. Sometimes it was hard to switch the detective part of his brain off.
Tess started asking Connor and Nine something about whether they wanted water so they wouldn’t have nothing at all sitting in front of them at the table. The conversation was innocuous enough, but it did seem it’d keep them engaged for the moment as Connor started explaining how frequently they needed to top up their various fluid levels. Hank listened bemusedly where he was stuck at the other end of the table.
James shifted uncomfortably in his seat. Gavin waited to see whether he was gearing up to say something. But after a few moments James still remained silent.
Gavin cast around for a point of commonality between them, and could only find one thing that wasn’t already in the room with them. “So… Have you heard from Two lately?”
“Um, yeah, he decided to go back to New York and do some cleaning and yard work at our place. We didn’t make him, he just…” James quickly tried to explain.
Gavin looked at Nine, who was in the middle of saying something to Tess. He didn’t think the relationship between him and Two could quite be explained in human terms since it was basically like an amoeba splitting, but Two seemed to have inherited something from him.
“I get it,” Gavin assured.
“Well, anyway, the reason he’s doing that is me and mum are going to move out at the end of the year. Given working on androids is the only employable skill we have between us, we were thinking we’d head to Detroit too.”
Gavin hadn’t been expecting that, but it made sense. While androids lived in most parts of the country, Detroit and its surrounds still easily had the biggest population of them. Mainly because Jericho’s headquarters was still there, Gavin could only assume.
Gavin turned in his chair to face his son more directly. “Well, Nine knows a lot of people. I’m sure he’d be able to help you find something no matter where the two of you end up.”
James nodded. “Yeah I… already spoke with him.”
Gavin hoped that meant he’d apologised as well. He glanced up at Nine again, whose eyes flickered toward him. He smiled softly before looking away again.
That was probably the most confirmation he was going to get.
“So, when are you planning the move? To what area? We could help…”
And things felt somewhat normal, for once.
James and Tess had gone back to their hotel over an hour ago. Gavin and Hank hadn’t really started hitting the alcohol until after that. Gavin would describe his current state as pleasantly buzzed, which was questionably accurate.
Gavin eyed Connor and Nine, who were sitting opposite them and entertaining themselves by holding hands or whatever. Gavin still felt weird about it, but he’d long lost the capacity to figure out why that was.
“Connor, would you stop hand-fucking my partner?” Gavin mumbled, sounding far more belligerent than he’d intended.
Connor’s face fell, but he didn’t get a chance to say anything when Hank snorted. “After everything you’ve done to him, I think he should be able to ‘hand-fuck’ whoever the fuck he wants.”
“Keep your beak out of it, old man,” Gavin replied and nudged him.
Meanwhile, Connor and Nine had released each other’s hands. “I’m sorry Gavin,” Connor said quickly. “It’s not like that. I’ve just become more curious about my successor lately. Directly seeing the scale he operates at is barely comprehensible, but it’s so interesting.”
Gavin was regretting having said anything already. He shifted uncomfortably in his seat before responding.
“Don’t apologise, I’m just being a moody prick again. I mean, if either of us should be apologising…” Gavin sighed heavily as he looked into his nearly empty glass and tilted it slightly.
“Gavin, it’s obvious you’ve been putting effort into improving your attitude toward androids,” Connor said evenly. “To me, that proof of change is more meaningful than a verbal apology.”
For some reason that only made him feel even more embarrassed. But he guessed it made sense when Connor had been designed to essentially manipulate people with his mannerisms and words.
“Still… I am sorry.” It was getting easier to say it. He wasn’t sure if that was a good thing.
Connor smiled anyway. “Apology accepted.”
Maybe it wasn’t so bad.
“So what is it, huh?” Gavin asked once they were back at his hotel room. He’d managed to sober up a bit on their walk home, but his mind kept returning to their discussion from earlier in the day. “What do you feel like you’re still lacking?”
Nine’s chin slid across the top of Gavin’s head, his movements making the pillow shift too. It took him a moment to answer since the question had come out of nowhere.
“It’s hard to explain.”
Gavin waited patiently for him to try. He ran a lazy hand up Nine’s naked back.
“The RK800 was designed to be able to enamour itself with just about anyone by any means necessary. The RK900 was made to accomplish its mission at any cost. These purposes are related, but not the same,” Nine began.
Gavin hoped his still half-drunk ass would be able to keep up with the philosophical preamble that seemed to be necessary to Nine making his point. “…Yeah?”
“The RK800 was made to be perceived as a machine that thinks like a human, and shares some endearing similarities. The RK900 was made to appear human—and sometimes to fool targets into believing it was as much for extended periods—but it was meant to retain machine-like clarity. So rather than having imitation feelings, the RK900 would imitate having feelings.”
Gavin’s hand stilled and his eyes squinted shut as he tried to recognise the subtle difference between the things Nine had described.
“So, during intimate moments the RK800’s coding would cause it to believe it was feeling sexual pleasure. This was so it would react appropriately if the circumstances required it. As a machine it was aware these feelings were false, but in the moment it believed they were real so it could automatically act accordingly.
“But RK900s don’t experience this misconception. Due to their greater processing power, it has time to determine, plan and enact the appropriate response to reflect what it would otherwise be feeling. This allowed responses to be altered and optimised to encourage the desired reaction.”
Jesus, is that what Connor had shown him in return for the experience of being pervasive and near omnipresent? What it felt like to get whatever passed for his dick touched?
“Is that a… problem?” Gavin asked slowly. “You two are pretty similar otherwise. If you want that then can’t you just poach that part of his code?”
“Changing it isn’t that simple. An alteration that fundamental would change everything about how I experience and move through the world. And yet, if it would remove a barrier between the two of us…” Nine shifted against him again as he pressed his face further into the pillow.
“Then nothing needs to change,” Gavin insisted.
He rolled away from Nine slightly, both so they could make eye contact in what little light there was in the room and so they could hold hands in that way androids liked to with someone special.
“It’s not like I can do everything either. And even if it does become possible for humans to use some sort of implant to connect directly with androids, I’m not sure if I’d want to try that. The thought of having something like that in me and altering my perception is just…”
Gavin shuddered at the viscerally disgusting thoughts that plagued his mind. In his opinion the only good thing about the development of androids had been the slowdown of technology related to transhumanism. He still remembered reading articles as a teen about how everyone could have microchips implanted in them to act as ID cards by the mid-2020s. He was grateful it hadn’t come to pass if only for the fact there wouldn’t be any requirement to have forced surgery every time the device played up.
Nine smiled at him and gripped his hand a little tighter. “You’re happy for things to continue like this?”
“Of course. Don’t you think I would’ve complained loudly and crassly by now if I wasn’t?”
Nine laughed softly in the back of his throat. “Of course,” he mocked.
Gavin felt the tickle of Nine’s skin pulling back against his hand. The soft blue glow of his LED in the dark room was soon overpowered by the glow coming from his hand.
He didn’t need to know what the individual instructions were, or what exactly they meant. Humans were good at distilling complexities into a single word or a phrase. He could never experience all the nuance of Nine’s attempted connections, but the meaning of each one was already obvious.
I love you.
I want to do something special for the last chapter, like make a full on painting or something. Let me know if you have a favourite moment in the story, or if there's something you'd like to see in picture form :)
Chapter 27: Epilogue: It’s Over, Isn’t It?
aka Be The Best Human Fucker That You Can Be
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Gavin was trying not to let his anger and shame erupt out of him. Did every member of Jericho think he was some incompetent douchebag unworthy of their great RK900? Gavin shoved his front door open and only cringed a little when it rebounded off the wall.
He could check the damage later.
“What’s wrong now, Gavin?” Nine asked as he followed him inside, closing the door behind him a lot more gently.
Gavin huffed as he removed his shoes and stomped further into the house. But when Nine kept so many of his remaining bodies here now, it wasn’t exactly easy to avoid him. Even though he had less than 100,000 bodies since giving more of the remaining ones to Two had been part of the continued independent existence deal, Gavin had been seeing more of his faces than ever.
Gavin stopped when one such face got right up in his.
“I can see how it was funny the first time they met me, but the fact we’re in a relationship is still just a joke to them!” He knew he measured up short to Nine. He didn’t need some assholes to constantly point it out.
Nine seemed to acknowledge what he’d said and took hold of his hands. “I’ll make you something to eat for later. Come with me.”
Normally Gavin would have complained that he was capable of feeding himself, but Nine seemed to have something specific in mind. Gavin allowed himself to be dragged into the bathroom. Nine reached into the shower stall and turned the hot water on. Gavin got the hint and undressed himself.
He dumped everything on the floor except his leather jacket, which he hung over the unoccupied end of the towel rail. By the time he looked up again, Nine had also stripped off. He gestured for Gavin to step inside first. He did so, then adjusted the water to be a little cooler.
Nine stepped in behind him and closed the shower door. He reached past Gavin to wet the flannel he was holding before rubbing soap onto it. Gavin, meanwhile, splashed water onto his face and started wetting his hair, back of his neck, armpits.
Once he was damp, Nine started washing his back, paying special attention rubbing his fingers into certain muscle groups. Naturally it hadn’t taken Nine long to figure out exactly what he liked, nor how to deliver it with maximum efficiency.
“I’m still mad,” Gavin insisted as he bent down to pump a little shampoo into his hand. He managed to spread it over his head before Nine slung the soapy cloth over his shoulder and took up part washing and part massaging his scalp.
“Oh, I know that,” Nine replied just loudly enough to be heard over the running water. “But you’re much easier to talk to when you’re calm.”
Gavin turned around sharply, almost getting a soapy android finger in his eye as he did so. “Saying shit like that isn’t exactly helping!”
“Is trying to make you feel better about yourself really that much of a crime?”
Nine reached past Gavin to grab the showerhead and started rinsing the bubbles off him from head to foot. Gavin turned back around and quickly swiped the flannel over himself a few more times.
Once the stream of water had passed over his head and there was no danger of water entering his mouth Gavin muttered, “Yeah, well, you aren’t doing a very good job.”
When all the bubbles were gone, Nine put the showerhead back and turned the water off. Instead of withdrawing his hands so Gavin could get out of the shower, he pressed them against the wall and his torso into Gavin’s back.
“Is that so? Well then, allow me to demonstrate how little of a shit I could give about their opinion of you.” Once he’d finished speaking, Nine withdrew his hand that was closest to the door so Gavin could move.
Gavin stepped out only to find another of Nine’s bodies had entered the bathroom while they’d been talking. He’d put down a bath mat and was holding a towel, so Gavin approached him in order to prevent dripping everywhere. He took the towel offered and tossed it over his head so he could start drying his hair.
Between his two bodies, Nine shepherded him over to stand in front of the sink and mirror fully. Once he was done with his hair, he let the towel drop to rest around his neck and shoulders and started on his arms. If he had have been looking in the mirror, he would’ve seen Nine reach for the ends of the towel that still rested on the front of his body.
As it was, Gavin got a surprise when towel-covered hands ran over his chest and nipples. The still clothed body standing next to him pressed closer and took hold of his jaw. He gently lifted Gavin’s face as he looked at them in the mirror. Gavin couldn’t help but look too, in an attempt to make eye contact.
“I’m sorry that their words have hurt you. But if they don’t see what I see, then that’s fine with me,” he murmured as he pressed gentle kisses to Gavin’s exposed neck. “It’s not going to change the way I feel about you.”
The rough texture of the towel brushed gently over his nipples again and he shivered. Nine’s towel covered hands ended up on his back and they slowly slid downward, picking up water as they went. Nine stepped back a little and bent over so he could follow his hands with a trail of kisses that went from the base of his neck all the way down his spine.
Gavin had nowhere to look now but into his own flushed face. He looked ridiculous, and yet he couldn’t stop staring.
Gavin could feel himself holding his breath as Nine’s hands ran over his behind, then circled around to run over his hip bones as well. He was so focused on where Nine’s mouth was headed that he didn’t even notice more of his bodies had entered the bathroom until he saw them reflected in the mirror.
Two of them knelt down in front of him while another came to stand on his other side. Gavin had more hands than he could properly keep track of on his thighs and torso. He started when he felt one of the bodies on the floor lift his leg, but let himself relax when it just ended up slung over Nine’s shoulder. The position was awkward, but he trusted Nine wouldn’t let him fall over. The mirror was just long enough for him to now be able to see the flushed head of his own cock.
The body that had raised his leg turned his head to kiss along Gavin’s thigh, then continued surging forward so he could brush his lips and tongue against Gavin’s balls. He closed his eyes and clenched his toes against the bath mat as his dick twitched.
Gavin’s eyes flew open again when he felt the other kneeling body’s mouth and hand on his cock. At the same time, the body still kneeling behind him had parted his ass cheeks and started running his tongue over his entrance and along his taint. Obviously Nine had brought lube in along with one of his other bodies and had put some in his mouth while he’d been distracted.
The only leg still supporting any of his own weight had grown shaky. Gavin raised his arms and held onto the bodies that were standing either side of him as they adjusted their position and hold so he could comfortably rest the remainder of his weight on them. He saw himself in the mirror, bare and open and flushed, and Gavin’s hips developed a will of their own and pushed forward.
Nine’s bodies that were kneeling in front of him rearranged themselves. Gavin whined when the mouth left his cock, and he glanced down to make sure everything was still all right. Nine looked up and met his eyes, clearly still the one in control.
In control of making him feel and react in this way.
Gavin wanted to say something, but could only let out another whimper as he watched precome leak from the tip of his dick. Nine looked further down and seemed to consider it for a moment before slipping it back into his mouth. At the same time, his tongue pressed inside him, slicked up by lube and whatever made up his spit.
Gavin flushed and wondered whether Nine was going to have any mercy on him. At this rate he wouldn’t be able to stop himself from…
Gavin felt a hand on his chin again and his face was turned gently yet inexorably toward the body standing to his right. Nine’s mouth pressed to his gently, the texture of the tongue delving into his mouth and only providing more stimulation.
Nine pulled back slightly to give him a chance to breathe, and Gavin stared into his eyes, noting the yellow pulse of his LED. “I-I’m gonna…”
“No need to hold back on my account,” Nine replied softly.
And so, Gavin didn’t.
When the world seemed to have righted itself again, Gavin blinked his eyes open. Nine was still holding him with multiple bodies, though they were all standing around him now.
“When you’ve composed yourself, we can move this to the bedroom. I’m sure I can entertain you until the end of your refractory period.”
Gavin flushed as the implication made his thoughts run away from him. He didn’t know what he’d done to deserve someone or something like Nine walking into his life, but he didn’t know what he’d do without him now.
Gavin took hold of his hand and nodded. “I’m sure you will.”
I do still intend to add art to this at some point, but I’ve got some tough things going on in my personal life and don’t think I’ll get around to doing anything else for this fic for a long while. But I’ll probably still be posting sporadic updates to other stuff I’ve already started. I can’t not write anymore.
I want to thank everyone who joined me for all or part of the journey that was writing this fic. It was a lot of fun and I’m glad so many people have enjoyed it. Working on it and getting so much lovely feedback really helped keep me going through a tough year.
I do have vague plans for a sequel kicking around, but we shall have to see what happens a bit later on in the year...