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finding Sanctum.

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He doesn't know where he's going-only that he runs at least two red lights and almost crashes head-on with an empty taxi before he finally slows below sixty.

It feels like his heart is about to thrum out of his chest, it makes his ribs hurt with how fast it beats. As he drives past the city square, mind too buzzed with adrenaline to think of an idea of where to go, he passes a gathering of squad cars, a crowd of people, the atmosphere thick with tension. Officers hold them back-he thinks he can glimpse Anderson's silver hair and Xavier's straight-backed form as he passes, car slowed and head down.

"There were two bombings tonight, one at the square and one at New Jericho." The radio supplies, once the lights from the police cars is out of sight. "Around an hour ago, an android, of model of GS200 walked to the new unveiling of the memorial statue dedicated to Carl Manfred in the city square. The android was carrying a bomb, though separate from their person or attached to their body is yet unknown. Similarly, at around the same time, an android of currently unidentified model walked into New Jericho with a bomb on their person, and heavily injured multiple onlookers and damaged the building infrastructure. Markus Manfred, leader of the Android Revolution, is yet unreachable for comment..."

Gavin couldn't listen anymore, not with his frayed state of mind. He pulls over on an abandoned street and practically falls out of the car, sucking in fresh air and trying to calm his heartbeat to something normal, trying to focus on the dead grass crinkling beneath his palms.

"While not yet to be confirmed to be related, witnesses from both events have stated that the bombers were behaving erratically," The station announcer's voice still floated over to where he kneeled, head leaning against the cool metal of his car door. "Both had failed to exhibit outward emotion and seemed to be prone to slight phases in motor function, with disjointed movement. Only at the time of the explosion, did either finally emote in some recognizable manner."

His heaving breath is choked off as Gavin leans forward, and empties his stomach on the ground.

"Current casualty count is-" The radio is drowned by the roaring in his ears, but he drags himself over and slaps a hand over the dashboard anyways, switching the channel to some old country station full of twangy banjo and loud singing.

At least this explained why no one else was at the precinct. He wipes his mouth on the back of his hand, settling into his seat. He leaves the car door open, letting a cool breeze ease the stale air inside.

But now what?

He weighs his options. Option one, he returns to the precinct, where he was already warned of danger by a (probably possessed) Connor. Ideally, it would keep him from getting into deeper shit-what guilty person would stick around? But then again, if whatever was on that laptop was the same thing that was puppeting Connor around...

Gavin didn't want to find out what else that thing could do. It'd go past losing his job, at this point.

Option two: Go home? But that was dangerous as well. More reason to see him as some kind of android murderer, even if his great hideout was just a shitty apartment complex. He'd be able to see Ruthie and Bee, at least, but he also didn't want to get arrested in front of them. It'd set a bad example, especially in front of Bee, who was in his rebellious stage.

Option three? Go to the coordinates now on his phone? Probably??

Gavin had no idea how'd that turn out. A trap, most likely, and he had no weapons or anything. But it was the only thing he had to go off of.

He mulls it over, then realizes something has changed. There was no more guitar plucking coming from his speakers.

"Breaking news," Came the anchor, voice pitching in and out slightly. Gavin smacks the dashboard, and the interference stops. "Another two bombings have just occurred, at Alder Towers and Hatborough Complexes, building AL1." Gavin felt his blood run cold. "Both apartment buildings had android bombers, and both occured around the same time. No reported civilian casualty or injury, as the explosion at Hatborough was contained to one apartment and the bomber at Alder was successfully apprehended by off-duty Officer Chen, who was on an errand for a friend at the time."

Gavin holds his breath, sudden fear paralyzing him-

"She has sustained minor injuries, and has denied comment." The voice continues, and the weight of relief sags his shoulders. "Whether these are related to earlier bombings is yet unknown."

A sigh escapes him with a shudder, as he slumps over the wheel, clicking off the radio as he goes. Oh, thank fuck. He didn't think he was going to be able to handle the death of another friend and come out of it completely sane.

Okay. So Option two was out.

If these reports were anything to go by, it also meant that he was being targeted. It could be written off as coincidence that two android-heavy locations were bombed by two androids, at the same time. It was harder to deny the connection that there were more bombings, at Faraday's apartment and (again, thank fuck for Tina Chen) there was supposed to be one at his.

Whatever was behind this didn't give a shit who or what it was destroying. Which meant he was left with option three, the least appealing and yet potentially least fatal choice of all.

The message he got from Connor's number earlier had, thankfully, not yet eaten itself into nothingness. He learned his lesson, though, and pulls out the pen and, with some searching, the paper crane, now thoroughly crumpled. He scribbles down the coordinates on the right wing, and tucks it safely into his pocket.

He pulls open the map on his phone and taps in the numbers, watching it load in, slowly. For a moment, he thinks he should call Eli, or something. Ask for help, or warn him about whatever malicious cyber-ghost-poltergeist was trying to get him, and didn't care about who it got in the process.

Then again, he thinks back-to the memory-altering laptop, the disappearing text messages, the double-voiced Connor-and decides that the less he used his phone, the better. Elijah was smart, he could probably figure out what was going on based on the news reports, if he paid any attention to them at all.

The address finally loads, and directions lead to some fuck-all location in god knows where, by the river's edge. For a moment he wonders if he should give up entirely.

Then his phone screen flashes once, twice, and triggers the green "Go" button without his touch. "Perform a U-turn." Says the automated woman's voice, calm and unperturbed.

Apparently, it seems that there was never really a choice in the first place.

: :

He can't even get there by road, as it turns out. The directions stop just as he comes to a gated dirt driveway, his light illuminating a few meters ahead onto a dark path surrounded by twisted trees.

Clearly, the epitome of "evil". He wishes he'd grabbed his gun.

He digs around in his car for a moment and comes up with a small matchbox, and a switchblade, old and half-eaten with rust, in his glove-box. It doesn't flick open anymore, but a little bit of elbow grease gets it open, and the blade is still sharp. It's better then nothing, he decides, and holds it open in his right hand.

His phone gets utilized as a flashlight, for whatever little battery it's got left. Now he knows he's damning himself-there will be no more opportunity to call back, no more opportunity to turn back either, what with being lost in literal off-the-map nowhere. Walking into the lion's pit alone.

If he were some grizzled old movie star, he'd think something like Good thing I like cats, or whatever. But he doesn't feel remotely like a hero. He's armed with a shitty knife and a crumpled bird and his heart feels like it's about to collapse from the constant adrenaline. Things were moving too fast. There was nothing he wanted more than for a brief pause, just a momentary respite, from it all.

But what can he really do? Gavin takes a deep breath and moves forward.

: :

There are a lot of things Gavin was expecting. An abandoned warehouse holding a crime syndicate. A group of druggies clustered around a trash fire. Hell, he had a decently open mind, and he was geared for anything.

Just not a Gothic, Victorian-era mansion, crawling with ivy and with the uncut lawn littered with trash and dilapidated cars and android parts.

Whoever this was, was really leaning way too into the "creepy bad guy villain" aesthetic too much for amusement.

The heavy wooden door creaks open before he can even set foot on the stairs. Inside, looks just as discomforting as the outside. No electric lights, just a lot of candles and a few stuffed animals sitting around to set it off. Fantastic.

Definitely doesn't want to make Gavin shudder out of his own skin.

As expected, the door closes behind him with a resounding slam. He spins around, knife brandished and pointing towards-

At first, he's not even sure what he's looking at. An android, sure, but...horribly damaged. A large chunk of plastic covering is lost in a triangle, spanning from sternum to to navel to right hip. One eye is completely black and leaking some tar-like substance. Thirium leaks in a steady trickle from the left arm, which splits at the elbow, because the casing is removed and another android arm is fused to it there, fingers spasming. Almost all the skin is disabled, only leaving a few odd patches on the neck and torso.

It's...he can't find a word for it, bur wrong works best. As unnatural as it can be, happening to an android. Gavin had nothing left in his stomach, but that didn't stop him from wanting to vomit again.

"What the fuuuuck," He mumbles quietly, stepping backwards with his knife brandished. The android takes a step after him, one clear eye focused on his. The free hand extends, reaching for him-

"Gaah-viiin?" A broken wheeze escapes the android's mouth, crackled and awakening the memory of the laptop recording. "Reeeed?"

"Ho-lee fuuck," He steps backwards again, and the android stumbles after him, shambling steps following his. "What...what the fuck are you?"

"Gah-vin," The android says again, now with more conviction. "Ga-vihn Reeed."

Without indication, without warning-the mutilated android in front of him lunges, altered hand stretched towards his neck. He staggers backwards, trying to dodge-but he's too late, he feels something sharp pierce his neck-a needle-

"Oh, fuck off!" He cries, kicking it backwards and falling on his ass. He takes the needle and pulls it from his skin, throwing it aside, but it's already too late. Already, he can feel his eyes starting to droop, his legs going weak.

"You...fuckin' android..." He slurs, as the room and lights begin to swim around him, a multi-colored blur...

: :

Gavin Reed does not dream.

If he does, he doesn't remember. He can remember the aftermaths, mostly the screams that followed hyper-realistic, 4k HD nightmares, which shook him awake at night and resulted in scoldings from the other household members.

(It'll get better when your older, others told him once. A lie, clearly, because there were nights where Gavin still gasped awake with cold sweat on his brow, Ruthie whimpering and tucking her head beneath his arm and Bee sitting on his legs, yellow eyes glowing at him.)

Now, though, he swims in a dream-barely lucid, barely tangible-but as nerve-wracking as the worst of his nightmares.

 

Drowning-in a stormy ocean, the water black and mirrored-he flounders, dragged under-it's bitter and chemical on his tongue and burns at his eyes, turning vibrant blue on his lips-

Up again, up, he's pulled up by the neck and heaves for air that is bitter and cold and stale. A pair of hands hold his under the shoulders-he twists, sees Connor and Xavier, eyes black and limbs twisted and misshapen and put together clumsily, as if by some child-

He screams, chokes on the thirium in his mouth, but his voice isn't his-he can only hear Faraday, begging for Gavin to leave him alone, and he screams more, louder and louder-

Trying to fill the void with Faraday's voice, burning his throat raw with the effort-

: :

"Detective."

"..."

"Detective?"

Go away, he wants to say. He's so tired.

"Detective Reed!"

Does he know that voice? It sounds vaguely familiar. Like something heard once in a dream.

"Wake up, Detective. You're in danger."

Go away, He tries to say again, but all that really comes out is "Hmmnghrh", as he groans and tries to stretch-

Only to find that he can't. He blinks, twists a little bit-but he's stuck. Kneeling on the hard ground, hands cuffed behind him around a wooden beam. The only light comes from a few thin shafts that slant through a slotted wooden door.

He half wishes there wasn't any light at all, though. Dimly illuminated, he can make a few bodies-androids, with limbs missing and reattached in grotesque manners, scattered around him. The most prominent one is the one that sits directly in front of him, some generic model slumped over forward, missing both legs up to the knees and its right arm. It's in slightly better shape then all the rest, and Gavin can still see the little circular light on its temple, lit up red.

"Ah, you're awake. That's good." Gavin jerks in his cuffs as the android in front of him shuffles, lifts a head up to meet him. Its skin is completely deactivated, leaving nothing but white and lines of blue. A large piece of its chassis is missing, exposing pulsing blue and chrome components, throbbing freakishly before Gavin's eyes. The cranium is caved in, revealing loose tubing and wires. He can see its regulator, scuffed and dented around the circular edge, as if it had been forcefully removed and stuffed in, again and again.

"I...Shit. Where am I? What the fuck is going on?!" Gavin hisses. It smells awful, an acrid chemical smell mixed with mildew and dust. It brings back the sensation of drowning, again, and he bites his tongue hard not to gag. "Who the fuck-"

"Detective Reed, please. Be calm, and be quiet. The others do not like noise." The android in front of him says-no, warns-trying to be soothing...well, as soothing as one can be, in this shithole. Its voice is...familiar. Chillingly so.

"...Do I...know you?" His mind is still vaguely fogged with what fear hadn't chased away yet, which was annoying to say the least. The two pieces were right in front of him, yet he failed to put them together.

The android smiles, weakly, and brings its left arm to its forehead in a tired attempt at a salute. "Fleming Levi, at your service."