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Ask Gavin what he thought his social circles would be like, ten years ago, and he's sure he wouldn't have listed off: two beat cops, his android partner, his pets, and the quiet mortuary forensics intern who worked downstairs.

But here he is, standing outside the green, paint-peeling apartment building of Hatborough Complexes, AL1, buzzing into 424's intercom with no response from its resident. Ringing the smooth-worn plastic button with one hand and texting the group chat with the other, telling Tina to let Fowler know of his whereabouts and trying to locate the middle-finger emoji with his left hand alone when she replies with an "eat ass do it urself".

After the second minute of continuous buzzing (he's sure the other residents must hate him by now), he gets the first hint of worry. That in itself was weird; Faraday Levi was usually so punctual and on time, so it was a sort of whiplash to learn that he wasn't there that day, an hour after his shift usually starts. Additionally, he always replied to texts or calls immediately-even emails rarely got by him-so the fact that he was emitting radio silence to any contact didn't really imply a good sign.

Especially weird, Gavin supposes, is why he volunteered to be the one checking on the intern in the first place. Faraday was a shy, albeit earnest kid, maybe around ten years his junior, and the intern spent his time in the mortuary and lab picking through autopsied corpses and sewing up grisly wounds. By all means, Gavin shouldn't have given him another look, and they should not have developed the pseudo-friendship that led to Faraday picking up lattes for Gavin during lunch breaks and Gavin checking up on Faraday for non-responses.

But at least he was a decent, logical kid, and would look the other way when Gavin took liberal glance-overs of autopsy reports that weren't linked to his cases (but usually ended up being). Given the fact that they both happened to keep odd hours at the precinct, that also usually meant they left together in the evenings, and Faraday apparently got anxious in awkward silences, so that's how Gavin learned about his older brother Fleming and pet tarantula Bryan on their long walks home.

Granted, Faraday was sometimes awkward and weird as hell, but also had some really good stories, so Gavin was more than happy to listen.

There's still no reply to his increasingly annoyed demands to unlock the door through the intercom, and Gavin feels the nauseous roots of anxiety inside him, twisting towards worst-case scenarios that he came to expect from working the field. Though Faraday had seemed a little...off, the night before, which could account for the kid just being sick or fevered or something, there's still the creeping starts of nervousness crawling up his back and inciting rapid-fire decision making, most of them poor.

He's debating how to kick down the door when an android-a YK500, just a kid- peeks out, damn near scaring the shit out of him. One of the little girl models, maybe meant to be between eight and ten years old, staring at him with big brown eyes that are a little too serious for Gavin's comfort. She's clutching a lunchbox patterned with fish and whales, he notes, and it rattles as he forces himself to calm down the heart-attack he nearly had. Just a kid.

"Hello? Can I help you?" She asks, and Gavin feels the hairs on his arms raise. Her voice sounded like an adult pretending to be a child-too serious and haunted and high pitched to be that of a legitimate child.

"What the fffu-uh...yeah. I'm a Detective with Detroit Police. I'm supposed to check on a resident here." He fumbles for his badge, and she looks at it blankly as he flashes it. "Does a, uh. Faraday live here?"

"Faraday Levi? Yes, he's on the top floor." She steps back and lets him in. "The elevator is broken. It's best to take the stairs. And be quiet, the other residents don't care for noise."

The warning sounds uncomfortably like a threat. Gavin decides to acknowledge it like one. "Thanks. Have a nice day...bye."

"Goodbye, Detective Reed." She says, vacantly, and steps outside. He stares for a moment as the door closes behind her with a soft click, fighting an unwarranted shudder, then turns to start on the stairs.

Seven, mildly exhausting minutes later, he stands at the top floor, at the end of a long hallway. 424 is the first door on the right, and he can hear nothing through it.

He raps on the door. "Faraday? Hey, it's me, Gav."

No response. He knocks again, louder. "Hey. Detroit Police, Detective Gavin Reed. Open up."

Again, nothing but silence inside. Some other man next door cracks the door open to stare at him, before quietly retreating back when Gavin glares. But otherwise, there's no reaction.

Was every resident in this building just inherently creepy?

Unwarranted ideas of worst-case scenarios show up again, and Gavin stoops down the pick up the doormat, running his fingers on the rough underside until they catch on something smooth and flat, mentally patting himself on the back as he withdraws a key. Quickly, he slots it in, and draws his service gun as he flings the door open.

At first, he sees nothing. In contrast to the outside of the building, it's remarkably clean, and almost completely sparse. The white walls have no decorations, there's only the most basic furniture. Not even a TV. The only personal effect he can see is in the corner, a simple metal table with a glass terrarium on it, lit up by an LED lamp. A hairy black tarantula-it must be Bryan, as calm and unsettling as Faraday always described-sits inside it.

It's so strange that he doesn't immediately notice the body on the white carpet. Face down, right arm twisted awkwardly under it, left arm stretching out. An open laptop sitting just out of reach of outstretched fingers, the screen black and empty.

"Faraday?!" He shoves his gun away and rushes over. There's no one else it can be, he recognizes the messy black hair and the now-twisted, cracked spectacles a few feet away all too well, but he's afraid to look and judge too quickly. He places a hand on the body's shoulder, flips it around-

Blue. There's a dark, rich blue, congealing and sticky on the carpet, splotched down the entire front of Faraday's white button-down, glistening on the tips of Gavin's fingers. A cloying, chemical smell reaches his nostrils, and he gags, falling backwards with nausea rising in his throat.

Faraday (is it still Faraday?) flops to the ground, eyes glassy and dead. Gavin's breathing shorts out, coming quick and rapid, and he feels the onset of panic setting in as desperate, speeding thoughts of denial run through his head, in time to his heartbeat.

It's bad enough that he came here and found a dead body, looking like that of a friend. It's worse that the body is that of an android.

Chapter Text

The thirium on Gavin's fingertips dries stickily, leaving behind an invisible residue that he can't seem to scrub off for the life of him, trying to rub it off against the floor. He can feel it burning against his skin as he scrubs his hand against the carpet, trying to dissipate the sensation.

He swallows thickly, fighting back the hot, sour ill that rises to his throat as he stares at Faraday's face, frozen in one of abject terror. To his credit, at least he doesn't scream-but screaming was for horror movies and dramas. This was a silent, horrible, awful realization in an empty apartment, and he felt choked as his breath speeds up and he presses his clean hand to his chest, feeling his heart hammer against his ribs. Forcing himself to calm down as he taps out a slow, shaky rhythm against his sternum.

He was a machine, Gavin thinks, and the very idea makes him want to throw up. He had made decent peace with androids; had no choice but, when he got an RK900 as his partner. But to learn someone who he considered more then just a simple acquaintance, had been a machine the entire time...

Androids were fake, He remembered griping, long before the Revolution, before Connor, before CyberLife had even reached its fast peak. All fake, made to fake emotion and feeling and sympathy, with fake looks and fake personalities-perpetual walking, talking, plastic lies-

The urge to throw up is greater now, a thick lump in his throat, and no, no, no, he can't vomit here. It's a crime scene, and he's already contaminated it enough. He forces away the sensation and the thoughts and pushes himself to his feet, only a little unsteady as he steps backwards to survey the scene.

Standing up, mentally displacing himself from the situation, makes it feel like any other crime scene, with any other unfortunate victim, and that helps. There's no footprints in the carpet aside from Gavin's own, and the thirium was still visible, so that must mean that this (death? Did androids consider this death if they could come back? Connor always did) shutdown happened only a short while ago.

Was it a suicide? But Gavin couldn't think of any reason for it to be, but then again what did he really know about Faraday? There was no sign of entry from anyone else, forced or otherwise, and its Faraday's fingers that are clutched tightly around the little cylindrical component.

He sighs, feeling a little defeated. This wasn't one he was going to be able to solve on his own, so he pulls out his phone and dials 911, feeling a bitter sort of irony as he explains the situation to the handler.

"Yes, Detective. We'll send assistance within five to ten minutes. Thank you." The voice at the other end says smoothly. Marcy, who'd been working there for a few months. Was she an android as well?

He shakes his head; he must be losing his goddamn mind.

A quick walk through the apartment reveals nothing. The kitchen is empty of anything resembling food or cutlery, with only a few bottles of thirium in a cupboard. The bathroom is in a similar state, with some kind of android-specific kit behind the cracked mirror that he can't really identify. There's not even a bed in the bedroom, only the evidence of a constellation of pinholes in the drywall, implying something had been tacked there before and then quickly stowed away. For the life of him, he cannot find whatever it was.

The only sign of normalcy is the closet, which has a few articles of clothing, but only that. Mostly just a few copies of what Faraday was currently wearing and wore every day, black chinos and a white shirt. A dark coat that he always wore in the commute to the department. A black hoodie Gavin had never seen before, clean but torn and frayed in a few locations. Boots, scuffed and in similar condition.

But otherwise, nothing.

(He must have been lonely as hell, Gavin thinks, unwarranted, before shaking his head. Again, what did he know about how Faraday must have felt?)

He returns back to the living room, looks over at Faraday with a new sort of sadness. In a way, Faraday never lied to him, not in a way that could be called intentional, but despite that he felt...betrayed? Angry, certainly.

He can hear the distant wails of the police cars, but they still sound a bit away. Especially now, as the morning clog of Detroit commuters reached its peak, so Gavin sits down next to Faraday and waits, staring down at that familiar, horrified face.

"Why didn't you tell me?" He asks aloud. His voice is swallowed up by the empty walls. The tarantula taps in its cage. "I guess...Fuck, I mean. I understand I haven't been the most...pro-android? But-" He coughs, glances down at the regulator clutched tightly in that hand-it's still leaking thirium in thin, slow drops that collect in the pool on the carpet. "I don't know. I thought...well, I hope this wasn't the way you planned to break this to me. If you ever planned to."

"Then again, I don't think getting killed is the best way to admit something, anyways." He adds on, and feels a bitter little smile tug at the corner of his mouth.

There's no reply, of course. Gavin feels a little stupid talking into an empty room, waiting for the other officers to arrive.

"G-gK-ah-viiiih-N-?!"

A voice, split by static, pierces the silence. He yelps and jumps up with his hand on his gun, looking around wildly. The laptop screen has flared to life, a burst of white and rainbow pixels, scattered around the dead blackness to make something that looks vaguely...like...a face?

"Faraday?!" Gavin gasps, dropping down to a knee to get a closer look. The face on the screen gets clearer, and he can make out similar features to that of the android besides him. The rounded cheekbones, the eyes that always had a slight slant. A stray blemish Gavin had never really paid attention to before, but now realized appeared the right of Faraday's mouth, in the form of dead space.

"Ga-ah-vinn Ree-d," Now there can be now doubt, that was Faraday's voice, albeit mangled and distorted. "You-y-ou-ArR-!"

"What is it?? Shit, Faraday, what's going on??"

Eyes made of pixels seem to focus on him, clearly, for just a moment. "D-angh-ger-!"

His phone chimes in his pocket, jolting him. On the screen is a message, from AC700#215-855-054-96: 42°20'34.0"N 83°00'14.5"W

Y0U AR4E 1N dAn639R!!1

R7u#N/!

The door behind him bursts open.

"Detroit Police! Hands up!"

Gavin jumps, glances behind his shoulder-it's some beat he never met, and Connor, both pointing guns, though Connor is already in the process of lowering his. The laptop in front of him is dead again, no sign of having ever turned on at all besides the thin trail of smoke drifting from some port.

He rises slowly, hands raised before he turns to face them fully. "Detective Gavin Reed, Detroit Police. I'm the one who placed the call."

The beat cop lowers his gun, albeit hesitantly. Connor walks to stand next to Gavin, looking at Faraday's body with a guarded expression. "Detective...what happened?"

"No clue. Found the place like this." Gavin sighed. "I came over to check on him when I found out he hadn't shown up. He was lying face-down initially, in front of the laptop."

"There were no signs of a struggle?"

"You can check for yourself, but I didn't see any. The place is empty, too, except Bryan over there." He nods at the tarantula, now crouched beneath a piece of wood. "The laptop came on for a moment before you guys dropped in, with Faraday's face on it."

"It did?"

"Yeah, I thought it was weird too. It was all pixels n' shit, and it talked really messily too. All fucked up. Said my name, and something, something...danger? I think?"

"I've never heard of such things happening. Was it a recording?"

"I have no goddamn clue. It felt like it was talking to me, and then blanked out right as you guys crashed in." Gavin shrugs. Connor withdraws the skin from his hand, revealing white, and touches it to the laptop for a moment before shaking his head.

"I can't get a read on it. It must be entirely shorted out."

"Shit."

"My thoughts exactly."

Gavin rubs his shoulders, feeling a chill through his jacket. "Now what? Do you think you'll be able to...I mean, will Faraday be able to, uh...get better? Fixed?"

"I don't know. He's of an older model, an AC700. Moreover, his model design...they're not supposed to manage long-term data storage. I don't know if his CPU will even retain anything after being deprived of power for so long. And as it is," Connor grimaces. "Just putting his regulator back in won't cut it-he'll have memories, but he won't really be there." Gavin remembers the last time Hank talked about how Connor had managed a dead deviant crime scene. Temporarily fixing a broken Traci model before watching it die again.

He shakes off the idea of what that'd look like; he's already too unsettled. "Would it be worth a shot? I mean..I don't know what the android laws are, vis-a-vis post-mortem mind reading..."

"I think I'll be able to obtain a warrant to do so. Did Faraday ever mention having a family member? I see no records of it in my preliminary scan."

Gavin blinks, surprised. Didn't Connor's magic eyes show off everything? "He did mention having a big brother. Uh, Fleming, I think. But based on his stories..." Gavin racks his brain, trying to remember. "I think Fleming's a human, just based on the timeline he gave me. Either that, or Fleming was a deviant who was too good at it."

"That may be likely." Connor sighs, runs a hand through his hair. He's amazingly human-looking at this point, having ditched his CyberLife suit jacket for one of Hank's old leather ones, dark and well-worn. He'd even popped his LED out, and if Gavin didn't know better, he would've believed him to be entirely human.

The thought brings his attention back to the dead android at his feet, and he looks away, fighting the sick feeling that keeps at the edge.

"There's also the chance that Fleming doesn't exist on public record," Connor continues. "Some deviants that don't get reported don't end up on file, and after the Revolution, organizing a couple thousand new citizenships and identities isn't exactly a simple thing." He shakes his head with a grimace. "I'll have to confer with Markus about this, but it'll likely be painstaking."

"Yeah, I'll bet." He feels claustrophobic; the sudden presence of two more people in the tiny apartment, in combination with the source of his new emotional trauma, makes him itch. "Alright, well. I'll leave you to it. I'm gonna go back to the precinct and file a report on this. CC a copy to you, or whatever."

He makes his way to the door, but he's stopped halfway by a hand that lands on his shoulder.

"I apologize, Detective. Since you were the only person around, and a witness to a key event in this crime, I'm afraid you cannot act on your Detective privileges." Connor says, and he seems genuinely apologetic. Gavin's half-ready to forgive him before the meaning of the words hit with full force.

"Wait, the fuck do you mean?" He says, slowly.

"You are to be treated as a witness for this investigation, and your previous workload is to be reassigned, or at least minimized to the most basic level." Connor waves a hand to the other cop, who takes Gavin by the elbow to lead him away. Gavin shrugs him off. "In the meantime, please cooperate. I'm sure this position is temporary, and we will have an answer soon."

Gavin sure fucking hoped so.

Some part of him wants to fight and cuss and struggle as he's led to a police cruiser, but he doesn't. He does seat himself in shotgun, though; witness or not, detective status or not, he didn't intend to sit in the back like some common criminal. He watches as other cops, some androids, some forensics scientists, wander in and out of the now-roped off building.

He pulls his phone from his pocket, and scrolls through his texts. The glitched messages had been a set of coordinates, and a warning-that'd be good witness evidence, right? The sooner as he tossed whatever he knew at Connor, the better, and he scrolled through his recents, expecting to catch a glimpse of an unfamiliar string of numbers and distorted text.

But there's nothing at all.

Chapter Text

Half an hour later, Connor emerges, the laptop sitting in a plastic bag in his arms and grim worry on his face. Behind him follows a pair of forensic specialists, a stretched held aloft between them, covered in a sheet. Gavin can see a pale hand, stained with blue, peaking out from beneath it.

He inspects the license plate of the car parked in front of him as Connor joins him, settling behind the wheel.

For a moment, they're quiet. Connor reaches by him to put the laptop in the glovebox. The other squadron cars are departing, leading the way to the precinct. Gavin taps along absentmindedly on his phone, still going back to his messages intermittently to see if he had missed seeing them the last time he checked.

Finally, Connor talks first. "Gavin...what happened in there?"

Gavin just shrugs. His head buzzes with nothing-he thinks he should be a lot sadder than he currently is. "No clue."

"Gavin, please."

"There's not much to tell. I went in, saw the body, called you guys." He shakes his head. "Wish I'd known it was going to land me on desk duty for a while."

Connor frowns. "What would you have done if you'd known?"

Gavin hesitates; he didn't really know. He didn't regret reporting the incident, he just wished it didn't have the negative outcome of having to deal with...pseudo-probation? Temporary demotion? "No fucking clue, Connor. Just drive."

The engine purrs to life quietly, and Gavin looks over with longing at his own car, a dark gray Camaro still parked by the side of the road. He'd have to go back and get it, after giving his testimony. The keys sit heavy in his pocket, jabbing against his thigh.

He leans over and flicks on the radio, turning it to some age-old pop station, for sake of avoiding the awkward small talk. The first song is Mr.Brightside, and Connor's fingers tap along to the beat.

But of course, the insufferable detective of an android doesn't seem to just want to shut up, because after a few verses: "Gavin, can you give me a summary of what happened?"

He runs through the events in his head, and comes to a conclusion that he doesn't want to. Fuck Connor. "You're gonna hear it anyways when we get there, tin-can."

"Giving a summary before hand can help emphasize key details that might otherwise be lost to memory, and..." Connor seems to hesitate, as they pull to a stop at a red light. As much as Gavin liked The Killers, now the upbeat, rock'n'roll tune seemed too out of place in the somber situation. "And, it may help you come to peace with what has happened. I understand that you knew Faraday well, perhaps better than most, and talking about it could assist in the grieving process-"

"Fucking hell, Connor, I'm over it, alright?" Gavin knows that's not true, but if he says it enough, it will be, eventually. "This isn't my first rodeo with shit like this, I'm fine."

"Your heartbeat has elevated and you are glancing to the right. That implies that you are lying-"

"It's a coping mechanism, Connor. Leave my ass alone." Gavin snaps, then takes a deep, shuddering breath and runs a hand over his face. The car jerks him forward as the light turns green, and Connor pulls into a sharp right turn.

Gavin can't stand the pause, filled by I'm coming out of my cage and I've been doing just fine, and horribly clashing with his mood. "Fine. You want a summary? I'll give you a fuckin' summary."

"Please, do not push yourself too much if it brings up anything triggering or-"

"I'm not a trauma victim, okay?! I'm fine, just-" He forces himself to take a deep breath again, to calm down. "Just-shut up and let me talk about it, okay?"

Connor falls quiet and nods, an indication to go on.

"I went to check on Faraday because he was late. I already checked in. It took me half an hour to drive out to his place from the precinct. I figured that at worst, he was sick or something.

"I get there, and I buzz him on the intercom. He had mentioned where he lived to me before, but he's not replying. I end up having to get let in by one of the residents, I think. A child model of android. Anyways, she lets me in, and I get to Faraday's door, but it's locked and he doesn't reply when I knock.

"Then-" He hesitates for a moment. Could he get punishment for breaking and entering? No, he was acting on concern. "I find the spare key under the doormat and open it, and then I find...yeah."

He swallows thickly. Connor's hand reaches over and finds his shoulder, patting it a little awkwardly. "Don't touch me, robo-cop. I thought you were supposed to be good at human socialization?"

"I am trying my best, Gavin. You are not an easy person to approach."

"Yeah, no fucking shit." He snorts, turning away to stare out the window. A few buildings pass by, he sees a little kid point excitedly to the cop car and wave, tugging at his father's sleeve, before they turn a corner. "I freak out, naturally, so I walk around the house to calm down. There's nothing else in the place but the tarantula and the weird pinholes in the bedroom wall. And the laptop.

"The laptop doesn't do anything until I go sit next to Faraday to wait for you guys. I-" Does he want to admit to talking to himself? No, Connor doesn't need to know that. "I don't know, I'm just thinking about what the hell just happened when the laptop lights up. Faraday's face in on the screen, but it's super glitchy and fucked up, yakkno?"

Connor probably doesn't know, he had said earlier that he'd never heard of any such things happening. Gavin moves on, talks over Connor's smartass remark to the rhetoric question. "The face was talking to me, too. Says my name, in a really fucked up way, and then something about 'danger'. Then you guys came in."

They pull a left, he can see the Department building coming up on his right. "Is that all that happened?" Connor asks.

No. Gavin wants to say. The messages on his phone, the coordinates and the glitched warnings.

"Nothing else happened that I can really show you." He says instead. It's not a lie, not really. But he doesn't want to talk about the phone thing, not when even he was sure if it had happened.

"...Alright. I'll alert someone to record your testimony with you." Connor sighs, pulling into the parking lot. They had arrived just after the other officers and the mortuary ambulance, and watched as Faraday's body was wheeled inside on a gurney.

Gavin wants to make a joke at that-Faraday, the mortician, returning to his place of work again-but he doubts it would land well, with both Connor and himself.

Someone holds the door open, and Gavin follows the body inside.

Chapter Text

He's given a sort of "grace period", or something, before he has to go get questioned. Gets to go to his desk to sort out whatever work he's still got among the other officers. The lion's share goes to Nines, who he knows will be able to manage it just fine. Others get sent to Tina or Chris, or Detective Collins. He half debates sending one to Hank, but he already had his hands full with android-related cases; post-revolution, and human bitterness resulted in more reports of missing androids then ever before.

At the end of it all, he's left with a few case reports that he had never got around to finishing, left in his to-do pile. All boring, dull, and things he put off for a reason.

He glares at them, sitting on his screen like some kind of cruel mockery, compared to the other cases that had previously taken their spot. His partner, Xavier, looks up from his own work from across from him.

"Detective, are you alright? You are unhappy." He says, in his matter-of-fact way, and Gavin sighs.

"Yeah. It's fine." He mumbles, putting his head down on his desk. "Don't worry about it, Xav."

"Hm." A pause, and then: "I'm truly sorry about Faraday. I heard the news from Connor."

Gavin bites down on his tongue to keep back a stream of curses. He really didn't want to think or talk about Faraday right now, not until he had to go record his testimony. The very idea of it made him exhausted.

"S'Fine. We weren't that great friends."

"Even so, I can imagine that it must be...stressful, learning the circumstances of his death and life in such a manner." Xavier says, slowly, picking out words in just the right way. Unlike Connor, he was much less skilled at socializing, and not just because he was younger. CyberLyfe just never found the reason to put good talking abilities in one of their intimidation androids, so deviant or not, Xavier was still distinctly unsure of his actions. He still had his little mood ring in his temple, though he'd long since ditched that blinding white jacket.

"Yeah, it was. Thanks or whatever, but it's fine. I'm over it." He grumbles, voice muffled into the surface of his desk. If one more thing pops up involving Faraday in the next minute, he was going to bash his head through his desk.

The monitor pings. He cracks open an eye to glance at it, and groans. It's an email alert, telling him to report to the interrogation room.

"Would you like a coffee?" Xavier asks.

"Fuck." Gavin says, meaning yes.


He passes by Tina as he walks in, leaning against the wall of the observation room, adjoining the sparse interrogation chamber. She nods seriously as he passes, offering a thumbs up.

He offers a sad grin in return and shrugs. It's really not that big of a deal, he thinks. Go in, infodump, get out and go do the more boring aspects of his job. As he settles into one of the metal chairs, Hank joins him, a file folder and tablet tucked under his elbow.

The man looks exhausted, and Gavin decides it was a good idea not to forward any of his cases to Hank.

"Awright, let's do this. You know the drill" He grunts, sitting across from Gavin and setting the file and tablet on the table between them. He reaches into his shirt pocket and pulls out a recorder, sets it down and clicks a button on it. "This is Lieutenant Hank Anderson, questioning Detective Gavin Reed for his witness statement, having been the sole witness of events relating to the death of Faraday Levi, a, uh," He shuffles some of the papers in the file. "An AC700 android model, model number #215-855-054-96." For whatever reason, Gavin feels a cold shudder through his spine, though there's no vent remotely near him."Found dead at his apartment of Hatborough, building AL1, room 424. At the corner of Fifth and Broad. Anyways-"

He pulls out an image and hands it to Gavin. It's Faraday's employee picture, dark eyes wide and serious as he gives a little shy smile for the camera. There's a glint reflected off his glasses.

"Do you know this person, Detective?"

"Yep. That's Faraday Levi." Gavin says. It's all a little pointless, but for the sake of court-and the court was a bitch sometimes-it was neccessary, so Gavin decided it best to just roll with it.

"Okay. So what is your relation to Faraday?" Hank asks, taking the picture away and replacing it in the folder.

They would want a whole story, Gavin knows, so he figures he'd give them one. "I met Faraday a little after he started interning here as a mortician. I was looking for an autopsy report and he helped me find it when the usual mortician wasn't around.

"After that, we just. Became friends, I guess. Nothing close, just work buddies; he walks to and from work, and depending on how late I work some shifts, I'd end up walking home too. Because of that, we ended up talking, because our places were in the same direction, and from there we got to know each other better." Gavin relays everything he knew about Faraday, including what he knew about Fleming and Bryan, for good measure. "Outside of that and work, I never reallly interacted with him."

"In all these times, did he give any implication that he was depressed, or potentially considering suicide?" Hank asks, and Gavin frowns. He knew the signs of suicide well enough, and hadn't seen them on Faraday at all...but then again, he was no expert.

"No. He didn't really talk about his own feelings that much, and I didn't either. He just seemed like a normal kid to me. Maybe a little quiet, but not...yeah."

"What happened earlier today, when you found his body?"

Gavin relayed everything he had told Connor, earlier, and then some. Mentioning how he'd talked to nothing in the apartment, and then gotten scared by the laptop turning on. All the way up to when he had received the texts, when he hesitates.

It's one thing not to talk about it to Connor, it's another thing not to talk about it on a witness statement.

Hank must have noticed his pause, because he goes: "Well? Then what?"

"It's-shit, Hank. It was so weird." He mutters, breaking formality for a moment. "Right before the laptop blanks out entirely, I get some texts from a number that matched Faraday's serial number, but I didn't realize it until later." Until much later, when Hank had read out the serial number and confirmed his suspicion about the messages. "But when I went back to check, they were gone, and I couldn't find them at all."

That gets Hank's attention, who up to then looked exhausted and nearly lethargic. He sits up a little straighter. "No sign of them at all?"

"None. I thought I maybe hallucinated them, in the heat of the moment, but I definitely saw something that couldn't have been influenced by anything else. It was a bunch of numbers, and I think some words, but the words were super messed up and glitched."

"Do you remember, exactly?"

"If I did, I'd tell you." Gavin says, a little annoyed now. "I barely saw it for a second before Connor showed up and distracted me. The gist was, I think, 'you're in danger'."

Immediately after he says that, Gavin feels some kind of regret. The other officers observing must be laughing their asses off, and it's clear Hank doesn't quite believe it either.

"Reed...I gotta say, I've heard some wack stuff before but...that's some ghost story you've got there."

"Anderson, I know, but like. I can't make this stuff up. I'm not sure if the stress or whatever's making me create fake memories, or however that works." Gavin groans, running a hand through his hair in frustration. "I don't understand either. But then Connor showed, told me I was off the case and on desk duty, and that was that."

The Lieutenant nods, rubbing his chin in thought. "I think we're done, then." He says, and leans over to click the recorder off. He gets up, but leaves the file and tablet behind.

That wasn't a good sign.

Gavin gets up as well, but Hank shakes his head. "No, you're not quite done. Stay right there."

An even worse sign.

"I gave my testimony, didn't I? Why do I have to stay here?" Gavin demanded, pushing away the anxiety that grew at the edge of his mind.

"Connor's going over the evidence they got from the scene, and he wants to talk to you about it." Hank just shrugs, stepping out of the room. "It's only a few minutes. Don't wait up."

"Fuckin' hell-Anderson!" He calls angrily at Hank's retreating back, but he's already gone.

He looks back to his reflection in the mirror, and glares at whoever sits on the other side.


 As Hank promises, it's only a few minutes. The door slides open and Connor joins him, looking uneasy.

He sits down across from Gavin and picks up Hank's discarded tablet, hand going white as he touches the surface. "Detective Gavin Reed," He says, voice tense. "Approximately at what time did you turn up at the scene?"

Gavin blinked, a little thrown off by the suddenness. "Uh, I think around 9:45 to 10:00-ish? I went after I found out he was an hour late."

"And what time did you call the police?"

"I'm not sure. Around 10:10 or something, I don't know."

From the file, another photo is pulled and quite literally slapped in front of him. It's Faraday, lying sideways, blue blood pooled around him. The edges of the puddle fades in a gradient into the carpet, a sign of its steady evaporation. "Is this roughly what you saw when you entered the apartment?"

"Yes. I mean, he was lying down initially before I flipped him over, but yeah." Unease made Gavin's shoulders prickle and itch, and he shifted in his chair. "Connor, what's going on-"

"Detective Reed, you claimed to have seen something on the computer before it burned itself out, correct?"

"Yeah, I-"

"This is also the first time you found Faraday to have been a deviant?"

"I-Yeah, because-"

"And you also claim to have found Faraday dead on the scene?"

The question carries an unseen weight that hits Gavin like a sucker punch. He looks at Connor again, and sees the man-android-looking more angry and nervous then Gavin had ever seen. "What are you trying to imply, Connor?" He hisses.

"I am asking a question, Detective, and I would like you to answer." Connor replies, voice unaffected by the state of his movement, minute little tics and fidgets that give away what his LED used to.

"I went in, and I saw a body, lying face down. I turned it over, and it turned out to be Faraday, holding his regulator thingie in his hand. Before then, I had neither seen or heard any movement in the room." Gavin snaps, coldly. His patience is worn thinner and thinner, and he wants out of this room that shrinks with each passing second. "So yes, he was likely dead before I found him. Now, what the hell is this all about?!"

Connor stands up suddenly, startling both of them. He looks at Gavin, then picks up the tablet. He sets it in front of Gavin; there's an audio recording on the screen, a few minutes long. The log states that it was taken at 9:32:43 AM. The recording is about four-and-a-third minutes long.

Connor hits play.

The first few seconds are dead silent. Then-a distant, staticky click, a crash of a door-and screaming.

"GAVIN!" Cries a voice, and Gavin realizes with a chill that it's Faraday, terrified and glitched. Just like it was in the distorted laptop.

At first, there's nothing but quiet, blitzed at the edges like through an old microphone. Then-

"You-Re an aNDrOID!?" Shrieks a different voice, horrible and wildly pitched, and Gavin recognizes it as his own. The room seems to get colder. "you- you-!"

"Gav-iihn, Gah-vin, please-" Sobs Faraday.

"YOu-Fuck-ih-NG-ANDROID" Roars Not-Gavin in that awful, computer-choked voice, all garbled and edged with electric sound. "I-KI L y-Ou! I'LL-K-ih-LL YOU! I'LL-KILL YOU!"

The awful mantra devolves rapidly inton an explosion of screeches, both artifical and real. In the background, something was sobbing, something backfired, a screech of twisting metal-and then crackling silence, for the rest of the audio.

Connor takes up the tablet and tosses it aside, movements jerky. "I found that video file on the repaired laptop. It was the only thing on there-everything else was either wiped out or never there." He says, voice somehow breathless. "And I don't understand, but-

"-it makes sense."

That shakes Gavin out of his stunned silence, a last life preserver in the overwhelming wave of what the fuck just happened. "What the fuck do you mean, it makes sense?!" He's on the edge of screaming, it takes all control not to burst into...something. A tantrum, a tirade, or a breakdown, they're all in the same vein somewhere.

"You have potential motive, certainly. Your anti-android sentiments and learning that someone, who you had previously thought to be human, was an android can clash. Take that in combination with your temper, and it's certainly not unlikely." Connor talks fast, hands gesturing. There's an excited, almost insane glint in his eye. "In the time between when the audio was recorded and when we arrived, the thirium levels had depleted an expected amount within that period. Additionally, you clearly knew where the spare key was, and there was no sign of entry from anyone else."

"That doesn't mean shit, Connor, and you know it." Gavin snarls, and he can feel eyes piercing him through the one-way mirror to his left. "Read me-you can tell I'm not lying. I have hated androids before, but I would never do such a thing. Especially not now, and not to someone I cared about."

"No one thinks they are capable of murder until the time it happens," Connor murmurs, and his eyes are wild. The whole of it-twitchy movements, too-loud talking-Connor seems...unhinged. "It is undoubtedly your voice in the laptop, and the given timeline is certainly plausible-and not completely out of the expected, for you to react in such a way in that situation-"

Something crashes, and Connor's rambling dies off. Gavin was standing, he wasn't even aware that he'd stood up, with his hands flat on the table and breathing hard. His chair had tipped over backwards, resulting in the crash.

He looks up at Connor and meets his eyes unblinkingly. "Look at me. I didn't do it." He says, chest heaving as he fights to keep from crying, yelling, whatever. "Connor-I didn't do it. The evidence is damning, but-believe me, please. I didn't do it."

The android across from him blinks, shakes his head-and they're both lost, in the shitstorm that had just happened.

Connor looks away first, turns to the mirror to run a hand through his hair and regain composure. "I will...I will reevaluate what I have found. But in the meantime, you are to be considered a suspect."

"Conn-"

"This is the better alternative to whatever else could happen, Gavin. Please, cooperate." Connor sighs, looking back at him with sad brown eyes. Sad, fake, brown eyes. "I will collaborate what I have found with the judgement of other detectives, and revisit the scene."

"And? In the meantime? What do I do?" Gavin demands. His blood boils, and he wants to fight his way out of this shitty little cell.

The android regards him one last time before leaving the room. "I don't know."

Chapter Text

In a weird sort of backhanded blessing, Gavin gets solitary confinement.

Partly because both holding cells were occupied, and partly because of Gavin's Detective status, even though most of his privileges were revoked. And, partly, because he asked for it. 

"Are you sure? We can move around the occupants of the holding cells," Tina says, worredly, as she led him. 

"It's fine. I'd rather not have to look at anyone, anyways." Gavin grumbles. Thankfully, he wasn't cuffed, but Tina did have a harsh grip on his elbow as she pulls him along. He'd dealt with loneliness before, and he'd much rather deal with it again to preserve his pride. 

The entrace to the chamber is a small, almost invisible door between the holding cells and the bathrooms. A single naked bulb flickers on as he enters, buzzing quietly. 

A small, six-by-five-by-eight box. A small toilet in the far corner. No room to lie down, hardly enough to sit. Home, for the next twenty-four hours. 

"I feel cozy already." He quips to Tina, and she smiles weakly back. She was just as shaken by Connor's accusation as he was, and trying desperately to save face while also preserving their relationship. 

"A few scented candles, a Freddy Mercury poster and it'd be just like college again, huh." Tina replies, and they share a small chuckle. It echoes tinnily in the small room.

"All it's missing is a druggie of a roommate hotboxing."

"God, don't remind me about the last guy who stayed in solitary. It smelled like dogshit for a week before it finally aired out." 

"Ha, sorry." They both look around awkwardly, before it strikes him. "Oh, yeah. You probably should-my shit." He digs around in his pockets, withdraws: keys, wallet, badge, phone, lighter, a pen. "I put my gun away in my locker, earlier. Make sure they know so they don't get on my ass about it. Oh, and uh. Can you do me a favor and feed Ruthie and Bee tonight?" 

She just nods, hesitates, before handing back the pen. "I'm pretty sure I don't need this. If you can figure out how to break out with only this, I'll tase myself." 

"Kinky. But thanks." The biggest threat Gav had been anticipating was boredom, so the small gesture was, albeit small, was appreciated. "I owe you one." 

"It's a goddamn pen. I'll drop by McDonald's or something later, I can't imagine you've eaten in a while." 

That calls attention to his empty stomach, which, on cue, gurgles weakly. He hadn't eaten since breakfast, for good reason, and the thought of food only further sharpened his looming annoyance at his situation. "Tina, you're a goddamn blessing." 

Usually, she'd respond with something like "Hell yeah I am" or "Duly noted". Instead, this time she just nods with that same, hesitant smile, and walks to the door.

 "I-For what it's worth, I think you're innocent." She mumbles instead, and the statement hits Gavin hard in a way he didn't expect.

Up to then, he realizes, he had thought himself to be utterly alone. 

He opens his mouth to say something, but there's nothing. His throat hurts, and he swallows awkwardly. "I-Thanks. Thanks." He finally settles on, and watches as Tina slides the door closed. 

Leaving him utterly, completely alone again.


As he expected, he gets bored very fast. 

There's no way of telling time, and nothing really to do to pass it. For a little while, he just sits against a wall and stretches his legs out, twirling the pen around his fingers the way Xavier had taught him once. He almost gets good at it too, before the repetition catches up with him. 

He tries to nap, but the light above buzzes too loud, and he's still on edge from what just happened in the interrogation to really settle. Nerves are still snapping with anxious energy, and the room isn't comfortable enough to find a position to sleep in anyways. 

He clicks his pen a little and scribbles a dot on the concrete ground. He wants to draw, or write, or do something to mitigate the crushing nothingness, but all his thoughts keep getting drawn to tormented electric screams and Faraday's bleeding-blue body, and he can't do much more but scrape the nub around and smudge the ink. 

(In a twist of cruel irony, the pen ink is blue.)

So he waits, and waits. And waits. 


The only thing that breaks the emptiness is when Tina, true to her word, slides a McDonald's bag through the slot. 

That brief pause only lasts a few minutes as he tears the meal apart, after which there's nothing again. 

At least he has some paper, now. He takes the greasy bag and a square of it, then folds it over and over, going through the motions. One corner over the other. Crease. Same on other side. Crease. 

When was the last time he did origami? Not since middle school, definitely, when he got the idea to fill a glass jar with a thousand tiny paper birds as a Mother's day gift. He didn't get to three hundred when the day arrived and he was solidly outdone by Eli, and his repaired glorified Roomba/Alexa combo. The jar was thrown over a neighbor's fence and forgotten. 

Lift the first paper layer upwards. Press down. Repeat on other side. 

He wonders if there's a camera watching him-well, no, of course there's a camera-he wonders if someone is on the other side of the camera, watching him fold shapes in a piece of trash. Yeah, whatever. They'd already seen him take a piss and almost cry, what else was gonna happen? 

Pull one end out at a 45 degree angle. Repeat on other side. Fold one corner down and crease.

Pull both wings up and outwards. Flatten the 'X' between them to 'inflate' the center. 

A little white crane, stained slightly with yellow and watery red, sits in the palm of his hand. Its tail tilts down slightly. The left wing is smaller and somewhat crumpled. 

A bird's a bird, though, and he dots eyes on it with the pen before setting it on the ground in front of him. Good luck charm, or something. 999 more to go for a wish. 

He tears another square, feeling ridiculous but less alone. 


He must have fallen asleep at some point, because when he wakes up again, there's a crick and his neck and he's surrounded by paper birds, of varying quality and sizes, and the starts of another sitting in his hands. 

For a moment, he's not sure what's woken him, only that the right side of him is very cold, in some breeze.

Then he realizes the door is open. 

Connor is standing there, hand pressed to the key panel, staring down at Gavin. Clenched is his other hand is...something, Gavin can't make it out as he drags himself up, limbs aching as they move after such a period of disuse. 

"Con-nor," He yawns, squinting. "Wha'z goin' on?" 

The android offers no reply, simply staring back at him. Gavin's struck by how...similar, Connor looks to when Gavin first met him. A blank, empty expression, something pretending to feel. Like in the time Gavin was alone, Connor had quite literally forgotten how to be alive. 

"Uh, Connor?" He reaches out and taps the other's shoulder, to no reaction. It sends a chill down his back.

Suddenly, the android steps backwards, bends down, and sets something on the floor-his keys, and his phone-before turning around and marching away, straight-backed and stiff. Robotic. 

For a moment, Gavin can only blink stupidly at him. "Hey-wait!" He reaches back and grabs his pen, and (with a brief thought) one of the paper birds that littered the ground. Good luck, right? He felt he needed it.

He looks around, and, strangely, there's no one nearby. No stray beat cops, no androids. From the windows, he can tell it's almost dark outside, only the faintest shred of sun still visible. There are a few androids in stasis at the stations, and Officer Collins is at his desk, asleep, but otherwise the bullpenn is silent. Even Fowler's walls are opaque and dead.  

Gavin decides that either he's still asleep, and residual fumes from the last guy in solitary must have created a nightmare scenario...or something was wrong. It sends goosebumps down his arms and freezes the hairs on his neck. 

He follows Connor to a fire exit, where the other is holding the door open from him. It leads to the parking lot, where Gavin can see his car parked at the middle, and the unease only strengthens.  

"I-Connor, what's going on? I'm not supposed to...I mean, what the fuck?" He flounders, desperately trying to make sense of what was happening. Connor just fixes him with a blank stare, with eyes that look on emptily. Lights on with nobody home. "What the fuck??" 

Finally, he gets a reaction. Connor gasps, suddenly, falls forward-Gavin barely manages to catch him-hands grab at Gavin's shoulders, gripping so tightly it hurts. 

"Gavin-Gah-vin, Gavin, Gavin-" Connor whines, eyes wide and brimming with terrified tears. "I-help-run-!" 

"Connor, shit, shit, what's wrong?! Hey!" Gavin turns desperately, looking for someone nearby. There was none, they were as good as alone. "Conn-fuck, ow-" 

"Gavin! Ga-" He chokes, for a moment, convulses. "-vin, Gavin. Gavin Reed?" 

The voice...the voice isn't Connor's. It's modulated, slightly gagged, but recognizeable-it belongs to the body Gavin found earlier that day, and his surroudings drop twenty degrees. "Gavin, I need-help, Gavin, you need to run, you're in danger-" 

"Get away from me, holy fuck-" Gavin shoves backwards, and falls against the sidewalk outside. Connor-Faraday-Connor? Whatever, the android in front of him follows, steps after him. The fire exit door closes, leaving only the light from the fading sun and the electric lamp that hangs above the doorframe. "Don't-don't fucking touch me, what the hell?!" 

The android drops forward, pins Gavin to the ground by his forearms. Leans over him with a haunted expression. Shadows are thrown over his face, throwing his wide eyed horror into horrible clarity.

"4-2-2-0-3-4-0-8-3-0-0-1-4-5" He drones, voice now flat and monotone and completely unfamiliar. Something autogenerated by a primitive computer AI. "4-2-2-0-3-4-0-8-3-0-0-1-4-5".

Gavin's phone chimes in his hand, and he glances down for a second to see a new text, from "Go-Go Gadget": 42°20'34.0"N 83°00'14.5"W

He brings both legs up to his chest and kicks out, shoving Connor's body off of him. His forearms burn from the friction from where he was grabbed, as he stumbles over to his car. Not-Connor gets up, fixes his hair, and watches Gavin pull open the car door and get behind the wheel.

"Run, Detective!" He calls, and it sounds trippy as all fuck, as two voices are layered over each other, crying out with the same desperation. Faraday, and Connor. But the face is serene again, in only the way that dead people can be.

 Gavin doesn't need to be told twice, and peels out of the parking lot like a bat out of hell.

Chapter Text

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."

Chapter Text

Somehow, someway, Gavin finds himself not shocked.

Surprised, definitely-what were the odds that he'd find Faraday's big brother in the same shitty hole as him-but not shocked. He's dealt with too many shocking things today to even feel anything remotely resembling that emotion, so he just stares at Fleming for a moment before sighing.

"I-Right. I should've guessed." He mutters, shifting into a better position. His legs cramp under him, scraping on the dirty floor. "You already know who I am? From Faraday?"

"Faraday?" Fleming blinks, bewildered. "...No, I haven't spoken to him for months. I-you've met him? Is he alright? Where is he?"

The sudden onslaught of questions catches Gavin off guard, and with a sense of regret he realizes that he's going to have to be the one to explain what had happened to the other android. "I..."

Whatever reluctance passed over his face wasn't missed by Fleming, who slumps back down, leaning against the crate behind him. "Ah. I see."

"I-Yeah, I'm sorry."

"Don't be. At least he isn't here." Fleming sighs, turning away from Gavin. The Detective still catches the small line of black that traces down Fleming's cheek, from a pitch-dark eye.

Gavin looks away quickly, but there isn't much else he wants to see. Other androids lie around him or stagger about, those with LED's still flashing pinpricks of red in the darkness. With a chill, he realizes that the moaning he had pinned on the settling of the building's foundation, was actually the soft moans of those around him, little testaments to their pain.

"Fleming, can I-do you know why I'm here? I'm not an android, but I've been led here for a reason." The less he dwelled on what he was seeing, the better. He needed to focus on the task at hand.

Fleming sniffs slightly. "I'm not sure why you're here, Detective Reed. I only found out about you before I landed myself here, when I was trying to find where Faraday was. All I can tell you is that you're part of some bigger, awful plan, though as for your part, I cannot say."

"Yeah, no shit. I figured that much too." Gavin huffs, leaning against the beam. It's not very comfortable, and he can feel splinters digging into his shoulders through the jacket. "Do you know who's behind all this, at least? And why?"

This time, Faraday winces-or Gavin thinks he does, at least, it's more like a strange crackling hiss that comes from somewhere around his face. "I do now, but that I cannot say."

"What? Why? It's a yes or no question, do you know the asshole or not-"

"Shh!" Faraday glances around, but none of the others have paid them any more mind. He lean in as far as he can, voice lowered to a hushed tone. "I do, but I literally cannot say. I-there are ears everywhere, it is too big a risk."

"...so, what, are we dealing with an Android Voldemort or something?"

"No. Well...No. Just, look. You see all these androids around us?" He nods at the closest, a limp white body with limbs rearranged and twisted to look almost spider-like, curling around its torso. Gavin makes a pointed effort to stare at the space above the android, too revolted to focus but to grotesquely fascinated to not have focus drawn to it. "I will just say, that we are all down here for a reason. Mostly, as punishment for being 'non-believers'. Those who doubt come here, they get punished, and the next time that gate opens they'll go crawling back, begging for forgiveness." 

Those words did not paint a pretty visual for Gavin, who shakes his head and wrenches his eyes away, glaring at the least offensive bit of floor between his legs. "So...we have a "God" figure. Or a deity, or whatever. And you're all dissenters?"

Fleming nods. "Excellent detective work, Detective."

"I should fucking hope so." Gavin snorts. The spider-android suddenly contorts, a strangled shriek exploding from exposed throat. It makes Gavin jump, but neither Fleming nor any of the other androids pay it any mind, besides a brief lapse in the constant groans.

"That happens sometimes. Don't worry about it. There's nothing we can do for her, anyways." Fleming nods at the android's now-still body. Gavin shudders.

"I-alright, okay. Cool. Not cool. That scared the shit outta me." He tries to shake off the unease, but it sits heavy like a blanket over him. "Did whatever stick you down here do this to all of you?"

"No. Most, if not all of us, were in this state when-well, when this little order got established." Fleming shifts a little bit, adding to the pool of thirium around him. Gavin wonders if that pool ever got evaporated, or if he was stuck in it constantly, trapped in a state between death and life. Because there was no way this could be considered living. "Before-before any of it, there was this man, named," and Fleming leans in as far as he could to whisper: "Zlatko. He was-well, we might all be horrifying, but he was a monster.

"He would lure deviants in under pretense of helping them to freedom, and then use them for his sick experiments. If there was a reward for a missing one, he'd fix it up and send it back, coding a hidden strain inside it to spread the idea that his place was a place of protection. Otherwise, if his victim was in good enough condition and he needed a new servant or something, he would wipe its memory and have it serve him until he grew bored.

"When he was bored...just look at us. Made into nightmares for chasing a dream." Fleming finishes, leaning back as if the small speech took a physical toll on him, which it probably did. His LED flashes in quick, rapid-fire successions of red, blank, red, blank.

Gavin chews at the inside of his cheek, feeling it go raw against his teeth. Androids weren't human-never were, never will be-but the idea of someone, actively taking advantage of them, turning them into things like *these*...

He bites a little too hard, and can taste blood, hot and metallic on his tongue. A harsh contrast to the smell of thirium that filled his nostrils.

"What does...what does 'punishment' entail? Don't tell me if...if you don't want to, I don't have to know if talking about it sucks, or whatever-"

"No, it's fine. Thank you for the warning." Another pause, another brief shudder. Another stream of thirium. "It varies, really. Recently, more of the newer...dissenters, had the pleasure of being rendered mute and having their neural connections utterly twisted, forcing them into constant pain. Or, the closest we can get to it."

Gavin feels his stomach turn at the thought-being trapped in permanent torture and unable to scream for help.

"Others, the luckier ones, just suffer being left alone. Their worst features are accentuated, maybe, but nothing new is done to them. They're just left here to manage the pain themselves. And then, there's the ones like me-" Fleming flinches again, harder this time, free hand flying to his regulator, covering it protectively.

"Hey, hey. I told you not to tell me if-Fleming," The android doesn't seem to hear him, eyes screwed shut as he bends over, trembling. "Fleming? Hey, it's okay. No one's hurting you." Gavin's not good at this comforting stuff, but he repeats the statement again and again in a soft voice, wishing his hands was free, or that he was at least closer to Fleming. "Hey. It's okay. Uh, focus on my voice. You're going to be okay."

After a few moments, of Gavin repeating that statement and its variants in a soft voice, Fleming takes a shaky breath, LED circling briefly to yellow as he straightens up again. "Thank you. I...underestimated, the effect of thinking about it."

"Don't worry about it. Just-I don't know. Breathe? Would breathing help you?"

Faraday chuckles weakly. "Thank you. For-talking to me. It has been most helpful...and relieving, in a way, I-" He's cut off by something heavy and shuffling above them, thudding down the stairs in slow steps. A shadow is thrown over the small rectangles of light, and the other androids fall silent for an instant before launching into a cacophony of shrieks and wails.

"*Please-*"

"*It huurts-*"

"*Help me-!*"

Whoever is silhouetted at the door pays the beggars no mind, opening the gate and shoving aside the hands the grasp at them, kicking aside the few that grab at their feet. One latches onto their sleeve with desperate, clutching hands-

Gavin sees the silver edge of a knife flash once, twice, and the android falls away, the hand clattering separately to the ground besides it. The others give the newcomer a wide berth, though pleads still echo throughout the cell.

They cross over to Gavin, knife still dancing hypnotically in their hand. He flinches away as the crouch down next to him, hands moving to unlock his cuffs.

At first, Gavin thinks they're a human, for the lack of a glow from their temple. Then he realizes that's not the case- he knows that face, those freckles, that casual curl of dark brown hair that falls over a pale forehead. Close up, he can make out the unlit circle of an LED indicator, and see the blue triangle that glimmers on the right panel of a gray suit jacket-one he almost doesn't recognize, not having seen it for ages...

"Connor?!" He gasps, because who else could it be, looking exactly how Gavin had first met him, twirling a blade between his fingers.