A crimson pool surrounded his body. No matter how hard you pressed against the serrated flesh around his neck, blood bubbled out like a fountain. Your eyes burned as tears streaked across your desperate features. With quivering lips, you begged - no, pleaded for him to stay with you.
The light was rapidly fading from his eyes. It wasn’t long before his pupils stared at the ceiling, soulless.
Within seconds, the man you knew for your entire life was now an empty husk - A carcass of someone you loved and cherished.
Emotions clouded you in an extreme fog, your vision blurring…
“Connor! You run out of batteries, or what?”
The android refocused his vision to the haggard middle aged man. The brunette robot had been staring at the coffee shop for a few minutes now, lost in one of his embedded processes. The sans-serif font of the neon sign almost made after images on his optic units. “Sorry, Lieutenant,” was the only sheepish response he could muster as he hurried behind.
“Jesus Christ, Connor, Hank. We’re not in front of Fowler, right?” The grayed man in a gaudy multi-coloured Hawaiian shirt scolded.
The older officer rolled his eyes before offering the door open to his robotic coworker.
As they stepped inside, a white glow washed over them. The shop looked sterile with pearly walls and marble countertops. The rich nutty scent of freshly brewed coffee was enough to overload anybody’s senses. A singular worker stood at the counter, adorning a pre-revolution Android uniform with the model number VS400 illuminated in blue text.
Connor gave a quick scan of the worker’s vitals, confirming that it was, indeed, a human. She was poised perfectly like a waiter android in idle mode.
Hank cleared his throat as he approached the counter, “Hey, sweetheart,” he started in a kinder tone than before, “Can I get a cup of coffee please?”
The girl responded with a near programmed smile, “Of course, sir. That will be $2.50.”
After the police lieutenant paid his share with a wave of his hand, the worker fetched the pot coffee and poured a cup of steaming black liquid. The way that she moved was methodical and smooth. Though with every purposefully poised action, her eyes lacked emotion. Meaning.
Connor observed her carefully, his hand reaching into the pocket of his work blazer to fidget with a stray coin. Playing with it always helped him think better.
As he started to flip it between his fingers, the older teammate gave him a sour look. Before Hank could snatch the flying coin, the woman in the Android’s waitress outfit called out his name.
Hank quickly retrieved the beverage, giving some sweet condolences, before turning on his heel to exit.
The android detective stared for a second longer, his chocolate coloured eyes meeting hers. She just stared back with that small polite smile on her face.
Without saying a word, he decided to follow the lead police officer.
Another day had passed.
You got home and stripped your uniform from your body, the acidic smell of espresso straining your senses. You quickly made your way to the bathroom, running the shower to a blazing hot temperature.
You stepped in, feeling the heat course over your sore muscles. The skin on your scarred arms started to turn pink from the scorching water. The stench of the day’s coffee started to rinse out of your hair as a fragrant mix of chemicals was lathered onto your scalp.
You don’t know how many days have passed. You stopped counting after a while. Any perception of time had left you a while ago.
You don’t even know how long you stood in shower. It was long enough that the searing water began to be frigid.
You decided to turn off the water and wrap yourself in a bathrobe, flicking a towel over your drenched hair.
You sauntered your way to the kitchen, only to stare at the only piece of food in your apartment - A loaf of sourdough bread. You even forgot the last time you ate.
But did you really even deserve to eat?
Finally deciding that no, you didn’t earn the right yet, you decided to head to your bedroom. The only solace from your thoughts was your sleep, and even then, the demons sometimes come out to play.
The android that was with the older gentleman stopped by the cafe again. His brunette hair was perfectly styled, except for that one strand that bobbed down just over his widow’s peak. He had soft, puppy-like features with large, quizzical coffee-coloured eyes. He was one of the few androids that still kept his processing LED on his temple.
When he came in, his LED would flicker from blue, to the thoughtful yellow. It stayed like that throughout the duration of his visit.
You gave your preprogrammed smile, “Hello, how can I help you today?”
The robot blinked out of thought, as if to remember why he was here. “Oh, one coffee, please.”
“That will be $2.50”
He paid, gave a sweet smile, then watched as I prepared the beverage.
Was his default programming always to be this analytical?
You delivered the coffee promptly, to which he gave a quick thanks, and was on his way.
This started to become a routine every morning at 8:30am. Each day, the same dialogue, the same order. As time went by, you noticed more details about this highly curious android.
On the inside of his blazer, he wore a DPD badge.
There was a coin that he liked to play with as he watched you.
You don’t think you ever saw him change his jeans. But at least his dress shoes always looked nice.
One day, as you poured the steaming liquid, you heard his voice speak out from the typical dialogue path. “You should eat, it appears you have lost approximately 15 pounds of weight within the past two weeks.”
It caused you to blink out of your program. “Huh?”
“Caloric deficiency is not the best way to lose weight.”
You broke from your barista protocol as confusion swept over your features. You had to blink a few times to restart your system again. You defaulted to your sweet customer service smile. “Your coffee, sir,” You offered the cupped beverage to him.
He accepted, but in exchange, placed a $15 tip on the counter. “Please use this to get some nourishment, yeah?”
With that, he left the coffee shop, the echo of his dress shoes clicking behind him.
You stared at the offered money, a frown threatening to over take your lips.
Androids don’t need to eat.
Monsters don’t need to eat.
Chapter 2A fresh cup of coffee greeted Hank as he approached his desk in the precinct the next morning. He gave a frustrated groan as he flopped into his dog-hair ridden seat, tossing a look to the brunette android colleague who sat on the opposite side of him. “Jesus Christ, Connor. You’re still going to that tacky Gen Alpha coffee shop?”
Connor peaked up from his monitor, his tone tilting innocently, “According to my Social Relations protocol, doesn’t a good team player show appreciation through gestures of buying coffee?”
“For fuck’s sake, Connor, you’re not a mindless machine anymore. You don’t have to buy coffee every day to make me happy.”
The android’s LED swirled a cautious yellow as he tilted his head, before flickering back to the normal blue. He observed with a raised brow as he watched the Lieutenant take a swig from his cup. “But you still appreciate having it, do you not?”
The older man just gave him a look. “Listen, you don’t have to hide behind me as an excuse. You’re going to see that girl, aren’t you?”
Connor shifted uncomfortably in his seat. Suddenly, the murder case files displayed on his screen were much more interesting. “Something feels off about her.”
“No shit, it’s not everyday someone goes through something like that.”
“And we are to just leave her like this?” Connor’s voice edged on the defensive side.
Hank’s lips tipped into a frown, the wrinkles around his eyes deepening more. The tone he chose was more patient, concerned, “She passed the psych eval, Connor. She’s not our responsibility.”
“But I’ve been watching her, Lieutenant. She’s obviously struggling, she’s losing weight, and the scars on her-”
“And she is not our responsibility, son. If her wellbeing is concerning you, then put another report in to have her receive an eval.” The aged man gave a sigh, finalising his statement with another sip, “Are you going to be this way with all the other lost women in our murder cases?”
The brunette opened his mouth to say something, but his processor swirled the thought around. He opted to stay silent.
The burdensome thing with his deviancy is he had so many compiling errors in his code. He would notice details about everything and everyone, and now he suddenly had an opinion about it all. Cyberlife’s self learning AI was too advanced, and he almost cursed his new found freedom. All the thought processes at once almost made his head hot, and the twisting in his circuits when he ‘felt’ things was too confusing.
What are emotions, really? Why does he care about a random girl in a murder case?
Caring for Hank makes sense. He was your first human friend who showed companionship, loyalty, and trust. There is logic behind the “feelings” of caring.
But a confused, hurt girl who pretends to be an android? Every one of his protocols tells him to leave her be.
So why does he care so much?
Days have passed since you’ve seen the DPD android getting the typical morning brew.
To be honest, he was a conundrum to you. Why would an android purchase a beverage that he could not consume? Was it the instruction of the older gentleman he was with that day? Was the extra tip also the other man’s idea?
The one thing you were for certain about was the accuracy of the brunette robot’s words. You were losing weight at a rapid pace. The feeling of not deserving to eat aside, the concept of eating made you nauseous. You would try to take small bites of bread, and every time your stomach twisted into knots.
Maybe you really were a machine.
Each day you brewed coffee for people who often would verbally abuse you. Each cute latte art you would expertly pour, a person would give you a sour look or critique your style. You were a trade professional barista, but the ‘customer was always right.’
There would always be the nice customers, but that one rowdy customer that would call you a dumb cunt to your face would always overshadow the sweet moments.
Even humans viewed you as a worker robot with no emotions.
Humans are weird. With their petty emotions and their illogical feelings.
You stood in your idle pose, lost in these deep, dreary thoughts behind the bar. It was a particularly slow Wednesday afternoon shift. There were a few teenagers horsing around in the back of the cafe, but other than that, it was quiet.
The door chime pulled you into reality. You scanned the newcomer, only to see a very familiar android clicking his dress shoes on the tiled floor. Both of your eyes connected for a brief moment, only for his to pull away at the last second.
He made his way to a vacant seat in front of the marble tabletop bar, pulling a paperback book out of his blazer.
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Philip K Dick.
A genuine smile threatened to tug on your lips, but you forced the muscles into the casual customer service one. “Do you not wish for your usual coffee?”
The man regarded you with a cautious look, his LED permanently swirling a deep amber. “No, it seems that the Lieutenant doesn’t appreciate morning coffee anymore.”
“What can I get for you today, then?”
He blinked, his gaze returning back to the yellowed pages of the book. “Oh, I just wish for a quiet place to do some reading.”
What a weird android. Can he not just download it as a pdf and have the whole story analyzed and input into his memory?
“Of course, sir. Take your time.”
He gave a warm smile, the circular processor on his temple flickering to a calming blue.
Just as soon as the sweet exchange settled, another chime echoed through the doorway. A woman in heels and a tight blouse approached the counter, a designer bag slung over her shoulder. Her dark red lips were puckered in a sneer as she demanded her order, “One extra hot caramel latte, and hold the foam.”
The lack of formalities didn’t upset you. Without missing a beat, you gave her your kind smile in exchange as you entered the amount on the touch screen, “Of course. That will be $5.50.”
The woman clicked her tongue, rolling her eyes as she paid with a wave of her hand on the machine. “Isn’t that, like, fifty cents more than before?”
“Unfortunately, no, it has always been 5.50 for this-”
“Whatever! Just make my damn coffee!” she finally snapped.
You deftly worked your way around the machine, running the espresso shot. Aromatic nutty smells filled the air as you poured the milk into the frothing cup. Running the steam wand, you heated the milk at just the right temperature.
It wasn’t long before you were pouring the sweet concoction into the disposable cup, making sure to rim the sides with caramel for extra sweetness.
You handed the beverage to the perfect, beautiful woman, who made extra effort to snag it from you. She took an obnoxiously long sip right in front of you, making a clear face of discontent.
“Maybe they should replace you with another android, because, honey, this isn’t it.”
Without any emotion, your calm, kind smile braced your face, sweetness dripping from your tone. “I apologise for any inconvenience, ma’am. Would you like me to make it again?”
“Don’t bother, you’re obviously not equipped to be doing this job. I will be sending an email to your manager though.” With a flick of her blonde lock, she gave one last dirty glance to you as she sauntered out of the store, the sound of her heels tapping following her.
You instinctively started to clean the work bench, her words having no more effect on you than a buzzing fly. A man’s voice broke your concentration, “But you did everything to procedure.”
You glanced back up to the seated android, his handsome features twisting in confusion. You gave him a sympathetic smile, “Sometimes you cannot please some humans.”
He looked lost in thought, staring off at a process that he couldn’t quite grasp yet. Before he could fully calculate his words, the question tumbled off of his lips, “What pleases you, then?”
For a split moment, your brows raised in surprise. You had to extinguish any emotion before he caught on. “What do you mean, sir?”
“If some people can be pleased, that means you can be too, correct?”
“I… do not quite comprehend.”
His observant gaze looked you over, tilting his head like a questioning puppy. “For example, you must have a favourite type of coffee, right? What is your order?”
Everything about this interaction was poking at your preset ‘programming’. The genuine curiosity caused you to slip, a retrospective aura settling on your being. Thought clouded your features as you tried to find your balance in the conversation.
You decided to play along. “A mocha.”
The glowing LED on his temple swirled as he blinked a few times. “A mocha: an espresso drink with chocolate powder mix and steamed milk. Is this correct?”
“Did you just look that up?”
He gave an innocent smile. “And if I did?”
A smirk was threatening the corners of your lips. What a fascinating android.
“That is correct. Your research proved fruitful.”
“Then I would like one mocha, please.”
That smile quickly faded as bewilderment settled. “But… you cannot drink it.”
“That is correct.”
He positioned his opened book between his thumb and forefinger, freeing his other hand to hold his chin. He rested his elbow on the counter as he leaned forward, a devilish smirk gracing his innocent face. “I want to see why it pleases you.”
The first time in weeks, a heart beat thumped in your cold chest. This goofy police officer made your stomach churn and your cold heart crack. A heat rose in your cheeks as you started to fumble your words, “I-if that is what you wish.”
The android watched as your pulse raised, the hidden HUD in his optics lighting up as he scanned you. He was glad that he was able to elicit a … human response out of you for once.
Your hands twitched as you went to make his drink. Was the room suddenly hotter? Maybe you need to turn the heating down.
That would prove illogical. The chill of autumn rain clung to the store front windows, causing a fog to brace the corners.
That would mean what you are feeling is purely biological. Why were you having a hard time controlling your emotions? This… didn’t make sense.
You offered him the mocha in haste, making your best effort not to make eye contact. When he accepted the cup from your hands, his fingers gently brushed over yours. You suck in a sharp breath as you focus your attention on anywhere but the contact.
He tilted the beverage in his hands, examining it, watching the foam bubbles pop hypnotically. He decided to take the pad of his finger and tip the cup just a little, making the chocolatey beverage drip onto his skin. He parted his lips to have his tongue slip out, bracing with his finger.
You felt your breath hitch in your throat, a hotness starting to spread through your face as you watched.
He finally made eye contact with you. A sweet, boyish smirk pulled at the corner of his lips, “Sorry, I can take samples with my tongue. I have analysed the chemical makeup of it, and I can see why humans would like it.”
You kept replaying the image of the android’s tongue. Can all of them do that? Do they all have a sensor there? The redness from your face was cooling off, “Y-yeah?”
“I mean, there’s an obscene amount of sucrose in here, so that might be a contributing factor.”
He gave a smug smile before offering the drink back to you. “Here, I got you your favourite drink!”
You blinked as you watched him stand up from his seat, putting his paperback back into his blazer. You huffed, “Hey! That’s not how it works!”
He dipped his head and released a chuckle. His feet clicked on the tile as he started to make his way out. “I’ll see you again, Miss….?”
You gave him your name and he repeated it to memorize.
“And what’s yours?” you spoke as he just about stepped out of the shop.
“Connor,” he called back with a smile.
Banter with Connor happened frequently. Your dull, dreary life started to spark with vivid colours every time he was around. The deep pit of sadness that clung to your gut was starting to lift.
It wasn’t long before you started to feel physical aches and pangs of hunger again. It turns out that despite how much you tried to convince yourself you were an android, you were after all, a living being.
You convinced yourself to snack on a few bits of bread every day, replenishing the bits of nourishment that you denied yourself for so long.
You still hate every part of you still. The way your heart increases due to embarassment, the rise and fall of your chest when you breathe, the need for caloric consumption. But these simple interactions with this android made living a bit more bearable.
You hated androids, too. But why… why was he so human? The way he genuinely smiles, how his warm, cocoa coloured eyes bright up when he talks to you, his velvety smooth chuckle. Everything about him started to envelope your icy heart in a umber blanket, with an azure light shimmering through the dark hollows of your chest.
It was an afternoon shift again, and Connor was sitting at his usual spot near the table. He was only half way through his book. At this point, it seems he just comes for the conversation more than actually reading.
You were doing your usual cleaning as you spoke to him, “So aside from sitting here for an hour, what do you usually do?”
Connor gave a quick glance to you before shifting back to his pages. “I work for the Detroit Police Department.”
“Oh really?” you answered flatly.
“Is that a bad thing?”
“No, it was just a bit obvious.”
A smirk tugged at his thin lips. “Oh, really? What gave it away?”
“The badge in your blazer.”
He gave a quick glance to the metal badge inside his blazer pocket. He mused jokingly, “Good job, detective.”
A grin enveloped your face as you put a mug on top of the espresso machine. “What do you do for the police?”
“I’m a detective.” He stated without missing a beat.
You gave him a blank stare, voice raising almost in disbelief, “Seriously?”
“And that’s something you can’t believe?”
“No! Well,” you tried to hold back a chortle, “it’s just… a robot detective. Isn’t that a trope already written?”
The LED on his temple swirled in thought, almost definitely looking up the answer. He bit his lip as he held back a smile. He started to sing a familiar children’s cartoon jingle, “Dun na na na, Inspector Gadget.”
Giggles bubbled out of you as you felt yourself keel over from laughter. Tears burned the corners of your eyes, your cheeks aching from smiling so hard. Connor felt himself chuckle as he watched you, his eyes crinkling up from smiling.
“That is,” you found yourself catching your breath, “An awful show to remember.”
“Well, it seems like you’re enjoying the comparison now, are you not?”
“Connor, you’re amusing.”
“Okay, for that I credit my creators. My base social relations protocols made it a lot easier to relate to people.”
A calmness steadied over you as his words settled in your mind. You found your smile slipping as you finished the last bit of your tidying.
“So is this interaction,” your voice felt heavy, your heart beginning to sink back down, “... just what you're programmed to do and say?”
The android blinked in alarm from the whiplash of mood. His gaze deepend on you, concern encasing his features, “Wh-what? Of course not, That is not what I meant-”
The door chimed as someone walked in.
Your coworker was here to relieve you for the evening shift. These past few days, you hated when she came in to disrupt Connor time. But today, you couldn’t be happier to flee. You pulled off your apron as you gave her a kind pleasantry. You hurried to collect your things in the staff room.
The brunette-bunned coworker gave a confused look at Connor, who in return, just shrugged.
It wasn’t long before you were rushing out, bag in hand, not even daring to look up. The detective pulled out a hand and called your name, but you willfully ignored his call as you sprinted out of the coffee shop.
“Damn,” the pierced laden colleague now stood in front of the man at the bar. “That’s the first time I've seen her get angry.”
Connor gave her a wide, doe-in-headlight look, which was met with a mischievous cheshire grin and a dry chuckle. “She must really like you.”
He opened his mouth to say something, only to close it several times. Finally mustering up the correct response, he sheepishly muttered, “I… don’t know about that.” With that, he hurried out of his seat, pushing the book deep into his pocket. He didn’t even register the farewell that the colleague called to him as he rushed out.