"I don't murder humans for revenge, and not for sport. It's because each human is a puzzle, and I'm building a mythology." The voice was calm and measured.
The face stared at them from in front of a black background, but it could hardly be called a face; it was just the armature, peeled back of its plastic surface, metal removed of its attempt at humanity. The video ended abruptly. There was no anger, no glee, no sadness, no anything.
"What the hell does that mean?" asked Benson. He was thirty-five and long past prematurely balding, the active years of ferreting out criminals worn into his face. He watched the screen switch to a recommendation of similar videos.
"He's a megalomaniac," said Kinley. She was forty and well-preserved for her age; all of her friends remarked it was because she spent the bulk of her life behind the glow of computer screens as a researcher.
The pair were teamed up in a small office, what was actually once used as a maintenance closet several decades ago, and which still smelled faintly of industrial cleaning fluids. There were dozens of screens in their little warren, and they sat side by side in ancient chairs that had their foam cushioning worn down. There was a professional and respectful three inches at least between them at all times.
"How can that be?" asked Benson. "I thought he was an android."
"Please," said Kinley with irritation. "They don't like that term."
"Well, it's what they are," growled Benson.
Kinley brought a pink inhaler to her mouth and pressed down. She sucked in the cold blast of nicotine and caffeine, then offered the inhaler to Benson. He waved it away with disgust.
"They're fighting for their rights--" Kinley lectured.
"It's silly!" said Benson. "Control of the factories that produce them? Half votes? Marriage with humans? Come on."
This was their standard argument, rupturing open the comfortable silence in the office at regular intervals.
"Your opinion isn't relevant. It's a volatile situation. They know how to fight, they know how to repair themselves, and they can live indefinitely. They can win simply by waiting us out."
Benson leaned back in his chair rubbing his beer belly, and looked at the screen again.
"They're not living..." he muttered. Kinley rolled her eyes.
"To the matter at hand then," she said. "We don't know who he's murdered. He makes no claims on any known deaths, and gives no specifics, in any of these posts. I mean, we don't know if he's even murdered anyone at all. He could just be bluffing."
"What about missing persons?"
"Yes, that's been checked," said Kinley slowly.
"If there is no evidence that it is actually murder--"
"I have a theory. It's a bit outlandish, well, maybe not..." She saw the impatience in his eyes, "...anyway, I think he's planning to commit these murders in the future."
"Then there's nothing I can do. We can't arrest someone for thinking about murder."
"But it's conspiracy! If we don't intervene--"
"Yeah, we can't get funding for that. It's a goose chase."
"Well, maybe this whole funding situation is messed up!" exclaimed Kinley.
"Hey don't bring your politics into this!"
"Do you think it's right how the police force works these days? Fifty, hell, even twenty years we didn't have to go after private funding! This is a joke what we do, the way that we do it."
"You know, you're not going to change you're mind, so I'm not even going to try arguing with you," said Benson.
Kinley ruffled her hair vigorously and groaned.
"This is not law enforcement, and it's not justice either," she said. "It's not fair that only the wealthy have the protection and support of the police. You have to agree with that at least."
"Look, Robin Hood, leave the plutocracy out of it."
"Oh, you admit it!"exclaimed Kinley. It was Benson who rolled his eyes.
"Either we have evidence to pursue or not." He thumped his palm on the desk. "It's just that simple. You don't even have to be worried that a search for a serial killer will be funded. It always will be. Serial killers freak everybody out, especially the wealthy. They have the most to lose."
"And someone, or multiple someones, are going to lose something if we don't get started."
"Fine. All you've got to go on are the videos. Where were they uploaded?"
"All at public libraries or well-trafficked coffee shops. Not the same place twice, and all within the city limits."
"Good for him. He has some basic smarts. There's nothing I loathe more than a dumb criminal." Benson tapped his fingers against Kinley's desk. "Wait, what's an android doing in a coffee shop? He can't drink or eat..."
"To use the network," said Kinley. "Or as a place to meet. How many coffee shops are there in the city?"
"I don't know, maybe a couple thousand. They multiply like rabbits."
"We're not getting anywhere," sighed Kinley. She slouched and rested her forehead on the edge of the desk. "I was thinking we could narrow it down to the ones he hasn't been to yet, and wait for him to post his next video, but that's too many. There's no pattern either. He's not favoring shops in a particular location."
"This is all too vague to fund," reiterated Benson.
"Well, maybe we could change all that," said Kinley, sitting up again. "Maybe regardless of this android's motivations, we could turn this around. You agree that it's not fair--"
"What do you mean?" asked Benson.
"We could fake the murders," she said quietly.
"Oh it would be easy!" she said quickly. "All it would take is some modifications in the morgue database and we don't even need bodies. No mess, no fuss--"
"That's completely unethical! And how would that change the funding laws?"
"Because we knew about it ahead of time!" said Kinley. "The android is planning the murders in advance, well in advance, then notifies us, and then we don't act on it until after the murders start happening. It will enrage the public if a thing like that got out that we didn't pursue these until after they started--"
"But nothing has!"
"Yes but the public will demand prefunding!"
Benson rolled back as far as he could in his chair, staring aghast at Kinley. She stared back at him, eyes wide and filled both with glee and pleading.
"That's not what will happen," he said slowly. "What will happen is that the public, the humans, will turn on their androids. And you yourself said it's volatile as it is. Do you really want to be the cause of the tipping point?"
Kinley turned away from Benson and looked at one of the many screens.
"Humans can't win a war with the androids. They shouldn't even try," she said. "There are too many."
"You've become too much of an android sympathizer then. There isn't anything a human won't do to stay on top."
There was a long silence, then Benson stood and stretched.
"I'm going for lunch," he said. "Want to come?"
"No thanks," said Kinley.
"I didn't mean to offend you. I know how you are with politics. I don't mean to rub you the wrong way."
"It's fine," she said.
Benson nodded, then opened the door, letting light flood into the tiny space.
"You need to get off that inhaler one of these days and eat some real food," he chuckled. "People are going to start to think that you're an android." He smiled and left, letting the door swing slowly shut.
Kinley sat motionless for a few minutes, then reached under her shirt and unspooled her power cord. She plugged herself into the socket under the desk. Then she carefully peeled back her face and recorded her next video threat, switching to a montone masculine voice.