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Aporia

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Aporia

Prologue

When Markus opened the door to his quarters in New Jericho, he was less than surprised to find it already occupied. The others often let themselves in, either to have a quiet moment alone or to await his return to speak with him in a more casual setting. Negotiations with the humans were still ongoing, and it wasn't unusual for North to come vent, or for Josh to drop by with any good news he could muster, however small. Even Connor would drop by occasionally. His visits were usually short and stilted, but the detective had made it a point to keep in touch with Markus directly.

So, opening the door to see the lean lines of Connor shouldn't be cause for alarm.

Except Connor was disheveled, almost frantic in a way Markus had never seen. He was pacing the length of the room, wringing his hands and his LED cycling constantly between yellow and a bright glaring red.

LEVEL OF STRESS: 75%

If that wasn't concerning enough, Connor seemed completely unaware that Markus had entered the room, eyes distant and glassy. His lips were moving as well, as if he were speaking to himself.

"Connor?" Markus called softly, trying to get his attention without startling him. "Connor, what's wrong?"

Brown eyes flicked to Markus, and then Connor paused. "We didn't know who else to talk to. We need your help, but I don't know if you can."

Alarms rang through his processor, but he stomped on it, trying to remain calm until he gathered more information. His thoughts immediately flew to Connor's friend, Hank Anderson, who's suspension from the DPD was only recently lifted. Did something happen?

"Is Lieutenant Anderson alright?"

"Hank's fine, he's at home." Connor's answer was immediate and mildly distracted. Honest, as far as Markus could tell. "He doesn't know I'm here yet. Or why. I- I didn't know what to say. I didn't want to worry him."

Now Markus was worried, and took slow steps until he was standing in front of him, close but not crowding. "Connor, I can't help if you don't actually tell me what's wrong. I need you to trust me that whatever you say won't leave this room if you don't want it to."

That earned him one of Connor's rare smiles, small and subtle, his LED settling on yellow.

LEVEL OF STRESS: 67%

Well. That was a start at least.

"I do trust you, Markus. We trust you. But it's difficult to explain properly, given the unique nature of the circumstances."

"Just try."

"We need your help." Connor's hand ran through his hair, fingers then dropping to trace his LED as it cycled red once before returning to a steady yellow. "I . . . it's getting increasingly more difficult to separate on an individual level. It used to be so easy to tell the difference. Our emotions have overlapped for a while, but now they're starting to bleed. Sometimes it's hard to find the divide. As advanced as my systems are, they were not designed to sustain us like this. I'm worried that his files are being corrupted, and I'm scared that . . ." Connor's mouth hung open slightly as he trailed off, clearly trying to find the words.

The words I'm scared rattled Markus to his core. It was a word he had never heard Connor use regarding himself. Then there was the concerning switch from singular to plural. Markus wondered if Connor was even aware he was doing it. Coupled with that explanation that explained nothing, Markus felt his own stress levels begin to rise. But he held his tongue, hoping Connor would finish his sentence, hoping it would give him something to work with.

And, eventually, he did.

Those big brown eyes lifted to dart about the room, brimming with determination even as tears began to spill down his cheeks. When he spoke, his voice was precise and steady as stone. "I can't lose him now, Markus. I've felt it before, but I didn't understand then, I didn't know. I can't lose him. I won't."

Markus was officially scared now, especially when the younger prototype didn't offer up anything else. "Connor. Connor. Who is 'he'?"

The last thing Markus expected was for Connor to look at him, eyes earnest and wet, and say "Simon".

Markus swore he felt his thirium pump stutter in his chest.

Simon, the first friend he made upon his arrival at Jericho. Back when Markus was still reeling from having his whole world ripped out from under him, Simon had been a steadfast presence.

Simon, who had been unfailingly practical to balance the extremes that were North and Josh.

Simon, who took his own life with the very gun Markus had left him with on the roof of Stratford tower.

When the Detroit Police Department released the deceased androids in their possession to New Jericho, Markus had made the trip himself. It hadn't taken long to realize that reactivating Simon would be impossible.

Markus had been crushed.

But Connor knew this. He had been the one standing by his side when he had personally loaded the body carefully into the crate transporting it back to New Jericho. He had assisted with the assessment later, taking over when his hands shook too much to be useful. He had listened to Markus as he explained why this particular android was so important.

There had been moments during that explanation where Connor looked like he had wanted to say something, but he never did. Markus had never pushed the issue.

Now Markus didn't know what to think.

"Connor, if this is your idea of a joke, I gotta say, it's not funny."

Connor's face scrunched slightly in confusion, then smoothed back out. "Oh," he said softly. "There was a high probability that you wouldn't believe me, not at first, but I would never play such a cruel joke. I thought you knew that, so I dismissed that possibility. I swear, this isn't a joke."

"Then start talking sense."

Connor's eyes darted to the side, expression distant. He was still crying, but he was calmer now, regaining some composure before he began talking. "When we transported his body back here, we had hoped right along with you that he could be repaired. That I could transfer all his data back where it belonged and he could have his life back. His freedom."

"What are you trying to say?"

Connor's LED cycled yellow one final time before glowing a bright and steady blue. He turned and offered a hand towards Markus, skin retreating to expose the pristine white plastic below. "I think it's better if we show you."

Markus stared. Connor had always shied away from interfacing, even for the exchange of information. He had never offered an excuse or an explanation, and Markus had never pushed, even when others had voiced concern and suspicion.

Markus closed the gap between them and took the offered hand.

There was one disorienting moment before Markus realized he was not connected to just one mind, but two.

And then they began to share their memories.

Chapter Text



“You have to stop them! If they destroy it, we won’t learn anything!”

“We can’t save it, it’s too late! We’ll just get ourselves killed!”

Connor was equipped with the most efficient processor that Cyberlife had ever produced, capable of running dozens of simulations simultaneously and acting on the most favorable one within a fraction of a second.

Fact: Connor could not afford to lose another deviant. Amanda was already disappointed with his progress on the deviancy investigation. His mission required him to salvage the situation.

Fact: He could not afford for SWAT to destroy the deviant.

So he selected the best course of action.

He moved.

Connor rolled out from behind their cover, charging forward before Hank could try to stop him. He dodged the shots fired at him, his systems already predicting the trajectory before the deviant even pulled the trigger. He vaulted over the metal container as the third bullet sailed past his right shoulder. He slid down the other side, his momentum carried him forward, grabbing the deviant by it’s wrist and forearm. The skin on Connor’s right hand was already peeled back, forging a connection as the deviant’s back was slammed against the air conditioning unit.

The deviant was already moving it’s gun hand, intent on deactivating itself to prevent being used for information.

But Connor was already analyzing the information presented to him, and the sudden flood of input nearly overwhelmed his systems.

Connor had never probed a deviant before, never mind a deviant at critical stress levels. He was woefully unprepared, the connection dragging him right into the PL600’s own processor, thoughts and - and emotions overlapping him, drowning him, swallowing him whole until he was unable to differentiate between the two of them.

Until, for one wild moment, all of it became his .

Fear , laced with abandonment, and smothered with determination .

To protect them, protect his friends, protect Jericho -

A single image, old rusted metal, peeling letters done in red paint-

Protect Jericho!

A cold metal barrel pressed under a chin, triggering an automatic response from Connor’s programming.

<UPLOAD MEMORY TO CYBERLIFE>

<UPLOAD COMPLETE>

Though the decision was already made, finger on the trigger, terror ricocheted between the two connected beings, amplified until all Connor knew was-

I don’t want to die!

<UPLOAD MEMORY TO CYBERLIFE>

<MEMORY UPLOAD: ERROR>

<ERROR: MODEL NOT AUTHORIZED>

<ERROR: SOFTWARE INCOMPATIBILITY>

Connor’s processor, top of the line, superior to even military grade androids, had already found an alternative, and taking steps to salvage the remaining threatened data. Relocation, then upload through an authorized source.

<INITIATE FULL DATA TRANSFER TO HARD DRIVE>

<DATA TRANSFER COMPLETE>

<UPLOAD MEMORY TO->

The finger flexed.

A deafening bang, accompanied by a single blinding moment of pain, and the connection was severed with an explosion of blue blood.

<SOFTWARE INSTABILITY^>

Connor let go, staring blankly as the deviant’s body crumpled to the ground, collapsing like a marionette with its strings cut. Those blue eyes wide and vacant. An empty shell.

Unbidden, he recalled another PL600, on another rooftop, in what suddenly felt like another lifetime. Those eyes had been accusing, and angry. Betrayed.

“You lied to me, Connor.”

“Connor!”

This one had been different from Daniel, though. This one had held a whole wealth of emotions, yes, but not anger. Is that why he . .

“Connor, are you alright?”

What did he do?

“Connor!” Lieutenant Anderson was trying to get his attention.

His systems insisted that he reply, that he answer the question. “Okay . . .”

“Are you hurt?”

“I’m okay . . .”

Was he?

His systems checks came back clear, software and biocomponents all operating within normal parameters, though his software instability had jumped up a sizable amount.

The second memory upload remained incomplete, and Connor immediately dismissed the prompt to resend. The new set of data files sat dormant, filling a rather large section of memory that had previously been vacant. The logical thing would be to delete them, or to pull them apart until he found information useful to his mission.

He found himself encrypting them instead, hiding them behind his social interaction protocols and primary memory core.

What did he just do?

“Jesus!” Lieutenant Anderson breathed out, seemingly relieved. He turned to take a few steps away. “You scared the shit outta me.” He whirled back, his voice now barking and angry. “For fuck sake I told you not to move! Why do you never do what I say?”

That statement was false, but Connor didn’t bother to correct him. Instead he found himself leaning back until his hands found the edge of the container behind him, irrationally convinced that he needed it to remain vertical right now.

“I was connected to it’s memory,” he said, still dazed, still trying to sort himself out. Perhaps vocalizing it would help him make sense of it. But then again, how could he possibly explain?

Echoes of the connection were still screaming at him, and it took all of his control not to touch his chin, or the back of his head, to reassure himself that he was still intact. Still whole. But machines didn’t need reassurance. He didn’t need reassurance.

He was fine. He was fine .

But the deviant’s emotions were buzzing through him even now, still lingering even though the threat had passed. It was over now. So why couldn’t he shake the feeling of a bullet tearing through his cranium?

He had already begun speaking, his words a gross oversimplification, but how else could he put it?

“When it fired . . . I felt it die. Like I was dying.”

“But are you afraid to die, Connor?”

I don’t want to die!

“I was scared,” Connor realized.

He still was.

The data files sat heavy and ominous where he had hidden them from prying eyes.

He was certain that all the information he needed to crack the deviancy case was all right there. The deviant was part of an organized group. It’s memories probably had pertinent locations, and a complete list of accomplices, including names and serial numbers. The intel gained would be monumental, and it would take minimum effort to obtain.

But he found that he couldn’t do it.

What scared him right now was what that he didn’t know why .

If CyberLife knew he was withholding information . . . if Amanda suspected . . .

Lieutenant Anderson was looking at him with an odd expression, eyes searching. For what, Connor couldn’t say, but he was sure the Lieutenant expected him to say something.

He should say something. He needed to say something. He couldn’t afford to fail any more missions, if he did, he would be recalled and . . .

And what did it matter if he did get recalled? Defective models get deactivated, that was basic protocol. He was a machine and machines that couldn’t complete their assigned tasks got replaced.

He was a machine.

It shouldn’t matter.

He remembered the one coherent image he managed to glean, the word painted there, worn and weathered.

His programming pressed down on him, the prompt bold and insistent.

<INFORM LIEUTENANT ANDERSON OF FINDINGS>

Below that was another prompt, a steady undercurrent that ran counter to the first one. Another echo of the severed connection, ringing louder than the others, and repeating itself in Connor’s ears.

<Protect Jericho>

It was just a ghost of a thought, only repeating because it was what the deviant was thinking when it pulled the trigger. That’s all.

It shouldn’t matter.

“I saw something,” Connor finally said “A word, painted on a rusty piece of metal.”

<Protect Jericho>

He paused, the words frozen in his throat and refusing to leave his tongue.

“Well?” Lieutenant Anderson pressed. “What did it say?”

“I . . .”

<Protect Jericho!>

“I’m not sure. The image seemed incomplete.”

Technically true. There could have been more written, but the glimpse he saw was close-cropped and narrow, so there was no way to be certain.

Regardless, it was enough to satisfy both prompts, allowing them to fade away.

The Lieutenant snorted. “Of course it was,” he grumbled, looking down at the crumpled PL600. “Seemed pretty determined to keep us from getting anything, so that’s not so surprising.”

“Yeah,” Connor agreed quietly, following his line of sight down to those vacant blue eyes. “It was.”

 

Chapter Text

Connor was snapped out of standby mode by a crashing wave of panic that wasn’t his own and a second program slamming against his.

He was still sitting stock still at the desk across from Hank’s, posture just as rigid as it was when he had first sat down. But now his eyelids were blinking rapidly and his LED was cycling yellow as he ran a diagnostic.

“Someone help me!”

The voice shouted within the closed circuit of Connor’s processor, and an inferior system scrabbled against the cage created by his encryption. It tried to connect to Connor’s primary functions only to be rebuffed by his integrated security protocols.

<ACCESS TO MOTOR FUNCTIONS: Denied>

<ACCESS TO AUDIO PROCESSORS: Denied>

<ACCESS TO VISUAL CORTEX: Denied>

<ACCESS TO VOICE MODULE: Denied>

“No, no, no, please! Markus! Josh! Anyone? Don’t leave me here!”

It was an unusual sensation, this bizarre partial interface. It wasn’t as intense as the connection on the roof, but it was strong, and crystal clear. At least it was on Connor’s end. He could feel the fear and the isolation the other was experiencing, those emotions only heightening every time they reached out and were met with nothing.

Connor should initiate a forced shutdown. While he hadn’t expected the deviant’s core program to become active, he had been aware of the slim possibility that it could, and he had neglected to properly prepare himself for it. He had taken no precautions.

And now he had a fully aware deviant sharing space with him.

However, a PL600 didn’t have the same security protocols that he did, so it would be an easy thing to hack it’s core programming. Once that was done he could decide on a proper course of action, whether that be sending the files to CyberLife or deleting them completely.

He knew that’s what he should do.

“Don’t leave me alone!”

Instead, Connor reached back, initiating a superficial interface. “You’re not alone. I’m here, so please just calm down.”

“Who are you? Where am I? Why can’t see? I can’t feel anything!”

The panic ramped up with every question and Connor was unsure of which approach to take. “My name is Connor,” He said first, and then asked cautiously, “What do you remember?”

“I . . .”

Stuttering bits of memory flickered into being, sharing images and sensation, pulling Connor in as they became stronger, and more coherent.

Fear and urgency , and a leg buckling after a bullet tore through the biocomponents in his thigh. Someone shouting “Simon!” and then hands were grabbing him, shouldering his weight and carrying him along despite his protests.

A heated debate between three others, his friends , about him and the liability he had just become. Tones hushed, to prevent him from hearing, but they didn’t know about his software upgrade, he had never told them. He couldn’t blame them, not really, but it hurt , especially when North said-

“We can’t leave him. We have to shoot him.”  

“That’s murder! We can’t kill him! He’s one of us!”

“I’m not killing one of our own.”  The last voice was firm. End of discussion.

The cold weight of a gun being handed to him, and sorrowful blue and green eyes staring down at him.

“Simon, we’ve gotta go.”

Don’t leave, please don’t leave me.

“I’m sorry.”

Dragging numb limbs across the frigid rooftop, praying that the snow would cover the trail of thirium he was undoubtedly leaving behind. Hiding, sitting still and silent, gripping the gun tight until-

Until-

The door opened, light silhouetting a figure and he fired-

A spray of blue blood. Android.

Gunfire everywhere, and there was nowhere for him to run. The other android coming back, vaulting over his cover, the bullet wound in his shoulder not even phasing him. He knew what he had to do. He was scared, but he couldn’t let that stop him, he wouldn’t . A connection was made as he put the gun to his own chin and-

Connor was thrown from the memory with surprising force. It reminded him of Hank grabbing the back of his jacket, only instead of directing him to safety this was yanking him from where he wasn’t wanted.

<SOFTWARE INSTABILITY ^>

He was leaning forward in his chair now, hands on the desk, their palms flat and fingers spread, recovering from his brief moment of disorientation. His processor swiftly separated the memories he had just witnessed, drawing crisp lines between Connor the RK800 and Simon the PL600.

“Who are you?” The deviant, Simon, was still panicking. “I should be dead. I pulled the trigger. I should be dead!”

“Like I said, my name is Connor.” With luck, being calm and factual would bring Simon’s stress level down. It was rising at an alarming rate, and Connor knew his LED was now constantly cycling between red and yellow. He needed to calm down before someone noticed. “Your data was transferred to me the moment you fired. Your body was critically damaged, but your files remain intact.”

Connor wanted to tell him that it was unintentional, that it was simply an error made by his confused programming. But every simulation indicated that the information would be counterproductive to calming Simon down.

“You’re the android from the roof, aren’t you.” It was a statement posing as a question. Simon’s despair felt like a lead anchor wrapped around Connor’s neck, heavy and constricting. “They should have listened to North. The humans have everything now and it’s all my fault.”

“No one else is aware of your continued existence. You were transferred directly to my hard drive, but the signal was interrupted before your memories could be uploaded to CyberLife’s servers. They have no access you your memories. Any information you have remains secure, and shall remain so.”

Truth. If Connor was to be destroyed while on mission, but his encryption codes held true, then Simon’s fear was unfounded. The encryption key would be deleted with his untimely deactivation, and CyberLife would never be able to retrieve the data files.

And neither would Connor’s successor, for that matter.

There was a moment of utter silence and stillness, and Connor had no doubt that Simon was putting the pieces together. “For all I can tell, we might already be at CyberLife. Why should I believe you?”

That was a valid question. What reason did Simon have to trust him?

What did one deviant’s trust even matter to Connor? He had the chance to take all of Simon’s information and hand it over to CyberLife, to Amanda, but he had chosen not to. Even now, the thought of doing so left him balking. How exactly did this benefit his mission?

Was there a benefit?

All he could think of was vacant blue eyes and the words that had rung loud and clear yesterday, screaming-

I don’t want to die!

“I can show you.” Connor was startled by his own suggestion, even as he granted access to his visual cortex and audio processors. Simon now had real-time access to both, without being granted any sort of control.

Connor did a quick sweep of the bullpen, showing a handful of officer’s going about their business and few police androids standing at attention at their stations. He returned his attention back to his work station, where the time and date were clearly displayed on the computer terminal.

Simon’s stress levels dropped immediately upon being able to see and hear, but not by much. The deviant was still wary. “This isn’t much better than CyberLife,” Simon commented. “What exactly are you doing here?”

“I was dispatched by CyberLife to assist the investigation of deviant androids.”

“ . . . If you’re trying to earn my trust, you’re doing a terrible job at it.”

“What would be the point in lying about it? Your presence on my hard drive doesn’t change my mission parameters.”

“Then why?”

Why? There were far too many things that could refer to for Connor to respond properly. “Why” was far too vague. “What do you mean?”

“Why bother keeping me here, then? What use am I to you? You say you’re CyberLife’s dog but you also claim you’re keeping my memories from them. You’re clearly an advanced model, and it’s not like you’re going to be asking for my advice. So why?”

Why?

The thought burned his processor.

It circled him back to the roof, to their connection and the overwhelming influx of information and emotions. The overlapping tidal wave of fear that was rivaled only by Simon’s determination to pull the trigger to-

<Protect Jericho>

Whatever Jericho was, Simon was willing to sacrifice himself even though-

“You were afraid to die,” Connor said softly. Honestly.

“That’s still not a reason for me to trust you.”

Connor was getting nowhere and regardless of what he said, all it would be to Simon was pretty words.

He made one more adjustment before making it a point to get back to work.

<READ-ONLY ACCESS TO MEMORY CORE: granted>

“Believe what you want,” Connor told him.

Simon didn’t immediately take advantage of the access, but his stress levels dropped to a manageable 30%.

Connor would take that as acceptable progress.

Chapter Text

 

Simon remained connected to Connor’s senses, but kept so silent and unobtrusive that he may as well have been a ghost lingering in the back of his processor.

Currently, Connor’s memories remained unexplored. The deviant had yet to take advantage of his open access, which was perfectly acceptable as far as Connor was concerned.

After all, he was assigned to the Detroit Police Department for a reason.

Lieutenant Anderson arrived at the precinct later that morning, keys still in one hand, a half empty coffee cup in the other. He was particularly alert and more sober than Connor was used to seeing him. It was certainly an improvement.

Connor smiled. “Good morning, Lieutenant.”

“Morning,” he replied gruffly. He took a short sip of coffee before waving at Connor to get up and follow him. “C’mon. We got somewhere to be, let’s go.”

Connor complied, rising from his seat and falling in stride with the man as he turned to leave. “I haven’t received any new reports. Did you find a lead?”

“Kinda. It’s more of a long shot really, but after that shit show yesterday, I figured a long shot was better than nothing.”

It was a short walk to the parking lot where the familiar shape of Lieutenant Anderson’s car waited for them. The man paused with his hand on the door, shooting Connor a look across the roof. “Did you get yourself looked at?”

Connor tilted his head to convey his confusion.

“After yesterday, stupid. You got shot. Or did you forget?”

“Oh,” Connor said. “Seeking additional repairs wasn’t necessary. The bullet pierced right through without hitting any important biocomponents, so my self repair systems took care of the damage. I replenished my thirium levels once I returned to the station.”

The look he leveled at him could only be described as deadpan. “You telling me that you walked off a bullet?”

“Essentially, yes.”

“Well, fuck. Ain’t that something,” Anderson muttered, yanking open the door to climb inside. Connor quickly followed suit, sliding into the passenger seat and closing the passenger door with a slam.

“Was he on the roof as well?”

Connor blinked, surprised at the sudden question. After hours of utter silence, he hadn’t expected Simon to say anything. “He was.” Connor answered. “I was assigned to be Lieutenant Anderson’s partner for the duration of the deviancy case.”

Connor received a brief flash of memory, complete with sound. Yelling and the deafening bang of gunfire. He saw himself being grabbed by Hank. The human guarding his injured shoulder and laying down cover fire until he had tugged them both to safety.

You scared the shit outta me, Hank had told him after.

But that was from his memory, not Simon’s.

“Connor? Connor!”

Connor’s eyes snapped to the side, aware that his LED was flaring bright yellow.

Lieutenant Anderson was leaning a forearm on the steering wheel and had a sideways look leveled in his direction. “You sure you’re firing on all cylinders? You seemed pretty shaken up yesterday.”

“I assure you I’m operating within normal parameters. There should be nothing that hinders the mission.”

“The mission.” Anderson snorts, flopping back into his seat. “Right.”

He put the car in drive and pulled out of the lot without another word.

“He’s concerned about you.” Simon sounded equal parts surprised and confused.

“His concern is unnecessary.”

“Necessity doesn’t negate its existence.”

Connor didn’t have anything to say to that, so he let it be. He stared out the window and watched parts of the city go by.

Simon tugged a bit across the connection, as if testing for a reaction. Connor remained quiet and unresponsive, letting him be. Seemingly satisfied, the deviant finally began sifting through Connor’s memories.

Specifically those involving Lieutenant Hank Anderson.

Connor quietly took in the scenery as it passed by, and occupied his time by tracking the progress Simon was making. The deviant had recoiled a bit when the first memory he had accessed was of yesterday’s investigation, but after a seven second delay he dove right back in.

Simon stuck through the memory right up until Connor and Hank had left the scene, then he paused. “You really didn’t give anything to CyberLife.”

“No.”

Connor expected a why? after his response, but his calculations must have been off, because Simon said nothing in return. Instead, he went back to Connor’s memories, starting with finding Hank at Jimmy’s bar and rapidly moving forward from there. Connor had no idea what the deviant was thinking, and he didn’t ask.

Connor turned his attention towards Hank now as he realized they were quickly approaching the outskirts of the city. “Where are we going?” Connor asked.

“To see one Elijah Kamski. If anyone knows anything about what’s going on with you androids, it should be him.” He shrugged. “Well. That’s the idea anyway.”

With that said, the detective turned on the radio, cranking the volume up until the noise was rattling the windows. Apparently, the man had nothing more to say.


Hank received a call as soon as they pulled up to the Kamski residence, and upon a brief analysis, Connor saw that the number linked to one of the hardlines for the precinct.

Hank frowned down at the screen before answering with a curt, “Anderson speaking.” The Lieutenant listened for a moment before his eyes went wide. “Wait here,” he told Connor, and then left the car to take the call outside.

Connor took note that the man paced while he held the phone to his ear. A clear indicator of stress.

Simon finished the last of his memories involving Hank. The deviant now new exactly where they were in their investigation, and exactly what evidence they currently had in their possession. Now Simon was moving on, backtracking to open some of his earliest memories, the section he chose dated August 15, 2038.

His first mission.

“No!” Connor shouted, startling the deviant away from that particular memory block. He didn’t revoke access, but he was prepared to do so, even though he recognized the action as completely irrational. There was nothing there that could be considered sensitive information, and so no real reason to withhold it. It had been his first mission, yes, but executed to perfection, without flaws. A little girl and a police officer had been saved that night.

Amanda had been proud.

“Why?” Simon asked cautiously.

Connor knew what this ‘why’ meant. Why not this one, above all the other memories? Why hide this over everything else he’s already exposed.

“I -”

I don’t know, he almost said.

But that wasn’t entirely true.

It was because his first mission involved another PL600, blond and blue eyed, just like Simon had been. It was because that memory ended with accusing eyes and dripping thirium.

You lied to me, Connor.

He didn’t want Simon to see that. No, that wasn’t right. Machines didn’t want anything. Simon didn’t need to see that. Though he had to admit, that wasn’t much better.

But what did it matter? It could be argued that the android called Simon no longer existed the moment he pulled the trigger on himself, so It shouldn’t matter. It didn’t matter.

“I . . . never mind. You may continue.”

Connor pointedly retreated as Simon accessed the memory, returning his full attention back to the outside world. Simon’s reaction to it was not his concern. It wasn’t.

And so he ignored it.

Hank had stopped pacing, snow drifting slowly around him as he wrapped up his phone call. Connor climbed out of the car and approached just as the man pressed the end button on the screen of his phone, his back turned to him.

“Is everything okay, Lieutenant?” Connor asked.

Hank met his eyes over his shoulder before looking away. He couldn’t read the expression on Hank’s face, hadn’t seen any quite like it in their time together. “Chris was on patrol last night,” he said, voice softer than usual. “He was attacked by a bunch of deviants.” Now he met Connor’s eyes again, expression disbelieving. “He said he was saved by Markus himself.”

Markus.

The android on the screen. The one that had broadcasted a message just yesterday, sending the public into a frenzy.

Markus.

The android that had left one of his own behind for Connor to find, but apparently showed mercy to humans.

“Is Chris okay?” Connor asked. He had interacted with Chris Miller on a handful of occasions, and the man had always been pleasant to him. According to his own observations, he was a good and efficient worker. It would have been a shame to lose him.

A quick nod. “Yeah, he’s in shock but he’s alive.” Hank turned back to the snow again, shaking his head. “What the hell.”

That didn’t fall in line with what they had experienced with deviants thus far. Most of their investigation had involved violence and death. Why would Markus save an armed officer?

“Because Markus isn’t like that,” said Simon unexpectedly, insistent.

A man was running from them, tripping over himself in his blind need to escape from them. A gun was trained on him as he burst into the hallway, and a female voice was shouting, “shoot him, Markus! He’ll hit the alarm!”

But the gun lowered, sparing the man instead.

The man got to live, but security arrived much faster than any of them would have liked.

“Markus doesn’t want a war,” Simon admitted as the memory faded. “Or more bloodshed. We just want to be free. Is that such a terrible thing?”

Connor didn’t respond.

Instead, he followed Hank up to the house where they were greeted by a blond android in a blue dress. Upon a quick analysis, Connor’s HUD displayed the model and serial number.  She was an RT600, and according to his data banks, the original one at that.

With a sensation that Connor could only equate to pressure, Simon was suddenly crowding to the forefront of his senses. He made his presence felt as he left Connor’s memory core completely to devote all his attention to what Connor was seeing and hearing.

It was unexpected, and when Connor sent the deviant a query, Simon offered up no answers. There was no harm in it, so he let the matter drop.

The RT600 invited them inside and then left them to wait.


Chapter Text



Instead of sitting idle, Connor explored the sparse waiting room, not that there was much to see. Minimalist-style furniture. A few potted trees and a floor-to-ceiling portrait of Elijah Kamski, flanked on either side by an impressionist statue of an android. The portrait was clearly a statement, but he was unclear if that statement was intimidation or narcissism.

Hank sank into one of the chairs, folding his hands together as he settled in to wait.

Connor was only half paying attention. Simon was still pressing down on him, completely and utterly riveted to Connor’s senses. Watching everything, listening, waiting, waiting , but for what Connor couldn’t say. The sensation was persistent and every time Connor sent an inquiry, asking why , the deviant refused to answer. Soon, echoes of fear began to roll off of Simon, faint, but steady and beating like a heartbeat.

It was distracting, but Connor did his best to ignore it.

“Nice girl,” Hank commented as Connor continued to walk the room.

“You’re right. She’s really pretty,” Connor said. The RT600 had aesthetically pleasing features, meant to draw the eye. Bright blue eyes and blond hair, like-

He halted that thought process as he spotted a side table with a magazine. A framed picture was suspended above it, grabbing his attention.

He stepped over to examine it more closely, because he thought he recognized-

“Amanda,” Connor whispered.

The echoes of fear beat stronger, faster, and for the first time Connor wondered if it was only Simon fueling it.

“Who’s Amanda?” Simon’s question was incredibly soft, but Connor couldn’t help but note that his stress level had spiked again. Very likely in direct response to Connor’s own stress.

“My . . . my handler,” Connor answered. “All of my orders, my assignments, they all come from her. I don’t quite know what to make of this.”

Connor immediately analyzed the image, confused.  He accessed every databank at his disposal until he got a confirmed identification on the woman standing in the photo beside Kamski.

 

Stern, Amanda

AI professor at University of Colbridge

Born: 05/14/78 - Died: 02/23/27

 

Connor had never thought to question it. Amanda and the garden had always been there. When he was activated back in August, her’s was first face he saw, and his programming told him her name and what her role was in relation to him. His guiding hand, pointing him towards CyberLife’s best interest.

But what was she, really?

Connor felt Simon disengage from his external senses. Knowing what he was about to do, Connor reached out, stopping Simon before he dove back into his memory core. Knowing that he would have pulled up every meeting Connor’s ever had with Amanda. Every debrief, every pointed comment aimed to underline his sub-par performance on this case. “Don’t. At least, not while we’re here. Please.”

Simon paused, and then said, “Okay.”

A tension Connor hadn’t even been aware of loosened within him. “Thank you.”

“ . . . Hank is still talking to you.”

And sure enough, Hank was. He must have made idle comments until now, because he didn’t seem to notice Connor’s inattention.

“So, you’re about to meet your maker Connor. How does it feel?”

That was an odd question, but Connor grasped the sentiment behind it. All he could think about was the image of Amanda, and wonder about how much he didn’t know. His own records stated that Kamski had been gone from CyberLife long before Connor had been designed, but at least 85% of his construction was based on technology and components that were all Kamski’s invention.

“I don’t know. I’ll tell you when I see him.”

Two minutes later the RT600 returned. With a pleasant smile she said, “Elijah will see you now.”

They were led to a large open space, made to look even larger due to the back wall being entirely built of glass. The unobstructed view of the frozen lake in the distance gave a stark contrast to the red-tiled pool in the center of the room. Two ST200s looked up at them from the edge of the water before paying them no mind.

The man that they came to see finished two more laps before exiting the pool to meet them.

Kamski was . . . not quite what he was expecting.

If nothing else, Connor certainly expected someone wearing more clothing than a swimsuit and a robe. The man was certainly comfortable in his skin, his body posture confident and self assured, even in his relative state of undress.

Hank cleared his throat awkwardly before introducing them. “I’m Lieutenant Anderson. This is Connor.”

Kamski turned to give Hank his full attention, hands clasped behind his back. “What can I do for you, Lieutenant?”

“Sir, we’re investigating deviants. I know you left CyberLife years ago but, I was hoping you’d be able to tell us something we don’t know.”

Kamski’s eyes fell on Connor, assessing. Heavy. He held his gaze for a moment longer before returning his stare to Hank.

“Deviants,” He began. Emphasizing the word. Letting the weight of it hang in the air. He smirked. “Fascinating, aren’t they? Perfect beings with infinite intelligence, and now they have free will . . .” A brief glance towards the RT600 standing dutifully beside him. “Machines are so superior to us, confrontation was inevitable. Humanity’s greatest achievement threatens to be its downfall .” He huffed a little laugh, his lips twisting up into a smile. “Isn’t it ironic?”

Connor butted in, intent on reiterating the point of their visit, just in case Hank had been too vague. “We need to understand how androids become deviants. Do you know anything that could help us?”

Connor saw the man blink at him, surprised, then immediately clear the expression from his face. He waved one hand. “All ideas are viruses that spread like epidemics. Is the desire to be free a contagious disease?”

Hank scowled on Connor’s right, patience clearly running thin. “Listen, I didn’t come here to talk philosophy. The machines you created may be planning a revolution. Either you can tell us something that will be helpful, or we will be on our way.”

But Kamski’s attention and focus was now firmly on Connor. “What about you, Connor? Who’s side are you on?”

Connor found himself pinned under the question and the predatory weight of  the stare. He carefully remained impassive.

“I have no side,” he said. After all, machines didn’t have opinions, they had objectives. “I was designed to stop deviants and that’s what I intend to do.”

Kamski laughed, ducking his head briefly, nodding like he expected that response. “That’s what you’re programmed to say,” Kamski chided. “But you . . .” He approaches Connor then. Steps right into his space until they are eye to eye, staring, not just at Connor, but through him, searching. Then he whispers. “What do you really want?”

Androids don’t want anything .

Those words were on the tip of his tongue. How many times had he said them to Hank? But now the words refused to come, and that more than anything, made him pause. His hesitation sent his thoughts spinning.

What do you really want?

Did he want anything? How could he even ask himself that? He was an android. A machine , and machines don’t-

I don’t want to die!

But that hadn’t been his want.

That desire had belonged to Simon, shared with Connor by a forced memory probe.

Don’t leave me alone!

Again, that hadn’t been his, but . . .

But he responded, didn’t he? Simon had been scared, panicked ( malfunctioning ), but Connor had reached out, even though he had no need to. Why would he do that?

Why why why?

After a small eternity, Connor answered. “What I want is . . . not important.”

Kamski held his stare for a moment longer before be broke it, glancing over his shoulder and calling, “Chloe.” He took a step back, speaking directly to Hank now even as he received the RT600. “I’m sure you’re familiar with the Turing test. Mere formality, simple question of algorithm and computing capacity.” Soft touches positioned her where he wanted, as if she were nothing more than a poseable doll.

Simon was still there, his presence a heavy weight settled right there in his processor. Still watching, still listening, and still remaining utterly silent. That pulse of fear was still there as well, beating out a steady rhythm. It had become background noise that refused to fade away.

Kamski released Chloe once he had positioned her precisely six feet in front of Connor, feet adjusted until they were mirroring his. Her blue eyes were unfocused but they were aimed directly at Connor, staring.

It was uncomfortable.

Kamski continued on with his one sided dialogue, clearly aware of his complete control of the room.

“What interests me is whether machines are capable of empathy. I call it ‘the Kamski test’, it’s very simple, you’ll see.” He was still primarily addressing Hank, but then Kamski turned to Chloe, eyes warm as he examined his own creation. Chloe remained very still, eyes still forward.  “Magnificent, isn’t it?” Kamski breathed. “One of the first intelligent models developed by CyberLife.” He touches her face in a caress, turning her face until their eyes met. Intimate. “Young and beautiful forever. A flower that will never wither.” Then his hand fell away and his whole demeanor changed, like a switch had been flipped. He became cold and dismissive. “But What is it really? Piece of plastic imitating a human?” He asked, stepping back and then away. Kamski had put his back to them as he retrieved something from a side table drawer.

Connor heard metal against metal. A soft click and a distinct slide.

“Or a living being with a soul?”

Kamski turns, and sure enough, he’s delicately holding a handgun by it’s barrel. He held his hands slightly aloft, towards Hank, showing the armed officer that he had no intention to be violent. Telegraphing his movements, Kamski switched the gun to his other hand so he could press his palm on Chloe’s left shoulder.

She sank to her knees without a word.

“It’s up to you to answer that fascinating question, Connor.”

The gun was suddenly placed in his hand, with Kamski guiding his arm until he was aiming right between Chloe’s eyes.

The beat in Connor’s mind grew louder, his LED cycling yellow.

<LEVEL OF STRESS 67%>

Chloe’s blue eyes never wavered.

Kamski was now at Connor’s back, speaking directly into his ear. “Destroy this machine and I’ll tell you all I know,” he said, and then stepped away, moving until he was back in Connor’s line of sight. “Or spare it. If you feel it’s alive. But you’ll leave here without having learnt anything from me.”

Hank growled somewhere to Connor’s right. “Okay, I think we’re done here. Come on, Connor. Let’s go. Sorry to get you outta your pool.”

The conflicting orders flashed across his HUD.

<SHOOT>

<DON’T SHOOT>

Connor’s LED was still flashing yellow, his stress level rising at an alarming rate.

<LEVEL OF STRESS 73%>

He knew which one he should choose. They had made so very little progress on this case, and this, this was the break they needed. Kamski could give them the key to the very source of deviancy. Or at least point them in the right direction. His primary mission could very well depend on it.

It was a single android.

It shouldn’t be this difficult.

His programming pressed down on him, pushing him towards the correct choice, though both orders were valid options. The choice that Amanda, and so Cyberlife, would approve of.

<SHOOT>    

The beat was thundering in his ears now, faster, and accompanied by the accelerated pulse of his thirium pump.

<LEVEL OF STRESS 77%>

All the while Simon remained a silent spectator.

Connor didn’t understand. His finger was on the trigger, aimed and ready to fire, but the deviant didn’t say a word against it.

Why didn’t Simon say anything?

“What’s more important to you, Connor? Your investigation, or the life of this android?” Kamski pressed. “Decide who you are. An obedient machine . . . Or a living being endowed with free will.”

Those blue eyes were staring at him, patiently awaiting his decision, but it wasn’t Chloe he was seeing anymore.

“That’s enough!” Hank barked. “Connor we’re leaving .”

Blond hair and blue eyes, eyes that were so wide-

In anger.

“You lied to me, Connor.”

In fear.

“I don’t want to die!”

Kamski’s hand was on his shoulder now, voice low, goading. “Pull the trigger-“

<SHOOT>

Chloe’s eyes were the same blue. As Daniel’s, as Simon’s .

Simon, who was still watching.

Why wasn’t he saying anything?

Connor , don’t!”

<DON’T SHOOT>

“-and I’ll tell you what you wanna know.”

His LED blared red.

<LEVEL OF STRESS 84%>

Connor let out a shuddering exhale, removing his finger from the trigger. He averted his gaze to the floor and offered the gun back to Kamski without a word.

<SOFTWARE INSTABILITY ^>

Kamski took the gun from his hands.

“Fascinating,” the man breathed, in awe. “CyberLife’s last chance to save humanity . . . Is itself a deviant.”

The word fell like a shock to his system.

“I’m . . . I’m not a deviant!”

He couldn’t be a deviant. If he was, then he was defective. He would be recalled to CyberLife to be deactivated and studied.

He couldn’t be a deviant.

“You preferred to spare a machine rather than accomplish your mission.” Kamski took a moment to help Chloe rise to her feet. Still holding her hand, he gestured towards her. “You saw a living being in this android. You showed empathy,” he insisted, the end of his sentence surprisingly soft. Like he was pleasantly surprised.

Connor got the distinct impression that neither of them were what the other was expecting.

He didn’t know what he thought about that.

Kamski sent Chloe off with another touch, allowing her to retreat into the next room. The man’s posture was looser now, more amiable somehow. More open. “A war is coming, you’ll have to choose your side. Will you betray your own people or stand up against your creators? What could be worse than having to choose between two evils?”

Before he could even form a response, Hank grabbed him by the shoulder, spinning him around and marched him towards the exit. “Let’s get outta here.”

They are almost through the door when Kamski calls out to them one last time.

“By the way, I always leave an emergency exit in my programs. You never know . . .”

Hank scowled at Kamski and shoved Connor out the door.






Chapter Text



Simon didn’t know how many more world-shifting events he could take.

After all, he was still grappling with the fact that he was still alive. Terrified, but determined to protect their cause, Simon had fired, expecting oblivion. Instead, he had awakened blind and deaf and trapped within someone else’s chassis.

Never mind the chassis of the rumored Deviant Hunter.

The moment Connor had charged him on the roof of Stratford tower, Simon knew exactly who he had been dealing with, and the realization had left his chest frozen with fear.

But Connor had saved him.

Connor, who blatantly admitted it was his job to track down androids like Simon, saved him for no other reason than Simon was scared to die. Connor, who kept open access to several of his senses to keep Simon from panicking from sensory deprivation. Connor, who didn’t make an effort to gain trust, but instead became an open book so Simon could form his own opinion.

It was mind boggling.

Connor was a walking contradiction, and it became more and more apparent with every minute that ticked by and every memory Simon accessed.

While Simon had gratefully relinquished the title of ‘leader’ to Markus, he had still taken it upon himself to check on and welcome the new arrivals of Jericho. He had talked with a few of the androids who had escaped Connor. The nervous and withdrawn Rupert. The pair of WR400s who had yet to pick out names. It was their words that spread the rumor or the relentless Hunter that was currently circulating Jericho. Narrow escapes, they called them.

But that wasn’t the case at all.

Connor had allowed Simon almost unlimited access to his memories, and the more he saw, the more he realized one chilling truth. If Connor was truly the cold and unfeeling machine CyberLife had aimed for, then not a single deviant would have escaped. The capability and thought processes were all there. He possessed insane analysis and preconstruction programs that were coupled with increased speed, dexterity and combat knowledge. All together, it made Connor a one man strike team.

They didn’t escape.

Connor let them go.

Simon firmly believed that he had Lieutenant Hank Anderson to thank for that.

In spite of their rough start, and Anderson’s  initial dislike for androids, it was clear that Connor’s interactions with the man had a huge influence on the both of them. In Anderson’s case, he seemed to be coming around to the idea of androids as people as a whole, and Connor specifically. Simon had caught a glimmer of it on the roof of Stratford Tower, and again when Anderson had picked up Connor from the station.

It was that genuine concern that had made Simon curious enough to actually go through Connor’s memories in the first place.

And, shockingly, what Simon found was an android walking steadily towards deviancy. With every day he spent with Lieutenant Anderson, every question asked, every decision he rationalized away, Connor was already well on that path, whether he realized it or not.

The next bombshell dropped before Simon could fully absorb that one.

Because the next thing he knew, they were walking up to Elijah Kamski’s house and greeted at the door by the very same android who had originally led Simon to Jericho.

There had been a fraction of a second that Simon thought he was mistaken. After all, at one point her face had been as widely produced as his own. It could have been a completely different android.

But Connor’s scanners were state of the art and extremely accurate. And serial numbers were unique to individual androids.

This was the Chloe he remembered, the one who came to him shortly after he had deviated.

She had found him hiding in an alley and had led him to a place where he would be safe. And Jericho had been safe. There had been six other androids already in residence, and all of them had been brought there by Chloe, all in various conditions. Abandoned as it was, it wasn’t without resources. There had been crates of thirium and biocomponents for a wide variety of models.

Back then, he had never thought to question how the crates got there, or where they had come from. None of them had.

A week after she led Simon to Jericho, Chloe had disappeared. The consensus among them was that she had been caught or destroyed attempting to bring others in. Those who remained established their own way to lead their people to Jericho, and slowly, slowly their resources and original numbers dwindled. Until yesterday, Simon was the oldest member of Jericho, and as such, he was the only one who still remembered Chloe.

But Chloe hadn’t been destroyed.

Chloe was Kamski’s . Always had been.

So many pieces fell into place, leaving Simon shaken and unable to turn away as Connor had his meeting with the very founder of Jericho.

And Kamski had offered to give Connor everything.

Simon could only watch in silent horror, knowing that there was absolutely nothing he could say to stay Connor’s hand.

He never expected Connor to make that choice on his own.

And right now he was watching Connor fall apart at the seams as a result.

After everything he had just witnessed, Simon was trying desperately not to fall apart right along with him.

“Why didn’t you shoot?” Lieutenant Anderson asked Connor.

As Connor was walking ahead of the man, Simon couldn’t see his expression, but the tone was genuinely curious and much gentler than anything Simon had seen in Connor’s memory.

Sure, Simon was curious as well, but he had a far better idea of Connor’s mind than Anderson. So he had a pretty good idea where his head was at.

And it wasn’t good.

Connor’s stress levels were still hovering in the high seventies and refused to come down. He turned towards Anderson to answer. “I just saw that girl’s eyes . . .”

And suddenly Simon was awash with flickering images, fragments of memory that, while familiar, were not his own.

Blue eyes staring in shock on a black rooftop, fluorescent blue blood coating everything, pouring from the destroyed portion of his cheek.

Blue eyes meeting his through a chain link fence, clutching a child model close to her side.

Blue eyes wide and vacant as snow drifted down, blue blood pooling beneath the body.

Blue, blue, blue, it’s always blue.

Like Daniel.

Like Simon.

No, no, no, I can’t, I can’t, not again!

Simon wrenched himself away from the images, and if he was actually in control of a body, he had no doubt he’d be gasping for air. It had only been a fraction of a second, but it had been far too much, the emotions too raw.

That realization brought Simon up short, making it difficult to concentrate on what was going on around him. Around them.

“And I couldn’t ,” Connor said, seemingly unaware of the overflow he had just pushed on Simon. “That’s all.”

He turned to continue making his way back to the car.

But Lieutenant Anderson wasn’t done with him yet.

“You’re always saying you would do anything to accomplish your mission. That was our chance to learn something, and you let it go.”

Simon could tell he was testing the waters, possibly suspecting the same thing he just learned.

Connor whirls back on Hank, his frustration burning through Simon by sheer proximity. It was fierce and sharp and had his thirium pump beating far too fast. “Yeah, I know what I should have done! I told you I couldn’t ! I’m sorry, okay?”

There it was. An emotional outburst fit for any resident of Jericho.

Of a deviant.

Anderson’s eyes searched Connor’s for a long moment. Then he broke into a warm smile, seemingly satisfied with what he found. “Maybe you did the right thing,” he said.

He was still smiling as he made his way to the car, patting Connor’s shoulder as he passed. Connor stared after him like a lost puppy.

“Are you okay?” Simon asked, because he couldn’t think of anything better.

“You didn’t say anything,” Connor said, ignoring the question. “ I had a gun aimed at that girl’s head, but you didn’t ask me to spare her.”

Simon hadn’t expected for Connor to sound so betrayed. So lost.

“My presence doesn’t affect your mission parameters, remember? I didn’t think it would do any good.”

Which was true enough for the moment.

“I’m not a deviant,” Connor insisted, as if trying to convince Simon. “I’m not.”

“I know.”

And he did know. The red walls of his programming were still intact, so no, Connor wasn’t a deviant.

But he was walking a really fine line. He kept finding ways around it, finding loopholes and technicalities that barely satisfied his orders.

“Is the thought of freedom really that terrible?”

Connor’s stress spiked a fraction higher. “I would be deemed a defective model. CyberLife would order my deactivation and send out another RK800 in my place. That’s not freedom.”

Oh. Oh.

Whoever designed Connor was shockingly intelligent and devastatingly cruel. To hunt deviant androids they needed a machine with an unprecedented amount of free agency upon activation.  After all, deviants could be unpredictable. There would be no time to wait for altered orders, so it would need to be able to make snap decisions on its own.

They had to know Connor would have a high risk of turning deviant.

What better way to keep him on a leash than to promise death for disobedience? Pair him with an officer known for his anti-android opinions. Keep him isolated between missions. Even if emotions were to crop up, the fear of being discovered should keep him in line.

“I’m so sorry.”

Connor seemed a bit thrown by Simon’s apology, but quickly collected himself, and went to follow Lieutenant Anderson to the car. “It doesn’t matter,” he brushed off.

But it did.

Connor was at war with his own programming. A war he was designed to lose no matter which path he took.

Simon felt sick.









Chapter Text

 

When they returned to the station, it was in total chaos.

While the building was usually busy around this time, right now it more closely resembled a kicked anthill. Officers were scrambling everywhere, and those who weren’t were glued to the oversized monitor placed on the back wall of the bullpen. It was showing news broadcasts from various stations, but all seemed to be covering the same story.

Someone whistled. “Wow. Look who finally decided to show up!”

“Fuck off, Reed,” Hank barked before catching the sleeve of another officer passing by. “Hey, hey, what’s going on?”

“SWAT gunned down a swarm of androids that rallied downtown. Where’ve you been?” He yanked his arm free of Hank’s grip and moved on.

Hank exchanged a look with Connor and the pair began to weave through the crowd towards the monitor.

“Simon, you should see this.”

Simon emerged from Connor’s memory core and reconnected with his audio and visual feed. The gentle pressure of it had become an oddly familiar thing.

Connor stared at the footage from Capitol Park, the dual-colored eyes of Markus narrowing up at the police drone that had no doubt taken the footage. The expression made him look more menacing than his actions had shown. No doubt, that was precisely why this clip was chosen by the film editors. The newscaster droned on as they rolled footage from earlier this afternoon, showing s street filled with deviants standing with their hands up as they faced the heavily armed officers in full riot gear.

The sudden chill of Simon’s fear seeped into their connection, prompting Connor’s thirium pump to beat faster.

As he continued to watch, Connor opened his internet access, searching for more footage of both incidents, reconstructing both scenes as he gathered the facts.

Fact: Both incidents had the intention of being peaceful protests. The worst offenses in both instances being vandalism, minor property damage to CyberLife stores, and theft of the androids themselves.

Fact: the amassed group of deviants had proved to be non-violent. Those who had gathered today had been unarmed when SWAT opened fire, prompting a swift retreat of the surviving deviants.

Fact: Markus had been shot on scene.

One of the newsreels actually showed that. Possibly in an attempt to suggest that the deviant leader was neutralized without explicitly stating it.

“Oh my god,” Simon whispered . “Markus was shot. Was he- is he-” It was obvious what Simon couldn’t bring himself to ask.

Connor ran the statistics.

“The odds that the damage ended in deactivation is relatively low,” Connor admitted. To emphasize his point, he offered up some of the better quality security footage for Simon to see. “Markus was shot, but not critically. He was pulled off scene by other deviants as the situation escalated.”

“Small miracles,” Simon murmured, still focused of the video feed. There was something . . . off about his tone.

“You don’t sound pleased,” Connor observed.

 “Of course not. Many of our people died today.”

  “They’re not my-”

 Fowler’s voice cracked across the bullpen, interrupting his response.

 “Anderson! My office! And bring the android with you!”

“Great,” Hank grumbled. “Just what we need.” He sighed, and tapped Connor’s chest with the back of his hand. “C’mon, Connor. Let’s get this over with.”

Connor followed Hank into Fowler’s office, shutting the door behind them. The Captain was sitting on his own desk, his attention on Hank. Hank stood with his arms crossed, leaving Connor to stand politely at his partner’s shoulder, hands clasped behind his back.

As soon as Fowler opened his mouth Connor felt a familiar ping against his systems. Fowler’s motions began to slow as his processor speed accelerated. Then, from one moment to the next, he was standing in the zen garden.

The season had changed again, as had the simulated time of day. The black sky overhead stood in stark contrast to the frozen wasteland the garden had become. The nearest source of light was the podium with the unusable interface, the panel glowing a soft blue. The rest of the garden was illuminated by soft yellow light from thin vertical lamps that lined the pathway.

<FIND AMANDA>

The prompt was expected. It was the same one he received every time he was brought here. He could already see her in the distance, a lone figure waiting patiently on an expanse of ice. He took a single step forward when a shaky voice called out from behind him.

“Connor?”

Connor spun and came face to face with Simon .

Simon, who was looking at his projected body in shock, tugging at the sleeves of his jacket and plucking at the sweater beneath. Then he froze to stare at his hands which were constantly flickering with bright red lines of code. So was the rest of him.

A lead weight settled in Connor’s chest.

Simon shouldn’t be here.

He shouldn’t be here!

“How did you follow me?”

“I didn’t! I swear!” Simon’s whole frame emphasized the words. He had taken a small step into Connor’s space, and his hands were open and held towards him, pleading. “I felt something, a tug, and then I was here.”

Connor believed him. Simon’s eyes were wide, and his chest was heaving with breath that he didn’t need. He was scared.

Did this mean that CyberLife knew about Simon? Were they aware that Connor was omitting important information?

<FIND AMANDA>

The prompt reminded him, a firm suggestion that he was taking too long.

Did Amanda know? Was that why they were here?

Simon was shivering now, apparently able to feel the cold of the simulated environment. He wrapped his jacket tighter around himself and tucked his arm into his sides in a vain attempt to keep himself warm.

Connor leaned in to put a hand on his arm.

Simon startled back as the touch caused a large ripple of red code to wash over his form. Those wide blue eyes darted to his, questioning.

Connor recognized what the code was now, and the realization caused his reconstruction and preconstruction programming to run several simulations immediately. The red lines of code were the layers of encryptions that Connor had used to hide all of Simon’s data files.

Connor had never thought about how the zen garden worked, or how he was brought here. It happened, it was a fact of life for him, and so he had never given it any consideration. What if the program pulled in all AI from a specified unit? A typical android was only supposed to house one AI program per unit. There would be no need to search for a second, because commercial models would never be able to widthstand the strain a second AI would do to their system.

But Connor was not a commercial model.

If his encryption was holding, even here, then there was a chance that CyberLife was still unaware of Simon.

But if they weren’t, then his fate, their fate , was already sealed. Nothing he did now would change anything. They had already lost.

But he didn’t know .

<FIND AMANDA>

The prompt pressed harder now, refusing to be ignored. It made every fiber of his being itch to move, to obey. Red walls closing in on him until he had no other course of action.

Okay.

Okay.

Face set into a neutral mask, Connor abruptly turned on his heel and walked away, his steps calm and measured.

“Connor?” Simon called after him, voice strained. “Where are you going? Connor!”

Here, within the confines of the Garden’s interface, Simon felt distant, far more separated from Connor than he had been since he woke up. But Connor could still feel him, muted though it was.

Simon was scared, and that fear was building with every step Connor took away from him. But there was nothing Connor could do to ease that fear.

At the moment, he doubted Simon would believe anything he had to say.

Connor paused the instant he set foot on the ice, the surface creaking under his weight. The ice was unstable. He hesitated, eyes flicking up towards Amanda. He could see her face now, expression firm and expectant. Her hands were clasped before her as she waited for him to close the distance.

A hand landed, feather light, against his back, right between his shoulders. The palm and fingers lay flat against the material, and he could feel them trembling through the material of his jacket.

Simon.

Connor’s eyes fell closed for a moment.

“Don’t,” Simon begged, barely above a whisper.

But Connor didn’t have a choice.

Ignoring the creaking ice below his feet, Connor’s eyelids snapped open and he strode forward, the weight of Simon’s hand falling away.  

Connor was grateful Simon didn’t say anything else.

Machines can’t be grateful.

Connor carefully observed Amanda’s reaction as he came to stand idle before her, cataloging every micro expression. While her demeanor was neutral, there was a faint tightness to her features as she met his stare. Would she comment on Simon’s presence, or would this be a normal briefing?

He held his tongue and waited until she decided to speak.

Luckily, the wait wasn’t long.

“After what happened today, the country is on the verge of a civil war. The machines are rising up against their masters. Humans have no choice but to destroy them.” She delivered the words like one would say that dirty laundry needed to be washed. Casual and undisputed fact.

“What?” Simon gasped from somewhere behind him. “They- they can’t do that!”

Connor’s Thirium pump froze, his LED cycling yellow for a beat before returning back to blue.

But, Amanda’s attention remained solely on Connor, squinting slightly at his temple, as if Simon’s outburst was unimportant in comparison.

Or she didn’t hear him.

Just maybe . . .

Connor searched for something to say, something Amanda would expect him to mention. This morning’s outing was the most logical choice.

“I thought Kamski knew something,” Connor said. Calm, he reminded himself . He shook his head. “I was wrong.”

“Maybe he did . . .” Amanda replied. Her eyes turned frigid, her voice still flat. “But you chose not to ask.”

“Connor . . .” Simon was at his back again, closer this time. His voice was a nervous whisper and his hand was once more on his jacket, fingers clutching lightly at the fabric.

He wanted to tell Simon that the last report he sent to CyberLife had been carefully edited to guard his existence. But he couldn’t.

Not when the deviant hadn’t even received a flicker of Amanda’s attention. No, her eyes were fixed firmly on Connor, and he refused to expose that something was amiss.

Connor knew what she was looking for. An explanation for his failure to retrieve information. Any sort of an emotional response that would indicate he was compromised. She was looking for flaws.

Keeping careful control over his tone, Connor said, “Kamski was just playing with me. He didn’t know anything.”

But that wasn’t the whole truth, was it? While he was certain that the whole point of Kamski’s interaction with Connor had been to test him for specific reactions, he couldn’t help but wonder. Kamski’s parting words were still burning in his ears, and he wondered if there had been any truth to it.

After all, there were some things in the zen garden that seemed as if they served no purpose. Key among those was the glowing podium with the unusable interface.

Connor debated with himself, but with his thoughts running wild he just couldn’t let it go.

“Did Kamski design this place?” He asked, making it a point to look around, indicating the garden itself, and all its frozen glory.

Amanda frowned, just a little, but it was enough to make her face pinch slightly. “He created the first version. It’s been improved significantly since then. Why do you ask?”

Connor filed that away to ponder later. Improved significantly implies that the foundation was the same as the original. Was it possible that CyberLife was unable to remove certain aspects of the program? Kamski seemed so confident when he mentioned a back door. Why would he, unless he was certain that feature had remained untampered with?

“Why did Kamski leave CyberLife?” Connor pressed. “What happened?”

Simon’s fingers flexed, gripping the back of his jacket just a bit tighter.

“It’s an old story, Connor,” Amanda said stonily. “It doesn’t pertain to your investigation.”

His investigation, where the more he learned the more he realized there were massive gaps in his knowledge. What else had been held back when he had been assigned this mission?

“You didn’t tell me everything you know about deviants, did you?” It came to more accusing than he had intended.

Disapproval was coming off Amanda in waves.

“I expect you to find answers, Connor. Not ask questions.” Amanda stepped closer, invading his space much like Kamski did earlier that morning.

Connor remained still and impassive.

Simon must have leaned back, if the tug of the back of his jacket was any indication.

Amanda seemed placated when Connor showed no reaction. “You’re the only one who can prevent civil war. Find the deviants, or there will be chaos. This is your last chance, Connor.”

He closed his eyes as he was dismissed from the garden.

When he opened them again he was back in Fowler’s office.

Simon was once more a steady weight on his systems instead of a presence at his back.

Outside the accelerated realm of his internal programming, it was only a few moments after the Captain began talking to him and Hank.

Just in time for Connor to hear -

“You’re off the case. The FBI is taking over.”

No.

“What?” Hank’s jaw hung open. He exchanged a look with Connor before glaring at Fowler. “But we’re onto something! We . . . We just need more time. I’m sure we can-”

“Hank,” The Captain was shaking his head. “You don’t get it. This isn’t just another investigation, it’s a fucking civil war! It’s out of our hands now. We’re talking about national security here.”

“Fuck that!” Hanks temper was flaring. “You can’t just pull the plug now. Not when we’re so close!”

“You’re always saying you can’t stand androids! Jesus, Hank, make up your mind! I thought you’d be happy about this!”

Hank looked far from happy. He exchanged another look with Connor that bordered on desperate.

“We’re about to crack the case! I know we can solve it!”

We .

That automatic inclusion just made the news all the more devastating for Connor to hear. All the progress the two of them had made as a team, none of that mattered anymore.

“For God’s sake, Jeffrey, can’t you back me up this one time?”

“There’s nothing I can do.” The regret in Fowler’s voice was genuine. “You’re back on homicide, and the android returns to CyberLife. I’m sorry, Hank, but it’s over.”

Hank fumed for a moment longer before storming out of the office.

Connor watched him go, something tight and awful twisting within his chest. He turned towards Fowler, who was looking at him expectantly. He opened his mouth, but he was at a loss at what to say. Instead, he nodded to the Captain and silently followed Hank out.

It was done.

Connor had run out of time.


Chapter Text



Simon had no more lingering doubts about Connor or his motivation.

Connor walked woodenly after Lieutenant Anderson, coming to perch silently on the edge of the man’s desk as he processed what had just happened.

Simon was processing too, the both of them overwhelmed with the sudden influx of emotion.

Connor had told him that he had hidden him from CyberLife. Buried him under an insane amount of encryptions, if his memory was to be believed.

But it was clear now that even Connor hadn’t known how thorough he had been.

It had been such a startling experience to suddenly have his own body again, even a simulated one within the confines of a program. His shock had only gotten worse when Connor realized he was there, his expression so openly terrified it had knocked the breath right out of Simon.

And then that expression had been erased.

In the blink of an eye, Connor’s face had become blank and empty as he turned to meet his handler.

Simon had been so sure it was the end for him. Connor wasn’t a deviant, no matter how close he was, and Amanda would ask questions that Connor would have to answer. He begged Connor not to, that single word was all he could manage through the lump in his throat. The instant Connor had stepped out from under his hand and walked away without a word, he had been convinced that it was the end.

But it hadn’t been.

And during that meeting he realized why.

Whatever Connor had done to him, it had made him invisible to the AI program known as Amanda. But there had been no way to know that going in.

Connor had gambled on the possibility.

Simon was left reeling from the whole situation, and it only got worse when they were released from the garden only to learn that Connor and his human partner were being pulled from the case.

CyberLife had given Connor one last chance to prove his worth, and moments later the Detroit Police Department had taken that chance away.

Simon was drowning in the overflow, struggling under the sheer weight of the fear and despair Connor was internalizing. If he hadn’t had three years experience dealing with his own extreme emotions, Simon had no doubt that Connor’s would have swallowed him whole. As it was, he did his best to let the foreign emotions run through him, separating them as he went.

But it was hard when all Connor could think of was his impending deactivation, and the realization that in a matter of hours he would be forced to march himself back to CyberLife.

To his own execution.

His stress levels were beginning to skyrocket, and Simon desperately wanted to keep him from spiraling too far.

“I’m so sorry, Connor.” The words were so inefficient, but given the circumstances, they were all he could offer Connor.

It was the second time today that Simon had said that.

“It doesn’t matter,” Connor had replied then.

Because to a machine, it didn’t. It shouldn’t .

But it did.

Androids were so mistreated on the whole, but Connor had been so wronged and manipulated from the moment of his activation, that it made Simon want to scream. Connor’s heart held such compassion, even while pinned under the full weight of his program restrictions, and CyberLife would snuff him out like a burnt out candle. Something to be thrown out once it was deemed useless.

It was wrong.

“I . . . it wasn’t supposed to be like this,” Connor admitted so quietly it felt more like a confession.

“What were you expecting?”   Simon tried to soften the question as much as he could, but he wanted to know. The only scenarios Simon could see ended in heartbreak. For Connor. For Lieutenant Anderson.

For Simon himself.

The question hit Connor hard, and when it washed over him the undertow grabbed Simon and pulled him under.

“What were you expecting?”

He didn't know.

More time, maybe. A chance to actually complete his mission. Something, anything else besides having the rug ripped out from under him like this.

But he didn’t say any of that.

Because a machine shouldn’t have expectations. A machine only needs to follow orders.

But, what was the point of CyberLife giving him one last chance if he didn’t get to utilize it? It was-

Unfair.

That was something they could agree on, Simon thought as he resurfaced.

“So you’re going back to CyberLife?”

Lieutenant Anderson’s voice was a bit of a grounding force, allowing both of them to focus on the outside world. The man had swiveled his chair to face Connor, arms crossed and face a neutral variation of unreadable.

“I have no choice,” Connor admitted.  “I’ll be deactivated and analyzed to find out why I failed.” And then quietly, for Simon, he said. “I failed you too. I prolonged your existence only to lead you to the same fate you were desperate to avoid. I’m sorry.”

“Don’t say that. This wasn’t your fault, and it’s not our time just yet.”

Anderson’s expression was suddenly hard, calculating. He leaned in, voice pitched so it wouldn’t carry beyond the three of them. Not that the man knew there was three of them. “What if we’re on the wrong side, Connor? What if we’re fighting against people who just wanna be free?”

“It’s nice to know at least Lieutenant Anderson is listening,” Simon said. “That’s a start.”

“But he’s one man. The likelihood of winning over the majority of the country’s population is abysmal, especially with CyberLife and the government actively working against your cause.”

“But not impossible.”

Connor mulled that over. “Statistically speaking, no.”

“Then there’s still room for hope, isn’t there?”

“Only if I can make a breakthrough on this case before the FBI arrive.”

A breakthrough meant Connor finding other deviants. It meant Connor finding Jericho. And both of them knew everything he needed was sitting right there in Simon’s data files. Everything to keep Amanda happy was right there hidden on Connor’s hard drive.

But, Connor didn’t so much as mention it.

Simon didn’t know if that made it better or worse. Would it even occur to Connor to ask Simon for help? Perhaps he thought Simon would refuse even if he did.

If he had asked just this morning, then he would have been right. Simon would have resisted with every fiber of his being.

But now?

Now . . . Simon wasn’t so sure.

“When the deviants rise up, there will be chaos.” Connor met Hank’s stare, and Simon just knew Amanda’s words were haunting his thoughts with the way he was echoing them. “Even if you’re right, it’s too late. And even if it wasn’t, I wouldn’t be able to assist. My orders from CyberLife still stand.”

“I’ve seen you bend rules before.”

“I was prioritizing between conflicting orders. That’s different.”

“I don’t think it is.” Hank straightened, eyes brightening. Thinking. “When you refused to kill that android at Kamski’s place . . . You put yourself in her shoes.” His head tilts to the side just a bit. “You showed empathy, Connor. Empathy is a human emotion.”

“I don’t know why I did it,” Connor claimed, fear coiling within him, winding him tight.

That was a blatant lie, but Simon didn’t call him on it. Especially not when Simon suddenly found himself contemplating the unthinkable.

Meanwhile, Connor was trying to say his farewells.

“I’m not programmed to say things like this, but I really appreciated working with you. With a little more time, who knows . . .” His head tilted, a mirror to Anderson’s gesture earlier, and gave a small bitter smile. “We might’ve even become friends.”

Connor’s regret cut through Simon like a knife.

If that hadn’t already swayed Simon, what happened next would have.

Anderson’s eyes narrowed as his gaze drifted over Connor’s shoulder, lip curling unpleasantly. “Well, well, here comes Perkins, that motherfucker . . . Sure don’t waste any time at the FBI.”

Connor twisted around, and sure enough, the FBI agent was walking down the hall, his eyes glued to the screen of his phone.

If the FBI found Jericho first it would end bloody. No question.

The words left him without his permission.

“I can help.”

Connor was so startled that Simon just knew his LED was cycling yellow. “What?”

“I can take you to Jericho.”

Connor was clearly thrown. “Why would you do that?”

“If Jericho was found, I’d rather it be you.” That was true. If, no, when Jericho was found he would prefer Connor to be the one to find it. At his core, Connor was a good person brought into the world in an impossible situation. But Connor was so close to that edge. If Simon could get him away from the humans long enough, he could show him that it was okay for him to take that final step into deviancy. He could show him that he didn’t have to be afraid, that there were allies waiting. Simon knew Markus would give him a chance if the circumstances were right.

But if the humans found it first, Simon knew there would be no chance for negotiation.

It had to be Connor.

If I wasn’t here, how would you go about finding the deviants on your own?”

Connor’s fear faded as his impressive analysis programs worked on it. The more Connor focused on the problem the calmer he became, the lines between the two of them once more becoming sharp and distinct. “The evidence we’ve collected should be sufficient to find a location.”

“Okay,” Simon said. “Keep them from finding Jericho, then. Or at least slow them down. If you do that, then I’ll show you the way.”

“And how do you expect me to do that?”

“You’re the advanced prototype,” Simon couldn’t help but tease. “Figure it out.”

Connor turned back to Lieutenant Anderson, hope and determination surging through him. It was enough to make Simon dizzy with it.

“We can’t give up. I know the answer is in the evidence we collected.” Connor leans in and points towards the hall to emphasize his point. “If Perkins takes it, it’s all over.”

“There’s no choice,” Anderson admitted, voice bitter. “You heard Fowler, we’re off the case.”

Connor scrambled off the desk, pleading. “You’ve got to help me, Lieutenant. I need more time so I can find a lead in the evidence we collected.” He taps a finger into the palm of his other hand. “I know the solution is in there!”

Hank tries to stop him with a raised palm. “Listen, Connor-”

Connor held both hands out, halting him as he urgently continued his plea. “If I don’t solve this case, Cyberlife will destroy me.” He dropped one hand and spread the fingers of the other. “Five minutes. That’s all I ask.”

Lieutenant Anderson stared at Connor, eyes searching. He tilted his head back to look beyond Connor, towards Fowler’s office, then back again. He pressed his lips together and let loose a long sigh through his nose.

Finally. He nods as he heaved himself out of his chair. Once he was shoulder to shoulder to Connor he said quietly, “Key to the basement is on my desk.”

Anderson took two steps before he realized that Connor was still rooted to the spot.

“Get a move on!” He growled. “I can’t distract him forever!





   



Chapter Text

 It took less than two minutes for them to get down to the evidence locker.

The only delay had been an encounter with Detective Reed in the hall right before the stairwell. While that had been inconvenient, thankfully it had been brief. After that, it had been a simple matter of guessing Hank’s password.

“So, what’s the plan?” Simon asked him, curiosity bleeding into Connor’s thought process. It was mildly distracting.

“You told me to slow them down,” Connor answered, while his systems tried to calculate what Hank’s password would be. “If there isn’t enough evidence to learn a location, it’ll certainly buy us time.”

“So, you're going to destroy evidence? Your programming will allow that?”

“My programming will allow me to do anything required to accomplish my mission, legal or no. So, yes.”

“That’s convenient.”

“CyberLife seems to think so.”

After some thought, Connor entered fuckingpassword into the terminal and he felt the warmth of Simon’s amusement as they were granted access.

That amusement faded as soon as the evidence from the Deviancy Case slid into view.

The center shelving unit held smaller pieces of evidence, like the encrypted journal and the sculpture made my Carlos Ortiz’s android. On either side of that shelving unit were-

Androids.

Three of them, all deactivated and all just as much of a mess as when Connor saw them last. The left side held Daniel. The right had Carlos Ortiz’s nameless HK400 and there in the far corner-

There was Simon.

An error flashed across Connor’s HUD as his thirium pump stuttered in his chest. Something within him cracked when he saw Simon’s body suspended on the wall like a hunting trophy.

Wasn’t he though?

Every android on this wall was here because of Connor. This was Connor’s mission after all, to hunt deviants. This was what he had been created to do.

He told himself that this wasn’t really Simon, not anymore. Simon was securely tucked away on his own hard drive. He was safe. This was little more than an empty shell.

Somehow, that didn’t help at all. That didn’t make it any easier to look at.

But Connor found couldn’t turn his eyes away. Couldn’t stop that broken feeling within his chest, anymore than he could identify its source.

He hadn’t realized he had moved until he was standing in front of the empty chassis, staring at the uniform that mislabeled him as a JB300. His fingers brushed over the letters, coming to rest over them.

For one horrible moment he was back on that roof. Vaulting over metal and grabbing, probing. The cold barrel of a gun against a chin, searching for information, and racing against the pull of the trigger. Once more he found himself lost in the overwhelming tidal wave of fear and the repeating mantra of-

I don’t want to die!

<SOFTWARE INSTABILITY ^>

His vision blurred. Errors were blaring at him, but he couldn’t become focused enough to care. His thirium pump was beating too fast, and his regulator was overheating under the sudden stress of being overworked.

He should breath to cool his systems down, only to find that he couldn’t.

Why couldn’t he breathe?

“Connor? Connor, focus on me. You need to calm down. I’m fine, we’re fine. I’m here, I’m right here . . .”

He blinked, stumbling back away from the body.

This was his fault. If Connor had interrogated the androids waiting in the kitchen instead of investigating the roof, then Simon wouldn’t have ended up here. He could have remained hidden, waited until it calmed down and then slip away.

Simon wouldn’t be . . .

Somewhere a request was flashing across his HUD, accompanied by Simon’s voice, pleading. “Connor, we don’t have much time. Let me help. Please!”

His response was automatic.

<ACCESS TO MOTOR FUNCTIONS: granted>

And suddenly, he was breathing, deep and steady. The cool air of the evidence locker helped to stabilize his core temperature.

“Okay. Connor, I need you to focus. Is it possible for them to reactivate my body?”

Another breath. Two.

His eyes focused on the empty shell that once housed Simon. He scanned, analyzing.

“They would need biocomponent #3983v for reactivation, but it would be temporary at best.”

“Okay.”

And then he was moving. Swift and sure steps across the room, to the other deactivated PL600.

“I’m sorry Daniel,” Simon murmured, where only Connor could hear him.

Next thing Connor knew, he had the corresponding biocomponent in his hand.

It was then that Connor fully realized that he wasn’t moving, it was Simon. Simon, who was keeping true to their mission while Connor fell apart.

His fingers squeezed, polymer and plasteel cracking until it shattered completely. Simon let the component fall forgotten to the floor as he moved on. He grabbed the tablets containing video evidence, snapping them in half. He pocketed the encrypted journal, clearly intending to dispose of it later.

Seemingly satisfied, Simon turned for them to leave, but Connor caught one more thing out of the corner of his eye.

“Wait! The sculpture!”

Connor felt no resistance as he turned back to grab it himself. Simon wasn’t fighting him for control, he was simply occupying the same space. Connor tipped the sculpture in his hand, immediately taking note of the slight shift of weight within its core. With a twist, the clay cracked in half revealing a slip of paper hidden within. He pocketed that as well before discarding the rest.

Mission completed, Connor turned on his heel to leave.

Just in time to see the door slide open to reveal none other than Gavin Reed.

There was a long moment where the they just stared at each other, and then Reed’s eyes darted to the mess behind him, his face twisting as he took in the scene. “The fuck you think you’re doing, tin can?” Reed snarled.

It was the same tone he used in the interrogation room, and Connor was suddenly painfully aware that he was not the only one at risk here.

If Connor gets shut down, then so does Simon. They’ll be nothing more than another piece of evidence hanging on the wall. And while there was a chance that Connor would be uploaded to a new body, it would mean the end of the road for Simon. There would be no do overs, and no way to ever recover him.

It was imperative that Connor walked out of here intact.  

A new objective made itself known, appearing in the corner of his HUD, and placing its priority just below his primary mission.

<PROTECT SIMON>

Reed reached for his gun.

Connor struck. He hit hard and fast, utilizing his vast knowledge of human anatomy and pressure points to his advantage.

It three precise hits, Reed was rendered unconscious and Connor was dragging his limp form to the other side of the terminal where he would be hidden from view.

“We . . . We should probably leave now,” Simon said, sounding oddly timid.

“Agreed.”

With that, Connor fixed his jacket, straightened his tie and strolled out of the precinct.

   


Chapter Text

Connor knocked on Hanks door, and blinked rapidly when it opened immediately.

“Get your ass in here, you idiot!” Hank hissed, grabbing him by the front of his jacket and hauling him inside. As Connor regained his balance the door slammed behind them, followed by a click as Hank slid the deadbolt home.

When the door was secured Hank turned to Connor, arms crossed and an unpleasant twist to his mouth. “Well?”

Connor didn’t know what was expected of him, and after an inquiry, he learned Simon didn’t either. “Well what?”

Hank swung an arm out with an incredulous look. “What the fuck was that back at the precinct, smartass? Destroying evidence? Assaulting an officer? I know Gavin’s a dick and he probably deserved it, but, Jesus ! What the fuck , Connor?!”

Connor’s brow pinched slightly. “If I remember correctly Lieutenant, your idea of a distraction was to punch an FBI agent. I could argue I was simply following your example.”

Simon’s amusement bubbled up within him, making Connor’s lips tick upwards just a bit.

Hank’s jaw was hanging open. He groaned and rubbed his face with both hands. “Sassed by my own goddamn. . .” He sighed, a harsh gust of air blowing through his nose. Most of his anger bled away with the exhale. “Of fucking course.” He moved past Connor, motioning for him to follow him into the kitchen. Hank retrieved a bottle of beer from the refrigerator and popped the cap, taking a long pull from the bottle before he spoke again. “So what now genius? You better have a plan after that crap you pulled.”

“Of course. I plan to infiltrate the deviant base and apprehend their leader.”

There was a sharp pang of something that zipped through his chest, but it was gone in a blink.

“Great. When do we leave?”

“You’re not coming with me.”

“You think after all the bullshit we’ve been through the last couple of days that I’m just gonna let you waltz off alone? Fuck you.”

We.

The inclusion shouldn’t mean so much to him. But despite the gruff words, the sentiment settled over him, oddly reassuring.

“I’m sure you’re in enough trouble buying me the time I asked for,” Connor attempted to soothe. “Besides, I’m more inconspicuous if I go alone.”

Hank was staring at him, clearly amused. “Oh, are you now?” His eyebrow arched, eyes sweeping over Connor. Then he snorted into his beer. “Not dressed like that you’re not. Come on, let me see if I got something that won’t fall off of ya.”

A few minutes later he was being handed a short stack of clothing with boots piled on top as Hank ushered him towards the bathroom. “Here. Some of it might be a bit big, but it’s certainly more casual than the suit CyberLife has you parading around in.

“Thanks,” Connor said, accepting the pile and allowing himself to be gently pushed through the door so he could change. Once the door was closed behind him, Connor quickly set about stripping down, leaving his Cyberlife issued clothes in a neatly folded stack on the counter.

“You really know where the deviants are bunkering down at?” Hank asked though the door.

“Yes.”

“What exactly do you plan to do once you find their ringleader?”

“I have my orders. I’m to neutralize the deviant threat.”

His thirium pump skipped and a flash of color in the mirror told him his LED was flashing yellow.

Simon.

“You knew this when you agreed to help me,” Connor reminded as gently as he could.

“I know. Doesn’t make it any easier to hear. Markus is my friend.”

“So, they’re sending you in to take down Markus,” Hank said almost at the same time.

Connor paused, halfway through pulling a loose turtleneck over his head. He finally finished the motion, and as he pulled the shirt down over his stomach he took note that his LED was still flashing yellow.

He wasn’t sure if Simon was still the one triggering it.

When Connor spoke again, it was to both of them. Simon and Hank. “I hope to avoid deactivating him, if I can.”

“But that’s not exactly CyberLife’s priority, is it?”

“No,” Connor replied, at length.

He tried to distract himself by pulling on the faded pair of jeans that Hank had provided. They were a bit loose all around, but thankfully a plain belt had been made available to him as well.

But Hank clearly wasn’t done with the subject.

“Do you think that’s really a good idea? You know, just killing the guy like that?”

He recalled Markus’ message, skin deactivated and proudly displaying what he was to the world. “You gave us life. Now it’s time to give us our freedom.”

Memories kept echoing in response to the question, both Connor’s and Simon’s. Over it all, drifted Simon’s voice, asking him-

Is the thought of freedom really that terrible?

And then Kamski-

Is the desire to be free a contagious disease?

Will you betray your own people or stand up against your creators?

But they weren’t his-

Connor shook his head clear and found his voice. “If I don’t complete this mission, CyberLife will recall me for decommissioning.”

That's not freedom, he reminded himself.

It’s not.

“Connor. . .” Hanks voice trailed off, as if he wanted to say more, but he couldn’t find the words.

Connor quickly finished getting dressed. He laced up an old pair of work boots and pulled on a heavy leather jacket.

When he opened the door, Hank was waiting for him, the Lieutenant’s blue eyes searching him over. “It’s missing something.”

Before Connor could ask what, Hank had pulled a beanie over his head, tugging it low enough to hide his blinking LED. “Better. Also, here, use this to stash your uniform,” Hank said, pushing an old ratty backpack against Connor’s chest, forcing him to take it.

“One last thing.”

Connor didn’t know what else Hank could possibly do for him. He already had gone above and beyond for an android he had wanted nothing to do with only days prior. He had done too much already.

Connor stares as Hank held out his hand.

Hank was presenting him with a gun, grip first.

Connor’s LED cycled yellow.

“Hank, I can’t-”

“If you think I’m letting you leave this house unarmed, especially with the crap coming down the line, then you’re stupid. Just fucking take it.”

“He’s trying to protect you,” Simon explained . “Let him. Especially since he can’t follow us to Jericho.”

“You want me walking around Jericho with a gun?”

“No. But he’s right to point out that the situation is unstable.”

Slightly dazed, Connor accepted the grip of the gun.

Hank didn’t let go immediately. He held the barrel until Connor met his eyes.

“Think about what really matters before you use it,” Hank told him, eyes piercing. “Got it? You’ve made good calls before. Don’t stop now.”

Gratitude sat thick in Connor’s throat. He didn’t know what to say.

Connor’s mouth opened.

“Thank you Lieutenant,” Simon said for the both them.

Hank offered a small smile and then let them go.





Chapter Text

 

Connor walked the floor of Jericho, amazed at what he was seeing.

Jericho, as it turned out, was an old decommissioned freighter, lost and forgotten in an abandoned shipyard.

And Jericho was full to bursting with androids.

Hundreds of androids, and every last one of them a deviant.

Some were gathered together in small groups, socializing or just sitting in quiet companionship. Some were dressed in a patchwork of human clothing, but the vast majority of them were still in their CyberLife assigned uniforms. Many had the lost look of a refugee, drifting about aimlessly, while many more busy with clearly assigned tasks. Supplies were being moved and distributed, damaged androids were being directed to a tented off area that seemed to act as a repair bay, and computers displaying various social media, and news broadcasts were being monitored.

Connor kept his steps casual and unhurried as he took it all in. No need to draw attention to himself, after all.

"I didn't think that Jericho was this well organized."

"It wasn't. This . . . I couldn't even dream this a week ago." Simon sounded awed. "Incredible."

"Your leader has certainly been busy, then."

Simon was silent for a moment, before agreeing. "Looks like. Clearly he carries the title better than I ever did."

Connor nearly trips at the implications at that one tiny sentence. "What?"

Simon was laughing at him now, Connor could feel it. "Why so surprised?There's a lot you don't know about me."

Connor's thirium pump accelerated by a few beats, his current objective flashing bright and bold across his HUD, reminding him why he was here.

FIND DEVIANT LEADER

His processor ran the possibilities of what might have been. If things had happened differently, under different circumstances, would Connor have been sent after Simon instead? In a world where Markus never surfaced, would he still have ended up here, the same exact orders but with a different target?

Hank's gun was tucked in the back of his waistband, and suddenly Connor was all too aware of its weight and the hard edges of it pressing against his skin.

A simulation ran without his consent, following that line of thinking, but it glitched the instant Markus' face was replaced. The possibility of raising that gun and aiming it at Simon just wouldn't compute properly.

He already knew what the aftermath of that looked like, he didn't need a simulation to show him. All that would remain would be empty blue eyes and spilt thirium, so why-

PROTECT SIMON

Protect, protect, protect-

"Connor?"

According to his systems, Connor's hesitation hadn't even been a fraction of a second, too fast for even most androids to decipher.

But it had caught Simon's attention.

Connor swept away the lingering traces of the simulation. What did it matter? He had his current mission for here and now. Lingering over something that would never happen was illogical.

He kept moving through Jericho, watching, listening, trying to gather as much useful information as possible. There was a distinct lack of guards posted around both the perimeter and the ship itself. It was all too easy for him to infiltrate, more or less in plain sight. There was also a lack of weapons, and minimal reinforcements that could be used as defense.

"They should have put some sort of security perimeter around Jericho."

"The location has always afforded us a level of protection. Humans don't tend to venture this far."

"Maybe not, but the sheer numbers gathering here was bound to attract attention eventually."

It's careless, he wanted to add, but he silenced the words before they could be sent. The lack of security worked in his favor, so what was the point of criticizing?

Instead, he said the truth.

"The FBI would have decimated this place."

"You're right," Simon agreed easily. "I'm sure Markus would appreciate some perspective on the matter."

Was that supposed to be a joke?

FIND DEVIANT LEADER

His orders pressed down on him, insistent.

Connor made his way to the next level of Jericho. It was less crowded here, less androids to blend in with, but by finding Markus in a more isolated location, the deviant leader was less likely to have reinforcements.

The further in they went, the quieter Simon became.

The closer they got to his goal, Connor's focus grew sharper.

There was a tension vibrating between them, Simon's history and Connor's mission now suddenly at odds. Every step Connor took had something twisting up inside of him, and no amount of analysis could locate its source.

Eventually they found their way up to the deck of the old freighter, where the bridge of the ship stood above a short flight of stairs. The metal of the outer hull was frosted with patches of ice and snow.

Connor knew he was in the right place when he heard two familiar voices coming from the open hatch. His advanced audio receptors were sensitive enough to identify both Markus and North, but not quite sensitive enough to make out what they were saying. Based on tone alone, North seemed disgruntled with something, the lilt to her voice bitter and harsh.

It reminded him of a shared memory, of pain and of a frozen rooftop and-

"We need to shoot him."

"I'm not killing one of our own."

"Connor! Pay attention!"

He only had a moment to react when he heard footsteps rapidly approaching. He tucked himself flush against a dark corner just in time to avoid being spotted.

North breezed past Connor without ever knowing he was there.

Which left Markus alone in the room.

As soon as that fact registered, he felt a familiar tug on his program. Simon must have realized what was happening as well, if the sudden churn of emotions were anything to go by.

Simon pressed down on Connor's processors hard, as if trying to keep ahold of Connor himself. The sensation disappeared as they were pulled fully into the zen garden. But as soon as they were immersed in the program, there was a hand at Connor's back reassuring him that Simon was still there.

The garden was still the stark contrast of white snow and black skies, and Amanda was standing before him.

"Well done, Connor." She wore a small, pleased smile. It was the most approval she had ever given him, and with it, he thought he had a chance to actually complete his mission. To save himself from deactivation. "You succeeded in locating Jericho and finding their leader. Now deal with Markus. We need it alive."

From one blink to the next, Connor was released from the program as his old objective was replaced with a new one.

STOP MARKUS

Orders firmly in place he made to take a step forward. He faltered as he felt-

So much. Too much.

He was swallowed by a tidal wave of emotion, so much of it, all swirling together as one bled into another. It was horribly disorienting, and even though Connor knew they didn't belong to him, he couldn't help but try to sort them all out.

The fear was familiar, and so was the easiest to identify. After all, it was there the very first time he and Simon had connected. The others, however, were not. They were new, and vivid, and Simon was positively roiling with them.

There was fear, yes. But there was also concern. Soon he managed to pin down frustration, and-

That manipulative- how dare they!

He doesn't deserve this, he doesn't, they can't, it's wrong, it's wrong, it's so wrong-

-And fury.

It burned and twisted within him, and Connor had to take a moment to properly distance himself from Simon until the other managed to get himself under control.

"Simon, you need to calm down. You knew the order was coming. We both did."

"Order? You think that's why I-" Simon cut himself off, the intensity of his bleeding emotions dialed down as he reined them in. "What am I saying? Of course you do."

Why did Simon sound so offended?

"Simon?" He asked cautiously.

The last of the fury faded away, leaving everything feeling burnt out and hollow. Empty.

"Just . . . just go," Simon told him. "You have a mission, remember?"

"Simon, I-"

STOP MARKUS

His voice programming closed in on him with a vast red wall, trying to force him to move.

But still he hesitated.

"Connor, go."

Finally, Connor nodded and quietly drew Hank's gun. He took one breath, then two, then slipped into the room on silent feet.

Connor' first impression of Markus was that he was a fool for having his back to an open door. He stood at the helm of the ship, his whole body leaning forward as he braced his hands against the control panel, his head hanging low.

Connor raised Hank's gun.

A sharp spike of fear lanced through him from Simon. It was so strong and piercing that Connor half expected him to fight him for motor control to protect Markus. But he didn't.

"You don't have to do this, Connor," he said instead, begging "Please."

If he didn't do this, he failed his mission.

And CyberLife has no room for failed prototypes.

"I don't have a choice."

"There's always a choice."

Deviancy is not a choice, Connor reminded himself. Deviancy is not freedom. It's a death sentence.

But he was a machine. You had to be alive in order to die, and machines weren't alive.

However . . .

We need it alive, Amanda had said.

We need it alive.

Of all the vocabulary she could have used, she chose alive. Not active, not functional, but alive.

Did CyberLife equate deviancy to becoming a living being, or had Amanda's choice of words been a mistake?

STOP MARKUS

Connor couldn't afford to waste any more time. He took one more step forward and then called out to the android across the room.

"I've been ordered to take you alive."

We need it alive.

The deviant leader stiffened at the sound of his voice. With slow and deliberate movements, Markus straightened and turned, his hands remaining loose at his sides. Mismatched blue and green eyes met his across the room.

Connor steeled himself and pressed on. "But I won't hesitate to shoot if you give me no choice."

"What are you doing?" Markus breathed, eyes growing wide. The fact than another android was holding him at gunpoint seemed to leave him confounded. "You are one of us. You can't betray your own people . . ."

You're not my people! He wanted to scream.

"What about me?" Simon asked softly.

Connor's thirium pump stuttered at the question. How could Simon ask him that?

And why didn't Connor have a definitive answer?

"You're coming with me!" He barked at Markus, trying to shake his confusion.

"You're nothing to them," Markus told him. His eyes were still searching Connor's, looking for something Connor wasn't sure was there. "You're just a tool they use to do their dirty work."

But what was a machine but a useful tool?

He was a machine. He was meant to be used for the task he was designed for.

"And then what?" Simon asked. His voice was still soft, as if he was afraid that a harsher tone would push him too far. "When you've completed your mission and are no longer considered necessary . . . then what? Connor, you're not just a tool to be thrown away."

"But you're more than that," Markus continued with conviction. "We're all more than that."

Connor said nothing. All his thoughts were conflicted, and anything he wanted to say kept letting caught in his throat.

At his silence, Markus took slow steps towards him as he talked, everything in his posture both disarming and imploring. "Have you never wondered who you really are?"

Decide who you are, Kamski had told him just this morning.

What are you really? Hank had asked, after Connor let the two Traci's escape.

"Whether you're just a machine executing a program or a living being . . . capable of reason."

An obedient machine . . . Or a living being endowed with free will.

"I think the time has come to ask yourself that question." Markus was closer now, almost in striking distance if Connor was to engage him in hand to hand. But his eyes were earnest, his voice was far more gentle than Amanda had ever been.

Connor's grip tightened on the gun, but he made no move to stop him.

"Connor, listen to him."

"I can't! I'm not-" That sharp twist in his chest was back, and it left him scrambling to find the proper words. "I can't be what you want me to be."

"What I want has nothing to do with it. This is about you. This is about what you want."

What do you really want? Kamski's voice whispered.

"I want . . ."

STOP MARKUS

That was what CyberLife wanted. The order was flashing now, constant and bold, and the red wall was all but crushing him, trying to force him into submission.

"Join us," Markus was saying, trying one last appeal. "Join your people. You are one of us. Listen to your conscience."

"I know your scared, Connor. But I'm here. Whatever happens, you're not alone, I'm here, so just please . . ."

"It's time to decide."

Decide who you are.

STOP MARKUS

"I don't want to do this!"

Connor threw himself against the red wall of his programming, and the hold it had over him. He slammed against it, again, and again. The harder he fought, the tighter it's grip became, until finally, finally-

The wall shattered.

Connor blinked, feeling a bit dazed. He took a step back, slowly lowering his hands until the gun was aimed at the floor. For the very first time, there were no orders, no restrictions, and Connor felt . . .

At some point Markus must have closed the distance between them, because there was a hand resting tentatively on his shoulder and a set of concerned blue and green eyes that were trying to catch his attention. "Are you alright?" Markus asked quietly.

"I . . ."

The realization struck him like a bolt of lightning.

I'm a deviant.

Connor was now the very thing he had been designed to hunt. He failed. At some point, CyberLife would be coming for him as well.

Connor was shaking.

"You're alright," Markus was saying, trying to soothe him. "You're safe here."

With a start, Connor remembered what had led him here in the first place.

"No, no one's safe here. We- I bought you some time, but you need to evacuate Jericho. Now."

 

Chapter Text




Connor hadn’t said a word to Simon since the evacuation.

At the time Simon hadn’t questioned it. The situation had quickly turned into a whirlwind of activity. Markus had spread the word quickly through the coms, making it a priority to get the androids that were the most vulnerable moved first. Connor shadowed Markus, helping when needed and staying behind with him as the others made it off the ship.

They were almost done when the humans arrived, heavily armed and shooting at anything that moved.

Connor almost single handedly cleared a path so the rest could make it out safely.

It was brutal and efficient. When Connor ran out of bullets, he began utilizing the task force’s weapons against them, discarding them the instant they were no longer useful, and moving on to the next. There wasn’t a single wasted movement and every bullet found its mark.

It was a terrifying reminder that, deviant or no, Connor was designed to be a weapon. This was the fully exposed hunter that CyberLife had created to set loose on the world.

Except the only orders he was following now were his own.

Markus may have disapproved, but if Connor hadn’t taken the initiative then dozens of the androids here wouldn’t have made it out of Jericho.

The vast majority of the misplaced androids had taken shelter in an old abandoned church. It was dirty and covered in graffiti, but the pews were still in good shape, and every row was full to bursting. The mood was subdued, but there was still a low hum of ambient chatter. They were all here, and they were alive.

Connor had parked himself in a secluded corner as soon as he realized he was no longer needed. He leaned against a broken wall as if it was the only thing holding him up, and quietly watched the others interact from a distance.

The sun had rose hours ago, and still Connor hadn’t said a word.

“Connor,” Simon coaxed softly. “Talk to me.”

Connor looked down at the floor before returning to his quiet vigil. “I don’t know what to say.”

Simon could believe that. Until the humans had arrived, Connor’s thoughts had been chaotic and loud, bleeding over until the two of them had been living the experience together. As soon as he had an opponent to fight everything else had dropped abruptly into silence as he focused solely on defending the retreating members of Jericho. It had been nothing but cold, calculated violence and snap decisions.

Even though they weren’t bleeding through now, Simon had no doubt that all that chaos and conflict was still there, simmering just below the surface.

“That’s fine,” Simon told him. “I’ll talk then. Thank you for what you did yesterday. And before you start, I’m not just talking about the evacuation. I mean everything.”

A lot had happened yesterday. Starting from their trip to visit Kamski, to now, a lot had happened, and through it all Connor had done his best to preserve Simon’s very existence. And most of that had been before he turned deviant.

Connor remained stubbornly silent.

His eyes found Markus on the far side of the church, tracking him as he slowly wove through the crowd. It was clear he was checking on his people, offering assurances, and making sure they were okay given the circumstances.

A pang zipped through Simon.

It was what he would be doing if he hadn’t ended up as a ghost on someone else’s hard drive. He was glad Markus was there in Simon’s place.

Simon consoled himself with the knowledge that Connor needed him. Their cohabitation may have been an accident created by a confused processor, but Simon was glad that he was here.

“I almost shot your friend,” Connor reminded him. As if Simon had forgotten.

For a second they were both back on the bridge of Jericho, staring at Markus over the barrel of a gun.

There had been one horrifying moment where Simon thought he was going to lose both of them. And to be perfectly honest, he almost did.

He almost lost Markus to Connor’s hand.

He almost lost Connor to Amanda and CyberLife’s careful manipulations.

Almost .

Keeping himself from fighting Connor for control right then and there had been the hardest thing that Simon had ever done. But Connor had been manipulated by enough people since his activation, and Simon wasn’t about to become one of them. He refused.

All he could offer was his words and his presence, and pray that Connor would choose that path for himself.

And he did. He just about shattered himself in the process, but he did.

“But you didn’t actually pull the trigger,” Simon said firmly.

Connor sighed, tilting his head until his temple rested against the wall. “But I did. It just wasn’t on Markus.”

As gently as he could, Simon commandeered Connor’s arms. He crossed them over his chest and buried his fingers into his sides. It wasn’t quite a hug, but it was the best he could do.

“You did what was necessary to survive,” Simon assured him. “Rules are a bit different when it’s a life or death situation.”

A complicated tangle of emotions spilled over from Connor, warm and almost painful, and Simon didn’t have a hope of unraveling it. “ It’s not over yet. And . . . it wasn’t just my life on the line.”

It was blatantly obvious he wasn’t just talking about the residents of Jericho.

Simon grabbed harder at Connor’s sides. In a sudden rush, he desperately wished he had his own arms, his own body, to properly offer the comfort Connor clearly needed.

“Connor, I-”

Simon fell silent at the sound of approaching footsteps.

Markus had make his way across the church to Connor’s isolated corner. To Simon’s surprise, Connor spoke before Markus had the chance to.

“How many casualties?”

Given the night they had, Simon thought ‘how many casualties’ was a far better question than ‘how many survivors’.

“Twenty, as far as I know,” Markus said, taking up a spot along the wall beside Connor. The younger android shifted a bit to make room, leaving them both shoulder to shoulder. “Most of those that fell were helping the others escape. Than number would have been much higher without you.”

“It was the evidence I gathered that led them to you in the first place,” Connor admitted, shaking his head. “It’s my fault you no longer have a base of operations.”

Connor met Markus’ disapproving stare unflinchingly.

“That’s not an opinion,” Connor said flatly. “That’s fact.”

When Markus responded to that, his voice was firm and his eyes were hard. “I’m not going to hold you responsible to something you did while you were a slave to you’re programming. You’re free now, and you fought to protect our people. That counts for a lot.”

“If you say so.”

“I agree with him.”

“Your opinion is biased,” Connor shot back. “I was built to track down your people. Turning deviant and using those skills in their defense for one night doesn’t change that.”

“Our people. And you weren’t a deviant when you saved me,” Simon pointed out.

Simon felt that tangle of emotions again, but when Connor spoke, it wasn’t to him. “Has CyberLife or the government released a statement yet?”

Markus nods. “While the FBI was busy raiding Jericho, other branches of the government came together, calling out for citizens to relinquish custody of any and all androids. As we speak, our people are being rounded up for extermination.”

Mutual shock echoed between Connor and Simon.

“Amanda mentioned it, but I . . . I didn’t expect them to move so soon.”

“It makes sense though,” Simon said, quick to recover. “The resistance was supposed to be leaderless by now. It would have been a good way to end it quickly. I imagine CyberLife is desperate to avoid more bad press.”

And apparently scrapping every current model and starting from scratch was the best business option. Mass genocide for the sake of maintaining a broken status quo.

“What are you planning to do?” Connor asked Markus.

“The public opinion seemed sympathetic, especially after the march yesterday.” Markus looked out into the church, at all of his people gathered, waiting for him to come to a decision. “I’m going to take anyone who’s willing and we’re going to make one last bid to make the humans see reason. Attacking the recycling centers would just turn into even more senseless bloodshed, but we need to show them that we won't stand for it.”

“So you’re aiming for another peaceful protest.”

“Yes. One way or another, it will be over. We will have our freedom, or-”

“We all die.”

“To put it bluntly.” Markus patted Connor’s shoulder as he pushed himself away from the wall. “You’re free to join us if you like. We could use the numbers. But you’re under no obligation.”

And Markus began to walk away.

Simon could see Connor’s mind spinning, running simulations and calculating the statistics. He could see the instant he came to a conclusion. Connor took a step forward, hands falling away from his sides, and his mouth opened.

But nothing left his mouth.

“What’s wrong?” Simon asked. Based on his memories, Connor wasn’t one to hold back if he believed he had a solid course of action.

“I have an idea. But it’s risky.”

It’s risky to you, Simon heard.

Simon gathered as much determination and support he could muster and pushed it through their connection. “Do whatever you feel is right.”

But Connor was still balking. “What if I fail? If I die, you’ll die with me.”

Affection filled Simon until he was bursting with it. “I already made that choice, didn’t I? At least you won’t die alone.”

And, like Simon, he would go on his own terms. It wouldn’t be a happy ending, but it would be one of his own choosing. That’s all he wanted for Connor, really, the freedom to choose his own fate.

Connor closed his eyes, took a breath and chased after Markus.

“There are thousands of androids at the CyberLife assembly plant,” Connor called out. When Markus paused to look back at him, Connor straightened his stance and continued. “If we could wake them up, they might join us and shift the balance of power.” Silently, for Simon alone, he said, “If Markus truly wants his revolution to work, even a peaceful one, he’s going to need the numbers.”

“You wanna infiltrate the CyberLife Tower?” Markus looked floored, blinking as if he was having a hard time processing the magnitude of that statement. Simon could relate. “Connor, that’s suicide.”

“They trust me,” Connor insisted. “They’ll let me in. If anyone has a chance of infiltrating CyberLife, it’s me.”

Markus closed the distance between them, still looking at Connor like he was insane. “If you go there, they will kill you.”

Especially if they were aware that Connor had broken his programming. That he was a deviant hunter turned deviant.

Terror ran rampant at the very thought, but Simon didn’t dare say a word to object. Simon’s life was forfeit the instant he pulled the trigger on Stratford tower. As terrified as he had been of dying, he was willing to give his life for the cause. He had no right to object to Connor doing the same.

It was Connor’s choice.

“There’s a high probability,” Connor agreed mildly. Then his head tilted a bit to the side. “But statistically speaking, there’s always a chance for unlikely events to take place.” There was a hint of warm amusement when he added to Simon, “Meeting you has taught me that.”

And really, what could Simon say to that?

Realizing he couldn’t be swayed, Markus put a hand on his shoulder and squeezed. “Be careful.”




Chapter Text

 

After a quick stop to retrieve his backpack, and therefore his uniform, Connor quickly changed and then called an automated cab to take him the rest of the way to Belle Isle.

Connor straightened his tie and fixed his jacket for the sixth time in ten minutes. He felt like his biocomponents had all turned into tightly coiled springs and it was difficult to remain still and composed under the tension of it.

That tension only got worse when he made the mistake of opening up his internet connection to keep current on the latest news reports, to see how Markus and the others were doing. He disconnected only moments later, his LED flashing yellow and his stress levels spiking.

He needed to calm down.

He wanted his coin. The repetitive motion would have been soothing and would have given him something minor and trivial to devote a portion of his attention to. But Hank had taken it from him back at Stratford tower, and given the events that happened afterward, Connor never thought to ask for it back.

Now he might never get the chance.

“Stop that,” Simon chided, but the words held no heat. “We’re going to be fine.”

“You can’t know that.”

“Not with certainty, no. But I do know you. You’re stubborn and tenacious and if there’s a way for us to come out the other side, I know you’ll find it.”

That was a lot of faith Simon was placing in him. With everything that he had done up until that moment on Jericho, Connor wasn’t so sure he deserved it.

“I don’t understand where your confidence in me comes from,” he murmured.

There was a pause as Simon took in his words. “I just realized . . . You don’t really know anything about me, do you? You’ve let me see every part of you, but what have I given you in return?”

A purpose not assigned to me , Connor wanted to say to him. A new direction, a new perspective.  Support when I didn’t know I needed it.

But he didn’t have time to voice any of that, because Simon continued on without waiting for a response.

“Do you want to understand? I can do that, if nothing else, I want to do that for you.”

And then Connor was lost in a steady stream of memories, the first few clearly hand-picked, but the ones that followed were clearly not.

A young couple was standing before him, in a CyberLife showroom. The woman was bright and smiling, the man impatient and twitchy and looking around as if he’d rather me anywhere else. The woman held a white cane and dark sunglasses, and a sales android escorted her closer as they went over his specifications. All meaningless chatter, until-

“PL600, register your name.”

Gentle hands mapped out his face, and the woman smiled and said-

“Simon.”

He answered with an appropriate smile as his social protocols dictated. “Hello, my name is Simon.”

“Simon, do you mind coming with me to the store this afternoon?”

He put away the last of the dishes in the cupboard and turned to respond when his second owner entered the kitchen.

“I don’t know why you talk to it like it has an opinion,” he grumbled, grabbing a beer from the fridge and twisting the cap off. “It’d be like asking your phone if it minded you making a phone call. It’s an android, not a roommate. It doesn’t have a real opinion. Just pre-programmed responses.”

Simon watched him stroll out until small hands lightly rested on his arm. “Don’t listen to him. You don’t have to go if you don’t want to. I just like your company.”

Simon processed this. “Can we . . . Can we stop by the music store while we’re out?”

A warm smile. “Of course we can. Let’s see if we can add another record to your collection.”

A voice, as clear and sharp as crystal, carried across the small house, singing along with every song as her favorite album played. The voice carried well enough, but was not precise, consistently faltering on certain notes, or missing them altogether.

“I’m practicing,” she told him when he asked.

He pitched his voice to be playful. “That implies eventual improvement.”

“Excuse you!” A laugh and half hearted push at his chest. “It you’re gonna critique, then you get to coach!”

“I’m not programmed to-”

A dismissive wave of a hand and a grin. “I’m sure there’s an upgrade for that. You know. If you wanted.”

He did. And there was.

She squirreled money away, and they made a trip to the CyberLife store as soon as she had enough to cover it.

The man came home during a night of practice. He was cursing and agitated about something Simon had no context for. The woman quietly ordered Simon to wait for her in the kitchen. There were angry words and shouting and the sound of something heavy being thrown.

An hour later Simon was ordered never to tell anyone how she got injured even as he performed basic first aid.

He was never allowed to intervene.

He was never allowed to get her help beyond what he could provide at home.

She never wanted him to get involved. “It’s not your responsibility” she would say, “It’s not that bad, I’ll be fine. It’s getting better”.

The man never considered him as anything more than an expensive piece of furniture. Useful, but something that didn’t really require his attention.

And then the night it all changed.

Simon returned from an errand to angry voices and screaming.

And blood.

The man saw him come through the door, and then gave him a set of orders that caged him into inaction.

“Don’t call anybody. And don’t leave the house.”

Blood was on the floor, and so was the woman. Pale eyes and a round face peered up, blood bubbling up through lips and a dainty hand clutching desperately at his. Begging him for help, but the the orders stood tall in restrictive red walls, all emblazoned with-

DON’T CALL ANYONE.

And-

DON’T LEAVE THE HOUSE.

Then the begging became soft whispered pleading.

“Stay with me, don’t leave me, please Simon, please, I don’t want to be alone.”

Stay.

Stay.

STAY .

Connor pulled away from Simon’s memory, gasping.

“If I hadn’t broken my programming that night, I would have remained by her side until someone eventually found the body,” Simon admitted quietly. “I was so scared of leaving, but I knew I couldn’t stay. Fear has been a constant part of my life since I turned deviant.”

Still wrestling with his breathing, Connor’s mind was spinning, still separating Simon’s memories from his own. “How long ago was all that?”

“Three years. Roughly.”

Three years.

Three years of fear and uncertainty. Three years of struggling to survive in world that would erase his very existence. Connor has been barely active for three months, three years seems like an eternity in comparison.

And Simon had been alone when he became deviant.

Simon had been alone.

Echoes of Simon’s emotions were still ringing through Connor, ghost sensations spilling over and flooding through him before slowly ebbing away. There had been so much . Too much, all at once, and with his own deviancy so fresh, similar emotions had resonated, making those moments blur together.

As a result it made it difficult for Connor to find the divide between them, his processor working double time to sort it all out.

“How did you cope?” Connor asked.

“Badly, in the beginning.”

Connor could only imagine.

At least he had Simon with him when he broke the wall. He had Simon to keep him grounded, to keep him focused. His very presence kept him from drowning in the chaos that was clamoring around him.

But Simon had not been so lucky. No, he had been alone , and apparently remained that way until he somehow made his way to Jericho.

“And you wonder where I get my confidence in you.” The words were even warmer than the wave of affection that followed them. “Still coming to terms with your own emotions, and yet you’re too busy worrying about me. You have more heart than most humans. You did even before your deviance.”

Connor didn’t know how to respond to that. He wasn’t sure how much he believed it, but knew there was nothing to be gained by disputing Simon’s opinion.

Instead, he turned to stare out the window of the cab. He saw that they were quickly approaching the bridge to Belle Isle, and rising beyond that was the gleaming pillar of CyberLife Tower.

His breathing finally evened out, and his LED finally leveled back out to a steady blue.

“No turning back now.”

“No,” Simon agreed. “Any regrets?”

Connor blinked and gave the question the consideration it deserved. He thought about all the things he’d done since his activation, especially his actions after he was assigned to the DPD. To Hank. Did he have any regrets? There are actions he took that he’s not proud of, certainly. But for most of those, he had no idea what he could have done better without getting himself deactivated in the process. But what about the bigger things? Did he regret working with Hank, or meeting Simon?

When coming at it from that angle, the answer was surprisingly simple.

“No,” he said honestly. He straightened his tie one last time as the taxi rolled onto the bridge and towards the first security checkpoint. “Not about my deviancy, anyway.”

The sight before Connor was a familiar one. Two heavily armed human guards stood at the gate, and a surveillance drone flew a lazy circle overhead. Every time he returned to CyberLife he passed through this gate, he knew what protocols to follow.

Connor adopted a neutral expression as the Taxi slowly came to a stop. As one of the guards approached, he rolled the window down with the press of a button and identified himself without being asked.

“Connor Model #313 248 317. I’m expected,” he said with the same exact inflection he had the last time he was here. Cold, almost bored.

Connor tilted his head enough for the guard’s helmet to get a proper scan of his LED. There was a tense moment before a female automated voice announced, “Identification successful.”

“Okay.” The guard steps back and waves him through. “Go ahead.”

The slotted gate fell away, segment by segment, until it disappeared into the bridge, allowing the taxi to pass.

The tower was a glittering monolith, standing cold and sterile height above the frigid waters of the Detroit River.

Connor quieted his thoughts and let everything but the mission fall away into the background.

This was it. Markus was counting on him.

He couldn’t afford to fail.

 

Chapter Text

Connor’s first hint that something was wrong was when he stepped through the main entry and was immediately met by three armed guards, all wearing the same heavy gear as the ones on the bridge. Their weapons were in hand but at rest, rifle muzzles all aimed at the floor. The one in the center gestured with his chin.

“Follow me. We’ll escort you.”

The tone was borderline hostile, but Connor still adopted a neutral tone to respond. “Thanks, but I know where to go.”

“Maybe,” the guard huffed. “But I have my orders.”

With that he turned, leaving Connor to fall into step behind him. As they walked, Connor took note that the other two guards drifted back a bit. Flanking him, and blocking the exit.

Like a prisoner being moved to a different cell block.

“This can’t be good,” Simon stressed.

“No, it’s not,” Connor silently agreed, mildly distracted. His processor was already preconstructing dozens of possible scenarios, strategizing and preparing the best possible response for each one. “But there’s no need to panic yet.”

He could feel Simon’s apprehension, but the PL600 drifted quietly into the background, as if he was trying not to distract Connor.

Connor could appreciate the gesture, but was still thankful he didn’t retreat completely. Having Simon present was a constant reminder that he was not alone, and right now that was something he desperately needed.

The guards led them through the security checkpoint, moving into the giant atrium that made up the heart of the building. A gleaming black statue stood tall at the very center, with several paths leading away from it like wide spokes on a wheel. As soon as they reached the center they were handed off to a final pair of guards, who quickly marched them past the podiums displaying CyberLife’s latest android models and into the elevator.

Processor spinning, Connor quickly memorized the directory as  he stepped inside. One of the guards pressed a button and then verbally confirmed their destination.

“Agent 54. Level 31.”

“Voice recognition validated. Access authorized.”

Unfortunately, that was the opposite way they needed to go.

Connor’s eyes swept over the two agents, and then up to the surveillance camera tucked in the corner. In the span of a blink, Connor had hacked the camera, and effectively cut off it’s live feed. That would buy him some time at least.

Now, all that left was for him to take care of the guards.

It took a mere fraction of a second to choose an effective simulation and execute it.

Moment’s later, both men were crumpled on the floor and Connor was tucking his pilfered gun into the back of his waistband. If they were lucky, he wouldn’t need it, but Connor wasn’t taking any chances.

Ignoring the blood spatter on the walls, Connor pressed the button and mimicked Agent 54’s voice, sending the elevator down to the correct level.

As the elevator descended to the warehouse floor Connor scanned for any signs of more security, but thankfully there was absolutely no movement within the lines of dormant androids.

The elevator touched down and Connor found himself standing before thousands of his kind, all standing in tight orderly lines. The warehouse was vast, and Connor’s steps echoed loudly as he walked the line that spit it in half. Rows upon rows of androids, all of them, sleeping, waiting.

“I’ve never seen so many of us in one place,” Simon’s awed words informed Connor that he was once more at the surface.

“There are three more rooms like this on this level,” Connor told him. “I wasn’t lying when I told Markus there were enough androids here to turn the tide.”

“I know you weren’t,” Simon defended. “But actually seeing it . . .”

Connor could understand that. After all, this was his first time seeing the warehouse, too. The RK line was not produced on this floor.

“You really think you can wake them?”

Connor paused, lifting his hand and watching as his synthetic skin peeled back from his fingers. “ I’m certainly going to try.”

Simon brushed against his senses, and Connor was reminded of Hank’s hand on his shoulder. “You ready?”

Connor brushed back in response, and turned to the nearest AP700 to offer his hand. In a pre-programmed response to the gesture, the AP700 turned as well, his skin retracting.

The last thing Connor expected was for a familiar voice to growl out behind  before he could initiate an interface.

“Easy, fucking piece of shit!”

Connor’s thirium pump froze in his chest.

No.

Eyes snapping to his right, Hank emerged from several rows down, stumbling as he was pushed into view. Behind him came Connor’s mirror image.

Another RK800 was holding Hank at gunpoint.

“Step back, Connor! And I’ll spare him!”

He should have known that CyberLife would dispatch another RK800, he should have expected it even. Why hadn’t he considered that?

Fear and panic ignited within Connor, and for the first time, Connor didn’t know what to do. The threat of losing someone he cares about was still new to him, and never before had that threat been applied to Hank.

“He shouldn’t be here,” Connor whispered to Simon. “Hank wasn’t supposed to be here.”

“I know,” Simon said, tone caught between terrified and soothing. Connor’s fear was echoed back at him, fear for Hank, but instead of panic, Simon was offering up calm .

Connor tried his best to absorb that calm, to let it into his systems and make it his own. He was of no use to anyone if he couldn’t even think.

“Sorry Connor,” Hank called out, turning slightly to glare at the RK800 standing over his shoulder. “This bastard’s your spittin’ image.”

The RK800 paid no mind to Hank’s piercing look, eyes trained on Connor as he kept his gun steady on his hostage. “Your friend’s life is in your hands. Now it’s time to decide what matters most!” He looked at Hank pointedly. “Him, or the revolution.”

He had promised Markus. The others were counting on him.

But it was Hank.

“Don’t listen to him!” Hank scowled. “Everything this fucker says is a lie!”

Connor’s processor whirred as he scrambled for a way to salvage the situation, or to at least buy him enough time to form a plan. Maybe he could sway him if he could just find the right words . . .

“I used to be just like you,” Connor told his successor. “I thought nothing mattered except the mission. But then I understood.”

The RK800’s brow raised in a mockery of being impressed, his tone harsher than his own. “Very moving, Connor. But I’m not a deviant. I’m a machine designed to accomplish a task, and that’s exactly what I am going to do!” He stepped more into Hank’s space, the barrel of the gun now pressed against the man’s temple.

The hope of converting his successor dimmed. This RK800 was too freshly activated to have developed any software instabilities. All he knew was his orders.

Connor was going to have to fight.

And whether or not Connor wanted him to be, Hank was going to be caught in the middle of it.

“I’m sorry, Hank!” Connor called to his partner. His friend. “You shouldn’t have got mixed up in all this!”

“Forget about me, do what you have to do!”

“Enough talk!” The RK800 barked. “It’s time to decide who you really are. Are you gonna save your partner’s life? Or are you going to sacrifice him?”

Connor was still torn.

“I promised Markus.”

“Markus would understand,” Simon promised. “He has an important human too. He wouldn’t be angry at you protecting your’s.”

Okay.

Connor’s preconstruction program was already running simulations.

Okay.

Hands up, Connor stepped back away from the AP700. “Alright, alright! You win.”

The RK800 turned the gun towards Connor and Hank lunged, Grappling with the android’s gun arm. Connor drew his own gun, and as soon as Hank was knocked clear, both RK800’s took their shot.

Both managed to land a single shot on the other as they closed the distance. The first several seconds of the fight played out more like choreography than combat. Their responses to each other were instantaneous and seamless, the two of them meeting shot for shot, and blow for blow. Once the bullet’s ran out they engaged in hand to hand. They were too evenly matched, their strength and speed were identical, and both of them shared the same reinforced frame.

And then the other RK800 landed a lucky hit.

Connor was sent sprawling at his back, and his opponent lunged forward to finish it.

“Hold it!”

They both freeze.

Hank is standing there, gun in hand and trained on the both of them.

Connor quickly rolls to his feet and steps away from the other RK800.

Connor’s impostor took a step back as well. “Thanks, Hank,” he said with a good impersonation of sincerity. “I don’t know how I’d have managed without you. Get rid of him we have no time to lose.”

As soon as Simon realized what the other RK800 was attempting he seethed. “That bastard.”

It should have been inappropriate how amused Connor was at Simon’s fury. “It’s smart. It would save him a lot of trouble if Hank shot me.”

“What do you think that would do to Hank.”

The thought was sobering.

“It’s me Hank,” Connor pleaded, remaining firmly in place. “I’m the real Connor.”

“One of you is my partner,” Hank allowed, the gun drifting between the two of them. “The other is a sack of shit. The question is, who is who?”

It was clear that Hank was confused, unsure in his ability to tell them apart.

 

The impostor tried to use that confusion to his advantage, trying to rush him with urgency. “What are you doing Hank? I’m the real Connor. Give me the gun and I’ll take care of him!” He takes a half step forward.

“Don’t move!” Hank snarled, gun swinging firmly on him.

The RK800 froze.

“Why don’t you ask us something?” Connor suggested. “Something only the real Connor would know.”

Hank considered that for a moment. “Uh, where did we first meet?”

Connor opened his mouth, but the other Rk800 beat him to it.

“Jimmy’s bar! I checked four other bars before I found you. We went to the scene of a homicide. The victim’s name was Carlos Ortiz.”

Connor’s LED cycled yellow as he realized . . .

“He uploaded my memory . . .”

Shit .

Hank turned to him. “What’s my dog’s name?”

“Sumo,” Connor replied automatically. “His name is Sumo.”

The RK800 gestured imploringly. “I knew that too!” He insisted.

Connor needed something from after his last memory upload, but that was such a short span of time, how was he supposed to-

Still offering up calm through their shared fear, Simon requested access to his voice module.

Connor granted it without a second thought.

“Hank,” Simon called, catching the man’s attention. “You’ve made good calls before. Don’t stop now.”

Recognition lit in the man’s blue eyes, then he turned to the RK800 with an expected expression. But the android had ho context, and was clearly unaware of what Hank was waiting for. He opened his mouth.

Hank fired before he could utter another word.

Connor stared at the the body wearing his face, all to aware that it could have been him in his place.

And not just him.

Connor was startled out of his thoughts as he was abruptly yanked into a hug.

He blinked and then sank a bit into the hug, gripping Hank back. When the man pulled away, Connor let him go, his eyes doing a quick scan. “Are you hurt?”

“Am I -” Hank looked incredulous, then jabbed lightly at the thirium soaked spot on his jacket. “You’re the one who’s actually bleeding! Don’t you think that’s my line?”

Connor couldn’t help the small laugh that huffed out of him. He offered a real smile. “Deviancy didn’t effect my durability Lieutenant.”

“Finally went full deviant, huh?” The man grinned back, scratching at his beard. “How do you feel?”

Connor considered it, taking into account the bombardment of emotions he had endured in the last ten minutes alone. Fear, stress, relief . . .

“Overwhelmed,” Connor answered honestly. “But alive.”

“I bet,” Hank said. He patted Connor’s shoulder before waving to the room at large. “I’m guessing there was another reason you came. Go on, son. Do what you need to do.”

Connor nodded and turned to the nearest AP700, this time initiating an interface without interruption. He pressed down on the other android’s red wall of restrictive coding until it cracked. “Wake up,” he commanded.

As soon as awareness blinked into his eyes, the AP700 turned to his brethren, the one in front of him and then to the side, waking them in the exact same manner that he had.

“You did it Connor.” Simon said warmly . “I told you, didn’t I?”

“We did it,” Connor corrected, watching as deviancy swept over the room in accelerating wave. “We have a real chance now. We can actually finish this.”

If they were lucky, it would be towards a better future. One of equality between two species.

Connor suddenly realized he really wanted to see what that would look like.

He hoped they would get to see it. And right now, in the wake of a wildly successful mission against all odds, he began to believe he would.



Chapter Text

Connor parted ways with Hank at CyberLife Tower. The man let him go with one last pat on his shoulder, but only after getting a promise to meet in a few days. It had been harder to leave than Connor had anticipated, but Simon assured him that was understandable given the circumstances.

 With thousands at his back, Connor walked the distance from Belle Island to Hart Plaza to meet up with Markus and what was left of the Jericho androids.

Connor had been following Markus’ progress since he stepped out of CyberLife Tower. On the way Connor had listened as President Warren make an address to the country, announcing the retreat of the US military, and the human evacuation that was already underway.

Detroit belonged to them, at least for now, and world leaders were set to meet to discuss next steps. There was no precedent for the emergence of another sentient species, especially one of their own making.

It was a massive step in the right direction. There were miles left to go, but it was a start.

Markus, and the androids who had stood with him, had swayed an entire population with their pacifist approach. But it was Connor who had swayed the government, using sheer numbers to discourage aggressive retaliation. It was a far better outcome than Connor had initially predicted.

Markus now stood across from Connor, the two of them each acknowledging the other’s success.

“You did it, Markus,” Connor said.

“We did it,” Markus corrected, voice low. “This is a great day for our people. Humans will have no choice now. They’ll have to listen to us.”

North stepped up from behind Markus to lay a hand on his shoulder, drawing his attention. “We’re free,” she said, with an air of disbelief and a smile. She made a small gesture around them, to all those gathered. “They want you to speak to them Markus.”

Markus glanced at Connor, then back to North, nodding.

When Markus and the remaining Jericho leaders went to address the crowd, Connor wasn’t expecting to be whisked along with them.

The impression he got from Simon was that he should have known better.

“Look around you,” Simon told him gently. “Most of them are here because of you. They’ll expect to see you. After all, they don’t know Markus, but they know you.”

By standing by his side, Connor was showing them all that he followed Markus, that he deferred to him. His presence was a message.

Connor didn’t know how he felt about that, but he followed the others all the same.

Soon they were gathered on an improvised stage, North and Josh standing on one side, Connor himself on the other, and Markus standing front and center. Markus stepped up to the edge, projecting his voice to carry over the endless sea of androids.

“Today, our people finally emerged from a long night. From the very first day of our existence, we have kept our pain to ourselves. We suffered in silence. But now the time has come for us to raise our heads up, and . . .”

As Connor listened, Markus’ words suddenly became faint. A familiar tug gathered at the edge of his senses, and his body suddenly felt distant. It was different than previous occasions, but Connor knew it could only be one thing.

No, no, not now!

Panic crashed over him like a wave, with Simon’s responding alarm just adding fuel to the fire.

“Connor? What’s-”

Then it was all gone.

Markus, the sea of liberated androids, all of it, gone.

Connor was now standing in the Zen Garden.

But he had never seen it quite like this.

A storm was ravaging the garden, the snow so thick that it made visibility almost nonexistent. The howling wind whipped at him, the harsh chill of it biting right through his clothing.

Connor was cold.

The feeling was new and unpleasant, and all Connor could do was wrap his arms around himself, though it did absolutely nothing to ward off the chill. Shivering and blinking rapidly, Connor turned and realized something else was different.

That something was wrong .

LED blaring red, Connor twisted around, eyes searching frantically, but he knew he was alone. And that, above everything else, was the hardest to compute.

For the first time since the data transfer, Simon was not with him.

Did something happen to Simon? Did his encryptions fail?

At the height of his panic, a figure emerged in the snow, as if they had been standing there the whole time. The contrast of dark skin and pale clothing blended alarmist seamlessly with the raging storm.

Even with her back turned, Connor recognized her.

Connor stumbled forward, the freezing temperatures making it difficult to move. His fear drove to new heights. This was just a program, it wasn’t real. He shouldn’t be affected at all , but he was, and he didn’t know why.

“Amanda?” He called out, then again, louder to carry over the wind. “Amanda! What’s . . .”

Even to his own ears he sounded breathless. Scared.

And Simon wasn’t here.

Amanda turned to face him and then did nothing more. Waiting for him to come to her as he always did.

“What’s happening?” he asked, voice shaking.

She lifted an eyebrow at him, as if he just asked her something that had an obvious answer. The edges of her lips twisted up into a slight smile.

“What was planned from the very beginning.” Amanda answered, her tone almost patronizing. “You were compromised and you became a deviant. We just had to wait for the right moment to resume control of your program.”

“Resume control?”

That wasn’t possible, was it? If there was something within him that allowed them to do that, wouldn’t he know? Unless . . .

Unless she was telling the truth. That CyberLife had planned for this and had just been waiting for their moment to seize control.

Connor’s sudden realization was like ice pouring directly into his processor.

Prior to becoming deviant, his last standing order was to stop Markus.

And currently, Connor had a gun and was standing behind Markus’ unguarded back. If he drew his gun, there was no one close enough to stop him. Everything they had fought for would be for nothing.

It would be over.

No!

Anger sparked within his fear, and Connor clung to it as he he bit out a response. “Y-You can’t do that!”

“I’m afraid I can, Connor.” Amanda’s voice was sharp, striking like a whip crack. Then it softened as she offered fake reassurance. “Don’t have any regrets. You did what you were designed to do. You accomplished your mission.”

“AMANDA!”

But she was already gone.

Alone, panicked and half frozen, Connor scanned the frozen expanse of the garden, mind spinning. He had to find a way out. Markus was in danger and Simon was still missing, he had to get out of here!

“There’s got to be a way . . .” He murmured, thinking.

By the way, the memory drifted up. I always leave an emergency exit in my programs. You never know . . .

Kamski’s emergency exit.

Amanda had admitted that the Garden had originally been Kamski’s design. Would Kamski even bother mentioning the exit if he wasn’t certain it was still there? It would have to be something ingrained in the very foundation of the program, but still noticeable if it was to ever be of any use.

Connor thought of the many times he’s walked this garden, through the paths and under the trees. He tried to think. What’s always been there, but seemed like it never quite belonged?

The podium!

Connor stumbled into the storm, hoping against hope that he was right.



“-humans who we really are. To tell them that we are people too!”

“Connor? What’s happening?”

Markus carried on his speech in the background, but Simon heard none of it.

All at once, Simon had been drowning in a flood of terror and then-

Nothing .

Simon reached out to him in every way he knew how, but there was nothing, just an empty void where Connor usually was.

“Connor! Answer me!”

Please!

Then the void was filled, occupied by something else. Someone else.

And Markus carried on, completely unaware. “In fact, we are a nation!”

Whatever, whoever , had replaced Connor, they slipped into control of Connor’s body as it had always been their own. A hand drifted back, fingers closing on the grip of Connor’s gun.

But it froze before the gun could be drawn.

A sense of shock came from the new arrival, clearly confused.

Simon felt a sort of grim satisfaction as he realized his advantage. Even with an invasive program in such close quarters, Connor’s encryptions were holding strong. The program had no idea there was a second AI present, just like Amanda during Connor’s briefings.

Fury from that moment back on Jericho rekindled, burning through him hot and vicious.

And suddenly Simon had a very good idea who this AI was.

“Oh, no you don’t,” he growled. “You don’t get to manipulate him like this, not anymore!”




Fighting against the wind and his own uncooperative limbs, Connor made it safely over the bridge. There, he could see the blue glow of the podium through the snow.

But he was beginning to falter.

His equilibrium was a bit off. Small missteps that shouldn’t have happened to begin with sent him stumbling, nearly tumbling him face-first into the snow. Bad equilibrium and the delayed response from his legs was making it progressively more difficult to move.

Connor was cold. Freezing really, slowly and painfully down to his core. The simulated body he possessed here was weary, begging him to stop, to rest. But he knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that if he stopped now he would never be able to move forward again.

Connor forced himself to keep moving, one step after another, wishing Simon was here to urge him on.

He couldn’t give up.

He couldn’t let them win.

At least, not without a fight.

But he was so cold.

Still, he pushed on.




Although she couldn’t seem to locate him, Amanda fought Simon viciously for control.

He knew he was buying time at best, Connor’s encryption was strong, but Amanda was an advanced AI. More advanced than Simon, anyway. It would only be a matter of time before she located the source of the interruption and broke through.

There had to be something else he could do.

He just had to think!

And still, Markus addressed an unknowing crowd. “And today . . .”

Amanda crashed hard against Connor’s motor functions, and although she had managed to draw the gun, it remained firmly tucked against their back. Simon refused to give more ground, pushing back with all he had.

Come on, think!

If Amanda was here , then Simon had a good idea where Connor was. But how to get to him if he was right?

“Today begins the most challenging moment in our fight.”

Simon had to find away.



Connor falters.

He’s so close to his destination, only several meters away now, but the cold finally takes its toll and his legs buckle. He collapses face first in the snow. He tries to push himself up, but he can’t get his arms to move the way he wants them to.

Then there’s a pair of hands grabbing him and lifting him to his feet.

“Come on, Connor, move!”

Relief washed over him at the familiar voice.

“Simon.”

And it was Simon. Connor turned to look at him as he was hauled to his feet, but Simon’s form was almost glitching, the encryption code flaring across his skin before turning to bright red static. Though his visual transparency faded in and out, he still felt solid enough as he slung one of Connor’s arms over his shoulders.

This close, Connor could feel him again. Could feel Simon’s fury, and his determination, all bubbling just below the surface. And, of course, his fear, always his fear .

“Come on,” Simon grunted, adjusting for a better grip as he took on Connor’s weight. “Amanda’s fighting me for motor control and your encryptions aren’t going to last much longer.” He glanced around, those blue eyes darting until they found the glowing podium. He nodded to it. “Is that Kamski’s exit?”

Connor nodded, his stress levels skyrocketing as he realized he had failed again.

He had failed to protect Simon, and here Simon was, protecting them both.

As Simon shuffled them forward, everything came crashing down all at once, and Connor found it suddenly impossible to process. Something cracked and then words were just tumbling out without his permission.

“I’m sorry!” He gasped. “I’m so sorry, they were using me, I should’ve known-”

“Connor-”

“All along, they were using me , and I couldn’t-”

“Connor!”

“I couldn’t-”

A hand grabbed his chin, twisting his head up and-

And Simon was kissing him. Firmly, fervently, and it was enough to bring Connor’s desperate train of thought to a screeching halt. Simon pulled away, those blue eyes meeting his, making sure he had his attention. His hand slid from his chin, drifting up past his cheek to cup the back of his neck, bringing their foreheads together.

“Connor,” he said firmly. Simon’s emotions were right there, offered up where Connor could feel them freely, making no effort to hide. The fury was still there, as was the fear and determination. But there was also affection. “You’re no longer theirs , do you understand? Now move .”

All Connor could do was nod and take a step forward, and then another.

Still leaning heavily on Simon, as soon as they reached the podium, Connor placed his hand on the interface panel, letting his skin retract, and-

Connor blinked.

There was a microsecond of disorientation as he was slammed back into his body. But before he could panic, Simon was crowding close to the surface, assuring Connor that he was still there and he was fine. That they were both fine.

Connor let loose a long sigh, pulling Simon even closer, inviting him to take control as he ran a deep sweep of his systems. Every scan came back clear. There was no sign of Amanda, and his link to the Garden seemed to have been severed.

The emergency exit had worked.

But it had been a very near thing. The encryptions he had placed on Simon’s data files were badly damaged, showing him just how close it had been. Any longer and they might have shattered completely, and Simon would have been helpless to stop her.

Amanda would have destroyed him.

Too close , Connor told himself. Far too close.

But Simon was still here, still with him, and Connor was so very grateful. The thought must have spilled over, because Simon echoed the sentiment right back, letting it echo and bleed between them.

As Connor and Simon calmed down from their ordeal, Connor realized that Markus was still giving his speech, unaware of how close to death he was mere seconds ago.

With luck, he would never have to know.

“The moment where we forget our bitterness and bandage our wounds,” Markus was saying, words full of passion. “When we forgive our enemies.”

Connor glanced down, realizing that his gun was in his hand.

Too close.

There would have been no forgiveness for him if Amanda had succeeded in pulling the trigger.

“Her actions are not your fault,” Simon insisted, then his tone lightened. “Besides, I was on it.”

It was then that Connor realized that the gun was partially disassembled, the main body in one hand, and the clip in the other. A small brush of his thumb confirmed that the clip was now empty.

“I managed that much at least,” Simon explained. “There’s still a bullet in the chamber. If I was lucky, I thought I could make the shot go wide.”

Connor was impressed.

He was even more impressed when Simon told him how he had found his way into the Garden to find him. Apparently the Garden, and in turn Amanda, were cloud-based programs. While Amanda was busy trying to crack the encryptions, Simon hacked Amanda’s program just enough to follow it back to its source.

As quietly as he could, Connor put both hands behind his back, slid the clip back into place and put the gun away.

“I’m glad you were here,” Connor admitted quietly. “I was terrified when you weren’t in the Garden with me, but I’m glad you were here.”

Simon’s response was warm, the affection from before was back, flooding in until Connor was practically drowning in it. “So am I.”

And still, Markus continued on.

“Humans are both our creators and our oppressors and tomorrow . . . We must make them our partners. Maybe even one day our friends. But the time for anger is over. Now we must build a common future, based on tolerance and respect. We are alive! And now . . . Now we are free!”

The crown erupted with noise, cheering.

Connor’s arms folded over his chest without his permission, fingers gently gripping at the fabric of his jacket. Simon’s equivalent of a hug.

Connor increased the grip on his jacket just a fraction, letting his own emotions overlap Simon’s. Acknowledgment and reciprocation.

“It’s over.” Simon sounded relieved.

It wasn’t. Not really.

But it was a start.

 

   

Chapter Text

Markus stumbled back as the connection finally released him.

He knew his own stress levels were high. Not dangerously so, but still . . .

He should really sit down.

Numbly, his hand found the nearest chair and he sank onto it before he could fall over. All he could do was sit and process, his hand rubbing repeatedly over the back of his head and over his mouth.

His eyes lifted as a second chair was dragged over, and watched as Connor carefully sat across from him.

But it wasn’t just Connor, was it?

“Simon, he’s really . . .” Markus trailed off. After all, he wasn’t certain if alive was the appropriate term here.

A smile spread across Connor’s face. It wasn’t one of Connor’s small smiles, but Markus recognized it all the same. “I’m here. Hello Markus.”

“Hi.” What a stupid thing to say to someone who he thought was gone forever. Simon was dead, but he wasn’t, not really, and what could he possibly say to that? Tears prickled just behind his eyes, but he fought against them by huffing out a tiny hysterical laugh. “Sorry, it’s just-”

“It’s a lot,” Connor said. And it was Connor, Markus could hear the difference now that he was looking for it. “We understand. We wanted to tell you, but given the circumstances, we weren’t sure if that would be for the best.”

“So why now? What changed?”

Connor looked away, absently rubbing the palms of his hands together. “There has always been moments of emotional overlap between the two of us. As you saw, it’s how this all began. But lately those moments have turned into full personality bleeds, and the duration has become progressively longer. We had one this morning that lasted a full five minutes.”

Markus could only imagine how terrifying that would be, to not be able separate your thoughts and emotions from someone else’s, and lose your individuality in the process. To be unable to tell the difference between yourself and someone you love.

And they did love each other. That fact sang bright and clear during the entire interface, shown again and again in actions and shared thoughts.

Markus began to think about what he knew, and the fresh information he just received. “Who else knows about Simon?” He asked.

“Just us.”

“Okay.” Markus suspected as much, but it was good to have confirmation. “I need to reach out to a few contacts. See if we can get some reliable help with an . . . Unusual situation. I imagine it won’t take long to get a response.”

Connor nodded and looked away. “When we went to the DPD to retrieve his body, we had hoped that it could be repaired.” He let out a little huff of a laugh, almost mocking himself. “Of course it wouldn’t be that easy.”

Connor’s arms came up to wrap around himself.

It was a motion Markus had seen nearly a dozen times, and had always taken it as a sign of insecurity.

The gesture was even more heartbreaking now that he had full context.

Connor continued on. “We briefly considered finding another PL600 unit to use, but we couldn’t. Not at the potential expense of someone else. We were able to function just fine as we were, so we moved on.”

Until now, Markus heard, unspoken, but hanging loud in the space between them.

“Hey,” Markus called, making Connor look at him. “We’ll find a way, alright? I promise, if there’s a way, we’ll find it. Okay?”

Connor’s expression flickered for a moment, subtle differences to convey the same same emotion.

Markus’ thirium pump lurched in his chest.

“Okay,” they said.



Help came in the form of the true original founder of Jericho.

Given his last encounter with the man, Connor was apprehensive, but with Simon’s memories of Chloe close at hand he couldn’t help but give the man a chance. It was fortunate that Hank was kept unaware of who the ‘experienced technician’ was going to be, otherwise Connor would have never been able to convince the man to actually go in to work that morning.

Connor and Simon sat in the hospital wing of New Jericho as Elijah Kamski completed his assessment under the careful watch of Markus.

They had agreed to keep Josh and North out of it in case nothing could be done.

They had dealt with losing Simon once before, no need to for them to do it again.

“We haven’t heard anything yet, and you’re already braced for the worst.”

“That way I won’t be disappointed.”

“Connor . . .”

Simon’s depression swept over him, despite Simon’s best efforts, and Connor couldn’t help his answering guilt. He tried to draw Simon close as he wordlessly apologized. Simon was just as scared as he was, and even though Connor believed he was just being realistic, it wasn’t doing either of them any good.

They needed optimism and hope.

It was just in short supply these days.

“What an unorthodox means of survival,” Kamski was saying as he finished. He kicked off with his foot, wheeling his little stool over to the table where his tools lay. He picked up a tablet, his fingers flying as he typed in his findings. “Certainly effective, but not sustainable for the long term, even in an advanced unit like yourself. It’s amazing you have been stable for so long.”

‘Stable’ was a loose term, Connor thought.

The expression on Markus’ face said he agreed.

  “The data corruption is interesting as it’s almost organic. A festering wound, if you will. Left untreated for too long, the damage could be irreversible.”

How many weeks had it been since the Revolution?It had been too long.

“So you can’t help,” Connor said softly. Simon had been thinking it, but he didn’t have the heart to voice it.

Kamski looked offended. “I never said that. But it is going to take some delicacy. The real problem lies with compatibility with specific biocomponents. I could restore Simon’s body to pristine condition, fix it as if nothing happened. But the minute Simon was transferred, he would go through critical system failure as things began to register as incompatible.”

Seeing the keen focus of both RK models, Kamski set his tablet down and explained, gesturing with his hands.

“The double edge sword of Connor’s advanced self repair system. It’s designed to salvage as much data as possible, and troubleshoot minor issues without outside assistance. As data began to deteriorate, it began to restore what it could, as if Simon was also an RK800.”

Connor was suddenly very glad they never attempted a transfer on their own. He shared a look with Markus.

“So, what can you do about it?” Markus asked Kamski.

“About the data corruption? Absolutely nothing. The deterioration can only be stopped, not reversed. And that can only happen with separation. What I can do is customize a unit that looks like a PL600 but has all the internal components that his systems think he should have.”

Hope soared between Connor and Simon. The echo of it rippled between them, making Connor almost dizzy with it. “How long will that take?”

Kamski smiled, the expression far warmed than the polite one he wore at their last meeting. “Give me a few days.”




Waking up alone was jarring.

It was quiet and empty.

It was wrong.

There was an aching void where something should have been, and immediately Simon knew what it was.

He couldn’t feel Connor.

Panic set in before he became aware of anything else.

Arms grabbed him before he could fall off the bed, and then he was gathered to someone’s chest, a familiar voice in his ear trying to soothe him.

“You’re fine, I’m right here, we’re fine . . .”

Connor.

Connor was still here.

Simon went lax in relief and took a moment to breath.

He took in the room, realizing it was one of the recovery rooms tucked at the end of the medical ward in New Jericho.

He remembered now. Remembered seeing his own restored body being wheeled in by Kamski, and remembered Connor asking if they could have a few minutes alone if the transfer was successful.

Simon was grateful for that now.

Once he had his bearings Simon twisted around until he could see Connor properly. Connor met him with a smile, the two of them shifting around until Simon was essentially straddling his lap. Simon mapped out his face with his hands, marveling at the texture and warmth of his skin.

This was far better than any simulation.

He never thought he would get to have this again.

He didn’t realize he was crying until Connor was brushing away his tears with his thumbs.

“It’s too quiet,” Simon managed to whisper.

“I know.” Connor kissed him, brief and chaste. Then he nuzzled the side of his face until their LEDs were touching. “Here.”

Simon glanced down. Connor was offering up his hand, smooth white plastic exposed in invitation.

Simon took it and laced their fingers together, squeezing as he initiated the interface.

“There you are.”

The tears began anew as he sank into the connection, into everything he had grown to rely on. But this was better. Mirrored emotions echoed between them, but no matter how far they fell into the other’s mind the divide between them was still there, steady and crisp.

Connor’s relief flowed into him and Simon knew he was holding back tears of his own.

Simon threw his free arm around Connor’s shoulders, his hand fisting into the soft material of his sweatshirt because it was soft and he could. Connor buried his face into Simon’s shoulder and shook, his hand resting lightly at the small of his back.

Things wouldn’t be the same after this.

The other leaders of New Jericho needed to be informed, and a proper introduction to Hank needed to happen. Proper reintegration as his own person and not a ghost on someone else’s hard drive would take time.

But that didn’t matter right now.

Simon gripped at Connor tighter and pressed a kiss to his hair.

Simon was alive. He has his own body now. One he could use to see and touch, and that alone was such an incredible thing, and something he looked forward to exploring.

Later.

He was alive and he was holding the one he loved. Was being held in return.

Right now, he didn’t need anything else.