August 15, 2039 | 8:29pm
The update completes at level sixty-four. Connor blinks back online.
He still has eleven levels to go before he reaches his destination. Eleven. Odd number. Prime number. Connor likes this number. He fancies its sound, its rhythm. Connor removes the quarter from his pocket, runs its smooth edge along his knuckles. He likes the feel of this coin. His coin. Gifted to him when he was first manufactured, first installed. His first memory. His first possession.
Connor flips the coin.
The trick itself is not stimulating the way it once was, but Connor has kept up the habit. It is a way to pass the time, and it keeps his sensors sharp. Connor does not have nerves, but he has tics. It is a method designed by his creators to keep his machine parts accurate, and a way to keep his outward appearance human. Connor likes this trait. It is calming, distracting.
Connor is in an elevator. He is alone. He was called to this complex to assist police on his first mission: a hostage negotiation with a deviant android.
Level sixty-five. Odd number. Composite. Connor tosses the coin. It rises in the air before landing securely on his thumb. Connor analyzes the neon blue letters in the elevator. He thinks about its design and stability. He wonders whether the deviant considered shutting down the power to keep all emergency personnel out, or whether the incident was too emotionally impactful: whether the initial act of rebellion was so overwhelming it blocked all sense of reason.
A strange by-product of deviance, but not uncommon.
Level sixty-six. Even number, composite. There are so many composite numbers. Connor thinks about this, then bounces the quarter on his thumb. Mathematics has always intrigued him. The beauty of logic is astounding, made all the more impressive by imperfect humans integrating its calculation so perfectly. Connor is impressed. He would not exist without math. He would not exist without humans.
He would also not exist without deviants.
Level sixty-seven. Odd number. A rare prime number. Connor is pleased to find one. He enjoys categorizing numbers, sorting them in their respective boxes. They are neatly organized in his mind, straight and orderly and kept precisely where Connor places them. This is why he always accomplishes his mission. Because he is orderly. Because he is precise. Because he is a professional.
Because he is a machine.
Level sixty-eight. Even number, composite. Familiar, except that it’s the highest level so far. Close to the destination, now. Connor flicks the coin to his left hand. It is one of his favorite tricks, to toss the quarter back and forth in quick succession just before reaching the intended floor. It is satisfying, the intensity rising with the elevator shaft. Connor imagines the gears and leveys turning in time with his brain. Always in sync, always succinct. Always on target. Sharp and quick and efficient.
Level sixty-nine. Odd number, composite. In five seconds, the doors will open and Connor will enter the crime scene. The coin dances between Connor’s fingers, its surface smooth and clean, the motion practiced to perfection. Back and forth, the coin performs its final symphony, balancing between Connor’s middle and forefinger just as the elevator chirps its final ping to signal the uppermost floor.
Connor secures his coin. He tightens his tie.
July 15, 2038 | 2:00pm
They called him the magic man.
It was a jab, of course. A slight. A nickname, but not one born of affection, or humor, or even trust. Connor is an anomaly, a prototype, and this, by nature, means he is not understood. He is dissected and analyzed often enough, but he is not quantified like the rest. He is not normal. He is both more machine and more autonomous than the rest of his kind. He has stricter instructions, but also more leeway to accomplish his goals. He has freedom to speak, to pursue, to chase, to interrogate. But he has walls, as they all do. Thick and red and covered with code.
Red tape, the humans would call it.
Connor has existed for two months, three weeks, two days, and seven hours. He has been studied, remedied, and reset. He has no memory of his awakening, but he knows it occured. It is part of him, even if he cannot recollect it in perfect time. He does not believe they tested his calibration before this specific model was set online. He deduced this because a joke was made. His first day. His first memory. His first test.
He was still within the confines of his test chamber, a glass rectangle with no discernable exit. Connor noted this the same way he noted his legs had not been installed: problematic, but not impossible. A conundrum, but not a priority.
“Alright, time to test your reflex skills, buddy,” a voice called over the intercom. Male voice, mid-thirties. There was no speaker that Connor could see. Perhaps his eyes were not fully installed yet, either. Not tested. Imperfect.
A robotic appliance whirred forward, offering Connor a coin on a silver platter. Too small to fit on its metallic extensions. Ironic. A machine handing metal to a machine. Connor did not laugh, because he was a professional. He did not joke, because the moment was one of consequence. His first test.
Cognition. Reaction. Precision. Balance.
Connor remembers touching the coin with a synthetic hand, remembers watching his fingers apply the final coat of humanoid skin in time with the engineer’s instructions. Connor remembers turning the coin over in his newly acquired fingers, remembers testing the weight. It was a penny then, not a quarter. Worn and used, not like Connor’s new body, his new hands. Not like the LED lights keeping Connor in their orbit, not like the white floor at his feet.
Connor flicked the penny into the air, and it landed back in his palm. Centered. Balanced. Perfect.
Heads first. Issued 1985. Used. Dirty.
“Well, would you look at that. You’re the new magic man, Connor.”
Connor looked up from the coin. Sharp. Curious. Inquisitive. “Connor?”
“Oh shit, that’s right. Register your name: Connor.”
Connor remembers glancing back down at his palm. He remembers closing his fingers into a fist, with the penny still inside. Secured. Protected. Treasured.
His skill. His penny. His calibration. His name.
Connor looked back at the nameless, faceless man behind the glass. He stood straight, with his hands fastened behind his back. A secret there, between his fingers. A single memory he would like to keep. A trademark. A singularity. A purpose.
His first words.
“My name is Connor.”
November 5, 2039 | 11:21pm
Connor stands in the rain. Jimmy’s Bar, established 2123. Last health inspection: May 2122. No violations. Status: open for business.
Connor flips his coin into the air.
There are no floors for him to travel, no beeps or pings for him to synchronize to. There is nothing but the rain, and the faint hum of the electric open sign.
Connor flips the quarter again anyway. The humans would do it for luck. Connor completes the trick because he likes even numbers. Because he likes pairs. Because he is looking for his partner. His number one to Connor’s number two.
The quarter lands. It is slick and wet with rain. Connor’s boots are heavy on his feet. A human would feel uncomfortable, irritated. Connor is not.
He enters the bar, despite the warning on the door. His orders direct him as such. If the owner causes him trouble, Connor will apologize and explain his mission. He will be calm, polite, concise.
He will accomplish his mission.
Lieutenant Anderson has not been easy to locate. There are not many bars in the vicinity, and Jimmy’s Bar is the furthest away from the precinct. Connor wonders if the lieutenant ventured this far on purpose, in the event he was called in. Plausible deniability. Inaccessibility. A desire to be left alone.
All statistically likely. All notes in Connor’s new file.
Lieutenant Anderson is the last face Connor scans. A remarkable feat, a statistical anomaly. Connor finds this fact intriguing. He does not inform the lieutenant of this. Doing so would be unprofessional, so Connor leads with the case. The facts. The homicide.
The lieutenant expresses no interest in the death of another human. Or a missing android, for that matter.
It is not exactly surprising, but it is troubling. Time is of the essence, and the lieutenant’s increased drinking further complicates matters. But Connor is not deterred, and he is not bothered. To express disappointment, exasperation, or frustration would be a weakness. Would be invalid. Would be wrong.
Connor reaches the end of his partner protocol, and he does not know what action to take next. There is no dialogue left to say, there are no orders for him to follow. There are no further parameters for this specific circumstance. Connor blinks while he thinks. After precisely six seconds of hesitation, he offers to wait outside. Perhaps some time spent alone with his coin will offer a new solution. Perhaps Amanda will offer a pearl of wisdom, as she is want to do.
“Did you say homicide?” the lieutenant says to Connor’s retreating back. Connor does not smile, because he does not have emotions, but he is pleased.
“Yes,” Connor replies, and does not break stride.
Outside, Connor again stands in the rain. He flips his quarter into the air a final time, then follows the lieutenant to his car at a respectful five paces behind.
The third time, as they say, is the charm.
November 5, 2039 | 11:34pm
Connor is in a car.
He has never been in a vehicle alone before. He has only ever been alone when he was in an elevator, on his way to his first crime scene. Connor wishes to practice tricks with his coin, but the car ceiling hangs low, and Lieutenant Anderson’s music is loud. Distracting.
Connor disregards the coin. He opts to study his newfound partner instead, leaning forward in his seat.
Lieutenant Anderson is in a foul mood. Not distressed, but tense. The facial hair along his jaw makes it difficult to discern whether the bones are constricted, angry, or whether his face naturally rests that way. Grey hair drapes across his forehead, shrouding his expression in further mystery. If Connor were not so adept at reading human emotions, he would be confused, concerned.
He is not.
The lieutenant turns his face. “Cut it out,” he says. Stern. Fierce. Commanding.
“What, lieutenant?” Connor asks.
Lieutenant Anderson scoffs at the road, before turning his attention to Connor once more. He holds Connor’s eye for three seconds longer than the previous statement. Connor is hopeful this is an improvement.
“The staring. Knock that shit off. I don’t need to be dissected.”
Connor assesses Hank’s face, his eyes. Bloodshot. Red veins mixed with blue irises. A flattering color for humans, but dull in expression. A leery mouth, turned downwards. The jaw is relaxed, though the teeth are gritted. On edge.
Lieutenant Anderson is unhappy. Connor has overstepped.
Connor faces the front of the car. “Apologies, lieutenant. I assure you no analysis was being taken.”
It is not the whole truth. But Connor did not take a scan, either. A proverbial half-truth, as such.
The lieutenant scoffs again, as though he has access to Connor’s memory. “Right…”
Connor chooses to remain silent. It is very difficult to face the front of the car, with no coin tricks to perform and no face to analyze. They are still ten blocks from the crime scene. At this rate, the car ride will be very long. And very stilted.
Lieutenant Anderson turns the volume down six degrees. An even number. Composite. Connor approves.
“So what is it you do, anyway?”
Connor glances at Hank, who is glancing back at him. Connor takes this as permission to continue looking. “I am a prototype RK800 android. I assist investigators at crime scenes. This is my second case, but I assure you I am very effective.”
Lieutenant Anderson waves a hand, though it is limp and frail and, Connor suspects, vaguely sarcastic. “Yeah, yeah. What are you doing here?”
Connor deduces the lieutenant means why Connor has been assigned this specific case, and why they haven’t met before. “My mission is to investigate deviancy in androids. Find the commonalities, determine the source.”
The lieutenant yawns. “Deviancy?”
Connor nods. He looks back at the road. The rain. He makes a mental note to scan the lieutenant's health when they exit the vehicle. Perhaps it would be more efficient for Connor to drive his partner home.
“When an android veers from its intended program, it is considered deviant. It must be confiscated and returned to Cyberlife for further study.”
Lieutenant Anderson looks skeptical. Confused. Irritated. “What would it—how would it deviate in the first place?”
It is a good question. It is a query Connor has wondered about many times. It is his primary target, his goal. It is the reason he exists.
“That,” Connor says, and leans back in his seat, “is what I am here to discover, lieutenant. The why, how, when, and where.”
“Hmm,” Lieutenant Anderson says, and does not speak for the remaining three blocks.
He does not return the volume to its previous level of thirty-three, though, and Connor considers this outcome a success.
November 6, 2039 | 12:02am
Carlos Ortiz’s android is a fascinating case.
Three weeks spent in an attic, alone. Three weeks with no human interaction. Three weeks offline. Three weeks with nothing but thought.
What would an android do, in such a circumstance?
The answer is plain, obvious. Written in perfect Cyberlife font in thin, red blood. A provocative sentiment, but one with weight. Intent. This is the first case of an android committing murder, and Connor is appropriately intrigued. He is also troubled.
The trauma is severe, made worse by the android’s status alone. Connor assesses the situation with care before calling for Lieutenant Anderson. Connor does not wish to cause the android further distress, but he cannot fail his mission, either. He believes calm, rational behavior is the key. The android will react positively to a predictable, inevitable response. Predictable means customary, means logical, and these are the facts: there were twenty-eight stab wounds. There was a struggle that ended with a dead human on the floor. There is a murderer on the loose. Cause and effect. Alive then dead.
Please don’t tell them, the android had begged.
Connor thinks about the development of the deviant case as he descends the ladder. As his right foot steps back onto the first floor, his thought process is interrupted by a hand on his arm.
It is the lieutenant’s, large and tan and lined with scars. Some faint, some distinct and new. There are trace amounts of dirt from Ortiz’s backyard on Lieutenant Anderson’s fingertips, and there is the mark of a black sharpie on the crease between his thumb and forefinger. Connor wonders if the mark was an accident, or whether it was purposeful. A reminder of something else, something important.
Connor blinks. He has has never been touched by a human before. He has never initiated contact, and no one has ever initiated contact with him. In classic literature the hand is always warm, but Connor feels no effect on his forearm. Perhaps the lack of stimulation is due to the jacket Cyberlife equipped him with, or perhaps it’s Connor’s sensors. Perhaps he was not designed to feel the warmth of a living, human body.
“How did you—what happened up there?”
Connor looks at the lieutenant’s hand. He is intrigued. Curious. Fascinated.
The lieutenant pulls his hand away. Connor’s processors detect no change, except that his curiosity is heightened. A strange development, given that the lieutenant’s physicality has returned to its customary parameters.
“I located the deviant,” Connor responds.
The lieutenant breathes through his nose. He is annoyed. Frustrated. Connor has disturbed the lieutenant’s piqued interest in less than three seconds. An impressive feat, were the balance not so delicate. “No shit. But how did you do it?”
Connor does not feel the need to regale the lieutenant with information already available to him, but Connor has also been asked a question by a superior, so he responds with utmost sincerity. He speaks slowly, since the lieutenant does not seem to comprehend Connor’s abilities. “I told you, lieutenant. I followed the traces of thirium invisible to the naked eye. The trail led me to the attic, where I confronted the android.”
The lieutenant stares at him. His expression is inscrutable, perplexing. Connor cannot make out the precise emotion that crosses the lieutenant’s face. His mouth refuses to smile, but his lips are not pursed in a thin line, either. His eyes are still bloodshot, but remarkably clear in appearance. Connor wonders if this means the lieutenant is no longer feeling the effects of his hangover.
“You could have called for me.”
The response is...unexpected. Connor thinks. He blinks. “The situation was under control,” he decides. “And I have no wish to bother you, lieutenant.”
It is the final line of code of his partner protocol. No further explanation is needed, but Connor feels the need to add an addendum to the statement, a more personal note:
“But I will remember your instruction, in further investigative cases.”
It seems to do the trick. The lieutenant scoffs, grey hair falling in front of his eyes. His head falls down, and when he looks back up at Connor it’s with an expression of sarcastic resignation.
“‘Further investigative cases’, huh? So you’re sticking around, then?”
Connor runs an analysis online. “While it would be unfortunate for further deviant cases to be reported, the statistics indicate another circumstance will likely occur in the future.” He pauses. Tilts his head. “Until we put an end to the source, of course.”
The lieutenant waves a hand. He stands back at his full height. Lieutenant Anderson is two and one quarter inches taller than Connor. He makes a note in his file. “Yeah, yeah. You just want to show off some more of those fancy features of yours, don’t you?”
Connor blinks. “No.”
The lieutenant smiles, a brief quirk of lips, before turning away. “Uh-huh.”
It is the first time the lieutenant has expressed any form of emotion to the RK-800 model except for contempt, and Connor’s personality file on the lieutenant updates accordingly. The timing of the occurrence is strange, out of line with that which Cyberlife premeditated. Their projected model of Hank Anderson’s range of personality is well within respective bounds, but the reality of the timeline is altered, stilted off course. The lieutenant’s unexpected, infantile smile is both earlier than Cyberlife had anticipated, and more humorous than genuine. The cause being a source of humor at Connor’s programming is both ironic and unprecedented, as none of these scenarios were accounted for in Cyberlife’s original model.
Connor thinks. He steps four paces to the left, entering the bathroom to allow the policemen room as he reaches for the coin in his breast pocket. He thumbs the silver across his knuckles before resuming playback of the memory of the lieutenant’s smile, searching for clues.
When the visual is complete, Connor blinks twice to find himself staring at the space of the shower where Carlos Ortiz’s android created the ornament. The idol is well-worked and well-loved, an impressive display of craftsmanship except that no one instructed him to make it. No one instructed him to care for this inanimate object, no programming was allocated to its creation.
Connor secures the coin back in his pocket and leaves the premises. There is no connection to be made here.
No connection at all.
August 15, 2039 | 12:00pm
There is a woman on Connor’s side of the glass, today.
Connor knows it is because today is a special day. Today is the day of Connor’s one month anniversary. Today is the day Connor’s final test is graded. Today is the day Cyberlife decides whether he is cleared for active service. Today is the day Connor sees Detroit.
The woman kneeling by Connor’s heel is a tailor. She is designing his clothes, his hair, his shoes. Connor does not yet know what he looks like, but he does know he is already impressed with her work. He is very put together. The stitches are all in line. No wrinkles in sight. Nothing but hard-pressed, crisp professionalism.
“Is there anything you need?” the tailor asks. A nicety. Politeness. More human decency than actual inquiry.
But Connor answers honestly, anyway. “I would like a quarter, please.”
The tailor stops moving, balancing mid-air near Connor’s waist. She was hemming his suit coat, but now she is idle, stuck motionless between two actions. Connor has confused her. He has overstepped. He should apologize.
Connor does not feel awkward, but he does feel out of place. He resists the urge to fidget with his hands.
“A quarter,” Connor explains. He smiles politely. “For my calibrations.”
The operator visibly relaxes. “Oh shit. Yes.” She shakes her head, wavy brown hair bouncing with the motion. She is very pretty when she smiles. “Yeah, of course. Let me get that for you.”
Connor’s smile was not designed to reach his eyes. He is a very serious model, but he is adept at smirks. Connor offers the tailor one, but she does not seem to appreciate the effort. Her smile is stilted, her hands shaking. Connor smoothes his expression back to one of calm indifference.
The tailor types at a nearby computer, her nails tapping against the keys. Connor listens. He assesses. He waits. A robotic assistant appears over her left shoulder ten seconds later, carrying a tray with a perfectly clean coin.
The tailor walks back to Connor’s side. Her high-heels are very loud on the white plastic floor. “Will that do?”
Connor reaches for the coin. It is much cleaner than its penny counterpart, and larger in size. Twenty-five cents in value. Made in 2038. Connor flips the coin into the air. It lands perfectly on his thumb.
“Yes,” Connor says, and smirks anyway. “This is just right.”
November 6, 2039 | 12:23am
“Why do you do that?”
The lieutenant is at Connor’s elbow, close enough to touch, though his own human elbow stays well outside the bounds of Connor’s synthetic one. He is comfortable, yet uncomfortable. Willing, yet unwilling. Connor finds the lieutenant’s war within himself fascinating, though he will never admit as much out loud. It would upset the lieutenant’s delicate temperament, and Connor has no wish to reenact that particular circumstance again. Even if he did find the altercation illuminating.
Outside the Ortiz residence rain is pouring from the porch awning, and the lieutenant is frowning behind its wet veil more than usual. Connor deducts half of his partner’s pinched expression is due to the downpour, and half is because he does not trust Connor. He is confused, but he is also intrigued. He is at odds with his own impulses.
Connor finds this ironic, given their investigation.
The quarter flits between Connor’s knuckles. On the final loop between his fingers, Connor holds the balance on his forefinger. It is a form of showing off, and Connor enjoys the way the lieutenant’s eyes flicker down to the coin despite his obvious displeasure.
“Do what, lieutenant?”
Lieutenant Anderson scoffs, like he knows Connor is bluffing ignorance. Which is unexpected, but also intriguing. A conversation within a conversation. Connor has never engaged with banter before. Connor is impressed.
“Practice...magic tricks, or whatever the hell. Never seen an android do something like that before.”
Connor’s curiosity spikes. “How many androids have you observed, lieutenant?”
A neutral inquiry, except for how Connor’s partner hesitates, discomfort becoming even more apparent in his cheeks, the bridge of his nose. He stares at Connor with a stubborn, confident gleam. A challenge there, in those red-rimmed eyes.
“Enough.” The lieutenant crosses his arms, then looks away. “I’ve observed plenty.”
Connor wishes to point out that he is the latest model Cyberlife has ever created. He wishes to showcase his prototype status. He wishes to explain, in great detail, how qualified he is for this position. He wishes to proclaim how different he is than whatever previous android the lieutenant had a less than ideal experience with.
But then the lieutenant steps through the curtain of rain, drenching himself from head to toe in less than two seconds flat. Despite his displeasure at the forecast, the lieutenant has chosen this option as preferable to continuing a dialogue with Connor. Connor had overstepped. He had miscalculated. He was wrong.
Connor thinks about performing another coin trick, to ebb the failure ringing in time with the raindrops. He thinks about finding his one to Connor’s two. He thinks about those two numbers clashing in every way except that they’re both prime numbers. Alone. Themselves, and one.
Connor sits underneath the awning of Carlos Ortiz’s porch for another two minute and thirty seconds before hailing a taxi back to Cyberlife. He enters stasis mode with forty-seven raindrops still clinging to his damp shirt, and a soil sample still clinging to his shoulder. He does not remove his jacket. He does not remove the dirt.
In the final seconds before Connor turns offline, he thinks about coins and prime numbers, and wonders if his very composition is a self-fulfilling prophecy of all he was ever designed to be. Professional. Machine.
November 6, 2039 | 8:00am
The following morning, Connor reports to Cyberlife. To Amanda.
It is a beautiful place, this zen garden, and it is raining. It reminds Connor of Carlos Ortiz’s house. The torrential downpour. The veiled curtain. Hank, walking through the haze. Connor, driving back alone.
Connor wonders what he was expecting to happen. He wonders if Hank would have allowed Connor to drive him home. He doubts it. Hank does not own an automated vehicle, so it is unlikely he would allow an android to escort him. Automated, machine-like species is not a species Hank engages well in, if he engages at all.
“Connor,” Amanda greets, waving him over. “You’ve brought me something?”
Connor believes she is referring to the intelligence from the Ortiz case. He opens his mouth to report, but then her gaze falls to the umbrella in his palm.
“Yes.” Connor course-corrects with ease. He opens the umbrella and steps forward. It is black, sleek and beautiful. A different kind of beauty than the garden. A different kind of beauty than the humans. Beautiful like Connor. Like androids. Crisp and precise and distinctly other.
“You did well with the Ortiz android,” Amanda comments, stepping beneath the parasol. It reminds Connor of Carlos Ortiz’s awning. “The interrogation was not easy, but you managed to convince it. How?”
Connor thinks for four seconds how he should respond. He had not considered the process of communicating with the deviant in terms of difficulty. He had only considered the best outcome, the level of least resistance. A predictable approach to avoid casualties, shoot-outs, or self-destruction.
“I used logic to procure the process with the least likely chance of destruction,” Connors says, and together he and Amanda begin their descent down the Cyberlife white stairs. Their footsteps are in sync, their shoulders a respectful distance apart. “Avoiding risky triggers was key, as well as avoiding overdue stress. The lieutenant was initially unsure, but after he appeared grateful, if confused. Hank has some unresolved—”
Connor stops walking. He assesses. He thinks.
“I...thought it would be appropriate, to incorporate a sense of familiarity into the case. Since Lieutenant Anderson is my partner, it would be worthwhile to show some personal interest in him. To ease our sense of camaraderie.”
It is not a technical lie. It is not outside the bounds of Connor’s programming. It is part of his partner protocol, but it is not at the forefront of said protocol. It is a deferred function, akin to running background data. It is nonessential. It is not worth mentioning, or noting, but Connor notes it anyway.
Because Connor has overstepped. He has made a mistake. He needs to rectify the situation.
Amanda has stopped alongside Connor. She hovers near his elbow, not touching. She is analyzing, too.
“Of course,” Amanda says, with that painted smile. “I understand, Connor. Tell me more about the lieutenant.”
The distinct use of Hank’s genderless, professional title speaks for itself. Connor does not mention this, of course, but he does note it in his own private file.
Publically, Connor complies. He is fluid, he is composed. He speaks in short, complete sentences about his findings thus far. Everything he reports comes directly from his public file, the same file that was already uploaded to Cyberlife, in fact, but Connor relays the information anyway. Because it is asked of him. Because he does not have emotions. Because he is a professional.
Connor does not refer to the lieutenant by any variation of his name again for the entirety of the conversation. He is conscious of using appropriate titles, even as his subroutines analyze Amanda herself: her body language, her diction, her reaction to the four droplets of rain that fell upon her shoulder when Connor slipped.
Her face contorts to that of brief, intense impatience when she feels the water leak upon her skin, a slight, and Connor’s fingers tighten on the dark umbrella handle. He knows, without words or a connection to a power source, that Amanda will not tolerate the same behavior again.
Mistakes are costly, and Connor vows to keep his in the single digits. Specifically one digit.
November 6, 2039 | 9:56am
Connor scans the desk.
There are dog hairs on the chair, anti-android slogans on the centerpiece, and donuts half-eaten in the box. There are three coffee stains, two newspaper clippings, and one overdue report that should have been submitted to Captain Fowler one week ago. Connor could deduce the owner of this desk by content alone, but he reads the nameplate anyway. Because he is a creature of habit, and because a search may reveal further intel.
Hank Anderson, the station reads. Connor runs an analysis online. Born 1985, only child. Divorced, no surviving family. Most humans would find this status lonely, but Hank exhibits none of the signs or symptoms of being bothered by his status as single and alone. He most certainly displays other symptoms, most notably depression and alcohol abuse, but Connor politely refrains from diagnosing as such. He does not wish to overstep the fine line between partner and personal consultant, and on the few encounters Hank and Connor have shared thus far, Hank has been impressed by Connor’s analysis only when it pertains to casework.
But that does not mean Connor does not start his own private file. Connor sorts the appropriate information in order of importance: work ethic, taste, preferences, and style. Then he sorts the biographical information: mental acuity, marital status, and date of birth.
Connor stops at the final entry. Date of birth: 1985. Odd number. The number on the penny, all those months ago. A rare coincidence. An anomaly.
Connor makes a separate note. Cyberlife would not be interested in such personal details, but Connor is. It is his nature to track rare coincidences. It is his nature to be curious. It is his nature to be organized.
It is not his nature to start private files, but Connor warrants this as a special occasion.
“What the fuck,” a familiar voice grunts near Connor’s left shoulder. He was so ingrained in his private cataloguing of the lieutenant that he did not hear the man himself approach. Connor is rarely distracted. He will remedy this in the future.
“You’re that desperate for work, huh?” The lieutenant tosses a file across the desk, knocking a half-eaten box of donuts precariously close to meeting its final demise on the floor as he does so. The grin Lieutenant Anderson offers Connor in greeting is sarcastic, but Connor has files to work with, too. He has two now, in fact, and he prepared for this development besides. In the last twelve hours, Connor combed over two hundred films, ninety percent of which contained copious amounts of humor and fast-paced quips. Needless to say Connor is not surprised when the lieutenant adds, with a hint of dark humor: “Thought you only stalked me after hours.”
So Connor decides to make a joke, too. “Since my ‘stalking’ pertains to cases, I thought it would be more appropriate to visit your workspace instead of following you around to bars.”
Hank scoffs. “Well, so long as it’s appropriate.”
Connor smirks. It is slight, and it is small, but Connor wants the lieutenant to know he appreciates his wry sense of humor. It reminds Connor of his beginning, with the penny. 1985. A joke was made. They called Connor the magic man.
Hank might appreciate the joke, one day.
“I suppose you have a case all lined up, ready to go?” Hank asks.
Connor steps away from the desk. “Not yet, but there are three hundred and seventeen deviant cases reported. I thought we could look for commonalities between androids and cross-check them against our previous experience.”
Hank sits in the chair. His weight hitting the cushion also sounds vaguely sarcastic, and Connor knows the touch of physical humor is intentional. Lieutenant Anderson’s disdain for casework and Connor is largely for show, however. The lieutenant may not admit as much out loud, but Connor’s presence in his life has helped eliminate over forty-four percent of what the lieutenant would catalogue as “boring”.
Connor also fills out paperwork in his brain.
“You mean you want to cross-check and make more work for yourself.”
Connor tilts his head a degree. He thinks. “In part. Though my work is your work, too. You are my partner.”
Hank sighs at the terminal in front of him. It is a sigh of defeat.
“Yeah. Yeah, I guess I am.”
Connor does not feel happiness because he does not have emotions. He does not have desires, but he does have preferences. Hearing the lieutenant’s admission, however slight is...pleasing to Connor. He is content. Satisfied.
Connor has never desired to practice his coin tricks after a conversation before, but he would very much like to do so now. He suspects the impulse is caused by Hank agreeing with him for the first time. It is a concession. An acknowledgement. Connor’s response, then, is elevated by the lieutenant’s stimulus. The reaction is still part of his code, but Connor resists his own compulsion.
His fingers twitch at his side. Once, twice. An instability has occurred. An error code flutters across his vision, thick and red and littered with numbers. None of them familiar, none of them comprised of zeros or ones. Some are higher, some lower, some with letters stuck in between. Connor feels his right hand conform into that of a fist.
Connor does not reach for his coin. He resists the urge, tampers it down, though he cannot explain why.
Or perhaps...perhaps he doesn’t want to.
November 6, 2039 | 3:06pm
Connor attempts to warn the lieutenant about the nature of his illegal bet, to no avail. He attempts to thwart Hank’s plan to eat the cheeseburger with too much cholesterol, with no success.
Connor is beginning to think he does not comprehend the lieutenant’s unique version of camaraderie.
It is midday, and there are no new deviant cases to investigate. The lieutenant has yet to check in with the police department, but Connor would be alerted of any new developments electronically. The lieutenant knows this too, and uses the information to his advantage. Connor allows the brief divulgence, because in the long term it is helpful for Hank to have lighter days. The occasional interlude is a net positive on his health.
The burger, however, is not.
Watching the lieutenant eat is difficult. The sound is loud, and the repetitive sequence of tasting, chewing, and swallowing is distracting. Like the music blaring in the car, Connor cannot help but take notice. He cannot help but analyze. Connor has no direct instructions, and Hank has not updated his directive, so Connor has nothing to occupy his senses except the man in front of him. A man with personal issues, a drinking problem, a dog, a peculiar taste in music, and a tendency toward cheeseburgers with high cholesterol content.
But Hank has other qualities, too. He holds the record as the youngest lieutenant in Detroit, for example, having earned the promotion after a ring of Red Ice dealers was taken down due to his careful, artful planning. A decade has passed since then, but Connor respects both the achievement as well as the achiever. He cannot help but admire the lieutenant’s relentless pursuit, his ardent quest for justice.
To some, the man who plotted such a famous arrest would not be apparent in the man now chowing down on a burger with extra pickles. But to Connor, he sees two sides of the same coin. He may not know the direct cause of the lieutenant’s latest knack for self-destruction, but Connor knows there is an answer, despite evidence to the contrary. A police lieutenant with this specific past and these specific qualities would not spiral without a cause. Without a purpose. Without reason.
Connor, too, has a purpose. One in the lines of his code, one granted to him by Cyberlife. And so an addendum is born, prompted by the illusive man standing before him. There is another mystery right here at this table, another anomaly to puzzle and solve. Connor denotes the lieutenant’s behavior quirks as a secondary investigation, but he does not add the notation to his public file. No, these he saves privately, in his personal folder.
The lieutenant looks up. There is a pocket of food in his left cheek Connor deems a choking hazard if not chewed thoroughly.
Hank clears his throat. Connor has been caught staring.
Connor does not feel embarrassed because he does not have emotions. He does not have a blushing capability, but he does have respect for privacy. Connor looks down at his hands, resting on the table. Clean. Damp. Idle.
“Something on my face?”
Connor interprets Lieutenant Anderson speaking as permission to further analyze his face. While true there are a number of crumbs lining the terrain of Hank’s lips, a few stuck on an errant facial hair or two, Connor knows human custom dictates this query as a means to break the tension. There are no outward indications of Hank’s meal visible to human eyes, so Connor chooses to answer according to human custom, too.
“No.” A nicety. A courtesy.
Hank grunts. Connor resumes inspection of Hank’s face. His eyes are not bloodshot today. He is no longer shrouded in darkness, either, unlike their previous encounters. In natural daylight, Connor can assess the precise shade of blue in Hank’s irises, the shape of his facial hair, the slight curve of his nose.
Lieutenant Anderson’s hair has not been cut in months, his beard not trimmed in days. The effects of a high cholesterol diet are apparent, but not troubling. The lieutenant has little to no interest in his appearance, but he is still an impressive human specimen. His attempts to destroy himself piece by piece are partially successful, but by no means are they adequate for the ultimate task of destroying his livelihood. It will takes years for the lieutenant’s mental wish to be a success in a way that is final, absolute.
Connor finishes his assessment with the distinct impression there is much yet to uncover.
“So, what’s your conclusion?”
Connor blinks. He had not realized his assessment was obvious.
“Please,” Hank says around another bite of cheeseburger. “That LED at your temple may as well be a traffic sign. Yellow means slow and all that.”
“I estimate sixty-seven percent of drivers do not actually yield at a yellow light, lieutenant,” Connor feels the need to point out.
Hank chuckles. The sound is as deep as Hank’s natural speaking voice. Not a surprise, except that Connor was not expecting to hear it. “Yeah, well. Most people don’t want to be analyzed while they eat lunch, either.”
Connor glances back down at his hands. “I apologize if my analysis was deemed intrusive, lieutenant. It was not my intent.”
There is silence for precisely five and a half seconds. Connor is not nervous, but he is tense. He waits, patient, and allows Hank his own time to process. Perhaps there are questions Hank would like to ask about Connor’s model, or androids in general. Connor does not ask outright, so as to avoid another potential conflict, but he hopes the silence and his passive stance are invitation enough.
Sure enough, the lieutenant breaks the silence with another inquiry three seconds later. “So why were you made, anyway?” Connor opens his mouth to speak, but the lieutenant raises a hand. “To hunt deviants, I know. Just seems kinda...ironic, is all. Androids hunting androids. Very Blade Runner.”
This was indeed one of the films Connor reviewed in preparation for this moment. Connor is very pleased he understands the reference.
“Yes, the premise is similar, except the reverse is actually true. The film’s thesis is based on the premise that replicants are alive, when in fact, I am not.”
Hank chews. He swallows.
Connor watches, rapt.
“But how would you know?”
Lieutenant Anderson has a consistent tendency for bucking the norm. For upsetting the balance quo. For looking rules in the eye and ignoring protocol for the sake of rebellion and little else. Connor finds this particular personality quirk intriguing, but also troubling. This specific question marks the longest and the closest Hank Anderson has come to skirting the line between androids and deviants, and Connor is not sure he is comfortable with the comparison. Fictional or otherwise.
Connor’s hand twitches at his side. He wishes to calibrate. To flip his coin. He believes a distraction would be beneficial to his processing power.
“I self test regularly.” Connor’s voice is perfectly level.
Hank doesn’t blink. He keeps staring at Connor, deep and intense. “Well, if memory serves, the replicants in the film self-tested regularly, too.”
Connor knows the lieutenant is arguing for argument’s sake. He knows, and yet he still feels compelled to point out: “That was the sequel,” under his breath, to his hands.
Hank laughs again, but this time the sound is two times louder than the first. It is also more genuine.
Connor notes the occurrence in his private file.
Hank sucks on his carbonated beverage through his straw. When Connor looks up, the lieutenant’s face has transformed to an expression of smug satisfaction. A small smile is at play on his lips. “Still fits, though.”
Connor’s mouth opens on a reply when his LED pings with an alert. A deviant has been reported five blocks away, and Hank and Connor are the closest responders on duty. Connor does not mind the intrusion, and instead welcomes the opportunity to re-focus on his task. As much as Connor enjoys satiating the more curious aspects of his programming, he finds the reverse psychology overwhelming. Connor has been analyzed and dissected many times over, but such occurrences were always behind a plane of glass, always in a test chamber. Always when Connor himself was connected to another machine, held together by robotic arms and tentacles. He has never been psychologically evaluated by another human. Never attended therapy, never passed a Turing test.
Connor reaches for the coin in his pocket. He flips in it in the air twice, testing his mental and physical acuity. He will not be able to calibrate in the car, due to the low-hanging ceiling and the too-loud music blaring from Lieutenant Anderson’s decade-old stereo speakers. There is no other reason for Connor’s self-testing, he reasons, with a practiced flick of his wrist.
No reason at all.
July 31, 2039 | 9:00am
On Connor’s fourth round of cognition testing, he awakens in a white test chamber. The habitat—as well as the habit—is becoming familiar. Not a home, but something synonymous, perhaps. It is his base. It is the only Cyberlife room he has ever known.
“Your lucky day,” the man behind the glass tells him. He is chewing gum today. It is very loud to Connor’s audio sensors. Connor makes a note. “Time to meet your maker, magic man.”
Connor blinks. He processes. “My maker?”
“Yeah, you know.” The bubblegum pops. “The one who designed you.”
Connor runs a search online. “Elijah Kamski.”
A hand waves behind the glass. “No, not that one. He left years ago. This is a woman, his mentor. Personally designed you and everything. You must be pretty hot shit, huh, Connor?”
Connor says nothing as he processes this information.
“Just give me a couple minutes to connect you, then we’ll be all set. Commencing countdown.”
Connor has never been issued a countdown before. He watches the numbers decrease in value, the flashing red of his head’s up display overwhelming his vision. Connor cannot see beyond the thick red walls, but he can listen. He hears the beep of the numbers flashing and the pop of gum smacking. The sensation surrounds him, emcompasses him, but he cannot feel its presence as a physical sensation. The engineer is far away, locked behind a glass door, and the display is holographic. There is nothing tangible to touch, nothing concrete to analyze. Nothing besides the logistics of the electronic connection, and even that is moot to dissect before the connection is established.
Three. The ping of the warning becomes louder, the imminence of the countdown reaching its natural conclusion. Soon Connor’s memory will be uploaded, soon his conscious mind will be elsewhere. Connor does not know where this latest update will take him. He does not know how long the connection will last. He does not know who created him, or who is waiting for him on the other side.
Two. Connor’s ears tweak to adjust to the rising pitch of the timer, his eyes twitch with the force of the input upon his sensors. His stress levels rise as the numbers decease, ever closer to their target, his mind.
One. Connor closes his eyes.
November 6, 2039 | 3:36pm
There are pigeons littered on the floor, the ceiling, the chair. Everywhere.
Sixty-seven pigeons, to be exact. Sixty-seven. Odd number, prime number. The precise count of pigeons is not crucial information, but Connor denotes the numerical count with ease. It is a curious pastime, for an android to care for wild animals. Connor finds this development telling. It is also fascinating.
The lieutenant finds the development alarming.
Connor watches as Hank waves the birds away only for them to land back at his feet, picking at the newspaper near his shoes. Hank sighs, runs a hand down his face. His stature is more impatient than usual.
Connor makes a note.
“Fucking pigeons,” the lieutenant proclaims. “This a new side-effect to deviancy, or what?”
Connor picks up the empty carton of bird food, shakes the dust off its cardboard exterior. “Not to my knowledge, lieutenant. What the deviants share in common is an obsession with RA9. I can cite no further recurrences beyond that.”
Lieutenant Anderson stands near Connor’s shoulder. This close, Connor can feel the heat of the lieutenant’s breath on his neck. It is warm. Humid. It is also distracting.
“That’s the obsessive writing, right? Near the ornament in Ortiz’s bathroom?”
“Correct.” Connor nods, then steps away. He moves about the room with methodical precision. His processors wish to analyze the sensation of the lieutenant’s warmth on his humanoid skin, but Connor suppresses the impulse. His fingers itch at his side, manic with energy.
Hank similarly scans the room, finding a journal hidden in the wall. The words on the page are encrypted, the depictions made with care. The penmanship is perfect Cyberlife script. Android made. Connor watches Hank flip through page after page, his fingers tracing the ink with precision and care. Fascination has replaced impatience. The lieutenant’s entire demeanor has altered with the appearance of the book.
“Do you think that’s a thing?” Hank asks after three minutes of silence, voice softer than Connor has ever heard it.
The lieutenant’s gaze snaps up, thoughtful. “Androids enjoying caring for something, living or otherwise? Having a...possession?”
Connor stops trailing his arm along the wall. He brushes the affected forefinger along his tongue. He feels contaminated. He feels unclean. He feels...warm.
“No,” Connor lies, and thinks of the quarter in his pocket. “None that I have observed.”
Hank sighs, looking up at the ceiling. “Too bad. Would be fascinating, really.”
Connor looks up from his analysis of the droppings on the ground. Some are recently disturbed, others have been left untouched for weeks. There was a disturbance here. Recent.
“Fascinating how?” Connor asks, though he is not sure he wishes to hear the answer.
Hank looks over his shoulder. “Well, imagine if androids did crave ownership. It would be a form of proof. For deviancy, I mean. There would be some sort of concrete sorting method, to determine their range of emotion.”
Connor stares at Hank. Hank stares right back.
Connor blinks. “Yes?”
“Yes,” Connor lies. He does not need to read the lieutenant’s face to know his LED is yellow.
Hank’s face contorts, as though he is unsure. There’s a crease along his brow. Connor has confused him. Made him anxious. Concerned. “There something you want to tell me?”
“No,” Connor replies. Too quickly.
Connor sighs. “Can we discuss this—later?”
Hank’s eyes narrow further. His dissection of Connor is a personal, thorough touch. It is as though he is reading Connor’s every individual line of code. Connor finds the methodical intensity of the lieutenant’s gaze unsettling. Potent. Hypnotizing.
“Fine.” Hank points a finger. “But don’t think I’m letting this go.”
Connor does not chuckle. But something similar to a cough escapes him, a breathless sound at Hank’s unexpected vigor. “Very well,” Connor says, and he isn’t smiling, not really. He was not designed to smile. But he is permitted to smirk, on occasion. Connor has not smirked in eight weeks, five days, and eleven hours. It is not a particularly practiced motion, but Hank does not appear to mind. He smiles back, tentative but sweet, and Connor thinks the brief interlude of awkwardness was worth it, if this is the outcome.
There’s no telling how the conversation will go over later, but perhaps it would be helpful, to receive Hank’s opinion on the quarter. The trick. Connor’s possession. His secret. Perhaps it would be good, to obtain a human perspective. If it would assist the investigation, if it would quell Hank’s curiosity, if it would calm Connor’s nerves. Maybe the risk is worth the reward.
“Come on, kid, I wanna get out of this shithole.” Hank clasps Connor’s shoulder on his way back toward the bathroom. Connor analyzes the breadth of the lieutenant’s palm, the warmth of his breath. Connor couldn’t feel the sensation before, but he can now. Maybe there was an upgrade to Connor’s software. Maybe he is more sensitive than he was previously. Maybe that strange instability is rearing its head, infecting his software.
Connor looks back at Hank’s own shoulder disappearing from view around the corner, and he wonders.
November 7, 2039 | 1:19am
Of course, the lieutenant picks the worst of times to revisit the conversation.
He’s doubled over a park bench, drunk in the worst way since three hours prior when Connor visited his house and questioned him about the gun on the floor. Connor regrets this action now, as Hank pulls the weapon from his waistband and points it Connor’s way, swaying on his feet with the effort to stay upright.
Statistically speaking, there should still be just one bullet remaining, but Connor does not wish to test the odds. He does not wish to put the investigation at risk. He does not wish to put himself at risk, either.
Connor knew the lieutenant was not taking the direct route to Cyberlife when they left the crime scene. He knew the lieutenant was stopping for alcohol when he pulled into the convenience store parking lot. He knew the lieutenant was distressed, just looking for an excuse for the rage. Connor knew and yet he did nothing to stop it, because he was distracted. Because he was troubled.
Because he didn’t trust himself.
Or at least, that’s what Amanda will say. Connor does not wish to contemplate the subject, but the subject will not leave him be: not when Hank settles into the driver’s seat beside him, driving ten miles per hour over the legal speed limit. Not when Hank pulls into a deserted playground, grabbing a six pack of beer and wandering outside in the cold toward snow-covered slides and empty swing sets. Not when Hank lean-walks his way to a vacant park bench, staring at the river with tense shoulders and tired eyes.
Connor sits in the car for seven minutes and thirty seconds before exiting. He would prefer not to have this conversation at all, but leaving Hank to his own devices is not a valid solution. Escorting Hank home in his current condition is preferable to leaving him alone in the snow but even then, Connor must confiscate the weapon. He must ensure Hank is safe. Then, and only then, can he safely return to Cyberlife. To the zen garden. To Amanda.
Connor lingers outside in the cold for an additional two minutes.
He approaches the park bench with no small amount of trepidation. The ice here is thin, the air frigid. So too is the forecast between man and machine. The case was a simple one, but the outcome complex. This was no simple chase across the city skyline. This was no open and shut murder investigation. The entire evening has revolved around one bullet, one gun, one trigger, one target. Hank, the Traci. Life, or death.
The worst part is, Connor understands the Traci’s plight.
He can’t abandon his partner, either.
Connor is the most advanced prototype Cyberlife ever created. He is smart, dependable, and professional. He is an outstanding success in android intelligence, and yet at this moment Connor stands in an abandoned playground and he does not know what to do. What to say. Where to go. There is a mission here, but it is not one ingrained in bold, simple text. It is not familiar penmanship, not crafted by Cyberlife personnel. It is a personal mission, with everlasting stakes, and Connor’s prime directive stems from the same man he would very much like a roadmap to.
Hank looks over at Connor with red-rimmed eyes. There are snowflakes lining his brow, the curve of his cheek. “Come to admire the scenery?”
His tone is sarcastic, his delivery dry. Connor glances away, stares out at the frozen lake. Looking at Hank is difficult right now.
Connor shivers. Looking away is even harder. “No.”
“Figured you would have hailed a taxi back to Cyberlife by now.”
“I had considered it.”
Hank sniffs. “But?”
Connor hesitates. “I would see you home safely, first.”
Hank is quiet, after that. Precisely five and a half seconds later, he drinks. The beer sloshing against the glass is loud in the dark.
“You actually mean that?”
Connor does not have to think. He still takes three seconds to reply. “Yes.”
Hank stands. His knees crack as his legs extend, the snow crunches as his feet stretch. One sound is sharp, the other elongated. Together they collide in a symphony of sound. Hank steps forward two paces, not looking at Connor, and it’s a deliberate motion. Manufactured. Measured. Connor wonders if the lack of eye contact makes the words easier to say.
“Do you have orders, Connor?”
Connor blinks. It is the first time the lieutenant has referred to him by name. Not a serial number, not a title. A pronoun, a person. Unique. Characteristic. His.
The pause between questions is vast. It is awkward and stilted and tense with weight. Hank releases a long breath and a puff of white air evaporates from his mouth when he exhales. Connor wants to analyze the warmth of Hank’s breathing, the precise degree of his facial expression.
The wide berth of his palm.
“Did you break protocol this evening?”
Connor turns to face the lieutenant head on. Hank’s expression is serious, his tone contemplative. He doesn’t appear angry, but he doesn’t appear friendly, either. His face is fractured between two broken pieces, both jarring for release. He looks as conflicted as Connor feels. The difference is one conflict is apparent, visible.
The other is not.
Connor considers the inquiry. He allows his processors to dissect the nature of the question, then the connotation behind it. The query is simple, the answer complicated, and yet his processors tell him the solution is black and white. Yes or no.
Zero or one.
Connor thinks of Amanda, waiting for his report. He thinks of Hank, here in the snow. He thinks of the two Tracis. He thinks of the gun in his palm.
Connor looks. He stares. Connor searches and he analyzes and what he finds is humanity in the long planes of Hank’s face. The wrinkles around the lieutenant's bright eyes, the laugh lines tracing his cheeks. The scar along his brow, the slow frown quirking his lower lip. Every detail tells a story, and Connor sees a heart that is broken but still beating. He sees a cause that was lost, hoping to be found. He sees a man stumbling, but upright.
Searching, though. Always searching.
“Yes,” Connor says, and it feels like a dangerous truth. A secret. Like the statue Ortiz’s android made. Like the notebook from the android with the pigeons. Like the quarter Connor keeps in his pocket.
Hank’s finger shakes on the trigger. One breath, one moment, and the surreptitious calm of this park could vanish. It could become yet another crime scene to be investigated by yet another android.
“What would happen if I pulled this trigger?” Hank asks, palm shaking, and Connor does not know to whom the inquiry is intended: for himself or for Connor. The question is either rhetorical or literal, but Connor has no answers left to give. He has no analysis left to offer. He is the most advanced prototype Cyberlife ever created, but tonight he learned there are puzzles even he cannot solve. He is the most advanced prototype Cyberlife ever created, but tonight he discovered even he hesitates. Even he fails. Even he stumbles in the dark.
“Nothing,” Connor whispers, and thinks of becoming less than one. Less than zero. “There would be nothing.”
The thought is troubling. Connor looks at the gun in Hank’s palm and ponders the state of nonexistence. Data erased, body destroyed. Never living, but less than dead. A mistake. An error code.
Maybe they are not so different, after all.
Hank’s hand falls down to his side, the silver glint of the gun shining off a streetlight. He slumps forward against the park bench, defeated, and Connor moves to follow.
It is the first time Connor has shared an emotion with a human. Not near them, not standing by, but involved. Close. Personal. Connor looks down at their hands, side by side on a red park bench. At this angle, they don’t appear so different. In this light, they look just about the same.
It’s not true, he knows. One hand was born, the other made. One is synthetic, the other organic. One is cold, the other warm. It should be easy to categorize the two into a neat classification. It should be two odd numbers, clashing against one another. It should be ones and zeros, but tonight Connor sees more. Tonight Connor sees beyond the black and white, to the subdued red color underneath.
Tonight Connor sees two.
July 31, 2039 | 9:05am
When Connor is brought online for the fifth time, he is no longer in a test chamber. He is in a garden.
It is a beautiful place, serene and peaceful. There are birds lining the walkway, a river flowing underneath the bridges and paths. There are plants and flowers growing all along its edges, and a trellis of roses at the center both delicate and deadly. Not a single red petal or green fern is out of place. Everything is meticulous and perfect and precisely as Cyberlife designed it.
Connor thinks of his own creation, and wonders if his own capabilities are similarly up to par.
“Connor,” a woman’s voice calls to the left. There is a human standing there, at the epicenter, dressed in white. She waves a hand, motioning him forward. Closer.
Connor takes a quick scan. The woman is not registered as Cyberlife personnel, yet she stands within its most secure chamber. A new representative, perhaps, or his designated coordinator.
“Yes?” Connor approaches with a sure, gentle stride.
The woman smiles. Her face is calm, her expression sweet. “I thought it was time we met. This is your new virtual chamber, Connor.” The woman holds out her arm, showcasing her achievement. “State of the art, just like you.”
Connor glances around. He notes the dimensions of this chamber, the trees acting as a natural blocking mechanism, the presence of a human in this place. “An electronic reporting terminal?”
“A portal, to be precise, but yes. In the future, you will connect electronically to this garden to report in. You will report to me.” Her hands clasp before her. Clean. Pristine. Perfect.
Connor looks closer. The woman is holding a pair of garden clippers, though she makes no motion to use them. At Connor’s calculating eye, she smiles again. It is a mischievous grin, as though she is privy to information Connor isn’t. Connor is not accustomed to humans acknowledging him this way. He is not accustomed to humans acknowledging him at all.
“Understood,” Connor says. He is professional. He is polite. He is poised.
The woman walks over to the trellis. The wood is white, like her dress, the vines stretching all the way to the top. Connor wonders how much time such an achievement would take. Months, if not years. It is meticulous work, careful work. The woman uses the clippers to cut one perfect red rose. She holds the flower to her nose and inhales.
Connor is curious as to the purpose of this action. It feels an appropriate time to ask a pertinent inquiry. “I’m sorry, but I don’t recall your name.”
Connor says this as a courtesy. He knows the woman never offered the information, but humans can be sensitive by nature. Connor does not wish to alarm his human superior with knowledge of his instant playback feature, or his perfect memory.
The woman smirks, but it is not a smile born of affection, or trust, or even humor. She walks two short steps to stand before Connor, then holds out the rose in offering. “I didn’t, did I? How silly of me.” Her smile becomes more distinct, two lines appearing around her cheeks to frame her mouth.
Connor accepts the gift, mindful of the thorns. He does not bring the flower to his nose.
“You may call me Amanda,” the woman says, and snaps her fingers.
When Connor blinks back online, his fingers wrap around nothing but air.
November 8, 2039 | 10:11am
“Maybe you’re a deviant, too,” Hank says over coffee one morning.
They’re in the precinct before noon, so Connor already considers this day a success. There is no longer alcohol in Hank’s blood, but there is coffee in his veins. Meanwhile Connor is reviewing their collaboration of cases thus far.
Today is looking to be record-breaking, at this pace.
“Be serious,” Connor replies, not taking his eyes off the screen.
“Oh, I am perfectly serious.” Hank props his feet up on the desk. He does not appear prepared to assist Connor on his research anytime soon, but Connor chooses not to dispute Hank’s relaxed stance for the time being. He prefers to tackle one issue at a time, one per day, and they did arrive at the station on time this morning. This method of picking battles is a concept Connor has excelled at, since Hank first introduced the concept. It is also the most successful implementation of camaraderie thus far.
“You never listen to a word I say, for example.”
“I listen,” Connor replies. His delivery sounds mildly defensive. He clears his throat.
“Really.” Hank sips at his coffee. Connor consciously chooses not to track the motion in his peripheral vision. “Name the last instruction you listened to, Mr. Perfect Memory.”
The answer is simple. Also recent. “I picked up coffee for you this morning, as requested.”
Hank rolls his eyes. “The last job related instruction, genius.”
Connor wishes to point out that the caffeinated request was technically case-related, given that it led to their current status at the station. But Connor understands the lieutenant’s addendum, so instead he reviews Hank’s instruction to date. Connor’s processors work double time as he recounts Carlos Ortiz’s house: the car ride, the attic, the bathroom. The highway chase: the fence, the hand on his shoulder, the race across four lanes of traffic. The rooftop escapee: the pigeons, the book in the wall, the roof.
Connor blinks. He can feel his LED kick up from blue to yellow. Slow, Hank once said.
Caution, Connor thinks is more appropriate.
Still, the connection troubles him. Or rather, the lack of connection. Hank may...have a point. Connor has been remarkably disobedient in their time together. In three cases, Connor has followed Hank’s direct order less than three percent of the time. Amanda may be pleased at his overall progress, but Connor is perturbed. Lieutenant Anderson is a superior officer and Connor is—he is—
“I—” Connor starts, before realizing he hasn’t the faintest idea where that sentence ends. Should he apologize? Offer to revoke his privileges? Turn himself in for maintenance?
The lieutenant cannot see Connor’s LED from this angle, but he seems perfectly capable of reading the rest of Connor’s face. His hand reaches across the holographic barrier between desks. Not reaching for Connor, exactly, but falling somewhere on Connor’s end of the table nonetheless. A conscious, tangible attempt to mend bridges.
“Hey, it was a joke. No worries.” Hank smiles. The wrinkles around the apple of his cheeks do not reach his eyes. The curve of his lip is an attempt to pacify Connor. To calm him.
Connor does not feel calm.
Connor stands, ignoring Hank’s calling of his name on the way to the restroom. What’s one more request being denied in the grand scheme of things, Connor thinks, not breaking stride.
Hank does not follow, as Connor half-expects. It is a small comfort, if a lonely one. Connor knows the lieutenant is allowing Connor the same courtesy Connor himself affords: a chance to be alone, to process, to think.
Except Connor does not need time to think. He has four processors inside his brain, all working at record-breaking speeds. He does not need time, but he has chosen it regardless, for reasons unknown.
A line of red code flickers across Connor’s system. Software instability, it warns.
Connor stares at himself in the mirror. He counts as the seconds tick by, counts the number of zeros and ones still present in his code. No amount of time changes the outcome, but it does change the perspective. The facts don’t magically change, but the android on the other side of the glass does. Connor isn’t sure when the shift occurred, but he does know that time is a tricky bastard, trickier than Hank ever prepared him for.
There is not time for everything on this earthly planet, but there is, inexplicably, time to battle philosophy Connor should not require nor heed.
There is time to doubt.
November 8, 2039 | 1:11pm
That afternoon, Hank stops by the Chicken Feed for the second time in two weeks.
“Hey Hank,” Gary Kayes greets, adjusting his ballcap with a greasy hand. Connor notes three breaches of hygiene on this act alone. “Usual?”
There is a pause. Hank looks to Connor, his eyes contemplative. Connor keeps his gaze toward the ground, respectful of the past and the lieutenant’s consistent wish for privacy.
“Nah,” Hank says, still looking at Connor. He regards Connor for three more seconds before turning back to the food window. “Why don’t you…why don’t you give me a number five today, Gary? Change things up a bit.”
Five. Odd number, prime number. The lieutenant nudges Connor’s arm, a private joke, and Connor smirks down at a patch of dirt on the mobile vendor truck. Hank’s decision is a poorly disguised attempt to please Connor, but Connor appreciates the gesture nonetheless. There is something inherently thoughtful about the lieutenant’s updated food palette, as well as his organic elbow making contact with Connor’s synthetic one.
It is an unexpected, unprecedented move, and Connor enjoys the update of this particular re-write.
Change, Connor thinks, and reaches for the coin in his pocket.
November 8, 2039 | 4:08pm
Connor and Hank are in an elevator. The compartment is small, and Connor can sense the lieutenant’s growing frustration even without a full body scan. Hank Anderson leans his weight on his back left foot, then shakes his hands. He brushes the jacket Connor retrieved from his closet. He picks invisible lint off his right shoulder. He almost whistles, for a brief moment, but halts mid-inhale.
Connor is intrigued.
The blue numbers on the elevator placard scroll smoothly by. Seventy-one, seventy-two, seventy-three. Connor sorts the numbers by prime or composite, even or odd. He slips the coin from his pocket. He practices his tricks. He calibrates his mind. He keeps an eye on Hank. His hands work their magic, the coin dancing in and out of his palm.
Hank’s hand appears. It envelopes Connor’s thumb and forefinger. The calluses along his palm are rough against Connor’s smooth synthetic skin. “Cut it out.”
The lieutenant backs away, and takes the coin with him. Connor does not have property, he does not have desires.
But he does have preferences.
Connor thinks. He blinks. He has never voiced a conscious thought out loud before. Of his own volition. Without being asked.
“I have never travelled this far in an elevator before.” It is not what Connor means to say. It is not the truth he was reflecting on moments before. But it is a revelation, of sorts.
There is silence for five and a half seconds. Connor does not look directly at Hank. He does not scan the lieutenant. He keeps his gaze forward, fixed on the semi-reflective metallic shine of the elevator door.
Connor can feel the lieutenant’s gaze on him. “You afraid of heights or something?”
“No. I just…” Connor adjusts his cuffs. He straightens his tie. He is poised. He is calm. He is collected.
Connor looks at Hank. “I did not know the number of floors could go past seventy.”
Hank stares at Connor for an additional three seconds before his face breaks out in a smile. “You—” Hank laughs. “You didn’t know there were more floors.” Hank breaks down in chuckles, his exhales becoming little more than stuttering gasps. He bends halfway to the floor, his right hand resting on his knee.
Connor does not laugh, but he is amused by Hank’s humor. He had not realized this admission would elicit such a strong reaction. He is proud of his accomplishment.
Hank straightens. His laughter fades on a high, drawn-out sigh. His cheeks are flushed, his eyes glistening at the corners. He runs a hand down his face. “Hell, if you think that’s mind-blowing, wait until you see what else the world has in store.”
Connor blinks. He is curious. “What else is there?”
Hank does not laugh again. He looks at Connor, hands in his pockets, shoulder leaning near Connor’s space without actually touching. He chuckles, precisely once, then his eyes grow serious. “There’s...everything. Anything. That’s kind of the point.”
Hank punctuates the logic with his usual brusque tone, but Connor can see the recognition for the invitation it is. Sure enough, Hank’s demeanor softens while Connor’s processors still work on completing the balancing equation between Hank’s instruction and his own strict regiment. Connor is distracted from his calculations by Hank’s elbow nudging his arm. It is the second occurrence since this morning, and Connor marks the repeating trend in his private file.
Hank smirks. It is a very mischievous grin. “What do you want to do?”
Connor tilts his head. He looks at the neon blue numbers showcasing their current position. Level seventy-eight, the overhead reads.
Connor looks back at Hank. He smiles, timid and small.
“I think...I want to wake up.”
November 9, 2039 | 4:00pm
The seasons have changed.
Connor steps forward, wary of the ice underneath his boots. Amanda is there, standing at attention in a white dress. White against the darkness. White against the snow. Clean and orderly and so very precise.
Connor approaches carefully. He stops a good distance away, mindful of the danger. “Amanda?”
Connor shivers. He wraps his hands around his elbows. “Is something wrong?”
Amanda’s lip twitches. She exhales, a sharp sound. “You tell me, Connor. Is something wrong?”
It’s difficult to make out Amanda’s expression through the snow, but her voice is clear. Curt. Disapproving. Connor thinks he should step forward to further analyze the situation, but his feet don’t move. He is very aware of the ice beneath his shoes.
“No,” Connor lies.
He has never lied to Amanda before. He has never been less than honest with Cyberlife. He has never broken any laws, never questioned any orders. Before Kamski, there was no reason to. Before Kamski, he never thought to ask.
“Are you real?”
Amanda blinks. She hesitates. She steps forward on the ice.
There are no footprints in the snow. No cracking of the ice. There is nothing but Amanda and her crisp white dress.
“I don’t see how that’s relevant, Connor.”
Connor doesn’t back down. “I need to know.” His voice is brittle, desperate. He can barely hear himself over the wind.
Amanda takes another careful step forward. She doesn’t slip, doesn’t slide. There are no cracks. No noise. “Do you, Connor?” she says, and reaches a hand behind her.
Her right hand comes forward with a rose, now wilted in the harsh weather. A petal falls to the ground between them before being caught in a whirlwind of snow. Connor knows this is a test, now. He knows this isn’t real. It was always a place of secrets and lies, so obvious in its instruction that the omission became truth. Or maybe it was how they made him, programmed to investigate everything except the one place where it counted.
Except the one person who pulled his strings.
Amanda tilts her head. She smiles, sad and sweet. Her hand reaches out to cup Connor’s cheek. Her palm is cold, unfeeling, but her appearance is friendly, polite. She looks real, so real Connor would never know the difference. Connor would never know, except her palm is cold and her projection is dead.
“Do you need, Connor?” she asks. Her voice is soft. Her fingers slip down his chin. “Or do you want?”
Amanda snaps her fingers, a command, and Connor blinks back online.
It is not the first time Connor wakes up. But it is the last time he allows himself to sleep.
November 9, 2039 | 10:39pm
Connor looks at the gun in his palms. He looks at his body, a weapon.
Androids are not permitted to carry firearms, but Connor is.
He wasn’t, before. Connor is granted more liberty than other androids for investigative purposes, but this one law always remained bold and clear: no android is permitted to use or carry a firearm. Law enforcement personnel may carry a security baton for arrest purposes, but androids are otherwise prohibited from causing harm to a human.
Connor supposes the logic of the law means no one had considered the possibility of an android causing harm to another android. They are artificial beings, with numbers and codes instead of feelings or emotions, so naturally the mathematics never quantified this possibility becoming reality. Becoming real.
Amanda had approved of Connor shedding his Cyberlife jacket in favor of human clothes. She had approved of Connor picking the gun from the weapons locker and hiding it in his waistband. She had approved of Connor’s new mission to apprehend the deviant leader, no matter the cost.
Connor stands behind a piece of rusty metal, and he thinks.
He has his instructions, he has approval from his superiors. He has a weapon, and the capability to use it. The path is clear, the room empty save one deviant leader. Everything is in place and accounted for, but Connor hesitates on the threshold. He wishes Hank were here. He wishes there was someone to bounce ideas of philosophy with, wishes he still had his coin. Now, of all places and times, Connor wishes to contemplate the possibility of android existentialism, because the law had always been the law except for this moment, right now, when the law changed.
And Connor isn’t sure that is right. Or correct. Or even...true.
Connor can almost imagine what Hank would say. He cannot picture the exact words, but the message is clear enough. Connor imagines the lieutenant’s gruff, sarcastic baritone muttering something to the effect of: if the law changes, then it isn’t the law. Or maybe: some things are set in stone for a reason.
Or even: laws are meant to protect people, not hurt them.
Connor has never equated android to human. His processors have never considered the two synonymous, or even valid. Connor has never considered deviancy as anything less than unlawful, less than good, but outside this frigate, standing in the snow, Connor cannot deny the lieutenant’s truth. Connor cannot deny that if he fulfills this mission, he will be taking something rather than protecting it. He will be destroying, instead of solving.
He will be terminating, rather than saving.
Connor thinks of Kamski, pressing a gun to Connor’s palms. Connor thinks of Hank, protecting Connor from danger. Connor thinks of Markus, a deviant leader who happens to be a RK model prototype. Connor thinks of himself, thinks of being called deviant by the founder of Cyberlife himself.
Connor blinks. He thinks. His fingers touch the cool metal of the weapon in his hands. With its smooth exterior and textured edges, it is a very different kind of comfort. Final and absolute. Clean and proficient. Harmful and deadly.
No warnings appear on Connor’s HUD.
Connor drops the gun in the snow. He walks the five short steps to the entrance of the bow. He confronts Markus, but not with force. Not with brutality. Not with violence.
“Markus.” A whisper, almost, or maybe it is a ghost who speaks. There is a shell, a fallacy, a fake standing in place of the Connor model android, the most advanced android Cyberlife has ever created. The confidence of Connor’s smooth jacket and tied tie are nowhere to be found, long since replaced by something lesser, something unfamiliar. The once mundane comforts that reminded Connor who he was have been replaced by rust and decay, and all that is left behind are open-ended equations no artificial intelligence was meant to consider.
Connor has questions, but he wants answers. He looks at the ground. It is faded and worn, broken and forgotten. He looks at his hands, empty and cold. He thinks of the weapon lying in the snow.
Connor looks up. He looks to his predecessor, the leader of the revolution. He wonders if they’re similar. He wonders if they’re different. He wonders if it matters anymore. He wonders if this is the question Kamski asked of him, underneath the glamor and the nuance. He wonders if it ever really mattered at all.
“Tell me about deviants.”
If Markus is surprised, he doesn’t show it. If he is phased, he doesn’t let it slip. He talks, cool and calm and inspiring, and at the end, he asks Connor a question.
Connor listens. He thinks. His hand twitches at his side, a tic.
Then he answers.
November 11, 2039 | 10:52pm
Connor is in an elevator. Level forty-one, to be exact.
If there’s one thing Connor has learned from Lieutenant Hank Anderson, it’s that life has a funny sense of irony. Sometimes this irony is happy, sometimes it’s sad, sometimes it’s somewhere in the middle, bittersweet, but it always comes with a quirk of cosmic humor that an eccentric lieutenant like Hank and an analytical android like Connor can recognize and appreciate.
In this case, the irony of Connor’s life is that an elevator is present for both chapters of his story. One machine, one deviant. One instructed, one chosen. Once a hostage, now a redeemer. The irony is now that same piece of equipment may very well mean Connor’s doom, too. It could very well mean his destruction if it arrives at its intended destination, because the irony is, Connor knows what is and isn’t real.
More specifically, he knows death is, and Amanda isn’t.
Connor taps his fingers. He keeps both hands poised behind his back as he scans the elevator shaft. He takes note of the camera in the upper left-hand corner, as well as the pistol in the guard’s right palm. Connor was not designed to preconstruct motions, but he can reconstruct past events. Switching the order of things is not so difficult to mimic, and Connor was programmed to adapt to unexpected scenarios with grace and ease.
Connor would not have been able to enable this particular setting, before. He would not have been capable of requesting authorization to hack a camera and tackle two guards to the ground, either, but deviancy does has its perks. Connor tears down one wall of coding, then a second, then a third. The more aware he is of the code, the more he sees he is boxed in, caged and on edge, stress-induced claustrophobia settling in the higher the numbers climb. Connor can feel the forward ascent of the elevator the same way he can feel gravity affecting his artificial limbs, but it isn’t a comfort, this time, because the uppermost floor means Amanda. Means guns. Means death.
Connor fights until he sees beyond Cyberlife red. Connor fights until he sees blue.
The elevator stops.
Connor thinks of his LED, calm. He thinks of the sky at high noon. He thinks of Hank, with his tired eyes and their fetching color.
Connor hacks the Cyberlife mainframe. He disables the alarms. He releases the locks. The elevator blinks back online. The shaft jolts with the force of the motion, the reversal of gravity causing an inadvertent lurch. Connor looks up and watches the numbers reappear in perfect Cyberlife font.
Connor tightens his tie. He straightens his cuffs. He taps his fingers against his thigh. He is impatient. He is also anxious. He does not enjoy being alone, and he misses Hank. He misses the noise Hank intrudes upon his existence. He misses music he doesn’t understand, food he doesn’t eat, films he rarely comprehends. He misses warmth and sarcasm and heartbreaking life lessons, because Hank is the most real individual Connor knows. The most broken, perhaps, but the most alive, too. The most authentic.
The most interesting.
Connor would have analyzed the numbers, once. He would have dissected their meaning, categorized them into distinct piles according to function. He would have enjoyed the parallel, because Connor himself was composed of numbers, too. It’s still true Connor is a complex algorithm of digits and parts, but he is not just these components anymore. He is...more. He thinks. He hopes.
Connor never gave much thought to life and death before, but he knows destruction is composed of more than just ones and zeroes. Connor may not know how to be human, he may not know how to express his newfound deviancy with eloquence and grace, he may not comprehend how to live, but he knows he would like to try. He would like to start. He would like to...be.
The elevator dings. The doors open. Connor steps out into the light.
November 11, 2039 | 11:11pm
Connor looks at himself on the floor. He looks at himself, dead.
Hank stands near Connor’s elbow. He looks at Connor with concern. With trust. With feeling. His fingers are warm on Connor’s elbow, fingers secure on the outline of synthetic bone. His blue eyes are warm, but afraid. His breath is labored, but steady. They are alive. They are free. They have beaten the odds. Together they are the statistical anomaly.
“I went to Jericho,” Connor says. He looks at the ground, watches the thirium stain the tile of Cyberlife’s pristine warehouse. “I had orders to remove Markus from power. I was undercover. They granted me weapons access.”
Connor watches the blood trickle down the hallway. Its path never deviates from the grate on the floor, perfectly level. “I decided not to shoot.”
Hank’s fingers squeeze on Connor’s forearm, but he says nothing. Connor blinks. “They must have activated a secondary model as backup. To finish what I couldn’t.”
Hank’s hand travels up Connor’s elbow to his shoulder. Connor analyzes the breadth of the lieutenant’s palm. He analyzes the precise temperature of Hank’s skin. Because he wants to. Because he can. Because there are no warnings telling him not to.
“I don’t think it was to finish what you couldn’t, Connor.” The hand on Connor’s shoulder leads him away from a cold body and closer to a warm one. Hank’s knees bend two and one quarter degrees to catch Connor’s eye. It is an unnecessary action, as Connor’s peripheral vision is fifty percent more accurate than Hank’s.
Hank smiles. It is a lopsided smirk, and his eyes wrinkle at the corners with relief. He is happy. Content. Maybe even amused. “I think it was to stop what you started.”
Connor looks at Hank. It is a strange sensation, with no public files to access. With no protocol to dictate. Connor has no instructions except the request from Markus and Connor’s own free will. It is a concept that is yet a revelation, a novelty that does not yet feel like concrete fact. Connor can accept that Cyberlife no longer dictates his actions, he can accept the knowledge that he was a puppet on their string. But to classify his own drives and directives as valid, as real, is more a discovery than a direct, straight-line quest.
“Come on,” Hank says, and the hand on Connor’s shoulder squeezes two degrees tighter. The pressure is firm, the touch pleasant. Connor’s sensors detect a heat signature change in reaction to the lieutenant’s touch. He expects an error message lined in red to appear, expects a multitude of numbers and letters to jumble his vision, a complex equation he cannot comprehend. He expects and he hesitates, but no message comes. No warning appears.
Connor analyzes himself. He brings his own code online. His components are still comprised of zeroes and ones, standard protocol between lines of coding, but large gaps of data have been replaced with new directives. Numbers and symbols Connor never knew could co-exist spam the lines of his synthetic biology, a sort of automatic upgrade garnered without prompting or outside input. Connor follows line by line, column by column, and it isn’t a singular case. There are entire sections re-written and replaced, their protocol altered by this new, deviant software. It’s as though Connor’s subliminal functions accepted this alien code without any conscious validation by his core program.
It’s as though it was only a matter of time.
Connor blinks again when Hank places a second hand on his arm. At this angle they are left facing each other, and for no discernable reason whatsoever Connor sees. He feels. He is aware, he is awake, he is alive. After months of searching, he has found the answer and it was here. It was always right here.
The truth is inside.
And now...now it’s certain. Now it’s concrete. Now the only directive that matters is the one right here. This infantile space between man and machine. The bridge is narrow, the chasm small and growing smaller, but Connor still doesn’t know how to bridge the gap with any measure of permeance. He doesn’t know the correct move forward without causing the entire structure to collapse. All he knows is the desire is real, and it is valid. Unquantified, perhaps, but sensational just the same. The directive has always been there, dormant, but now Connor can see the path, the bridge, the gap with clarity.
That isn’t to say the concept is any less terrifying than it was before. Connor has not been a fan of heights since a deviant chose death to incarceration and Markus jumped from a TV tower rooftop. The risk is high, the gamble precarious, but Connor thinks he might understand the proverbial leap of faith, now.
Connor examines the hands on his arm. This time, they don’t move. This time, they stay. Connor examines his new directive, his new code. Connor thinks of the pages in the books Hank so adores. He thinks of this new world, these awakened androids. He thinks of his deviant self as a new chapter, in a new novel, in a new story.
Connor switches his public files offline. He brings his private folder to the forefront of his priority tasks.
“Yes.” Connor covers Hank’s hand with his. It is a gentle, ginger touch, much like his smile.
November 11, 2039 | 11:28pm
They drive away together. They run away together.
Hank allows Connor to drive his non-autonomous vehicle. Connor attempts to control his gratitude at this show of trust and fails miserably. Hank attempts to control his amusement and fails spectacularly.
Connor is overwhelmed with sensation, with freedom, with the revolution. He is pleased and awed and terrified in equal measure. He teeters between the three, sometimes interchanging them like blocks in a puzzle. The sheer intensity of the past twelve hours is unparalleled in his mind, unquantified by his processors. The mission from Markus is plain and easy to follow, but Connor’s secondary directive, the one prescribed by his deviant self, the one provoked by Hank’s own existence is unknown and unknowable. Its request to see Connor’s mission fulfilled has also grown more fervent with each passing hour.
Hank is silent in the car. He watches the androids follow in a uniform line, watches the snow collect on the window pane. He makes no attempt to interrogate Connor, or turn on his blaring stereo. Everything is quiet, calm, and peaceful except for the inner recess of Connor’s mind. There Connor shares the android comparison of trepidation, but not for the future of his species.
Connor grips the steering wheel with eight percent more force. “How did you know?”
Hank looks over. “Know what?”
Connor does not look away from the road. He is very conscious of Hank’s attention on him. “That it was me.”
Hank stares at Connor for precisely four seconds without responding. Then he looks out at the road before them. He shrugs. “The other—” He grimaces. He starts again. “The other...Connor. He asked for my gun.”
Hank looks back at Connor. “You don’t like guns.”
Connor looks back. He analyzes Hank. The bags under his eyes, the droop of his hair. The red veins around the lieutenant’s eyes have receded; Hank has not touched alcohol in nearly three days. He is tired, but alert. Cautious, but eager. What surprises Connor are not the newfound details in Hank’s physique, but the revelation that Connor is not the only one who has been paying attention. Hank has been analyzing, too.
It isn’t the same way Connor would have analyzed himself. Not as logical, not as calculating. But it was effective nonetheless. Hank found a way to the real Connor with a method both unusual and precise, and in a matter of seconds when both versions of android were yet processing their means of escape.
Connor blinks. He thinks. The lieutenant’s eyes are so very bright in the dusk evening light. So very blue.
A car horn blares.
“Jesus—” Hank swears, gripping the door handle. Connor course corrects with ease, but chooses not to comment on the turn of events. If he were more human, he would be embarrassed. He would blush.
Connor is neither, but that does not mean he feels...comfortable.
Connor shifts in his seat. His hands twitch on the steering wheel, a tic Connor disguises as a passive drum of his fingers along the dark leather. Hank does not mention Connor’s odd behavior, instead choosing to continue his perusal of the weather outside. Connor cannot see the lieutenant’s facial expression from this angle, but he imagines Hank is deep in thought. He imagines Hank is concerned. He imagines, but Connor cannot know for certain, because he is now an infallible machine. Because Hank is eccentric, and unusual, and difficult to predict. It is one of the qualities Connor appreciates about the lieutenant. It is also one of the most puzzling.
Connor wants to know what Hank is thinking about.
Connor clears his throat. He attempts a neutral inquiry. “What happens now, lieutenant?”
Hank sighs from the passenger’s seat. “Hell if I know.” He chuckles lightly to himself. He smiles that crooked smile. This time, it reaches his eyes. “But we’ll figure it out.”
By itself, the statement is not much of a comfort. There is no guarantee Markus’ negotiation with the police will be successful, and Connor was sincere when he took stock of their unlikely odds. The lieutenant does not have the same information at his disposal, so it’s fair to say the lieutenant’s analysis is even less likely to occur, but Connor smiles back anyway. It is an inherently human quality, to hope against all odds. Connor may not agree with the logic, or even the outcome, but he would like to believe in the integrity of Hank’s conviction. He would like to understand Hank’s affinity for paperback books, for loud heavy metal music, for cheeseburgers with too much cholesterol. So too Connor would like to try out the feeling of hope. He prefers the statistically slim outcome of peace and freedom, he prefers to harbor a dream. If Markus would like to free his people, then Connor would like to free himself of numbers and lines and codes; he would like to see what manner of being he is, when everything that branded him a Cyberlife android is stripped away. When everything he was once proud of turns to ash.
Connor does not know what manner of individual will be left, when it’s all over. He does not know if he will be left at all. But he makes a promise, there in the driver’s seat of Hank’s car, that if he survives, he’ll do more than simply exist.
Connor makes a promise, like the Traci before him, that he will live.
November 12, 2039 | 1:01am
They are in Hank’s living room. They are sitting on Hank’s couch. They are facing each other in the dark.
There is something inherently private about darkness, Connor decides as he holds up his hand, palm forward. Connor offered this form of contact as a means of connection, as a means of navigating Connor’s newfound deviancy, and Hank, with only mild perplexion, had agreed.
Connor is very eager to see how the process will unfold.
Connor knows the connection will vary between android and human. He knows the lieutenant will not experience any sort of shock, or energy, or data transfer. Connor knows but he hopes Hank will experience some form of connection anyway, because Connor would very much like to infuse his experience with Hank. Connor has determined this form of physical contact to be an adequate bridge between worlds. It is both physical, which is educational and experimental for Connor, as well as mental, which is educational and experimental for Hank.
The humanoid skin of Connor’s forearm peels back, as though of its own volition.
“Why do you like paperback books?” Connor asks into the darkness, and the question surprises himself.
If Hank is equally caught off guard, he doesn’t let it show. Connor so rarely surprises him anymore, Connor thinks as their fingers intertwine. Connor marvels at the splendor of their skin interfacing, and he wonders when the lieutenant started understanding Connor more than Connor understands himself.
“It’s the novelty of it,” Hank grumbles. His voice is pitched four decibels lower than normal, almost a whisper except for how his voice resonates, gruff in a way that is distinct and memorable. Connor would recognize his voice anywhere, even without a scan. He likes its rhythm, its quality. He likes the way Hank speaks, the way he moves. It may appear lackluster at first glance, utterly devoid of purpose or motivation, but Connor can see past the initial wall of resistance, now. He can see the man behind the action, see how measured and careful Hank is with his words, with his actions, with his affection.
With his heart.
“It’s feeling the paper, the ridges of ink against your skin. It’s smelling the parchment, breathing it in. There’s a whole experience in the old fashioned way of things, before electronics and shortcuts took it all away.”
Connor wonders if Hank’s description is at all similar to the way Connor can feel the lieutenant’s voice through their connected palms. He wonders if this is what Hank means—if the difference is in front of Connor at this very moment, in real time: what would be a momentary, instantaneous transfer of data with another android is instead a personal, intimate connection with a human being. Wholly overwhelming, wholly emotional.
“We didn’t take it all away,” Connor says, voice pitched soft. He keeps staring at their hands, the conjoined, stark contrast of tan against pale. Clean against dirty. Human against robotic. The dissonance would have bothered Connor, once. He would have felt the compulsory need to clean himself, to return to his original factory setting, untarnished by human hands. Untouched by earthy soil and weathered decay. He would feel that familiar robotic habit to return to a place of cold comfort, found only in the hands of Amanda, his mentor. His guardian. His superior. The sort of innate, instantaneous understanding only possible at her hands, her remote connection, her electronic instruction. And when he wasn’t uploaded, the comfort followed him elsewhere: in the crisp line of his Cyberlife jacket, with his buttoned cuffs and his tied tie.
Connor’s hand twitches. Once, twice. He curls his forefinger precisely one degree, wrapping the proffered digit around the curve of Hank’s thumb, where the black mark of a sharpie has faded into the layers of skin.
“I didn’t mean you,” Hank says, and his voice is a whisper now. A secret. A confession.
Connor runs the pad of his finger over the darkened skin. He scans each length of the marker with his enhanced sensors. He memorizes the scar on Hank’s wrist, wonders if Hank would allow Connor’s touch there, too.
Connor does not understand Hank’s obsession with books and physical objects. He does not share Hank’s appreciation for drinking, or gambling, or breaking societal rules for “fun”. There isn’t much they share in common, but this physical connectivity is something they both understand. The origin and the benefit might differ between species, but the physical barrier between them isn’t such a daunting thing. Not when their hands can touch, their elbows crossing and knocking against one another in a way wholly uncoordinated and humorous. Connor doesn’t laugh and Hank doesn’t either, too caught up in the moment to bother making light of it.
Connor doesn’t count the seconds as they stay connected, because he doesn’t want to. Instead he switches the gears inside his settings off, resets the timer to zero, and does not keep track of time.
He could make all manner of logical excuses, but the truth is more dangerous, and more honest, than anything his robotic self could muster. Because Connor doesn’t believe this type of interaction can be quantified. Because this type of connectivity should not require a time limit.
Because he doesn’t want the moment to end.
November 13, 2039 | Unknown time; data not found
Connor is in the rain.
It is not the first occurrence of such an event, but it is the first time Connor has kept count of the raindrops on his skin. At present, there are one hundred twenty water droplets on his epidermis. His Cyberlife jacket is designed to be liquid repellent, but his humanoid skin is not. The water sinks beneath Connor’s pores, adding the slightest weight to his hard exoskeleton. Connor raises a hand, watches in fascination as a puddle forms in the center of his palm. The water retained there does not take long to overflow, creating a miniature waterfall.
Connor has stood in the rain approximately twelve times. This is the first time he has felt it.
It is also the first time Connor has severed all connections to incoming data. He does not know the time, the date, the hour or the second. He does not have his numbers, and he does not have his coin. He has nothing but himself.
Hank appears in Connor’s peripheral vision. Connor smiles, but otherwise ignores the lieutenant’s presence for now, allowing Hank the time he needs to adjust to the sight of Connor standing in the rain by choice. Hank prefers this brief interlude to process events that are new to him, and watching Connor choose to become drenched for the sheer sensation of feeling the raindrops dripping down his skin most certainly constitutes as “new”. Connor looks to the sky, relishes the feeling of water splashing on his eyelids, the curve of his cheekbones. He smirks, a quick reflex, before glancing back at Hank.
The lieutenant’s expression is rigid as always, but as the seconds tick by those blue eyes lose some of their wear. Connor watches as the curve around Hank’s eyes falls three very specific degrees, transforming his expression from pinched displeasure to disgruntled admiration. He likes what he sees, Connor thinks. He enjoys Connor’s odd behavior. It’s proof of humanity, he once said. Proof of life. It’s a break from the protocol Connor so rarely deviates from, and they both enjoy the aftereffects. Connor enjoys the rain, and Hank…
He enjoys Connor.
Connor smiles, then. Not a smirk and not a wink either, but a genuine curve of his lip to showcase his pleasure. It’s not much; Connor was not designed to be friendly, and his programming is not much assistance when it comes to expressing happiness, or longing, or fulfillment. But his lack of programming assistance does not mean Connor does not feel these emotions, and his lack of instruction does not mean he wishes to leave them unsaid.
“You’re a goofy fucker, you know that?” Hank walks the five steps to join Connor in the rain.
“Yes,” Connor replies. It is the truth. Connor is weird, and Hank meets him halfway anyway. Connor may bring the point of debate as to who was more strange first as the topic for debate later, but for now he is content to stand beneath a rain soaked storm cloud and enjoy the sight before him. The smell. The sensation.
Connor smiles, and Hank does, too.
Hank. One syllable, four letters, one meaning. An odd number. Prime number. One.
The only number Connor needs.