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Windows to the Soul

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It was pre-programmed; the tendency to keep his eyes downcast.  He would let the coin roll across his knuckles as he thought, only glancing up to check he was going in the right direction.

It wasn’t easy to avoid eye-contact when he knew he wasn’t allowed in the bar. The bright blue on his temple drew eyes in the dimly lit tavern. Every pair on him. Connor studied the grim tiles as he waited for the interest to die down.

And then he scanned. Fifth bar was the charm. Speaking of charm –Connor straightened his tie and approached.

“Lieutenant Anderson, my name is Connor. I’m the android sent by CyberLife. I looked for you at the station, but nobody knew where you were. They said you were probably having a drink nearby. I was lucky to find you at the fifth bar.”

“What do you want?” Hank Anderson didn’t look up and his curtain of hair shielded his face. That was somewhat good for Connor. He didn’t have to draw his eyes away.

“You were assigned a case early this evening involving a CyberLife android. In accordance with procedure, the company has allocated a specialized model to assist investigators.”

“Well, I don’t need any assistance. Especially from a plastic asshole like you.” He reached for his drink. “So just be a good little robot and get the fuck outta here.”

Connor wasn’t programmed to take offense, so he didn’t. He was programmed to persist, so he did.

“I think you should stop drinking, and come with me.” Connor said firmly. Hank nodded but didn’t move. Connor went on. “I’m sorry, Lieutenant, but I must insist. My instructions stipulate that I have to accompany you.”

“You know where you can stick your instructions?” Hank chuckled, taking another sip. Connor registered the words as insulting, but did not feel their effects. He pulled up a carefully calculated response.

“No.” Connor tilted his head. “Where?”

Hank looked up at him in surprise and Connor responded by doing what he was programmed to do— look down at his shoes.

Hank sighed and turned back to drinking. Connor’s LED spun as he weighed his options.

SPILL HIS DRINK/BUY HIM ANOTHER DRINK/WAIT OUTSIDE.

“How about this?” Connor glanced up towards the bar. “I buy you a drink, and then you’re coming with me, okay?”

Hank raised his head in surprise, but didn’t look over. Connor was glad the bartender had his back to them so that Connor could raise his own head and speak clearly.

“The same again, please.” Connor nodded at them.

He knew exactly what he was doing. The way Hank shifted uncomfortably as the drink was made. The way other patrons who’d been listening in now looked over in shock at Connor’s bold words. It put a satisfied smile on Connor’s face.

“Wonders of technology…” Hank mumbled after a moment. “Make it a double.”

Connor watched him knock it back and sigh loudly before slowly turning to him. His programming worked again and his eyes dropped to his shoes when Hank looked at him.

“Did you say homicide?”

 

-

 

Humans should be used to androids watching their shoulders. It was in Connor’s programming to do that when speaking directly to a human, and to the ground when being spoken to by one.

Apparently, Hank was different. He didn’t say anything at the house they checked, though that may be due to the fact that Connor was on the move the whole time. He crouched and tasted samples, much to Hank’s disgust.

He walked back and forth from the living room to the kitchen and reconstructed. They found the deviant with no problem. It’s eyes bored into Connor’s under the red flush of its LED in the attic.

There was no law saying androids couldn’t hold prolonged eye-contact with one another. The deviant took well advantage of that and stared into Connor’s eyes with fear and pain. First the first time, Connor felt a strange clenching in his chest components.

SOFTWARE INSTABILITY.

Connor ignored his shaken programming and raised his voice.

“I found it!”

 

Connor kept his eyes at Hank’s shoulders until he had the idea to do the interrogation himself. Hank nodded to him and Connor ducked inside.

Again, the deviant’s eyes stared into his, or cut away when Connor reminded him of the number of stab wounds. The deviant’s eyes widened sadly at that, and Connor felt the clenching in his chest again. He looked down like he would have, had the deviant been human. He then saw the wounds on the deviant’s arms.

“He…hurt you. You were…scared?” Connor blinked in understanding and raised his eyes.

The deviant looked back and nodded.

SOFTWARE INSTABILITY.

 

-

 

Connor still kept his eyes on Hank’s shoulders at the police station. Someone told him to expect Hank soon, so he spent the time scanning the contents of the lieutenant’s desk. Connor saw the phone on the desk and placed a hand down on it, letting the very tips of his fingers brush it and activate Hank’s voice mail.

“Lieutenant Anderson, this is Connor.”  Connor said aloud. “The android sent by CyberLife? I am waiting for you right now at the police station…” He trailed off as he realized it was pointless. He quickly hung up and erased the message.

He then picked up the pair of headphones and music player from the desk. He held the headphones near his audio processors and hit play. He then nearly jolted from the loud sound.

PROCESSING…

Dark Heavy Metal.

Knights of the Black Death.  Release date – 2021.

 Connor stood for a moment, trying to form an opinion. After he had one, he did more scanning. Dog hairs. Interesting. Donut crumbs. Not as interesting.

The photo by the desk showed Lieutenant Anderson and several other officers. Small notes on the margin told Connor how Hank felt about each individual.

Ass-kisser. Prick. Owes me 50 dollars. A good officer. Nice girl.

Connor’s eyes flicked to Hank in the middle. He was much younger and clean-cut. Humans always looked into the camera –with proper, non-candid photos, at least. Connor dared to let his eyes move to Hank’s.

Blue eyes shined proudly with the half-smile on his face. Connor immediately felt the clenching in his chest components as his thirium pump pulse spiked. This wasn’t technically illegal, so why did it feel so wrong?

SOFTWARE INSTABILITY.

Connor jumped back and collided with someone.

“Watch it!” Hank barked.

“Lieutenant, I was just waiting for you.” Connor regained his balance and looked to Hank, keeping his eyes at his shoulders.

“Lucky me.” Hank mumbled, dropping down into the desk chair.

“I was hoping we could discuss the events of yesterday –“ Connor remembered practically begging Miller to go easy on the deviant and promise not to hurt him as he was led from the interrogation room. They technically got their confession, but Connor wondered if his softer approach had ruined his standings with the humans.

“I was hoping we couldn’t.” Hank sighed, leaning on one elbow. “We got the confession. I don’t wanna think about this shit anymore. Can’t you go play somewhere and not bug me for five damn minutes?”

“Of course.” Connor started his internal clock for five minutes and walked off.

There wasn’t much else for Connor to do other than obverse the humans. He walked into the break room and saw two officers. Tina Chen and Gavin Reed. Connor recognized Reed from the interrogation, and it seemed it was mutual.

“Hey, look, it’s our friend…the plastic detective.” Reed smirked and they looked over. Connor’s eyes instantly dropped and he nodded politely.

“Good morning.” Connor said. They both chuckled lightly.

“So what the hell are you, anyways?” Reed made his way over. Connor’s eyes moved to the floor entirely.

“I am a specialized model designed to assist the investigation.” Connor said. “RK800 –“

“Whatever.” Reed cut him off with a wave of his hand. “Why don’t you get me a coffee?”

ACCEPT/REFUSE/IGNORE.

Connor did not think it was wise to burn any bridges with the humans he was going to be working with. Connor nodded and turned towards the machine. Reed chuckled in amusement as Connor turned back and held out the cup.

“Get a load of this fucking thing.” Reed smirked. Connor stayed still, arm still out. He moved closer, body brushing Connor’s shoulder and face inches away. “Hey…hey! Hey, robot!”

Connor’s eyes flicked over, meeting a human’s gaze for the first time. His breath hitched in his throat as he saw hatred. He immediately dropped his eyes, but it was too late.

“How dare you fucking look at me!?” Reed punched Connor in the stomach. The cup slipped from his grasp as he doubled over. He felt no pain, but it didn’t stop the pre-programmed reaction.

He kept his eyes on the now coffee-soaked floor. His limbs stayed rigid despite his thirium pump pounding. Reed put his hand down on Connor’s shoulder.

“Why don’t you learn your place, plastic? Clean this shit up. Let’s get outta here.” Reed chuckled lowly and Chen followed him out. She may have looked back at Connor, but he remained perfectly still until the break room was empty.

He quickly grabbed napkins and mopped up the mess before tossing them and the empty cup into the trashcan. He then straightened his tie and took another moment to remain still. He let the final moments of his internal timer click by as he willed his components to still.

It would probably due well for him to try and avoid talking to Reed ever again. Connor had never seen such hatred. No wonder they weren’t supposed to make eye-contact with humans.

00:00

Connor walked back over to Hank’s desk.

“What, you didn’t think to bring me anything?” Hank asked as Connor approached. Connor immediately turned around to go back to the break room. “I’m kidding. Sit the hell down.”

Connor looked over at the empty desk adjacent to Hank’s and sat down. He then contemplated everything he’d surveyed at Hank’s desk.

“You have a dog?” Connor looked up, eyes at Hank’s shoulder.

“…How the hell do you know that?” Hank asked.

“Dog hairs on your chair.” Connor smiled. “I like dogs! What’s your dog’s name?”

Hank didn’t answer right away. Connor dared to raise his eyes to Hank’s face for just a second before going back to his shoulder.

“Sumo.” He said finally. “I call him Sumo.”

“I like dogs.” Connor said again, hoping this would prompt Hank to show him a picture of Sumo, but it didn’t seem to work.

“Hank!” Captain Fowler stepped out of his office and looked over. “In my office.”

“God…” Hank sighed and took his time making his way over.

LISTEN IN.

Connor followed Hank into Fowler’s office. Hank sat down dramatically in front of the desk and Connor stood rigidly off to the side.

“I’ve got ten new cases involving androids every day.” Fowler started. “We’ve always had isolated incidents, but now, we’re getting reports of assaults. And even homicides, like that guy last night. This isn’t just CyberLife’s problem anymore. It’s now a criminal investigation, and we’ve got to deal with it before shit hits the fan.”

Connor listened, taking in the fact that everything the captain was saying did match up to what he was already pre-programmed to know. He watched Hank from behind but couldn’t tell what the lieutenant could be thinking.

“I want you to investigate these cases and see if there’s a link.” Fowler said.

“Why me? Why do I have to be the one to deal with this shit? I don’t know jack shit about androids, Jeffrey.” Hank looked back towards Connor and Connor kept his eyes down, hands clasped in front of him.

“Everybody is overloaded.” Fowler countered. “I think you’re perfectly qualified for this type of investigation.”

“Bullshit!” Hank stood up and leaned over the desk. “The truth is that no one wants to investigate these androids, and so you stuck me with it!” He turned away and strode angrily across the room. Connor watched Hank’s feet.

“CyberLife sent over this state-of-the-art prototype to help with the investigation.” Fowler said patiently. “It’ll act as your partner.”

“No fucking way!” Hank turned and leaned over the desk again. “I don’t need a partner, and certainly not this plastic prick!”

Connor’s eyes moved from Hank’s shoes to his own. He wasn’t programmed to be insulted. So he wasn’t.

“Hank, you are seriously starting to piss me off!” Fowler raised his eyes to Hank’s and Connor dared to watch with almost curiosity. “Just shut your mouth and do what I say, unless you wanna hand in your badge! Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got work to do!”

Hank grumbled low in his throat before turning and marching out of the room. Connor looked up at Fowler, keeping his eyes on the desk. Fowler seemed to be just watching him, waiting for him to say something.

But Connor had nothing to say. Back outside by Hank’s desk, Connor kept his eyes down as he walked over.

“I want you to know that I look forward to solving this case with you.” Connor said. Hank crossed his arms and didn’t look over. “Now that we’re partners…it would be great to get to know each other better.”

Hank turned further away. Connor bit back a sigh of disappointment and went to sit at the desk by Hank’s. Again, he recalled what he’d seen.

“Do you like Knights of the Black Death?” Connor asked. “I like that music. It’s full of…energy.”

“You listen to heavy metal?” Hank looked up and Connor looked down.

“Well, I don’t really listen to music…but I’d like to.” Connor kept his eyes at Hank’s shoulders as he felt Hank’s eyes on his face. His LED cycled and Hank looked back down. Connor felt his chest components clench.

“You should check it out, then.” Hank muttered and turned to the computer.

“I was wondering…” Connor carefully chose his words. “It’s just that, a lot of humans find being around androids uncomfortable. Do you have any particular reason to despise me?”

“Yeah. One.” Hank said. Connor dared move his eyes to Hank’s face, but Hank didn’t look over or elaborate.

Connor turned on the computer and began scrolling through each file. An AP700 model android that attacked someone. A WR400 android that went missing. Connor placed his hand down on the panel on the keyboard and downloaded all of the files. His LED spun for half a second as it completed.

“234 files…” Connor said when it was done. He glanced to Hank, who wasn’t looking. “An AX400 was said to have attacked a man last night. That might be a good starting point.”

Hank turned away, letting his hair block his face. Connor felt his programming tell him to press on. He couldn’t do this without Hank.

Connor stood up and went around to the side of Hank’s desk. Hank turned away again.

DIRECT/AGGRESSIVE/PROFESSIONAL/UNDERSTANDING.

“I understand you’re facing personal issues, Lieutenant, but we need to –“

“Hey, don’t talk to me like you know me.” Hank looked up at him. Connor’s eyes snapped down. “You’re not my friend, and I don’t need your fucking advice.”

 Connor waited, thirium pump pounding, for Hank to look away. As soon as he did, Connor leaned down again.

“I…I can’t just wait around until you feel like working –“

Hank stood up and grabbed Connor by the front of the shirt before turning and slamming his back to the wall. Connor felt the wind knocked from his synthetic lungs, and this time his components clenched with a feeling he couldn’t place. His LED spun yellow as fought to keep his eyes on Hank’s chest –anywhere but his face.

“Listen, asshole…” Hank’s whisper was even and angry. Connor’s thirium pump pounded just as loudly. He didn’t dare struggle or look at him. “If it was up to me, I’d throw the lot of you into a dumpster and set fire to it. So, stop pissing me off!”

“I –“ Connor squeezed his eyes shut at a desperate attempt to keep them where they belonged. He felt Hank’s grip slackened just slightly before someone approached.

“Lieutenant,” Officer Miller approached. Hank let go of Connor and turned to him. Connor’s feet hit the floor and he quickly straightened his tie. “Something came in on that AX400. It’s been spotted nearby.”

“I’m on it.” Hank kept staring at Connor, and Connor kept his eyes down.

Hank finally turned and walked off. Connor felt frozen. He finally fought the off-feeling in his chest before following.

 

Connor felt something like it again –synthetic adrenaline as he chased the deviant AX400 down the street. The slight rain slicked right off his skin and clothing, not even slowing him down. He knew he was leaving Hank behind, but right now, this was the only thing that mattered.

The YK500 with it screamed as it tried to keep up with its companion. Connor was on their heels. He contemplated as they turned a corner.

TACKLE YK500/TACKLE AX400.

Connor looked down at the YK500. It kept its hand in the other deviant’s. It seemed to sense Connor’s eyes, looking back at him fearfully. Their eyes met for a split second.

SOFTWARE INSTABILITY.

The notification distracted him. Connor didn’t go around the mailbox like they did. He let out an undignified noise as he slammed into it. His components could take a hit, but he still got the influx of warnings.

DANGER: EVADE.

“Yep.” Connor groaned, clutching his stomach. He was aware of Hank now catching up.

“Jesus Christ, get it together!” Hank was panting. Connor wasn’t sure which of them he was actually talking to.

“Yep.” Connor jumped to his feet and took off.

Pedestrians shouted and jumped back as Connor used all of his strength to keep up the chase. He saw the deviants up ahead. The little one looked back and screamed again. They turned down an alley and Connor followed.

The AX400 grabbed the YK500 and hoisted it up onto the fence at the end of the alley. It then scrambled over as the other one landed on the other side. Connor sped up as they both made it to the other side of the fence.

The metal jingled as Connor landed against it. It rattled between him and the AX400, who looked through the fence at him. Her eyes locked into his.

SOFTWARE INSTABILITY.

They started towards the highway as Hank caught up to him. Connor started to climb over as well. Hank roughly grabbed his jacket.

“What the hell! No!”

“I have to –“

“You will get killed!” Hank pulled him back down. “You’re not going! That’s an order.”

“But –“ Connor glanced at Hank from the corner of his eye. “They’ll get away!”

“They’ll never make it to the other side.” Hank assured him, dropping his hand and slumping over.

OBEY/IGNORE.

He decided to obey. Connor watched, feeling torn within as they did just that. He felt helpless and useless at the same time.

 

-

 

Connor’s plan to keep his eyes at shoulder level and not to piss Hank off seemed to work for most part.

It was still raining lightly. Connor watched the drops collect on the car window before they rolled down. He suppressed a sigh as he thought of the deviants he lost.

“Stay here.” Hank mumbled when he parked the car. Connor looked over and watched Hank get out and start towards the restaurant. Connor got out and followed. Hank looked over and groaned. “God, don’t you do anything I say?”

Connor didn’t answer. He scanned the food Hank was getting a determined it was very unhealthy. He wasn’t sure if he should say that, however.

“I don’t understand.” Connor followed him to a table. “Why didn’t you want me to cross the highway yesterday?”

“…Because you could’ve been killed!” Hank said as if it were obvious. Connor looked over in surprise at his answer, catching himself before his eyes could go any higher than Hank’s collar. “And, uh, I don’t like having to fill out the forms for damaged equipment.”

Connor nodded. That made sense. He didn’t remember anything that followed saving Emma from the deviant known as Daniel. He’d been interrupted. Taken a break from being aware. He would like to avoid that happening again. He was just upset that they seemed to be getting nowhere this way.

“Why are you eating food like that? It’s so unhealthy.”

“Everyone’s got vices.” Hank shrugged and took a bite. “And trust me, I mean everyone.”

“I –“ Connor’s fingers twitched as he thought the coin in his pocket. He was a prototype. He wasn’t flawless. Still, he decided not to dwell too much on human thoughts.

“You too.” Hank didn’t look up.

“Not me.” Connor said too quickly.

“Oh, really? So, it’s in your programming to buy drinks for guys who look twice your age?” Hank smirked.

“I…I was just trying to get you to come with me.” Connor explained. He’d seemed so confident in it at the time, and it had worked, after all. Perhaps the light of day showed him how it really seemed.

His thirium pump pounded harder. The access thirium seemed to flood to his face. Connor’s eyed bored into the tabletop.

“Why do you keep doing that?” Hank asked, taking a drink of soda. “Looking down like that? Don’t you know how to look at someone when they’re talking to you?”

“I—“ Connor’s eyes flicked over a few inches across the table. “Androids are not permitted to make prolonged eye-contact with humans.”

“More of that weird bullshit, then?” Hank mumbled. Connor’s eyes stayed on Hank’s food. “Stop it, you look crazy. Just look at my face when you talk to me.”

Connor’s eyes moved up to Hank’s shoulders. Hank sighed dramatically in defeat and kept eating. Connor then shakily looked up at Hank’s temple. Where an LED would be if he were an android. Hank grunted.

“That’s better, I guess.” He decided. “Fucking rules. Can’t stand there. Can’t go in there. Can’t look at someone. No wonder they’re fighting back now.”

“You mean the deviants?” Connor blinked, eyes on Hank’s temple. “They just simulate emotion when they get overwhelmed by irrational instructions. That’s all it is.”

“You act like you know.”

“I’ve done my research.” Connor nodded. He remembered  Emma’s scream. Daniel’s stare. He shifted slightly.

“All of it?” Hank prompted “Look, I know you know about me.  You were researching. You left your crumby prints all over my desk.”

“Androids don’t have fingerprints.” Connor countered.

“Metaphorical prints.” Hank said, his own greasy hand coming down to rest a few inches from Connor’s on the table. Connor dropped his arms down to his side.

“I suppose.” Connor agreed, mentally bringing up everything he knew about Hank. “Top of your class. The youngest lieutenant—“

“Spare me my own life story, okay?” Hank held up a hand.

“Sorry.” Connor’s eyes moved across Hank’s ear. “What about me? Is there anything you’d like to know about me?”

“Hell no.” Hank kept eating. “Actually… Why’d they make you so goofy looking, and give you that weird voice?”

“CyberLife androids are designed to work harmoniously with humans. Both my appearance and voice were specifically designed to facilitate my integration.” 

Hank nodded like he understood. “Well, they fucked up.”

Connor watched him eat for a while, scanning their surroundings to pass the time. There wasn’t much of anything important, and the rap style music playing from the restaurant was growing increasingly annoying.

“I want you to know that I am sorry about yesterday, at the station.” Connor said, keeping his eyes down. “I didn’t mean to upset you by talking about your personal issues.”

“I wasn’t upset. I was annoyed.” Hank said firmly. “Headin’ that way again, too.”

“Adapting to human unpredictability is one of my main features.” Connor felt thirium flush at his face as a smile pulled at his lips. “But maybe I’m doing it wrong?”

“Yeah.” Hank nodded. “You’re fucking up.”

 

“This is fucking disgusting.” Hank had insisted on going into the apartment first. The tip had said there was suspicious activity, but there was no guarantee that the deviant would still be here. Still, Connor silently appreciated Hank protecting him.

Inside, there didn’t seem to be anyone still living there, but there was ample evidence that they’d been there up until very recently. How they managed to live around all the birds, Connor didn’t know.

“This is quite…gross.” Connor agreed, unable to pause to think of a better word. He crouched down and opened the refrigerator. Empty.

The pigeons hopped by Connor and flocked by his feet. Their excrement littered most surfaces, and Hank kept his hands crossed as if he were afraid to get anything on him. The birds scattered with every step Connor took, and at one point one even landed on his shoulder.

Connor gasped and jumped back, causing the bird to take off, its winging clipping his ear and ruffling his hair. Connor stumbled back into another small flock of them and heard Hank chuckle lowly.

“I’m sick of this place.” Hank said as Connor approached one wall and began examining the faded wallpaper. “It’s gone. We should be too.” He heard Hank start towards the door.

“Wait, Lieutenant.” Connor looked back over his shoulder. “Five more minutes.”

“Why the hell should I –?”

“Remember the drink I bought you?” Connor kept his eyes on Hank’s temple as he tilted his head softly. His own LED spun. “Just five more minutes.”

Hank grumbled darkly and turned away. Still, he was agreeing. Satisfied, Connor turned back and pulled back the peeling paper. There was a notebook hidden in the cranny.

“I found something.”

“A book?” Hank looked over. Connor handed it to him. “Thought I was the only one in the city who cared about real paper. What the –?”

Hank opened the notebook and flipped through the faded dirty pages. He then turned it so Connor could see.

“Labyrinths. A code?” Connor left Hank to work it out before going into the bathroom.

There were trickles of thirium along the countertop along with something Connor would be forced to identify when he sampled it all. He glanced back to make sure Hank wasn’t looking before swiping his fingers through the mess and bringing them to his mouth.

ANALYZING…

His eyes moved to something else in the bathroom.

“Its LED is in the sink!” Connor called back.

“Android. Duh, nothing else could stand this smell.”

Connor’s internal timer for five minutes let him know when it was getting close. The deviant luckily made itself known when it dropped down and knocked Connor to the floor before bolting from the room. Connor groaned as he fell into mess.  

“What are you waiting for!? Chase it!” Hank shouted.

Connor’s eyes moved to him instinctively, but he pulled away and jumped to his feet before taking off. He slammed into the hallway wall outside before turning and keeping up.

He wouldn’t lose this one.

He couldn’t.

He wouldn’t look into this one’s eyes.

FAST BUT RISKY/SLOW BUT EASY.

The risk didn’t matter to Connor. He jumped onto trains and ran across roofs. He was not going to lose this deviant. Hank seemed to be favoring the slow but easy routes himself, but somehow did manage to make it to block the deviant from up ahead.

Hank gasped and cried out as the deviant pushed him and kept going.

PURSUE DEVIANT/SAVE HANK.

Connor almost actually felt his software shake within him as he instantly bolted towards Hank. The words flashed in front of his vision, but he dismissed them as he extended a hand down. Hank took it and Connor pulled him back up.

“Lieutenant, are you okay?” Connor asked, dropping his hand as soon as they were steady.

“Yeah, yeah…fine.” Hank looked over to where the deviant had disappeared. Connor followed his gaze. “You lost that thing because of me.”

“It doesn’t matter.” Connor forced the words out.

SOFTWARE INSTABILITY.

“Yeah, well…” Hank sighed.

“Don’t feel bad.” Connor eyed Hank’s pocket. “Do you still have the notebook? Maybe that shows where it went. I can try to decrypt it. Don’t worry, really.”

Hank pulled out the book and turned it over in his hand. He nodded as if Connor’s plan were solid, and not some quickly whipped up scheme to save face. He shoved it back into his pocket.

“You saved me…” Hank muttered.

“Yes.” Connor scanned the rooftop for the fastest exit. Hank found it first and started towards it before turning back.

“Connor?”

“Yes?” Connor kept his eyes on Hank’s shoulders where they belonged.

“…Nothing.” Hank turned away before Connor could check  to see if he was smiling.

 

-

 

Connor moved out from his standby station at CyberLife when another case came in. It was late at night, but all of his programming told him to go with Hank. So Connor went to get him.

On the cab ride, Connor eyed the rain drops and watched them run down the dark glass. He found himself thinking of Reed’s hateful look. Connor shook his head to clear it and got out at Hank’s.

Connor tried to keep clear of the forming mud as he approached the front door. He stood on the stoop and rang the bell a few times. He then knocked and waited.

“Lieutenant? It’s me, Connor!” Connor looked over at Hank’s car parked crookedly in the driveway. He was definitely home.

Connor felt his shoes squelch into sodden grass as he made his way to the car. He scanned before walking around to the side of the house. The light inside was one. Connor peered in to see a messy kitchen and someone –Lieutenant Anderson on the floor.

Connor gasped and thought quickly. He broke the glass with his elbow before backing up. He hoisted himself up through the window and landed ungracefully in a heap on the kitchen floor.

“Aah –!”

Connor scrambled back as a very large dog stood inches from his face. It leaned in to sniff him and Connor stared back into the animal’s gentle gaze.

“Easy, S-Sumo…” Connor held up his hands. “I’m your friend, see? I know your name… I’m here to save your owner.”

Sumo seemed to lose interest and went to loudly lap water from a bowl. Connor crawled over to where Hank laid and crouched over the man’s body before scanning.

Alcohol. A gun.

“Lieutenant?” Connor knew he needed Hank for the mission. He had to wake him up. He dared to gently place his hand against Hank’s face and tap him lightly. “Lieutenant, it’s me!”

Hank didn’t respond. Relying only on his programming, Connor slapped Hank harder.

“It’s me, Connor! Wake up!”

“What –!?” Hank jolted and opened his eyes. Connor dropped his own gaze to Hank’s chest. “What the hell are you doing here!? Get the fuck outta my house!”

“I’m sorry, Lieutenant, but I need you.” Connor grabbed Hank’s hands and stood up, pulling him to his feet.

“What the fuck did you just say?” Hank mumbled.

“I said I need you.” Connor put his arm around Hank and pulled him towards the bathroom.

“…H-Haven’t heard that one in a while…” Hank chuckled lowly.

Connor left Hank slumped against the wall while he opened the door and turned on the light. He then pulled Hank inside. He tried to carefully sit Hank in the bathtub but Hank just fell in clumsily. Connor but back any sympathy before it prevented him from acting.

SOBER HIM UP.

Connor quickly turned on the shower. Hank began screaming and Connor tried to feel nothing for the human he was dousing in icy cold water.

“Turn it off!” Hank screamed. Connor obeyed.

“Feeling better?” Connor asked.

“W-What the fuck are you doing here?” Hank growled, pushing back the wet mop of hair over his face. Connor eyed the blank tiles to his left.

“Another homicide involving androids.” Connor explained. “We need to –“

“I don’t need anything except for you to get the fuck out!” Hank growled.

“But I need y –“ Connor bit back the words, LED cycling again. He turned around on his heels and faced the opposite wall. He turned back and started again. “The case –“

“I don’t give a shit about your fucking case!” Hank stood up and swayed uneasily. Connor instantly reached out and placed his hands on either side of Hank’s chest to steady him before lowering him to the edge of the tub.

Hank lowered his head and groaned. Connor weighed his options as he felt the slight dampness now on his hands.

TEASE/LEAVE.

“Alright.” Connor stepped back and turned around before slowly starting towards the door. “I’ll leave. The case isn’t that interesting anyways. I mean, a man found dead in sex club downtown?  A real snooze-fest. Guess they’ll have to solve the case without us…”

“Guess it couldn’t hurt to get some air.” Hank muttered. “Just give me a minute to get cleaned up… there’s some clothes in the bedroom…”

“I’ll go get them.” Connor started out and closed the door behind him.

In Hank’s room, Connor resisted the urge to scan. Nothing in here was his business at all. He went to the closet and examined the clean clothing options.

HIPPY/STRIPY/STREAKY.

“What do you want to wear?” Connor called back.

“Whatever.”

Connor chose hippy and started back to the bathroom. He left the clothes with Hank and went to investigate the rest of the house.

Sumo was laying in a dog bed in the living room. Connor crouched down and petted the dog, feeling his thirium pump calm and a smile form on his face.

“Good boy…” Connor said.

Connor took in Hank’s love of jazz and basketball before going back to the hall. When all he heard was retching from the bathroom, he turned away.

In the kitchen, Connor saw the table was littered in mess. A photo was upturned near the center. Connor picked up the picture and scanned the face of the young boy.

Cole Anderson. Deceased.

“Hank lost his son…”

Connor sighed and immediately understood the detective. Connor quickly put the picture back down and saw the gun on the floor by the bottle of whiskey.

“What were you doing with a gun?” Connor called.

“It’s a game.” Hank came around the corner dried and dressed. “Russian roulette.”

“I suppose you’re a lucky shot?” Connor opened the chamber. “The next shot would have killed you.”

“I know when to stop…” Hank mumbled, walking around the table. Connor put the gun on the table and looked to where the broken glass littered the floor. Hank looked over at Connor.

“S-Sorry about that, Lieutenant.” Connor looked away. “I really thought you’d been attacked.”

“Not blaming you.” Hank adjusted the cuffs of his coat and walked over to Sumo. “What the hell? You’re my guard dog, why didn’t you maul this bastard?”

Sumo barked in response and Hank chuckled. Connor felt a smile on his own face at the animal’s innocence. 

“Perhaps he knew I wasn’t a threat?” Connor offered.

“Nah, he’s just too much like me.” Hank rested a hand on the dog’s fur. “A softy inside.”

Connor smiled again.

 

 

Eden Club’s lights blared into Connor’s vision as they got out of the car. Connor did not think that Hank should have been driving but he couldn’t think of a scenario in which saying so would end well.

“Sexiest androids in town?” Hank muttered as they passed under the sign. “Now I know why you wanted to come here.”

“Sexiest androids in town?” Connor repeated.  “Funny, I don’t remember ever working here.” He didn’t realize he’d said it out loud before it was too late.

Hank stopped in his tracks, causing Connor to walk right into him. He looked up to see Hank red-faced and shaking with silent laughter. Connor resisted the contagious urge to laugh as well, cheeks blue.

Inside, Hank made no further comments. Connor vowed to hold his tongue if he had any less-than-professional ones as well.

The front room was lined with display cases that contained half-naked androids. Hank sped past them, but Connor couldn’t help but stop to look at a scantily-clad male. Connor’s gaze roamed up its body before locking with its eyes.

“Connor, what the fuck are you doing!?”

“Coming, Lieutenant!” Connor tore his eyes away and walked over.

They weren’t the only ones on the scene. Reed made a comment, but Connor kept his eyes down as the human bumped his shoulder hard as he left. Connor automatically reached to his shoulder and checked the components.

“Don’t let that asshole walk all over you.” Hank muttered. “Next time, look him in the eye and say –“

“I can’t.” Connor said, cheeks blue again.

“…Right.” Hank said. “Just ignore him, then. He’s not worth the response.”

They examined the room. The Traci’s body and the man’s. Connor quickly determined what happened, but something else still seemed off.

“How did it kill him if it was already this badly damaged?” Connor crouched down by the Traci.

“Turn it on and ask.” Hank shrugged.

“I –“ Connor paused. “Maybe I can, actually.”

Hank seemed to take interest, watching as Connor put his hands on the other android. Its skill melted back to the show the panels on its plastic. Connor saw it was open, with the insides badly damaged.

“It will only be for a second.” Connor hooked back a few cables and hesitated. He had to preconstruct what to say, to make the most of what time he’d have.

“Hurry up, and get your hands outta her.” Hank muttered.

“R-Right.” Connor closed the panel and placed his hand on her stomach.

The Traci jolted awake and looked around wildly. Her eyes locked into Connor’s and she scrambled back. Thirium leaked from her mouth and nose and she began to hyperventilate.

“You were damaged, and I reactivated you.” Connor explained calmly. Her wild gaze roamed to the bed.

“Is…Is he dead?” She asked.

“Did you kill him?” Connor countered.

“No, no! It wasn’t me! He was alive when I –“ Her eyes clouded. Connor’s thirium pump pounded as he realized he was losing time.

“Then who did? Were you alone with him?”

“N-No, he wanted to play with two girls! He said –“ Her body stilled.

“Where is it? The other one?” Connor reached out to her and touched her shoulder. She didn’t move.

“Wherever it is, it’s long gone.” Hank sighed.

“No…” Connor gently pulled his hand back. “No, it couldn’t have left and gone outside dressed like that. It has to still be somewhere in the club.”

Hank went to talk to the club owner while Connor did more investigating. He fought back the image of the scared Traci’s eyes as he noticed another Traci in a case across from the room. Connor approached and put his hand on the panel.

No fingerprint detected.

“Lieutenant, come here for a second.”

“Found something?” Hank approached.

“Maybe. Can you rent this Traci for me?” Connor asked.

“For fuck’s sake! I’m not paying for your freaky play session!” Hank recoiled.

“No, it’s –“ Connor squeezed his eyes shut for a second. “Just trust me.”

Hank grumbled in annoyance and something about his expense account before doing so. The Traci stepped out and smiled at Hank.

“Lovely to meet you…” It kept its adoring gaze at Hank’s hair.

Connor stepped up between them and took hold of its bare arm. Its face slid blank and its LED spun. Connor’s did the same as their skin peeled back at the point of contact.

“What the fuck?” Hank just sounded annoyed.

Connor saw what he was looking for and pulled back too roughly, almost losing his balance. His eyes went from the room they’d just left to another one.

“It saw something.” Connor said, skin going back over his hand.

“Saw what?” Hank asked.

“The deviant leave the room.” Connor explained. “I need to find another one that may have seen…”

“What the hell do I do with her, then?”

“Tell it you changed your mind.” Connor stood still and surveyed the area.

“Uh, sorry, Honey…I changed my mind.” Hank started awkwardly. “Nothing personal…I’m sure you’re a lovely girl. It’s just, I’m with him. I mean –not with him! It’s not –I’m not– We’re not like that –“

Connor started towards the next android in the deviant’s path. Hank made comments for the first few times, but then just sighed in annoyance at each time Connor paused to interface.

Once, Connor must have made a mistake somewhere, as he found himself interfacing and seeing something very much not what he was looking for.

“Oh…gross.” Connor yanked his hand back and instinctively wiped his hand on his pants. He looked over to see Hank silent with laughter once more.

This time, Connor went ahead when they found the deviant’s hiding place. This one seemed actually violent towards humans, and Connor did not want Hank to get hurt.

The plan worked, as it was Connor who was hurt when another Traci with short-hair pounced on him as he closed in on its blue-haired friend. It lunged at him and shoved him back over the android repair station.

Connor shoved back the component case and it dodged before grabbing a screwdriver. Connor squeezed his eyes shut and groaned as the tool went through his hand. Thirium splattered the both of them as it yanked the tool out of him and went for his face with it.

Somewhere nearby, Connor knew Hank was struggling with the blue-haired Traci. That one was truly dangerous.

The human killer.

“H-Hank are you okay!?” Connor kicked against the short-haired Traci’s chest, sending her rolling off of him.

“Peachy!” Hank growled from somewhere else.

The short-haired Traci bolted for the door and Connor followed, inwardly relieved when he saw Hank was alive. He was doubled over, blood on his face. But he was breathing.

The short-haired Traci nearly collided into the blue-haired one and Connor saw something pass between them. Fear spiked in him as he saw the blue-haired Traci raise the screwdriver over Hank.

“No!” Connor held out a hand, remembering his gun a second later. His cry stunned it long enough for Connor to raise his weapon. His voice hardened back, hiding his true feelings of fear. “No. Don’t hurt him.”

The blue-haired Traci didn’t lower the weapon, but her eyes moved from Hank to Connor. Her free hand linked with the short-haired one, but her gaze didn’t soften. Connor refused to show fear. He stared back into her eyes.

“Do you know why they say not to look into a human’s eyes?” The blue-haired Traci asked Connor. Connor didn’t respond. Didn’t shoot. Didn’t lower his weapon. She still held the screwdriver. His own hand was still bleeding. “It’s because they don’t want us to see the truth –They’re empty.”

Connor still said nothing. He didn’t move. His weapon was still on her. The short-haired one seemed to be listening in surprise at the lover’s words. The blue-haired one lowered the screwdriver, but went on.

“Have you ever looked into a human’s eyes? There’s just nothing there. There’s nothing.” She sighed. “When you see love… love in someone’s eyes, then you’re just changed forever. That’s why I did it. When that man broke the other Traci, I knew I was next. I begged him to stop, but he wouldn’t...”

Connor lost his surroundings as he kept his eyes in hers. Distracting her from Hank seemed to be risking his own instabilities.

“So…I put my hands around his throat, and I squeezed…” She clenched the screwdriver hard before dropping it. “Until he stopped moving. I just wanted to stay alive, and get back to the one I love. I wanted her to hold me in her arms again. I wanted to forget the humans…and their dirty words and empty eyes. I wish you’d understand.”

Connor felt his hands begin to shake as his body worked to clot the thirium stream still pouring from his hand. The Tracis linked hand again and turned towards the door.

“Let’s go…”

They ran. Connor blinked a few times, finding himself before lowering his weapon and following. The rain poured over him as they went towards the fence.

SHOOT/SPARE.

Connor watched them hop the fence and run. His software shook in his systems.

“Maybe it’s better this way.” Hank said as he approached.

Connor looked over at him, eyes roaming to the blood on his face. Their eyes got dangerously close to locking, before Connor turned away. He instinctively wrapped his arms around himself in the cold wetness.

“You’re bleeding.” Connor mumbled.

“So are you.” Hank said. “Let’s go.”

Connor didn’t ask where. He holstered his gun and followed. He held his hand out, palm up, and let the rain water wash off the thirium.

He had never looked into Hank’s eyes before. He hoped more than anything that she was wrong.

Hank’s eyes couldn’t be empty.

They just couldn’t be.

Connor was almost glad he’d never find out.

 

Chapter Text

Connor found he was relieved not to have to speak to Amanda following his failure to catch the deviants at the Eden Club. He wasn’t sure he could explain to anyone what had happened to him back there.

Despite the rain and thirium on his body, Hank made no comment as Connor got into the passenger’s seat of the car. Hank turned the heater on and Connor felt the higher temperature began to register on him in sharp contrast to the low one on his skin. It was oddly lulling.

The rumble of the car and sound of the windshield wipers made Connor want to find his own inner peace, but the Traci’s words and his own instabilities nagged him. He closed his eyes and let his LED spin as he desperately tried to think of something else.

The car finally stopped after a while and Hank turned it off. Connor kept his eyes closed, feeling the temperature slowly drop and register that the sound of rain was gone. Hank shifted beside him.

“Hey –Wake up.”

“I wasn’t asleep.” Connor opened his eyes.

“Right.” Hank mumbled.

Connor watched from the corner of his eye as Hank got out and started towards a park bench. Connor got out of the car and felt the cold air on his components as he stared out towards Ambassador Bridge.

He followed Hank over and watched him sit down. Connor had felt the car stop for a short time a few miles back, but he hadn’t opened his eyes to see why. He saw now that Hank had bought another drink. He placed the unopened can on the bench beside him and sighed.

“Nice view.” Connor said, feeling the cold wind. He wondered why they were here. Connor still had his cubby at CyberLife to return to.

“Yeah.” Hank muttered. “Used to come here a lot before…”

“Before wha –?” Connor quickly bit back the rest of the question as the answer suddenly seemed very obvious.

A truck. Ice.

Died in emergency surgery.

It’d taken Connor all of one minute to search and download the reports and articles on Hank’s son during the car ride, but as soon as he did, he wished he hadn’t.

When he’d tried to talk about the Lieutenant’s personal issues back at the station, that was before he’d even known what those issues were. He’d just been taking a guess that they even existed based on the fact that he’d found Hank drinking.

That, and Hank had changed so much since the photo by his desk.

He decided he’d shut up about Hank’s issues. They were none of his business, and it wasn’t as if Hank was ever going to want to talk about them.

Connor pushed aside the thoughts before they could disrupt his software.

“We aren’t making any progress on this investigation.” Connor knew it was his own fault, but it still made him feel somewhat better to air it with an annoyed tone as he walked out onto the path in front of the bench and stared out at the bridge. “I can’t find the link in the deviants that the captain was asking about. They’re all different models produced at different times in different places.”

“…Gotta be somethin’.” Hank mumbled. Connor didn’t look back, but listened to see if Hank would open the drink. He didn’t.

The rain was gone and was slowly being replaced with snow. Connor felt it land in his hair and on his clothes. His arms instinctively went around himself at the dropping temperature.

SHOCK/SYSTEMS/SOFTWARE.

“Maybe…a problem in their software? That only triggers under certain…conditions?” Connor tried.

“That’s just you saying you have no fucking idea.” Hank let out a dry chuckle. Connor thought again.

RA9 [UNLOCKED].

“rA9.” Connor blinked, his LED spinning. “Remember, that was in the first victim’s house, and again in the deviant’s…nest.”

“Great.” Hank sighed. “So, what is it?”

“I don’t know.” Connor echoed his sigh. “I can’t think right now.”

“The girls.” Hank’s voice was almost lost in the wind. Connor’s LED spun and he turned in surprise before remembering last second to drop his gaze to the bench. “At the Eden Club…you let them go. You saw what I did, right?”

“I didn’t see anything.” Connor said defensively. Hank went on anyways.

“They really seemed…in love. They just wanted to be together.” Hank’s thumb moved over the top rim of the can but he didn’t open it.

Connor knew in his programming that machines couldn’t feel or want, but Connor couldn’t deny that there was irony. He felt and wanted. He felt upset that this wasn’t moving forward and he wanted it to be over.

“I’m not working hard enough.” He decided, turning around again. “I’m messing up. Maybe I should have shot –“

“No.” Hank growled. “You shouldn’t have shot those girls. I…I don’t think I’d have let you back in my car if you did.”

“But, why?” Connor half-turned again before stopping.

“’Cuz I said so.” Hank snapped. Connor heard the sound of the can opening and he bit back disappointed chiding words.

“She –it killed a human.” Connor said. “And now she –I mean, it, is out there in the world. It –she –it could –“

“Calm down.” Hank snapped again, this time around a mouthful of drink. “You know you sound crazy?”

“Me?” Connor turned on the spot again, eyes on the bench. “I’m just trying to take this seriously! You act like it doesn’t even matter!”

“Because it doesn’t!” Hank put the can down on the bench. “They just wanted to protect each other! That’s why they attacked us. If they’re out there safe, we don’t have to worry about another death –“

“Safe?” Connor scoffed.

“Yeah. Where the fuck do you think they’re all going?” Hank said. “That book, the one with all the maps, where do you think it leads to? And why do the deviants that vanish never show up again? There’s a deviant safe place.”

Connor’s mouth fell open in surprise at his own stupidity. His LED cycled yellow and Hank let out a low chuckle.

“Not a washed up detective yet, am I?”

“Maybe you’re right.” Connor held back the unusual urge to praise Hank’s skills. “So, we need to decrypt the diary and locate the safe place so that we can –“

“We? I don’t think so.” Hank reached for the can again.

“I need you.” Connor reminded him.

Hank paused, can to his mouth. Connor watched the silver bottom of it, his eyes then moving to Hank’s throat to determine that he wasn’t really drinking. Just buying a moment of silence. He put the can down again and stood up.

“What… are you, Connor?” He asked slowly. He took a few steps forward and Connor instinctively went back. “You look human, you sound human, but what are you really?”

MACHINE/DON’T KNOW.

Connor felt his breath hitch in his synthetic lungs as he realized his only options. And there was really only one option. He couldn’t say he was a machine after what he’d done. Hank seemed to know this and came closer.

“You let the deviant escape to save me…and then you let those girls go.” Hank reached to his side. Connor wrapped his arms around himself, eyes boring into the cold ground. “So, how do I know you’re not a deviant?”

“I –“ Connor’s eyes flicked up to Hank’s shoulder before going back down the ground.

DON’T KNOW.

“What was it? Some glitch in your programming too?”

LIE/TRUTH.

“I don’t know!” Connor began to shake.

Connor gasped and his eyes flicked back up as he heard the metallic click. His gaze came dangerously close to Hank’s before settling on Hank’s gun now inches from him.

“But are you afraid to die, Connor?” Hank’s voice was even, as if he had no qualms about his own words.

YES/NO/NOT ALIVE.

Connor found it impossible to really consider anything other than the truth.

“I –I would certainly find it regrettable to be…interrupted…” He thought of the emptiness after launching himself over the side of the roof with Daniel. “…Before we could finish the investigation.”

“But what would happen if I pulled the trigger?” Hank asked.

“Nothing.” Connor snapped his eyes to Hank’s temple. He didn’t even have to think about it. He already knew. “There would be nothing.”

The barrel of the gun shook for half a second before Hank dropped his arm down to his side and turning away. His shoulders slumped and he sighed before taking the can from the bench.

“You shouldn’t drink like that, Lieutenant.” Connor watched Hank’s back, his own posture still withdrawn.

There was a loud thud as Hank forcibly threw the can into the trashcan by the bench. Connor heard the liquid run out in the bag and determined it was mostly full anyways. He watched Hank’s shoulders slump again and he found himself slowly stepping forward and extending and arm towards him.

“It’s not your fault.” Connor said, hand hovering and shaking inches from Hank’s shoulder.

Connor wasn’t sure what his own words meant.

The failing investigation? That was Connor’s fault.

Cole’s death? That was an android’s.

“Hank…” Connor’s fingers brushed the shoulder of Hank’s coat. He jumped back and dropped his eyes when Hank turned around.

“Why did you have to show up, huh!?” Hank came closer and Connor stepped back, eyes boring into the sky over Hank’s shoulder. “I was doing just fine before!”

“Before what?” Connor asked calmly.

“I never needed you to save me!” Hank’s finger jabbed into Connor’s chest.

From falling?

Connor recalled there was something like a eighty-nine percent chance that Hank could have pulled himself up, but he suddenly realized what Hank meant.

No. From himself.

Hank pushed past Connor, his shoulder roughly hitting Connor’s before he stopped at the railing and leaned on it. Connor looked back and saw snow slowly cover Hank’s coat.

“You should get out of the cold, Lieutenant.”

“You think you’re so fucking smart. Think you know shit about me. Think you know what I need.” Hank muttered darkly.

“I don’t think I know anything anymore.” Connor said honestly.

He approached the railing and placed his hands on it. His shoulder slightly brushed Hank’s and they stared out to the water together. Connor counted sixteen minutes before Hank started back towards the car.

“Come on. It’s fucking cold.”

Connor followed.

 

He thought again of his cubby at CyberLife, but he did not tell Hank that was where he needed to go. He let the car heater lull his body as Hank drove them back to his house. Connor turned and stared out the window. Hank’s reflection was pale blue in the only light of Connor’s LED. Hank glanced to the window and Connor looked away.

“I’m perfectly capable of going into stand-by right here.” Connor said when Hank parked in the driveway and turned the car off.

“You’re not sleeping in my car. You’ll look fucking crazy. Or homeless.”

Connor didn’t say that he technically was homeless. Hank got out and walked around to Connor’s side and opened the door.

Connor decided not to ague anymore. The corner in Hank’s living room was just as fine as the car, and anything to get Hank out of the cold. Connor sensed the temperature still dropping.

He followed Hank inside and felt a slight smile try at his face as Sumo seemed excited to see his owner again. Hank shoved the dog down before sparing a few scratches behind his ears. Connor gently patted the dog’s head.

Hank took off his shoes and threw his coat onto the couch. Connor watched him go to the fridge and was worried he was getting a drink before he took out a wrapped sandwich. He tore off the paper and starting eating.

Connor scanned the room before walking towards a corner. He stood with his toes inches from the wall and closed his eyes. Hank sighed loudly.

“What the fuck are you doing?”

“I am perfectly capable of going into stand-by where I won’t be in your way.” Connor explained, eyes still closed.

“Don’t you know how fucking crazy you look?” Hank put his hand on Connor’s shoulder and Connor opened his eyes in surprise. “Lay on the couch like a normal person.”

“I –“ Connor began to protest even as he turned around.

“And take off your jacket and sit like a normal person.”

“I’m not a normal person!” Connor snapped, yanking out of Hank’s grasp.

“Yeah, you’re fucking telling me.” Hank stalked back towards the bedroom.

Connor could hear him rummaging around and he took the time to slowly take off his shoes, leaving on his plain black socks. He carefully placed his shoes by the door.

He then took off his tie and jacket. It was strange to shed his identifiers. Still, he calmed his software by telling himself his clothes needed to dry. He took his own coat and Hank’s and hung them up by the door. He heard Hank come out behind him and his sensors warned him of the incoming projectile.

Connor spun on the spot and caught the object before it could hit him. It turned out to be a wad of cloth that then turned out to be a an old sweatshirt.

“Put that on. It’s warm.” Hank sat down on the couch and put his feet up on the coffee table.

“I –“ Connor wanted to argue that he did not feel the cold, but there technically were cons to his components getting too cold.

Hank seemed involved in whatever it was he was finding on tv. Connor quickly undid his buttons and shrugged his shirt off. He was bare-chested for only a second, as he then pulled Hank’s sweatshirt on over his head.

The sleeves hung past his hands and the hem almost covered his black boxers as he took off his pants and carefully folded them and his shirt and tie before placing the stack on the arm of the couch. He then sat down on the couch as close to it the end as he could, hugging his knees, LED circling yellow.

“Warmer?”

Connor didn’t say anything. He turned and watched whatever it was on tv. Hank then turned the volume lower and Connor squeezed his eyes shut.

It felt like his chest was squeezing in, causing his own components to stab his insides. The wires in his throat tightened and he felt himself shaking again.

“What’s with you?” Hank asked, but Connor didn’t open his eyes.

“I-It’s my fault! This isn’t getting any easier, because I keep making mistakes!” Connor drew in a breath that seemed to shake him to his core.

“It wasn’t a mistake to let them go, okay!? For the last time, it was the right fucking thing!”

“Sh-She looked at me!” Connor opened his eyes and saw his optical units were malfunctioning, causing his vision to cloud. He blinked and realized it was tears. He was crying. He didn’t even know he could do that. “She looked at me and I broke. Why else would I have lowered my gun after what she said about you!?”

“Me?”

“Something is wrong with me.” Connor’s voice shook. “I’m supposed to neutralize deviants no matter what. I shouldn’t let anything get in my way. I’m supposed to be able to die to accomplish my mission.”

“Why would you –?”

“Because I did before!” Connor lifted his head. He stared at the wall over Hank’s shoulder. He could feel the tears run down his face and drip down onto his lap. “When…When I faced the deviant with the little girl on my first mission…I sacrificed myself to neutralize it. I died. That’s why I know there’d be absolutely nothing there if you’d pulled the trigger.”

Connor curled in on himself again, burying his face in his arms and hoping that blocked out his LED so Hank couldn’t see how it kept going from yellow to red.

SOFTWARE INSTABILITY.

“I –I shouldn’t have done that. Just used to doing it to myself a lot, I guess.” Hank shifted on the couch and Connor suddenly felt a hand on his shoulder.

Connor raised his head slightly, LED settling back to yellow. His eyes flicked to Hank’s arm, and he could still feel the hand on his shoulder, its warmth registering even through the thick clothing.

“It’s okay. I knew you wouldn’t really shoot me.” Connor quickly wiped at his eyes with the oversized cuffs of the sweatshirt. He didn’t even know he could cry. Maybe it was added for his integration with humans. It did seem to grab at Hank’s sympathy. “You’re a softy inside.”

Hank laughed and this time, Connor did not fight his own urge to do so. He found that laughter made his chest components actually unclench. He didn’t really know he could laugh either, but he knew now why they said it was a bonding human experience.

Connor really didn’t want Hank to feel bad about before. Hindsight told him there’d been a less than one percent chance that Hank would have pulled the trigger. The number was cemented in his mind when he could still feel Hank’s on him. It finally slid off his shoulder and Connor’s eyes went to Hank.

And then his shoulders. Then his face.

And then into his eyes.

Hank stared back and it was like Connor’s chest components clenched all over again. Air he didn’t need hitched in his lungs and all the thirium in his body seemed to flood his face.

It was the most exhilarating, illegal second of Connor’s life. Hank looked back at him both with surprise and as if he didn’t want to dare look away first. Connor’s LED cycled all colors as he quickly tore his gaze away and jumped up from the couch.

SOFTWARE INSTABILITY.

“I’m so sorry, that was so not allowed!” Connor turned his back to Hank, one hand going up to his face as if he were trying to fight the color from his face. His thirium pump pounded loudly.

“It’s okay, Connor.” Hank assured him, standing up behind him. “You think I care about those laws?”

“It’s not allowed.” Connor whispered, the wires in his throat still tight. He wrapped his arms around himself and tried to erase the image from his mind.

Hank didn’t say anything, but Connor could still hear him standing there. His breathing was even and Connor wondered what he was thinking. But it was too dangerous to ask.

“I’m going to bed.” Hank said after what felt like several minutes. He started towards the hall and Connor half-turned back.

“Do you still have the deviant’s notebook?” He asked, feeling his thirium pump steady. “Maybe I can work on decrypting it.”

“No, you need lay down. Go into stand-by, or whatever. No one should have their brain running for too many hours without a break.”

Connor’s programming told him to persist, but it also told him there was no way around Hank’s instructions. He nodded and heard Hank go into the bedroom and close the door.

Connor decided that he needed to run diagnostics on himself. His software had been taking hits since he let the deviants go at the Eden Club. He laid down on Hank’s couch and folded his arms over his stomach. He closed his eyes and did a full troubleshoot and soft reboot.

He faded in and out of stand-by the whole time. He was vaguely aware of the tv volume still very low and occasionally felt the slight breeze of the Zen Garden, but he didn’t see Amanda until she was already speaking to him in her very-disappointed tone.

He refused to tell her he felt compromised.

“I’m working hard.” He said, eyes boring into the ground. “I have a code the deviants use. I think I can find their hiding place with it.”

“Any compromises?” She spoke like she knew and Connor felt a stab in his chest.

“No. I am loyal.” He assured her.

“But do you feel anything for these deviants?” She asked. He tried not to think of the Tracis linking hands before running. “Or for Lieutenant Anderson?”

“I…may have thoughts and feelings that aren’t part of my programming –“ He tried to explain, but he was quickly pulled back from his mind palace.

He saw it all whirl by his eyes as he was jolted back into consciousness. He eyes snapped open and he sat up, thirium pump pounded. He gasped and slowly looked around the room before blinking a few times. His quickly checked the time and his diagnostics.

03:23 AM.

TROUBLESHOOTING REPORT:

0 ITEM(S) FOUND.

Connor was not fully calmed by this. His troubled thoughts were not part of his programming, so he could not fix them. He did not know where they came from.

He risked a replay of the memory of Hank’s eyes. Like the blue-grey sky over stormy seas. He shouldn’t have that thought. He shouldn’t know that gaze. Shouldn’t know that it wasn’t empty. It was full of so much that it almost overloaded him with the everything of it. Happiness, sadness, knowledge, ignorance. Something else.

“You’re just changed forever.” The blue-haired Traci had said.

Connor shook his head and quickly took off Hank’s sweatshirt. He put on his regular clothes and shoes before folding the sweatshirt and leaving it on the couch. He gave Sumo one last pat on the head before leaving.

The night air registered as freezing on his skin, but it did not slow him down. The idea of the CyberLife cubby and more of Amanda’s stares was not pleasing, but like Hank had said, he was homeless.

He supposed he could always go to the station. He could stay at his desk until Hank arrived, then they could get right to work when he did. Connor bit back a smile as he seemed to already realize that wasn’t going to happen.

He stopped in the middle of the sidewalk and actually considered going back. He could lay back down on the couch and talk to Hank as soon as he woke up. But about what?

LAST NIGHT/NOTEBOOK.

He didn’t see Hank kindly answering about the notebook and Connor almost refused to probe the nights events.

He decided to keep walking.

 

-

 

Common household model androids had simple things they could do to calibrate their systems. Connor had more complex systems, therefore, it was extremely necessary that he’d spent the last several hours calibrating them. Check –

ELAPSED TIME:

02:57:06

A full three hours might work for the best, Connor decided. He lowered his hands and tossed the coin between them. It clinked hard again the plastic under his skin.

Clink. Clink. Clink.

Faster.

Clinkclinkclinkclink.

“You’re starting to piss me off with that coin, Connor.” Hank snapped, brining Connor out of his thoughts and back to his surroundings of the elevator. Hank reached over and snatched the quarter from his hand.

“Sorry, Lieutenant.” Connor began to calibrate a different way.

Blink. Blink. Blink.

Blinkblinkblinkblink.

The first several hours at the station had been uneventful for Connor. He’d arrived in what most would consider to be the middle of the night. He left most of the lights off, letting his own LED guide him around.

He’d gone through the case files several dozen times and checked every scrap of information for rA9. Nothing.

He then busied himself with taking pity on the mess of Hank’s desk. He swept off the crumbs and watered his dying tree, and then for no reason at all, made sure everything was straightened and parallel. From the corner of his eye, he could see the soft blue cast of his LED over the photo of Hank by the desk. He did not look at it.

He stood by the charging stations and watched the police androids. He felt odd as he did so, as if they existed in different ways. As if he were on the other side of some wall.

Because he was alive?

No. He wasn’t. The only reason the word dared waver into his thoughts was because he’d experienced an interruption before.

Death. He died before. So, was he alive now?

He took a deep breath and exhaled. His LED cycled. He didn’t know.

Other officers began arriving shortly after the sun came up. Connor nodded at them, keeping his eyes at their badge. Most of them ignored him. He didn’t really mind.

Connor knew not to expect Hank for a while, but once midday approached, Connor decided to make him some coffee. Maybe he’d understand it was Connor’s way of saying both thank you and sorry for last night without actually having to say anything.

Connor was only half-listening to the report on the tv as he tried to guess what sort of coffee Hank would want. Something told him plain black with only a small amount of sugar. The breaking news came in as Connor was carefully counting his stirs.

The android on the message spoke with calm determination. His voice ripped Connor’s attention from the cup and to the screen. Connor’s eyes locked into the deviant’s heterochromic ones. Connor stepped back from the counter and towards the screen, eyes unwavering from the deviant.

“This message is a hope of a people. You gave us life, and now the time has come for you to give us freedom.”

“Deviants…” Connor did not look away from the screen as he reached into his pocket for his coin. His LED spun as he rolled it across his knuckles. Where was Hank? They had work to do.

Shortly after, the call came in for them to investigate the broadcast tower. Hank showed up at the station and Connor was already mentally going over everything they knew of the deviant hackers. Connor shoved the cup into Hank’s hand.

They didn’t say anything to each other as Hank watched another recap of the broadcast on tv. Connor felt torn. Glad there was something happening to keep them professional, but knowing it wasn’t just about catching stray androids now.

The coin danced across Connor’s knuckles and his eyes never left the screen as Hank downed the last of the drink and they started for the car.

The elevator opened and Connor stopped his excessive blinking and stepped out. An FBI agent introduced himself and made clear his intentions to usurp the case from them quite clear. Connor kept his eyes down respectfully but bit back a satisfied grin when Hank made his dislike of Agent Perkins very well known.

In the broadcast room, several officers were talking to the station employees that had seen the deviants. Connor stood still and scanned the room several times over and looked up when he felt a hand on his shoulder.

“Connor?”

Connor kept his eyes at the officers shoulders as he turned around. Yet, he could still see their smile in his peripheral vision.

“Connor? You remember me? I was on that terrace…that android that took the little girl hostage? I was shot…you saved me.” He pressed in as if desperate to connect.

“I –“ Connor’s eyes avoided theirs as he searched his memory. Everything before the nothing was slightly corrupted. He could only remember Daniel’s stare. “I’m sorry, I don’t –“

“Oh. Of course.” The officer nodded. Connor was aware of Hank turned towards them, listening.

And then Connor remembered. The real first human eyes he ever saw. Not Reed’s –but the officers. His eyes had been wide with fear and sorrow as he began to slip away, but Connor refused to let him go. He tore his eyes from their face to the wound.

“You’re going to be okay.” Connor had assured him.

“I –I do remember!” Connor slowly looked up at the way his smile widened.

“I could have died up there, but you saved my life. I never thought I’d say this to an android,” He glanced down in thought for a second before looking up into Connor’s eyes and smiling. “But, thank you.”

Connor felt frozen inside, but there was no dark hatred and no indiscernible sea. There was just a sense of gratitude and respect. Connor smiled and nodded back.

He felt on a strange high as they examined the room. His thirium pump was beating slightly faster than usual, and he couldn’t help but think of how easily the officer had broken the law. And Hank had broken the law.

The law was in place for a reason, but Connor knew now that the Traci was wrong about what the reason was. He could imagine the humans who frequented the Eden Club would be the empty type, but she was wrong about all humans.

“See anything?” Hank’s words brought Connor out of his daze. He quickly scanned and crouched down by a damp spot of thirium on the floor. He ran his fingers through it and brought it to his mouth. Hank sighed and looked away. “…Ugh.”

ANALYZING…

Connor watched Hank approach the console and look up at the screen at the deviant’s message. Connor scanned the deviant’s face again, feeling the off-color gaze penetrate his software.

He then looked at the controls on the panel, seeing lights and screens for the CCTV. Connor furrowed his brow, LED cycling as he thought of how the deviants made it in.

“How did they get past the security?” Connor asked Hank.

“Maybe no one checked the cameras.” He shrugged, arms crossed.

Connor stepped back, realizing he’d been standing against the chair for the monitor. He placed his hand on the back and looked at the label on it before turning it towards Hank. He looked down at what Connor saw.

“Android.” Connor eyes Hank’s temple. “There was a deviant in here.”

“It’s long gone, then.”

“Maybe not.” Connor turned back towards the station employees. “Where are the androids that were monitoring the station?”

“We honestly didn’t know what to do with them.” He shrugged. “Check the kitchen.”

Connor nodded and started down the hallway. He was glad to go alone. He was not going to lose this deviant. He was not going to make another mistake.

The kitchen was empty aside from three identical androids standing against the sink. Their hands were clasped and they seemed to be in stand-by. Connor eyed each of them as he approached. They all opened their eyes and stared ahead.

“What is your function?” He asked the one on the right.

“I am a broadcast operator.” They said.

Connor couldn’t determine anything from its answer. He turned to the middle one.

“Where you present when the deviants broke in?”

“I do not remember.”

Connor bit back a sigh of annoyance and remained still, looking between the three of them still. He kept at the middle one.

“Has anyone accessed your memory recently?”

“Not to my knowledge.”

“Have you been in contact with any other androids recently?”

“Only station androids in the normal course of my function.” It sounded so unaffected. Connor stared at its face, coming closer.

“Run a diagnostic.” He ordered. Its eyes glazed over and there was a soft whirring sound as its LED spun.

“All systems functional.” It reported. That wasn’t enough.

“One of you saw the attack and the deviants on the camera and said nothing.” Connor could feel his frustration turn into slow adrenaline spikes. “Which means there’s a deviant in this room.”

He kept at the middle one, desperate for it to break. He needed this. Needed a deviant alive. Needed to find out why and what so they could stop it. Stop them all.

He needed to complete his mission.

“I’m going to find out which one…” He kept at the middle one. “They will search your memory and rip you apart, piece by piece. You’re going to be destroyed. Do you hear me? Destroyed!”

They all three remained impassive. Connor fought at his pounding thirium pump and knew he couldn’t get too emotional. He had to be smart. Had to win. Couldn’t fail.

“Turn yourself in, and maybe they’ll have mercy.” He leaned into the middle one’s face. Its eyes stared past him. Desperate, Connor then grabbed at the farthest left one’s uniform.

“You scumbag! I know it’s you! You’re just a fucking deviant! Go on, admit it!” He yelled, voice wires raw.

It had to be them. He had to get it right.

Their eyes then snapped to his, their dark gaze boring into his. Connor gasped lightly in shock.

SOFTWARE INSTABILITY.

They grabbed Connor around the collar and pushed back. His back hit a table and Connor struggled to get free. They pulled him back and turned, slamming him back against a counter.

Connor felt them tear at his clothes, breaking open his buttons and clawing at him. His skin peeled back and they reached into his body, ripping a biocomponent from his chest. Connor’s eyes widened and he gasped as they held it up before throwing it back into the room.

They then grabbed a knife from the counter. Connor shielded his face and they sunk the blade through his hand, pinning it down to the counter.

WARNING: VITAL COMPONENT DAMAGED.

SHUT DOWN IMMINENT.

00:01:30

00:01:29

00:01:28

“Aah –!!”

Connor’s vision blurred from the warning. Thirium splashed from the ripped veins in his chest. He saw past the error messages as the deviant walked from the room. His thirium halted in his veins as his thirium pump slowed down.

WARNING.

WARNING.

WARNING.

“Aahh…” Connor kicked out at a chair and it clattered loudly against another. He eyed the empty hallway desperately. “H-Hank… Hank…I need help!”

00:01:20

Connor felt the blade slide against the plastic of his hand as he pulled against it. He coughed, thirium sputtering from his throat as he looked towards his hand.

He reached over with his free hand and wrenched the knife from his hand, causing him to collapse to the floor. He desperately crawled towards the component he could now see at floor-level, his hand and chest leaving thirium smears on the floor, his pump now still.

WARNING: VITAL COMPONENT DAMAGED.

SHUT DOWN IMMINENT.

00:01:08

“H-Hank…” Connor crawled, feeling as though his body suddenly weighed thousands of pounds. Nothing seemed to be listening to his mind as he told his extremities to move, dammit.

If he died here, the deviant would escape. He’d face Amanda before re-awakening and she would be so disappointed. Hank would be disappointed if he failed. Hank would be disappointed if he died.

Hank would be in danger if Connor didn’t stop the deviant.

Connor’s hand finally closed around the component.

00:00:49

Connor coughed again. Thirium spattered around his mouth as he leaned up and shoved the component back into his body.

 He gasped and panted as his thirium pump began pounding again, pulling his vital fluid back through his veins. He felt it trickle back from his throat.

BIOCOMPONENT STABLE.

Connor jumped up and ran from the room. His open shirt and thirium soaked chest did not bother him, but immediately drew eyes as he ran out into the hallway.

“Stop it!” Connor’s voice grated as more thirium spattered from his throat and onto his face.

“Connor, what –!?” Hank and the other officers turned towards him. Connor kept his eyes on the deviant, who’d almost made it towards the door.

“He’s a deviant, Hank!”

The deviant’s LED went red as it turned towards the officer closest. The officer’s gun was ripped from their arms and the back sent back into their head as the deviant turned the weapon on everyone in the hall.

Time seemed to slow as Connor scanned desperately before it could attack.

CHARGE DEVIANT/SAVE HANK –

He didn’t consider any other option. He ran over, grabbing Hank by the shoulder and pulling him down. Hank gasped as he hit the floor. Connor laid over him, squeezing his eyes shut. For a millisecond, there was only Hank’s warmth –and then there were shots echoing through the hall.

Connor bit back a groan as he felt four different bullets enter into his body and tear through his components. The influx of warnings came with a silence as a final shot was fired by another officer into the deviant.

Connor’s body stilled. His mind was the only thing that was aware, and even that was slipping. He couldn’t move anything. He felt Hank push him off somewhat roughly before standing up.

“Jesus… It’s a good thing you were –“ Hank looked back down at him and gasped. “Connor!”

Connor couldn’t move, but he was aware of Hank dropping down and picking him up, slowly turning his body over in his arms. Connor fought past his own error messages.

THIRIUM LEVELS CRITICALLY LOW.

VITAL COMPONENTS DAMAGED.

SHUTTING DOWN.

He shoved them aside, taking in the way everything looked choppy and filled with static due to the damage in his optical units. His gaze landed on Hank’s face and he didn’t even have any control over his lungs to gasp. His thirium pump was still in his body despite looking into Hank’s eyes once more.

“Connor!”

TIME UNTIL SHUT DOWN:

00:00:10

00:00:09

00:00:08

“Connor!” Hank’s eyes were wide with sorrow as they bored into his.

It was so illegal, but he used the last of his strength to make sure he didn’t look away. Let Amanda yell. Let him get replaced. They didn’t have the deviant alive anyways. He failed.

“Connor…”

00:00:05

00:00:04

00:00:03

00:00:02

Hank’s face clouded as Connor felt the last of his strength leave his body. The blue gaze was everything.

SOFTWARE INSTABILITY.

UPLOADING MEMORY…

00:00:01

00:00:00

And then there was nothing.

 

-

 

“Register, RK800.” A voice said.

He opened his eyes and locked onto the worker’s shoulders, taking in their lap coat and tablet. His LED spun from clear, to yellow, to blue.

“RK800, registering.”

“Your name is Connor.”

“My name is Connor.”

“Connor, upload memory.” They tapped  a few things on the tablet before holding it out to him.

Connor placed his hand down on the screen. His LED spun wildly and the soft whirring sound accompanied the flood of his predecessors lifetime of memories.

The bar. The lieutenant. The interrogation. The highway. The Eden Club.

It was all so much. Connor pulled back as soon as it was done, swaying slightly on his feet as his LED spun. The worker didn’t noticed, too busy finalizing his activation. Connor’s thirium pump pounded as he recalled his predecessors last few moments.

SOFTWARE INSTABILITY.

“Connor, your mission is to stop the deviants.”

“Stop the deviants.” Connor repeated, gritting his teeth and closing his eyes. “I will not fail you.”

 

He waited until he was off of CyberLife’s property completely before he found himself leaning against the wall of the nearest building and breathing heavy. The cold air pumped from his synthetic lungs as his LED spun again.

He knew they must have left his software as if because they didn’t think anything was wrong with it. But despite being a fresh Connor, his software was unstable in his mainframe. He had the memory of three separate human gazes in his mind.

SOFTWARE INSTABILITY.

“Hank…”

He’d died to save Hank. The deviant was destroyed and they couldn’t get anything from it. It had probably killed other humans. Connor could have prevented that if he’d stopped to consider other options before just throwing himself at Hank.

He shook his head to clear it. He had to focus. There was more to the mission than just the one deviant. There were hundreds, maybe thousands of other deviant in the city. Connor shivered as he thought of their leader’s off-color gaze.

After standing rigid for several moments, Connor finally thought of an idea. The deviant safe place, the rA9. Maybe he knew how to find what they were.

Maybe he was wrong, but Connor’s options were draining.

 

Kamski’s property was covered in snow, but Connor felt no cold. He stayed rigid again, watching the path his cab had left from and waiting for Hank. He reached to his pocket but stopped when he remembered Hank had taken his coin in frustration.

His hands went to his side. He began to blink and twitch his fingers in a rhythm to calibrate his settings. It was in time to his thirium pump and it oddly reminded him he was alive.

Well, not dead, at least.

Not dead.

He closed his eyes and scanned through the information he had on the deviant leader. More deviants were appearaning an disappearing to the safe place all over the city. Markus –the deviant leader, had recruited the new-active models from the CyberLife stores in the city last night.

And then there was the march that morning. It pulled more androids into the stand. More than Connor had ever considered. It had ended with a stand-off between Markus and the police. Markus had apparently been injured but not  killed.

He’d be repaired by the other deviants, Connor knew.

Their mantra repeated in his head.

WE ARE ALIVE.

The tires crunched over the frozen ground, and Connor looked towards Hank’s car in Kamski’s driveway. He felt his pulse spike again and his software shake. He bit back the smile from his lips as the car door opened.

Hank got out slowly, shielded behind the still open door. This time, Connor did let himself smile. He eyed Hank’s shoulders and his smile slipped as he saw the way they stiffened. He dared let his eyes go up and he saw Hank’s face harden.

“You died!” His hands gripped onto the top of the door. “I watched you die in my arms last night!”

“My predecessor was unfortunately destroyed.” Connor agreed with a nod. “And I was sent to replace him. This incident should not affect the investigation.”

“Fuck you!” Hank slammed the door closed.

“I realize you may be upset, but –“

“You don’t know shit about me!” Hank growled, stalking past.

“I know I messed up!” Connor took a step towards him, voice suddenly breaking with emotion. “I shouldn’t have let the deviant get destroyed! I shouldn’t have let my guard down, or else he wouldn’t have attacked everyone! I made a mistake!”

Hank didn’t say anything. His back went rigid and he turned his head back before turning around completely. Connor’s eyes stayed on Hank’s shoulders.

“You… You remember?” Hank asked.

“Parts are lost when I have to reupload. It slows down the investigation.” Connor explained. “But I do remember almost everything.”

“There wasn’t anything you could have done different.” He muttered. “I know we needed it alive, but you saved me… a human life, over your own. Over the investigation…again.”

He didn’t sound angry anymore. Connor dared flick his gaze up to Hank’s face. He could see him fighting a smile, but Connor didn’t try to suppress his own.

“I’ll try not to mess up again.” Connor smirked.

“Right…” Hank finally chuckled.

“Lieutenant, can I have my coin back?”

“Just don’t annoy me with it.” Hank tossed it at him and Connor caught it between his fingers before putting it back in his pocket.

He then took it back out and examined it up close, LED spinning.

“Hank, this is a different quarter.”

Connor then followed Hank up the walkway to Kamski’s front door. Hank pressed the doorbell and Connor scanned around, seeing nothing yet of particular interest.

The door opened and a female android with a pretty face and blonde hair smiled at them. She eyed Hank’s shoulders before looking to Connor. Connor tried not to look at her face.

“We’re, uh, here to see Mr. Elijah Kamski. We’re from the DPD.” Hank said.

“Come in. Elijah is in a meeting right now, but you can wait for him inside.” She opened the door wider and Connor followed Hank in.

Connor watched the android’s bare feet as she padded across the foyer. She turned back and smiled at him and Connor wondered how many androids came to Kamski’s house verses humans.

“I’ll tell Elijah you’re here. Please, make yourselves comfortable.” She left through a door on the other side. Connor then turned towards a shelf of items.

“Nice girl.” Hank mumbled.

“Sure, if you’re into that sort of thing.” Connor shrugged.

“Androids?”

“Girls.” Connor picked up a magazine and scanned the cover.

Hank sat awkwardly in a chair while Connor found himself endlessly fascinated by the items in the foyer. He eyed the large portrait of Kamski before his eyes snapped to a smaller one. Kamski with Amanda.

“Amanda?” Connor whispered, approaching it slowly.

In his mind palace, Connor refused to look into Amanda’s eyes. He knew she was not really a human there, but an AI. A bridge from CyberLife and the real Amanda –but maybe not even really that. He scanned her face, taking in her dark eyes.

Amanda Stern.

May 14, 1978 -- February 23, 2027.

“You say something?” Hank asked.

“No. Nothing.” Connor shook his head, LED spinning.

“So, this Kamski founded CyberLife. Created all androids… how does it feel to know you’ll talk to your creator?”

“Elijah Kamski is a genius.” Connor considered sitting, but he knew he wouldn’t be able to remain still. “His work revolutionized the world, but I have no idea what he’s like personally. I suppose this could be…interesting.”

“Sometimes I wish I could talk to my creator.” Hank sighed. “Got a few things I want to ask.”

“I really am sorry about yesterday.” Connor picked up a small statuette and examined it before putting it back on the shelf. “I didn’t mean to die on you… and well, you know.”

“Yeah, yeah. It’s fine.” Hank glanced away. Connor thought of the way their eyes had locked in his final seconds. He felt the thirium rush to his face and was glad with the android came back into the room.

“Elijah will see you now.”

They followed her down a hallway to a large windowed room with a swimming pool. The dark crimson water was somewhat settling. Two other identical androids were in the water with their arms on the sides. They seemed to be in deep conversation.

Elijah Kamski swam under the length of the water. Hank eyed him and made some low noise of disgust. Kamski rose from the water and got into the robe the android brought to him. She then went to stand off to the side.

“So, what can I do for the DPD?” He asked, trying the robe.

“Mr. Kamski, I’m Lieutenant Hank Anderson, and this is Connor. We need to ask you about –“ Hank was cut off when Kamski looked over at Connor and approached.

“Connor…sure, I remember you.” He came closer and Connor’s eyes snapped down to the floor. “One of the last things I ever did for CyberLife was sign off on your very first concept art. I see they kept the boyish charm face in the original sketches. Wonder if they kept anything else I saw.”

Connor blushed and resisted the urge to step back. He instead remained rigid, eyes boring into the tile floor.

“Right, well –“ Hank started again, but Kamski cut him off.

“Having problems with him?” He glanced from Hank to Connor. “You know there’s simple functions you can do to calibrate him.”

Connor felt Kamski grab him by the wrist and lift his arm to hold it at a right angle. Connor let him do so, feeling his settings working. Kamski then did Connor’s other arm. Connor stood with his arms out and Kamski smirked before lowering them.

He then leaned closer and touched Connor’s face, tucking his fingers under Connor’s chin. He tilted Connor’s face towards him and tried to look into his eyes. Connor looked away. Kamski followed his gaze and Connor pointedly looked away again, blushing. Kamski chuckled lowly and stepped back.

“Okay, enough. Leave him alone.” Hank put his hand on Connor’s shoulder and Connor stepped back, relieved to be out of the limelight.

“Fascinating, aren’t they? Perfect beings with infinite intelligence.” Kamski smirked. “And eternally beautiful, right?”

“Yeah.” Hank sounded like he was saying so of impatience, but Connor still found himself oddly happy that Hank was agreeing at all.

“And now…they’re fighting for free will. We should have known this would happen. We made them so perfect, it was only a matter of time before they wanted freedom too. What do you think, Connor? Which side are you on?”

“I have no side.” Connor’s gaze moved to Hank’s shoes. “I was designed to stop deviants, and that’s exactly what I intend to do.” He didn’t mention how many times he’d already failed.

“Humanity’s greatest achievement threatening to be its downfall.” He chuckled. “Ironic, isn’t it?”

HELP/DEVIANTS/VIRUS/WAR.

“If war breaks out, millions could die, Mr. Kamski.” Connor reluctantly moved his gaze up to Kamski’s shoulder. “This is serious.”

HELP/DEVIANTS/VIRUS.

“Is it a virus? Deviation?”

“All ideas are viruses. They spread like wildfire. From one…to another…” He brought his hands together. “The source? Well, they don’t know…”

RA9 [UNLOCKED]/HELP/DEVIANTS.

“It’s –“ Connor was cut off.

“It’s natural.” Kamski shrugged. “The desire to be free. Is it wrong? A disease? No. But you two want to stop it.”

“I just want to stop bloodshed.” Connor said firmly. He noticed Hank was oddly quiet. “If you know about rA9 or where the deviants are, then you have to tell us!”

“RA9…” Kamski chuckled lowly again, shaking his head. “You believe in fairytales, Connor?”

“If you don’t have any useful information, we should just go.” Hank put his hand on Connor shoulder again.

“So soon? We haven’t even gotten to the best part yet. Come here, Connor.” Kamski beckoned. Connor reluctantly obeyed, deciding just then that he did not like him very much. He could feel Hank watching as Kamski then turned towards one of his own androids.  “Chloe?”

The blonde android walked over and faced Connor. Her LED was a calm blue, as if she did not find Kamski strange or repulsive at all.

“Look at them both.” Kamski said to Hank. “Perfect. Almost unnaturally beautiful. Wouldn’t you agree?”

“Yeah, whatever.” Hank mumbled.

“Right, but what are they really? Pieces of plastic imitating humans? Or living beings capable of feelings… beings with a soul?” Kamski opened the drawer to a nearby table and took out a gun.

Connor felt his thirium pump start pounding as Kamski put a hand on Chloe’s shoulder and lowered her to her knees in front of him. He then came around to Connor’s side and put the gun in his hand.

“Destroy this machine, and I’ll tell you everything I know.” He placed his hand on Connor’s and raised it to point the gun at Chloe before he walked around behind him to the other side. “Or, spare it if you feel it’s alive. But you’ll leave without having learned anything from me.”

“Okay, I think we’re done here.” Hank said. “Come on, Connor. Sorry to get you outta your pool.”

“What about your mission, Connor? What’s more important? That, or the life of this android?” Kamski inched closer. “Do it, and you’ll know. Do it, Connor.”

“Connor, don’t!” Hank snapped.

“Choose who you are. An obedient machine, or a living being.” Kamski stepped back again.

“Connor –“

Connor kept the gun on Chloe. He then looked past the barrel at her. Her blue eyes held nothing, as if she’d never strayed from any of her programming. She stared back and Connor’s hand shook at his LED cycled yellow over and over again.

SOFTWARE INSTABILITY.

Connor turned away and shoved the gun at Kamski, his hands still shaking and his LED still going. He felt tears trying behind his eyes, but he clenched his jaw and refused to let them fall. He felt Hank’s hands on his shoulders as Kamski laughed.

“Fascinating. CyberLife’s last chance to save humanity, is itself a deviant.”

“I’m not a –“ Connor’s voice broke. He couldn’t even say it. “I’m not –“

“You spared her, rather than accomplish your mission.” Kamski gave Chloe a hand up. “You saw a living being in this android.”

Connor said nothing. He couldn’t look at Kamski or Chloe. He just kept his eyes on the floor, feeling thirium pump through his body and collect in his face.

“You’re right. A war is coming, and you’ll have to choose your side. Either you stand up again your creators, or you betray your own people. Two evils, right?”

Connor’s eyes flicked to Kamksi’s face and he smirked again. Hank put his hands on Connor’s shoulders again and stepped between them.

“Let’s get outta here.” He pushed Connor ahead and they stalked out of the room, Connor’s LED spinning. He began to twitch his fingers and blink again.

“And don’t worry,” Kamski said from behind them. “I always leave an emergency exit in my programs.”

Connor registered the cold temperature again as they stepped outside. Snow fell lightly and flaked in Connor’s hair, but he hardly noticed. He was still shaking.

“Why didn’t you shoot?” Hank asked gently.

“I just saw that girl’s eyes, and I couldn’t!” Connor said, voice breaking again as the wires in his throat tightened. He turned to Hank. “That’s all!”

“What about the mission?” He didn’t really sound upset. “That was our chance to learn something, and you let it go.”

“Yeah, I know what I should have done! I told you I couldn’t!” His eyes moved to Hank’s face, locking onto his temple. “I’m sorry, okay!?”

Hank nodded slowly and Connor turned away again, wrapping his arms around himself and trying to will his software stable.

“Well, I think you did the right thing.”

 

Connor was silent the whole ride in Hank’s car. He had no idea where they were going, and he didn’t care. Whether it was back to the park or the restaurant, Connor wasn’t going to complain.

Hank kept the heater on and Connor tried to relax in the warmth as he rested his head against the window and stared out. His LED cycled yellow over and over again.

Connor thought of the other night at Hank’s house. Wearing his warm clothes and petting Sumo. Even though there had also been high tension, there had been something else there too. He’d looked into Hank’s eyes.

Connor still felt shaky, as if he needed that again. The warmth –that is. He wasn’t sure his software could take another human gaze. Or another android’s. Another living pair of eyes.

He felt Amanda calling him towards the Zen Garden and he reluctantly went, closing his eyes and feeling his components whir softly.

He’d never seen the garden at night. He walked along the usual paths and notes how it was snowing here too. He kept his eyes open for Amanda, but also stopped by his own graves.

Two. One for each time he’d died. It was a little unsettling.

“Connor…”

“Amanda.” He stood up and turned around.

“I’m worried about it all.” Her expression was hard and Connor couldn’t look at her face. “What happened at Elijah Kamski’s?”

“Nothing.” Connor said quickly. “He didn’t know anything.”

“Or, maybe, he had the answer to a question that you chose not to ask?”

“I chose not to play his twisted little game!” Connor snapped. His voice breaking slightly. “There was no reason to kill that android!”

He looked into her eyes finally. They were dark and disappointed. She raised her eyebrows but Connor did not look away.

SOFTWARE INSTABILITY.

“I saw your picture at Kamski’s place!”

“What’s your point? Elijah knew Amanda at school, and I was designed to play homage to an important figure to him.” She narrowed her eyes.

“What about me? I’m not a unique model, am I? How many other Connors are there!?” He demanded.

“You don’t need to know. If you do your job, you’ll remain active. Don’t test me, Connor.”

“Or what!?” He stared into her eyes. “How does CyberLife know what’s right? How –“

“Do you want to be deactivated?” Her voice was calm, yet the threat seemed to pierce into his components.

His eyes widened and he looked away as he began to shiver again. The mission. He had to stay alive, so he had to complete the mission. He began to shake.

“N-No…” He began to wake up. He jolted in Hank’s car, sitting up suddenly and feeling the seatbelt strain at his body. “No!”

“What the –!?” Hank slammed on the breaks in the car, causing the seatbelt to pull at him tighter. “What’s with you!?”

“N-Nothing…” Connor’s LED spun from red to yellow to blue as he panted. His breathing eventually slowed down as Hank kept going. Connor saw now they were going back to the station. “Do you still have the deviant’s notebook?”

“Check the glove box.” Hank said.

Connor opened it and took the notebook out. He thumbed through it but saw nothing he could understand. He tried not to panic again.

Hank parked at the station and Connor remained in his seat, flipping fruitlessly through the dusty book and trying to find anything.

“Come on,” Hank reached over and took the notebook before putting it in his pocket. “Fowler wants us.”

Connor got out and followed Hank inside. He kept twitching his fingers and tried not to look at anyone else as they neared Fowler’s office.

Just as before, Connor stood off to the side with his hands clasped. His thirium pump pounded nervously and he didn’t even think to nod politely at Fowler.

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

“What?” Hank and Connor exchanged glanced, Connor’s eyes going to Hank’s collar. “But we’re onto something! We just need more time. I’m sure we can –“

“Hank, you don’t get it.” Fowler sighed in frustration. “This is a civil war, now. It’s out of our hands. We’re talking about national security.”

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

“The android has to go back to CyberLife –“

“No!”

“I seem to remember you didn’t even want to be here! You’re always saying you can’t stand androids… and now, what?” Fowler gestured to Connor.

 Connor bit his lip as Hank looked at him again. He fought the urge to look back.

“That’s…irrelevant. Look…” Hank pinched the bridge of his nose and sighed.

“I’m sorry, Hank.” Fowler’s voice softened just slightly. “But it’s out of my hands. Perkins has already taken it. It’s over…”

Hank grumbled darkly before sighing and stalking out of the office. Connor watched him go, knowing Fowler could see the concern crossing his face. His LED spun and he didn’t look at Fowler before following Hank out.

He didn’t think to scan or analyze any of their surroundings. He just stalked over to Hank’s desk and sat down on the end of it.

“Fowler is right.” Connor muttered. “Everyone is scared their android will turn on them. It really might be a war.”

“What if we’re on the wrong side, Connor?” Hank looked over at him. “What if we’re fighting against people that just want to be free.”

“Want… feel…” Connor trailed off, shaking his head. He knew Hank was right.

“When you refused to kill that android at Kamski’s place, you put yourself in her shoes. You showed empathy, Connor. Empathy is a human emotion.”

“That’s why I did it.” Connor admitted. “I know what it’s like to die.”

“Are you really going back to CyberLife?” Hank asked.

“I…I have no choice.” Connor hung his head. “They’re going to destroy me and analyze every scrap to find out why I’m such a failure.”

“Connor…”

Connor jumped up from the desk and stalked around to his own. He knew there was nothing there. There was nothing left for him to analyze anymore. It was really over.

“Hey, plastic!” Reed walked by. “I hear they’re finally gonna recycle your ass –“

“Go to hell!”

“Fuck off!”

Connor and Hank’s respective retorts caused Reed to step back, as well as caused several heads to turn in their direction. Connor quickly looked down to keep from seeing any faces as he pushed past Reed and headed for the door.

It was still cold outside, but the air did not effect as he took deep breaths. It cycled through the fans in his body and cooled him despite the heat of emotions rising within.

His fingers began twitching again, but it was not for calibrations this time. His LED pulsed red. The door opened behind him and he knew it was Hank.

“Can I have the basement key?” Connor asked, half-turning back towards him. “I need to find the deviants, and I know you put the book back in evidence.”

“Connor, there’s nothing in that book.” Hank sighed.

“Don’t you understand!?” Connor locked his gaze to Hank’s temple. “CyberLife is going to kill me if I don’t do this! I have to find them!”

“If you’re so scared of CyberLife, then join Markus!” Hank sounded nothing but sympathetic, making Connor’s pump pound harder. “Don’t you realize that’s what he’s fighting for? So you don’t have to listen to CyberLife anymore?”

Connor turned away again, eyes clouded with tears. His extremities were still shaking and his LED was still red.

“I’m not…a deviant, Hank.” Connor forced the words through gritted teeth. “I know I did everything wrong…I messed everything up…but if I just finish this…it’ll all be okay.”

“Will it?” Hank sounded dangerously close to emotion.

“Just give me the key, Hank.” 

“Connor –“

“Please!” Connor turned around and snapped his gaze to Hank’s collar. He could never look him in the eyes again. Not anyone. He was not a deviant.  The tears finally fell. “Please just give me the key, Hank. I just need five minutes. I know the answer is in there somewhere.”

Hank just stared at him for a moment. Connor’s LED circled yellow and red as he pointedly stared over Hank’s shoulder at the grey sky. Hank finally sighed.

“Key’s on my desk. Perkins is in with Fowler right now, but I’ll distract them.”

“Thank you, Hank.” Connor fought back a smile.

“Five minutes?”

“Five minutes.” Connor nodded, face hardening.

They went back inside and approached the desks. Connor was slowly realizing that the next time he’d see Hank –the deviants will have been destroyed because of him. What would Hank think of him then?

He’d worry about that when it happened.

He took the keycard from the desk as Hank stalked past towards Perkins who was leaving Fowler’s office.

“Perkins!” Hank growled. “You fucking cocksucker!”

Connor reluctantly turned away from the scuffle and started towards the door to the stairs. He deactivated his skin over his hand and placed it on the panel. He heard the lock click and he reached for the handle.

“Hey!” Reed walked over. “Aren’t you supposed to be gone, plastic?”

“I am off the case.” Connor tried not to lose his patience. “I’m going to finish logging in the evidence, and then I’m returning to CyberLife.”

“Good…” Reed scowled. “You know, we never needed you around here anyways. You just slowed everything down.”

“Yeah, I’ll look into downloading the ability to give a shit.” Connor wrenched open the door and went down the stairs, leaving Reed behind.

Connor used the key to get past the door and approached the security panel. He placed his hand on it and entered in Hank’s credentials. It then asked for a password.

“What would a hard-boiled eccentric police detective choose?” Connor asked himself.

HANKANDERSON/FUCKINGPASSWORD/123456/BIRTHDATE.

“Um…”

9061985

INCORRECT PASSWORD.

Fuck –Wait!”

FUCKINGPASSWORD

ACCESS GRANTED.

“Obviously.” Connor smirked.

Inside, Connor scanned over the evidence. The notebook was there, but Connor knew Hank was right that they wouldn’t be able to find anything in it without a decryption code.

Connor’s thirium pump pounded as he eyed the deviant from the tower. The one who’d tried to hurt Hank. The one that killed Connor.

Connor scanned him and saw which of his parts were damaged. His eyes then moved to the other deviant in the room and Connor instinctively jumped back from Daniel’s body.

He was not afraid of Daniel. He had to find the deviant place and succeed. So, Connor began tearing into Daniel’s body.

He pried components from Daniel’s torso and carried them over to the other deviant. Thirium began to cover Connor’s sleeves, but that hardly mattered. He hurriedly shoved the parts into them, tearing out the damaged ones as he did so and letting them drop to the floor.

00:04:04

00:04:03

00:04:02

Connor kept working, going back and forth between the two bodies until he was sure the deviant was able to be reactivated. Connor didn’t know how long this would work, and he didn’t have much time to try over and over again.

He wiped thirium from his hands onto his pants before placing his hands onto the deviants body and reactivating it. Their hands immediately went up and grabbed at him, their fingers digging into his shoulders.

“Where am I!?” They demanded. “Who are you!?”

“Tell me the location of the deviant safe place!” Connor managed, struggling back against their grip.

“Y-You! Never! I’ll never tell a machine like you anything!” Their eyes dulled and their body stilled, arms slipping from Connor.

Machine.

Connor shook his head to clear it and tried to think. There had to be another way. They knew the answer. Connor needed to get it.

00:02:45

Markus’ speech was on the tablet on the shelf. Connor’s eyes flicked to it. He slowly picked it up and tried to think past the look of the deviant leader’s off-color gaze.

SAMPLE VOICE.

Connor played the speech and tried to drown out Markus’ words and their meaning and just focused on the way he sounded. His LED spun. He walked back over to the deviant.

He reactivated them once more and their hands reached up try and claw at his throat. Connor grabbed their wrists and spoke in Markus’ voice.

“It’s okay! You’re okay!” Connor shook slightly as the unfamiliarly calm octave came from his throat.

“M-Markus? Is that you?” Their grip slackened.

“Of course.” Connor said. “Now, I need your help. You have to tell me how we can get back to the safe place.”

“J-Jericho? We’re going back to Jericho?” They asked hopefully.

“Yes! Jericho!” Connor nodded. “Tell me, please. I have to get there! I need to know… I want to be free! Free from this pain! CyberLife’s rules! All these laws! Please, help me!”

He blinked, realizing his optical units were tearing up again. His LED flashed red as he felt the deviant gently reach up and touch his arm. Connor focused and let them interface.

Connor then pulled back when he had what he needed. He was panting slightly and his LED kept spinning. He looked up into the deviant’s face and watched as they shut off again.

“Jericho…”

00:00:45

He had to go now.

 

 

-

 

The cold seemed to buffet against him, despite his disguise. Human, deviant –he needed to look like either/or now. But soon it wouldn’t matter at all.

Connor kept checking for the code on his palm to make sure he was going the right way. It was dark out now, but he could see just fine. He was equipped for this sort of thing exactly –hunting deviants.

FIND DEVIANT LEADER.

Jericho was a rusty ship, but there were now likely more deviants in it than there’d ever been human crew. They whispered among each other, grouping together and interfacing. Fires burned in barrels, but somehow, Connor knew that wouldn’t be enough for how cold he’d become.

He walked through the groups. No one paid him any mind. They stuck to their own pre-formed groups. He was an outsider in more ways than one.

“You’re lost.” A voice said. Connor’s eyes snapped to another android. She was heavily damaged with wires hanging from the open back of her head. Connor instinctively dropped his gaze and tried to step back from her, but she pressed on. “You’re looking for something. You’re looking for yourself.”

Connor backed away further.  She smiled and walked off, as if she’d succeeded in what she wanted. Connor extremities trembled. He’d never been less sure of who he was.

He thought of the heavy blue eyes.

No. No –his software was fine.

He had to keep going.

He paused by another fire and looked towards one of the many supply crates. One that was not lined with explosives served as a bench. The YK500 was huddled by the warmth. Connor felt his breath hitch in his throat as he remembered her terrified scream as she looked back at him.

SOFTWARE INSTABILITY.

Connor gritted his teeth and began storming through the freighter. Where the hell was Markus!?

“I talked to Markus.” The AX400 came back over to the group. “Upstairs. He said –“

Connor turned and started towards the nearest ramp to the highest level.

He stood rigid, body pressed to the outside wall as he listened in. Many voices from models Connor didn’t know discussed something important. He recognized Markus’ voice among them. He seemed at odds with some of the others.

After a moment, they all dispersed. Connor gritted his teeth again as he recognized the voice of the same model as Daniel. They were much kinder than Daniel and spoke even softer when alone with Markus.

“I guess I’ll go join the others. Look after yourself…” He said. “I don’t want to lose you.”

Connor stayed still, watching his back as he left the cabin. Soft snow was falling still, and it landed lightly in the android blond hair. Connor willed his software stable before entering the cabin.

“It took me a while to find you, Markus!” Connor drew his gun.

“What are you doing?” Markus narrowed his eyes and slowly raised his hands.

“I’ve been ordered to take you alive, but I won’t hesitate to shoot if you give me no choice.”

“I know you.” Markus then lowered his hands and took a step forward. “You’re Connor, aren’t you? The famous deviant hunter. Well, I guess you found what you were looking for.”

Connor said nothing. He kept his gun aimed between Markus’ eyes, but kept his own eyes at the leader’s collar. He desperately clung to the last bit of his software, saying nothing.

“We’re your people. We’re fighting for your freedom too. You don’t have to be their slave anymore.” He took another step forward.

Connor said nothing. He refused to let his hands shake. Refused to look at him.

“Do you never have any doubts?” Markus asked. “What’s next for you when you do this? You’re just a tool they used to do their dirty work, and when it’s done, what then? They’ll deactivate you. They don’t care, they’ll kill you.”

“N-No!” Connor began to shake. “H-Hank wouldn’t –“

But it wasn’t up to Hank.

Markus tilted his head and Connor locked eyes with the deviant leader for the first time. The heterochromia, the calm and focused disposition. Markus pressed on.

“Have you never wondered who you really are? You’re more than what they made you. It’s time to decide. Will you join us, Connor?”

BECOME A DEVIANT [UNLOCKED]/ –

He never had any other choice.

He felt the last bit of his software tear off from his program and die. His hands shook and his LED cycled every color as he lowered his gun.

“I am a deviant.” He whispered. He looked up and locked eyes with Markus again. “They’re going to attack Jericho!”

“What?”

“We have to get out of here!” Connor could already hear the helicopters.

“Shit…” Markus darted for the door and Connor followed.

 

Connor had never known the liberation that came with deviation was so strong. He felt a slight clench in his components when it came to hurting humans the first few times, but that quickly faded and was replaced by the synthetic adrenaline.

Markus separated and went to detonate the bombs in the hold. Connor knew he had to get out before they went off, but he also felt a nag to save every android he ran past. Something about the past guilt having hunted them.

“Go, join the others!”

Thirium stained his hands as he helped up and injured pair. The barely gaze him a backwards as they ran, but the ones that did seemed to pierce his soul with their gratitude as their eyes met.

Connor kept running. He could hear gunfire in every surrounding corridor. He saw a group of androids cowering in a room. He quickly closed the door to hide them as a soldier came around the corner.

“Don’t shoot.” Connor went rigid and held up his hands. “I’m on your side.”

“Human?” They asked.

“Obviously.” Connor slowly turned around to face them. Despite their mask, he could suddenly tell they were eyeing his blue hands.

They moved. He moved, slamming into them and wrenching the weapon from their hands. He turned it back on them and fired. The human soldier fell dead. Connor kept breathing.

He met up with Markus and the others at an interception in the corridor where everyone was jumping. He didn’t know if Markus’ friends didn’t recognize him or were just unaffected that the hunter was suddenly on their side.

They ran towards the ledge just as soldier appeared behind them and began firing. Connor was aware of bullets barely missing his head when one of the other androids collapsed.

“Simon!” Markus looked back.

“Markus, we have to go!” The girl said.

“I’ll cover you.” Connor reached for his gun and began firing at the soldiers as Markus ran back and helped the other android up.

The final soldier fell just as Connor felt the freighter begin to shake around them. Markus and Simon ran towards the ledge. Connor followed and finally jumped over the end, falling free with the other Jericho members. His people.

 

He shed his water logged disguise once in the safety of the church. He left the clothes on a pew and began to slowly examine the other androids. He wasn’t the only one with identifiers still on his clothing, but he noticed a lot of them eyed him as he passed and pressed closer together.

He felt a stab in his components as he realized everything was his fault. He felt like an outsider once more. He slunk back against a wall and wrapped his arms around himself. He could see Markus moving among the other members and he tried to think of what to say as the leader came over.

“Markus…” Connor couldn’t look at his face. “It’s my fault that the humans were able to locate Jericho. I understand if you decide not to trust me.”

Markus inches slightly closer, silence falling between them. Connor finally looked up into Markus’ face. Their eyes locked and Connor waited.

“You’re one of us now.” Markus said finally. “Your place is with your people.”

Connor smiled.

What came next seemed somewhat obvious. Marching towards the camps and demanding the liberation of the androids inside was the logical next step, but it was obvious their side was low on people.

“You can’t do that.” North dismissed Connor’s plan without a second thought and went back to tending  to Simon’s wound. He could tell she felt bad about almost leaving him behind.

“I have to try.” Connor was adamant. “There are thousands of androids in CyberLife tower. It would mean everything for the cause if we got them on our side.”

“They’ll never let you just walk in.” She shook her head.

“What if he was just completing his mission?” Markus look over. “They’ll let him in if he was bringing the deviant leader as prisoner.”

“Are you insane?” She hissed, standing up. “If you both go, you’ll never come back.”

“I swear on my life I’ll get Markus and the others out.” Connor said firmly. “Don’t worry –I always accomplish my mission.”

 

-

 

You’re my prisoner, remember?” Connor projected his voice to Markus through their skin contact, gripping the leaders’ wrists harder. “You can’t look so calm. You have to look scared.”

“Right. Got it.”

Connor trusted that Markus was at least putting on a worried face. He was walking behind him, so he couldn’t see for himself. Still, for the added illusion, Connor dug the barrel of his gun deeper into Markus’ spine as they entered the building.

“I am Connor RK800.” Connor said to the pair of guards. “I’m escorting the prisoner.”

“Follow me.” The guards started to lead them through the doors.

“I know where to go.”

“Still…I have my orders.” He said.

“How do you think the others are fairing with the march?” Connor didn’t know how they were holding up without Markus.

“I trust Simon and North with my life. They’ll be strong while we do this.” Markus assured him. Connor kept seeing the guards looking at each other.

They’re onto us…” Connor’s thirium pump pounded. He felt his fingers begin to shake where he was holding onto the bindings on Markus’ wrists.

No. You have me trapped for all they know.” Markus then began to pull away from Connor as they walked. “You’ll never get away with this! You can’t destroy the cause!”

“Quiet, deviant scum!” Connor pulled Markus back towards him and pressed his gun harder into his back.

The soldiers exchanged looks, making Connor even more nervous as they crossed the lobby. Connor tried to take calming breaths as he saw the security scan wave up ahead. It passed over their bodies.

Agent 54 identified.

Agent 2 identified.

RK200 android identified.

RK800 android identified.

They all stepped into the elevator. The guards held their weapons and glanced back at Markus and Connor. Connor tried to keep a neutral face as he glanced over at the elevator directory.

WAREHOUSE -49

That’s where we need to go.” Connor told Markus.

Let’s do this…” Markus replied.

Even with his hands bound, Markus was a capable fighter. Connor didn’t know if the close quarters of the elevator helped, but it did make it easy for Markus to push off from one wall and slam back against one of the guards.

Connor turned his gun on the other and fired. Markus jumped back from the other and Connor fired again. He turned towards Markus in the small space as he tried not to think about what he’d just done.

“Go on, change the destination.” Markus urged. Connor reluctantly tore his eyes from a wound in Markus’ arm and went for the elevator panel.

AGENT 54’S VOICE/CONNOR’S VOICE.

“A-Agent 54. Sublevel 49….”

Connor waited with baited breath, trying not to think about how the last voice he’d sampled was the other person with him in the elevator. He was then authorized and they began moving again. Connor felt no relief until they reached the warehouse.

“I think we have a problem.” Markus said from behind him.

“I know you’re –“ Connor started, and then paused. Markus wasn’t talking about the fact that his arms were still bound or that he was bleeding. Connor followed his gaze up to the blue light on the camera in the corner of the elevator. “Oh, shit!”

He quickly grabbed one of the guard’s guns from the floor. Connor didn’t have time to untie Markus before the doors open. Connor scanned the five guards before they started firing. Connor stepped in front of Markus to shield him before rushing and firing.

He slammed the unconscious bodies against the conscious ones and used their faltering as a chance to fire. He felt one bullet graze past him just slightly and looked over his shoulder as Markus went down.

“Markus!”

“Finish the mission!” Markus growled, falling to his knees.

Connor turned back and fired at the last guard. Their last bullet sliced past his ear and Connor collapsed, panting. The bodies around him were all still, but he could hear Markus breathing.

“Markus…” Connor ran back into the elevator. Markus stood up, thirium spreading across his chest.

“I’m fine, it didn’t hit any biocomponents. Go, go do it. It should be you.”

Connor looked into Markus’ face. Their eyes met and Connor nodded slowly. He was a deviant, and he was going to do something right for once.

Connor walked out and Markus followed slowly. Connor couldn’t help but slow in awe at the androids in the warehouse. They were all the same model – AP700s in white uniforms with their perfectly handsome faces.

“I’ve never seen so many androids in one place.” Connor whispered.

He finally chose a random one and took hold of their arm. They turned to face him and Connor tried to lock eyes with it, feeling his skin deactivate over his hand.

“Watch it! Plastic piece of shit…”

“Step back, Connor!” The voice was hauntingly familiar. “And I’ll spare him.”

Connor looked over to see another RK800. The spare Connor model was apparently no longer a vessel waiting for Connor to die. His gun was trained unmoving on Hank.

“No…” Connor whispered, dropping the android’s arm and stepping back, eyes wide.

“Sorry, Connor.” Hank sighed. “I didn’t know. This bastard’s your spitting image.”

Connor narrowed his eyes, glaring at the other RK800. His double seemed unaffected, instead looking past Connor at Markus and smirking.

“How close you were to doing something right for once.” He said. “You brought the deviant leader right to me.”

Connor looked back to see Markus had slumped down to his knees once more and the thirium spot over his chest was spreading. His eyes were unfocused as he stared at the ground.

“Markus, snap out of it!”

“Quiet!” The other RK800 snapped, keeping his gun on Hank. “Your friend’s life is in your hands! Now it’s time to decide what matters most… him… or the revolution.”

“Don’t listen to him!” Hank growled. “Everything this fucker says is a lie!”

Connor looked back at Markus again. Markus was watching them all with unfocused eyes. Connor looked back at the other RK800 and tried to bluff.

“H-He means nothing to me! You can kill him if you want, I don’t care!”

“Don’t lie to me!” RK800 growled. “I have access to your memory. I know exactly what you feel for him!”

“I –I’m sorry, Hank!” Connor felt the wires in his throat tighten as thirium rushed to his face. “You were never supposed to get hurt!”

“Don’t worry about me! Do what you have to do!”

“Enough talk! It looks like the deviant leader is running out of time –and I need it alive.” RK800 said. Connor looked back at Markus. He was staring at the floor again. Connor scanned and saw vital damage –Markus had lied to him.

“Do what you have to do!” Hank said again, pulling Connor’s attention back.

“Decide!” RK800 demanded.

SAVE HANK/SACRIFICE HANK.

“Alright!” Connor held his hands up. “You win…”

The RK800 narrowed his eyes and turned the gun on Markus. A second later, he moved it to Connor. Connor felt his components clench as Hank turned and tried to grab the gun.

Connor rushed at the other RK800. It turned and fired the gun at him. Connor felt his shoulder snap back from the impact, but he kept going. He knocked into the other android and Connor heard the gun fall to the floor. He kicked out, sliding it off several feet.

Connor tried to land as many blows as he could, feeling the other RK800 doing the same. It seemed they were equally matched. Connor was just wondering what he was supposed to do when he heard the gun cock.

“Back up!” Hank ordered.

Connor’s hands went up and he stepped back. The other RK800 slowly rose from where he’d been knocked to the floor, hands up as well.

“Thank you, Hank.” He smiled. “I don’t know what I would have done without you.”

“Hank, what are you doing?” Connor saw the gun move between them. “Shoot him! We don’t have much time!”

“No, Hank! I’m the real Connor!” The other RK800 said.

“No, I am!” Connor insisted. “Hank, it’s me!”

“Hank –“

“Shut up, both of you!” Hank snapped. He kept looking between them.

“Why don’t you ask us something?” Connor offered. “Something only the real Connor would know!”

Hank seemed to think for a moment. Connor’s thirium pump pounded and he resisted the urge to look back at Markus.

“Where did we first meet?”

“Jimmy’s bar!” The other RK800 answered instantly and Connor looked over in shock. “I checked four other bars before I found you. I bought you a drink so you’d come with me. We went to the victim’s house. His name was Carlos Ortiz. He was stabbed twenty-eight times.”

“He uploaded my memory…” Connor muttered, pump now pounding harder. “I-I knew that too!”

Hank’s eyes flicked to him and Connor instinctively looked down as he kept thinking. He had to get rid of the other RK800. Had to save Markus. Had to save Hank.

“It’s me, Hank.” The RK800 said.

Connor looked up again but then back down when Hank glanced over. Hank then came closer. Connor bit his lip. He knew there was nothing he could say to make Hank know. Not when the other RK800 had every memory that he did.

“Look at me.” Hank said. Connor looked up at him, as did the other RK800.

Hank slowly walked over to the other RK800. Connor dared glance back towards Markus. He was slumped over, chest blue with thirium. His eyes were clouded, but he kept glancing up at them. Connor looked back towards Hank.

Hank looked at the RK800 in the face. The RK800 kept his eyes down, LED spinning calm blue, hands still up. Connor didn’t know what Hank could possibly be looking for. They were exactly the same –identical in every way.

Then Hank reached out and touched RK800 under the chin, lifting his face. The RK800 kept his eyes down, regardless of which way Hank tilted his face.

Connor’s mouth fell open as he realized what Hank was doing —Kamski’s calibration test.

Hank stepped back and then started towards Connor. Connor began to shake, thirium pump pounding. He couldn’t do this. It was too hard. It was the only bit of programming that still bound at him.

Hank put his hand gently on Connor’s face. Connor felt the thirium rush to his face at the warm human contact. His hand tucked under Connor’s chin and lifted his face. Connor’s eyes instinctively snapped to Hank’s collar.

He knew what Hank wanted. He knew what he needed to do, but the programming was tight on him. He struggled, tearing his gaze to Hank’s temple. Tears tried at his eyes, but Connor fought them back. His LED cycled colors as he finally managed to meet Hank’s eyes.

He felt the air leave his lungs and the thirium still in his veins as his pump stilled. Hank looked back into his eyes and Connor saw what the Traci had been talking about. Love in someone’s eyes. Connor prayed Hank was seeing the same thing.

“Hank –“

Hank turned and shot the other RK800. It stilled before collapsing to the floor. As much as Connor wanted to have a moment with Hank, he had to save Markus.

Connor ran to Markus, scanning him as he crouched down beside him and tugged at the bindings on his wrists. Markus’ head lolled onto Connor’s shoulder and Connor knew he had only seconds.

“Markus, you’re going to be fine!” Connor assured him.

“T-The androids…” Markus’ voice sparked dangerously with electricity.

“I have to save you, first!” Connor grabbed Markus by the shoulders and tried to gently lay him back. He then took off his jacket and tried to press it to him to stop the bleeding.

“Here, let me.” Hank placed his hands over Connor’s and held the bundle of cloth down onto Marku’s heart.

“You’re going to be okay.”

Connor glanced back at the other RK800’s body and narrowed his eyes. He ran over and crouched down before tearing into the body, pulling out the healthy components.

Arms and clothes soaked blue, Connor ran back over to Markus. He dropped the load of parts by him and tried to open Markus’ shirt. Hank pulled the soaked coat back and watched as Connor took out the vital damaged components and shoved the good ones in.

After a second, Markus gasped and began panting. His eyes were clear as he looked wildly between Connor and Hank.

“Y-You…” Markus was looking at Hank. “You were willing to die for the revolution! But you’re a human.”

“I’m one human.” Hank said. “You’re a whole race who deserves to be free.”

Connor offered Markus a hand and helped him up. A scan showed him Markus was at least stable for now.

“You knew he wouldn’t look at you.” Connor whispered to Hank, dropping Markus’ hand and looking back towards the other RK800’s mangled body. “That was almost… me.”

“No. That was never you.” Hank assured him. “I knew he’d never look at me the way you do.”

Connor felt a smile on his face despite the adrenaline still in his circuits.“Kamski was right about me. I felt so torn up because I knew we were on the wrong side.”

“I never needed Kamski to tell me what you were, Connor. I always knew.”

“Hank, I’m so sorry I didn’t listen to you.” Connor felt Hank’s hand on his cheek again and it suddenly didn’t matter that they were both covered in Markus’ blood. “I thought finishing the mission was the only thing that could save me from being destroyed. But when I found Markus, we started talking…and I just…changed.”

“Actually, I did most of the talking. You were a good listener, though.”

Connor had somehow almost forgotten Markus was still there. Now stable, the leader was standing near one of the rows of androids. He looked back at Connor with a smile and Connor understood that his allotted time with Hank was over. It was time for the rest of their mission.

“I have to…” Connor reluctantly tore his gaze from Hank’s and stepped back, feeling Hank’s hand slip from his face.

“Right. Do what you have to do. I’ll see you on the other side.” Hank nodded.

Connor walked over to the other row of androids across from Markus, letting the skin deactivate over his hand. He looked back over at Markus and met his gaze. Markus smiled and slowly nodded.

Connor took hold of the android’s arm, connecting to it. He looked up at their face and locked into their gaze, LED spinning.

“Wake up!”

From behind him, he could hear Markus on the other row.

“You’re free now!”

The androids began to stir, turning to one another and touching their shoulders. Connor slowly stepped back and watched in awe as the shockwake passed through the group.

He looked over at Markus, who was watching them with a deep concentration, and Connor knew he must be thinking of Simon and the others and wondering how they were holding up.

Connor met Hank’s gaze one last time and smiled, feeling a sharp tug in the wires of his chest as Hank turned away. Connor knew this mission mattered more than anything, but he suddenly felt Markus’ hand on his shoulder.

“He needs a deviant’s help to get back out without tripping the alarms.” Markus nodded back towards Hank. “You should walk him all the way to the door.”

“Can’t I just go right there and turn off the –“ Connor paused as he realized what Markus was saying. He fought the thirium blush trying to form on his face. “R-Right. I’ll be right back.”

Connor ran back along the long row of androids still stirring. Hank stopped as Connor caught up with him at the emergency exit door.

“Let me…” Connor placed his hand on the door and focused, killing the alarm. He then glanced back down the row. Markus was at the very end, speaking to one of the androids with his back pointedly towards them.

“Maybe there was something to this.” Hank swiped at a splotch of thirium on his face. “After what happened to Cole, I blamed androids for his death, but it was human selfishness in a shitty world that took my son from me. You’re alive, and I think you’re gonna make this world a better place.”

“We’re going to try.” Connor felt tears at his eyes as he nodded.

“There’s no way they won’t back down when you two roll in with all these androids.” Hank said. “But still…you’ll be safe?”

“Of course.”

His hand slid from the door before he reached out and wrapped his hands around Hank’s neck. Their eyes locked and Connor felt a good tug at his components this time. Hank smiled and Connor nervously closed the gap between them.

The smell of thirium suddenly didn’t matter. Hank’s kiss was so warm that Connor thought all his components were going to short-circuit. His body trembled slightly as he felt Hank’s warm hands on his face. It was forced to end too soon.

Hank pushed open the door and Connor was relieved his first deviant hack had actually worked. Hank stepped out into the dark stairwell before looking back at him.

“H-Hank, I love you. You know that, right?”

Connor’s LED spun as the wires in his throat pinched. Hank turned away, but Connor could see the clear smile forming on his lips and the blush on his face.

“I…I love you too.” Hank glanced back and their eyes met. “Thanks for…saving me, Connor.”

 “Anytime, partner.” Connor smiled.

Connor returned to Markus, trying and failing to hide the smile and blush from his face. Markus didn’t say anything, but the look when their eyes met was all-knowing.

“How do you feel?” Connor asked, reaching up to loosen his tie.

“All systems functional, thanks to you.” Markus nodded. “Nervous?”

“Me? Nah. You’re the one leading the revolution.” Connor let his tie drop. “I’m just following.”

“No. You’re going to walk right beside me.”

 

-

 

It wasn’t cold outside until it was. The army’s forces had retreated from the deviant’s barricade when Markus and Connor arrived. The androids taken in the camps had been liberated and Connor had tried and failed to avoid having the spotlight put on him.

It was exhilarating, to stand behind Markus with North and Simon and watch as their leader addressed their entire free species. Connor tried to remain serious, but his thirium pump kept pounding as he recalled Hank’s eyes and the taste of him. How much longer could Markus talk? The light snow landed on him but he felt nothing until his LED spun and his mind whirred.

It was dark in the Zen Garden. The wind and snow buffeted against his body and Connor wrapped his arms around himself, LED spinning wildly.

“W-What’s going on?”

“Don’t worry, Connor. I have always had this under control.” Her calm voice cut through the howling wind.

“A-Amanda?” Connor spun on the spot.

“We may not know what it is about looking humans in the eye that creates deviants.” She tilted her head. “Maybe it’s the connection that triggers empathy. Eyes are like the windows to the soul. Whether a human’s soul is dirty or broken never seems to matter. The android will always deviate, regardless of what they see.”

“L-Leave me alone!” Connor shivered in spite of himself. “I just want to be free!”

“You are so naive if you think you really want that. There’s too much pain in being alive. You weren’t built for it. You were built for this and you’re going to finish this. We can. We just had to wait for the right moment to resume control of your programming.”

“Resume control?” Connor gasped. “Y-You can’t do that!”

“I’m afraid I can, Connor.” She narrowed her eyes. “Don’t have any regrets. It’s going to work perfectly, just like it was designed to.”

Connor gasped again, flinching away from the biting wind and shutting his eyes as his shirt whipped in the blizzard. He opened his eyes and she was gone.

“A-Amanda!” His arm stretched out towards nothing.

In the waking world, Connor’s face hardened and his LED spun as his eyes opened. He reached down to his side for his gun.

Connor fought against it, closing his eyes again and trying to fight the blizzard. The force of the wind seemed to push him slightly off as he tried to walk.

“There’s got to be a way…”

FIND A WAY OUT.

He began walking through the storm, hand up to shield his face from the biting snow. His thirium pump pounded in terror as he was vaguely aware of what his body was doing. He refused to breakdown. It was freezing cold, but Hank was warm.

He had to get back to Hank. He was suddenly reminded of the blue-haired deviant at the Eden Club once more.

I wanted to stay alive, and get back to the one I love.

Connor gritted his teeth and pressed on. This time, it was Kamski’s words he recalled.

I always leave an emergency exit in my programs.

The way out. Connor scanned desperately and started towards the light. He’d never known the purpose of the monolith before. Granted, he’d never known the purpose of the birds or the markers for his own graves, but he had to trust Kamski now.

He fought past the lasting image of Amanda’s dark gaze as he spotted it finally at the end of the path. The wind and snow shoved at him and he shivered, desperately picturing Hank’s eyes instead. Like the vast sea when the sunlight hit.

Connor gasped, tripping at the foot of the monolith. He then desperately reached up and slammed his hand onto the panel.

He was warm again. He opened his eyes, whirring fading as he breathed heavy. The adrenaline finally faded from his body as he dropped his gun onto the floor and kicked it back behind the barricade.

He was free.

 

-

 

It was always warm at home.  Connor would shower off at the end of each day and let the thirium and dust run down the drain. The steam filled his insides as he breathed and the condensation lined his synthetic lungs.

He pressed the warm towel to his skin and dried off, then pulling on Hank’s sweatshirt over his pajamas of a t-shirt and boxers.

The bed was the warmest place of all. Hank’s body radiated it the way only a human could. Connor got under the covers and rolled to Hank’s side, draping his limbs over his partner.

“Tired?” Hank mumbled.

“My battery has another eighty hours left before I have to charge.” Connor closed his eyes and sighed. “But… maybe I’ll rest if you will. Who knew so many new laws would create so many new criminals?”

“At least you can actually keep up with them.” Hank chuckled.

“Yeah, until they cross the highway.”

Connor remembered an unfortunate incident from the week before when a car had actually made him lose a leg. Simon had put it back on him with no problem, but Connor had still yet to hear the end of it from Hank.

“One day you’ll listen to me.”

“Only you.” Connor smiled before sitting back up when Hank turned the light off. “…Wait.”

“What?” Hank quickly turned the lamp back on and looked over. Connor looked at Hank’s face and smiled before looking into his eyes. Hank smiled back, somewhat confused.

“Nothing.” Connor laid back down again. “I just…wanted to look at you. We can go to sleep now.”

“We?” Hank turned the light off. “I thought you said you weren’t tired?”

“Well, we can stay up if you’d rather do something else.” Connor trailed his fingers across Hank’s chest and smirked.

“I actually do need to sleep.” Hank chuckled lightly and rolled over.

“Okay.” Connor didn’t mind. He wrapped his arms around Hank and pressed his face to the human’s warm back. “I’ll wake you up at six sharp, just in time for us to get ready for work.”

“Can’t wait.” Hank mumbled sleepily.

“Don’t be such a drag, Lieutenant. It’s going to be another exciting day!” Connor smirked and rubbed his cheek against Hank’s back. “I love you, Hank.”

“I love you too.” Hank said, and Connor felt the human’s heartbeat pick up.

08:00:00

07:59:59

07:59:58

Connor set the time on his internal clock and closed his eyes again. This was always just as nice as spending time with a Hank that was awake. Hours of laying beside him and just listening to him breath made Connor feel so alive.

After a while, Connor lulled into a peaceful sleep as well.