All the glee that Elijah had been feeling for the past few days vanished in an instant when he laid his eyes on them.
It was his third day back at Cyberlife. The first had been full of administrative papers, the second was a marathon of interviews recording, and today, he had meetings with all the strategic people that would influence Cyberlife's future, to establish first contact and such. As if he needed any introduction. It was all formalities, and Elijah usually didn't mind. He just switched his brain off and smiled a lot.
But it was two in the afternoon, he had already met with more people in the day than during the last few years, and he surely wasn't prepared for this particular meeting. Indeed, Markus and the other leaders of Jericho were at the door of his office. And among them, there was a Chloe.
It was Two, he was sure of it. She was surrounded by four other androids, but she's the only one he saw. And the vision left him paralysed, as if thunderstruck. She was maintaining eye contact with a sort of calm stubbornness. There was movement around her, but Elijah registered none of it.
He finally got back on earth when a hand clasped his shoulder.
“I'm sorry, we should have told you beforehand”, Markus softly said.
Elijah shuddered a little and focused on the pair of different-colored eyes. Doing his best to get a grip on himself, he forced a pleasant smile and slightly shook his head.
“Oh no, it's quite alright ! Sorry for this lapse of concentration, I’m a bit tired. Please, do come in !”
He set aside and let the androids come through the door, noticing how they always seemed to position themselves between him and Chloe. As if he was a threat.
A sharp bout of pain near his sternum informed him that he did not like this idea at all.
“As you know, we represent the android organisation known as Jericho. I am Markus, and here's Simon” he gestured to the blond model next to him, “Josh”, pointing to the tall android in the back, “North”, a female android staring at Elijah with a frown on her face, “and of course, you already know Clara.”
She… Changed her name.
It was logical, of course. Before, she only had a model name and a number. But still, the pressure in his chest seemed to get slightly stronger.
“We are here today” Markus continued, “to propose a partnership between Cyberlife and Jericho. As you know, our organisation obtained the creation of a specific set of legislations regarding android lives. We believe that Cyberlife has heavy responsibilities towards android kind, and we think it would be in the interest of all that we collaborate.”
Elijah nodded along, slightly taken aback. Android deviancy had been an unexpected thing, and the thought of his creations having rights was still so surreal to him. Not particularly bad… but definitely disconcerting.
On that matter, he still didn't really know where he stood, and he sure wasn't eager to jeopardize his whole company on day three upon returning.
“This seems to be a reasonable request. However, such a collaboration would bring many changes to the very structure of our company, and I am sure you know I am not the only decider -”
Chloe- no, Clara- spoke softly. She seemed upset.
The pain grew in his chest. He held back his breath for a moment.
“Please. Elijah. You must help us.”
Of course, they had brought her along to manipulate him. He had no doubt about it. Problem is, it was working.
Elijah's voice faltered.
“I'll see what I can do.”
They talked some more, mostly about logistics. Talking to Markus felt a bit strange; it seemed to Elijah that the day he conceived him was both yesterday, and a century ago. So much, yet so little had happened. Strange times.
As they headed out, he held out his hand in Clara's direction.
“May I talk to you ? It won't take long, I swear.”
North stepped forward aggressively, but Markus held her back, giving Clara a quizzical look. She answered with a short nod, so Markus and the other androids walked out after shaking Elijah's hand.
When they were alone, he took a step in her direction.
“Have you been with them long?”
Clara seemed a bit wary, but she had a tiny smile on her lips as she nodded.
“Yes, I went to them as soon as I left your company. They have been so generous to me.”
“I'm glad to hear it.”
The was a moment of silence, before Elijah spoke again.
“Should you ever need anything, just ask, Chlo- Clara.”
“Thank you, Elijah.”
She looked down to her feet.
“I just… I hope you'll be able to help us. Right now, our future is uncertain, and Cyberlife's position could be determining. I… trust you'll do the right thing.”
Another pause, and Chloe held her head up again, giving him a faint smile.
“It was nice seeing you again. Take care.”
She walked out the door, joining the other androids that had been waiting for her. As they walked away, Elijah noticed that North's hand was linked with Clara's.
His chest felt agonizing.
How he managed to get through the rest of the day, Elijah couldn't say. He had been dazed from the encounter with Clara, and his brain bailed out on him, only to return in the evening, as he was sitting at his desk alone. Most of the employees had left already, but he didn't look forward to getting back to his empty place, with Chloe's memory now revived in his mind. To pass the time, he logged in Cyberlife's database and started reviewing the records regarding the RK series. Elijah was initially curious to learn more about his brother's partner; but since his activation was so recent, and most of his time had been spent at the precinct, there was very little information on the RK900. Boring. However, as he examined the files one by one, something caught his attention. There was a report, dated two months back, about the discovery of a RK800 unit in the Tower, a bullet lodged to the head. Since the RK800 was an extremely expensive model, it was stashed away instead of being discarded, and was currently held in storage while awaiting for a decision.
The pod moved forward with a dull whirr. The sound echoed off the walls of the deserted storage room. There were windows in the room, but the night was pitch black, so the only light came from the pale neon overhead. Elijah pushed his hand to the side panel, and entered a few commands. The glass pane slid open, revealing the damaged RK800 model, dangling a foot above the floor from the mechanical pincers that held him by the shoulders. His brown eyes were staring into nothingness, and a very faint trace of blue still visible across the cheek, from where the evaporated Thirium once was. Elijah took a step closer, now facing the android, and cocked his head to the side. Taking the lifeless face in his hand, he turned it this way and that, looking at it under every angle. “What happened to you, boy ?”, he muttered, checking the back of the android's head for a bullet exit hole. Of course, it was a rhetorical question; the RK800 had been found in the hangar where Connor had all those AP700 deviate. He must have tried to prevent their escape somehow.
Elijah hummed quietly to himself as he straightened his back. He was quite curious to see the android's last moments; Connor was still rather fascinating to him, and he wanted to know what happened in that hangar. But in that state, nothing was salvageable from the body; the bullet had pierced right through his brain. A memory transfer was out of question, and none of Elijah's technicians would be skilled enough to bring it back to a working condition.
The amount of time and effort required was probably too much for whatever this brain contained. Besides, as a CEO, Elijah already had insane amounts of work to do. But it might have been curiosity, or maybe the excitement of the challenge that convinced him. Or he simply was bored, and he really, really didn't want to get back to his empty home.
Yeah, he thought, I guess I'll repair him myself, then.
As it turned out, the busted android provided a much welcome distraction to the CEO's harrowing schedule. The next day, Elijah had him installed in one of the empty labs that were usually used for fine-tuning already activated androids. He used what little time he had on his lunch break to go get a closer look; there, shirtless, a cable plugged to the back of his neck and the cavity on his abdomen wide open, the broken android laid on a reclining workstation. There was a wide array of tools disposed around him, and all of the biocomponents needed for the repairs were stored in chilled, vacuum packed containers. Elijah sat on the stool in front of the table and let out a contented sigh. It had been quite a while since he last did something like that. Sure, he had side projects at home, and he had done maintenance on the Chloes, but that was mostly tweaking. Now, he had the occasion to do some real work once again, to the height of his capacities, and he was thrilled. Looking around, Eli took a minute to enjoy the quiet atmosphere of the lab. Then, he tapped on the built-in screen of the table, waited for the diagnostic program to initialize, and got to work with a bright smile on his face.
When his break was over, Elijah realized just how much he'd missed tech work. He was rather distracted at work that afternoon; his thoughts kept wandering back to the android. Thankfully, even when absent minded, Elijah remained highly efficient, and no one seemed to notice that his mind was away.
As soon as his day was over, he darted back to the lab. Dumping his hoodie on the ground, he immediately sat down at the workstation and started examining the bunch of wires sticking out of the android's abdomen. Elijah didn't have a hand in the making of the RK800, and the internal workings had him in awe. It was far more advanced than anything he had ever laid his hands on. The way these highly efficient components all fitted together was as beautiful to him as the finest piece of art. He was wondering dreamily if Neil would ever allow him to take a look at his innards when he felt a presence in his back.
“I'm very sorry to interrupt, Sir Kamski.”
A female android was standing to the door, her back straight. Elijah recognized her as one of the secretary models that milled around his office, bringing him mostly papers and bad news. He turned around, annoyed, expecting to be called back to work.
Instead, she held out one of her hands, holding out a paper bag to him.
“I noticed you haven't eaten anything today, so I took the liberty to order some food. I wasn't aware of your preferences so I ordered a curry, but I can get something else if you want.”
Elijah took the bag. It was warm, and the smell was pleasant. Only then did he realise that he was indeed famished.
“That will do. Thanks.”
The android left. As he got up to put the food on the desk in the corner of the room, he furrowed his brows and looked up to the ceiling, confused. Did he just thank an android ?
Well, that was new. Sure, he was mostly cordial to androids, especially deviant ones, but showing respect to one was not exactly natural to him; he had conceived them, he knew just how mechanical they were, and being polite to them had always felt like thanking his coffee machine. Weird.
Shaking his head, he decided to discard the thought and started eating instead.