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The Storm Inside

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Not all androids have experienced snowstorms the way Connor has. Personally, mentally, powerless inside the one place he had thought himself safe in for so long. In hindsight, he was never safe in the first place. Always under threat of temporary death or permanent deactivation, regardless of his success. Always trying to please an AI that would never put him first, never favour him over CyberLife. But his current awareness of that fact doesn’t help. The shock had still devastated him — and only the presence of a threat to Markus’s life and the revolution had been enough to snap him out of his terror, to make him move through the storm in an attempt to prevent anything from happening.

            But the thing about snowstorms is that they’re no longer just in his head.

            And neither is he.

            He’s in Markus’s old house — the one he lived in before Leo, before the junkyard, before Jericho, before the revolution —, accompanied by none other than the deviant leader himself. He wishes he could get up and walk, slam his palm against something, anything, to make the storm stop, acutely aware of the danger that comes with it, for both himself and Markus.

            But there’s nothing he can do. There might be an emergency exit in his programming, but there isn’t one outside of it. His only option is to wait for it to pass, wait for it to be over. Once, when his programming was still intact, waiting was the easiest task he could be asked to do.

            Now? It is most definitely the hardest.

           Markus immediately notices something is wrong. The set of his shoulders is even more tense than usual, and his eyes keep flickering toward the windows, something he wishes he could stop doing, but he can’t. He’s tried, he keeps trying. But he can’t. The same thoughts run through his head, over and over, and he can’t escape them.

            There’s no escaping his own head, his own thoughts, even if he is not in the Zen Garden.

            Even if Markus is right there with him.

            “Connor? Are you all right?”

            No, he’s not. But he can’t admit it. He can’t make himself form the word “no”, can’t bring himself to shake his head. It comes out as a nod instead, and he feels it now, the one thing that was missing — the helplessness, the powerlessness of not having control of his own body.

            It really is the Zen Garden all over again.

            “Connor, listen to me. Focus on my voice.”

            It’s hard. He can still hear the wind whistling in his ears, the cold seeping through his wires, his processor scrambling to make sense out of everything, to find the emergency exit and leave. But there is no emergency exit this time, nothing to keep him grounded long enough to escape.

            “Connor…”

            Actually, there might be something. Markus’s voice. It may not be as effective as an emergency exit — the deviant leader is capable of many things; controlling the weather is not one of them —, but it might keep him grounded for a while.

            It’s a plan worth trying.

            A blink of his eyes. A worried look. A question asked. A hand raised. A nod.

            Interface.

            Markus feels it then. The snowstorm — not the one outside, but the one in Connor’s mind. He feels the overwhelming fear — panic — and the heat of his processors overworking themselves to make it stop — his mind stuck in a loop — and he wishes he knew how to help, but he’s being dragged by the panic, the desperation, and…

            He stops. Closes his eyes. Grounds himself.

            He doesn’t know what to do — Carl never had a panic attack —, but that doesn’t mean Markus can’t try to help. He drops the interfacing, though not the hand, and gently guides the other android to the living room, where Carl’s piano is. They move slowly, step by step, hands holding, though not connected, not interfacing.

            The piano might not be a perfect solution, but Markus is confident it will help, if only a little. It is an art, and any art requires concentration and focus, which in turn will keep Connor’s mind away from the snowstorm outside. The piano is a distraction. But it is more than that — it’s a way of expression, a way to pour all his emotions and overwhelming sensations into notes and form cathartic melodies that will carry everything away, if only for a little while. After all, what is music but the expression of our very souls?

            Right now, it’s also a need. A desperate need, one that will save Connor from drowning in the snow.

            A questioning look. A nod.

            They place their fingers on the keys and play.