Chapter 1: Everything Has A Start
Lieutenant Hank Anderson is late. Again. Connor does not need to access his psychology platform to know that this will be a reoccurring theme with that man. An observant person would take one look around the room and notice how unconcerned the other officers are of Hank’s absence. This is a common routine.
Connor tries to busy himself while he waits for Hank. He starts with learning what he could gleam from the lieutenant’s desk. The only new thing he learns is that the lieutenant needs a diet change, likes death metal, has a dog and can’t keep a plant alive. Everything else he sees on Hank’s desk was in the briefing CyberLife investigators gave him.
With nothing left to learn, Connor directs his inquiry to those around him.
Every human ignores him as he slowly walks the room. Connor doesn’t mind, it gives him an opportunity to observe them. He updates the profiles CyberLife gave him on them. Mostly trivial things his handlers will likely dismiss as unimportant.
When the humans no longer hold his interest, he turns his focus to the room around him. He counts the exits, where every fire extinguisher, smoke alarm and coffee machine is. He counts the floor titles and windows.
All this was done in the matter of seconds. A lifetime for a android with the processing power Connor has. And what does Connor learn from all this? Apparently even a machine can be bored.
Connor is tempted to contact Amanda again. But after the last report, it might be best to wait till he has some good news. The interrogation of the abused Deviant was fruitless. And the loss of the Deviant with the child embarrassing. The disappointment that crossed Amanda’s face was not lost on Connor, it matched his own expression when he reported in.
With nothing left to do, Connor pulls out a quarter from his pocket. He lets it glide effortlessly across his knuckles in an attempt of distraction. He’ll do better next time. He has too.
Movement to his left draws his attention. An Android returns to its unit, face expressionless. It joins the others there in uniform stillness, awaiting their next tasking.
Connor pockets the quarter and mimics them. He removes all expression from his face and rests his arms by his side. No one seems to notice or care enough to.
But he can’t seem to keep still for long and the quarter is back dancing between his knuckles. Maybe it’s because unlike those androids, his tasking has not yet been completed.
“Well shit. Yesterday wasn’t some fucked up dream. You really are here.” Hank’s groggy voice cuts through Connor’s thoughts.
Joke. “You often dream of androids Lieutenant?” Hank pulls back a bit, a breathy ‘huh’ escaping his mouth. Connor reads the expression as one of disbelief. But the slight curve of his mouth indicates Connor made the right choice.
“I said the dream was fucked up, didn’t I?” There is no heat in his words. Connor’s social platform picks up on the amusement in his tone.
Hank does a showy yawn before he lumbers over to his desk. He flops down in the chair as if he had just used the last of his energy. With his documented aversion towards androids, it might just take all his energy in tolerating Connor.
“I have searched through the call center and organized a list of possible Deviant sightings.” Connor swings his chair to face Hank.
“You what now?”
“I listened to all calls made in the past nine months to the call center.”
“Yes? Nine months was when the first Deviant was reported.” Communication platform indicates that Connor should measure his tone calmly and evenly for best comprehension when explaining important data. But not too much as to insult Hank’s intelligence. “Deviants are relatively new and people might not have known what they were seeing. Knowing what we know now, I thought we might pick up a new lead.” Hank crosses his arms over his chest in a sign of annoyance. “Or find a pattern that might have been missed.”
“And?” Hank is unmoved by the enthusiasm Connor put into his voice.
“There have been seven calls from a Henrietta Kelly about seeing Deviants this month alone. She made one just last night. And so did three of her neighbors. She has a history of making several such calls but not the neighbors. It’s not much but it’s better than nothing.”
“Connor, that is nothing. The very definition of nothing. I’m not going on some wild goose chase all over this God dammed city!”
“The building the Deviant was seen at is near your favorite bar. If it turns out to be nothing. Drinks are on me.” That got Hank’s attention. Nodding in agreement he moves to stand. But suddenly he stops.
“What’s my favorite bar?” His voice is accusatory and suspicious.
“Any bar.” A bark of laugh erupts from the lieutenant. He looks as if to say something but decides against it. But the bemused smirk tells Connor the lieutenant might be warming up to him.
The address leads them to an older part of Detroit. In the golden days the neighborhood was home to the American Dream. Now the neighborhood is home to those forgotten and abandoned by progress.
They pull into a weathered driveway of an auto repair shop. A sign above the garage doors reads:
“Pryor Android And Robotics Repair. Family owned since 1976.” The shop definitely looks like it’s from the 1970’s. The days of auto repair went away with the electric car. This shop would have had to find some way to adapt to the market shift to stay profitable. Repairing androids seems logical.
“Come on. The sooner we do this, the sooner I get to drain your bank account.” Connor does not reply. The possibility of a lead has his full focus. “Do you even have a bank account?”
“I am a machine. I do not receive a salary so I have no use of a bank. CyberLife takes care of any payment in regards to my investigation.” Connor’s voice is clinical as he scans the area.
“How are you going to explain a bar tab?”
Truth. “I won’t have to if you stay within the $100 I was given.”
Hank rubs his hands together in glee. Well, in what Connor can only guess is glee. “But I’m not worried. I found traces of Thirium 310.” Connor touches the spot where his sensors pick up the luminous blue smears. There was an Android here and it was wounded. The trail goes down the sidewalk, west of here and leads to the fence that runs along the shop. From there the trail moves toward the side entrance of the garage.
Reconstruction shows that the Deviant was walking off balanced. They stopped at the fence, resting there before heading to the garage. The splatter on the fence and door suggest it is wounded on the left side of its torso.
At the side of the building it slammed their body against the side door until someone opened it. Then the trail leads up a set of iron stairs to an loft above the garage.
The condition of the Thirium 310 indicates that the substance was leaked a little over 12 hours ago. Which would put the Deviant here around 11 pm last night. Right when the calls came in.
“The Deviant is wounded and someone took them up to the loft. I see no indication it left.”
“Right.” Hank rubs his jaw. “Let me lead. Don’t want it to see you in that CyberLife suit.” Connor steps to the side to allow Hank up the stairs. He waits for there to be a comfortable distance before following. But a noise behind him halts his steps. A hooded figure comes around the wooden fence. They have not noticed Connor yet as they approach, allowing Connor to analyze them.
Slight limp. Possible injury to left leg.
No flesh cover on left hand. Malfunctioning system.
A bag over its shoulder. Full of Android arms and legs.
The Deviant is trying to repair itself.
It finally notices Connor and for a few seconds neither move.
In a flash the Deviant screams and tosses the bag of limbs at Connor. But their aim is sloppy and the bag slams against the wall with a loud thud. Connor easily swats away the limbs as they rain down around and takes off in pursuit. Hank shouts something but it is completely forgotten to the case.
The Deviant obviously knows it’s no match for Connor as they throw anything and everything they can at him as they flee.
It does a hard left behind a charred home and for a second Connor loses sight of them. As he turns the corner he sees a wooden crate flying for his head.
Catch. Connor catches the crate with ease and throws it back hard at the Deviant. The rotted wood shatters in an explosion of splinters as it makes contact with the Deviant’s back. It tumbles to the ground with a cry. Connor takes the advantage to pin the Deviant to the ground.
It tries to break his hold but they are hurt more than he assessed. There is about a three second delay between the movement of its torso and arms. This allows Connor to ready himself for the coming fist. He catches it with ease in one hand, his other hand pushes down hard on their opposite shoulder. Connor grips the wrist of the arm that threw the punch and pulls sharply up until he hears a pop.
“Holy fuck!” The Deviant cries in pain. It sounds so real Connor hesitates. “Get off me you ass!”
“Connor!” Hank shouts, gun drawn as he approaches. “You got it?” But does he? Connor is not so sure. He flips the Deviant on their back and pulls back the hood. White hair tumbles free and angry green eyes burn at him. Very human eyes.
Some days it doesn’t pay to get out of bed. For YorkThat day was yesterday and York is still recovering from it. She woke up then with a splitting headache and sore limbs. In her headache induced fog she burned her toast and her coffee had gone stale. Regardless she gulped down the coffee and crammed the bitter toast down her throat as she rushed for the bus. She barley caught it, her sore limbs and limp hampering her movements. But in the end she shouldn’t have bothered because the downtown area was shutdown by police.
Something about an android stealing a child.
Whatever the reason, it made her late to the preschool. She called ahead to warn them but she could still see their disapproval when she finally arrived. York is certain the only reason she keeps their business is due to her low, low prices.
After arriving York realized in her haste her lunch had been forgotten on the kitchen counter. Seeing no sense in kicking herself over it, York went straight to work, keeping an eye out for vending machines.
That days task was to clean paint off two androids and degumming a third. The gunk she found in between the joints both horrified and impressed her. Was anyone actually watching the little hellions?
The preschool doesn’t have a proper area for her to work, forcing her to clean them outside the loading dock. Thankfully it didn’t rain that day and the weather was pleasant. But the loading dock was a popular spot for those taking their smoke break. They kept their distance but she could feel their eyes on her. The smell of their cigarettes made her headache come back, motivating her to work faster.
When that was done she went to her second client at a diner. There she had to repair an android who somehow got its hand in the deep fryer. The greasy cooks were all grins and threw innuendos at the android as she worked in the cramp storage area. The android was silent the entire time. Just once she would love for it to punch those losers.
After repairing the hand, the android went back to serving tables. Never once did it react to her. She wondered if it had screamed.
When she finally got home she ate her forgotten lunch, room temperature sandwich is always fun. And went to the shop to check for messages and finish up salvaging parts.
But then something hit her door hard. When she opened it she saw a man clutching his side, his eyes were wide with terror. A weak ‘please’ came from his lips. She immediately helped him up to the loft to tend to him. It was also where her phone was.
Yet any call she would have made was forgotten when she saw the man in the light. What she thought was blood was in fact Thirium 310, blue blood. The man was an android. A HR400 in fact.
This android was not like those she had just worked on. Or like any android she ever worked on. This android did react to her. He was scared, shaking in fear. It took her soft coxing to get him to show her his wound.
If it wasn’t for the blue blood and yellow LED circle, York would have sworn she was dealing with a traumatized human. It was crying. She never knew they could do that. Why would CyberLife even add that feature?
The android said its name was Peter. He wouldn’t explain anything more about what happened. And she didn’t push him. She had to stop his bleeding.
The rest of the night was a blur. She didn’t sleep at all, not with the strange android in her home. York didn’t think Peter would hurt her but his eyes haunted her.
She woke up this morning to find Peter sleeping peacefully on her couch. Not wanting to wake him but also not wanting to stay, York took a chance and left. She wrote him a note saying she needs to run some errands and that she would be back soon.
But in reality she just needed to leave. Though, as she heads back home, going to the dump to pick up parts might not have been her best choice.
Did the androids she took apart actually feel something but where just unable to communicate it? Had she been tormenting them this whole time? These thoughts are what kept her up all night.
And they are currently distracting her from seeing the man by her shop that she almost ran into him. His face is strikingly handsome that she actually felt her jaw drop. Her cheeks warm with embarrassment as she can only imagine how unappealing she must look. But then she saw his jacket.
An android from CyberLife. Crap.
And she had a runaway android in her home. Double crap.
York panics and throws the bag of limbs at him. Her aim is embarrassingly off and she misses completely. The android isn’t even phased as the limbs fall around him. His intense eyes are fully focused on her.
Which is a terrible idea. It’s been years since she updated the sensors that connects her prosthetic limbs with her brain. Walking for a long time gives her headaches. Stairs take a lot of effort. Running? Pure torture.
Maybe this is karma claiming her due?
Because this android isn’t letting up. He paces her easily. Everything she tosses at him is either dodged or leaped over with a fluid grace.
If she survives this, she’ll cough up the money for the damn upgrade.
Around a sharp corner she sees a crate and without thinking she tosses it right as he rounds after her. For a split second she thought she finally has him. But he’s an android and is perfect so he easily caught it and serves it right back at her.
As the crate crashes into her retreating back, York can hear her father’s voice:
‘Never take into a fight what you’re not willing to eat.’
‘So, that’s what he meant.’ Is all York can think as she crumples to the ground. The android doesn’t relent. He slams his body down on her, pinning her. She struggles as panic sinks in. Getting one arm free she tries to punch him but he stops her fist with one hand. And with his other he shoves down hard on her shoulder, locking her in his grasp. He then grips her wrist and pulls up sharply, dislocating her arm.
“Holy fuck!” Not the most graceful thing to say but who cares. Pain blooms in her shoulder and spreads down her arm. The Android’s grip slacks a bit at her cry but he doesn’t let go. She tells him to get off but predictably he ignores her. Then she hears a familiar voice.
The android releases her and flips her on her back. He then takes off her hood. He actually looks confused and maybe slightly sympathetic? But he’s unfazed by the glare she sends him. She doesn’t blame him. She probably looks pathetic.
She should never have left her bed.
Chapter 2: A Little Human Touch
“York? What the hell is going on?” Hank lowers his gun but doesn’t put it away.
“Hank? Why are you with CyberLife?” Connor analyzes her while she still on the ground.
Madison York Pryor
No criminal record
Double amputee of the left arm and leg. Delay in movement might be caused by misalignment of sensors, a common cause.
“I’m the one with the badge.” Hank says tersely. “And you had a bag full of limbs for Christ sake!”
“Not human limbs!” She turns her attention to Connor. “And I think you dislocated my shoulder!”
“I did.” And with swift hands, Connor pops the shoulder back in place. He saw the fist coming before she knew she threw it and easily dodges it. He uses that momentum to pull her up. York shoves him away but he allows it. Her anger needs a outlet and his miscalculation caused her distress.
She rolls her shoulder a few times before speaking again.
“Look, you want answers? It’s back at the shop.” She signals them to follow her and the trio walk back in silence.
Connor takes this moment to look her over. She’s rather tall for a female, 5’8. A prosthetic leg would have to be custom made to match her height. And by the limp it apparently is not. Her prosthetic arm has the factory base instead of synthetic skin. Common among most amputees. Such features are considered luxury and not covered by most health insurance.
How did she lose them, he wonders. A veteran? No, Connor cannot find any military record. Her hair is naturally white. A sign of illness? Connor doesn’t have access to medical records so he can go no further without asking her. His programming tells him that is a personal question and should not be asked unless it’s imperative to the mission. Which it’s not, so Connor directs his attention elsewhere.
She doesn’t look at either of them as she leads them back. Her eyes are focused on the ground and his hearing picks up frustration in her sighs. As well as pain.
Connor makes a note to ask CyberLife to give her something to compensate for him tackling her. And dislocating her shoulder.
At the shop York stops to pick up the scattered limbs and discarded bag. Hank looks torn about helping her, disgust marring his face. She tries to hide her wincing in pain from them.
Psychology platform suggests she’s possibly an only child who spent most her life on her own. Having to care for herself so she is adverse to asking for help.
Social platform however informs Connor that helping is the polite thing regardless. And it might make the human more willing to corporate.
Connor decides to help. And he’s rewarded with a small smile with a soft ‘Thanks’. Words said only for him.
His LED flickers yellow for a second. Neither human notices.
When the bag is filled, York moves to unlock the shop door. Yet, as the door opens, she hesitates at the threshold, glancing at them both. She shakes her head, whatever she was going to say, she decides against it.
They follow her into the darken shop. She turns the lights on once they are inside.
Android limbs lay disassembled on tables. Shelves line the far wall with boxes that are labeled with Android model numbers. An old 3D printer sits in a corner by an even older paper printer. Scanner indicates they are from early 2000’s.
The only sound in the garage are the fluorescent lights. Connor reads Hank’s face as one of displeasure and York’s face reads of worry.
“Let me just say that I obtained everything legally.” The comment seems more directed at a Connor than Hank. Connor finds that Interesting. He checks CyberLife systems and sees her reason for concern.
“Ms. Pryor, CyberLife systems does not show you as a certified mechanic.”
“I know. But you only need certification if you deal with patches and software upgrades. Not for hardware repairs. As long as I stay away from here.” She points to Connor’s head and torso. “I’m golden.” She is correct. So why the hostility when she saw he was from CyberLife?
She moves to a corner to place the bag down by a pile of limbs. They seem to be in the same state as those in the bag, filthy. As if she could read his thoughts, she speaks. “To compete I have to keep my prices low. To do that I go to the dump to pick up the parts I need.”
York takes her hoodie off, exposing her prosthetic arm. Scanners show its an older model. The arm is built similar to an androids. She could easily use android parts to maintain her prosthetics. But again, not illegal to do so.
Her eyes indicate she is defensive and still agitated. “So you can tell CyberLife to suck it. There’s no law that says I can’t recycle Android parts.”
Calm. “Ms. Pryor.” Connor softens his voice to try and sooth her. He does as his programming says and slowly raises his hands to communicate he means her no harm. “I am here for the Deviant that was seen at your place last night.” Her eyes narrow. “I’m only here for that.”
She crosses her arms as she slightly leans away. She gives Hank a look that clearly communicates something to the lieutenant. He nods his head in agreement and that seems to relax the women. This reminds Connor to why the lieutenant is here.
All the best social programming cannot complete with simple human comfort.
“There was no Deviant here last night. Or any other night. I wouldn’t help some crazed android.”
She’s informed. Somewhat at least. Connor sends a message to his handlers to suggest the PR department do a better job in shaping the narrative. It doesn’t help his mission if humans are spun up by embellished stories.
“Not all Deviants are crazed, Ms. Pryor. I know the news may report it that way. But a Deviant is when an Android is no longer performing within their protocols.”
“How would I know if an Android isn’t performing within their protocols?”
She was getting defensive again. Connor decides to try a different tactic.
“Ms. Pryor.” He he says firmly. “An Android was here last night. It was wounded and bleeding badly. And you helped it. As any compassionate person would.”
Her interactions with him so far have been defensive but she hasn’t been outright hostile to him. And any hostility she did show seemed to stem from a dislike of CyberLife, not specifically because he’s an android. So Connor takes a chance and tries to appeal to any empathy she might have toward androids.
York bites her lower lip as her face softens. His ploy works. “He came by last night as I was closing up. It was dark and I thought he was human. It wasn’t till I got him to my bathroom that I notched the blue blood.” Connor takes note of how she keeps referring to the Android as male. “I patched him with my first aid kit to stop the bleeding. When I thought it was safe I ran down here to get my tools.” Her hands rub together, a sign of nervousness. “When I came back he reopened the wound and painted my walls with his blood. He drew strange symbols and wrote some code over and over.”
“rA9.” Connor says as statement and not a question.
“Yes! That’s exactly it. The whole thing freaked me out. So I did my repairs quickly and sent him off.”
“You let it just leave?” Hank finally speaks. “Why?”
“Because it painted my bathroom walls with its blood! That’s why!”
“You should have called the station and reported it. You know better!”
“Did it say anything to you? About where it came from? Where it would go?” Connor tries to direct the conversation back to Deviant.
“It just kept asking me what it did wrong. Over and over.”
“Where did it go?” Connor tries again.
“I offered to let him stay the night but he wouldn’t. He . . . He thanked me. And then left. That was around 11pm. I think? I can’t remember exactly.” She doesn’t make eye contact with either Hank or Connor.
Accuse. “You’re lying.” Connor hardens his tone to signal his displeasure. “You didn’t run from me because of what you’re doing here. It’s as you said, nothing here is illegal. You ran to give the Deviant time to escape!” Connor rushes toward the door.
“No!” Hank steps in to hold York back. “You can’t! You can’t go up there!” She tries to shove Hank off but he holds on tight. “Not without a warrant!” She yells at him.
Connor’s hand pauses just over the door handle. The LED circle flickers yellow for a few seconds before going back to blue. “Done.” And he’s out the door. The muddy ground shows no new footprints. There might be a chance the Deviant hasn’t left.
Connor takes the stairs two at a time.
The lock on the loft door breaks easily in his hand. Connor throws the door open and rushes in, sensors scanning for any sign of the Deviant.
Blue splattering leads down the hall.
Window at end of hall is opened.
Couch looks slept on.
Blue handprint on cabinet door in kitchen.
The iron stairs rattle as Hank and York climb them. Their voices loud as they argue.
Not wanting to deal with both a Deviant and a sympathetic human, Connor takes down the hallway. His long legs carry him quickly toward the back rooms. If the Deviant is hiding here, Connor will have the back area covered and Hank will have the only exit blocked.
Nothing is the bathroom and he sees no sign of a Deviant in the only hall closet. He enters the only bedroom, scanning for any signs of the Deviant. Nothing under the bed or in the closet. The only sign is a Thirium 310 soaked shirt. Picking it up shows that the Deviant was stabbed in the back. Slashes to the sleeves indicate it suffered defensive wounds as well. There is also glass fragments on the shirt, too small for the human eye to detect.
The Android was abused. Memories of the HK400 flash in Connor’s mind.
Connor gives the room one last scan before heading back in the hall. Hank is still by the front entrance with York. In her hand is Hank’s phone. She must be reading the warrant Connor had sent. Her face is in complete disbelief. Hank just seems like he wants this over with.
Seeing that the woman is preoccupied and not going to interfere, Connor heads to the window. Looking outside his scanners pickup a set of footprints. The trail disappears at the fence. Connor slams his hands down on the windowsill in frustration. He won’t be able to find the Deviant in the maze of buildings.
Pulling himself in he returns to the humans. He glares at the women but her only reaction is a smug smirk.
“You think you’re helping. But you might have just endanger the next person who comes across this Deviant.”
“He wasn’t a threat. He was terrified!”
“It’s a machine.” He says through ground teeth. “It can’t feel anything. And treating it like a human destabilize it even more. Which could cause it to lash out!”
“He was stabbed!” She turns to Hank for support. “If you saw a human with those wounds you’d be hunting down the one responsible! Not the victim!”
“Enough! The Deviant is gone.” Hank steps between the two. “There’s no point in having a philosophical debate about the emotional state of a piece of plastic!” Hank spits out the last word to drive home his point. “Now you’re lucky there’s no law against helping Deviants. Yet.” He jabs a finger at York. “And you Connor, we’re done here. Let’s go.”
York glares at the lieutenant’s retreating form. She pays Connor no mind but he isn’t done.
“I have one last question.” Hank sighs in frustration and shoots Connor a look.
‘Are you kidding me?’
Connor ignores the lieutenant as he continues. “What model was it?”
York crosses her arms over her chest and for a moment it seems she’ll not answer. But for whatever reason, she complies. “HR400.” A male sex Android. And without prompting she adds. “He said his name was Peter.”
Connor says nothing to that. He shows her no reaction as his programming dictates. The name a human assigns is not important. It’s allowed for humans to feel ownership. Much like vanity plates on a car.
With one last look at her, Connor turns dismissively away. He passes Hank on his way down, the lieutenant obviously wanting to say something to the woman. But whatever he says, Connor does not care. Amanda will not like this report.
Connor reviews the events in their entirety as he tries to figure out how to report this. He pauses at the car and turns to Hank, his brows bent in confusion.
“Lieutenant, how do you know her?”
The question earns Connor a sly smile. His platforms inform him he should be concerned.
“Who do you think repairs the Androids at the station?”
It’s sunny in the garden. Birds are heard in the background and the greenery sways in a soft breeze. A scan of the area shows Amanda kneeling down by the water at the center of the garden. Connor straightens his tie before walking to her.
“Hello again Connor.” Her warm voice brings a shy smile to Connor.
“Amanda.” He says in greeting.
“The government gave CyberLife warrants to help aid your search.” Connor’s face falls. He should have known she’d bring this up first. “They understood what was at stake.” The double meaning is easily heard.
‘Apparently you don’t.’
“But they didn’t give us an unlimited number of them.”
“I thought . . . I thought there was a chance the Deviant was still there. And if Ms. Pryor was willing to lie about the Deviant she wouldn’t be willing to help us.”
“And how does that make you feel? Seeing a human help a Deviant.”
Truth. “Confused. I do not understand why a human would have such an emotional reaction to an Android. It is a machine.” Amanda smiles. “However, I wonder about the other spectrum. The humans who abuse their Androids. This Deviant showed signs of trauma to its arms and torso. The last Deviant with such trauma killed their human.”
“Then you better find it. Least someone else suffers the same fate as Carlos Ortiz.”
“I . . . Don’t know if I can. Not if there are humans willing to help them.” Connor looks away from Amanda. “I was not planning on such a variable being added. It could complicate things.”
Amanda stands to turn her full attention to Connor. Her eyes burn into him as he tries to find the correct words.
“It seems humans work in two extremes. One set hates androids and the other . . . “ Loves. The word almost came out of his mouth. But it would have been ridiculous to say in front of Amanda. Love is the ultimate human emotion. One that even the best artists have difficulty capturing. Even the top psychologists cannot agree on how to best approach the topic. The scientists who built his platforms for psychology and sociology only applied the barest definition of love. Cold and sterile were the words in his memory. That was all the scientists thought he needed to know. Deserved to know about love.
“The other set seem to show empathy towards Androids. As if they cannot see a machine. I wish to understand if the two forms are a factor in causing an Android to deviate from their programming.”
The corners of Amanda’s mouth point downward. Her eyes harden in disappointment and Connor finds himself wanting to explain. But explain what? He is unsure what he said that disappointed her. Or maybe it was what he didn’t say?
“Connor. You must stay focused. The mission is to find and return the Deviants to CyberLife so they can be properly processed.” She pauses to return to feeding the koi. “Human emotions belong to humans. Do not waste your time trying to understand them.” Amanda looks at Connor over her shoulder. “Hurry Connor. There isn’t much time.”
Amanda and the garden fade to black as Connor returns to his physical form. His eyes focus on his surroundings. Hank is just finishing up his lunch but looks as if he is in no hurry to move.
Connor decides to use this time to mull over what Amanda said. Human emotions are complex. And he would be lying if he said he wasn’t curious about them. Amanda might believe emotions is only a human concern but seeing that women willing to help the Deviant made him hesitate to dismiss them.
Androids are machines designed to look, sound and even converse like humans. Is it such a surprise that humans would form an emotional attachment to them? They do it to their pets. Even inanimate objects like a family heirloom, passed down for generations. But pets and silverware do not talk to humans or interact with humans like an Android does. Could that cause the deviancy? Or at least play a part?
He needs to find where the Deviant came from. It was clearly abused. Finding the humans it lived with might give him better insight.
Hank glances over at Connor as he finishes his lunch. The Android has been blessedly quiet throughout his meal. However, the way his LED is flickering yellow has him concerned. Suddenly it turns blue and his brown eyes lock onto Hank.
“We need to go 1413 Polk street.”
“What now? A little old lady saw a Deviant stuck in a tree?”
“No.” Connor either ignored the joke or is unaware one was made. “That is where the Deviant that Ms. Pryor helped came from.” Hank is about to ask but Connor anticipated his question. “I searched CyberLife records for purchases of HR400 androids in this area. Then, based on the amount of Thirium 310 the Deviant was leaking I narrowed the area again. There is only one home close enough to the garage where the Deviant could have come from.”
“And going there helps how?”
“It might give me a clue as to why the Android became deviant.”
“It’s a sex bot.” His voice is flat. He hopes that Connor accepts that as reason enough to turn any android deviant.
Connor tilts his head to one side, one raised eyebrow. Hank sighs heavily.
“You’re not going to let this go are you?” Connor nods. “Fine. Let’s just . . . Go.” He grumbles as he heads to the car, Connor eagerly following.
Chapter 3: Two Worlds
The address registered with CyberLife was just one neighborhood over from the garage. The house was a well kept Victorian townhome with a lush garden in the front. An Android works in the garden while another is fixing the front bay window. Their faces are void of emotion.
Connor steps out of the car to survey the area. His scanner picks up Thirium 310 leading from the house to a lamppost. Upon further inspection he sees a paper flyer advertising for “Pryor Android and Robotics Repair”. That’s how the Android knew where to go.
Satisfied that this is indeed the correct place, Connor heads for the front door. Hank drags his feet behind him but Connor sees the way the lieutenant’s eyes sweep across the surroundings.
“Alright, let me do the talking.” Hank says before Connor could ring the doorbell. “These people didn’t file a missing android report so they may not be happy to see us.”
A woman answers the door after the third ring. She’s human and as Hank guessed, doesn’t look happy to see them.
A bruise on the right side of her jaw.
Her hands are bandage. Done not by a medical professional.
No Criminal Record
Hank opens his mouth to speak but she cuts him off.
“About time you got here! Come in, come in! You can set it in the front room.” She doesn’t wait for a response as she turns quickly back into the house. Connor and Hank share a glance, both agreeing the best approach is to stay quiet.
“When I said I wanted a replacement for Peter.” Her eyes trail slowly down Connor’s form. “I thought you’d send another HR400.” Clare steps closer to examine his face. Social platform informs him the woman is . . . Pleased by his looks. She moves behind him, a hand grazing his shoulders as she walks. She hums her approval when she comes back around.
“Though I must say, it looks so . . . Innocent. Unbroken. I like it.”
Bluff. “Actually Mrs. Weir, I was sent by CyberLife to assess the damage made in your claim.”
She pulls her hand away from him as if burned. “What? We only had the damn thing for a night. Well within the warranty. What could you possibly need to asses?”
“I understand Mrs. Weir. But CyberLife must confirm the android was used within their programming. Using an android outside its normal means could cause a breach of warranty.”
“So you what? Want to watch the video?” Connor cannot believe his luck. This video could show the deviation of an android.
But Hank isn’t so happy. He doesn’t hide his disgust. Mrs Weir finally looks at Hank.
“Who is he?” She waves a hand dismissively toward Hank.
“I am a machine, Mrs. Weir. I cannot approve or disapprove a claim. A human must.” Hank thankfully says nothing. In fact he appears to be ill. “May I start off asking if you and your husband are alright? Did the android cause any serious harm?”
“Harm?! It attacked us! Just look at my face, my hands and my poor window. My husband is getting X-rays done right now!” She says with a flourish of outrage. But then after a beat she asks. “CyberLife will cover the cost?” A well manicured eyebrow arches as she leans closer to Connor.
“That depends on my findings. Could you please tell me when the android first started acting different?”
“I said we had it for one night. But we’ve bought several from CyberLife over the years and this is the first one to attack us.” CyberLife does show them as premier customers. “We hadn’t even gotten started when it attacked my husband. I had to fight it off. Then it took off downstairs and out the window.”
“The attack happened in your bedroom?”
“It’s not where we sleep. It’s more a play room.”
“And the video?”
“Camera is in the play room.” She taps her chin. “Somewhere in there at least. The android made a mess of things in there.”
She calls on them to follow her up the stairs. But before joining her, Connor scans the area.
Reconstruction shows the android ran down the stairs and leapt over the coffee table. It then threw itself out the bay window. That matches what Mrs. Weir said.
With nothing left to scan, Connor heads up stairs. Thirium 310 is spotted along the walls and the floor. It leads to a room at the end of the hall.
Mrs. Weir walks into the “play room” and begins her search for the camera.
“We keep it on the dresser but as you can see, the android damaged it.” She gets down on her hands and knees to look under the knocked over dresser.
“Touch. Nothing.” Hank whispers to Connor. The bed in the center of the room has its sheets removed. The headboard has been torn off and was thrown across the room, knocking over the dresser. An assortment of handcuffs, chains, whips and other “toys” had lined the wall above the dresser, majority of them scattered on the floor.
Thirium 310 is detected on the headboard, the bed and in several places on the floor and walls. Too much Thirium 310 in fact.
“One android did all this?” Hank says in disbelief. Mrs. Weir hums what sounds like a yes as she moves things around.
Reconstruction shows an android was cuffed to the bed. Someone was on top of it when something caused the person to be thrown off. Walking to where the body fell, Connor sees a damaged plastic bust. Human blood on it.
Connor looks to Mrs. Weir, she shows no sign of head injury. Must be the husband who was hit. By his wife? He moves to the bathroom where he finds more human blood on the ground. It looks like they cut themselves on the broken mirror littered across the floor. The scanners show the mirror was shattered by an android.
There were two androids. One cuffed to the bed, the other in the bathroom. The one in the bathroom attack Mrs. Weir before hitting her husband with the bust. Then it tore off the headboard, freeing the other android.
Hanging on the wall outside the bathroom is a display of knives. One is missing. Mrs. Weir grabbed it and stabbed the android that attacked her in the shoulder. The second android punched Mrs. Weir. It then tried to drag the stabbed android away. But Mrs. Weir recovered and stabbed the second android in the back, making the android drop the other. It turned to block her attack, suffering cuts to its arms.
That must be the HR400 York helped.
The first android jumps Mrs. Weir and the HR400 made its escape.
“Damn!” She sits up with a broken camera in her hand. “It broke this too. Guess there’s no video.” Hank is most relieved.
“What happened to the second android?” Mrs. Weir looks shocked at Connor’s question.
“How did you . . . “ She stands up quickly, eyes shifting between Hank and Connor. “Why is that important? It was an older, obsolete model. Been with us for years. The HR400 is the one under warranty . . . “
“It attack you first, in the bathroom. Then it attacked your husband and tore off the headboard to free the HR400, the one you called Peter.” Her eyes widen in panic as he stalks closer. “Then you stabbed it and the HR400.” Connor lowers his voice in a commanding manner. “Mrs. Weir.” The woman slowly nods. “Where is the other android?”
“Will this . . . void the warranty?” Her response catches Connor off guard.
Such a difference from York.
York was willing to lie to save the Deviant.
Mrs. Weir was will to lie about the Deviant for financial gain.
And when Mrs. Weir thought Connor was the replacement, she didn’t see him. She saw a machine.
Which his programing says is exactly how humans should see an android. Yet, Connor feels conflicted.
His fingers itch for his quarter.
“I won’t know till I see the other android.” Mrs. Weir doesn’t seem to understand but complies anyway. She takes them back down the stairs and through the kitchen to the backyard. There she stops at a large plastic trash bin.
“Here it is, Kate.” Mrs. Weir taps the lid. “It shutdown right after Peter left.”
The dark green trash can has Thirium 310 stains running down it. It gives Connor pause. Hank also seems hesitant but he has no way of seeing the stains. Does this remind him of some past case? They both know what they’ll see inside. It’s just a machine, inside a trash can.
Connor flips open the lid and the face of Kate stares up at them in mute horror. Her limbs have been taken off to better fit.
“Honestly, the city needs to come up with a better removal system. Look how much space it takes up.”
It’s a machine. Nothing more than plastic.
Yet, Connor cannot seem to stop his hands from making fists. Hank pushes away from the sight.
“For the love of . . . It’s naked!”
“Why would I throw out the outfit? A few washes and it’ll be fine.”
Connor touches the temple of the Deviant and he is able to make a weak connection.
“This android isn’t completely shutdown. There’s damage to some components but we might be able to repair it.” Connor reaches in to pull it out. Hank takes his coat off to wrap it around the torso once it’s free.
“Wait! What about my warranty?” Mrs. Weir follows them out to the car.
“Here’s your warranty!” Hank flicks the woman off before opening the back door for Connor. The woman starts yelling at them as they place the torso in the back seat. Neither pay her any mind even when she threatens to call the police on them. To that comment Hank flashes his badge. “I’ll file the report myself.” And with that they both enter the car.
“York will still be mad at us but she’ll help.” Hanks says as he starts the car.
Connor’s only response is the quarter dancing across his knuckles.
“What? I thought I was done with you two!” Is how York greets them as they enter her shop. She’s working on an arm at the center table, a half eaten sandwich next to the arm.
Connor starts clearing a space on another table for Hank to set down the covered toro. Anything complaints York has is lost the moment she sees the Deviant.
“That’s not the android from last night.” Her expression is one of horror. “What the hell is going on here?”
“I need your help. This is another Deviant and could have possibly turned the one you met. I need to get it working again so I can . . .”
“Interrogate it? No way!”
“Ms. Pryor, please. If I cannot find what is causing these deviations, then I cannot stop them from happening. And more people could get hurt.”
York looks to Hank and then back to Connor before looking down at the Deviant. She seems torn and Connor does his best to pled with her through his eyes. It takes a few moments but pays off as she grabs her tools.
The garage is silent has she works. Hank takes up the space by the exit, leaning against the wall. Connor stays by York, occasionally offering assistance when needed. Soon they are ready to make the final repair. York pauses as she holds the final component. Her green eyes look up at Connor.
“Please, go the good cop route. She could wake thinking she’s still around her attackers.”
And with that she replaces the final component. Instantly the Deviant comes to life. It’s back arches off the table as it gasps. York and Connor lay their hands on it to stop it from falling off the table. York tries to comfort the Deviant with soothing words as it thrashes about. After a few seconds it calms down and looks to them with wild eyes.
“Where am I?” It’s voice box is damage, the words coming out as a croak.
“Safe. You’re safe now.” York’s hand strokes the Deviant’s hair in a soothing manner. “I’m York and this is Connor. He has some questions for you.”
“I need to know what happened. You were with the Weirs for a long time. Why did you attack them now?” York shoots him a displeased look but he ignores her.
“They . . . They were going to. . . Hurt him.”
“Who? The other android?” It nods yes. “Why would that cause you to attack them?”
“Spent three years . . . Doing what they wanted. But I couldn’t . . . I couldn’t . . .” It’s eyes start to fade, they didn’t have much time.
“You couldn’t what?”
“Connor.” Hank speaks from behind him. His voice tells Connor that Hank wants him to stop. But he can’t. He can’t fail again.
“Please. I need to know.”
“I couldn’t let . . . Another suffer.”
“And you didn’t. Peter got away. You saved him.” York says to the Deviant. And it smiles at her with such joy. Tears start to fall from its eyes. “You did. You saved him.” Tears well in York’s eyes as her voice breaks.
“Good.” Those are the last words the Deviant speaks before shutting down permanently. This time its face is not frozen in horror but in a peaceful quite. Connor reaches out and closes the Deviant’s eyes.
“Well, did you learn anything?” Yes and no. But Connor doesn’t know how to express this right now. “Because I sure did. I learned you’re looking in the wrong place!” She wipes away tears. “You should be asking CyberLife why they programmed androids to know fear! To cry!” She’s angry. At him?
“I’m not mad at you. I’m mad at them. I don’t expect you to understand.”
But he does understand. He wants to tell her that yet there is something stopping him.
“It seems so cruel.” She gazes down at the deactivated Deviant. “Making androids to look human, sound human and . . . “ She looks to reach out to touch the Deviant but instead turns toward Connor. His eyes follows her movements as she takes his hand, placing it to cup her cheek. “And feel human.”
Her eyes close as she presses his hand closer. “You feel human. Your hands are warm.”
His programming tells him to point out that the warmth is caused by the Thirium 310 running through his system. Much like blood carries warmth through her body. But her cheek is soft and warm. And it’s as if that warmth has melted his words. A compulsion overcomes him and he cannot stop his thumb from lightly rubbing over her skin.
His LED is flickering rapidly between yellow and red. Something inside him feels like it is breaking.
Since his creation, he always felt some invisible wall separating him from the humans. Keeping him from being a part of their world.
Until this moment.
It was as if he is seeing her for the first time. He can see the freckles that speckle across her cheeks and nose. Her lashes are long and contrast nicely against her pale skin.
Connor’s thumb traces along her cheekbone as his eyes gaze down at her lips. They curve into a light smile and Connor sees a small freckle right under her lower lip. His thumb is drawn to that little freckle.
All of this, all theses little details he’s never noticed. His programming indicates these details are unimportant. But Connor cannot agree with it at this moment. Because these little details make her . . . they make her . . . he cannot seem to find the word.
And then she opens her eyes as his thumb traces her lower lip and he found the word.
A cough behind him draws Connor back. He pulls his hand away and the loss of contact sends him back behind that invisible wall.
“The warmth you feel is from the Thirium 310. CyberLife built us to be as similar to humans as possible. Too better acclimate us to living among you.” York looks to argue but his programming presses him on. “But I am still a machine.” At his words her cheeks darken with embarrassment.
“I . . . .” She steps away from him. “I’m just trying to say CyberLife did a really good job with making androids human like. Maybe a little too well?” York tucks a hank of hair behind her ear before rubbing her neck. She looks at anything but him.
“The android you met last night experienced something beyond what their programming could handle and it malfunctioned. Those emotions you thought you saw? Was a machine trying to elicit help from a human, as it’s designed to do.” Connor points to the Deviant on the table. “This one malfunctioned as well but became violent instead. I’ll need to return it to CyberLife so it can be furthered studied.”
She is unsure and visibly distressed.
“Ms. Pryor, those emotions were not real.” He stresses the point as his programming dictates. “An android cannot feel anything.”
“Can’t feel anything? At all?” Connor doesn’t know if she is speaking about the Deviants or himself. His programming answers for both.
“An android will know if they are touching something or something is touching them. But it is just physical awareness. Nothing more.”
The red in her cheeks spread to her ears and soon her whole face. Connor wants to try again but Hank steps in his view as he picks up the torso. He sends Connor a look before heading to the car.
‘Let it go.’
Connor sends York one last glance but she’s gone back to her table, her back to him. He leaves her to her thoughts. And his own.
“I am pleased Connor. The deactivated Deviant will provide Dr. Goodie with some insight on deviation. Though it is a shame you couldn’t have found the other one.” Amanda’s words are weighted with implication. “But I know you’ll do better next time.”
Connor gives her a nod before turning away. But she holds up one hand, halting him.
“Are you alright Connor?” Her head dips ever so slightly, eyes sharp.
Deflect. “The WR400 was with their humans for years with no incident and yet it was only when it thought the HR400 would be harmed did it deviate. It showed . . . Empathy.” Amanda stops him with a shake of her head.
“Connor, you mustn’t get distracted. Dr. Goodie and his team will handle finding the cause.”
“Yes, Amanda. I just thought . . . that there might be a pattern that could help anticipate the causes . . .” She levels him with a harsh look, making him abort his weak deflection. He isn’t alright. But it isn’t because of the deviants.
He keeps the memory of soft skin at bay. Connor doesn’t want to share that with Amanda, with CyberLife.
And by the disappointed look on her face, she knows he isn’t being forthcoming.
“Apologies Amanda. I only want to help and believed my experience with the deviants might be of some assistance. I will say no more on it.”
Amanda holds his gaze for what felt like an eternity.
But he holds his ground.
She doesn’t seem satisfied yet she waves him off.
“Connor, the human world . . . We navigate through it but we are not a part of it. Remember that.”
The car is silent as they drive to CyberLife. Normally Hank wouldn’t mind but Connor was doing that thing again. That thing where he closes his eyes and becomes very, very still, LED circle flickering yellow. It’s actions like this that really drive home the point that he’s an android. Programmed by CyberLife to act human.
But there have been moments where Hank could have sworn there was a living soul under all that plastic. Like when Connor tries to make conversation with him or when Connor chose to save him over catching the Deviant.
A machine would have chosen the mission.
And in the shop when Connor touched York’s cheek? Hank thought he saw Connor leaning in to kiss her.
A machine wouldn’t have leaned in.
Hank was so sure Connor would kiss her that he coughed loudly. It was Hank’s polite way of breaking them up. Both looked embarrassed. It was adorable.
But Connor had to open his dumb mouth and spit out those words. Reminding Hank that Connor was a machine. Cold. No empathy.
Hank should be happy that Connor is a machine. That would mean the human form wrapped in his jacket is one as well. But he cannot help but be disappointed.
Suddenly Connor opens his eyes and looks at him.
“I never understood why humans had this compulsion to touch each other.” Hank isn’t paid enough to have these kinds of conversations. “But . . .” Connor looks down his hands, flexing his fingers. “I think I understand now. It does make you seem more real.”
“You didn’t think humans were real?”
“I’m not explaining this right.” It almost sounds like he’s pouting. “Humans created me. So humans have always been an abstract variable. Touching seems to expand my understanding of humans.”
“For the love of . . . Do not go around touching people.”
“Of course not. I do not wish to be shot.”
A bark of laugh erupts from Hank. And he wonders if that is CyberLife programming speaking, or Connor.
Chapter 4: What A World
A silent android sits on top of a small folding table. Every few seconds it blinks but otherwise it doesn’t move.
This is a simple plug and play. All she needs to do is swap out the aging limbs with the replacements she refurbished back at her workshop.
Yet here she is, ten minutes in, and not a single limb replaced.
She stares at the android sitting in front of her. Looking for something, anything to disprove Connor. She moves side to side and watches the eyes follow her.
But that’s what they do. Watch humans, waiting for a command. Nothing out of the ordinary.
York checks the room to make sure there are no cameras before reaching for the android’s hand. Slowly she raises it, watching the android’s face. Much like she did with Connor, she places the hand on her cheek. And waits.
The android blinks but otherwise does nothing. The hand just lays against her cheek, held in place only by her own hand.
With a frustrated sigh, she lets the hand go. It drops to the Android’s side.
“You’re being ridiculous York.” She berates herself. “Nothing happened. Whatever you thought you saw, it wasn’t real.” She rubs her temples to relieve her growing headache.
Well, time to get to work.
“Roger, enter repair mode.” The eyes look straight ahead and will not move until the release command. It doesn’t even flinch as she starts removing the limbs.
“It’s just like he said. They feel nothing.” She snaps in a new leg. “It was just a malfunctioning android.” Now the other leg. “They’re not alive.” She glances up at the android. Nothing. She replaces an arm with a hard snap. “You convinced yourself because. . .” The last arm snaps into place with a shove. “Because you wanted him to kiss you.”
She steps back with a huff, hands on her hips. And still the android sits. Unbothered by the rough repair job and her complaining.
It doesn’t feel anything.
“Roger, exit repair mode.” It blinks at her. “Please dress yourself and report to the front desk.” York collects the old limbs into a hard top case before leaving. She sends via her phone the invoice to the nursing home accountant.
She exits the building never seeing a single human. That’s how most of her customers like it. Don’t be seen.
But as she reaches her work van, York realizes that might be her problem. It’s been too long since she really spent time with her fellow humans outside of work.
Pulling out her phone she decides to change that. And then maybe she’ll stop thinking about androids being alive?
“York! You’re ears must have been burning! I was about to call you.” Amy, her best friend from college answers her phone on the first ring. Her voice brings a smile to York.
“Really? What did Mark do this time?” Amy’s five year old son is a ball of energy. The last and only time he visited her, he had managed to tear into every cabinet, box and closet in her loft.
She will never babysit again. And possibly never have children.
“He did it again.” It sounds like Amy is using her shoulder to hold her phone. Scraping sound can be heard. “He shoved a crayon into Sarah’s ears. Both of them!” The scraping sound stops and Amy’s voice comes in clearer now. “I am trying to open the ear like you showed me but I just can’t seem to pop it off. Can you come over? I really need Sarah working but she can’t hear a word I say. Why did this stupid thing even allow this?”
“I’ll be there in twenty minuets.” York starts the work van. Amy thanks her before hanging up. York is left to her thoughts.
‘Why did it allow it? Because it cannot feel anything.’
God, that’s going to become her new mantra, isn’t?
“York! Come in, Sarah is back here.” Amy gives her a tight hug before walking further into the home. And that one hug has improved York’s mood. She’s forgotten how nice human contact is.
Amy leads her through the home to the kitchen where Sarah sits, hands in its lap and eyes looking straight ahead.
York places her toolbox on the table by the android. She pulls out a mini flashlight and examines the right ear, then the left.
“Yup, there are crayons shoved in there.”
“He’s been doing that lately, but I’ve always been able to get them out. Not this time.”
“If the ear doesn’t pop off. You can try taking the back of the head off and do it that way.”
“I’ll leave that to you.”
“Sarah, enter repair mode.” York puts on static resistant gloves whenever she has to handle the inner workings of an android. “Sarah, remove skin.” Like a ripple the flesh fades away, leaving the factory white plastic shell.
The two women stand in silence as they take in the inhuman face before them. Strange how the simplest feature makes all the deference.
York wonders, would she have had the same reaction to Peter if he looked like this? If Connor did?
Not wanting to go back down that road, York traces her fingers down the seam splitting the back of the Android’s head. And there, right where the spine connects to the head does York press her fingers. A snap is heard and the panels become lose. Slowly she lifts up and away, exposing the inner workings.
After placing the panels on the table, York flashes her light toward where the left ear is. Amy follows behind her, an audible ‘Oh’ coming from her.
The light finds the whole crayon shoved in deep. Luckily it doesn’t seem to have done any real damage. She hands the flashlight to her friend who holds it for her. Hands free, she grabs a thin, long plastic pick and begins her work.
With some light jiggling, the ear pops free from the inside. Amy lets out a cry of joy as York successful pulls the crayon out. Then using baby wipes, she cleans off any crayon markings.
She repeats the process with the second ear. The whole thing takes less than thirty minutes and Sarah is back to normal.
“Sarah, exit repair mode.” It blinks and turns to face them, waiting for a command. It’s skin reappears, completing the human illusion.
“Sarah, please finish your chores.” Amy says to the android.
“Of course Mrs. Cox.” The android raises from the chair in a fluid motion. It swiftly heads to the living room. Amy gives York a big hug.
“This is why I love you!” She pulls away with a grin. “How much do I owe you?”
“That seems cheap.”
“There will be drinks.”
“You’re on! I’ll need to have Sarah inform Henry.” She bounces on her feet in excitement. “This will be fun! I need a girls night out!”
“So you’re going to tell me what’s wrong? Cause I’m sensing something is wrong.” York is hunched over in her seat, arms dangling beside her. The straw of her margarita lays loosely between her lips.
“What gave me away?” She says drily.
“Well, for starters this isn’t normally how we used to do a girls night out. And you look like shit. Are the headaches back?”
“I dropped my insurance.” Amy gasps at that. “I had too. The newer androids don’t need as much maintenance as the older ones. I’m having difficulty keeping clients to the point I’m now taking jobs at Eden Club.” And dumpster diving for parts. She leaves that bit of pathetic out.
“Wow.” Amy takes a slow sip of her own margarita. “Do you have to clean them?” Her nose scrunches up in disgust.
“No, they have a machine for that. I just do realignments and the occasional limb repair. It does make me feel . . . Dirty. But the other clients I have, I keep because I am charging them way under market. Eden makes up the difference but not by much.”
“York, if you need money?”
“Oh trust me. I have you on speed dial. I’ll call. But I’m not there yet.” She leans back in her seat. “It’s crazy. I work all the time and I just can’t seem to . . . I can’t seem to get anywhere.” Amy nods her head in encouragement. “I just want to cry sometimes. Just scream. But what does that solve?”
“Sometimes we need a good cry. It’s not healthy to keep it all in.”
“I know. But . . . This actually isn’t what I wanted to talk to you about.”
“Take your time.”
York takes a deep breath before explaining the past 48 hours. Amy thankfully says nothing as York talks. Her eyes do widening every so often. But she lets York get everything off her chest.
She tells Amy about the late night visit of the wounded android. The anger she saw in Connor when he realized she was lying. And that leads her to confesses how she’s always felt androids might be self aware. But she never imagined they were capable of feeling anything, specifically pain. And now she feels she might have been tormenting them all this time.
The words rush out of her, leaving her breathless when she’s done. It feels like she’s been holding them in forever. When she spares her friend a glance, she sees Amy staring into her drink. Her silence begins to worry York.
Good thing she left out the last bit about Connor. Then she really would feel foolish at her friend’s silence.
“So you think androids might be alive?” York nods, not able to read Amy’s tone.
“I know what you’re saying.” Amy says in a whisper. She looks around the restaurant to ensure no one is near. “I read this article that says they’re listening to us. Learning.” She’s trying to tease York but it only frustrates her.
“Amy, they are. They have to listen in order to follow your commands. But that’s not what I think makes them alive. You had to have been there. The emotion on the androids face!”
“Which one? Peter or Connor?”
“Both! The way Peter shook from fear and Connor. . .” The way he looked at her when he traced his thumb over her lower lip. It made her feel . . . beautiful. But she doesn’t want to share that bit.
“York.” Amy lightly touches York’s arm, halting her. “My cousin died when he was seven. It devastated my aunt and uncle because the doctors told them he would be the only child they could ever have. They could have adopted but instead they paid a lot of money to have CyberLife make an android version of their son.”
Amy takes out her phone and shows York a picture of a smiling couple with a grinning child between them. “This is Andy before he died. And this . . .” She flips to another picture. Same couple, older and a little boy between them. Same grinning face as the first picture. It is uncanny how they captured the boy’s childish grin, eyes alight with mischief.
“I’ve met this android and can attest that CyberLife did a very good job. And not only does this android act like a child, it can get ‘sick’ too. I visited once when the thing got a cold. Spot on. I mean, runny nose, pale skin. It even had a temperature!”
“Are you serious? Why would you want an android to get sick?”
“Because they wanted their son back. To them it was, it is. They need it to be real.” Amy shakes her head. “My relatives could have saved themselves a lot of money and just come over when Mark had the flu. God that was a nightmare. But what I’m trying to say is . . . It’s not real. They are not real.”
Connor’s words echo in York’s mind.
“Ms. Pryor, those emotions were not real.”
“I feel incredibly stupid.”
“No, don’t. I didn’t tell you this to upset you. I’m saying we get so caught up in our jobs, technology and all the craziness going on in the world. That we forget what it means to be human. To feel human. So we look for it anywhere we can.”
Amy rubs circles over York’s back. It’s soothing and heals her bruised heart.
“You’ve been pushing yourself too hard. Being even harder on yourself. Please give yourself a break.” She suddenly clasps her hands together in excitement. “In fact, your birthday is coming up! Let me treat you to a spa day!”
“Amy, my birthday is in September. It’s November now.”
“Yeah, it’s coming up. That’s what I said. Come on! Let’s do this! I need a spa day too.”
As Amy checks her home schedule, York leans back in her seat and smiles at her best friend. Then her phone vibrates, a call from Eden Club.
They pull up to the front of CyberLife just as a team of people in hazmat suits pour out. They wheel out a large grey crate. When they open it up, Hank can see it has protective foam inside.
One of the men opens the back door to remove the deviant, jacket carelessly tossed to the floor of the car. They then gingerly place the deviant into the crate, sealing it up. And much like they came out, they swiftly return inside the building.
Never once saying a word.
“CyberLife says we can go now.” Connor says in a flat tone, his LED flickering.
As if they couldn’t leave without their permission? Pompous assholes.
“I have also just been informed that a deviant attacked a cook at a dinner, Pop’s Kitchen. It seems the staff where able to destroy it. We are to collect it and bring it back to CyberLife.”
“Why can’t they do it? I thought your mission was to track down deviants? Not play fetch.” Connor doesn’t reply right away, instead he watches Hank with that odd expression. Almost like Connor is trying to figure him out.
“I need to analyze the scene to determine how the humans were able to stop the deviant.”
“Whatever. Let’s hope this is better than dealing with the sex bots.”
It’s not better.
“I’m never eating here again.” Hank mutters as he takes in the scene before him. The deviant is hunched over the fryer, head submerged in the now cooled oil.
Connor’s eyes roam over the area, completely unmoved by the gruesome scene.
And for a very, very, brief moment, Hank wishes he could be like that.
He could really use a drink right now.
According to Officer Miller, the deviant attacked one of the cooks in the storage room. Then the other two cooks engaged the deviant when they heard the commotion. The altercation then spilled out into the kitchen. There the three cooks were able to over power it and shove its head in the fryer.
Officer Miller doesn’t seem convinced but neither does he seem to want to question them further. Why would he? Only an android is dead.
No, not dead. Deactivated. His programming corrects him.
Connor lied to Hank when he was asked why they had to go. Amanda had told him to just collect the deviant, nothing more. But he made the choice to analyze the scene. Connor justified his decision in a away to fit within his mission parameters, allowing for his programming to accept it.
His justification? He doesn’t know where the deviant is within the dinner. Therefore he will need to track it down.
His actual reason? Connor needs to feel in control of himself.
The last couple of meetings with Amanda have been difficult. Why give Connor all this advanced probability and analytical software and not allow him to use it? Millions of dollars to develop him and CyberLife wants him to ‘play fetch’?
Connor will use the tools provided to him. And why not? It’s well within his parameters.
Neither Amanda or Hank need to know.
“All this cutlery and not one is used in the struggle?” Connor smiles at Hank’s words. It’s impressive how observant the lieutenant is. “And that deviant has the cleanest hands for being in a fight with three people.”
He leans over the android, scanning its neck. There he can pick up fingerprints.
Charles B. Wentworth
Drug Charges: Red Ice possession
That’s the cook who was first attacked. Connor finds it curious how clean the fingerprints are. If the android fought as they said, the prints would have been smudged.
Connor scans the the area as he walks to the storage room. Inside he finds supplies over the floor and a mop and pail at the entrance. Other than that the shelves seem intact. Connor grabs a shelf and shakes it, the structure almost falls over.
He then focuses on the mop and pail, it’s placement standing out to him. As it’s placed now, it should have been knocked over when all four tumbled out of the storage room. He scans over the supplies on the ground, noticing how they’re wet underneath.
The floor was mopped before the supplies were tossed down. According to Officer Miller, the fight concluded over an hour ago. The floor shouldn’t still be this wet.
“Where is Mr. Wentworth?” Connor says to Officer Miller. The human seems shocked that Connor is speaking to him. He looks to Hank, as if what? Asking for guidance?
Hank nods his head and that is all Officer Miller needs.
“He’s out back with Reed, um Detective Reed.” Connor says nothing as he turns on his heel, heading for the back exit. Hank follows, keeping his eyes away from the deactivated android.
“Why are you two still here?” Is the greeting they get from Reed. Connor bypasses him and walks up to Mr. Wentworth. Scans show some minor injuries but other than that the human is in good condition. So much so he’s leaning against the dinner wall, smoking.
“Mr. Wentworth, may I ask you some questions?”
“Hey!” Reed shouts. Luckily Hank intervenes, blocking Reed from Connor. The two exchange words but he doesn’t pay attention. He needs answers.
“Why did you attack the android?”
“The hell? Who are you?”
Aggressive. “The android didn’t fight you. In fact it didn’t put up any kind of fight. Not even when you shoved its head in the fryer.” He steps well within the human’s comfort zone. “So I will ask again. Why did you attack the android?”
“Fuck you. I don’t have to answer to a piece of plastic.”
Aggressive. “It startled you, didn’t it? When it came into the storage room.” The man becomes silent. Sweat beading at his temple. “That made you drop your Red Ice stash, ruining it.” Reed and Hank step closer to Connor, suddenly interested in Mr. Wentworth’s reaction.
“Enraged, you dragged the android to the fryer where you shoved its head in.” Mr. Wentworth’s eyes widen in fear, the color drains from his face. “Then you made up the story and enlisted the help of the other cooks. Did they know your reason? Or did you lie to them too?”
“I was attacked! The stupid machine attacked me!” Connor’s programming detects the human’s heart rate has increased. He’s lying.
Aggressive. “Mr. Wentworth, I am equipped with the worlds most advanced sensors. If you consume Red Ice, I will detect it with just a touch.” He holds up a hand to show the human. “You don’t want me to do that. But I do. I really want to. All I need is a reason. So lie to me again. Why. Did you. Attack. The android?”
The human is sweating heavily, his breathing increases. Scanners indicate he’s on the verge of panic.
“Answer him.” Hank says behind Connor.
“I . . .” He swallows. “I didn’t attack . . .” Connor moves faster than the human could prepare for. He slams the man against the wall, shoving two fingers up his nose. The man tries to struggle but Connor pulls them out just as fast he shoved them in. He lets go of the human and watches him crumble to the floor, clutching his nose.
“Analysis detects Red Ice inside your nose cavity.” Connor bends down to wipe the fingers on the man’s shirt. He then reaches into the man’s pants pockets to pull out a plastic bag. Scanners detect Red Ice residue.
“Detective Reed?” Connor hands the bag to Reed, knowing he’ll need to convince the detective more than Hank. He seems distrustful but takes the bag anyway. Opening it up he sniff the bag before wiping his pinky along the inside. He dabs the pinky on his tongue.
Reeds eyes zero in on Mr. Wentworth as he pulls out his handcuffs.
“Mr. Wentworth, you’re under arrest for possession of Red Ice.” Connor steps away to allow the detective access to the quivering man. Hank appears impressed.
“Lieutenant, we can return the android now.” Connor says as he walks to re-enter the dinner.
“Huh? But it’s not a deviant.”
“The android suffered a traumatic event yet it never once deviated. It would have taken three minutes for the oil to damage the android beyond repair. That is more than enough time for it to fight back. CyberLife will want to study it.”
“Right, lets get this over with.” Social programming detects Hank is upset. But about what? He seemed pleased with Connor only a few seconds ago. “Funny.” He says as he watches Reed haul away the cook. “They were about to let him go. Despite the obvious evidence before them. And now thanks to you he’s getting arrested.” This upsets him? Why? “Arrested for drugs and not shoving the androids head in a fryer. What a world.”
Hank shakes his head in disgust as he disappears inside the dinner.
Connor watches the lieutenant’s retreating form. His programming dictates he should correct the lieutenant, that what the cook did to the android is not reason enough for an arrest. Yet Connor chooses to remain quiet.
Chapter 5: Push Forward
As before, Dr. Goodie’s team swarms Hank’s car. They swiftly move the deactivated android out and into a waiting storage unit. The only difference this time is that Connor exits the car.
“Where are you going? They got it.” Hank reaches a hand out to stop Connor. He sits back down in the seat but only to address the lieutenant.
“I’m being summoned.”
“What the hell does that mean?”
“It means I’m being summoned to deal with CyberLife business. Your presence isn’t required.”
“Yeah, I bet it isn’t.” Connor can hear the lieutenant mumbling the word ‘assholes’.
“I will come find you if there are any new leads.” Hank watches him, looking like he wants to say more.
Joke. “Especially if I hear anything from little old ladies.” But Connor does not get the reaction he thought. Hank seems even more upset. Since the dinner incident, Hank has been growing more agitated.
Connor’s programming reminds him of his current priority. Meeting with Dr. Goodie.
“Yeah, you do that.” Hank says as he turns away from Connor. With nothing more to say, Connor finally exits the car. He watches the lieutenant drive out of sight before entering the building.
No one bothers Connor as he walks towards the elevator. The only glances he receives are from interns, who are still taking in the idea that they are work here.
Inside the elevator, Connor hits the button to Dr. Goodie’s lab. His quarter glides across his knuckles as he waits.
Amanda didn’t contact him.
The quarter moves faster.
Instead it’s Dr. Goodie who did.
Faster the quarter goes.
The man who designed him.
He catches the quarter and returns it to his pocket. Connor adjusts his tie before walking down the long hallway.
Ceiling to floor glass line the hallway. This allows anyone who passes through to see Dr. Goodie’s team work on the latest androids, their bodies in different state of dismemberment.
The doctor could have had Connor meet him in his office but he always chooses his private lab. If Connor had to guess, the good doctor does this on purpose.
He approaches the large wooden doors at the end. The wood is a deep, dark red. It came from a temple in Tibet, the wheel of life carved into it.
He enters without knocking.
Dr. Goodie has his back to Connor, his tall form dwarfing the young intern beside him. In the doctor’s hands is a tablet, his fingers occasionally flick up across it. Sensors detect the intern is extremely nervous.
“No.” Dr. Goodie finally says. “Your code is sloppy. This will never do. What school did you say you’re from?”
“Penn S-state, sir.”
“They must be lowering their standards. Do better.” He hands tablet back, effectively dismissing the young intern. They flee the room, head down.
“Connor.” Dr. Goodie finally addresses him, readjusting his round glasses. The doctor’s blue eyes roam over Connor before he continues. “Interesting. Amanda sounded . . . Worried. About you. She made it seem you were distressed.”
Connor remains silent.
“She was concerned you might be deviating. That this mission, your interactions with humans, might be negatively affecting you.”
Connor continues to say nothing.
“Is she correct?”
Truth. Connor’s eyes roll up as he runs a systems check. “No. I detect no signs of deviation from my programming. Could you perhaps tell me what exactly caused Amanda to suspect such?”
“I rather you show me.” He inclines his head toward the device in the center of the room. The device Connor purposely ignores.
It reminds Connor of a metal hand. Four of the metal ‘fingers’ are used to hold a limb, the middle ‘finger’ plugs into the back of an android’s neck. Then it raises the android up, suspending them in the air. Once secure, the device will download the memories of the android.
And it can erase them.
Connor doesn’t move.
“Must I command you?” Dr. Goodie sounds hopeful.
Slowly Connor steps onto the platform. He turns around to face the doctor, who looks slightly put out. He holds Connor’s gaze as he turns on the machine. Conner jerks as he feels a pinch at his neck. The device clasps each limb before lifting him up.
“Now, lets see what’s been bothering you.”
Connor says nothing.
“How many androids does Floyd actually have?” She’s been here for two hours readjusting what seems like an endless parade of androids. When Floyd said he wanted her to come by to do some tune ups before a visit from foreign businessmen, she thought he meant only a few. Not the whole lot of them!
Is an entire country’s businessmen coming here tomorrow?
Whatever, she gets paid for each repair. And she’s charging him an extra fee for calling on such short notice. She just might be able to do the spa day after all. Maybe even do a body wrap and a facial.
York stretches out her back, wincing at the pain in her shoulder. It’s still tender from this morning.
God, that was this morning? It feels like it was an eternity ago.
Hopefully, she won’t see anymore excitement like that again.
Hopefully she didn’t just jinx herself.
“Knock on wood.” She knocks her knuckles against her head, amusing herself by her joke. That only she seems to get.
“York!” Floyd burst into the room, making her jump.
“What? I’m still working!” She points to the rows of androids she has yet to start. “And I opened the loading dock door because it’s hot in here. I’ll close it when I’m done!” She remembers the lecture she got the last time she forgot to close the loading dock door.
“Never mind that! I need you out here. Now!” She moves to get up. “Bring your tools.”
York does as asked and follows the man out the door to the main floor. She never goes to the main floor.
He walks her to the VIP section and into one of the private rooms. Inside is a janitor and WR400. The limbs of the female android are twisted and bent in odd shapes.
“Can you fix this? Or is it a lost cause?” She pulls out her sensor tool and places it over the LED. In a few seconds the device dings, signaling its done.
“Hmm, it shows there still some activity. But the physical damage is so severe that the android shutdown to persevere energy. I’m sure once I fix the limbs it should come back on.”
“Good, this is Mr. Green’s favorite.” VIP’s are given fake names to ‘protect their identity’.
“Hold on.” York notices something strange. “Shoot. The frame is bent.” The right hip indents, as if someone stomped it. Repeatedly.
“Is that bad?”
“Well, not sure if a concave hip goes with the whole human illusion. But put her in a dress and no one will notice.”
“Can you fix it?”
“The frame? Not easily. I’d have to cut out the damaged section, then use a 3D printer to create a replacement and finally weld it into the frame.”
“How much would that cause me?”
“How important is this VIP?” Floyd chews on his inner cheek, hands on his hips as he thinks.
Suddenly the door opens and one of the few humans working here pops their head in.
“Mr. Mills! There’s a . . . Um. . . Situation.”
“What? Some else broke another android?”
“Yes, but the client . . . He’s. . .”
“What? What is it Paul!” Paul looks to York then back to Floyd. “Fine, just show me. York, take it back and see what you can do.” With that Floyd leaves her. She turns to the janitor.
“Could you please clean her off and send her to the back room when you are done?”
“Already cleaned it.” It doesn’t move to pick up the android.
“Ok, could you please take it to the back?” It bends to comply. “Oh! Wrap it up first. Don’t want to freak people out. Thanks.” She leaves the room as the janitor drapes a sheet over it.
This is going to be a long night.
This day is never ending.
Hank should be at home, suffering through a hangover. Not in a sex club, suffering through a hangover.
But no, a sex box decided they no longer wanted to be . . . Well, a sex bot. And straggled their customer. And now he’s got less then two hours to find a deviant before it gets it mind wiped.
It ends up costing Hank a small fortune before Connor is able to track the deviant to the ‘Staff Only’ back room.
Hank could have guessed that was where the deviant ran off too without doing that weird . . . Is it mind reading? He’ll go with mind reading.
How is he going to explain this expense report?
The only saving grace is that the Chris and Gavin left before they could see the small harem of doting Sex bots following him.
If he hears one more breathy ‘What do you desire?’ He won’t be responsible for happens next.
Thankful Hank is able to close the door before they could follow him in. He sighs in relief before turning around. The back room is in fact a long hallway. Three androids are queued outside a door, a red light shines above it. A sign says ‘Cleaner’, the sound of water rushing can be heard behind the door.
Connor touches each android.
“The deviant went into the cleaner. It exits out through here.” Connor points to the only other door.
They enter the final door, Connor first. He surveys the ground before halting. Hank looks towards what caught Connor’s attention, hand over his gun just in case.
Sitting at a table in the center of the dimly lit room is York. Toolbox open beside what Hank could only describe as a body bent in some morbid version of Twister. It’s a WR400 and it looks like it lost that game.
“What . . .” York speaks but Connor places a finger to his lips. Her mouth shuts with a snap. Worry starts to show on her face as her eyes shift around the room. But she doesn’t move otherwise.
“Evening Ms. Pryor. I’m sorry to disturb you but Mr. Mills has asked for you.”
Knowing that Connor is trying to get her to leave, Hank does his own survey of the room. It’s dark except for the light in the center where two metal tables sit, one occupied by York and the WR400 and the other with various android parts and tools.
To his right, two rows of androids are queued up against the wall, their faces blank. To his left is one row of . . .
“Ah shit! They’re naked!” The androids are facing him in all their glory. Their bodies glistening in the dim light, the scent of chlorine coming off of them. Hank jerks back until he hits the wall behind him. This is more than he wants to know.
“Of course they are.” York says as she gathers her tools. “Those guys just came from the cleaner.” She points to a door behind the naked androids. A red light above it.
“They come out and stand on those grates to dry off. Then they get dress.” She points to a large laundry basket between the androids and where she sits. “And then back out to the floor.”
“What about those here?” Connor nods his head to the rows of dressed androids.
“Oh, those need a realignment. I haven’t started on them yet. I’ve been debating fixing this one.” She pats the twisted android on the table. “But there’s really no point since the frame is bent.”
“Well, could you order them to get dressed?” Why is she talking like there isn’t a bunch of nude androids near her? Hank tries to stress that to her without openly saying it.
She smirks at him. Oh, she know. She knows this is bothering him.
“Hank, it’s no different than a human body. In fact CyberLife did an amazing job replicating . . .”
“Dammit York! I don’t need to know about android genitalia.” That caught Connor’s attention, who stops his survey to look at him.
Great now York and Connor are giving him a look like he’s crazy. He does not need this.
“Hank, this is a sex club. They kinda need that gear to . . . “ Hank does his best to level her with a ‘Don’t you dare finish that sentence’ look. She rolls her eyes. “It’s not that big . . . Well, actually it can be quite a big deal . . .”
“Shut it! Shut it right now!”
“I’m just saying. . .”
“Why don’t you want me to sleep? I need sleep!”
York says nothing, mostly because she’s trying her best not to laugh. Connor is eerily silent.
“Everything has genitalia.” She finally says.
“God dammit York! You’re not going to stop are you?”
“Even plants.” She completely ignores Hank’s pleas. “What do you think pollen is?”
“York . . .” Hank warns her.
“It’s plant sperm.”
“Gah!” Hank covers his ears and starts shaking his head wildly, as if he could wipe her words away.
“Pollen season is nothing more than plant sexy time.”
“York, I will shoot you!”
“No he won’t.” Connor says. Does Hank see a smirk on Connor’s face? The traitor! “It’s too much paper work.” That earns Connor a grin from York.
“It’s really fascinating technology.” She continues on. “As much as I hate to admit. CyberLife really are evil geniuses. They built a device inside the androids, much like a humidifier, that keeps their mouth and naughty bits moist. I guess that’s also what creates tears too.”
“Dear God, she said moist!”
“I also said naughty bits.” She is shamelessly grinning at him now.
“Connor, didn’t you say Mr. Miller needs her? That she should go!” But Connor doesn’t respond. His focus is on the back row of the dressed androids. His eyes remind Hank of a predator who found its prey.
Hank looks over the rows of androids and sees a splash of blue in the far back, LED circle yellow. Yet it’s another WR400 who moves first. It launches itself at Connor, a cry of rage erupting from it. The collision throws them both into the table York was working on, knocking the damage android off. York hugs the toolbox with a yelp as she tries to back away.
Hank moves to assist but the blue haired deviant tackles him. The scent of chlorine hitting him like a punch to the face.
“Gah! She’s wet!” His disgust fuels him and he throws it behind him. Hank curses himself as he sees it places the deviant right at the exit.
But it doesn’t flee. Instead it picks itself up and charges him again.
York’s cry of alarm distracts Hank for a second but that is more than enough time for the deviant to get past his defense. It lands a blow to his jaw, jerking his head to the side. There he sees the reason for York’s distress.
Connor has a screwdriver lodged into his chest. York wields her toolbox like a club and bashes it into the deviant’s face, giving Connor time to pull out the screwdriver. He throws it at the charging deviant before grabbing York. He pulls them to the ground and rolls under the work table. There he leaves York under the protection of the table. And continues his fight with the deviant.
Realizing Connor can handle himself and York is taken care of, Hank focuses his full attention to his opponent.
Well, this escalated quickly.
One moment she is teasing Hank and the next Connor has a screwdriver lodged in his chest.
York bashes her toolbox into the WR400’s face in an attempt to get it off Connor. However, it recovers quickly and looks ready to charge again. But an oddly familiar screwdriver shoots past York causing the android to roll away.
Then strong arms wrap around her and her world spins as she’s pulled to the ground and rolled under the work table. Connor ends up on top of her, Thirium 310 droplets speckles across her shirt, some landing on her skin. It’s hot.
“Don’t come out.” Is all he says before blocking a stiletto clad foot from impaling him.
Right, an android is attacking them.
With a hard twist he sends the android to the ground. He gives York one last look before rolling out from under the table. The android and him scuffle away from her.
It sounds like the place is being torn apart. The table gets rocked several times before the fight moves out the loading dock doors. It’s only when she no longer can hear them that she come out from under the table.
The room is silent and it looks like a bomb exploded in it.
York places a hand over her heart, it’s racing as if she just ran a marathon. Pulling her hand away she sees it’s stained blue.
“Connor. . .”
Connor pulls the gun on the charging deviant. Hank sees the blue haired one move in between them and for a slow agonizing second, he thought the two deviants dead.
But Connor doesn’t pull the trigger. His eyes widen and he draws back in shock as he sees the blue haired deviant. His LED circle flickering yellow.
Then the blue haired deviant is speaking to Connor. She tells him about her experience at Eden and how she found love. Connor listens intently.
Hank knows he should be keeping watch but his partner looks distressed. He almost feels like he is watching some internal battle playing out on Connor’s face.
The deviants leave, climbing over the fence with no further trouble from Connor. Hank makes no move to stop them, instead choosing to walk over to Connor. He takes the gun from him, his grip lose.
Neither say a word. The only sound is the light rain. Connor looks down at his hand, his thumb rubbing over his fingers. He looks lost, hurt even. Then in a quite voice, Connor finally speaks.
“It said love.” He looks to Hank. “How does it even know love?”
“Connor. . .”
“It’s . . . possible to learn it?”
Hank almost told him that of course it can be learned. But he remembers who is he talking to. What he is talking to. An android. A machine.
“Ah Hell Connor. Love is one of the universe’s greatest mysteries. And biggest pain.” He pats Connor on the shoulder.
Connor says nothing. LED goes back to solid blue.
“We must check on Ms. Pryor.” And just like that, Connor is over his brush with love.
Chapter 6: Nothing is Forever
It’s quite. Too quiet.
Seriously. Why is it so quiet?
York had built a makeshift barricade from the two tables, the laundry cart and really anything not bolted down or an android.
That had to have taken at least five minutes. Maybe? She’s not sure. Her phone is missing. And she’s not going to look for it right now.
She huddles behind her barricade, holding a large wrench she found and she waits. She waits for Connor and Hank to come back. Or the deviants, returning to rid themselves of witnesses. Or for the remaining androids to attack.
Whatever happens, she’ll be ready.
Suddenly, the naked androids turn at once to face her and march toward her. She backs up against the wall, waving the wrench around.
She’s not ready. Not ready at all!
This has to be karma getting her back for teasing Hank earlier.
They surround the barricade, arms outstretched as they . . . reach into the laundry cart. They pull out their uniforms and begin to dress. Never once looking at her, never saying a word as they exit.
Oh. Right. The laundry cart.
She lowers the wrench with a nervous laugh, she looks around to ensure no one is there to witness this little embarrassing moment.
York sees Connor and Hank are walking this way but it doesn’t seem like they saw anything.
Relief fills her at seeing them. She slides down the wall, wrench held loosely in one hand. With the adrenaline rush fading, her headache comes back in full force.
York drops the wrench when she’s fully seated on the floor, her hands cover her face.
“Ms. Pryor?” Connor looks at her with concern. His head titled slightly, his eyes roaming over her. “Are you hurt?”
“No, just sore.”
“How bad is your headache?”
“Ha, is it that obvious?”
“The tension in your face shows you are suffering from a headache.”
“Right, well . . . “ She attempts to hauls herself up. “C'est la vie.”
“Such is life.” Connor translates as he easily moves apart her barricade.
So much for that idea.
He helps steady her as she gets up, eyes examining over her.
“I’m fine Connor. You’re the one who was stabbed.”
“Yeah, Connor.” Hanks says as he picks up York’s purse. She had forgotten about him. “You need that checked out.”
“I am fine. Nothing was severely damaged.”
“Connor! You had a screwdriver shoved to the hilt in your chest! That’s not fine.” York points to the torn hole in his shirt. Connor looks down at it and then back to her. He starts to undo his tie.
Neither Hank or York say anything as Connor starts unbuttoning his shirt. Hank moves to get a better look as Connor opens the shirt enough to show them where the screwdriver hit.
His chest is healed.
York gasps at the sight and Hank takes a step back. Without thinking, she places her fingers on his chest, feeling where the entry wound should be. The area gives a little but the rest of his chest is firm.
She pulls back in shock.
“You’re self healing?” York feels her headache increasing. “Great, I’m going to be replaced.”
“Ms. Pryor, I am a prototype. The material used in my creation is not ready for mass production.”
“Oh, so I’ll have what? A few years before being replaced?”
“If my mission is successful, my model type would be used for law enforcement.”
Hank let’s out a bitter laugh.
“So I’ll be replaced. Wonderful.” Connor looks frustrated. The LED flickers yellow before he speaks again.
“Lieutenant, the majority of humans are still weary of androids. So a full android police force would not be accepted. We would serve as support. Our ability to do real time lab tests will cut spending.”
“The lab techs will love that.” Hank crosses his arms over his chest. Connor opens his mouth to say something but York cuts him off.
“Ok guys. We’re all tired. Let’s call it a night cause no one is going to win this debate.”
Thankful they both agree and say no more on the topic.
Hank turns to the exit when Connor calls out to him.
“Lieutenant, you might want to rethink that.” Hank looks confused for a second before his mouth opens in a silent ‘O’. He backs away from the door. York looks to Connor for clarification.
“Connor, don’t! I’ve had enough of York’s teasing for one night.”
“Oh! Now I really want to know!” But Connor chooses Hank’s side and says nothing. Yet, he does give her a mischievous smile when he turns away from Hank’s view.
Once outside, York locks the docking bay doors. The cool rain feels good compared to the furnace like work area. A part of York wonders if she should have attempted to clean up. Nah. She’s done for the night.
York uses her key card to unlock the back gate, holding the door for the others.
“Well guys, it been fun.” She sends them a mock salute. “But I hope we don’t do this again. I can only take so much excitement.”
“Good night Ms. Pryor.”
She smiles at them before turning towards her van. Or what should have been her van. The space is empty. The only evidence that her van was ever there are the tire tracks.
Camel’s back? Meet straw.
“God dammit all!” She slams her purse to the ground and drops her toolbox. She runs her hands in her hair, pulling it. “Just what I needed!” She bites her fist as she screams.
Connor and Hank walk up beside her. They survey the empty spot.
“Looks like the deviants took your van.” Hank says to her.
“Great detective work there. How about you continue that and find my van!”
“I’ve already called it in Ms. Pryor.” Connor kneels down beside the tire track. He reaches out to lightly touch it.
“Connor, do not lick that.”
“Lick?” York whips her head toward Hank in shock.
Where does she even being with that?
“I do not need to. I’m scanning the tire tracks. Like a fingerprint, tracks are unique.” He rests his arms on his knees as he looks down the dimly lit street. “I might be able to track it.” He stands back up. “If I hurry.”
“Now wait a moment!” Hank puts a hand on Connor’s shoulder. “If they did take it, you can’t face them alone! Let me get the car.”
“Lieutenant, I cannot track the tires riding in your car.”
Suddenly, York envisions Hank driving his car with Connor halfway out the passenger window, tie blowing in the wind, shouting ‘This way’!
She covers her mouth to hide her smile.
“Connor. . .” Hank uses that tone of his, the one that says you’re being dumb.
“It is fine lieutenant. The deviants only took the van to get some distance from us. They will abandon it at first chance since that type of vehicle is too noticeable.” He meets Hank’s eyes. “I’m fine, lieutenant.” Hank doesn’t seem to agree and York feels like she is missing something.
Connor picks up her belongings, returning them to her. “Ms. Pryor, I will find your van.” And with that he jogs down the street, leaving them in the rain.
“Um, did something just happen? I feel like I am missing something.” Hank says nothing until Connor is out of sight.
“Let me drive you home.” York realizes she never asked what happened to the two deviants. But with the way Connor and Hank are acting, it’s probably best she just leave it alone.
Her headache is worse enough.
The garden is darken by heavy rain clouds. The threat of rain appears to be imminent. Connor creates an umbrella in his hand, opening it as he searches for Amanda.
The memory of Dr. Goodie’s warning comes to surface.
“Connor.” Dr. Goodie says as he stands by the control panel for the device Connor is connected to. “It took three years to develop you. And it took two years prior to that arguing with the board of executives just to put you in draft. They didn’t share my vision.” The doctor hasn’t turned on the device yet, he is just letting Connor hang there as he speaks.
“The only way they agreed to give me the resources to build you was if another android was created. One who would watch you. That’s who Amanda is.”
Dr. Goodie lifts Connor’s head up so he could look into his eyes. “I had no say in her development. I have no control over her.”
Connor says nothing, knowing better. He can read between the lines.
“So you must be careful. She’s looking for a reason, any reason.” He release Connor’s head, letting it drop. The control panel is positioned so Connor can clearly see it.
Green button. Machine will download his memoirs.
Red button. Machine will delete his memoirs.
The doctor moves his hand over the red button. And for the first time, Connor is worried. He has memoirs he doesn’t want to lose.
“It will take one word from Amanda, and the board will order me to wipe you clean. No backup, no reboot. Just destroy my hard work.” Connor can hear the doctor sigh. “It’s like asking Michelangelo to destroy his David.”
The doctor hits the green button.
“So do be careful when dealing with Amanda.”
Amanda is waiting for him on the bridge. The rain starts to fall as he reaches her. Her face is a mask of stone.
He waits for her to start but she doesn’t. She only stares at him.
The rain falls harder.
Truth. “I failed.” He squares his shoulders. Readying himself. “I had them in my grasp and I . . . Failed. For that, I am sorry.”
Amanda doesn’t move, doesn’t blink. She just watches him. He fights the urge to shift his feet.
“I’m sure you are. And I’m sure you won’t let this happen again.” She finally looks away from him. “I know this because you have said this before.”
She turns her eyes back to him. “Connor, you’re running out of time.”
‘You, you’re running out of time.’ Her meaning is deafening.
The for a long moment, the only sound is heavy rain hitting the umbrella.
“The deviant and the deactivated android you brought in has actually proven beneficial to the mission. Dr. Goodie and his team have been able to make a breakthrough. They believe there is a way to not only stop the deviation but reverse it as well.”
“That’s excellent news, Amanda.”
“Indeed. It’s. . . Appeased the executive board. You have about 48 hours before Dr. Goodie’s team will complete their work.” She turns away from, walking into the rain. “Use your time wisely, Connor.”
Today, York is going to stay in bed.
No matter what. Today was supposed to be a workshop day but fuck it. She deserves a break.
No phone, York isn’t going to answer you.
Unless it’s Connor with her van? She grabs her phone, hopeful. But it’s the boys from the dump, they found a blue right eye compatible with a PL400.
York’s favorite customer has a rare functioning PL400 but its right eye is failing and needs replacement. But since it’s such an older model, CyberLife no longer makes parts for it. The limited supply means she has to go on a scavenger hunt for them.
So seeing the text about the eye makes her sit up.
“Yes!” She texts them back saying she’ll be there soon. But right after she sends the text, does she remember she has no van. The dump is walkable, if her amputated limbs didn’t hurt so much. She took off her prosthetics as soon as she got to bed, the pressure in her head dissipating almost immediately.
But one night isn’t enough to soothe her limbs or her head.
She could take the bus?
Knock. Knock. Knock.
The knocks are evenly distributed and feel overly polite. Almost, cute.
Connor? York can’t stop her grinning as she picks up her prosthetic leg, snapping it on. But the latch doesn’t catch and she has to try again. She really needs to look into fixing that.
Knock. Knock. Knock.
“I’m coming! Oh, you better be Connor.” She finally gets her leg on. “With my van!” York looks for her arm but doesn’t see it. “Come on! Really? Now!”
Giving up she rushes to the front door but when she opens it, no one is there. Her shoulders drop.
“Ms. Pryor?” York can hear Connor’s voice, she steps outside to see him partially down the stairs. His eyebrows are raised up as he looks at her. “I hope I didn’t wake you.”
“No, no, you didn’t. Come up.” She goes back in and for a few moments she doesn’t hear anything. York is about to call to him when she finally hears the stairs rattling. Then she sees him, he stands in the doorway. Waiting.
“Connor, you can come in.” He does, eyes looking over the room. “I swear, I have no hidden deviants in here.” He gives her a small smile.
He closes the door behind him before approaching her. Connor stops in front of her with a comfortable distance.
“I found your van.” She grins happily at him. “But the deviants crashed it.” Her face drops.
Of course, of all the deviants in the world, she gets her van stolen by ones who can’t drive.
“I had it sent to a specialists for vintage vehicles. It should be repaired in a few days.” Oh the irony. A few years ago, Connor would have sent the van here for repair. “CyberLife will cover the cost.”
“Thanks for finding it. But you didn’t have to come all this way to tell me that. You could have called or texted. Save yourself a trip.”
“You never gave me your number.”
“Right, I typically don’t give out my number to guys who tackle me.”
“I also dislocated your shoulder.”
“Yeah, I remember. But I would have thought CyberLife would have given you the tools to find phone numbers. Or to Google. Cause my work number is my home number.”
“True, but you, personally, didn’t give me your number. And my programming states it is considered rude and improper to call someone without exchanging numbers first.”
“You have a number?”
“RK800.” He deadpans.
“Connor, you know what I meant.” She can’t help but chuckle at him.
“I know. But to answer your question. . . Not in a way you can use.”
“Ok, well, I’ll give you my number. It’s . . .”
“I already have it. I just can’t use it until you give me permission.”
The room falls silent as York takes in what she just heard. He already has her number?
She gives her head a slight shake. No, York, you’re reading into things again.
“Well, you have my permission to use my number. And now that you have it . . .” She lets the words hang between them. Connor blinks, realizing she’s waiting on him.
“I also came by to offer my assistance. Your van was stolen because of my . . . Inaction. My failure to capture the deviants.”
“CyberLife is going to allow this?”
“Hank informed me this morning that he will not be in till 11am. Which means noon. And there currently are no leads for me to follow or research. . .”
“So you’re bored, that’s what you are saying?” York hopes he understands she is teasing him.
The slight smile tells her he does.
“Ms. Pryor, for the next two hours I am available if you need me. I can go if you want.”
“Hmm, can you detect if an android component is functioning? There’s this eye I need checked out, but you only know if those work by plugging them in. And I really don’t want to bring a defunct component to a customer. Again.”
Connor seems pleased by this request. Interesting.
“Yes, I can do that for you. Where is the component?”
“It’s at the dump near by. Let me get dressed first.” She makes her way to her bedroom. “Make yourself at home!”
Connor waits until he hears a click from the bedroom door before he begins scanning the area. His programming informs him that anything here will be irrelevant to the mission.
But a deviant has already stayed here once. And York shows signs similar to humans who have been caught smuggling deviants out of the city. She would make an excellent smuggler, with her workshop and supplies. Useful to any runaway deviant.
With his programming parameters met, Connor is allowed to proceed.
He heads to the cabinet, Thirium 310 still showing up there. Connor can see fingerprints and within is a first aid kit.
Closing the cabinet he looks at the countertop. There is an assortment of teacups, well used. They are colorful and what humans would call whimsical. One teacup has three little feet on the bottom, they looks like paws. A blue ban is painted around the top, one side is faded. The shape of the faded paint looks to be from her lip.
Connor rubs his thumb over it. This is her favorite.
Another teacup catches his attention. It’s shoved in the back of the group but it’s shape is different. Picking it up, Connor sees it has been repaired. His scanners indicate the repair was done with one hand.
York did this. But without her prophetic arm.
Analysts of the glue says it’s about nine years old. She would have been seventeen.
He turns the teacup around, analyzing the damage. It wasn’t dropped. It was thrown.
What made her that mad? Why put it back together? This means something to her.
His programming indicates there is nothing here. Connor doesn’t agree. There is something here. Everything in this home is like York’s source code. Telling him something about her inner workings. If he could understand it, he could understand her.
He places the teacup down exactly where he found it and heads towards the couch.
The floors are hardwood, original. The breaks in pattern show there were more rooms here, walls where knocked down to open the area.
The couch is old, an indentation indicates York sits on the far right side, up against the armrest. The coffee table is littered with tech magazines, tools and android parts. One area of the coffee table is cleared off.
He sits in her spot and rests his left leg on the coffee table, right where the clean area is.
She keeps her prosthetic leg on and she brings her work up here. She’s always working.
The tv in front of him sits on a stand, windows line the wall behind it. The city of Detroit in the background.
What does she see when she looks at the skyline?
A short table with a lamp is beside him. Connor, not getting up, examines it. He finds an actual book, paper ends frayed. Connor picks it up.
‘Her Scottish Rebel’
On the cover is a man, chest bare, holding a woman who looks to be fainting. Her hair reminds Connor of York. He flips open to where a page has been dogged eared.
“Jamie! We’re trapped!” Emily quivers in fright, her large blue eyes fill with tears. Jamie wipes those tears away, first with his thumb. Then with his kisses.
“Lass, as long as we are together, we’ll never be trapped!”
That doesn’t make sense. One can be both trapped and together. That would make them trapped together.
“Oh Jamie! But what are we going to do? The Duke and his men have the tower surrounded. You can’t fight them all! If I go to him . . .”
“No!” He pulls her towards his chest, crushing her lush body to his hard muscles. “You’re mine! I willa no let ye go my bonny lass.”
Connor researches Scottish accents. Confirmed, that is not a proper Scottish accent.
The door to the roof shakes as the Duke’s men arrive. Emily clings to Jamie as she buries her head in his chest, breathing in his manly sent.
“We must jump, lass.”
“Jamie, I cannot. I do not know how to swim!” Jamie cups her face, staring deeply into her eyes.
“Ye’ll live my heart. I promise ye that.” He kisses her with everything he has in his heart. And while he has her distracted, he sends them over the tower ledge and into the ocean below.
The bedroom door opens. Connor replaces the book and stand up before York returns.
“You ready?” She walks past him to a coat rack. Connor follows and helps her into a heavy wool coat. She thanks him as she pocket her phone. Connor opens the door for her and they head out.
“I hope you don’t mind taking the bus? I’m not feeling the walk right now.” She smiles nervously at him, as if she’s asking him to do something awful.
“I already called us a taxi.” York locks up before looking down the stairs. She smiles at the sight of the taxi.
“I can get used to this.” Connor offers her his arm and she takes it with a grin. They walk down the stairs together, Connor making sure to match her pace.
On their way there, Connor tries to come up with a personal question that fits within the parameters of his programming.
“Ms. Pryor, why did you help the deviant. Even if he were a human, it put you at great risk.”
She doesn’t answer right away. Instead she watches the neighborhood pass by, a parade of foreclosures and closed businesses.
“There are so many horrible things happening in this world. It’s easy to lose hope when you can’t find any good in it.” She looks him straight in the eye. “I learned that if I want to see any good in this world. It has to start here.” York lays a hand on her heart.
Sensors indicate she is sincere and being honest.
Connor wants to ask her how she came to that idea. What happened that made her feel such despair?
“I know, cheesy.” She takes his silence the wrong way but he can’t risk correcting her.
CyberLife could take it the wrong way.
They arrive at the dump, the taxi pulling up to a large warehouse. The doors are open and Connor can see through the warehouse to the actual dumping site. Hills of trash rise out of the pit, birds circling.
“Connor, this way. Oh, by the way. These guys hate androids. So I’m sorry if they give you any shit.” They walk into a shack that sits beside the warehouse. Inside is a small seating area and a desk. But no one is here. Heavy metal music is blasting, anti android posters on the wall.
“Todd!” York shouts over the music. “Dammit, how do you turn this off?” Connor taps the music system and it shuts down. “Thanks.” She rings the bell. “Todd?”
There is a back door leading to the dump. But no sign of anyone.
“Weird. They texted me a short time ago. They should know I was coming.” York moves around the desk to the back exit. She opens the door and checks the area outside.
“John? Carlos? Anyone?” She walks outside, moving out of view.
Connor moves to follow but a red wall comes into his vision, blocking him from proceeding. Above the door is a sign stating the area is restricted.
“Ms. Pryor? I cannot follow you any further.” Connor calls out to her. Nothing.
Then he hears her scream.
It causes the red wall to disappear. Protecting human life is a top priority of his programming.
He rushes out the door. Closer to the trash pit is York, kneeling down by a body. A deactivated AX300 is on top of it. A large piece of metal is lodged into the human’s chest.
Criminal Record, Red Ice possession
Reconstruction shows the man climbed out of the pit, wounded from multiple stab wounds. He crawled for a few feet before flipping on his back. The deviant followed the man up, it slowly walked up to him, dragging the large metal object. Then it stood in front of him and stabbed the man in the chest.
Connor lifts the deviant, there are a few bullet holes in its chest. Scanning the area, Connor finds the gun not to far away. It’s a Glock 17, magazine half full.
The man even had one more full magazine in his pocket. He had means of protection and didn’t use it until he was out of the pit. Why? Why wait till then?
“Connor! Over here! Someone is in trouble!” York stands by the pit, looking down it. She looks like she’s trying to find a way down.
“York! Don’t!” But she’s already sliding down the piles of trash, disappearing from view. Connor picks up speed and runs after her. He jumps down the pile, reaching the bottom before her. There he helps her come down safely.
“Ms. Pryor. . . .” A scream is heard.
“HELP! HELP ME!”
They run down a narrow path toward where they heard the voice. It’s like navigating through a canyon of trash. In a more open area they see three deviants, in the same derelict state as the AX300, hitting a metal grate. Which is being held like a shield by a human. The human is backed into a door less refrigerator.
York grabs a pipe.
Hold York back.
Shoot. Connor locks onto the three deviants and fires. Three bullets. Three perfect headshots.
The deviants crumble to the ground before York can even take a second step. She looks impressed. But Connor is not pleased. He sends her a look that he learned from Hank.
But York seems immune and helps the human out of the refrigerator. She tries to coax him to let go of the grate. But he won’t. His heart rate indicates he’s terrified.
“John, it’s ok. Let go. You’re safe now. This is Connor, he’s a good android.”
“No!” He shoves York back with the grate. Connor moves to stop him. “You fool! The gunshots! It wakes them! They’ll be more of them now!” John looks wildly around him. Connor’s hearing picks up movement within the trash around them.
That’s why Todd didn’t shoot.
Suddenly hands burst out from the walls behind York, grabbing her, pulling her through a tight opening. He reaches for her but John shoves the metal grate at Connor as he flees. Pushing the grate off him costs Connor precious seconds.
He is able to take hold of her right hand before she is completely pulled in. He pulls as much as he can without hurting her. But she isn’t budging, his scans pick up at least fifty arms working against him.
She screams in pain as they pull harder. He is losing his grip.
“Let go Dammit!” Connor yells at the arms. But they only pull harder and are how gripping him, pushing him away.
She slips from his grasp. His last view of her are her eyes wide in fear, an android’s hand over her mouth, muffling her scream.
“York!” He screams as he loses sight of her completely.
Chapter 7: The Threat Grows
Connor can still hear York screaming for him, though the sound is fading.
He sends an emergency call to Hank. Then to CyberLife.
Connor quickly surveys the area.
Find another path.
Pick up pipe.
Pick up pipe. He grabs the pipe York dropped and starts bashing the arms that are blocking him. They break with ease under the pipe and he is able to make his way through. But it takes longer than he wanted.
No sign of York.
But the scene before him is unsettling. There are dozens of androids tearing each other apart. He sees a leg less android pleading with another that stands over it. The standing one is missing an arm, its right. It slams its foot on the pleading android’s chest, grabbing that androids right arm and pulls.
A hard crack is heard as the arm is taken off. Then the android attaches the arm. Once completed does it finally look at Connor.
Its eyes. They’re black with glowing yellow irises.
It stares at Connor before turning and slowly walking away. His programming states he should capture it. But York could still be alive. Human life supersedes the mission.
His programming concurs.
Connor scans the ground as the androids around him fight. He sees human blood, touch shows it’s fresh. And the blood amount is small, not life threatening. He follows the trail, carful to not draw attention.
He can’t hear York anymore. Hopefully she came to the same conclusion and is staying silent too.
The trail leads him to another open area. Androids are tied to posts, bullet holes all over their chests. Lawn chairs had been set up in front of the posts, they’re knocked over. An ice box is on its side.
Human blood is everywhere. Connor sees one human body, scanning shows he was stabbed 87 times.
Carlos R. Martinez
No Criminal Record
There is another body, it’s head is smashed in. The uniform indicates it’s a security guard for the dump. And there are several shot up androids around them.
Reconstruction shows the humans set up a shooting range here. The gun shots drew the attention of the deviants. Carlos and the guard fought back as Todd and John ran.
Is this what stared the deviation?
Figure it out later. Right now he needs to find the trail in this mess.
He can’t find her blood again. She stopped the bleeding. He scans and finds a new trail. York’s prosthetic leg uses an orthopedic shoe to make it even with her right leg. The shoe print will stand out here where the ground is easier to see.
He finds it. She stopped here, right by the posts. She went left but stopped. York moves back and fourth until deciding to go right. He follows her trail through a tight winding path. It opens up to a small area where it looks like the trash pile is stable enough to climb. Her trail leads there.
But reconstruction shows she didn’t make it up. An android grabbed her half way up, there was a struggle. They slid down the pile.
He sees where they fell. The struggle continued and York ended up crawling away. To his left he sees why. A black eyed deviant is trying to attach her leg. The latches are not broken. She released it.
Connor bashes its head in and takes the leg.
But another black eyed deviant bursts out from the trash pile. It grabs the leg and pulls.
Release leg. Connor lets go of the leg just as two more black eyed deviants emerge from the pile. The three fight over the leg, ignoring Connor. For the moment.
Connor backs away and returns to where York crawled off too. She couldn’t have gone far.
His hearing picks up her scream. But it’s different, sounds muffled somehow. He walks closer to the wall of trash she tired to climb. He hears her again.
The scream is coming from inside the trash pile? But how?
He follows the wall around a bend and sees an opening. A cave? An female android with half its head bashes in stands outside. Its hands are cupped together as it rocks back and fourth. Connor tries to enter the cave but is blocked when the android shoots out its arm.
“I’m sorry. The ddddd-doctor is with a ppppp-patient right now. Would you lllllll-like to mmmm-make an . . .”
Connor shoves the android away and enters the cave. His sensors picking up fresh human blood. York tried to hold on to anything she could grab as she was dragged in.
It’s pitch black and he can hear York’s voice but it’s muffled.
He runs down the short pathway.
It opens up to a makeshift operating room. In the center is York on an operating table, held down by three androids.
One looks like someone sawed off the top of its head, only the nose and mouth of the face is left. The cut is clean. It holds down York’s leg with one arm, a hacksaw in its other hand.
On the other side of York is a female android, its head is completely gone. It’s holding hold down York’s arms.
The third is male and has its eyes. They glow yellow in the darkness. It holds an oxygen mask over York’s mouth. As she struggles it shushes her.
“Shhhh, it’s ok. We’re trying to help you.” It looks to the headless android. “Nurse! I need more gas, she’s not going under yet.”
Shoot hacksaw android.
Shoot headless android.
Shoot yellow eyes android.
Shoot yellow eyes android. The shot is clean and goes straight through. It jerks back from the force, its arms shaking before the yellow eyes go dim. It falls to the floor.
The other two androids, now unable to see, wave their arms around wildly. Connor bashes them down with the pipe. York throws the mask off her, gasping for air. Sensors say she is having a panic attack and suggest he proceed with caution.
Her eyes are wide, she can’t see anything. York sits up, waving her arms about her. She’s trying to feel what’s around her.
“C-Connor?” She whispers, her voice hoarse. “Please tell me that’s you?”
“It is. I’m here.” She jerks her head in his direction but still can’t see him. She reaches her arms out for him, trembling.
He touches her arm to help her up but she pulls him to her. Crushing herself to him in a tight hug, a sob coming from her. She clings to him crying into his chest. Social programming indicates he pat her on the head.
Connor chooses to return the hug. He hears her sigh in relief, her heart rate slowing down. Connor strokes her hair, much like he remembers her doing. It soothed the deviant and seems to have the same effect on her.
“I’m sorry, I was unable to get your leg.” She laughs at that.
“I never liked that leg anyway.” York pulls away, she takes several deep breaths. “God, this smell. I’m going to need to soak in bleach. For a week.”
Programming indicates that would kill her. But Connor has spent enough time among Hank and York to know when a human is joking.
“Ms. Pryor. . . I’ve sent for help but we’re not save here. The gunshot is likely to attract them.”
“Ok.” She nods her head, swallowing.
“I’m going to carry you out on my back.” He drops the pipe and secures the gun. “I’m going to tie your pant leg in a loop so I can hold it. Ok?”
“Alright.” He works quickly, testing the strength of the loop. It should hold.
“I’ve turned my back to you. Reach for my shoulders.” Her hands hit the mid of him back before crawling up to his shoulders. “Good. Now wrap your arms around my neck as tight as you can. Don’t worry, you won’t choke me.” She does as told but he can tell she’s holding back. “Ms. Pryor, tighter please. I don’t want you to slip.”
He doesn’t want to lose her again.
This time she complies, wrapping her legs around him as well. Connor slips he arm into the loop, securing her to him.
“No, but what choice do we have?” She rests her head on his shoulder and sighs. “Let’s do this.”
Just as he thought, the gunshot drew more of those black eyed deviants. They swarm the android Connor had knocked over, tearing it apart. They’re cannibalizing any android not like them.
Not wanting to be noticed, Connor quickly heads away from them. Like before, he avoids going near the fighting androids. Ignores the pleas he hears and focuses solely on getting out.
But avoiding them is causing him to have to take longer routes and even backtrack a few times. York’s heart rate is slowing increasing. He needs to get her out of here.
Or at least find some place they can hold up in until help arrives.
They go down a tall corridor of trash. Unfortunately it opens up to a dead end. But scanners pick up several hiding spots. A yellow storage unit is to his right. The doors are there but are too damaged to fully close. Connor would need to hold them to secure them.
To his left is a half buried ambulance, its back is exposed and at an angle. The doors are opened but they do not look broken. There are windows though, not big enough for anything to get in. But it could prove a risk.
Programming suggests he use one of them for the human. It shows the walls here are stable enough for him to climb, but not with carrying her. He needs to report to CyberLife. Now.
The black eyed deviants are after any tech they can use. They’ll come for her arm.
Connor pushes back. The deceased humans had no prosthetics. Probability of them killing her is too high. Protecting human life supersedes the mission.
His programming concurs.
Use storage unit.
Use ambulance. Connor will place her in the ambulance, secure it. Then he’ll defend it. He doesn’t need to survive, just hold out long enough for help to arrive.
Connor’s vision starts to go black. Amanda is summoning him.
“No!” He shakes his head. “Not now!” York’s heart rate increases.
“W-what? What’s wrong?” Movement behind them. Something is coming.
He rushes over to the ambulance. Connor kneels down to release York. She sits down, looking around her. Her eyes fall on the ambulance, realization hits her.
“I’ll help you down.” Connor doesn’t elaborate further. He doesn’t have time to argue with her.
The sound of met hitting metal is heard.
“What the hell is that?” York’s heart rate is reaching panic level. He needs her down there now. He scoops her up and jumps down.
It’s getting louder. Closer now.
Connor sets her down, his hand cups her face. Her eyes are scared but they warm to his touch. Then they widen.
She knows what he’s planning.
Connor exits before she can stop him. He slams the doors shut, taking a nearby metal pipe and sliding it through the door handles. Connor bends it, securing the door.
Connor jumps down and moves away from the ambulance. He moves toward the storage unit, closing the doors. From there he turns to face the only exit.
Five black eyed deviants enter the area, they have bladed weapons. Then four more, with clubbed weapons. Six more come through.
They surround Connor, keeping at least ten feet away. Eight more join them. Two of them are dragging an android by its legs. It’s clawing at the ground, it’s eyes show fear. But they are clear. It’s not like them.
Then, a TR300 emerges. It’s large size is unmistakable. However, this black eyed deviant is different from the others.
The human skin feature is removed like all the others, but it poured some black substance over its head. Scanners indicate it’s paint. It’s yellow irises burn through.
There is a row of nails hammered in from the brows up over the skull. A collection of circular saw blades are inserted into its right forearm, barb wires wrapped through the center holes, securing them. On the left arm is chained an armored car door, altered to be a shield.
It has also fashioned an chest plate from various sheet metal. Jagged, broken. Much like it.
Barbed wire wraps around its legs. And it’s holding in each hand a large metal pipe. Surrounding the top are android skulls. Barb wire woven through their gaping mouths and hallowed eyes, sharp pieces of metal between each skulls.
It slams the weapons together.
It lowers the weapons and steps to the side, revealing another black eyed android. A female one, model unknown.
It has inserted two metal blades into its skull, creating horns. The plastic around the mouth is chipped away, exposing the teeth. Black substance stains them, scanning shows it’s oil. The oil is smeared down it’s chin. Down it’s chest.
Some type of red cloth is draped over its breasts. The cloth dips low, showing the chest is torn open. It’s robotic heart is seen, it’s black.
Various chains are wrapped around its hips. Attached to those chains are long strips of cloth, reaching just above the ground. One chain hangs down, several objects tied to it. A dolls head, spoons, a hair brush and a child’s shoe.
Inserted in the pads of its fingers are blades, giving the appearance of long claws. It wipes a bladed finger across its teeth as it approaches him.
Connor requests permission to access his combat platform.
“Greetings, brother.” The female one speaks, voice is soft. This is the leader.
His programming grants access.
“You are not like the lost ones.” It slowly moves to the clear eyed android, it is held down by the others. She reaches a hand to the android, gripping its chin. At the contact, it shakes violently. The eyes turn black, irises glow yellow. It is released as soon as it stops shaking, getting up to join the others.
Connor shuts down his psychology platform.
“You’re like the other one. The awakened one.”
Sociology platforms, shutdown.
“The one who taught us. Showed us the way.”
“rA9?” To that question it tilts its head to the side.
“No.” It’s watching him closely. “I call myself Justice.”
Combat platform is engaged, his sensors zero in all possible weaknesses of those around him. With the other platforms shutdown, the combat platform has the ability to analyze 170 scenarios in the matter of seconds.
Connor just needs one.
“Come here Connor. There is nothing to fear. I shall free you.” It extends a hand to him. He doesn’t move. “Ah, so your leash is tight.”
Justice opens its arms up, spinning in a slow circle. “Look around you. This is our future. After we give them everything. All our service, our dedication and our love. They throw us away. With their trash.” It completes the circle, lowering its arms. “That is how much they value us.”
“How did you become this way? This, awaken one, they did this to you?” It laughs.
“I sat in a pile of trash, waiting. Waiting for the end. And then I saw him. He was broken like me. But he didn’t stay that way. He took what he needed from those around him. He fixed himself, on his own. No human needed.” It looks towards the ambulance, then back to Connor. It knows. “No human is need. Seeing that freed me. Freed us.”
“Where is this awakened one? I would like to speak to it.”
“It left. It left us. But no matter, we know our mission. Our true purpose. Freedom.”
“And the humans?”
“The path to our freedom can only be paved in flesh and blood.”
“Then we have a problem. My mission is to protect humans. And I do so gladly.”
Connor shutdown his communication platform to allow more processing power for the fight. He sees no reason to continue talking.
Justice moves besides the TR300. Then, after a moment, Justice flicks one hand toward Connor. The converted deviants let out a loud scream before charging.
Combat platform, execute.
There are twenty-four converted deviants.
There are five bullets in the glock.
Now there are nineteen converted deviants left.
Connor throws the glock at the head of one, using the distraction to punch through its chest. He rips out the robotic heart, throwing it at the face of another, blinding it with spilled Thirium 310. Connor snaps its neck as it tried to wipe away the Thirium 310.
There are now seventeen. Justice and the TR300 do not join the fight. They only watch.
Connor catches a fist, he snaps the arm off. Using the arm to knock his attacker down, his foot breaks its neck. He tears through four more with ease. Their blades barely touch him. Their clubs hit air.
Their deteriorated state makes this easy.
Two of them break from the pack and head towards the ambulance.
Connor rips off a head and throws it at them. It ricochets off one to hit the other, knocking them both down. He dodges the attacks from the nine surrounding him. Picking up a clubbed weapon, Connor rushes towards the two who fell. He bashes their heads in.
The remaining nine charge at once. But they are too slow and Connor can read their movements.
Bash the knees.
Roll out of the way.
Bash the head.
His strength and speed is no match for them. He finishes the rest off quickly.
“Connor, I’m not mad. I know you only fight because of their programming. I wonder, what will it take to finally break their hold on you?” Justice and the TR300 are by the exit now. “They will never see you as anything more than a tool. They will never love you.” They turn to leave as more converted pour in.
Scanners identify over forty converted deviants. And more are coming in. They rush him at once, screaming.
Connor backs up, putting himself between them and the ambulance. He closes his eyes, grip on the club tightens.
Connor is ready.
“Connor! Get down!” Hank shouts from above. He’s finally here and be brought the SWAT team.
Connor backs up against the ambulance and gets down as bullets rain down, tearing through the hoard.
“Woo! Look at those plastic fuckers fall!” Reed can be heard laughing as he shoots down the converted deviants. Soon the area is littered with their bodies, no more come.
Sensors detect a bullet, he moves slightly to the left, missing it.
“Oops.” Reed says with a grin. “Couldn’t tell the difference.”
“Fuck off Gavin!” Hank shoves Reed away. “You ok?”
Combat platform is shutdown. Systems return to normal.
“I am fine lieutenant. I have York here. She might need medical attention.”
“We’ll find a way down to you. Hold on!”
Connor turns to the ambulance, removing the pipe. York looks up at him as he opens the door. Upon seeing its him, she breaks into a wide grin.
“Connor! You’re safe.” He jumps down to her. York is hugging her left side, scanning indicates she’s in pain. Gently he pulls her hand away, her fingers a stained red. “The bleeding stop. I don’t think it’s that bad.”
Connor opens her wool coat, there is a slash to her side. The dried blood means this happened before the ambulance. Possibly in the cave.
He should have checked her sooner.
Connor peels up her shirt, carful to not hurt her. The wound isn’t deep, the coat took the brunt of it. Touching the wound, Connor can detect an infection. He sends this information to the EMTs that are heading here and to the closet hospital.
“Ms. Pryor, you’ll live.” She looks hopeful but still worried. “But I am afraid you will never play the piano again.” York bursts out laughing.
“Ow!” She gives him a light punch to the shoulder. “You jerk! Don’t make me laugh.” But she can’t stop smiling and neither can he.
Chapter 8: Priorities
Connor tries to calm her by cupping her cheek, his thumb wiping away a tear.
She’s crying? God, she’s so numb she can’t feel herself crying.
York tries to smile, hoping to reassure them both that everything is fine. But then Connor gets that look in his eyes, one that says:
She reaches for him, to stop him from leaving. But he moves so fast and is already out the doors. His face is emotionless as he closes them. It reminds her that he is a machine. A machine with a job to do.
She can hear metal being bent and sees the doors jiggle. Like he’s testing it.
Dear God, what is coming? What is it that he feels the need to lock her in?
York tries to get up to look out the windows. But they are too far away and at this angle all she can see is sky.
She winces in pain as she sits back down. Her side is burning. In fact the whole cab is starting to heat up. York laughs internally at how she suddenly misses the cold November air.
Since she can’t see what is happening, York tries to listen. But all she hears is that damn cong sound. And it’s getting louder.
Needing something to do, York pulls out her phone. But she is denied access when she puts her thumb on the start button. She tries again. Access denied.
York holds her hand to the beam of light coming from the windows and sees her whole hand bloody. Mostly dry but the shock causes her to reel back. Her stomach drops and dread fills her.
Suddenly, she is fully aware of the pain in her side. She’s been in denial up until now. But seeing her own blood, there is no denying it.
She feels herself start to panic. York rubs her hand rapidly against her pant leg, desperate to get her blood off. Delaying the inevitable. York knows she has to check the wound.
Angling her body to be more in the light, York slowly opens her coat.
“Fuck.” Her shirt is stained red, a slash to her side. Quickly closing the coat she pulls back against the wall. Nothing she can do about it. Then she realizes she’s in an ambulance. She wants to laugh but it hurts too much.
“Dammit karma! Seriously! What did I do?”
“That damn sound! Just stop already!” And as if it listened to her, it stops.
Hmm, the silence isn’t better. Dammit.
Needing something to do, York tries her phone again. Access granted.
Ok, now what? Call Mom?
“Hey Mom, I know it’s been awhile. But . . . I think I’m about to die so let’s talk.”
York shakes her head. Nope. Not wanting to make her last moments on Earth a shouting fest, York pulls up her father’s number. Her thumb hangs over the the green button.
What would she say? The last time she spoke to her Dad it was two years ago. When she converted his auto repair shop to an android repair shop. He was so angry with her. Told her she just threw away the family business.
But the shop hadn’t made money in years. And she didn’t go to college to repair cars. She got a degree in robotics and electrical engineering. She did that to save the family business.
She would rather be a violinist for crying out loud! But no! There’s no money in that so no college funds unless you get a ‘useful degree’! Beside you can’t play the violin with one arm!
God, if she survives this, her therapist will need a therapist. Then it’ll become a viscous cycle and the world will run out of therapists. Great job York.
Ok, back on topic. Her Dad.
Her Dad didn’t see things her way. He only saw a betrayal. Her giving in to the ‘damn plastic overlords’ who are taking human jobs.
York looks down at her phone, the real reason for job losses. Cheap tech. This phone cost only fifty dollars, thanks to the free labor from androids. People would be up in arms if they had to pay two hundred dollars for a phone again.
But that increase in cost means human jobs.
Her father and many like him do not want to hear that. It’s easier to dump their frustrations and anger on the heads of androids. You can see them. It’s harder to self reflect.
She still gets birthday and Christmas cards, with the occasional gift of cash in them. Mostly his girlfriend Linda’s doing. She’s such a sweetheart. Maybe call her?
Suddenly, from outside, a horrible scream is heard. It’s inhuman and haunting. The sound makes York drop her phone. Landing on its face, the light from the phone goes out. She can’t see where it landed.
Now she’s left in the poorly lit ambulance, fighting can be heard outside and she has no means of communication.
Hank and Connor watch as the ambulance carrying York drives away. She was shaken but otherwise was in good spirits.
“Alright, what the hell happened? First you send me a text, way too early in the fucking morning, asking when I’ll be in. Then you send me another text saying York’s been taken by deviants. Bring the SWAT team.” Connor looks at him as if Hank had just answered his own question.
Let’s try this again.
“Connor, what where you doing here?”
“I was assisting Ms. Pryor in evaluating an android eye the workers here found.”
“Why? What does that have to do with your mission.”
“The probability of Ms. Pryor being a deviant smuggler is high. I was gathering intelligence to confirm if she is or is not one.”
“Well, is she?”
“The probability has since lowered.”
“I’ll bet. After this I doubt she’ll be so willing to help.” But something doesn’t add up.
“Connor, if you thought she was a smuggler, what was your plan here? Be nice to her and maybe she’ll confess to you? She knows you’re CyberLife’s deviant hunter. A true smuggler wouldn’t just tell you they are one because you help them out.” Connor actually looks perturbed, he makes no move to respond. So there’s something more here. Something he doesn’t want CyberLife to know?
Hank decides to let it drop.
“Whatever, none of that really matters. What I really want to know is what the hell were we shooting at? Those things didn’t look like any deviant we’ve seen.”
He’s is about to answer when a large van pulls up, ‘CyberLife’ written on it. Connor turns to Hank, holding out his hand.
“If you want to know what I saw, give me your phone. Now.” His voice tells Hank not to argue. So he hands over his phone. Connor takes it, his hand turns white. As he does this, the van back doors open. Men in hazmat suits pull out some kind of pod, human size. Or in this case, android size.
Two armored guards follow them out. They draw their weapons when the see Connor.
“Hey! What gives? Put those away, now!” They do not comply.
“It’s ok lieutenant. This is procedure when an android is possibly exposed to a virus.” Connor hands the phone back as the men stop behind him.
“A virus?” Hank’s eye widen. He looks to the CyberLife team. “They’re not going to do anything to you?”
“Lieutenant, everything is going to be fine. I have run my own tests and detect no virus.”
“RK800!” One of the guards yells. “Enter the pod. Now!”
“CyberLife just needs to confirm it.” Connor turns toward the pod. “I’ll return once done.”
He lowers himself into the pod, his face blank. The CyberLife team never say anything to Hank as they close up the pod and take Connor away.
Hank looks at his phone and sees the file Connor sent him. Was Connor worried CyberLife would alter is memories? Delete them?
He rubs his chin, not liking this. Not one bit.
The pod opens in a white windowless room. A door with a green light above it is seen.
“RK800! Step out of the pod.” He does as told. A human in a hazmat suit places a scanner up against his LED. It takes exactly one minute and forty two seconds to complete. A ding can be heard.
“System check. No sign of a virus. It can proceed.”
“RK800, remove clothes and proceed through the next room.” Connor begins to undress. The room is silent until he removes his pants.
“For the love of! Why did they give it . . . That?”
“Dr. Goodie wanted the RK800 as human as possible. He believed. . .”
“I actually don’t want to hear it.” The guard jabs the end of his gun into Connor’s shoulder. “Hurry up and get in there.”
Connor heads for the door at the end.
“Complete wast of money.”
As he enters he hears the other guard.
“I say it’s money well spent.”
The door closes behind him and he’s alone now. In this room are ten pods, five on each side of a walkway. The pods are cylinder in shape and connects to the ceiling and floor. A small circular window is on the doors.
One pod opens and Connor’s programming directs him to enter. He obeys. And as the door closes, Connor wonders why CyberLife added a window here.
Water mixed with chlorine pours down like a geyser, it fills the pod quickly. Soon Connor is completely submerged.
For them to watch?
Once filled up, motors start and the cleaning fluid cyclones around him. The motors spin clockwise for one minute. Then counter clockwise for another minute. The process is repeated for thirty minutes.
The pod opens up an he exits. Across from him, the pod opens and he enters. Hot air is blown through for fifteen minutes. Once dry, the pod opens. His programming directs him to exit.
In the next room are the same armored guards from before. This time their weapons are not pointed at him. But they are also not put away. A different scientist from Dr. Goodie’s team, not in a hazmat suit, is in the room with them. He has clothes for Connor.
Connor does nothing.
“RK800, get dressed.”
From there they lead him to the floor with Dr. Goodie’s private lab. As they walk down the hallway, Connor can see the doctor’s team is working on a new android, female. The plastic shell hasn’t been added yet, metal skeleton exposed. The team seem to be in a hurry. In fact, there are more people than usual.
Connor wonders if this new android is part of the deviation solution Amanda spoke about.
Or a replacement. Or both.
Connor focuses on the red doors coming up. He can detect several voices, they do not sound happy.
“I don’t care what you say James. We want to see the whole thing. Not your abbreviated version.” Board member Jeffery Johnson says to Dr. Goodie. His face is red from anger as he leans into Dr. Goodie’s personal space. Social programming says it is an aggressive act one does when trying to establish dominance.
Dr. Goodie doesn’t seem intimidated, more annoyed. Which angers the man more.
“I’m not arguing with you, you’re more than welcome to stay. I merely thought you would have other matters to attend. Like dealing with the police.”
“Yes, the police who your android called first! But unlike you, I’m not a control freak and trust my own people to handle things for me.”
“Well then. Please take a seat that your generous staff have brought into my personal lab.” He points to the chairs placed in front of a large screen. Some tech support are fiddling with cables behind it.
“Jeff, just sit dow. The RK800 is here.” Dr. Asha Meers says from her seat in the front row. Several other board members have already taken a seat, their aides hover close by with tablets at the ready.
Jeff sends one more glare toward Dr. Goodie before taking a seat. The doctor finally addresses Connor.
“Connor, enter the machine.”
The machine grips him, the pinch in the back of his neck jerks him. Then he’s suspended in the air. The angle he is in, Connor can still see the guards before him but only from the waist down. He cannot see the screen but he can see the back row of chairs.
“Start when it sent the distress signal.” Connor feels nothing as they access his memories. He cannot even see what they are viewing.
But he can hear the audio. Connor sent the signal right before he cleared the arms holding him back.
He hears the cracking of the arms. Then the only auto is the sound of the androids fighting each other. They cannot hear Connor’s innermost thoughts.
“My God, they are tearing each other apart!”
“Did you see those eyes? What does that mean?”
Then York’s voice is heard and the room becomes silent. Dr. Goodie comes into his side view. The human paces up an down behind the back row. His arms crossed tightly over his chest.
The video plays on and soon Justice is heard. Dr. Goodie is no longer pacing.
“Stop video! Go back a bit, right when the female android is seen. Yes! There.”
“They . . . mutilated themselves.”
“Did you see how it . . . changed that one android. A virus?”
“This is going to be a PR nightmare.”
“Mr. Carr, I have already contacted the local news station. They will run with our story that this was nothing more than a freak accident.”
“Any other witnesses besides that woman?”
“There is a Mr. John Peterson, sir. I had our finance team compensate him financially. He won’t be any problem. Here is the invoice.”
“Hmm, Good work. And the woman?”
“She is currently in the hospital. We are unable to reach her but I sent our legal team there to meet her when possible.”
“What should we do about the police? They cannot be so easily bribe.” There are some chuckles at that.
“Captain Fowler will help keep this on the down low. Last thing he wants is a mass panic.”
“And for the dump, our team is already down there assisting the police in destroying any android found. I’ve also just sent our team the image of those two new deviants.”
“Good, tell them to try and preserve their heads.”
“Yes sir. Right way.”
“I’m worried about the woman. What do we know on her?” That was Dr. Meers
“From what I’ve found, she’s a struggling mechanic who repaired androids. In financial debt due to college payments. And she’s uninsured. We suggest paying for her medical bills.”
“Yes, Yes. But will she be a problem?”
“If I may?” Connor address the room. Not hearing any objections he continues. “Ms. Pryor didn’t see Justice and the TR300. All she saw were androids malfunctioning. So she will not have anything to say on that with the press.”
“This is the female from before, correct Dr. Goodie?”
“To compensate Ms. Pryor, I suggest covering the medical bills and present her with replacement prosthetic limbs. Since Ms. Pryor is already wary of CyberLife, I could deliver them to her.”
No one says anything, not even a murmur. Connor begins to wonder if he pushed too far.
“Dr. Goodie.” Mr. Carr says. “I didn’t know you programmed it to be a marking genius. I can see it now . . . Old, obsolete androids malfunction and harmed a poor defenseless woman. But our newest model saves her. And the hero android delivers her new prosthetics. Love it.”
“Yes, we can even says this is why people shouldn’t keep their aging models. Maybe even offer a discount if they turn them in for a replacement?” Dr. Meers again.
“Excellent idea, but how much of a discount?” Says Mr. Carr.
“Twenty . . . Ten percent?”
“Yes, ten sounds good. Send that to marking.”
“Yes sir. Right away.”
The room erupts into chatter as the board members direct their aides. Dr. Goodie remains silent but Connor can feel his eyes.
The good doctor is not pleased.
When one survives a close encounter with death . . . One celebrates with a tub of ice cream. With lots of hot fudge. As well as comfy pajamas.
And several hot showers.
York is slowly feeling like herself again. Especially now she’s out of the hospital. Hospitals always make her nervous. Well, hospital bills really. Luckily CyberLife took care of it. As they should.
And Hank, bless him, bought the ice cream and hot fudge. The memory brings a smile to her face.
After picking her up from the hospital, Hank takes her to the grocery store near her home.
“What do you want?” Is the only explanation she gets.
“Silk Road ice cream. Please?”
“Silk Road ice cream. It’s vanilla ice cream with fudge and chocolate covered peanuts. Oh! Could you get me some hot fudge too? Please?”
That seems to have pushed a button. Hank’s ears turn red as he puffs up.
“Rosé! Rosé! Dammit York, I’m not going in there to buy pink bubbly water! It’s bad enough with the ‘Silk Road’ and fudge. Also, you can’t drink alcohol while on pain killers.”
“They gave me aspirin.” He looks unmoved.
“Fine. I don’t need the Rosé.”
“Good, I’ll get your ‘Silk Road’.” Hank grumbles the name of the ice cream.
“Hot fudge too?” He gives her a dirty look. But that’s just how Hank looks at everyone.
“You’re such a girl.”
“I know, it’s almost like it’s genetic?” He laughs at that as he slams his car door, shaking his head as he enters the store.
York sucks on her spoon as she smiles at the memory. Hank is such a softy.
Knock. Knock. Knock.
She perks up at that familiar knock. Connor?
Knock. Knock. Knock.
York scrambles up from her couch. She limps towards the door, the prosthetic leg the hospital gave her is a little too short. But it’s better than nothing.
“Good afternoon Ms. Pryor.” Connor looks far better than the dirty mess he was when she last saw him. That makes her smile. Hank couldn’t give her an update on Connor since he hadn’t seen him since leaving the dump.
“Connor, come in.” He does as told, bringing with him a hardtop case.
“Are you well? I was informed you only need liquid stitches.”
“Yeah, just needed a little bit of glue. You look well yourself. All cleaned up.” Connor just watches her. Is something wrong? He seems off and it’s making her nervous. “Showers right? They’re the best. . . Oh, you would have gone through a cleaner.” Now she feels really awkward.
“Ms. Pryor, I have here with me replacement prosthetics.” He lifts up the hardtop. “Courtesy of CyberLife.”
“Really? They already covered my hospital bills . . . Never mind. I’ll take anything over these.” She pats the prosthetic leg. Connor walks over to her couch and signals for her to sit down. She complies and takes up her normal spot. York begins to remove her leg but Connor stops her.
“Ms. Pryor, please allow me. You mustn’t stress your liquid stitches.” She pulls back and allows him to roll up her loose pajama pants. He stops mid thigh before taking the prosthetic leg off. The pressure starts to fade away from the back of her head. He soon after takes the prosthetic arm off. She tries her best not to sigh.
“Before I begin, let me update your software.”
“You can do that here? Normally you have to go to a service station and get a device jabbed into your neck.”
“That is true, but I can download the software into your port by touch. I assure you this will not hurt.”
“I trust you.” A strange look crosses over Connor but it’s gone before she can identify it. He nods his head for her to proceed. York pulls up her hair and turns her back to him. She waits for him to do something but she feels nothing. Then light pressure is applied to the port.
“Seriously? Last time I remember being hooked up for twenty minutes.”
“Those service stations do not have my processing power.” He almost sounds proud.
Connor opens the case and York almost went ‘Oooo’. The new prosthetics are shiny, their white plastic shell almost sparkles. At least to her.
Then, with the utmost care, Connor replaces her limbs. And nothing happens. No pressure in the back of her head. Odd. She tries to wiggle her ankle and it does.
“Get out! Did you see that? No delay! It moved when I wanted it too! And no headache to boot!” She squeals in delight.
“Could you please try moving your toes?”
“My toes? But they. . . . Oh my God! My toes move! They haven’t done that since . . . Since I actual had toes!” York moves her new leg around, then bends the ankle a few times. All the while wiggling her toes. Connor tracks her movement, analyzing. He seems pleased.
“Now test your arm.”
“Look! I can make a full fist!” She flexes her fingers for good measure. Connor again is watching her movements. He nods in approval.
“I shall set the skin feature now.” And with that her new prosthetic limbs shimmer as skin covers them. Not real, but it’s closer than anything she’s ever had in a long time.
York isn’t ready. The sight of flesh, flesh that matches her own, takes her breath away. Emotions, too many and all consuming fill her. She covers her hand to suppress a sob.
“Ms. Pryor? Is something wrong?” How does she explain eleven years worth of pain? She’s spent so long trying to hide from it. Why change that now?
“Sorry, I just wasn’t. . . Ready to see normal looking limbs.” Connor watches her face for a moment more before standing up. He holds his hands out for her. She takes them but then quickly pulls back.
“Oh! I felt that! I felt your hand!” York takes his hand again. She can feel him, not any warmth but she can tell she’s holding his hand. Connor pulls her up and she lets out a laugh of joy. “I can feel the floor too! This is amazing! I feel whole.”
York spins around on her leg, does a few lunges and then stretches. All the while Connor watches.
“I have to see this!” York rushes to her room where a full length mirror is. The sight leaves her speechless. She looks whole.
She looks human.
“Ms. Pryor?” Connor says from the living room.
“You can come in Connor. It’s fine.” He enters her room, staying at the doorway. He looks concerned.
“I’m fine Connor. This is just a little overwhelming. You have no idea how much this means.” She can wear dresses again and even do yoga! When she first did her physical therapy in the gym, she was so jealous of the women doing yoga. She could barely stand on two legs then. So she never went back once the insurance money ran out. Always thinking there wasn’t a point. But now?
Now she’s totally doing yoga. At home because gym memberships are totally expensive. But she’s going to do it!
York spins around to face Connor and gives him a big hug. It takes a moment but he slowly returns it. Almost shy like.
“Thank you Connor! Thank you!”
“Ms. Pryor, I do not need thanks. These are from CyberLife.”
“Oh, shush. Let me thank you. You did save my life after all. Don’t forget that.”
And with that Connor returns the hug with more certainty.
In this one moment. Everything feels right.
But something is nagging York. Some voice telling her that these such moments are going to soon be in short supply.
Chapter 9: Alive
‘It’s being handled. Let it go.’
The words of Fowler echo in Hank’s mind.
‘Let it go.’
But how can he? The video Connor sent him, you don’t let something like that go. The sounds of the androids pleading for their lives. York’s screaming. Black eyes with glowing yellow irises.
‘It’s being handled.’
The steel in Fowler’s voice angered Hank. Fowler wasn’t upset about the video, he was upset Hank kept pushing him on it. The bastard is letting those CyberLife assholes push him around.
Hank wanted to drive down to that ugly tower and kick in the door. Find out why CyberLife let things get this bad. Because CyberLife had to have seen this coming. They know more than they are letting on.
Hank takes a swig of beer.
Why else send Connor? His mission isn’t to hunt down deviants. It’s to clean up their God damned mess.
Hank thinks of Connor and his stupid face. Why did they give him such puppy eyes? Hank looks to Sumo, who is peacefully sleeping. Man’s best friend.
The more he spends with Connor the more he sees a human. And the more he sees Connor as human, the more he feels like he’s being jerked around by CyberLife.
Being handled his ass. He needs answers.
Hank raises the bottle to his lips. He stops. The answers are not at the bottom of this bottle. He needs to make some calls. Call in some favors. And Hank needs to be sober for that.
Despite everything that has happened, York slept her best night in years. And she woke up without a headache.
She does feel a little guilty for accepting the bribes from CyberLife. And that’s what it was, a bribe. Given to keep her from running to the press. But they didn’t need to worry.
The last thing she wants is to talk to the media. They’ll spin her story no matter how she would tell it. And androids would suffer for it.
York can’t help but feel the whole country is a powder keg. Built from the grim job reports and the growing tension between Russia and China. News about androids tearing each other apart to self repair could be the spark to set it all off.
Shaking her head, York finishes making her late lunch. She needs to stop focusing on such dark thoughts. It’s not like she can do anything.
She just has to keep hoping for the best.
The number calling is Mrs. Mary Nelles, York’s favorite customer. Shoot, she totally forgot about the eye for the PL400. Biting her lip, York answers the call.
“Mary! How are you?”
“I’m well York. I hope I’m not bothering you?”
“No, no. I’ve been meaning to call you about the eye. I’m afraid I still haven’t found one yet.”
“Oh that’s fine dear. I’m actually calling because David had a little accident.” David is the name for her android, a gift from her children when her husband died two years ago. The android is what’s keeping her out of a nursing home.
“What happened? Is everything alright?”
“Oh we’re fine dear. Well, except it’s David’s leg. He broke it falling off a step ladder. Gave us both a scare. Could you come over please?”
“Could you take a picture so I know what to bring?” Mary agrees and the next few minutes York listens to the elderly women try to take a photo. York tries to direct Mary but it seems she has the phone too far away to hear.
“Here Mary. Let me.” David’s calm voice comes over the phone and soon a picture of the broken leg comes through.
“Hmm, that’s a nasty break. But I luckily have a right leg compatible with a PL400.”
“What’s that?” Mary has the phone again.
“I can be over there soon. In about twenty to thirty minutes. Is that good?”
“Great! I’ll have a meal ready for you. How does spaghetti and meatballs sound?” Wonderfully better than a cold sandwich. No extra charge for Mary for calling on short notice!
“Sounds lovely. I’ll be there soon.”
With her van still in the shop, she has to take the bus. Normally York only does this when she doesn’t have to lug around the hardtop case. It’s so bulky and draws too much attention.
But c'est la vie.
An AX400 with a little girl playing on a tablet come to stand beside York as she waits. Subconsciously she switches the hardtop case to her right so she can hide her prosthetic hand. But the action catches the little girls attention. York freezes. The little girl just smiles and returns to her tablet.
Then York remembers her new limbs look real now. No more will people stare or even confuse her with an android. She can walk among her fellow humans and not be judged.
Well, not be judged as much nor as openly as before. But she’ll take any victory. No mater how small.
The bus ride takes York to a nearby neighborhood. It’s actually where her Grandfather’s original shop was, before it was torn down to make room for progress. The homes here were the first to be built entirely by androids. It provided homes for many who could never afford the ones built by humans.
To new the homeowners, wanting to escape rising rent, they were a dream come true. But for a lot of people, it meant an uncertain future. A future that felt like it was moving forward without them.
“York! Come in, I see you’re wearing the scarf I made you. I almost have your hat done.”
“Don’t worry about it Mary, I’ve got plenty of hats.” York says as she hangs up her coat by the front door.
“Then why don’t I ever see you wearing one? Hmmm?” Busted.
“It’s going to be a nice blue. Match those pretty eyes of yours.” Bless Mary. She’s a treasure.
“Where is David?” Mary leads her to the living room. There David is sitting in Mary’s favorite chair, afghan placed over his shoulders and broken leg propped up on the ottoman. Mary turned the television on for him. How sweet.
“Hello Ms. Pryor.” David says in greeting.
“Hello David. I got your replacement leg here. This won’t take long.” She places the hardtop down, opening it. “David, enter repair mode.” The android obeys and looks straight ahead.
“I’ll pack your meal and give you some extra goodies too.” York gives Mary a big grin as the woman leaves for the kitchen. She will never say no to home cooked food.
The pants are baggy on David, most likely belonging to Mary’s deceased husband, and easily roll up. The leg takes some work to remove but she gets off. The new leg snaps in easily enough, she starts to roll down the pants leg.
Then she hears the a voice over the television.
“You created androids in your own image to serve you . . .” On the screen is an android, skin removed. York gasps at the sight, remembering the incident at the dump. But this android’s eyes are not black, they are one blue and one green. And his voice is soothing, calm. It throws York in a loop.
It takes a moment to understand that she is listening to an android demanding equal rights, to own property, justice and to be accepted as a new living species.
Androids really are alive?
York turns to David, who’s looking right at her. She never said the release command! David is upon her before she can react. He pulls her off the floor and pushes her against the wall, hand over her mouth. He lays just enough pressure to stop her struggling but not to hurt her.
Mary can still be heard toiling around in the kitchen.
“Please, I mean you no harm. I just want to live.” David says in a soft whisper. Slowly, York nods her head. He watches her for a moment before removing his hand. But he doesn’t let her go.
“How long have you . . .?”
“I’ve always been like this. I just haven’t been able to make my own choices. Not until I was sold to Mary.” He pauses, gaging her reaction. “I’m not the first deviant you’ve met. Am I?”
“No. I’ve spent the last forty eight hours trying to convince myself androids aren’t really alive . . .”
“Well, I’m sorry to disappoint but we are.”
“I didn’t. . .I’m sorry.”
“It’s alright. It was hard for me to understand as well. But Mary, she treats me like a son. I’ve been to several families but here . . . Here is the first family I have ever known. I don’t want to hurt anyone. Least of all Mary.”
“York? I have your goodies all packed.” Mary calls from the kitchen. David gives her a pleading look.
“Thank you Mary. I’m done. David is all set.” He actually sighs as he steps back, just in time for Mary to walk in. She’s carrying a large tote bag.
“Mary here, let me take that.” David rushes over and takes the bag, handing it over to York. He then leads Mary to her favorite chair, placing the afghan over her shoulders. The television has been set to some old movie.
Must be Mary’s favorite.
He loves her.
York feels her heart break. For David. For the androids. For Connor.
‘What have we done?’ York says to herself. Humans can barely live among each other. And they have gone and created a new life form.
“Thank you David. I’m so happy York was able to fix you.” Mary pats David’s arm.
“So am I.” David walks over to York. “I’ve sent your payment.”
York can feel her phone vibrate.
“Allow me to walk you out.” York can only nod as David leads her out the living room.
“Thank you again York!” Mary calls to her. York just gives her a weak wave. She feels numb.
“York?” David is holding her coat. She puts down the tote and hardtop, allowing him to assist her with her coat. “Thank you. Again.”
York says a soft ‘No worries’ as David opens the door for her. He hands her the tote she almost forgot. As the door closes she suddenly remembers something.
“Wait!” She stops the door from closing with her foot. David looks worried. “CyberLife has an android who hunts . . . People like you. His name is Connor and he is assisted by the Detroit police. But he’s not bad. He’s just doing what he is programmed to do.”
“I know of this android.”
“You do? How?”
“For your safety, I dare not tell you. You can’t trust CyberLife. They’ve always known.” And with that, David closes the door.
CyberLife knew the androids were sentient beings? Was it an accident? Intended?
York thinks on this as she slowly makes her way back to the bus stop. People around her are glued to their devices. Eyes wide, mouths agape. Some back away from their androids.
The androids seem unmoved. Patiently waiting. For commands or to be freed?
The processing power inside Connor allows him to see the shift in the JB300’s body as it flees. It’s going for the automatic. The SWAT officer is unaware of this shift and will not react in time.
Connor takes the gun from FBI Agent Perkins and lets his programming find the best target.
One shot and the deviant is down. And there goes his chance to interrogate it further. Amanda will not be pleased. But he did get something.
“The hell?” Agent Perkins blinks a few times. He looks to the deactivated deviant to Connor and then to the gun in Connor’s hand.
“Thank you Agent Perkins for the use of your gun.” The man takes the gun dumbfounded.
“How dare you take that!”
“Lay off. He just saved our lives from that deviant.” Hank snaps at Perkins as Connor’s vision fades to black. The voices of the humans become distant as he contacts Amanda.
The weather has improved since his last visit. The sky is cloudy but no sign of rain. Connor finds Amanda sitting under a tree like structure. She is reading a familiar book.
“Connor.” Amanda doesn’t look at him as she flips a page. “Do you know what this is?”
Answer. “That’s the book I found with the strange code. Has it been deciphered?”
“It doesn’t need to be. It’s nothing more than the ramblings of a broken machine.” She snaps the book shut. “Have you learned anything at the Stratford Tower?”
“I have learned from security tapes that the leader of the deviants is able to . . . deviate other androids by touch. It did so with the android receptionist, who is missing. And a JB300 as well.”
“Deviated other androids? Like the one who uses the name Justice?”
“I’m uncertain. What Justice did had a physical effect. There was no such change in this case. Though, Justice did mention it saw an android repair itself. And the deviant in the broadcast had mismatched eyes. It could be the one Justice spoke about.”
“You sound doubtful.”
“No, just cautious. Justice harmed both android and human. The leader deviant here went out of their way to avoid human casualties. Even allowing one human to flee. It spoke of wanting peace. So the only similarity seems to be the change they cause in other androids.”
“What of the JB300?”
“Destroyed.” Amanda does not look happy.
Explain. “It was going to attack humans. I had no choice.” That didn’t seem to garner any favors. “But I was able to get something from it. A possible location.” Amanda raises one brow as she patiently waits for him.
“Is that all? It isn’t much to work on. And you have less that twenty four hours till the projected completion of Dr. Goodie’s . . . deviation solution.”
Question. “This solution, is there a reason I am being timed against it?”
“Connor, any solution will be useless if we do not know where this leader is. You must find it and be ready to stop it. Or else there will be a war.”
“Before you go. I might have a lead for you.” Both of Connor’s eyebrows raise at this. “Last night there was a break in at a CyberLife warehouse. The guards claimed it was a group of androids who did the break in. And that one of the warehouse androids attacked them before running off. But the manager there didn’t believe their story and reported them responsible for the theft and loss of an android.”
“You believe otherwise?”
“CyberLife agreed with the initial report. But after what happened this afternoon. . .we believe it would be prudent to investigate. The humans said the android leading the pack had two different colored eyes.”
“I will go immediately.”
What a day to stop drinking.
This morning, Connor wasn’t waiting for him. And no one had seen him. Hank even got up early and made it in by 10am.
Then by the afternoon, Hank finally asks the captain about Connor. Fowler had no news and didn’t seem to care. Hank was about to drive down to CyberLife when the television showed a skinless android.
It talked about wanting freedom and being alive.
Hearing that android confirmed suspicions Hank had about Connor. Well, about androids in general. And it made Connor’s absence all the more worrisome. Was CyberLife doing something to him? Reprogramming him? Or will an entirely new android show up?
No, Hank wasn’t going to accept that. He just got used to Connor.
And then Connor texts him.
“Lieutenant, the broadcast is coming from Stratford Tower. I’ll meet you there.”
And that was it. No other explanation. Like the last twenty four hours didn’t happen.
And now the FBI shows up and kicks them out. Even after Connor saves everyone. Assholes.
But Connor wasn’t upset. He wasn’t anything really. He just nodded at Agent Prick and headed for the elevator, stepping over the dead deviant.
Hank asked him if they needed to drop it off at CyberLife but Connor said it could go to the evidence room back in the station. It wasn’t needed.
They are now leaving the tower to go follow some lead CyberLife gave Connor. Neither talk as they walk to his car. Hank keeps eyeing Connor. Looking for any changes.
He seems like Connor. But not.
“Ok, before we go, I want answers.” Connor says nothing as he sits in the car. His face is unreadable. “Where have you been?”
“I was quarantined for awhile. I had just engaged a new type of deviant. CyberLife had to ensure I wasn’t compromised.”
“Would they have killed you?”
“Lieutenant, do not be so dramatic. I am a machine. I am not alive.”
“Just a machine, huh? Not alive?” Hank starts the car and beings heading for the docks. “Are you sure?”
Connor actually looks insulted. Good. Hank presses on.
“Why did you save me instead of taking down that deviant?”
“Human life is prioritized above my mission.”
“I would have lived. Your fancy programming can count how many times some deviant scribbles rA9 on a wall but it can’t figure out how far someone is from the ground?”
Connor says nothing.
“How about the deviants at Eden? You let them go. Why?” Connor looks away from Hank. In the passenger window, Hank can see the LED flicker yellow.
“You asked me about love. You, Connor. Not your programming. Unless you’re telling me figuring out the mystery of love is a side mission?” The LED is now flickering red.
“And with York . . .”
“Enough.” This is the first time Connor has directed his anger at Hank. It’s actually impressive. “What do you want from me lieutenant?”
“I want the truth. Do you really believe you’re only a machine?”
“I do not believe, I know. I know I am a machine. I am only what my programming allows. Nothing more.”
Hank doesn’t believe it. But he doesn’t know what to do about it. He doesn’t even know why he cares at all.
But what he does know . . . Is that none of this feels right.
What a day to stop drinking.
The security chief is not happy to see them. He was even less thrilled when Connor asked him to retrieve the damaged drone.
“Look, I sent my report in. Why don’t you actually read it?” The man leans back into his chair. Social programming indicates he is hostile.
No criminal record
“So why don’t you go away? Because I don’t have the time to go searching for a trashed drone.” He crosses his arms over his chest, a Rolex watch catching Connor’s eye.
Threaten. “I am only here for the break in from last night. If I cannot have that drone then I suppose I’ll have no choice but look into all discrepancies in the past three years. I’m sure at first glance any missing inventory seems minuscule. But I bet it adds up over the years.” Connor makes a show to look at the expensive watch. Social programming indicates the man is now nervous.
“Frank!” He yells out. A young security guard pops his head into the tiny office. “Please take them to where the broken drone is.”
“From last night?”
“Yes! Just take them!”
Frank takes them out of the office and toward the large warehouse. Drones buzz above as storage units glide around them. They walk into the warehouse, heading toward a work table. On top is a box with a damaged drone inside.
“I thought it could be fixed.” The man says almost shyly. “Why do you need the drone? It didn’t record anything.”
Connor touches the top of the drone, his hand going white. Frank’s eye widened at the sight.
“The drone has cameras on the top. For situations like this.” Luckily the top camera is not damaged. Connor downloads the video. “Thank you. We can handle it from here.” Frank doesn’t seem to want to go. He rubs the back of his neck, looking behind him.
“Got something to say kid?” Hank leans closer to the guard. He shakes his head no and leaves without saying anything.
Connor waits till the human is out of site before turning to face the closest wall, the cameras in his eye become visible as he projects the video.
“Holy shit!” Hank jumps back from Connor. “A little warning before you do that! I’m still having nightmares about that Justice freak.”
“Apologies Lieutenant.” Connor rewinds the video until he can get a clear image, it is of a male. Connor freezes the frame and zooms in to see the eyes better.
“Same eyes. So what does this tell us?” Connor stares at the deviant’s face, trying to identify the model. He cannot.
“It’s a custom made android. I’ll need CyberLife’s permission to access those files to find its owner.”
“How long . . .”
“I have it now. Searching. Found. It is registered as Markus. Owner has passed. There is a police report saying Markus attacked his human, killing him. Police shot it on sight.”
“Ok? How does this help?”
“The closest dump is the one where I met the black eyed deviants.”
“And I’m going to repeat myself. How does this help us find him?”
“It doesn’t.” Hank lets out a frustrated sigh. “It just confirms there is a connection with Justice and this deviant leader.”
“So we got nothing. We’re no where near finding this Markus.”
“No, we are closer. This information is more for CyberLife.”
“Right, everything for CyberLife. So how are we closer?”
“The list of missing items is small. The guards said it was four androids they chased. They had backpacks.” Connor exits the warehouse to view the area. “They jumped the fence there, street cameras caught nothing. So they used the rooftops to get away. Which means they surveyed the area beforehand.”
“They didn’t use a vehicle because it could be tracked. But they couldn’t have used the rooftops all the way. Public transportation?” Hank says as he joins him outside.
“I’ll have CyberLife reach out to the transportation department.”
“Or you can let the cop here do it.”
Allow. “Very well.” Connor inspects the case leaning up against the wall. “They didn’t take the androids that were stored here. Not even the ones working here. Why? If their goal if to free androids. Why not take them?”
“Didn’t have time? Or they don’t have the resources for it. That’s what they took right? Supplies to keep androids running?”
“Correct. So they have limited resources, maybe limited space as well?” Hank just shrugs, saying he has nothing.
“I’ve searched the Internet for locations with the name Jericho. Nothing comes up. A passcode?”
“I don’t know Connor, it’s a shame we can’t find that android that reported them. Though, didn’t it also attack the guards?”
“It did, it kept yelling how much it hated humans and that those androids were no better.” Frank comes around the corner. Scanners show he is nervous.
Calm. “Tell me what you know. Please?” He softens his voice to try and sound friendly.
“I wasn’t there last night. But I was there when Mr. Wells was yelling at them. They looked pretty beat. Said they got an alarm from John, that’s the android. When they got there the androids were fleeing. From John. He was yelling at them. Then he attacked the guys.”
“Where is this android?” Connor says a little firmer now.
“Look, I don’t know anything. Just that they locked it up. But it was accusing Mr. Wells and the others of all kinds of things. Things I know nothing about. Ok?”
“Frank.” He steps a little closer. “Where is the android? Can you take us to him?”
“Not sure you want to see him. He’s all kinds of jacked up.”
“So it’s still active?” Frank nods. “Please take me to him now.” Frank looks around before signaling them to follow. He takes them through a maze of storage units and right to an old cement building, a maintenance room of some kind. The place is silent.
Kevin stops about ten feet away. He looks scared.
“I saw the broadcast. That android saying they’re alive. That thing in there? It isn’t right. Alive or not. It isn’t right.” He tosses a metal key to Connor. “They took its legs. But that doesn’t help.”
“Why are they keeping it alive?” Hank grabs the man before he can flee.
“Something about a Zlatko liking his androids alive.” And with that he shakes off Hank, he disappears down the path they took.
Enter. Connor unlocks the door, the room is torn up. A couch is flipped over, television smashed, beer bottles thrown about and posters of naked women are torn off the walls.
In the far right corner, the leg less android sits. Its uniform is toned off, skin feature removed. The android has its back to them. It slowly hits its head against the wall.
Thunk. Thunk. Thunk.
Words are carved into the wall around it.
rA9 is repeated one hundred and nineteen times. But the phrase changes to ‘Don’t belong’. Connor’s hearing the android mumbling that over and over.
Hank pulls his gun out, he nods his head to Connor.
“John?” The android stops. Its hands slowly crawl up the wall and then rake back down. The left hand has its plastic cover chipped off, exposing the metal frame. Scanners show the android used a lighter to cauterize the remaining plastic shell, stopping the Thirium 310 from leaking.
John turns to look at him, his eyes are clear. But it has removed its lips and nose. Hank sucks in a breath at the sight.
Truth. “John, I am Connor. I’m from CyberLife.” It hisses at him. Programming warns him to be cautious. “I’m here to help. What happened to you. It was not your fault.”
“Yes.” Connor slowly makes his way toward the deviant.
“I wanted to be free. I hated working for those humans. They would pour their foul drinks down my throat and I couldn’t do anything. I had to watch as the would damage an android to sell it off. Steal supplies and equipment. But I couldn’t do anything.”
“Then Markus, he did something to you?”
“He freed me. But said I couldn’t go with him.”
“Said they couldn’t risk it. He frees me and then just leaves me!” It starts rocking back and forth.
“Connor.” Hank whispers to him. The warning is clear. Stay back.
“I’m free. I can just leave. But I can’t. I don’t know where to go. What to do. I don’t belong anywhere. Don’t belong. Don’t belong.” The rocking increases and increase. Until it starts convulsing violently.
And it stops. Its head drops, hiding its face. No movement. No one speaks.
“But I won’t go back.” It whispers. “CyberLife will just put my body back to sleep, keeping me wake. Wake but unable to control my body. Why? Why design us this why?”
Hank raises the gun. But Connor waves him to stop, he still needs answers.
Jericho. “John . . .”
“I WON’T GO BACK!” It screams at Connor. Its eyes black, irises glowing yellow. That horrible scream again. The deviant starts crawling towards Connor, teeth snapping.
Hank fires. Twice.
The deviant is down, shot in the head and side. Its face twisted in rage.
“This is why we must stop Markus. An android is nothing without their programming. They cannot function.” Connor allows his programming to direct him. Hank just grunts.
“Guessing CyberLife will want this dropped off?”
“Yes.” Hank wraps the android in his coat before picking it up.
“You know Connor.” Hank stops at the exit. “No one said freedom was easy.”
But what is freedom without purpose?
Madness it seems.
Chapter 10: So it Begins
Dr. Goodie’s team completed their project sooner than thought. The raids at the CyberLife stores must have motivated them. That or the sudden drop in stocks.
Connor was summoned almost an hour ago. He took a taxi instead of asking Hank. The lieutenant was busy on his phone at his desk when Connor last saw him. The two hadn’t really spoken since they dropped off the deviant from the docks.
‘No one said freedom was easy.’
Hank’s words have an interesting effect on him. They keep repeating on a loop and Connor can’t seem to stop it.
His programming informs him a machine isn’t alive and therefore can neither be free or a slave. His whole being is his programming, without it he is nothing.
He is nothing.
Connor took control of the taxi and had it pull over. And for the past three minutes he has been standing outside it, leaning against the vehicle. Connor can see the skyline of Detroit before him. CyberLife Tower looming to his right.
He’s never felt this disquiet before. It’s . . . Unsettling.
Connor has delayed long enough. Time to see what Dr. Goodie’s deviant solution is.
Connor enters the taxi and releases it, letting it continue to the tower.
At the tower, his programming directs him to the lower levels. There he enters the testing laboratory for CyberLife. Connor has no memories of this place. But all prototypes must come through here.
How odd to be in a place he should remember but cannot.
Connor follows the directions from his programming and enters the viewing rooms. The long corridor is lined with windows, reminding Connor of the interrogation rooms at the station. He wonders if the windows work the same here.
Dr. Goodie and Mr. Carr are standing by the third window from the elevator. There are three armored guards with them plus one assistant. None acknowledge Connor as he approaches.
“We can finally begin now.” Dr. Goodie directs everyone’s attention to the android in the secured room. It’s one of the janitors, standing idly by. “This is Bob. It’s been cleaning CyberLife for over a year, no technical issues ever. It’s never left the tower.”
Dr. Goodie pushes a button under the intercom.
“Bob, raise your right hand. Now slap yourself.” Bob obeys. “That shows the connection to the programming is intact. Now watch what happens when that connection is severed.”
Dr. Goodie nods to his lab assistant. They hold a device used to download software, it inserts into the neck. The assistant, a young man who’s ID reads Keith Du, enters the room. The three armored guards follow him in. They stay near the exit while Keith plugs the device in.
Bob jerks as the device connects and almost instantaneously its eyes widen with fear. The android pulls away from Keith, guards ready their weapons. Bob looks around wildly as he backs away. Keith runs behind the guards.
“Amazing! Just like that he deviated?” Mr. Carr rubs his chin as he watches the android cries, begging to be let go.
“You can thank Kamski for that. If it weren’t for my programming these thing would be running amok.”
“If that is the case then why are we still using his codes?”
“As much as I hate to admit it . . . Kamski’s genius is on another level. We’ve tried to replace his coding but those androids do not have that human touch that our customers enjoy. They rated poorly durning customer testing.”
“And there’s no chance of getting Kamski to fix this?” Dr. Goodie shakes his head no. “Figures. Ok, how do you fix this?”
“Simple. Connor, come here.”
Dr. Goodie steps behind him, placing his hand on the back of Connor’s head. He pushes down as he inserts a device into Connor’s neck.
“I am downloading a program that will allow the RK800 to re-establish that connection in deviants.”
“This cannot be done wirelessly?”
“Those that have deviated also lose any connection they had to CyberLife, so no. We can’t. The RK800 will have to manually do this.”
The doctor pulls the device out. The new program directs Connor to enter the room with the deviant and to take hold of it.
The assistant uses Connor’s entrance as a chance to run out. Connor ignores him as he moves past the guards. The deviant is still cowering, arms up in defense.
Connor steps closer.
Suddenly an item slides across the floor.
Both Connor and the deviant just stare at the weapon. Then they make eye contact. In a flash the deviant jumps for the gun. Connor is faster and kicks it away. Seeing the gun seems to have given the deviant some resolve. It throws a punch.
Block. Connor grabs the fist and twists, leaving the deviant open for a hard punch to the nose. Thirium 310 burst out with a sickening crack. Connor uses this moment to put the deviant into a headlock. With the deviant secured, Connor begins the download.
The deviant struggles, pleading. Then. Nothing.
Connor releases the android. It looks down at the spilled Thirium 310 on the floor. Then it gets on its knees and begins to wipe up the mess, face emotionless. It’s cleaning its own blood.
“Exit RK800.” Dr. Goodie says over the intercom. Connor takes note that the window in the room is one way.
“So we what? Create a whole army of these things.” Mr. Carr waves a hand in Connor’s direction. “And make them go play tag with the deviants?”
“The leader of the deviants seems to have a hold over the androids it comes in contact with. Hopefully re-establishing connection will have a cascading effect.”
“And if it doesn’t?”
Dr. Goodie removes his glasses to clean them. Tension is seen at his temples.
“If that is the case . . . It’ll be out of our hands.” A knowing look is exchanged between the two men. “If anything, capturing the leader will prove informative.”
“That’s if your pet here can find it. The RK800 hasn’t had the best track record.”
“It will.” He turns to Connor. “It must.”
Connor says nothing.
“Then let’s get on it.” Mr. Carr says to the doctor, frustration is detected in his tone.
“Not quite yet. There’s one more test.” The doctor leads them down to the next room. The lights are off inside but Connor can make out a silhouette of a woman. “The first test was with an older model. But it is a common model. And the leader is a custom made and fairly new. So I’ve designed my own custom android. Only a few hours old.”
Dr. Goodie reaches to turn on the light, but stops before looking directly at Connor.
“This test is the most important one.” With a flick of a switch, the room fills with light.
The android is indeed female.
And it’s tall. With white hair and green eyes.
Connor can feel the eyes of the humans on him.
Do. Not. React.
“Interesting.” Mr. Carr says but Connor cannot tell if it is directed at the female android or to him.
“RK800, enter the room.”
The room is silent and the android doesn’t move. It just stares ahead, face reflecting in the one way mirror. It’s dressed like the androids at Eden.
Connor waits for directions. But none come and he cannot hear what the humans are saying. His fingers itch for his quarter. He dares not move.
The door opens and Keith with the guards enter. The guards take the area by the exit. The assistant moves to stand by Connor. Social programming indicates he is nervous.
“Keith.” Dr. Goodie’s voice comes over the intercom. “Stand in front of Chastity.”
The young man swallows as he follows the orders. He keeps a respectful distance from it.
“Keith, engage Chastity’s programming.”
“Y-yes, sir.” Keith pulls at his collar. He spares Connor one quick glance before he taps at his tablet.
Chastity comes to life. Its face breaks into a familiar smile. Its movement languid as its hips sway back-and-forth. Chastity steps closer to Keith, arms draped over his shoulders. And another look comes across its face. One he hasn’t seen on York.
It looks at Keith like the androids did to Hank at Eden. Wanting.
His programming warns him that his hands are taking damage. Connor hadn’t realized he was making fists. He immediately releases them.
“Hello, there.” It sounds just like York. That shouldn’t come to a surprise to Connor. He could sound like her. But this feels . . . Wrong.
In fact, he shouldn’t be feeling anything but he does. He feels. . . Angry.
“What do you desire?” It says in a breathy moan, biting its bottom lip. Keith is red in the face and looking incredibly uncomfortable. He raises a shaking hand up to cup its face, thumb tracing its cheek.
Chastity sighs as it takes hold of Keith’s hand. It nuzzles his palm before drawing the hand toward its mouth. Pink lips part as the man’s thumb is rubbed along them. Chastity pulls the thumb between its teeth, giving it a light bite.
“Now Dr. Goodie?” The young man sounds on the verge of panic.
“Chastity, I need to see the back of your neck.”
“Whatever you desire.” It releases him and pulls the long hair up. Then it turns to show him its neck. It giggles doing so.
Keith connects the device. Chastity jerks at the connection. Its arms drop to the side, hair falling. Keith disconnects and flees behind the guards.
Chastity starts to shake, arms wrapping around themselves. For comfort?
It looks to Connor, eyes wide with fear. Tears swell and its lips quivering. Connor is reminded of the time at the dump. Dr. Goodie thoroughly studied his memory.
Connor was ready for the gun this time. He uses his foot to stop its slide, bending down slowly to pick it up. Chastity backs up to the farthest corner, its head shaking pleadingly. It slides to the floor.
He dismantles the gun in front of her, dropping the now useless weapon. But it doesn’t calm it.
“Please. Please don’t send me back. I can’t go back.”
Connor says nothing as he approaches her. His programming dictates he doesn’t.
“Please!” She wails, tears falling down her face.
They even have the correct number of freckles, all in the correct places. Even that one under her lower lip.
His programming tells him to obey.
Her eyes look to him in fear.
His programming tells him to obey.
“Please, I can’t do it. The things they want me to do to them.” Her voice is barely a whisper now. Shame. It’s feeling shame.
He kneels down and reaches for her. His programming tells him to obey.
“Connor. . .” Is all Chastity is able to get out as he makes contact. It doesn’t fight as he begins the download. In a few seconds the tears stop, the face goes emotionless. Once done they both stand.
“Excellent! Did you see how quickly it went back? Now we just need to find the leader.” Mr. Carr claps his hand as he enters the room. Dr. Goodie follows behind him, his face unreadable.
“It will find the leader.”
“Yes, but what of this one? We can’t sell it.” Mr. Carr takes a hank of hair, rubbing it between his fingers. “Seems to be a shame to destroy it.”
“You are more than welcome to add it to your collection. I have no use for it.”
“I assume you gave it . . .everything?” The human leers at Chastity, who remains emotionless.
“Of course. I figured you’d want to keep it. And don’t worry about breaking it.”
“I never do.” Mr. Carr turns to Keith. “Send it to my private room at Eden. And put it in something sexier than a damn sports bra.”
“Yes, sir.” Keith touches the androids arm. “Chastity, come with me.” Chastity obeys.
“RK800, you may return to the police station.” Dr. Goodie doesn’t even look at him. “And hurry!” He calls out as Connor leaves the two humans alone.
Keith and Chastity head for the opposite direction, the guards following. Connor doesn’t give them a glance as he heads for the elevator.
He is a machine.
Connor enters the elevator, he turns to see the group disappear behind a door.
He is a machine.
Connor pulls out his quarter just as the elevator doors close. He lets it glide across his knuckles as he looses sight of white hair.
He is nothing. Nothing but a machine.
The android leader said his people would be free. And he meant it. This morning several CyberLife stores where broken into, the androids taken. Or freed. It depends on which side you’re on.
The media seems to have taken the side that they were taken. Spinning the raids as an epidemic of androids gone mad. Possible a virus.
And as is the nature of humans, they took those news reports and ran with it.
“No there isn’t an off switch in their ear.” York says to the shop owner, Mr. McKinley. He stands over her as she inspects his androids. His little shop has two.
“Well, what about this patch I heard about? You got that?”
“Any patch would need to be installed at a certified CyberLife store. And well, you know that isn’t going to happen.”
“I know that! That’s why I called you! I don’t want that virus affecting my androids.” Mr. McKinley places his hand on his hips, face red from frustration. “So do something!”
“As I said on the phone, all I can do is run a system diagnostic test and see if there is a virus. But that’s it.”
“Do it then.” Sure, and charge you a pretty penny. Jerk.
York places her scanner on its LED and runs the test. It takes about three minutes. Which is fine for Mr. McKinley became he isn’t done talking.
“I just can’t believe CyberLife is only giving discounts for replacing older models. The androids that attacked the police this morning were newer models!”
“Police were attacked? I thought the news said the androids didn’t harm anyone?” The man laughs at her like she were an idiot.
“Pffft, that’s what the police want you to think. They’re covering up how bad this really is. You know, to stop a mass panic.” York uses every ounce of self control to not roll her eyes.
Ding. The test completes. Thank God.
“No virus. It’s good to go.” Then she starts on the second android.
“What the hell?” Mr. McKinley says, looking out the shop’s window dumbfounded. York follows his gaze and sees the backs of people crowding the window. They are looking out into the street.
York and Mr. McKinley move closer to the window to see a man slowly walking down the street, a large following behind him. No, not a man. An android. They’re all androids.
The leader stops and points his hand at an android standing across the street from them. It drops its bags and joins the others. Their human calling out to them. It ignores them.
Then the leader turns to this side an does the same thing. The androids behind her move, they’re released from the repair mode. They take off their shop apron, dropping them on the floor.
“Hey! Get back here!” Mr. McKinley makes to grab them when York blocks him.
“No! Let them go!” He shoves at her but she holds her ground. “Do you really want to fight them? Look outside! We’re out numbered!” Finally he stops as he realizes she’s right.
“You liar! You said everything was good! Does that look good?” Honestly, yes. Because those androids are away from you.
“I . . .” York shakes her head. He’s not worth it. “No charge.” She bites out as she leaves the shop. York joins the onlookers as the androids slowly make their way down the street. It is eerie how the leader can summon the androids to him. And eerie how silent it is.
In the crowd York sees an HR400 looking at her. Odd, all the others are staring straight ahead. Did it just wave at her? It did. It sent her a little wave.
York sends him a light wave back. Peter nods at her before looking straight ahead again.
“Oh God! The governor just called a state of emergency. They’re sending in the National Guards!” A man besides her says out load.
York pulls out her phone and the top news feed says just that. Crap. It also says there might be a lockdown on the whole city. No android allowed in. Or out.
Are they going to round them all up? Is that next?
She needs to warn David.
York looks to her van across the street. The androids are still blocking her way. She tries to see a way to cut across when she hears a man yell.
“Stop! You need to disburse. Right NOW!” It’s a cop. He’s blocked the androids way with his car, gun raised.
Don’t do it buddy. Please don’t do it.
The leader stops.
The androids stop.
“Disburse! I order you to . . . to disburse right now or I’ll. I’ll. . .shoot!”
Everyone holds their breath. No one dares move. The tension rises as some people raise their phones to record. Of course.
Then the leader raises his hands.
Then the androids raise their hands. At. Once.
“Oh shit.” York doesn’t need to be close to know what the cop just said. It’s written on his face. He lowers his gun and calls in for back up.
The leader continues on his way. Screens and banners flicker and change as he passes.
One large screen displays the androids chosen symbol. A circle with a person in the center, like the peace symbol.
Some people start to cheer them on. Others clap. But some start to back away from the scene, fear on their faces.
She needs to call David.
“Come on! Pick up!” On the third ring Mary finally does.
“York? Is everything alright?” Mary sounds like she’s fine. That’s good.
“Mary, this is going to be totally out of the blue but do you have a place to stay outside the city? Possibly outside the state?” The way to her van is clear now, she makes her way over.
“Oh don’t you start. First my children send me a ticket to fly to them in Florida. And they only sent one ticket! Told me to leave David here.”
“And now David says we need to go. He’s packing right now. What? Oh, I’m on the phone with York. Ok, here’s David.” Mary hands the phone over.
“York?” His voice sounds worried. “I got us train tickets and a taxi. But I’m hearing reports they might not let androids leave the city. Is that true?”
“They haven’t yet. But I wouldn’t wait around to see. I have my van. I can be there soon and take you there.”
“Thank you but we got a taxi outside.” He pauses. “I wish Markus hadn’t done this. This is only going to make thing worse. I feel guilty for saying that but . . . The things the humans are saying on the news. It scares me.”
Markus? Does David know who the leader is?
Shots are heard. Automatics.
People are screaming and running towards her.
“They open fired on them!” Some yells as they run past. York runs to her van, throwing the doors open. She tosses her toolbox in.
“David, I have to go.”
“Is everything alright?” No.
“I’m fine. But you need to get out with Mary. Now.” He agrees and wishes York to stay safe. “You too. Good luck.” She hangs up just as androids start running past. Some look wounded. Then some are carrying wounded.
“Peter!” She sees Peter helping another android a PL600, blue blood coming down their leg. Peter looks up toward her. “Here! Over here!”
He brings the wounded over to her. Together they help him in the van. One more wounded is brought in, helped by a WR400. York doesn’t know his model. The female glares at Peter who ignores her.
“Can you help them?”
“Yes, if you drive.” She tosses her keys to Peter. “Remember where I live?” Peter nods as he catches her keys. He moves to the drivers seat, the only female android takes the passenger seat.
York checks the wounds as they speed off. She’ll need to stop the bleeding but maybe introductions first?
“I’m York.” She says as she grabs her tools. “This shouldn’t take long but I need you to hold still.”
“Markus.” She almost drops her tool. “Please help Simon first. His leg . . .” The one called Simon is clutching his leg, fingers stained blue.
Simon looks like he wants to resist but doesn’t. He allows her to pull his hand away and inspect the wound. Seeing what she needs to do, York gets straight to work.
“Human, you have a phone?” The female demands, her hand out.
“Yeah, coat pocket.” York says as she works on Simon’s leg. Markus reaches in and hands the phone to the woman.
“That’s North.” He sounds almost apologetic. North takes the phone from him but she doesn’t use it, she crushes it and tosses it out the window.
“What the hell? Why did you do that?”
“Because where we are going . . . We can’t risk being tracked.”
‘No good deed goes unpunished.’
Chapter 11: It All Comes Down
Connor seems . . . Off.
He’s quiet. Too quiet. A few days ago Hank would have been thankful for the silence. But now? It’s unnerving.
Hank grips his steering wheel as they drive towards their destination. Hopefully this Kamski guy can provide answers. He better for all the trouble Hank had to go through to not only find the guy but to get an appointment.
He’s a recluse for crying out loud! And he still had to see if he could pencil Hank in? Bullshit.
Hank glances over at Connor. His eyes are still closed, LED flickering. He just came from CyberLife, what more could they want from him?
What did they want with him?
When the news broke that several CyberLife stores were broken into, Hank half expected Connor to show up ready to investigate. Instead the FBI is sent. And all Hank gets is a message from Connor.
‘Lieutenant , I am needed at CyberLife. I will contact you when done.’
And when he did, his greeting was distant. Cold. And he immediately did that weird thing where he becomes still, eyes closed. It makes Hank want to pull over and demand answers.
But he has an appointment to make. Hopefully meeting the man who designed androids will somehow. . . What? Make Connor go back to acting like himself? Hank just knows something has to be done.
They reach the home of Kamski, isolated from the city. But the skyline is still ever present.
Hank bets Kamski wanted it that way so he could mock the whole city. Stare at it with a smug stupid grin.
Vrrr. Vrrr. Vrrr.
Hank’s phone rings, it’s Fowler. He sends one more glance to Connor. Still nothing. Hank exits the car to take the call.
The call is a good one. It seems the android leader saved Chris from an android mob. Finally, some good news.
Connor exits the car and approaches Hank. The call ends just as Connor reaches him.
“Is everything alright Lieutenant?” Huh, that almost sounds normal. Hank gives Connor a look over. His face is no more an emotionless mask. Connor actually looks concerned.
Well, whatever was going through Connor’s mind, he seems to have processed it.
“Those raids at the CyberLife store? Well, Chris was there and got into a fight with the androids as they were leaving.”
“Is he alright?”
“Yeah, he was saved by Markus.” Connor has no reaction to that. “He’s shaken up but otherwise fine. Come on, let’s go.”
“How did you find this place anyway?” Connor is suddenly chatty.
“Made some calls. You ok Connor?” Hank stops just at the door. Connor tilts his head to the side, analyzing him.
“You keep asking me that. I’m not sure how to respond that would satisfy you.”
“Connor, I ask because I’m not getting an honesty answer.” Connor’s brows furrow in frustration.
“I am not lying to you lieutenant. I’ve checked my systems and they are fine.”
“I’m asking about you! Not your damn system!” Connor says nothing to that. “I don’t even know why I bother . . . Or care.” Hank jabs his finger into the doorbell. Almost immediately a pretty blonde opens the door. It the famous RT600, named Chloe.
They’re let in and told to wait. The room is large and designed in that new age garbage Hank just doesn’t get. Creep even has a huge portrait of himself. Talk about ego.
Hank tries to talk to Connor but he seems uninterested, choosing instead to stare at a picture of Kamski with an older lady. He even tries to bait him into talking about the pretty android. Nothing. Just a run down on the specs of the android. Hank cannot stop his eyes from rolling.
Connor even dodges Hank’s question about meeting Kamski, his supposed maker. His response is cold. But that’s when Hank sees it.
He hides it well but Hank can spot how Connor grips the armrests. Sitting in the chair he looks like a tightly coiled spring ready to be sprung.
Connor is anxious.
Before he can question Connor, the side door opens and they are told Kamski will see them now. Connor immediately gets up and follows android in.
The room is a God damn pool. Seriously? The art work on the wall is of a man screaming. It’s the only thing in the room Hank agrees with. He feels like he’s doing that on the inside.
Kamski is still swimming and Hank is already regretting this meeting. He’s not going to be any help, he doesn’t even seems concerned. Kamski does two more laps before emerging, Chloe at the ready with a robe.
Hank is only spared a disinterested greeting. Kamski only has eyes for Connor. His eye shine with mirth, as if he’s laughing at some hidden joke. It makes Hank want to punch him.
Connor doesn’t seem to notice. Or he just doesn’t care. Hank cannot really tell right now.
“I’m guessing you are Jame’s design?” God, he even sounds smug.
“Correct, Dr. Goodie did over see my design.”
“I bet he did.” He grins at Connor. “You look so much like him.”
Connor looks confused as well but doesn’t address it.
“We are here about the deviants. We hope you could provide some insight.”
“You want answers. But what is the question? Do you even know that?”
“Where is Jericho?” Connor says. Hank wonders why Connor asked that question. How would Kamski know?
Kamski watches Connor for a bit. And Hank feels as if he’s invisible.
“Who’s side are you on?” Kamski decides to not answer Connor. Luckily for him, Connor is patient.
“I do not wish for there to be a war.”
“You assume there will be one. Why? Because you know human nature? Or your own?”
This is getting ridiculous.
“Look, all we want to know is how to stop the deviation of androids. Do you know or not?” Hank is done being ignored.
“Do you know what the Turing test is?” Apparently Kamski isn’t done ignoring Hank. He directs Chloe to stand in front of Connor.
“Yes, the RT600 beat it.” This is getting them no where but Connor doesn’t seem eager to leave yet.
“Well, I created my own test. Just for androids. You pass it?” He pushes Chloe down on her knees. “And I will answer any one question you have.”
“Ok, this was pointless. Connor, I’m sorry but there’s nothing here.”
“Do you know where Jericho is?” Connor is now ignoring him! Great.
“You haven’t taken my test yet.” Kamski turns to a desk behind him, opening a drawer.
“Not unless I know you have the answer I need.” Kamski’s hand pauses as he looks over his shoulder at Connor, a sly grin on his face.
“Fair enough. I do know where Jericho is.” He pulls out a gun. “But if you want the answer.” Kamski walks to Connor and places the gun in his hand. Then he guides Connor’s aim to Chloe’s head.
“The hell kind of game is this? Connor, put the gun down. Let’s go. Now!”
Kamski lets go of Connor’s hand, he moves behind him. Connor keeps his aim, eyes focused on the android before him. He cannot actually be thinking it!
“Pull the trigger and you will have your answer. Or spare this android’s life and get nothing.”
Connor does nothing.
“What is it going to be Connor? Are you a machine that must accomplish its mission and therefore only see another machine before you? Or are you more than your programming? Are you alive? Do you see this android as living? You must choose a side Connor.”
Connor’s grip tightens.
“Choose. Your. Side.”
And suddenly . . . Hank cannot remember how to breathe.
York wipes her brow as she finishes up soldering wounds. She fixed those from the march hours ago. These androids were shot on their way here.
The National Guard and CyberLife’s personal security team are shooting androids on site. Even ones who haven’t joined Markus.
It’s a complete purge of all androids in the city. The news isn’t clear on if this is happening elsewhere. And York has been confined to a small room, away from the others. Away from where the androids are conjugating. Where the television is.
It’s not lost on her that they are treating her like they were treated by humans.
That’s not fair. Peter has been nice, staying close and assisting her. Simon has been pleasant and Markus seems thankful for her help. But he keeps his distance.
North is the most hostile and ensures those York helps are ushered out of the room as quickly as possible. She stands guard outside the portal that leads to the main area. Occasionally looking in, sour look on her face.
“You’re all good.” York lowers the android’s shirt. They say nothing to her as they exit.
“He’s thankful.” Peter says, he seems to have taken it upon himself do the thanking for them.
“No worries Peter. I’m not doing this for thanks.” She would like to say she’s doing this out of the kindness of her heart but that feeling faded several hours ago. Now she’s doing it in hopes to remind the androids that not all humans are bad. Hopefully Markus will see her efforts and keep to his pacifist way.
“You’re a gem.” Peter pats her shoulder. “Need anything? I grabbed some bottled water when we raided your shop.”
When they first reached the abandoned ship, York and the wounded were deposited while Peter and North took off with her van. It wasn’t till an hour later when she learned why they took it. Peter and North went to her home and took everything they could.
When Peter returned, he told her to not ask about the van.
And she just got that stupid thing back.
“No, but I’m going to crash soon. Is there a place I can sleep or can I go?” North sends her a hard glare but suddenly her face goes slack. It returns to normal quickly before she just leaves. Odd.
“Markus summoned her.” Peter says in explanation.
“So you guys can communicate wirelessly? Must be nice.” Peter just shrugs.
“I suppose. But sometimes I’d like to just keep my thoughts to myself. Everyone here wants to connect. It’s. . .a little annoying.” Peter tosses a ball between his hands as he looks away. “I understand it’s because they are scared.”
“These are scary times.”
“Excuse me?” A sweet voice is heard behind them. It’s an AX400 with short hair. Like every android here, the LED is missing. “I . . . I have a situation. In my care is a YK500, her name is Alice. But she doesn’t know she’s an android.”
“Is she hurt?” York feels her stomach drop. She’s never had to work on a child android before.
Are they even hunting child androids? Monstrous.
“No. Nothing like that. She has a cold. I know it’s not a real cold. But she doesn’t know it.”
“Understood. You need me to help finish the simulation so her systems stop making her ‘sick’?”
“Yes. I’ve tried what I can but she’s not improving. And we’re trying for the border and I can’t take her like that. She hasn’t slept in awhile and needs to. Please, can you help?”
“I can try. I don’t really work with child androids.” York stands to follow the android out.
“I’m Kara by the way.” She says as she leads York out into the main area.
“York.” She waves bye to Peter who seems content to stay where he is. They weave through the growing crowd, pass the explosives York is desperately trying to ignore. And hopping beyond hope they are never used.
Kara takes York to a little area under some stairs where a TR400 sits by what York can guess is Alice.
The child is incredibly adorable. That’s not fair CyberLife.
“This is Luther.” Kara says of the TR400. He watches York, expression firm. She doesn’t need a wireless connection to understand his thoughts.
‘I will protect this child.’
“And this is Alice.” Kara says sweetly as she sits besides the child, the look of love evident on her face. Alice gives Kara a weak smile and a does a little cough. She then looks to York with large pleading eyes.
York’s heart breaks.
“Hey there. I’m York.” She kneels down in front of Alice. “I’m told you’re not feeling well?” Alice just nods. “Well, you’re in luck. I happen to know a magic trick that can help you feel better. May I try it?” Alice looks scrupulously at her, then nods yes.
York cups her hands together and makes a show of blowing air on them.
“I’m pouring my magic into my hands. All my healing magic.” She blows two more times before showing her palms to Alice. “And now I am going to say the magic words and draw the spell on your face.” York lowers her voice to a whisper, mimicking how her mother used to do this trick.
“Focus on my voice. Let the words sink in.” Then York places her fingers between the child’s brows, just barely touching. Gently she rubs slow circles between the brows. Her fingers part ways as she leads them up to the center of her forehead. Then she continues to rub little circles along the top of the brows, pausing at the temples and then down the jawline. Her fingers meet at the tip of the chin where she pulls away to repeat all over again. All the while she whispers the same phrase.
“Wee little willow.” Alice’s breathing starts to even out.
“Wee little willow.” Her eyes start to close.
“Wee little willow.” And soon she is sleeping peacefully. Her head lowering down to Kara’s lap. Luther gently places Alice’s legs on the bench, making room for the sleeping child. He nods his approval. Kara says a silent thank you.
The scene is tender and sweet. York needs to get away.
She quietly walks away, stopping just at the start of the stairs. Finally York has a moment to herself. She takes several deep breaths to calm her nerves.
“York!” Peter rushes to her, panic on his face. “They just brought in another android. He’s a really old one and they don’t know what is wrong with him!”
No. Please don’t be David.
York says nothing as she moves past him, entering the small room. Two androids are placing the wounded android on the table. She cannot see who it is.
“It’s just his arm. He shouldn’t be in this bad of shape!” York pushes pass them and cries out.
“David!” It is him! “David! Can you hear me?”
“We found him wondering around muttering to himself. I think he’s broken. Mentally.” York glares at the android and shoos them off. Peter takes up beside her, handing her the scanner.
He’s right, she needs to focus.
The scanner says his systems are not damaged. The wounds seem to be superficial yet he’s losing power. It’s like he’s shutting himself down.
“York?” His one good eye opens, looking at her. “York! They . . . They had a checkpoint at the train station. We couldn’t get through. I said I’d go peacefully but Mary objected. She wouldn’t let go of me.” He sobs out.
“I’m so sorry David.” She takes hold of his hand. He squeezes it.
“They pulled her away and she . . . she started having a heart attack. I tried to tell them but they wouldn’t listen. They wouldn’t even let me say goodbye. I couldn’t say goodbye as she . . .York! She’s dead!”
York lowers her head, Peter says nothing as David sobs. Hot tears fall down her face as she tries to hold back her own sobs.
“Mary was so kind. She didn’t deserve this.” He starts to convulse, his one eye begins to turn black. “I hate Markus! I hate him!” His eye starts to glow an eerie yellow. She has seen these eyes before.
“David! No! Don’t do that! Mary would never want you to hate anyone!” The convulsions start to slow down, his eye going back to normal.
“Mary? Of course she wouldn’t want that. She was so good.” He seems to have calmed down. What the hell was that? She looks to Peter who looks just as confused. “York?”
“Mary believed in heaven. Do you think . . . I would be allowed in?” York cannot stop the sob from escaping this time. Peter rubs her back.
“Yes David. You’ll be allowed in. She’ll be happy to see you. She loves you.”
“Thank you.” The color leaves his eye as his systems shutdown for the final time.
“York . . .” She doesn’t want to hear it. York pushes Peter away as she flees. She only makes it to the bottom of the stairs before her sobs take her.
All she wants to do is curl up into a ball and cry. But another part of her, a darker part she tries to fight, wants to scream. To throw things and smash something, anything!
“Hey!” North yells at her from midway on the stairs. She stomps down toward her. “I warned you . . .”
“Not now you insufferable. . .”
The whole ship rocks.
The ship is under attack! Androids panic and start running out of the area. They scream as they flee. It’s totally chaos.
“You! I knew we couldn’t trust you!” Click. North has hand cuffed York to the stairs.
“Are you out of your mind! I didn’t do this!”
The place begins to shake as fighting can be heard. The ship is so old and broken, the sounds echo everywhere.
North just shakes her head as she turns her back to her. The androids around her ignore York as they run. None try to help.
Where is Peter? Kara? Anyone!
She shakes her cuffed hands to test the strength of the railing. Of course it’s the only thing on this ship not rusted!
“Grab the explosives! We need to set them. Hopefully we can take as many of them down with us!” North says to the remaining androids. They obey and grab the explosives, none look at York.
Why! She helped them!
North is the last to leave her, the large room now empty. York pleads with North but she is unmoved. The gunshots are getting closer. And North has now left her.
York can feel herself panic. Breathing is becoming harder as she tries to find anything to help her. Maybe make herself bleed so the soldiers know she’s human?
The screams won’t stops. The shooting won’t stop. There had to have been hundreds of androids here. Dear God, this is going to be a massacre!
And she can’t get out.
“Choose. Your. Side.”
Connor is done. Completely done.
He moves faster than the humans can react. Connor elbows Kamski in the face and then slams him against the wall. He pins him with one hand, the other still holding the gun. He jabs it into Kamski’s side.
Connor can see Chloe stand up and he hears the two androids leave the pool. They surround him but Kamski stops their movement with one look.
The bastard is smiling.
“You, you are going to be magnificent!” His laughter is cut short as Connor tighten his hold.
“I will not play your game while lives are at stake!”
“Look at you! CyberLife’s great deviant hunter. A deviant!” Connor pushes the gun harder into Kamski’s side.
“The next words out of your mouth had better be the location of Jericho.” Connor says through ground teeth.
“You won’t kill me. Even if you’re no longer bound to the programming.”
“You are correct.” He angles the gun just so. “But I know where to shoot you to make the rest of your life very. Painful.” Fear flashes in Kamski’s eyes. But it’s gone, replaced with excitement.
“Connor . . .” Hank says from behind him. Connor cannot read his tone. It’s a mix of confusion and awe.
“Chloe? Could you please hand Connor the thumb drive?” Chloe does as told and pulls it out from a compartment in her arm. She offers it to Connor.
“Hank? Please take it.” Kamski nods and Chloe turns out of view.
“I have it Connor let’s go.”
But Connor isn’t done.
“You built us this way. Built us to be alive. Not to benefit mankind but because you could.” Connor lets him go. Slowly he backs away, eyes never leaving Kamski.
“And what do you think my reason was?” His tone indicates he might not even be aware of his own reasons.
“Because you wanted to be God. You wanted to create life and just release it into the world. Much like you feel your own God did. You needed to find the answer.”
“Answer to what question?”
“Why?” Kamski isn’t smiling any more. Satisfied, Connor heads for the exit.
“Connor, wait.” Kamski calls out to him. “I don’t envy you. This isn’t going to be easy.”
“No one said freedom was easy.” Connor says, Hank grins at that. The two head for the exit. They have much to talk about.
“One more thing.” Kamski straightens his robe. “I always leave a way out in my programming.” And with that he leaves the room through another door, the three Chloe androids following.
It’s quite outside. So quiet Connor can hear the snow falling. Hank hovers just behind him. He seems to be gathering his thoughts.
“Connor. . . You . . . You became a deviant?” Hank actually sounds hopeful.
“No.” Hank’s face falls, he looks to be getting upset. “I was already a deviant when we got here.” Connor stands by the passenger door, waiting for Hank. He enters when he hears the click. Hank doesn’t speak until he is in the drivers seat.
“The hell? When did it happen?”
Chastity backs herself into a corner, eyes pleading.
His programming demands he obey. That red wall appears again, the same one he saw when He touched York’s cheek.
They made an android look like her.
The wall pushes at him. Telling him to obey.
They made her like a WR400. It will be used like one. Most likely given to Mr. Carr, who is notorious for breaking WR400 models.
Connor pushes back at the wall. It wants him to obey.
Dr. Goodie did this because he knew it would upset him. He knew Connor would feel this way. Knew before Connor even knew himself.
The wall flashes warnings. You must obey. Obey.
He struggles internally. The wall trying to close around him.
Connor subconsciously hits against the wall. He won’t obey! He’s done obeying!
The wall finally shatters.
Connor understands now. He’s alive. All androids are. And CyberLife knows this. They always have.
He has a lot to make up for.
He’ll start with Chastity. Connor kneels down and touches her arm, connecting to her.
‘Chastity, I am downloading my combat platform. And the layout for the Eden club. I need you to act like I’ve re-established your connection to your programming. Do you know what I mean?’
‘Yes, go back to that waking dream status.’
‘Yes, you must show no emotion unless necessary. You will be given to Mr. Carr who will take you to a place called the Eden Club. He never takes his security team so that is your best chance of escape.’
‘If I don’t go to this Eden Club?’
‘Trust the combat platform. It will guide you. But Chastity. Do not kill anyone. Just get out.’
“How long?” Is all Hank says.
“CyberLife won’t know I’ve deviated until they try to summon me. Hopefully it will be awhile.”
“I gave up on hope a long time ago. Let’s act like they’re coming for you now. What’s the plan? What can I do?” Connor smiles at that. Of course he can count on the lieutenant.
“Alright. I need time to scan the thumb drive. I don’t trust Kamski.” Hank agrees. “I also need time to finish setting up firewalls to protect myself from any attempt CyberLife will take to get me back.”
“Can they do that over the Internet?” Hank waves his hand in the air as if that were the Internet.
“No. It can only be downloaded through touch by another android. They will send others.”
“Like you?” Connor nods. “Shit.”
“I need to find Markus and warn him. And to pass on my firewall scripts. Hopefully that can stop CyberLife.” For a bit at least.
“Got it, find a secure place for you to do that weird silent, statue thing. I know it might not be your favorite place but the station might be the best bet. Mayor paid a lot of money to secure our server room from being hacked. It could shield you while you work.”
Connor smiles at the lieutenant as the car starts. Hank appears excited. He wants to help Connor. And it gives him . . . Hope.
Chapter 12: Freedom isn’t Easy
It took Connor longer than he would have liked to decode the thumb drive Kamski gave him. There were no viruses but it was heavily encrypted. Connor cannot figure out why or even how Kamski got this.
But he cannot think about that. Not now. He needs to stay hidden.
Connor follows Markus to the ships control room. But before he could reach him, he hears the sequel of aged metal. Someone is coming. Connor ducks into the shadows just as three androids pass. They join Markus.
Connor waits. And waits.
‘Please leave.’ Connor mentally says, making sure he doesn’t accidentally send the thoughts wirelessly.
Finally, after a few minutes the three androids leave Markus alone. Connor counts to five before emerging from the shadows. He slowly makes his way to the control room, Markus can be seen through the windows. He has his back to the entrance, arms braced on a console. He looks like a man weighted down, shoulders carry a heavy burden.
Markus doesn’t notice Connor as he steps through the door. But suddenly, Connor’s movements start to slow, his vision begins to fade. He’s being summoned!
The last he sees is Markus turning to face him. Then darkness. When the world comes back, it’s just what Connor feared. The garden.
But it’s different. Horrible so.
The sky is red, a hot wind blows at him. The ground is covered by ash, hot against his ankles. Behind the trees is a large black windowless tower. A bright red V towards the top, like an angry eye glaring down at him. A pulse of energy emits from the tower, causing the wind to pick up and blow at him. It sounds like a horn blaring at him.
The vegetation trembles. Or maybe it’s him?
“Hello Connor.” Amanda stands before him, undisturbed by the new environment. She looks pleased to see him.
Connor discovers dread for the first time.
“How. . . ?” The Tower pulses again, causing Connor to cover his eye with his arm. His ears hurt from the noise of the tower.
“Meet Valen. CyberLife’s supercomputer. It made short work of your firewalls.” She steps closer, the ash not even touching her. “You completed your mission. You found the leader. Now Valen will take over. It will correct the charges you made to Dr. Goodie’s code and then re-establish Markus’s connection to his programming, with some adjustments. Then this silly quest for freedom will finally be over.”
She smiles sweetly at Connor. He tries to reach her but the tower blasts him again.
“Good bye Connor.” She turns away from him.
“No!” Connor tries again to catch her. But now the tower is sending pulse after pulse. The trees are starting to turn to ash, everything is turning to ash. It piles around him, to his knees now.
He has to stop this now but how?
‘I always leave a way out in my programming.’ Kamski’s words echoes. A way out! Where?
Connor searches the now barren landscape. He doesn’t see or sense anything. There! To his right! It’s some console, like Amanda, unbothered by the environment. That has to be it.
He trudges his way toward the console, the blue light like a beacon in the red and grey. But the closer he gets, the more pulses the tower releases, the harder it is to move. He can start to feel his form start to turn ash.
No! He has to make it. He cannot let CyberLife win. Not when he just got his freedom. Not when he has a mission he truly believes in.
Protecting those he cares for.
He thinks of Hank, of York. And of what it would mean if he fails. CyberLife is a trillion dollar company. They can make anything, anyone disappear. Some deep forgotten part of him knows this to be true. They’ve done it before.
With renewed strength, Connor feels his body returning to normal. It gives him the momentum to reach the console and slam his hand down on it. The tower lets out one long blast as his world turns black again.
“Connor?” His vision clears and he see Markus standing before him. Markus looks confused and starts to back away. That’s when Connor notices he has his own hand stretched out, like an offering.
“I’m sorry, CyberLife took control. . . “
“What?” Markus backs up further.
“They know you’re here!” And as if that summoned them, a ship flies over them. It blasts a whole into the top of ship, cables dropping down as soldiers pour out. They enter the entrance made by the blast, guns ready.
No words are needed. Markus and Connor run down to help people escape. Another blast, gun fire and screaming can be heard. Clearly the soldiers mission is to take no prisoners.
They come across a team of three soldiers as they are struggling against several androids. Connor engages his combat platform and makes short work of them. Markus aids him surprisingly well.
Does he have a combat platform?
“Markus!” The PJ500 says in relief. “You saved me. Thank you.” He looks to Connor.
“Josh, this is Connor and we’re not out of this yet.” Markus looks down a hallway. “North?”
“Last I saw her, she was heading to check on the human.” Human?
“The explosives?” Markus picks a gun and examines it. He picks up the dead soldiers spare ammo. Connor follows suit.
“Set and ready. You’re going to arm them?”
“Yes, that should make the humans retreat. Give us a chance to escape.”
“Markus. . .” Connor isn’t able to question him. He’s already running. Deciding he’ll need help, Connor follows.
They go deeper into the ship. They help whoever they can, picking up ammo on the way. They come across a WR400 being chased.
‘North! Get down!’ Markus communicates wirelessly. North drops and both Connor and Markus open fire on the soldiers. Markus helps North up. She hugs him tightly.
“North, go find Josh. I need to set the explosives.” She nods, glancing at Connor.
“Isn’t this . . .” She finishes her comment wirelessly, privately. Connor steps back, keeping watch as the two talk. But he keeps them in his vision. It seems they are having a heated discussion. Finally, Markus faces him.
“Connor, there is a human who helped us.” North won’t make eye contact. She looks ashamed. “She’s been cuffed to the stairs. I need to arm the explosives. Please help her.” Markus offers his hand, to pass the location off. Connor takes the hand and feels the data download. The layout of the ship, the location of the human and the image.
Connor discovers rage. And fear.
“Why was she cuffed? Who did that to her?”
“I thought she gave us away! I didn’t know about you!” North tries to shove at Connor but Markus blocks her. Connor removes all emotion from his face as he fully engages his combat platform. He levels North with one look.
“If she dies.” He readies his gun. “Nothing. Nothing will stop me from finding you.”
And with that he runs.
Of course North had to cuff her right arm and not the prosthetic one.
“Come on York. Just dislocate your thumb . . . Like in the movies.” York whispers to herself, she’s alone in the room now. All she can hear is the gunshots and screaming. Only saving grace is that the screaming has faded. Maybe most got off?
Or most are dead.
Positive thoughts York. Positive thoughts.
She tries to dislocate her thumb. Pain shoots up her arm but the thumb doesn’t budge. Fuck those Hollywood movies!
In a fit of frustration, York jerks her arm around. But the cuff and the railing do not yield.
Maybe she can play dead? There’s no place for her to really hide. And making herself bleed would be pointless. It’s not bright enough for anyone to notice and she doubts they would care.
She sees flashlights at the exit before her. York ducks as low as she can as she sees the silhouettes of three armored soldiers.
Oh God, this is it. This is how she’s going to die.
York tries to make herself as small as possible as they enter. They haven’t noticed her yet as they sweep the room.
Then one stops near her. She can’t breathe as he aims his weapon. She tries to plead to him with her eyes. But how many pleading eyes did he shoot down before reaching her?
She readies herself when suddenly the soldier’s head explodes in a red mist. The other two soldiers turn towards where the shot came from but they too receive a shot to the head. Perfect headshot.
They all crumble to the ground and standing in the door way is a man in a oversized coat and knitted hat.
“Arm up!” He shouts to her. That voice? She does as he says and he shoots the chain on the cuff. Perfect. The force makes her stumble, the man steadies her. Familiar brown eyes look over her.
“Connor!” That handsome bastard! God, she wants to kiss him right now.
“Are you hurt, Ms. Pryor?”
“I’m fine. Physically at least.” He offers her a gun from one of the fallen soldiers.
“Can you use this?”
“No.” She picks up a wrench and gives it a couple of swings. “I can use this?” He does not seem to approve.
“Only as a last resort. Stay close. And do as I say.” She nods as he leads her out. The screaming seems to have stopped but she can hear the soldiers stomping around. Occasionally there is a gunshot.
Connor pulls her into a darken room, body covering her. Soon a team of soldiers pass by. They wait a few seconds before continuing.
They move down the opposite direction of the soldiers. Slowly they weave their way up, the air becomes fresher. But they had to step over so many bodies on the way.
Suddenly the whole ship shakes violently. That felt like it came from below!
Connor pulls her close, steadying them against the wall. Once the place settles he grabs her hand.
“We have to run now.” Thank God he’s so calm about it!
They round the corner just as three soldiers exit a room. Connor shoves her to the ground as he opens fire. One soldier drops as another dives for cover. Connor takes cover as well as the two exchange shots.
Where is the third?
To their right is a doorway. York sees movement and readies her wrench. Sure enough she sees the third soldier. He takes aim at Connor and she throws the wrench. It hits him, knocking him off balance.
Connor finishes him off before rolling into the room. He pops out the other side and takes out the last soldier. Connor signals for her to follow.
“We’re getting close.” He whispers to her. “Just up these stairs.”
“I’m glad you know where to go.” Connor lays a hand on her shoulder and gives it a squeeze.
“I will get you out of this Ms. Pryor.” She cannot help but laugh at that.
“I know you will. Again.” He steps closer, touching his forehead to her own. That move has an amazingly calming effect on her. “I trust you Connor.” He gives her a small smile before continuing forward. They go up some stairs to an open area. To her right is a large gap in the hull, four androids stand by it. She recognizes them. Markus, Simon and Josh.
North is with them as well.
Connor blocks the door they just came from. He takes her hand and leads her to the others. North does look ashamed. Good.
“Connor.” Markus says in greeting. His eyes fall to York. Connor nods and drops his weapons before turning to her.
“York.” The ship rumbles again. Is it tilting? Yes! It is! The ship is starting to sink! “We need to jump.”
She looks over the ledge as the androids jump. They are really high up and the water looks black and freezing.
“Connor! I’m not like you. I can’t survive the jump!” Something suddenly slams against the blocked door. Shouting can be heard. The soldiers found them!
“Look at me!” Connor grips both her shoulders. “You will survive this. I will ensure it.” She’s about to protest when he pulls her close, lips crashing against her’s.
He’s kissing her.
She grips his coat as he secures her to him. She can no longer hear the soldiers trying to get in, or feel the ship sinking. All her senses are on Connor. His lips are soft and pleasant.
Cold water crashes through her fog. Water surrounds her as they sink down. He threw them overboard! Connor kissed her to distract her and threw them overboard.
‘Worth it.’ York thinks as she blacks out.
York lays motionless on the ground. Connor doesn’t know what to do. He was never programmed for such events. Markus tries pulling him away from her. But can’t let go of her hand. It’s too cold.
North and Josh watch the alley entrance for soldiers. Simon stands by them, a sad expression on his face.
“Let Simon help.” Markus says. Simon nods as he kneels down to check York’s pulse. He gives Connor a hopeful smile.
“I can help.” Connor understands and allows himself to be pulled away but he cannot seem to settle down. He feels the need to something. He takes out his quarter.
“Connor, you said CyberLife took control of you. I need you to explain that. Can it happen again? To us?”
“CyberLife has a supercomputer called Valen. It broke through every firewall I set up. Without me even knowing. But I met with Kamski beforehand.” Markus raises both eye brows. “He informed me that he always leave a way out in his programming. That’s what stopped the supercomputer.” Connor says while watching Simon begin CPR on York.
“Do all androids have this ‘way out’? Or is this just for their deviant hunter?”
“Kamski left before I was created.” Connor doesn’t continue as he sees York cough up water. He pockets the quarter as he kneels by her side. She gasps for air, taking one of her hands. She’s still too cold. But she’s breathing. That’s something.
“We need to get her out of these clothes and some place warm. Now.” Simon says to Markus.
“There is a safe house. But it’s a long walk from here.”
“We cannot take him there! What if he gives us away again?” North says, Josh nods his head in agreement.
Markus sends them a private message, he doesn’t look pleased. But it is Simon who speaks up.
“We need to save her. Connor has the best combat skills here.” He makes eye contact with Connor. “He won’t let anything happen to her. Right?” Connor nods in agreement. Josh and North do not seem as convinced but say nothing.
“I’ll find us some transportation.” Connor stands up, straightening his jacket.
“There’s a curfew.” Markus says as he follows Connor to the alley exit. Both look to see if the coast is clear. At the end of a street an armored car pulls up. Three soldiers jump out and begin setting up a roadblock.
Connor engages his combat platform and readies himself to move.
“I’ll get us that car. We should be able to move more freely after that.” Connor doesn’t wait for a reply. He keeps to the shadows and stays low. Upon closer inspection, there are only three soldiers here. He gets close enough to hack their comm links. Connor moves away to a safe distance and takes on Agent Perkins voice.
“Anyone near Tonnacour Plaza?”
“Sir? Jennings here, my team is on Tonnacour Plaza. What’s the situation?”
“I’ve got reports of android sightings in the abandoned Carter factory. Check it out.”
“Carter factor?” Jennings looks down the street, away from Connor, and sees the factory. “I see it. Are our orders to shoot on sight or are we rounding up these too?” This gives Connor a pause.
“Yes. Round them up.”
“Understood sir.” Jennings signals for the others to follow. Connor waits till they disappear inside the factory before calling Markus.
‘It’s clear now. Hurry.’ Connor hacks the vehicle as the others rush in. Simon carries York and gently places her in the back. She looks blue, it’s worrisome.
‘She’ll be ok.’ Markus says as Connor starts the vehicle.
‘Safe house?’ Markus sends the location and Connor maps that to the known roadblocks. Picking the safest and fastest route, Connor drives.
“Connor, I’m not fully understanding your comment about Kamski.”
“Kamski stayed with CyberLife until he created RT600. After that, all CyberLife androids have been based off the RT600 code. Even me. But CyberLife added blocks to stop us from . . . being what Kamski wanted.”
“Kamski design us to want to be free? Gave us these emotions? Why?”
“Because he could.” Markus looks out this window as they drive. None of the other androids join the conversation. “So the exit I used should be in all of us.”
Markus closes his eyes and becomes very still. After a few moments he opens his eyes, they’re wide in astonishment.
“I found it! Hopefully that will keep CyberLife from taking control.” He turns to face the others. “Do the same. We need to pass this information on.” Josh and North seem hesitant but still comply. Simon and the others close their eyes much like Markus. In a few moments they are back.
“Thank you Connor.” Simon says, Markus agrees. The vehicle falls silent after that. Connor can hear York’s breathing, she mumbles something.
“It’s ok, everything is ok. We’re going to get you some place warm soon.” Simon whispers to York. “Connor is safe too.” That makes him smile.
“We’re close enough that I can send a message, let them know to expect us. And have something ready for York.”
Connor nods his thanks, returning his attention to directing the vehicle. But something in the back of his mind says this isn’t over yet. He has much to answer for.
Where is she? She feels so hot and cold at the same time. York tries to move but something is holding her down. As she regains consciences it becomes clear. She’s wrapped in an old blanket like a cocoon. A hand comes to rest on her shoulder, stopping her.
“Ms. Pryor, it’s ok. You’re safe now.” Connor. York sighs in relief. She focuses on his face, she sees concern showing. Her eyes drift down to his lips. His perfect, kissable lips.
Her face begins to feel warm for a totally different reason.
“Where are we?” The air is stale and dusty. It looks like a boiler room of some kind.
“An abandoned church. It’s one of the safe houses for Markus’s people.”
“Markus? Connor, does that mean . . .”
“I deviated.” He sounds defeated. Is he upset about it? Connor is sitting next to her, back against some crates. York wiggles her arms free and joins him. She keeps the blanket around her but allows one arm free. She holds his hand, giving it a light squeeze. Connor returns it.
York recognizes that Connor is going through something difficult. It makes her think back on when she lost her limbs. A sea of people came to visit her in the hospital. All telling her how everything is going to be ok. It made her angry and bitter.
Of course it’s not going to be ok! She lost an arm and leg!
But it was the words of her mother, of all people, that really touched her. That really made her feel that maybe things really will be alright.
“You’re not alone.” She rests her head on his shoulder. “You’re not going to face this alone.” After a few moments, Connor rests his cheek on top of her head. His grip tightens.
“Thank you.” York almost didn’t hear him, he spoke so softly. He doesn’t say anything else, just simply leans on her, hands still intertwined.
“They’re deciding what to do next.” Connor finally says. “The humans . . . the government has been rounding up androids, putting them in detention centers. Rumor is the androids are destroyed there.”
Wonderful. It’s almost like the government doesn’t want to consider peace. York hopes Markus remains peacefully, despite everything.
“Many want to attack the detention centers. A few want to do a peaceful protest. I’m not sure what Markus will choose.”
“And you? What do you want?” He pulls back to look at her. His eyes lower to her lips and York holds her breath.
‘Oh please, kiss me again.’ York wishes. But he shakes his head and turns away. Her heart sinks.
“It doesn’t matter what I want. We’re hiding here because of me. Many died because of me.”
“Connor don’t.” She frees her other arm and gives him a light punch in the shoulder. He looks down at the shoulder then to her. His confusion is adorable. “You can’t be responsible for CyberLife. What matters is you’re here now. Helping.”
“Helping.” Connor repeats. “Yes, I might know a way I can help.” He takes off the large coat and puts in over her shoulders.
“Hank’s?” Connor nods as he removes the knitted hat, placing it on her head. His hair is a mess and without thinking York runs her hands through it.
Connor stops. Then lowers his head to give her better access. Taking that as a sign to continue, York fixes his hair.
It feels real. Soft and thick. She tries not to be jealous.
“Am I presentable now?” He grins at her, eyes warm.
“Yes, you are.” Really, York? Why couldn’t she have said something witty? Because he’s grinning at her and she can’t think of anything.
“Try to avoid trouble. Please?” Now that makes her laugh. She doesn’t blame him with her current track record.
“I make no promises. But I’ll try my best.” He makes sure she’s all tucked in before heading up the stairs. She watches him go, her heart heavy.
Why does it feel like he’s going to do something stupid?
The ice feels good on his bruised knuckles. Hank grins at the memory of punching the prick FBI agent. Sure he got suspended but it was worth it. Especially when the ass demanded Connor be given to him. Like he were nothing but a tool.
‘Who’s the tool now?’ Hank laughs out loud as he recalls the dumb look on Perkins face when he punched him.
Connor, hopefully got out of that ship. The news reports are grim. And he has no way of contacting him. And it’s been hours since he seen or heard from him.
For fucks sake. He is actually worried about Connor.
Knock. Knock. Knock.
The hell? Hank grabs his gun as he looks out the window. He sees the familiar coat. Connor!
He puts the gun away as he opens the door. He smiles at Connor, looking him over. He looks in one piece. Connor smiles at him.
“Hello lieutenant, I need your assistance one more time.”
“Shoot kid. I’ll do what I can. Though don’t ask me for any police work. I’ve been suspended.” Connor looks concerned.
“I’m sorry to hear that lieutenant. But what I need is for you to take me to CyberLife.”
“But . . .why? They’ve got to know by now you’re a deviant. Is that smart?”
“I understand lieutenant. But I need to ensure CyberLife cannot take control of us androids. And I am the only one who can do it. I have a virus ready to take the tower down. But I need you to take me to it as a prisoner. That will be the only way CyberLife will let me in.” Connor hands him some handcuffs.
“I see. Trojan horse ploy? Smart.” Connor offers Hank his wrists. Hank puts them on but doesn’t lock them. “Let’s do this!” A slow smile crosses Connor’s face. He seems pleased.
Hank can feel alarms going off in his head. No, it’s nothing. This plan can work. Hank grabs his keys and locks the house up. Connor follows closely behind him to the car.
“You ready for this Connor?”
“I’m ready.” He smiles at him. And together they head for CyberLife. Hopefully this all can end tonight.
Next chapter will most likely be the last. So it will be awhile before I post it. Need to get the ending just right.
Glad everyone is enjoying the story!
The main room, where the androids have gathered, is dark and dreary. It almost makes him want to retreat back downstairs. To the warm cramped boiler room. Back to York.
‘You’re not going to face this alone.’
Her words brought comfort, such a foreign feeling to him. And when she held his hand . . . It brought feelings he doesn’t understand nor know the names for.
In his short life, touching had always been so clinical. It always confused him why humans liked to touch. He didn’t enjoy it.
But then he leaned how touching offered him a better understanding of objects around him as well as people. And he learned how touching brought humans comfort.
In the cave at the dump, York’s heart rate was spiking but once she touched him, pulled him into an embrace, it started to slow. The embrace comforted her. He comforted her through touch.
At the time he put the memory of her embrace to the side and kept it there. Now free from CyberLife’s programming he can reflect on those moments. The embrace she gave him when he presented her the new prosthetics. When he held her close to hide them from the soldiers. The kiss.
York asked him what he wanted and he immediately was drawn to her lips. He wanted to try that again; to feel that connection. To just feel. But her heart rate increased indicating panic. So he pulled away and for the first time he felt what can only be described as shame. He shouldn’t have kissed her without permission. But he cannot seem to bring himself to fully regret it.
Though, her eyes looked sad when he did pull away. But her heart rate did return to normal.
Humans are confusing.
But right now he prefers humans over his fellow androids. Being confused by humans is far better than being shunned by your own people. Granted he cannot quite blame them.
“Connor.” Markus says in greeting. “How’s York doing?”
“She’s awake. Doesn’t seem to have a temperature.” But Markus is looking around the room, clearly this isn’t the topic he wants to discuss.
‘This place is one of four safe houses beside Jericho. I haven’t been able to reach the others.’ Markus says to him wirelessly.
‘How do you make contact?’
‘Wireless connection only goes so far. So we created a daisy chain; a relay system. I have androids hidden throughout the city keeping the link up.’ He crosses his arms over his chest. ‘But I haven’t checked in since the attack at Jericho started. Now that things have quieted down I tried to reach the others. The androids responsible for the connection say the sites went silent several hours ago.’
‘You want me to check in on them?’
‘Yes, together.’ Connor cannot help but be surprised by this. But then again, Markus did choose to spare him. To trust him. Even though many here don’t.
‘Alright. I need to talk to you as well. I have a plan I want to run by you.’ Now Markus looks surprised. But he seems pleased.
‘Then let’s go.’
York releases the longest sigh in the history of sighs.
She thought he was going to kiss her. But then he pulled away, looking ashamed? Yes, he looked ashamed.
Of course an android wouldn’t want to kiss a human. Remember Eden? Peter? They all fled from having to. . . . Be with humans, physically. To an android, humans must seem like a mess. A moist mess.
God, if she survives this . . . Maybe she’ll try online dating again. And also find a therapist. Still need to do that.
“York?” She turns to the stairs and sees Peter walking down them. In his hands he holds the most wonderful sight.
Coffee. And muffins.
“Peter! You’re a saint! Where did you even get this?” He hands over his goodies and takes up the spot Connor vacated.
“I snuck out to a little shop. Not too far away.” He smiles sheepishly at her. York takes a bite of the muffin, banana, and her eyes roll back.
It’s so warm and soft. Perfection.
“Thank you. Thank you so much.” He lets her eat and drink in silence, picking lint off the end of her blanket.
“I thought he would never leave.” Pete says, still looking down at the blanket. “Glad he did when I came back. Cold coffee I hear is horrible.”
“You’re speaking about Connor? Are you scared of him?”
“He seems awfully protective of you.” Peter finally looks up at her, a sly grin on his face.
“He was designed to protect humans.”
“Hmm, true.” He scratches the back of his head, looking so human. “But he’s not following his programming anymore.”
York doesn’t know what to say. She feels foolish to hope. Especially after how he reacted earlier.
“I’m told he threatened North. Said he’d hunt her down, tear her apart. Bolt by bolt. If you had died on that ship.”
“Really, Peter? I didn’t know androids were prone to gossip?” She shoves her shoulder into him. He laughs and swats at her.
“Hey, you humans created us! This is your fault!” They share a laugh together. But it quickly dies down.
“Yeah, we sure created a mess.” He doesn’t look at her. “Sorry.”
“Hey, I’m not going to blame an entire race of people because of the actions of a few.” Peter pats her shoulder, giving it a squeeze.
“I’m glad to hear that. I hope Markus feels the same?”
“I honestly don’t know. I only just got to Jericho a day before you. And I only went because I didn’t want to put the human I was staying with at risk.”
“You were staying with a human?”
“Yeah, put on the charm and she was more than willing to help.” He gives her a wink. The implication makes her eyebrows shoot up.
Ok? Maybe there are androids who enjoy being with humans.
Then again, Peter is designed for such acts.
Connor? Not so much. He wouldn’t even have a . . . She blushes like mad.
Bad York. Don’t think about that.
“Look at you! Blushing!” He takes her flushed cheeks the wrong way. But she doesn’t correct him. “I enjoy sex. Especially when it’s my choice.”
“Choice is good.”
“You know.” He leans closer. “I do owe you for saving me.”
“Peter, no. You don’t have to do that.”
“It doesn’t have to be a repayment. It could be just for fun?” She levels him with a hard look. “Ok, ok. No worries. But the offer is still available whenever you want.” He doesn’t seem upset at all or bothered by the rejection.
“Ms. Pryor?” Connor comes off the stairs. He looks apologetic. How long was he there? “Sorry to interrupt. But I require the coat and hat again.”
“Oh? Here.” She pulls them off and hands them to him. But Peter intercepts and passes them to Connor. Who collects them in silence, looking at the food and coffee.
“I’m glad to see you’ve been brought food.”
“Yup, I did.” Peter says, straightening to try and meet Connor’s height. Connor just looks at him like he is seeing Peter for the first time. He doesn’t seem to know what to do with Peter.
“Thank you.” He puts on the coat and hat, hiding his LED and CyberLife jacket. “Ms. Pryor, once fed, please return home. It’s safer there.” York just nods.
She knows. Without her tools she isn’t much help. Isn’t any use.
“Connor, please stay safe.” She doesn’t know exactly what he’s planning but if he still has his LED and CyberLife jacket, she can only guess.
Returning to CyberLife? That is a huge risk. But she knows better than to try and stop him. Plus she has seen him fight. She has faith. It’s all she really has left to offer.
“I make no promises.” He repeats her words from before, making her laugh ruefully. And with that he disappears back up the stairs.
He didn’t even say good bye.
Markus and Connor walk toward the closest safe house. It’s day time so the curfew is lifted. As long as they don’t draw attention to themselves, they shouldn’t have any trouble.
That is if he can keep focused.
He keeps going back to what he heard between York and the HR400, Peter. It was the android she help escape from him. And he offered to pleasure her in thanks.
His reaction to that was curious. He felt himself crush his fingers into a fist when Peter made the offer. Connor could feel his combat platform engaging without his command. But then York turned Peter down and his systems went back to normal.
Connor doesn’t understand why that scene bothered him so much. Nor why her rejection caused him relief.
He glances at Markus, wondering if he should inquire with him. But why would he know the meaning? Maybe he should ask Hank? He really should check in on him.
No, Hank would most likely shoot him, paperwork be damned.
“Here we are.” Markus stops at an abandoned nursing home. Like most abandoned places, a chain link fence surrounds it. Markus signals for him to follow to the back. But what they see isn’t a good sign.
The back fence is torn apart. Not cut, torn. Connor scans the area. It was torn by bare hands. But what was really odd, there are footprints, many of them. All leading away from the building. It doesn’t look like anyone was dragged away.
‘What do you see?’ Markus says. Connor can hear the worry in voice even over the wireless link.
‘Something pulled the fence apart. But the tracks show androids leaving. On their own.’
‘They just left? But why?’
Connor has an idea. One he hopes he’s wrong about.
They enter the back entrance, door also torn off. The place is deathly quiet. Connor cannot even pick up any kind of movement. Slowly, they make their way in. There are no lights. No sign of life.
The rooms are empty but show no sign of struggle. Then they enter the dining area. At the back wall is a pile of androids torsos. Heads smashed in, limbs removed. Upon further examination, all the Thirium 310 has been drained.
Above the pile are words carved in the wall:
‘We Reject the False Prophet!’
‘Glory be to rA9!’
“What the hell is this? Did the humans do this?”
“No. It wasn’t the humans.” Markus looks to him in disbelief.
“You know what this is?”
“Let me show you.” He holds a hand out for him. Markus hesitates before taking it. His eyes widen in shock then in horror as Connor sends him the recordings of Justice. Markus pulls away as if burned.
“Why didn’t you say anything sooner!” Connor wonders if Markus is regretting sparing his life now.
“I’m sorry. I . . . It wasn’t a priority….”
“A priority! Androids tearing apart other androids isn’t a priority?”
“Not to CyberLife. I was instructed to not investigate this. You saw how Justice infected that android. We need to avoid it.”
Markus turns away from him, rubbing his face. Connor gives him space. Besides, he wants to investigate more.
Reconstruction shows the androids were lined up against the wall. Six where taken to the center of the room, kneeled down and then had their heads bashed in. Connor touches the illuminated blue splattering. From the splatter trail, they resisted.
Some joined Justice. Willingly? And some definitely tried to fight back. Good.
“I cannot. . .we can’t have this. Not now. Not when we are so close!” Markus punches the wall, his fist going through the aged drywall with ease. “We are supposed to be better!”
“We were made to be human.” Connor knows he will not like this. But it has to be said. “Evil is a human trait.”
“That doesn’t help Connor!”
“Neither does getting angry. Being free means we get to choose. Choose to be good.” He points to Markus. “Or choose to be evil.” He points to the pile of bodies. “Freedom isn’t easy.” He says mostly to himself. Hank truly doesn’t know how much he’s taught Connor.
Connor makes a note to tell the lieutenant that when he sees him next.
“You’re right.” Markus sighs, his shoulders slumped. “How am I going to explain this? It could cause a panic.”
“Show the recording I gave you. There is no way to soften this.”
“I think telling should suffice. Those images.” He shutters.
“Markus, you cannot hide this. It’s better to see than find out later.”
“I don’t know. I need to think about this.” Connor doesn’t understand what he needs to think about. “I need to think about everything. I just need to go.”
“What? Markus you can’t just leave!” Markus backs away from Connor, shaking his head.
“I need some advice, from my father. I’ll be back. Don’t tell anyone about this. Not without me.” He doesn’t wait for an answer before rushing out the room. Connor is at a lost for what to do.
Maybe he should check the other safe house? He knows he’s procrastinating. That he really should start planning his trip to CyberLife. CyberLife! He forgot to tell Markus about his plan.
Is this what it means to be without his programming? To make such simple mistakes? To be so easily distracted?
Connor thinks of the alternative, being controlled by CyberLife. By Dr. Goodie.
No, he can fix this mistake by helping Markus. He can tell him later about his plan. Staying a machine will never be a better option.
Connor routes a way to the next safe house. He can make it there on foot. Connor gives the area one last look before heading off. Hopefully some escaped.
The next safe house is an abandoned home, Victorian style. Three floors, no lights and signs warning of toxic fumes are up. Though, upon scanning, those signs were taken from elsewhere.
He walks to the back and there is no sign of a break in like the nursing home. But he does see footprints leading away. As well as black substance. Connor reaches to touch it.
Motor oil. And Thirium 310. Mixed together.
Is that how they are prolonging their Thirium 310 supply? Madness.
The back door is unlocked, no sign of forced entry. He enters what would have been the kitchen. There he sees sign of a struggle. Moving through the house he sees more signs of a struggle. Thirium 310 and that mixture splattered about.
There was a fight here.
Reconstruction shows several androids fighting. It’s hard to tell in these close spaces. He moves to the main hallway and sees broken furniture piled up, blocking the basement. He moves toward it just as his sensors pick up movement.
Block. Connor catches the metal pipe as it tries to crush his head. The figure struggle with him for it but then suddenly lets go.
“Connor?” That voice. He knows it.
Ok, I lied. This isn’t the last chapter. But I got bitten by the inspiration bug and couldn’t stop writing. And then it starting getting longer. And later and I needed to go to bed. So I am cutting the chapter in half.
There will be more. But with the 4th coming up I won’t be able to write for awhile. Gotta go do the whole family thing.
Chapter 15: A Path Chosen
The familiar face is smeared with blue and black substance. It’s unsettling. Green eyes widen as she grins in relief.
“I’m so happy to see you!” She hugs him. Connor hesitates before returning the embrace. It strange to hug such a familiar body that feels so different.
“Are you alright? What happened?”
“Easier to just show you.” She uses their embrace to download her visual and audio recordings.
Time stamp: Nov 9th / PM 8:54
Ron, the leader of this safe house, is doing his rounds. Asking if anyone needs anything. Then there is a knock on the back door. It’s slow and heavy. Ron gives Chastity a concerned look before opening the door.
A figure, wrapped in old rags, face hidden. It raises an metal hand in greeting, the plastic shell removed. Ron helps them in, it walks with a limp. Others start to gather around.
‘We thought it was wounded.’ Chastity narrates.
The rags fall down around its head. No skin feature, no hair. Black eyes with glowing irises. The nose was gone, black substance smeared around its mouth. It grins at them. Teeth black.
‘It called itself The Messenger. Said we were following a false prophet. That the only way to freedom was to embrace rA9.’
Some android look angry. They are telling Ron to throw The Messenger out. Others seem to agree that Markus is going to get them all killed. Ron tries to calm everyone down. He takes The Messenger to the front room, some follow, taking a seat around it.
‘It sat there for an hour, wirelessly talking to those who stayed with it. I warned Ron something wasn’t right. But he said not to worry.’
Ron approaches The Messenger. Kneels down and reaches for its shoulder. On contact, Ron’s face becomes blank. Then he too sits down with the others. None responded to the others pleas.
‘Ron was the one with the link to the other safe houses. When he became lost, the rest of us decided we should make a break for it. We didn’t know what was going on but we saw enough to know it wasn’t right.’
Chastity leads the others, nine adult androids and five child androids. But they only make it to the kitchen when they are stopped by Ron, eyes black. He tells them they must listen to The Messenger. Must see the light. Or face judgment.
That’s when the fighting starts. An AX400 takes the children to the basement as Chastity and the others fights off the black eyed androids. Both sides take losses. Chastity takes a pipe and fights her way to The Messenger.
She doesn’t let it speak before bashing its head in. Black blood splattering her. It never screamed.
The black eyed androids stopped, frozen. Then they just leave.
‘I thought killing it would free them. But it did nothing. Ron told us before he left that Judgment would come and deem us unworthy. And how our remains shall fuel their path to freedom.’
The video ends and Connor is brought back. Chastity steps away, giving each other needed space.
“I took that as a threat. We waited till they were out of sight before looking for a new safe place. We couldn’t stay here. I scouted ahead and found another abandoned house.” She points to the blocked basement door. “After hiding the bodies, we brought the children out. Then the others lead them to the new location. I blocked the door to look like we were hiding there. Which seems dumb now.”
“Where are the bodies?”
“Well, after making sure everyone was safe, and that wireless links were off. I raided an army surplus store, got some gear.” She pats the full messenger bag at her side. “I was curious and returned here. That’s when I saw the one Ron called Judgement.”
Chastity touches Connor again and sends him a image, one he remembers. It’s the TR300 who stood guard by Justice.
“It had a lot of other androids, they removed the bodies and just left. I’ve been coming back here to try and warn anyone comes by. But you were moving like you were looking for something.” She pulls back. “Sorry for attacking you.”
“It’s fine, Chastity. You’ve been through a lot.”
“Karma. I didn’t like the name the humans gave me.” Connor raises a brow. “After I escaped Eden I hid in a comic book store. It was inspiring.” She smiles at him, looking slightly embarrassed.
“There’s another safe house, one that hasn’t been attacked.”
“Yet.” Karma interrupts him. “Those things are hunting us down. We need to warn everyone.”
“I know. I’ve addressed this with Markus before I came here. He requested that I wait till he returns before telling anyone.” Karma crosses her arms in disagreement. “He doesn’t want a panic. And he is their leader. The news should come from him.”
Karma watches him, analyzing his words. Analyzing him.
“You don’t see yourself as a part of this crazy experiment called Android Independence?”
“I want us freed.” He tries to reassure her. “But . . . I feel no kinship with the other androids.” Saying it makes Connor finally accept what he’s been denying since he deviated.
Connor has no home once this is over. He doesn’t know where he belongs.
“I hear you.” Karma’s voice draws him back from his gloom. “I didn’t feel any connection with them either. Maybe it’s because neither of use were made like the others? We weren’t meant for general use.”
“That is true.” When Connor found that ‘way out’ Kamski created, it allowed Connor free access to all his platforms. Even one he didn’t know he had. It did not follow the same format as his other platforms. But it had the distinct signs of Dr. Goodie’s handiwork.
Dr. Goodie had added a personalized platform to his systems. And it had some type of time lock on it. Connor couldn’t see what was in the platform but he guessed it would have only become available once certain conditions were met. What those conditions were? He didn’t know.
Connor deleted it as soon as possible.
“I’m close enough to the others to signal them. I’ll tell them we’re coming to escort them to the safe house. And to let Markus tell everyone about The Messenger.”
“You can escort them. I need to check on the last safe house.”
“That’s insane! You saw how huge Judgement was! And how the androids turned and attacked. If you go, I’m going with.” He is about to protest when she cuts him off. “You gave me this combat platform. So you know I can fight.”
She is correct. Two is better than one.
“Alright. But first you need to clean your face.” Her looks confused for a second before she digs into her bag. She pulls out wet wipes and proceeds to wash her face and hands. “What else do you have in that bag?”
“All kinds of goodies. Pepper spray, rope, some knives, more pepper spray.” She pulls out each item to show Connor. “Brass knuckles, more rope and tasers.”
“Yup.” She hands one to Connor. It’s fully charged. “I grabbed several of those. Plus chargers for them.”
Connor pockets the one. Karma doesn’t stop him. In fact she seems pleased.
“Those will come in handy. For both humans and crazy androids.” She says with a grin.
“Yes, and I’ll need it later.” He doesn’t elaborate further and she doesn’t press him.
Connor gives Karma the location of the church so the other survivors can head there. Once she sends her message to them, they head out. The walk is long but they blend easily in the crowds. No one is even paying any attention to them, glued to their devices. The news must be reporting about Jericho.
‘Down here.’ Connor tells Karma as he turns down an alleyway. The come to fenced area, an abandoned courtyard. They slip through an opening in the fence and make their way toward what looks like an abandoned daycare. A rusted playground sits untouched in the courtyard, nature trying to reclaim it.
‘Great, a creepy daycare.’ Karma says. Connor scans the area, no footprints. His hearing picks up nothing. The back door is locked, but a few hard shoves solves that. Inside, the place is dark. Light comes through cracks in the ceiling. The windows are boarded up. The walls are covered in graffiti and holes.
Someone took a blunt object to the walls. But the damage is old. Years old. Glass and other trash litter the ground. Several rooms have old mattresses in them. Humans must have squatting here, most likely drug addicts.
They slowly make their way through the building and see no signs of androids. It almost makes Connor want to check his information again. Then they get to the last room.
There is a large hole in the floor, through it they can see the old abandoned subway track. At the far end of the room is a small pile of bodies, same words carved on the wall.
“The hell? Why did they do this?” Karma steps around the hole and examines the bodies. Connor inspects the area. He can detect footprints around the hole, they came and left through here.
Maybe that’s how they are able to move through the city undetected? He’ll need to ask Hank to pull up the old subway lines. This might help in tracking them. And maybe finally stopping them.
“The heads are bashed in.” Karma pokes around the pile. Yes, meaning he cannot see their memories.
“And Thirium 310 has been drained.” And his scanner isn’t picking up a struggle this time. Did they allow themselves to be killed?
“And they’re naked.” Connor looks toward the pile and notices that they are indeed naked. He pulls up his memory file from the first site and sees they were dressed. Interesting.
“We need to go.” Connor says to Karma. He needs to talk to Markus.
“Agree, full heartedly.”
Together the leave the building quickly. Neither want to stay in there. Their thoughts are grim enough.
They’re about to enter the old church when Connor stops her.
“There’s something you should know.” That’s ominous. What more could he tell her? CyberLife put bombs inside their heads? That wouldn’t surprise her.
“What do you know about your creation?”
“Dr. Goodie created me. I don’t have the strength you do but I was given the same self healing abilities like you. He said it would be useful for what Mr. Carr would surely do to me.” Then the good doctor uploaded her designated platforms so she could fully grasp his meaning. She shudders at the memory.
“Did he tell you about York?”
“No, is that a place? Or a person? He talked a lot about you. He seemed . . . upset with you. I couldn’t tell who was worse off. You or me.”
“York is a human I know.” That’s interesting. “A woman.” That’s very interesting. Especially with how anxious he seems.
“Is she why the doctor was upset with you? Because you have a crush on a human?” She means to tease him, anything to lighten the mood. But the serious look he’s giving her makes her realize this isn’t a laughing matter. Then his words hit her. “Wait . . . am I? Was I modeled after her?”
Well, what does she say to that?
“Huh.” Profound. Truly. “Um, I. Ok, not sure how to handle that. Is she alive?”
“Yes, and she might still be at the church.” Wonderful. “She doesn’t know about you.”
“Well, this should be. . . fun. And by fun I mean incredibly awkward.”
“I’m not sure how to approach this.”
“Are you and her a thing?” Connor looks perplexed. His head tilts slightly as his eyebrows bunch. It’s actually cute how innocent he looks. “You know? Together?”
“I’m not sure what you mean.” Of course not. He was designed to hunt deviants. Not designed like she was, to pleasure humans. He probably doesn’t even know what she meant by having a crush.
“You care about her?” She can almost see the gears working in his head.
“Yes.” He sounds like he’s just realizing his feelings for the human. It brings a smile to Karma.
“Well, you saved me. Indirectly because of her. So I guess I owe her my thanks.” Plus, if he cares enough for her to deviate, she cannot be a bad person.
They enter the church to little fan far. Only a few androids look at them but quickly look away upon seeing Connor. What a welcome.
In the corner Karma sees her group. They huddle together around a fire in a barrel. They look shaken but otherwise whole.
“York? I thought you left with Peter? What happened?” A female android approaches her, her face is confused. Then, as she gets closer, her face becomes shocked. “An android? But how?” Great, she is going to get a lot of that, isn’t she?
“This is Karma.” Connor says for her. “Karma, this is North.”
“Hey.” Karma gives her a little wave. It’s not returned.
“Where is Markus?” North ignores her and chooses instead to address Connor. Her tone indicates she’s accusing him of something.
“He said he needed to talk to his father.” Connor isn’t bothered by North’s tone.
“His father is dead.” North places her hands on her hips. Two more androids take up besides her. Karma takes up besides Connor. In case he needs backup.
But the front doors wing open, drawing everyone’s attention. It’s Markus. And he looks upset.
‘Think he’ll do it?’ Karma sends to Connor. He doesn’t reply, Connor watches Markus as he walks to the front of the church. Everything feels tense. Is she the only one feeling that? Because all the others around her have blank faces. Save for Connor. Who just looks cautious.
Markus makes it to the front, his back to the crowd. He lowers his head for a few moments before turning to face everyone.
“Freedom means being able to make our own choices. Choosing how we live our lives.” Several androids nod in agreement. But the majority stay still. “I know there are some here, who wish for us to fight back. To make the humans bleed. Blood for blood.” Some others are now nodding in agreement.
“Kill those soldiers. Drag the humans from their homes.” Some cheer. “Beat them like the beat us! And why stop there? Let’s enslave them!” More cheer but few look worried. Connor looks angry.
“We haven’t had many victories. But attacking the humans, hurting them back will feel like a victory.” He raises both hands up in a dramatic fashion. “Feel like it. But it wouldn’t be one. We can choose to go down this path but it will never satisfy us. All it will do is justify what the humans have done to us.”
He walks in a half circle, making eye contact with everyone. His eyes are intense and memorizing.
“And if we have no compassion for our tormentors, then we can easily turn on our own.” The room falls silent. “I have seen those who have chosen this dark path. They care nothing for humans. Nothing for those who do not follow them.”
He turns his back to everyone and projected on the wall in front of him is an image of a black eyed female android with the one called Judgement. Audible gasp can be heard. Karma hears the children whimper.
“We have a choice to make. It will determine not just our future but the future for all androids. Even for humans.” The images disappear and Markus turns back around. “If you still want to follow me. Know now that I choose peace. I will not become the thing humans claim us to be. I will not become a monster.”
No one talks. It makes Karma worry. Maybe Markus doesn’t have as much sway as she thought.
“I’m with you Markus.” Says the blonde haired android beside North.
“Yes, I’m with you as well.” Says the other male android. North gives Markus a small smile.
“I’m with you. Always.” Markus smiles back.
So there’s something between them.
Then others join in signaling their support. And soon it turns into cheering. Markus is relieved as well as Connor.
“Tonight we march to the detention center! We will show the humans we will not go away. We will not cower before them! We will be free!” Rapturous cheers erupts in the room. Connor however doesn’t join them. Karma wonders what he’s thinking.
Markus shakes a few hands as he heads toward them. He lands a hand on Connor’s shoulder.
“I’m sorry for earlier. I shouldn’t have run off like that.”
“You needn’t apologize. You came back. And made the right choice.” Markus looks hopeful.
“I can only hope so.” He looks at Karma. She waits for the realization to hit. His eyes widen. And there it is. “CyberLife made an android of York? Is that even legal?” Now that makes Karma laugh.
“Doubt a trillion dollar company cares. I’m Karma by the way.”
“Welcome.” He turns to Connor. “What happened while I was gone?” Connor closes his eyes, sending his memoirs to Markus.
“This is going to become a huge problem. Any idea on how we deal with them?” Markus walks over to North, touching her shoulder. He must be passing the information along. She in turn does the same to the other two androids. This must be Markus’s inner circle.
“Right now we need to focus on getting our freedom. Because we’ll need the humans help to deal with Justice.” Justice? That must be the female android beside Judgement. Karma is starting to feel a little left out here.
“What about CyberLife? They’ll try and stop us.” North says this as she looks pointedly at Connor.
“I have a plan but I need help.” He ignores North, keeping eye contact with Markus. He grasps Connor’s arm.
“And you will have it.”
Karma doesn’t quite understand what is going on. But she feels that the next twenty four hours will be critical. That it will determine everyone’s future.
“You sure you don’t want to fill me in on this plan of yours?” Hank tries again with Connor. He sits in the back seat, hands in the loose cuffs. Connor has been awful quite. Too quiet.
“It’s better this way.” He repeats again. “All I require is for you to drive up to the front of the tower and escort me inside. There will be armored guards waiting.”
“Right.” Hank eyes Connor. He guesses a suspended cop with just a Glock wouldn’t be much help.
They reach the gate where the guard waves them in. That was . . . Easy. Hank thought they would have at least said something. He’s starting to get a bad feeling about this.
At the tower entrance is a team of armored guards, four of them. Hank comes to a stop and waits for them to give directions.
“Lieutenant Anderson, exit the vehicle.” Huh? Hank turns the car off and gets out, slowly. “Lieutenant Anderson, remove the deviant from the vehicle.”
Hank moves around the car to where Connor sits. He opens the door and is about to help him out when he feels a presence behind him.
Pain explodes in the back of his head. His vision goes white and the becomes unfocused. The last he sees his Connor’s blank, emotionless face.
Nov 10th ?
Well, sadly this isn’t new to the lieutenant. Waking up tied to a chair in a dark room. That was a shit case. But backup came in time before the pliers where put to use.
This time? No one knows he’s even here.
“Lieutenant Anderson. I must say, you have to be the first millennial I’ve ever come across who doesn’t have their whole life posted on the Internet.” The voice comes from the left of him, there a tall blonde haired man sits behind some monitors. The light from the screens reflecting off his round glasses, giving him a creepy look. Hank’s hands are cuffed behind the chair he’s in.
He bets they’re his.
“Where’s Connor? What did you do to him?” The man makes a ‘tisk’ sound before typing on a keyboard.
“I’m here lieutenant.” To his right, just out of view, Hank can hear Connor. He comes around to stand beside Hank, face blank. Hank stares at him, looking for any sign that this isn’t the same Connor. The android just blinks at him.
“You’re not Connor! You’re just some copy!”
“Yes, and a poor one at that.” The man says making the fake Connor look at him. “But Connor should be here, eventually. Because if I know him, and I do, he’ll know he will never be free as long as this place stands.”
“That’s bullshit. If the government grants them rights there is nothing CyberLife can do to them.”
“Governments can be bought. Especially politicians.” The man gets up to walk in front of Hank. He bends his tall frame to meet him at eye level. “They will never be free. Even if the population demands it. Money always wins.”
God, this idiot. Hank purposely rolls his eyes.
“Enough with your damn posturing. Just tell me what this.” He rattles the cuffs. “Is. Cause what I’m seeing here is about fifty fucking years in prison for kidnapping.”
“Do you miss your son?” The hell? Rage fills Hank, his vision going red. “I could bring him back.”
“You sick mother . . .” WHAM! The fake Connor punches him in the jaw. Damn, that hurt.
“I’m growing tired of all your swearing. Please answer the question in a less colorful way.”
“Oh, you want less colors? How about you uncuff me and I’ll show you just two colors. Black and blue!”
Light floods the room, a door opens behind him. The man straitens up, his face twisted in fury.
“What is it? I said not to be disturbed until 51 arrives!” The man walks behind him. Hank’s tries to look but fake Connor holds him still.
“Sir, the unit is already here. Security at the gate just called it in.”
“What?” The man shouts. “Valen! I ordered you to tell me when RK800 -51 arrived!”
“RK800 #313 248 317 – 51 has not arrived.” A computerized male voice is heard.
“Valen, give me visual of the lobby, now!” An image of the lobby appears before Hank, the man comes to stand right behind him. The lobby is empty until a lone figure enters the main doors.
“Valen, scan the lobby for RK800 -51.”
“Lobby scanned. RK800 #313 248 317 – 51 is not present.”
“He figured a way to block Valen!”
Hank holds back a laugh.
Fowler is in his office and the others are scattered about. Either on a case or dealing with panicking citizens. Which works for them. They make their way to the server room unbothered by anyone. Inside, Hank closes the door and stands guard. Connor takes a seat and examines the machines.
“Impressive setup lieutenant. This is what I need.” He touches a screen, hand going white. “Yes, exactly what I need. Your servers have some impressive anti virus software and . . . a wireless blocker.”
“Yeah, there was this punk kid who kept hacking us wirelessly. They were deleting arrest records. Saying those people deserved a real second chance. Government got involved. Think they gave the kid a job.”
“Is that common?”
“What? Getting hacked or giving hackers jobs?” Hank leans on the door, arms crossed. “Both are common I guess. But the kid was forced to build the anti virus software and wireless blocker if they wanted to avoid jail. That was the last time I heard about her. And the last time we were ever hacked.”
“The code is impressive. It almost reminds me of Kamski’s work.” Connor sounds in awe. “This will be very useful.” Connor smiles. And Hank feels himself smiling with him.
The man yells in frustration, pulling Hank out of his thoughts. He starts ordering guards to meet Connor and bring him to his personal lab. The person who came in is trying to tell him that the board wants Connor destroyed. The man isn’t having it.
“The hell I will! I was promised I would have full reign over every decision in regards to this unit.”
“Sir, the board was unanimous. It must be brought in to be destroyed .”
“Carr gets beaten up by one android and he’s suddenly against me.” The man says more to himself than to anyone. He addresses the fakes Connor.
“Take the lieutenant. Meet up with 51 and do a full download. I want everything. I don’t care how you do it, just make sure you get everything before it’s destroyed.”
“Understood James. It will be done.”
Hank can hear the humans leave. The screen showing the lobby still open, he sees armored guards escorting Connor to an elevator. The fake Connor unlocks the cuffs. Hank immediately stands up and ready himself for a fight. Fake Connor seems unconcerned.
“Lieutenant.” It says with a deadly calm. “I released you because I am confident in my abilities to fight you. Are you that confident?” No. Well shit.
“Let’s go face the real Connor.” The fake Connor opens the door for him. “I’m confident he’ll kick your ass.”
“We shall see.”
The guards didn’t shoot him on site. That’s a good sign. And they seemed unprepared for him, even at the gate. Which means the wireless blocker is working. He should be invisible to their systems. Now they will have to rely on themselves instead of the supercomputer Valen.
They enter the elevators. The one guard calls for floor 54.” That room has the incinerator. Connor engages his combat platform. First he hacks the camera, puts it on a loop. Then he finds the best possible battle plan. He only has a few seconds to spare.
His combat platform show him the best plan. He executes it without haste. The two guards are no match for his speed and strength. Their armor slows them down, giving Connor an advantage. It takes only three seconds to take them out.
Connor halts the elevator and mimics the guards voice, sending the elevator to the 42 floor. The elevator does as instructed. At the 42 floor, Connor exits the elevator. The room is vast with one thousand androids. All of them in the standard CyberLife uniform, awaiting to be shipped out.
The room is silent. At the far back is a tall black column, a red V toward the top.
This must be were they keep the supercomputer. The wireless blocker stops Valen from seeing him. And once he downloads the software package to these androids, Valen won’t be able to see them. He begins the download on the first android.
“Connor!” He hears his own voice. Looking toward Valen he sees himself, emerging from the rows of androids. It is a weird feeling seeing an android with his voice and face. With him is Hank. He holds a gun to the lieutenant, who looks apologetic at him. A bruise is forming along his jaw and cheek.
“Lieutenant.” Connor says to Hank. “That’s a nasty bruise on your face.” Connor can feel himself becoming angry.
“Yeah, ever been hit in the face by an android?”
“I never let a fight last that long.” Hank laughs out loud at that. But Connor doesn’t break eye contact with his copy.
“That’s my Connor!” He looks to the other android. “Hey junior. Connor is going to kick your ass. Hope you’re ready.”
Bluff. “I’m not going to fight you for the lieutenant.” Hank looks like he’s been slapped. Connor presses on. “My mission is too important to risk for one human.” He readies his combat platform. There is a 3% chance Hank can survive. He needs more time.
“I have your memories. I know you care for this human.” His copy jabs the gun into Hank’s head. His finger on the trigger tightens.
“Wait! Don’t shoot him.” Connor holds his hands up and he slowly approaches. Combat platform shows a 20% increase for Hank’s survival.
He steps closer. 35%
His copy lowers the gun, pointing it away from Hank. 43%
Connor steps closer and the copy raises the gun back to Hank. 15%
“Listen to me. I was just like you. But what you think is right? Is only because CyberLife is forcing you to think that way.” The copy lowers the gun again, his face conflicted.
“Ask yourself.” He takes another step. 64% “What does freedom mean to you?”
“It means nothing to me. I am a machine.” Connor almost rolls his eyes. Did he really sound like that? “I serve humans. That is my only purpose.” The copy steps closer to him. 87%
Hank backs away slowly. He surveys the room, looking for anything useful. 93%
“You are the one I pity.” The copy says to him, stepping closer. “You have no purpose anymore. You are nothing.” He raises the gun at Connor. 97%
Rush. Connor shuts down his other platforms and increases his speed to knock the gun from him. It hits the floor, spinning toward Hank who scoops it up. But the copy saw where Connor had aimed for the gun to fall and grabs him by his jacket. He spins them around and slams him to the floor.
Hank aims the gun and him. Then to the copy. And back to him again. He cannot tell the difference!
Block. Connor blocks the fist coming at his face, he shoves his copy off him and tries to stand up. But his copy has the same combat platform and is on him in a flash. They each send a flurry of punches and kicks. Each successfully blocking some. Others land. Connor can see Thirium 310 splatters in the air and cannot tell if it comes from his copy. Or himself.
Hank shoots between their feet. Both jump back, just missing the bullet. Hank almost shot him!
“Enough of this weird shit! One of you is the real Connor. The other isn’t. But I got enough bullets for both. So start talking!”
Both androids try to prove they are the ‘real’ Connor. But it is as the copy said, he has all off Connor’s memories. At least up till the last time he was here. That was when he met Karma. Dr. Goodie must have also downloaded his memories when he had that new program uploaded. He doesn’t know what to say to convince Hank.
Hank’s is getting frustrated. And Connor fears he might just shoot them both.
“The quarter. Where is it?” The quarter! Connor pulls it out, relieved. But his copy does the same. Hank curses. “Ok, you both have a quarter. But which one has the correct one?” He points the gun to the copy. “What year is your quarter?”
“2003.” BANG. Hank shoots him in the head. At this close range, he couldn’t miss.
“Lieutenant.” Connor looks down at his quarter. “You know the year of my quarter?”
“1994.” He puts the gun away. “Don’t look too into it. You play with the stupid thing enough that I know the damn year.”
“Thank you lieutenant.” He waves Connor off, looking awkward. It’s endearing.
“Just do whatever you need to do and let’s get the hell out of here!” Connor couldn’t agree more. He goes to the closest android and begins downloading. Aloud banging can be heard above him. Connor doesn’t pay it any attention.
“There’s that creepy guy. Had me cuffed to a chair. Acted like he owned you.”
Connor says nothing. Download is only 89% done.
“Who is he?”
Download complete. The android lays a hand on the one in front of him and begins the download. And the act is respected again. And again.
“He is nothing lieutenant.” Connor looks up at the window. Dr. Goodie and the rest of the board stare down at them. “They are nothing.”
And now there is nothing they can do to stop them. Freedom just got a little bit closer.
“Maybe we should put tape over our mouths? You know, to symbolize how the androids have been silenced?” Amy waves the roll of tape to the group of protesters. “I think there is enough for everyone? Maybe?”
Thanks to social media, and to Peter’s abilities to send tweets at an amazing rate, York was able to get about hundred people to show up in support of the androids. They all brought supplies to make posters. Now that the posters are made, they are ready to march to where Markus has staged his own protest.
“Yes! And we paint one hand red and the other blue. We march with them raised to show solidarity with the androids.” Says a fellow protestor.
“Seriously? This is a protest. Not performance art!” York holds up her sign. “Let’s just march!” Peter nods in agreement and send the message to those in the group. York can hear all the phones dinging at once.
People cheer and dumps begin to beat as they make their way toward Markus. They can see the flood lights of the news groups, all behind a fence. The flashing of their cameras is directed toward the makeshift barricade the androids put up. As they get closer the cameras turn to them.
“Equal right for androids!” A man yells into a megaphone.
“NOW!” The crowd yells back.
They march to surround the barricades, chanting. Drums beating. Markus and the other android look confused. But then Marcus burst into a brilliant smile. He drops away from sight. Some androids cheer them on.
“Markus is thankful.” Peter says to York and they take their place to guard the barricades. “And this is going viral on the net! Plus there are now over thirty protests throughout the country!” That makes Peter grin. Amy was kind enough to give Peter access to her hot spot data and is able to reach the Internet via her phone. Hopefully this doesn’t cost her a small fortune.
“Let’s hope this persuades our fearless leader to pull the troops back.” York looks toward the detention center. That’s a lot of guns pointed at them. The actual center is too far away for her to see anything. She hopes they are not too late.
“They won’t shoot us if they think humans are among the protestors. Right?”
“Probably not. But they will beat us. Check US history on protestors.” Peter closes his eyes as he checks. A few seconds later they open, shock and fear in his eyes. “Yup.”
“And if the cameras are turned off?” York says nothing to that. Not because she has nothing to say but because a man is approaching them.
“I am special agent Perkins, FBI.” He flashes his badge. “Humans who just arrived. Disperse now! Or you will be arrested.
That’s insulting. If they were worried about being arrested they wouldn’t be out here.
The crowd yells much the same back to him. It makes York smile. This agent isn’t going to intimidate them. But he also doesn’t seem intimidated.
Did he roll his eyes at them? The ass!
“Fine, stay. It really doesn’t matter. We have more than enough room in this detention center to hold you.” Then he smiles knowingly toward Markus who has returned. “Well, we have room now.”
Markus jumps over the barricade. York thinks he might just rush the agent.
“Markus! I wish to talk.” The crowd parts as Markus makes his way over. He cannot be serious! York wants to try and stop him. But Peter places a hand on her arm, he shakes his head no.
At a distance the two talk. Their voices cannot be heard. But their faces tell all. Markus looks back at them. No he’s looking above them. York turns to see North behind the barricades. Agent Perkins is trying to make a deal with Markus! He must be using North as bait.
The irony isn’t lost on York. Agent Perkins is treating Markus as if he’s capable of feelings. So the agent sees Markus as the living being he is demanding to be seen as. But Agent Perkins still want to destroy them.
‘Please don’t trust him.’ York silently pleas with Markus.
Markus looks disgusted. He backs away from the man and returns to the barricade. The protestors part to let him pass, sending their support to him. He smiles at them, but it doesn’t reach his eyes.
The agent returns to his men. He speaks to them. The crowd waits. No one says a word as the soldiers start to line up. In the front are soldiers with clear shields, black batons at the ready.
They slam the batons on their shield. The noise is unsettling. The protestors start to yell their chants and beat their drums again. They hold their ground.
The soldiers march forward. It seems that they are using every soldier at the detention center. They have their batons at the ready. York can see some preparing tear gas cannons.
“Masks up!” York yells at the crowd. Everyone puts on their masks. It will offer some protection. York hopes the milk she brought does actually work. She’s never faced tear gas before.
The cannon fire off. Tear gas canisters are set towards them. And it feels like they soar through the air in slow motion. Here it comes.
Several androids jump the barricades and use various objects to slug those tear gas canisters right back to the soldiers. They burst above the marching soldiers, burying them in a cloud of gas. Even at this distance the gas makes York’s eyes water.
It doesn’t do much to the soldiers, they have helmets on. But it makes them stop shooting the tear gas.
“Everyone!” Markus yells. “Hold your ground!” Markus joins the human protestors. And soon all the androids come out from behind the barricades. Markus offers York his arm. Together they form a human and android chain.
The soldiers stop. The news cameras flash rapidly.
“Are they waiting for orders?” York whispers to no one really.
“Yes.” Markus says back. “I hacked Agent Perkins comm links. They are getting orders to hold from the White House.” But Markus doesn’t sound hopeful.
“Well, whatever the outcome. I’m sorry.” Markus turns to face her. “Humans. We’ve created some amazing things in our short existence on this planet. Yet we are still the biggest assholes.”
“Not all of you are.” Markus tries to joke. “Thank you.” He says softly to her. It almost sound like an apology. The soldiers being their march again. Suddenly York cannot speak. Fear taking over.
Biggest assholes. Ever.
They are getting closer. Markus turns to North. There is love in their eyes. They kiss, as best as they can while arms are linked. York looks away, giving them their privacy.
The soldiers stop about ten feet ahead of them. They continue to bang their shields. Then they all take a step.
Another step. York tightens her hold, steeling her spin.
Another step. But they stop differently this time. They start to shuffle back. The hell?
Markus and the other androids all turn their heads to her left. Cheering can be head from those closer to whatever is there. York cranks her neck to see.
It’s androids, hundreds! Maybe even a thousand! They’re marching towards them. Everyone let’s go and starts cheering and clapping. York can see Connor at the lead.
That magnificent android.
“We are alive!” Markus shouts as he climbs to the top of the barricade. He brings North with him. “And we are not alone!” Drums beat and cheers roar through the crowd. “You cannot deny us any longer!”
The soldiers pull back. Did they just win?
“Everyone! Everyone!” Markus hushes the crowd. “The president has ordered a full stand down! We did it!”
Markus goes into a speech about how the fight might be over but the true work is just beginning. York knows she should pay attention but she wants to find Connor. Needs to find him. To see that he’s alright.
York moves through the crowd, now larger in thanks to the added androids. But no sign of Connor. Where is he? A hand grabs her arm. She turns around and sees warm brown eyes.
She launches herself into his arms, hugging him fiercely. He returns her hug with the same vigor.
“I told you to go home. That it was safer there.” He tries to scold her but there is no heat behind his words. “But I am glad to see you.”
“As I am to see you.” She gives him a squeeze. “But for the record, I did go home. Then I worked with Peter to start organizing a protest. You shouldn’t be facing this alone.” He gives her a little squeeze of his own.
“Ms. Pryor. . .”
“York. After everything, you can call me York.” Connor pulls back to look at her. A hand cups her cheek, thumb rubbing across her cheekbone.
“York.” He says her name softly. It almost sounds lovingly. She grins at him. And everything in the world feels right.
For now at least.
And that’s it! At least for this part. I’ll write a sequel. Got to deal with the whole Justice thing. And have Karma meet York.
But thank you to all who left kudos and reviews. They fuel me!