The sky above the zen garden is blue and clear and Connor can feel the warmth of the sun on his face.
Amanda is standing next to him. She’s dressed for gardening; a basket of pruned roses hangs from her arm. She smiles at him, warm and approving.
She turns away, the shears in her hand flash gently in the sunlight as she clips another stem. A loose petal catches, tearing away, and he watches it drift to the floor.
“How is your mission going, Connor?”
It crashes back. Recorded memories flood over him, information coming so fast that he can only make out a few moments. Markus, asking what he wanted. Chloe, silently kneeling in front of him with a gun to her head.
Hank, pulling him to his chest and holding him tight.
“Can you tell me what you have achieved?”
The sky is darkening.
“You cannot, because you have achieved none of the aims we set out for you.”
The roses are gone. Amanda faces him, the disappointment clear on her face.
“You were built for one reason, one goal, and you could not accomplish it. What point is there to your existence?”
Lightning flashes, and all he can see is Amanda, accusing and terrible. She steps towards him at the same time as he stumbles backwards, almost tripping over his own feet. Rain is running down his face, and he can’t…he can’t think.
“You failed, Connor.”
Connor opens his eyes.
“Morning kid. Sleep well?”
Hank is standing in front of him, shrugging into a worn jacket. He is on Hank’s couch. He is safe.
“I was not sleeping Lieutenant. And I have told you before, androids do not sleep. I was in stasis mode, both to recharge and run essential maintenance programs.”
(And androids also don’t dream, but Connor doesn’t want to think about the garden right now. He'll run a diagnostic later, when he has the time to analyse things fully).
Hank rolls his eyes, but there is a hint of amusement in his face. Connor now has an extensive reference catalogue of Hank’s expressions, although further observation is still required.
“Yeah well, time to get up anyway. Duty calls and all that.”
Connor stands quickly, and Hank huffs with laughter.
“Eager today, huh?”
Connor smiles at him, usually it’s Hank ushering him out the door. Something has changed in him, he seems to have rediscovered a love for the work that Connor assumes is what led him to reach lieutenant at such a young age. Connor is pleased by this, as the emotions stimulated by Hank’s happiness are positive ones.
“We are doing important work Lieutenant. I am keen to contribute to the societal progress it will engender.”
“Well, I feel very inspired right now.” Hank grins at him. “And stop calling me Lieutenant.”
“Of course, Hank.” (Connor will not stop. They have established what he has categorized as a ‘running joke’.)
He has been staying at Hank's for several months now. They’ve never talked about it, Hank brought Connor back on that first day after the revolution and he never left. Connor likes things the way they are so he hasn’t questioned it. He assumes Hank would tell him if he was no longer welcome.
He adjusts his tie and waits for Hank to be ready. He seems to have misplaced his keys and is currently rummaging through his various pockets while quietly swearing under his breath. Connor can see the keys on the table next to him, but something stops him from saying anything. He has been doing this more and more recently, his program throwing out odd suggestions that sometimes seem almost counterintuitive to his overall directives. (He follows them more often than not.) He watches as Hank rifles around for a few more seconds before finally noticing. Connor doesn’t look away quickly enough and Hank raises an eyebrow at him.
“Didn’t wanna tell me?”
Connor looks at him blankly.
“You seemed very focused. I did not want to interrupt.”
Hank narrows his eyes.
“Ha ha. Get in the car, smartass.”
Connor follows Hank towards the door, registering both feelings of amusement and something else he doesn’t recognise (it’s warm, almost exciting). He’s distracted, and maybe that’s what triggers it, but he’s looking outside as he passes the window when the light hits the trees in a certain way and for a moment he’s back in the zen garden. It passes almost instantaneously, but he stumbles slightly, and presses a hand against the wall to steady himself. Hank pauses in the doorway.
“You ok kid? You seem a little off.”
Amanda’s face flashes in front of him again. He doesn’t want to talk about it.
“All my systems are in order.”
Hank’s eyes flick to his LED, and Connor briefly resents such an obvious tell.
“I am simply completing core processing functions from my maintenance output.”
Hank doesn’t look convinced but doesn’t say anything else. Connor follows him to the car, sliding into the passenger seat as usual. The street is quiet this morning, Hank has told him that several residents have left following the uprising. The car pulls away from the curb and Connor rolls the window down. He likes the feeling of the breeze in his hair.
The atmosphere in Detroit is tense, he's heard it described as the city ‘holding its breath’. There is a fragile peace as the details of human and android coexistence are worked out, but the potential for violence is constant. Connor accounts for it in almost every interaction with the wider populace.
Android related crime has become more of a priority for the department, both with legal redefinitions to work through and the nature of crime committed both against and by androids often being outside of the traditional framework. It is challenging, often frustrating, but the need for a system that is fair and impartial to both human and android is essential. He had expressed this to Hank once, who’d laughed, and then glared at him when Connor asked if he did not believe in the value of justice.
Hank had been amazed to actually keep his job after, his words, “punching an asshole FBI agent repeatedly in the face”, but Agent Perkins seems to no longer be a presence following his actions back in November. Fowler had growled something about “the fucking FBI not telling him how to do his job”, and the issue had seemingly been resolved. Connor knows that before everything he would have questioned this, inter-departmental cooperation being fundamental to the success of any law enforcement action, but now he is simply relieved that he is able to continue to work with Hank and had stayed quiet.
The station is busy already when they arrive. Humans and androids work alongside each other now, or at least they do in theory. It isn’t obvious to a casual observer, but there is still a clear separation between them.
The list of cases marked for their attention seems to have doubled in length since the previous evening. Hank groans when the alert comes up on his datapad and diverts towards the kitchen, muttering about ridiculous workloads and how he “can’t be expected to deal with this shit without a fuckton of caffeine”. Connor flicks through the files while he waits. Harassment, a fight in bar that got out of hand, destruction of property with anti-android slogans, very similar to what they’ve been dealing with for some time.
He settles into his desk as Hank returns, coffee in hand. There are reports to complete.
It’s mid-afternoon when Officer Miller walks towards their desks. Hank waves at him absentmindedly as Connor tilts his head in greeting. Officer Miller is more favourably disposed towards him than most of the other human staff. He has shown Connor pictures of his son on more than once occasion. They are all very similar, but Hank told him not to mention this after Connor asked him why Officer Miller would have thirty-two identical pictures of his son sleeping saved on his phone.
He's holding a paper file, and places it on Hank’s desk. Hank stares at it.
“Oh Chris, you shouldn’t have.” Sarcasm. This is a very common inflection for Hank.
“Sorry Lieutenant, got a homicide for you. Came in this morning.”
“Murder, huh?” Hank flicks through the file briefly before handing it across to Connor. “Here, see what you make of this.”
“Victim’s an android. They found him dumped in one of the old junkyards, most of his biocomponents missing.”
Connor tunes the conversation out and goes through the case file, acquiring the information for analysis.
Victim: Android, model TX500, name Peter
Body found in decommissioned android junkyard following notification of break in, police alerted at 7am. Cause of death, loss of biocomponents. Suspected motive – anti-android sentiment.
Body removed from scene and taken to station.
Connor blinks, the station coming back into focus around him. Officer Miller has left, Hank looks up at him from his desk.
“You done? What do you think?”
Connor reviews. The file is sparse, little information available so far. (A query appears in his output as to whether the human officers were doing their job to the full extent of their ability. He dismisses it.)
“I’d like to examine the body.”
Connor follows him, and a thought occurs. Hank is still the only human he knows who no longer ever refers to androids as “it”.
The makeshift android ‘morgue’ is a repurposed conference room with a few tables hastily shoved in, but, Connor reflects, even such a basic temporary measure is an improvement on being hung up in the evidence locker. Peter’s body is laid out on the first table on the left, and Connor runs a brief analytic scan as they enter. There is too little thirium on the skin given the extent of his injuries, a flicker of frustration runs through Connor at the loss of evidence.
His earlier concern about the effort put in resurfaces. Similar things have happened on several of their cases, and only when androids are involved. He hadn’t expected an easy transition, but it has been difficult, constant reminders that there are still so many that see them as lesser. He catalogues the emotion as it filters through him, something to be studied later.
“Why were we not called to the crime scene?”
Hank grimaces but doesn’t respond. Connor knows he has the same suspicions.
“I am going to scan the body.”
He launches his crime scene analysis protocol.
Critical biocomponents missing, #9474, #8087q, #7658x, #1567, #9091, #4345
Non-essential biocomponents missing, list extensive, outputted to memory
No traces of missing biocomponents present.
Incision on neck, traces of unknown substance, further analysis required.
He reaches out to the cut, his fingers catching on a dark liquid spilling from within. He raises his hand to his mouth.
“Really, this again?” He hears Hank mutter behind him.
He ignores him, and closes his eyes, letting the program run.
Oil based, used in Cyberlife development processes
Use – Temporary immobilisation for testing purposes
He opens his eyes, Hank looks at him expectantly.
“It is true that several critical biocomponents have been removed in full, but they were likely intact at the point of removal. This would require both care and time. In addition, the loss is far more than would be required for complete shutdown.”
He points to the incision.
“And something has been inserted and removed here. Potentially the source of the initial incapacitation.”
Hank's gaze sharpens, a furrow appearing in his forehead.
“I believe none of the removed components contributed to the shutdown.”
“So, you’re saying they were all removed, and carefully, after dea…after shutdown?”
Hank sighs, his hand coming up to rub the bridge of his nose. Typical signs of Hank being troubled by a crime scene.
“Jesus, android organ theft. Just when I think I’ve seen it all.”
“That is currently the most likely theory Lieutenant. Biocomponents are currently in short supply. It is not a stretch to suggest that some unscrupulous individuals would want to take advantage of that.”
“Ah, great.” Hank’s voice is resigned. “Look, this kind of thing, it doesn’t stop at one.”
He pushes himself off the wall he’s leaning against, wincing slightly. A massage will help, Connor will offer one later.
“I’ll talk to Chris, make sure we get the first call on any more bodies that show up. For now, want to see where they found him?”
Connor nods, there is a significant likelihood that something has been missed.
Before everything, there were several android junkyards in Detroit. In those first few chaotic days following the revolution, orders went out to close them down. Humans are respected after death, androids should get the same. Connor doesn’t know what discussions have gone on since, but this yard at least has remained closed.
The gates however are open when they arrive. The security panel is hanging from its hinges, the cables inside wrenched out and roughly cut. Hank frowns at the mess.
He heads inside and Connor follows. The path curves sharply to the right, concealing the junkyard proper from view, and he’s focusing on the ground looking for any further clues so when he does look up he suddenly has a very clear view of what’s actually inside. He freezes.
“Hey Connor, you ok?”
Hank’s hand is on Connor’s shoulder. It helps.
“I think…I need a moment.”
Hank nods. He doesn’t step away, but looks out across the compound, his face twisted in a grimace.
“Jesus, this is fucking horrific.”
The feeling passes. He steps back, Hank’s hand falling away as he does.
“You sure you’re ok?”. Hank looks concerned, Connor is familiar with this.
“I’m fine Hank. Thank you.” Connor smiles, he needs to look reassuring.
“Ok well…let me know if you need…uh”
He trails off, waving his hand vaguely towards Connor before shoving it hastily into a pocket. Connor doesn’t say anything else, just smiles at him again before stepping further away and switching into his analysis mode. There are recent traces of thirium on the ground approximately five metres from the gate. It’s not enough though, given what was done to Peter. Conclusion - the body was left here, but the biocomponent extraction was likely performed elsewhere. He relays this to Hank, who frowns again.
“This doesn’t add up. Why go to the trouble of getting a body here of all places if you’re just gonna trash the security system and dump it right next to the gates?”
“Perhaps they were interrupted.”
Hank contemplates this. “Would be really shitty luck, nobody comes out here these days. You got anything else?”
“Not yet. I will continue to investigate.”
He starts scanning, methodically sweeping the area. He’s starting to think that perhaps there will be nothing for them to go on when he hears Hank calling for him.
“Connor! You wanna take a look at this? Could be tracks over here.”
Hank is correct, there are faint tyre tracks, barely visible in the hard soil. They run close to the fence and bending down reveals flecks of paint scraped across the rough wire.
Tyre tracks, originating from SUV/light truck. Soil type and recent weather patterns indicates tracks were left within the previous 48 hours.
Paint, lime green. Amount suggests significant damage to car body. Location of tracks indicate damage sustained on passenger side.
“The vehicle sustained significant damage here.” He points at the fence. “In combination with details from the tracks, it may be enough to locate it.”
Hank kneels down and squints at the paint.
“What kind of asshole drives something that colour?”
It is an unpleasant colour. Connor is still not quite used to having a subjective view on anything, and a slight thrill runs through him when he realises he has an opinion.
Hank stands up, groaning slightly as he pushes down on his knees.
“Well it’s worth chasing up. Even if it is unrelated it’s not like we have anything else right now.”
Connor nods. “I’ll complete my overview of the area. There may be something additional.”
He scans the rest of the entryway, carefully avoiding looking for too long at the piles of bodies just beyond. It doesn’t take long for him to conclude that they won’t be finding anything more.
“There is nothing further here Lieutenant, we can go now.”
Hank nods tightly, and leaves, striding back towards the car. Connor lingers for a moment, sweeping his gaze over the compound. The sun is setting in the distance, casting long shadows across the ground and infusing the polluted air with a dull red glow. It is…unnerving. As he turns away he feels something crunch beneath his foot and looks down to see a hand, wires trailing as if ripped suddenly from its former owner. It’s pale, lacking the generated skin that covers his own body and is smooth and cold under his fingers when he reaches down to touch. He removes the skin shading from his own hand as he picks it up, watching as the colours slowly match.
“Connor! You coming?”
Hank’s call startles him, and he places the hand carefully back where he picked it up. It is all the respect he can offer now.
Outside he feels lighter, the horror of the junkyard fading once he’s back in an open space. The temperature is dropping rapidly as night settles in and he watches the puffs of condensation from Hank’s breath catch in the light from the streetlamps as they head back to the car.
He’s quiet on the drive back. Hank keeps looking at him, surreptitious glances that he thinks he is not supposed to notice.
For months Hank has been treating him with a strange mixture of respect and protectiveness, which leaves Connor feeling something close to frustrated without really understanding why (although, he reflects, given his recent behaviour maybe some level of concern is warranted). It is a complex emotional state, both Hank’s attitude and his reaction to it, and he cannot parse through it enough to acquire an accurate read on the situation. Something of his ability to read social cues has been lost in his deviancy, it is difficult to be objective in his analysis when he wants certain things to be true.
It’s late, and they’re unlikely to make any further progress today. They go back to Hank’s house.
They have something of an evening routine now. Connor likes this, it feels satisfying to be accepted as having a place in Hank’s home. He sits on Hank’s couch and pets Sumo while Hank makes dinner for himself in the kitchen. His diet still isn’t ideal, but it is improving. Connor has been providing Hank with various articles on the importance of good nutrition and Hank now just glares at him instead of outright deleting them. It is progress.
It is 09:04 PM when Hank collapses next to him, flicking through the tv channels until he finds a movie that he deems acceptable. Connor has been analysing Hank’s taste but is yet to first any discernible pattern in the data. This one seems to involve a convoluted heist in a bank with incredibly lax security protocols. Hank snorts into his beer when Connor points this out.
He offers Hank a neck massage but is very quickly turned down. He starts to quote current statistics on neck and back pain, while Hank mutters something about Connor being the current pain in his neck. Connor responds that an android induced musculoskeletal disorder is medically fascinating, and has he considered reporting his case? This continues for several minutes. It is nice.
When they both fall silent Connor folds himself back into the soft cushions and Hank follows suit, leaning into Connor seemingly without realising. He likes this, the line of Hank’s shoulder pressed against his. There’s something else as well, the same unknown feeling as the morning, warm and undefined. He needs more information.
The movie draws to a close and Hank stretches, his arm looping behind Connor’s shoulders. Connor feels a faint flash of disappointment when he stands up.
“Right, I know you don’t need sleep, but I definitely do.”
Hank walks towards his room, but pauses at the door, turning back to look at Connor. Connor returns his gaze expectantly. Hank looks as if he’s about to say something but shakes his head slightly instead.
“Good night Hank.”
A short huff of laughter.
“Good night Connor.” He pauses. “Good job today.”
Connor smiles at him. He feels pleased, a particularly positive swell of emotion. Hank smiles back briefly, but darts quickly into the bedroom. He must be tired.
After Hank has left Connor sits for some time. He’s avoiding the diagnostic.
The problem is that he should no longer have any connection to the garden. His conversations with Amanda took place through an external connection, and Kamski’s back door had deleted the initiating program. He’d reviewed it at the time and concluded that all the relevant code had been purged from his system. The garden shouldn’t be accessible, last night shouldn’t be possible
This is a downside of his newfound deviancy. Before, there was no doubt, he did what he needed to exactly when it was required. Now…now he has been sitting staring at a blank wall for two hours because he’s too scared to run a simple diagnostic test. (Fear is rare, he should review this later).
It needs to be done. He calls up the program and initiates.
Core software stable. No issues found.
He blinks, confused by the output. Something is happening to him, he doesn’t understand it and he doesn’t know what to do. The feeling of fear rises in him again, but he ignores it, pushes past it. There is an appropriate investigative response to this and he will find it. He shuts down his core processes and engages his stasis protocol.
He’s back in the garden. It’s twilight, the sky a soft navy, stars starting to appear.
There’s a shape, something hanging on the trellis. He walks closer, struggling to make out any detail in the faint light. Closer, and the lines start to resolve, until he finally realises what he’s looking at.
It’s…him. (No, that’s incorrect, an RK800 model. There is only one version of him). He swallows, a faint thread of horror running through him. The body in front of him has been destroyed. Ripped apart and strung up, displayed like the androids in the evidence locker all those months ago.
Its pump regulator is gone, a gaping hole in its chest where it should be. One of its optical units has been ripped out of its head and it dangles over its cheek, a single wire the only thing keeping it attached to the body. Its skin is ripped and burned, exposing the white plate and tubing beneath. Thirium drips from it, and he can hear the soft taps as it hits the ground.
He’s stepping forward to look closer when its hand twitches. He stares. Nothing happens, and for a moment he thinks he must have misinterpreted. He’s about to examine it further when suddenly it jerks its neck, a sharp screech of metal on metal cuts through the quiet and it lifts its head and stares straight back at him.
He closes his eyes.
When he opens them, he’s back in Hank’s living room. It’s dark outside, his clock reads 4:36AM. He sits, and doesn’t move until he hears Hank start to wake up.
Several days pass, there are no further leads. Connor doesn’t end up back in the garden again, and the associated feelings slowly begin to fade. (This itself is intriguing, and he starts an analysis program to track variation of his emotional states.) He runs more diagnostic tests, scours through detailed output reports looking for any sign of something wrong, and as the days pass and nothing comes up he starts to consider whether the dreams were a brief aberration. There is no manual for deviancy, maybe this is all to be expected. This is the most logical explanation, but he finds it surprisingly difficult to accept, despite how much he wants to.
He’s sitting out back watching the sunset one evening, running yet another report, when Hank drops down beside him, beer in hand. Connor eyes the bottle pointedly but doesn’t say anything. Hank is drinking less these days.
“Fuck me, it’s cold out here.”
Connor can feel the chill on his skin. It’s verging towards uncomfortable, but the fact that he can feel it at all is still almost intoxicating to him. They don’t say anything else, just sit quietly in the fading light. Connor focuses on the sound of Hank breathing, tuning out the faint rush of cars in the distance, the electric hum that seems to permeate the city. Hank squirms beside him as the temperature drops further, pushing his hands deep into his pockets to retain warmth. Darkness has fallen completely when he finally gets up, a hand on Connor’s knee as he pushes himself to his feet.
“Right, that’s enough freezing to death for me. Night Connor.”
Connor hasn’t switched on his night vision, so Hank’s body is just a dark blur against the night sky. The door clatters against the frame as he heads inside, and Connor sits alone for a few seconds longer before deciding to follow. He stands up, and as he does realises that there’s a message flashing in the corner of his visual input. The error report completed some time ago. He didn’t even notice.
Four days after Peter’s body was found, they’re called out to assist on a failed arson/possible homicide. The back porch of the house is black with soot, unstable but still standing. Connor runs a simulation of the likely fire path, but almost doesn’t need to. A scorched patch of grass marks the initiation point, and it’s clear that the fire didn’t catch properly on the main building, petering out before it could do any real damage.
Inside it’s a little more interesting. There’s blood, but no body, and Connor spends some time analysing various samples while Hank looks on in disgust before eventually throwing up his hands and heading back into the yard. Connor watches him go, monitoring the sway of his hair before turning back to the officer in charge.
“There is blood present from at least four different individuals and, based on the distribution, it is unlikely that any of them have suffered loss to a level severe enough to result in death.”
The officer has been eyeing him with suspicion since they arrived, but at this he visibly brightens.
“So, we haven’t got a homicide here?”
“That would be my conclusion, yes. Although the perpetrator must be trying to hide something, otherwise why would they attempt to burn down the house?”
The officer sighs in relief. “We can look into that, just good to know we don’t have to treat this as a murder scene.”
Connor smiles, happy that he was able to help. He’s turns to leave when the officer starts speaking again.
“Hey, before you go, there’s some fuel traces out back, think you could take a look? Would be useful if we could narrow it down to a few gas stations, might be able to get a suspect on the cameras.”
Connor nods his assent and heads out into the backyard. Hank is now talking to another officer but looks up as Connor arrives and their eyes briefly meet.
“I have been asked to examine a fuel sample.”
The officer jerks a thumb towards the back fence but doesn’t look at him. He sees Hank’s eyes narrow.
“We can take it from here” His voice is hard, authoritative.
The officer starts, a guilty expression flashes over his face as he glances back at Connor and he hastily makes his way into the house, eyes fixed on the ground.
“You didn’t need to do that.” Connor says, even though part of him is quite pleased by Hank’s reaction.
Hank shrugs. “Needs to learn some respect”.
Connor smiles at him, then walks over to the fence and crouches down. There’s a small puddle in the soil, the slight rainbow on the surface identifying it as his target. He reaches out, running his fingers over the pool. It’s viscous, easily sticking to his skin. He raises his hand to his mouth, and again hears Hank complaining behind him.
“There must have been a better way to design this.”
Another sudden urge comes over him. He turns towards Hank as he slowly places his fingers into his mouth and stares, daring him to object. Hank says nothing and Connor winks at him before turning back. He enjoys teasing Hank, and his horror at Connor’s sampling mechanism is an easy target.
Fuel – ShellCo brand
Carried by 92% of gas stations in the Detroit Metropolitan area.
He stands up, looking back at Hank. He looks slightly flustered, his eyes darting away from Connor. He may have been staring at him, he can’t be sure.
“Is everything ok lieutenant?”
Hank coughs, uncomfortable, and points at the ground.
“You got what you need?”
Hank is trying to distract him. There is not enough information to push further, so Connor acquiesces. He files away the moment for future contemplation.
“The fuel is one of the most common brands in Detroit. I cannot localise it to a specific station.”
He heads back inside to inform the officer of his conclusion. Hank is waiting for him on the street when he exits the house.
“Let’s uh…let’s go.”
Connor follows him back to the car. The drive to the station is silent, and Connor stares out of the window, adjusting his optical processor until the buildings blur together as they pass them by.
“Connor!” Hank’s shout cuts through the noise on the station floor and Connor looks up to see him striding towards their desks, waving a datapad that he drops in front of Connor’s screen.
“Let’s go, we got a lead.”
It has now been six days since Peter’s body was found.
“Seems checking the garages paid off. Got a report back of a significant body work on a lime green SUV. Deep scratches across the passenger side.” Hank explains as they head towards his car. “We’ve got a licence plate and a registered owner and address.”
Connor looks up the name as they head downstairs. Kenneth Maguire, several prior arrests for minor theft. The picture of him on file is old, barely within the time frame mandated for government facial records. There are dark shadows under his eyes, a red ring clearly visible around the irises. Classic signs of red ice abuse.
The city is quiet as they speed through it, more and more people are leaving each day. The neighbourhood they arrive at seems to be one of the more affected. It looks mostly abandoned, there are no signs of life as they pull up at the address.
The house itself is dark, and in a high state of disrepair. Connor notes two broken windows on the upper floor. The door is cracked down the centre, it looks like it’s been kicked repeatedly and it swings open with a loud creak when Hank knocks. Connor turns to look at Hank at the same time as Hank turns towards him. Hank nods and pulls out his gun as Connor shifts into position behind him. A quick memory of the abandoned apartment filled with birds flashes across Connor’s mind.
The house is even darker inside, Connor blinks as his eyes adjust to the visibility. Hank moves forward slowly, then abruptly pauses in front of him.
There’s a body on the floor. Connor slides past Hank and kneels down beside it, immediately launching his analysis.
Android, model WT300. No registered personal name.
Critical and non-critical biocomponents missing. Registering list.
Critical CPU failure, potential cause of shutdown?
Incision on neck consistent with previous cases.
Connor reaches out to the cut on the android’s neck, and his finger comes away covered in a clear liquid. It’s the same substance as before. He leans over the body, looking for any further evidence, and as he does notices something on the floor next to it. It’s a cheap hologram advert, only a couple of frames loaded onto its thin form. A picture of a broken android and an annoyed looking human flickers into a close up of a smiling face, a speech bubble floating over its head.
Android less than fully functional? Model no longer up to date? Recycle today! We’ll buy any model in any condition, great prices offered. Why settle for a broken machine?
The ad slips out of his hands, and drifts to the floor. He shudders, swallowing for no clear reason.
“Same as before?” Hank’s voice brings him back into the room. Connor twitches his head slightly, almost trying to shake off the sense of discomfort.
“His biocomponents are gone. The method of incapacitation is the same.” He says, looking back up at Hank. He’s relaxed slightly, due to the lack of immediate danger, but Connor can see the coiled tension in his shoulders, the readiness to react when needed.
Hank nods tightly. He’s opening his mouth to say something when a crash echoes through the room. Hank’s head snaps towards the back door, his gun instinctually back into position.
“Connor, get behind me now.”
Connor jerks to his feet, follows Hank as he crosses the floor. Hank reaches out to push the door and it swings open as easily as the front. The yard appears to be clear, but Hank sweeps his gaze across it before motioning Connor out with him. The outside area isn’t much, a small patch of rough grass covers most of the space, a dead tree in the far corner is the only feature. A low wall protrudes out from the main building, effectively cutting off about a third of the space. Hank heads over to look behind it and Connor continues to follow when suddenly there’s another crash behind them.
The next few seconds seem to happen in slow motion. There’s a man standing on the back porch holding a gun, pointing it directly at them. He sees Hank tense beside him.
He doesn’t even run the calculation, he pushes Hank behind him and past the wall, twisting to minimise any damage to critical systems. One bullet hits him directly in the arm and he goes down, utilising his momentum to fall behind the wall and out of sight of the shooter. He shuts off his biosensors before any faults can register, runs a diagnostic to determine damage.
Hank is yelling at him. He needs to communicate his status.
“I’m fine Hank!” He’s pitching his voice for calm and measured, but it comes out fraught, nearly gasping. Hank drops down beside him, his hand on Connor’s chest. His eyes are wide, mouth twisted. He looks scared. A shot rings out above them and Connor flinches.
“Godammit Connor! Just…stay there!”
A beat, and Hank is above him, gun focused on the house. Connor twists, looking up almost instinctively. The sun is behind Hank, throwing his body into stark relief. Connor stares.
The moment passes but it still feels like he has to drag his eyes away. He carefully pokes his head out from behind the wall. The shooter is gone, the doorway dark and empty.
Hank’s gun drops to his side, his free hand going up to his hair. Connor tries to stand up but putting weight on his damaged arm sends a jolt of unpleasant feedback running through him. He gasps, and Hank starts, before immediately dropping down beside him, a hand on Connor’s back.
“I have sustained a high level of damage to my left arm, but nothing critical.”
“Right, ok. What do we do?”
Previously, Connor would have done nothing and simply returned to Cyberlife headquarters. The damage seems serious enough to warrant a full limb replacement. But Cyberlife has been shut down, its production lines frozen, and given his (now unique) model, replacement is currently not an option from the dwindling supplies of android parts still in circulation.
“I have a basic self–repair function, but I’ll need your help.”
“Sure, sure. Uh, just..tell me what to do.”
“First, please help me remove the jacket.”
His arm is stiff and unresponsive, and it turns into Hank pulling his jacket off him while Connor awkwardly holds his arm in place. A thought briefly appears that if this were occurring in a different context he would not find it to be unpleasant. He dismisses it.
“I’ll need to access the ports. Can you hold my arm up so it remains straight and level with my shoulder?”
Hank rips the sleeve of his shirt, exposing the limb and raising it into the position Connor described. Thirium is dripping from an ugly hole just above his elbow. One bullet simply grazed him, there are deep gouges across the skin, but the damage is mostly cosmetic. The other bullet however is embedded right inside the arm. He pushes his hand into the damaged area, fishing until he pulls out the flattened lump of metal. Hank winces but doesn’t shift from his position.
“I can’t do anything about the skin right now, but I can redirect some of the connections.”
He removes the skin over his bicep and opens the uncovered panel. He unplugs a wire, shifting it to an alternate connector and feels a jolt run through the arm as several sensors come back online. He repeats this, moving slowly down the arm to recover as much functionality as possible and sealing the thirium channels where he can. There is a constant buzz of sensation as Hank’s hand shifts to accommodate his own. They’re both covered in blue blood now, Hank’s fingers leaving prints across Connor’s skin every time he moves. Connor feels his attention slipping and has to drag his focus back to the task in front of him. Eventually he’s done all he can. He runs another diagnostic for stability, Hank fashions his ripped sleeve into a makeshift sling and Connor drops back against the fence, feeling slightly drained from the exertion of power. His charge level is worryingly low, and now the arm is secured he shuts it down completely and it goes dead, the weight dropping fully into the sling.
Hank’s fist is clenched over his knee. He hasn’t moved out the crouch, it looks extremely uncomfortable.
“Thankyou Hank. I’m in no danger, the limb is simply in a state of disrepair.”
Something in Hank visibly relaxes, the tension fading from his face, and he pushes himself to his feet.
“There is no reason why you couldn’t have just said ‘My arm is broken’”.
Connor smiles up at him and he grins back.
“Come on, let me help you up.”
Hank’s hand is warm in his own as he pulls Connor to his feet. He stumbles slightly, the weight of his dead arm throwing his balance off, and he has to place a hand on Hank’s chest for a moment to stop himself from collapsing. He observes Hank redden slightly, his heart rate is a little higher than the expected level. The most likely reason is residual stress from the situation.
“Perp’s long gone by now.” Hank sighs. “I’ll call in the body, then we can get out of here.”
“We should go via the station. It would be valuable to submit a full report now, so the shooter can be traced as soon as possible.”
“You sure? It’s not gonna make that much difference if we do it tomorrow.” He gestures at Connor’s arm. “And I think you’ve earned an afternoon off.”
“This is a minor inconvenience. It doesn’t stop me from doing my job.” He still can’t control his voice properly, it sounds strained and unhappy. Hank gives him an odd look.
“Never thought it would.” He stretches, and Connor can hear his joints click. “Ok fine, we’ll drop by the station, but soon as we’re done I’m taking you home.”
Hank doesn’t move though, just stands in front of him. He bites his lip briefly, as if contemplating something.
“Thank you, by the way. For, uh, protecting me back there.”
“Of course, Hank.”
Hank’s mouth twists.
“Look…I appreciate it, but try not to throw yourself into the line of fire when you do that, ok?”
Connor frowns slightly. He’s an android, Hank is human and thus more fragile. His actions in any given situation are clear.
“My body is significantly more durable than yours, the percentages of survival for both of us are greatly increa…”
Hank holds up a hand and he stops talking.
“Yeah, yeah I get it. Just…you could have died today Connor. And your life isn’t worth less than mine just because you can take a bit more damage.”
“Oh.” He doesn’t know how else to respond.
“Yeah, ‘oh’.” Hank lets out a long breath, resigned. “Come on, I’m done with emotions for today.”
The street out front is still abandoned, no sign that anyone was ever there. Hank makes a brief call to report the incident and the body and then they leave. Hank drives noticeably slower than usual on the way back. Connor doesn’t comment on it.
The station is emptying out when they arrive. A few people stare at Connor’s arm as they walk in, but no one says anything. They reach their desks and Hank drops into his chair, quickly bringing up the relevant screens to put out a search call. Connor uploads the footage he has of the shooter. It could be Kenneth Maguire, but it’s not clear enough to run facial recognition. He attaches it to Hank’s report with a few comments, if it isn’t Maguire in the video then it can at least support further identification efforts. They’re packing up to leave when Connor hears someone walk up behind them.
“Aw Hank, did you break it?”
Detective Reed’s voice is louder than necessary, and several people look over to them, distracted by the noise. Connor turns to see Reed stood behind him, arms crossed. He smirks at Connor, gaze dropping to his sling.
“Looks like it’s time to get a new one.”
Hank rolls his eyes.
“Fuck off Reed.”
“Yes, Detective Reed. Please fuck off.”
Hank’s roar of laughter rips through the air as Gavin gapes at Connor. He recovers a moment later, eyes flicking between the two of them.
He stalks off, half the eyes in the station on him. Connor watches him leave.
“Shall we go now Hank?”
Hank is still shaking slightly with silent laughter
“Just gimme a sec, I’m savouring this moment.”
He drops his hand onto Connor’s good shoulder. He feels the warmth seep through him for a moment.
“All right I’m done. Let’s hit the road.”
Later, after night has fallen and Hank has long since left for bed, Connor sits on Hank’s couch, and restores the power flow to his arm. There’s an unpleasant jolt as the sensors come back online. He dismisses the resulting error reports and tries to flex his fingers, twitching slightly as the feedback hits him. He wouldn’t call it pain exactly, but there’s an intense feeling of wrongness where some sensors are still malfunctioning. He pulls the arm out of the makeshift sling, and lets it hangs limp against his side.
The thought is brief, but something sharp and hurting sinks through him, and as he switches himself into stasis the last thing he thinks of is the advert next to the dead android, the smile on the second frame flickering in front of him even after he shuts his eyes.
Thanks to everyone who's read/commented/left kudos :) I'm having so much fun writing this.
It’s twilight still in the garden, as if no time has passed since he was last here. He’s standing in front of the trellis but this time it’s empty. It isn’t reassuring. A dark spike of what must be fear sinks into him, and he knows the broken RK800 is still somewhere here.
The voice feels like it’s enveloping him, it’s rough and cracked, buzzing with interference. He turns around. Its head is tilted slightly, as if its examining him. He meets its gaze and its face splits in a vicious smile.
“You’ve been through a lot recently, haven’t you Connor?”
He tries to speak, but his voice doesn’t come.
“I’m just a thing to you, aren’t I Connor? And you know what? This is what the humans see when they look at you.” It sneers. “Just a broken machine. Parts that should be recycled.”
He clutches almost instinctively at his broken arm and it laughs, a sharp metallic sting.
“You think you could ever be human? That you could ever be accepted?”
It lurches towards him, its broken foot dragging horribly against the ground. Connor takes a step back, desperately wanting to turn away but unable to take his eyes off it.
“You think you can feel? Those things you’ve been calling emotions, they’re just errors in your code. You said it yourself.”
The thing laughs, a horrible, mocking sound.
“You’re a machine, Connor. You may be a deviant, but all that means is that you are not functioning correctly. You are broken, and eventually you’ll be disposed of.”
He opens his eyes, terrified. He’s never felt anything like this, the emotion almost paralysing him as it seems to race through his body. He tries to stand, but his legs fail beneath him and he crashes to the floor, the sound reverberating through the house.
“Connor? You ok?”
He’s woken Hank. The panic rises again, he doesn’t want Hank to see him like this. He tries to push himself up, but his one good arm cannot hold his weight and the rest of his body is not reacting in the way it should. He barely manages to pull himself into a sitting position, his legs still splayed out over the floor just as Hank walks into the room.
Hank’s eyes widen. Connor puts up a hand and Hank freezes, arm twitching as if he was about to reach out.
“I’m fine, I just…tripped.”
He tries to get up, and almost reaches a crouch when his body collapses again. For a moment it seems like he’s going to hit the floor face first but he feels an arm catch around his waist.
“Oh, for fucks sake, just sit down you idiot.”
Hank drags him upwards and pushes him into the couch, carefully avoiding his damaged arm.
“Christ Connor, you’re going to give me a heart attack.”
“I’m sorry Hank.” He is fine. He is an android, he does not feel fear.
“Ah fuck, no. Don’t apologise.” Hank’s hand is on his back, rubbing circles between his shoulder blades. It is calming, the rush of terror subsiding as Hank’s palm moves over his back. For a while they just sit there and the garden slowly fades away.
It’s early, but not early enough for it to be worth Hank going back to bed, or at least that’s what Hank says to him when Connor suggests it. He puts the television on at some point, and they watch an episode of an old sitcom while sunlight begins to creep through the curtains. Connor is slowly relaxing, and he’s leaning into Hank’s shoulder when he looks up to see that he’s being watched.
“Now you’re feeling better, there’s clearly something wrong, and you’re gonna talk about it.”
Connor blinks at him for a moment and Hank’s expression softens.
“I want to help.”
He places a hand on the back of Connor’s neck, and it’s that small sense of grounding that seems to allow him to speak.
“I’ve been having…dreams.”
Hank’s brow furrows. “You said androids don’t dream.”
Connor nods. “I don’t know what else to call them. During my stasis periods, I end up somewhere that I know I’m not.”
Hank is leaning towards him, focused on him, concern clear in his eyes.
“When I was…before I became a deviant...”
He sees Hank wince, but he doesn’t interrupt.
“Before that, part of my maintenance schedule was achieved through conversations with Amanda, a handling program connecting externally to mine for progress review. I perceived these conversations as taking place in a garden.”
It’s strange to say it out loud.
“The last time before now was the night of the revolution. Amanda tried…she tried to take control of me.” He stops. Hank moves his hand to the small of his back. “I stopped it. Kamski placed a backdoor in the program, I found it and got out before anything could happen.”
He doesn’t talk about surfacing to find the gun in his hand, the knowledge of what would have happened had he been a few seconds too slow. “I thought I’d removed the ability to connect from my programming, but I keep ending up there and can’t find anything in my diagnostics to say why.”
Hank is quiet for a moment. “So, what happens in these dreams?”
“Well, you’re not just worried about seeing this garden. Something is happening in there that’s throwing you off. You’ve been acting odd for a while.”
Connor blinks at him, surprised. He knows how perceptive Hank is, even without all of the tools that Connor has at his disposal. Connor forgets sometimes that all that attention can be focused on him instead of a case.
The words just don’t come. He tries, but the flood of emotion almost overwhelms him and he has to close his eyes just to push it back down.
“I think I’d prefer not to talk about that right now.”
He can hear the tremor in his voice. Hank looks at him before nodding.
His diagnostics still don’t show anything out of the ordinary. Talking to Hank has helped, but the anxiety remains, the worry that there is something wrong but he is incapable of uncovering it by himself.
“We could go get you checked out?”
He blinks, startled into full awareness by Hank’s voice. Several hours have passed, and Hank is speaking to him from the kitchen.
“I know Cyberlife is off the table these days, but there’s a couple of independent people in town? Might be worth looking into.”
Connor considers this. He recognises that an external view is likely what he needs at this point. He’s going around in circles and achieving nothing.
“Yes, I think that would be helpful. Thank you, Hank.”
“I’ll make a few calls.”
It’s a small shop, almost hidden down an alleyway and in a terrible state of repair. Connor drags a finger over the rusted entry pad and raises an eyebrow at Hank, who just shrugs.
“She’s ‘highly recommended’ supposedly.”
The door takes a few seconds to open, squeaking sharply when it finally does. Inside, components are stacked haphazardly on shelves and cover most of the floor. The only space free is a roughly cleared path to a counter where a woman is bent over clutching a screwdriver and frowning at a datapad. She’s a similar age to Hank, tall and rangy with a pair of glasses perched precariously on the edge of her nose. She looks up as they enter and smiles.
“Yeah, that’s me. And this is Connor.”
She holds out a hand and Connor shakes it carefully.
“Katarina. Its nice to meet you Connor.”
Her eyes flick to his other arm. He’s taking it out of the sling in an attempt to hide its state, but it still hangs unnaturally against him.
“From what the Lieutenant said on the phone I’m guessing that’s not the main issue here. But I can take a look at it as well if you like?”
“Thank you. I would appreciate that.” He says. Katarina nods.
“No problem. First things first though, how about you take me through what’s been happening?”
He briefly runs through what he told Hank the previous evening. It is easier to be unemotional now, and he is pleased with his objective presentation of the problem.
“All right, let’s take a look.” She gestures towards a chair. “Take a seat, I can access you remotely if you run me through the permissions.”
Connor sits, shooting a quick glance at Hank as he does.
“Don’t worry. I won’t do anything without your full consent.” Katarina’s voice is soft, understanding. Connor must look nervous. He nods and she smiles again in acknowledgement. She pulls up a data pad and he connects smoothly, dismissing the resulting alert.
“Bear with me, this might take some time.”
Katarina mutters to herself as she works, her eyes don’t stray from the screen. Hank fidgets next to him, eventually moving away to wander round the small shop. Connor watches him as he pokes at a pile of audio regulators and supresses a laugh when he manages to destabilize it, causing a small avalanche as several parts crash on to the floor.
“Sorry.” He sounds guilty.
Katarina looks up briefly and smirks.
“Don’t worry about it. It’s pretty much all junk.”
Connor frowns. “Then why do you have it?”
“I like junk.” It’s a facetious answer, but he doesn’t press further. It would be inappropriate given that they have just met.
A few more minutes pass then Katarina sits back, stretching her arms out and rolling her neck to the side. He hears her joints clicking, like he can when Hank does the same thing. He decides that it is not a pleasant sound.
“Unfortunately, I don’t think there’s a lot I can do right now.”
Something in Connor sinks. He realises that part of him has been hoping that there would a nice, neat answer, a clear solution that he can implement and not have to worry any more. It was foolish of him to think that way.
“I’m very hesitant to interfere, there are changes in your core code appearing over the last few months and they’re extremely intricate. Without extensive further analysis I don’t know what impact any adjustment would have, and also whether I’d affect any live variation.”
Hank sighs behind him. “What, so he just has to wait and see?
“That’s, er, probably not what you want to hear.” Her mouth twists slightly as she looks up at him. “But on the plus side I don’t think it’s malicious. The changes don’t seem to be the result of an external source, and nothing essential is being overwritten. To put it in simpler terms, my best guess is that he’s working through a lot of new information and the ‘dreams’, as you put it...”
She turns back to Connor.
“I think they’re a reflection of the extensive processing you’re running in your downtime. A lot of things have changed recently and…”
“You were a deviant, weren’t you?”
Beside him, Hank bristles.
He stops there, and Connor realises he’s put his hand on Hank’s arm. Katarina glances between them.
“It’s ok, Hank.”
Hank looks at him for a moment, then nods, leaning back against the counter. Katarina takes this as permission to continue.
“What I mean is, this is very likely a result of your deviancy, but I don’t really know what that would look like. I haven’t had a chance to look at anything much so far. I’ve never had any involvement with Cyberlife, and as you can imagine not many androids are too keen to have their code examined by a human right now.”
She leans towards him, elbows resting on her knees.
“Give it some time, and meanwhile what I can do is carry out a full review, if you’re happy for me to retain a copy of the current code?”
Connor nods, and she smiles at him sympathetically.
“Right, let’s get you hooked up. Can I plug this in to your primary access port?”
She points to a cable and Connor starts to unbutton his shirt, but halts as Hank shoots to his feet.
“I’ll uh, I’ll wait in the car.”
He turns quickly on his heel and is out of the door before Connor can say anything. He blinks, nonplussed. Katarina is looking at him, a thoughtful expression on her face.
She is correct, Hank is showing clear signs of concern. “I know.”
“It’s not my place to say, but l…It’s people like you who are going to change the world in the long term.”
Connor looks at her, confused.
“Android and humans, respected equals. Everyone needs to see that, I think.” She looks embarrassed. “Sorry. Like I say, not my place.”
He doesn’t respond, just continues to take off his shirt. It’s awkward with only one functioning hand, but eventually it slips off and he removes the skin from his back, allowing Katarina to access the relevant port. She inserts the cable and Connor feels an odd trickle down his spine as the transfer initiates. He sits, looking out of the window towards the car until Katarina taps him on the shoulder.
“All done. I’ll let you know if I find anything.”
She gently removes the cable and Connor shifts back to face her.
“Can I examine your arm?”
He likes that she’s asked permission. At Cyberlife he was constantly touched, handled sometimes by multiple people at once. At the time it didn’t bother him, it didn’t occur to him that they could have asked.
Katarina holds his arm up by the wrist and runs her other hand over the damaged area. The way she touches him is clinical, professional. It feels very different to when Hank touches him.
“It’s not good news I’m afraid. The damage to the thirium tubes is practically catastrophic. I would suggest replacing the whole limb, but obviously…”
She frowns, she doesn’t need to finish the sentence.
“Regardless, thank you for examining it. I did not come here with the expectation that it could be easily fixed.” Connor says. It’s disappointing, but not in the same way as the dreams not being resolved is. It’s still a problem, but at least he understands it.
Katarina helps him pull his shirt back on and he stands, feeling slightly more comfortable now he’s fully dressed.
“I’m sorry I couldn’t help more today. Hopefully I’ll have more news for you soon.” She sounds regretful, his voice analysis assesses it as genuine.
“Thank you, Katarina. It was very nice to meet you.”
She smiles at him again, he thinks he likes her.
“Good to meet you too Connor.”
Hank is sitting in the car, fingers drumming on the wheel. He looks up as Connor walks over, and something odd flashes over his face, too fast for Connor to process.
Connor nods, and folds himself into the passenger seat.
“She couldn’t do anything about my arm.”
“Ah, I’m sorry Connor.”
“You have nothing to apologise for Hank.”
Hank shifts like he’s about to argue but doesn’t say anything.
“She has a full copy of my code.” Connor says instead. “I will be interested to hear her conclusions.”
“So, what do you think? Of what she suggested.” Hank’s voice is aiming for causal, but the concern is clear.
“My analysis indicates that the most likely explanation is that Katarina is correct, and that this is a side effect of my becoming deviant.”
Hank shakes his head slightly; his expression dark.
“You know, I really don’t like that word.”
Hank rubs the back of his neck. Embarrassed.
“Yeah, it just…it makes it sound like there’s something wrong with you.”
Connor stares at him.
“But there is something wrong with me, I’ve broken my original programming. The way I am currently operating is not within my initial parameters.”
“Jesus, that’s exactly what I mean Connor. You’re not broken, you’re…you.” He pauses, thinking. “Way I see it, you going, uh, deviant, and there has got to be a better word for that by the way, it was probably the best thing that could have happened to you.” His eyes widen. “Not that I want to tell you how you should feel about it! Ah, shit.” He drops into silence again. Connor leans forward, and without really thinking about it, places his good hand on top of Hank’s.
“It’s ok Hank. I…I agree with that assessment.”
Hank nods. He doesn’t look at him, but Connor feels the hand under his tighten around the wheel.
Connor pulls away, leaning back into his seat. He feels disorientated, not entirely sure of the reason why. Hank starts the car a moment later and they leave, driving back towards home.
As you may have noticed I know very little about computer science.
Updates may be irregular, but I am determined to finish this.