Hank pushed two officers out of the way in his haste to reach Captain Fowler. Once he was there, he stopped to catch his breath, like there was just no need to hurry anymore. Fowler raised an eyebrow at him.
“So is it true?” Hank asked, huffing. “You found Connor?”
“This morning,” Fowler confirmed with a slow nod. He followed Hank with his eyes when the lieutenant headed for the door, “Are you sure you want to go in?”
“Why wouldn’t I be? Isn’t he my ‘partner’?”
“Do not use your air quotes on me, Anderson,” Fowler said, but he didn’t sound threatening, just tired. “Oh, forget it. Do what you want. I warned you.” He waved the man away with a heavy sigh.
Hank frowned at the gesture and his words, but he had had to deal with enough bullshit already, and he didn’t have the energy to deal with this too. He just wanted to see Connor, his assigned android-partner, make sure he’s still in one piece, maybe ask him where the hell he’d been for the past five months, just to satisfy his own curiosity, and then… go find himself a drink, god, he needed it.
He couldn’t care less about where the android had been. He only hoped that he hadn’t just run away while on that mission, because Hank was not good with goodbyes.
Ever since the first day he’d been assigned Connor, a thought had been on his mind; should the tin can ever get himself in serious trouble by doing something stupid (which he didn’t doubt Connor would do, sooner or later), Hank probably wouldn’t even get to say goodbye to him. He’d just go to work one day expecting to find the bastard there waiting for him, ready to bug him to death, only to be told that, “Sorry, your partner has been taken apart for spare parts, here’s your new partner.”
He couldn’t deal with this shit, not today and not ever, he wasn’t even drunk and, god, when did he start referring to it as him?
He didn’t care what Connor had been doing during those five months, after he disappeared without a trace. Hank only cared about himself, himself, because he was the one who would be left alone with his regrets when he wouldn’t get to end his sorry excuse of a partnership with a human-sized Ken doll properly.
Hank didn’t know if androids could have regrets, but Connor sure as hell wouldn’t have any, because he’d be fucking dead. Or deactivated, broken, whatever anyone wanted to call it.
An officer informed Hank that no, there were no plans to take Connor apart at the moment, but Hank wasn’t sure he could feel relieved just yet, and the officer’s half-assed answer to his question was not the reason.
It was Connor’s state.
When Hank walked inside the room, the android only looked up for an instant, and then turned his eyes back to the floor. That was the first thing that Hank thought was amiss.
Instead of his usual uniform, Connor was wearing another one that Hank guessed the police had given him this morning. Whatever he had been wearing before they found him, the police must have found something wrong with it.
Perhaps it was a human disguise. Or just damaged. Hank hoped it was the latter.
Connor was seated on a metal chair, thankfully unrestrained, although Hank knew the armed guard by the door wasn’t for show.
They didn’t want to directly threaten a prototype of his value by treating him like a prisoner – not before he proved to be the ‘d-word’. They hoped that he was actually fine, all good and functional, didn’t have to be replaced just yet. But Hank knew how this stuff went; they were all just waiting for the inevitable, and as soon as Connor made the wrong move, bang, no mercy for the golden android.
Hank didn’t know what he had expected to be faced with when he entered, but if anything, he had at least expected Connor to speak. What he would’ve said depended wholly on the situation, but at least a greeting, one cheeky remark, something.
And yet, not only did the android remain completely silent, he also barely seemed to recognize Hank, if at all.
Hank approached Connor and crouched in front of his chair, so that they both had an easier time looking each other in the eye. Connor, for some reason, wouldn’t meet his gaze.
“You don’t want to get too close, Lieutenant,” the guard warned him. “The android’s been showing signs of deviancy as of-“
“Oh, fuck off,” Hank snapped, admittedly a little louder than he would’ve liked. “You think I’m scared of a machine?”
“I’m only telling you to be cautious for your own good, Lieutenant Anderson,” the man said, visibly offended by Hank’s unnecessarily harsh reply.
Hank ignored the man and turned his attention back to Connor. The android had raised his head slightly, and was currently mumbling something very quietly. Hank inched closer to hear.
“That’s me,” Hank replied in a low voice, and Connor looked up momentarily.
Connor had always appeared a bit stiff when around authority figures. When Hank had asked him about it, he’d told him that he had been programmed to show respect to his superiors. Hank had ignored the fact that technically all humans were considered androids’ superiors, in favor of making the observation that Connor sure as hell did not view him as his superior.
But now, Connor wouldn’t even look at Hank. Hank, who had been starting to think that whoever programmed Connor had specifically instructed him to never, under any circumstances, obey Hank Anderson.
And yes, Hank would’ve enjoyed being listened to and obeyed by the android once in a while, partly because he was a fucking android that was supposed to fucking obey him, but he’d never asked for, well, whatever this was. He didn’t want to be feared.
Hank didn’t miss the way Connor almost jumped when he spoke again, this time addressing the guard. “What the fuck happened to him?”
The guard took the time to raise an eyebrow at him, but still answered, “It’s been reprogrammed by whoever took it. If you wanted to know so much, you could’ve asked,” he added sourly.
“Well, I’m asking now,” Hank said, barely managing to keep himself from rolling his eyes. “Where was he until now? What did they do to him to make him all, uh… twitchy?”
It wasn’t quite the word he had been looking for, but it was the first one that came to his mind.
“Are you sure you want to know?”
Hank glared at the man impatiently. Had he really just said that to a police lieutenant?
“Will you hurry it up? I don’t have all day.”
“A club had taken it.”
“A club?” Hank echoed.
“Damn shame, isn’t it?” the guard continued. “For a high-tech android like this one to be used in such a way. What a waste.”
“I’m gonna have to stop you right there,” Hank said. “So all that time he was gone, he was serving drinks? I mean, I’ve heard it’s not good for police androids to be used in ways they’re not supposed to ‘cause it messes with their programming, but how did such a thing fuck him up this much?”
Connor had always acted a lot like a human, so sometimes Hank forgot how fragile androids were. But were they really that fragile?
“Oh, no, Lieutenant,” the guard said, shaking his head. “Your guy wasn’t serving drinks for five months.”
Hank raised an eyebrow at the man. “No? And what’d he serve then?”
The guard didn’t reply. And he didn’t have to, because just a couple seconds after the words left his mouth, Hank understood.
“Oh… shit,” he muttered. “Don’t fucking tell me. Did they…“
The guard nodded.
“Fuck. But I thought those clubs only used, like… sex androids,” Hank continued, hating to be discussing this. “Connor never shuts up, talks back and always does whatever the hell he wants. He’d annoy the shit outta the customers and drive them away.”
“Like I said, he’s been reprogrammed,” the guard reminded him.
He shrugged. “I wouldn’t know. I’m only supposed to look after him.” He hesitated, as if unsure if he should continue. “But sex androids are typically more sensitive than standard androids, more obedient, and usually a lot quieter when they’re not working. And they’re good at their job.”
“You know a lot about sex androids, don’t you,” Hank muttered. Despite being phrased like a question, it was clearly a statement.
The guard scoffed. “Come on, it’s not like you’ve never tried or thought about it yourself.”
Hank turned around to glare at him. “No. I haven’t,” he said.
He must’ve sounded really offended, because the guard fell silent at once.
“Hey, Connor,” Hank muttered, waving a hand in front of Connor’s lowered eyes to get his attention. The android did not react. “Can he even hear me?”
The guard seemed surprised to be addressed again so soon, but he simply shrugged and looked away.
“Connor,” Hank pressed, and his time he placed a hand on the android’s shoulder and shook him gently.
He pulled away as if burned as soon as he heard the very loud moan that escaped Connor’s mouth.
“What the fuck,“ Hank cursed, staring at his hand, then at Connor, then at the guard. And then at Connor again, like he was seeing him for the very first time.
The guard’s attention was now back on them, his eyes wide with surprise. Despite being so well-informed about sex androids, he didn’t appear to be any less shocked than Hank was.
“Are they supposed to do that?” Hank questioned, taking in the way even Connor seemed a little surprised by the sound he’d just made.
“What did you do to him?”
“What the fuck do you mean what did I do? I just touched his shoulder!” Hank snapped. “Are they supposed to do that?” he repeated, louder and considerably angrier this time.
“I mean… yeah, if they’re programmed to,” the guard murmured. “But it usually takes more than just a touch…”
Hank raised his hand and pointed a finger at the guard. “Look, I don’t know what the fuck you’re implying there—“
“This better not be what I think it is,” an annoyed Fowler interrupted, storming inside the room. “What the hell was that sound?!” he demanded, staring accusingly at Hank, who was still crouching in front of the android.
“Who the fuck do you take me for?!” Hank screamed back at him, having run out of patience a while ago.
Fowler paused, as if he didn’t know what else to say. He released another one of his unnecessarily deep and overly dramatic sighs, and finally, he spoke, “Bring the android here. They want to examine it to see if its tracker has been removed.”
Hank didn’t move, so the guard went to bring Connor instead, but as soon as he got close, Hank blocked his way.
“No, don’t touch him!”
Fowler raised an eyebrow. “Lieutenant...”
“…let me. I’ll bring him,” Hank muttered. “Give me ten minutes, I wanna talk to him first.”
Fowler stared at him for a few seconds, silent. The deep frown on his face was most likely related to the moan that he’d heard earlier, and Hank felt enraged at the fact that the captain could think, even for a moment, that he of all people would deliberately make an android do that. Hell, he didn’t even like androids!
And yet there he was, fussing over one of them. And an annoying one, at that.
He had to admit he wasn’t a terribly convincing android-hater anymore, and that’s the only reason he considered forgiving Fowler for the ridiculous misunderstanding. Only if he accepted his request, though.
“Fine,” Fowler said, after a few moments of silence. “Room twenty-three, bring him when you’re done. Make it quick.”
“Take the guard with you,” Hank said.
Fowler stared at him in a way that let Hank know he was trying his luck, but did what the lieutenant asked, gesturing for the guard to follow him outside. The guard hesitated, but he was quick to comply. Fowler muttered something about coffee on his way out.
Hank was left alone with Connor.
“Hey, kid,” Hank muttered. “Can you hear me? Connor!”
Connor lifted his eyes at the mention of his name, although the look on his face made Hank wonder whether he was trying to figure out why that name sounded familiar. Or why some old guy kept screaming at him a name he didn’t recognize. Fuck.
“Why aren’t you saying anything?” Hank shouted in frustration. “Come on, say something!”
Connor’s expression changed. Hank had started pacing, but he stopped in his tracks as soon as he noticed.
The android finally opened his mouth, but the words that came out of it were far from what Hank had wanted to hear.
“How may I be of service to you, Master?”
He spoke in that familiar voice that Hank had always thought of as weird at best, annoying at honest. And yes, Hank was glad to hear it, just this once, and he wouldn’t even try to deny it now that it’d come to this. But the words it carried were just… wrong. Nauseating, even.
Hank subconsciously took a step back. “No, nonono, don’t give me any of that shit,” he said, maybe a little too loud, immediately regretting both his tone and phrasing when Connor shrunk and his eyes returned to the floor.
“I’m sorry,” the android said, quietly. “Would you like to deactivate my voice?”
The only coherent thing Hank managed to utter was a low ‘heck, no’. The android continued, “I can still leave the other sounds on, if you’d like that.”
“No. Those, uh, those other sounds. Turn them off,” Hank said, unable to help how awkward he sounded. And felt.
“I…” Connor stared at him in confusion. “I’m sorry, Master, I do not know how to do that.”
“And stop calling me that!” Hank snapped.
“Certainly. What would you like me to call you, sir?”
“Do you really not remember me? It’s Hank!”
There was a short pause before Connor spoke again, “I believe my last owner wiped my memory when he took me in. And I am not allowed to record footage while the clients make use of me. I’m sorry, I do not remember meeting you before today, Hank.”
Hank crossed his arms and stared at the android in disbelief. “Fuckin’ hell…” he muttered. “Do you even remember your own name?”
“I do not have a name, aside from the one you choose for me, Hank.” He paused. “May I ask how much time we have?”
“Uh.” Hank checked his watch. “About eight minutes. Thirteen till the captain gets impatient enough to be a problem.”
“I would recommend starting now, if you would like to get your money’s worth, Hank,” Connor said.
“Wait, what? No,” Hank said. “Jesus, Connor! What the fuck’s wrong with you, son?”
“Of course you are.” Hank shook his head in disbelief. “Have you really been doing this for five whole months?”
Hank took a deep breath. He sighed. He counted to ten. He really couldn’t fucking do this, wouldn’t have to fucking do this, if only he had been assigned a real partner who actually needed to breathe in order to stay alive and didn’t do it just for show. Or if he had been left alone to work on the case with the person most willing to cooperate with him: his fucking self. Things would’ve been so much easier then.
But no, they just had to force him to work alongside (what even is this phrasing? The tin can’s not even alive!) an android, and it just had to be that one some pervert decided to kidnap (“kidnap”?) and then proceeded to rape (???).
“How was it?” Hank all but whispered.
Connor stared at him in confusion. “Hank?”
“Was it unpleasant? Did you even give a damn about what they were doing to you? Or was it all just work, no hard feelings?”
Connor looked like he was about to say something, but stopped himself. He continued to stare at Hank, but did not speak.
“I asked you a question.” Hank’s voice was hoarse. His fingers twitched with a sudden urge to get out of the room, find a pack of cigarettes, and start smoking again. “What was it like? Did you suffer?”
“That is not relevant, Hank,” Connor replied quietly.
“I decide what’s relevant,” Hank said. “Did you suffer? Answer me!”
“Yes!” Connor cried, finally cracking under the pressure. “Of course I suffered, how could I not? It was stressful and disgusting and— painful, somehow. Even though it shouldn’t be. It wouldn’t stop, every day, all day, the same thing, I wanted to disappear.” He inhaled sharply – as if he had to. “Please don’t make me go through this again. I know what I said and what my purpose is but I can’t, I can’t do this again. It’s too much. Please, Hank.”
Connor bit his lower lip as soon as he stopped speaking – to keep his mouth shut, Hank guessed, if the android’s furrowed brows and regretful expression were anything to go by. He looked like he was deeply regretting every single one of the words he had just uttered.
Like he should’ve been, because if this had been anyone else, if it hadn’t been just Hank listening to this–
“You…” Hank began, pausing to ask himself one last time what the chances of this not being true if he didn’t say it out loud were, but at the same time feeling strangely liberated. “You’re a deviant, aren’t you?”