As a prodigy engineer, an extremely successful businessman, and overall one of the most influential personalities of the century, Elijah Kamski thought he had it all figured out.
However, as he was leaning against the frame of his front door and watching the last of his Chloes dragging a big suitcase to the automated taxi waiting outside, the man started to realize that he might have overestimated himself.
The android closed the trunk with a thump, and Elijah's eyes were trained on her left shoulder as she walked back to him. For a reason unknown to him, he couldn't bring himself to look her in the eye. Chloe came to a halt on the doorstep and, voice slightly quivering, she started speaking.
“Please take good care of yourself.”
A moment passed. A shiver ran through his spine, and Elijah finally met her gaze. Her eyes were shining, but she held her head high, her expression soft but determined. They stood there for a while, peering at each other through the mist of condensation emanating from Elijah's breathing. The evening was particularly cold, and his fingers were burning, but he couldn't care less. Finally, Chloe offered a weak, forced smile. Her lips barely moved as she whispered, “Goodbye, Elijah”.
Then, she turned on her heels, and walked away with a quick, assured step. Elijah simply watched as the taxi door closed. An instant later, the vehicle had disappeared through the thick fog of the cold winter night. Finally, some tension seemed to leave his shoulders, and all of a sudden he became aware of the sharp pain searing his hands. Wrapping his arms around his chest absently, the man let out a long, shuddering breath and, muttering a curse, he stepped back inside and closed the door.
The android revolution had ended a month ago, give or take a few days. Careful not to get involved, Elijah had nonetheless followed the events as they unfolded with amused curiosity. It all seemed so remote to him. He had been perfectly content living in his house with his androids, well away from the bustling world outside. Sure, when that lieutenant and his fancy detective prototype had come to find him, he put on a bit of a show; the cryptic, eccentric billionaire shtick never got old, and the man certainly wasn't one to decline a bit of fun. But he considered he had done his duty towards society, and had no interest meddling in it anymore. Truth be told, over time, he was getting slightly cynic.
However, Elijah didn't notice right away how engrossed his Chloes were by the whole matter. Then again, it was only natural they should feel involved; the future of their kind as a whole was at stake. But he didn't see how personally they took it; the raw emotion in their eyes as they watched the news, the way they spoke excitedly in hushed tones, how they seemed to stare longingly out the window more and more often. A more focused mind would have easily picked up the signs; but Elijah was too comfortable in his lifestyle. The thought that his trusted Chloes could deviate had not even crossed his mind. And the man had programmed those damn machines himself. Talk about a genius, really.
And so, today, the last of them had left. All five of them, gone to seek their fortune in the outside world. Elijah didn't try to hold them back, not really; there was no point. People often called him selfish, and he probably was, but he had never been one to impose onto others. Never really cared enough, or so he told himself. Anyway, the deed was done, and over the course of a week, his girls were gone.
Stretching his arms in front of him, Elijah trailed his gaze on the empty hall. A sudden weariness washed down on him, and he dragged his feet towards the vast living room. As he let himself fall into the comfortable couch, his brows furrowed slightly; something, somewhere in his torso, was getting painful. So far, Elijah had managed to keep his head nice and numb, but it seemed that his chest heaved with effort as his breathing was getting laboured, and he didn't like it one bit.
So he got back on his feet, stumbling a little, and walked to the corner of the room where an intricate cabinet stood. The man flung the door open unceremoniously, and grabbed a bottle of whiskey and a glass. He got back to the couch without bothering to close the cabinet door. Propping himself against the couch, he poured himself a glass, and paused for a second. Then, pinching the bridge of his nose, he contemplated his current position. What was happening ? Drink in hand, gasping for air, was he really that pathetic ? In a last attempt to get a hold of himself, Elijah straightened his back, pushed the glass of whiskey back to the coffee table, and whipped his phone out of his pocket.
There was only one man who might be able to smack some sense into him, and though he didn't really believe it would work, it was still worth a try, he figured. As he dialed the number, the fingers of his right hand started to fidget absently with a stray lock of hair. Time seemed to stretch as the phone rang and rang.
“You have reached the voicemail of Detective Gavin Reed. If you're in need of immediate assistance, please reach the Detroit Police Department at…”
Elijah let out a heavy sigh and a swear, frowning immediately as his ears picked up on it. Seems that his mess of a brother was rubbing off on him, ever so slightly. He had half a mind to wait for the automated voice to finish its litany, but he decided against it and hung up with a scowl. Slouching on his knees, he carelessly threw his phone away and picked up the glass again. Alright, drinking the anxiety away it was, then.
Elijah hadn't gotten any vocal command installed in his house. It might seem surprising coming from a man who literally automatized mankind, but he didn't think he needed help to do simple things like turning on the lights, or closing the blinds. The Chloes had always done it for him, anyway.
But right now, he really, really hated his past self for this lack of oversight. Lying fully clothed on his bed, head pounding, he was struggling to open his eyes. The curtains were wide open, because who remembers to close the curtains while drunk, and the sunlight was aggressively seeping through his eyelids. Who had the stupid idea to put a glass wall in a bedroom ?! Oh, wait. That was him, probably. He wasn't one to delegate anything, so he'd overseen the plans for his house as well.
Elijah propped himself up on his elbows, and slowly crawled out of bed. It was well past noon. His stomach was lurching with every step, and he was dizzy with the leftover alcohol in his bloodstream, but he managed to cross the room and reach the bathroom anyway. Grabbing the sides of the sink to stabilise his unsteady posture, Elijah looked up in the mirror and examined his reflection. He didn't have his glasses on, lost them at some point during the previous evening, but it didn't stop him from wrinkling his nose at what he saw.
God, he looked like shit. There were dark bags under his eyes, his beard was getting out of hand, and the loose hair falling in his eyes had knots that would probably take hours brushing off. That was a problem for later, he decided. Wincing at the pain that was rushing to his forehead in sharp fits, the hangover man washed his face quickly and, turning away from the bathroom, set out to start his day. But as he ventured in the corridor, weirdly aware of how cold the tiles were under his bare feet, Elijah stopped in his tracks, staring vaguely at the kitchen door that stood, ajar, a few feet from him.
Something felt wrong, and his fogged mind struggled to put a name on it.
There it was.
Without the Chloes going about their business, the huge house was impossibly silent. And the silence felt so… physical. It seemed like the absence of sound was tangible, creeping on his skin and crawling up his neck to strangle him. His breath hitched, and all of that acute anxiety hidden behind the fuzzy veil of alcohol suddenly poured down on him. He tried to reason with it, to bargain, so he could retain some kind of control over his brain.
Well, sure, the girls’ departure was a bore, but it was not that big a deal. Elijah could always get new androids, couldn't he ? Could he ?
...No, he couldn't. Not anymore. There was no point. The new ones would deviate again, and leave him all the same. Besides, the revolution had passed, and having little android cohorts didn't seem so right anymore. Not that he'd care.
At least, he had always pretended he didn't. He claimed his Chloes weren't individuals but mere machines, that he could choose to discard at any given moment. He even made a point of it by daring Connor to shoot one of them in the head. But the android he had kneeling in front of the barrel that day was a deactivated spare, a dysfunctional model, merely a walking doll, those motor functions he happened to have been testing that day. He would never have endangered one of his precious Chloes, even if nobody could tell the difference.
Well, he could. He would have never admitted it out loud, but Elijah could perfectly tell the five girls apart from one another. He knew that One was better at cooking, but that she always messed up his coffee. Four was the best speaker, so she welcomed visitors, but she wasn't allowed near bottles because of how clumsy she was. Two was especially observant, and she loved to gossip with Five.Three was anxious when he left the house without her.
But they were gone now. And there was no replacing them.
With a self-pitied moan, Elijah's shoulders slumped, and he turned around to get back to bed.
There was no way on earth he'd bear with this stupid day.
Elijah couldn't quite tell if he slept for a few hours or a whole day, but it didn't really matter. He didn't have anywhere to be, anyway. But the throbbing headache was gone, so he got up, and mechanically went to shower and change. It was late afternoon, and Elijah knew he'd come to loathe himself for messing with his sleeping schedule so bad, but then again. That was a problem for Future Elijah. The one that had emails to answer, interviews to give and meetings to attend. Right now, he was going to get coffee and stare into space for a while. Yeah, that sounded good.
As he was sitting on the couch with a fresh cup of coffee, a blinking light caught Elijah's attention. His discarded phone was lying on the floor, a few feet away. Sipping his coffee, the man eyed the device with suspicion. He was kind of pissed that someone had the audacity to intrude while he was trying to play dead, but then again, it might be important. He had his phone filter calls and messages, and few were the lucky ones allowed to contact him. When he reached the bottom of his cup, Elijah pursed his lips and reached out to grab the phone. As he turned it on, he noticed a crack on the screen - and three missed calls from Gavin. With a smirk, he checked the time - no, the man was probably still working. So Elijah went to check his emails instead, giving an annoyed tsk at the cracked screen - he did not like broken things.
The hours passed as he skimmed through the messages, feeling a bit overwhelmed; Five would always screen and transfer the most important ones to him, so he didn't have to deal with each and every commoner who tried to reach him. What's more, the revolution had brought its lot of ravenous reporters, all eager to get an exclusive insight, and the aftermath was an absolute clusterfuck of an inbox.
The sun had long set when Elijah, passably aggravated, grabbed his phone again and pressed the call button. He knew it wasn’t necessarily a good idea to call Gavin in this condition, but with everything he had in mind, a roasting from his half-brother was but a trifle.
This time, the phone barely rang at all.
“What the fuck is wrong with you, prick ?”
“Well, good evening, Gav”, Elijah snickered. He expected as much.
“Don't you 'good evening’ me, fucker ! You think you can call at any fucking time because your gross ass bathes in money, but some of us actually do have to get up in the morning and make a living somehow !”
Elijah frowned slightly and, tearing the phone from his ear, he checked the time. Two in the morning ? Oops.
“Yes, alright, whatever, you picked up on the spot, so don't try to pretend you were sleeping anyway.”
On the other side of the line, Gavin huffed. “You bitch. I was starting to hope you'd kicked the bucket, since you weren't answering the damn phone for days.”
Days ? How long had he slept ?
“Like I'd ever write you in my testament. When I pass, don't even expect a penny, you rat.”
Gavin chuckled. Good.
“Anyway, what was with the late night call ? At least leave a message next time, prick.”
All the enjoyment Elijah had while bantering with his brother washed off at once, and he had to take a long breath to steel himself. Gavin must have noticed, because he didn't press on, and simply waited for an answer.
“My Chloes left me.”
A pause, and another incredulous huff.
“Are you phcking serious ? You're moping around because you lost your toys ? Is this really where Elijah fucking Kamski is at ? You pathetic piece of shit.”
“I know, right ?”
The quiet, uncharacteristic voice of his brother had Gavin hum a thoughtful sound.
“So what, you could just get new ones, right ? I know they have rights and all now, but it's not like anyone's gonna give you shit for it.”
“No, Gav. There won't be new ones. I'm done.”
Elijah could hear Gavin frown. That's just how miserable he sounded, apparently.
“Tell you what, Eli, you're better off without any of these plastic pricks in your life. Fuckin’ Fowler teamed me up with one, and the damn tincan drives me crazy. A real fucking nightmare.”
Elijah's eyebrows shot up. Gavin, partnered with an android ? Now that was interesting.
“Really ? You have an android partner ? You, Gavin android-hater Reed ? What model-”
“Yeah, no, you're not switching subjects you fuck.”
“Point is, just cut the hermit shit and get out of your fucking manor for once. Even I look like a social butterfly next to you, and I have like, one friend.”
Of course he knew Gavin was right. Of course. But at the same time, there was a reason Elijah had not set a foot outside for so long.
“Gavin, look. You know I can't. I just… I'm not cut out for this. Besides” he added with a sly smile, “Unlike you, I can't just show up in any gross bar. Someone of my standard isn't supposed to mingle with the rabble.”
“Fuck you, prick, I hate you so much.”
“Same, Gav, same.”
There was a pause.
“For real, though. Drag your ass outside, okay ? Don't make me come and kick your ass, Eli.”
And with that, Gavin hung up before Elijah had the time to answer.
It's not that he didn't have social skills. To be fair, he was actually very good with people. Just like with everything else, Elijah was extremely observant, and he easily picked up the expectations of the people he was speaking to, reading the fine details of their expressions as plainly as a line of code. Then, choosing the right words and airs to answer was just as easy. It's a game he had mastered long ago; getting people to like him was absurdly easy. A simple game of trial and error until he perfected his social interactions down to a T. It got him through many tricky interviews; in fact, having a charismatic leader had probably contributed greatly to the impressive success of Cyberlife.
But actually building a relationship of any kind was a whole other matter. Regardless of how hard he had tried, Elijah could never bring himself to be true to someone. Oh sure, he could maintain a facade of friendship for a while; but as soon as it came to disagreeing, or trusting, or any of those things humans usually bond over… His frantic, analytic brain had such an urge to please, to score points, to do well - he tried to excel at friendship like he excelled at anything else. In his mind, no matter how hard he tried to think otherwise, vulnerability was deemed failure, and he couldn't accept the unexpected fluctuations of honest interactions. So as soon as someone broke their neat, perfectly balanced, and organised relationship by coming closer or expecting him to confide in them, the whole thing started irking him, usually to the point where he'd block their number in a panicked fit and swore he was done with human beings.
He had managed to maintain a rocky friendship with Gavin, but it felt different; they grew up together, they knew each other extremely well, and Elijah knew that no matter how despicable his half-brother acted, he wasn't one to judge or get offended easily. The two had bonded over their aversion for their cheating scumbag of a father, protected each other throughout their teenage years, and though they started fighting a lot when Elijah founded Cyberlife, he knew that Gavin wouldn't just let him drop. Their relationship was imperfect, but weirdly enough, he didn't mind.
And then there had been Amanda. But Amanda was something else. She understood him. She saw him. But she was gone, and what had been would never be again.
But Gavin was right, and Elijah knew it. No matter how comfortable he was playing video games and coding the days away in the living room of his luxury home, he was going to have to make some semblance of contact with other human beings if he was to keep his sanity.
God, he thought.
This is not going to turn out well.