‘You’re a real piece of shit, you know that?’ Hank thought, speeding along the highway at 80mph too fast. Out of the corner of his eye, he expected to see the tensing of animatronic muscles as Connor calculated their likelihood of surviving the upcoming bend at current velocity.
But the passenger seat was empty.
“Never fucking listened to me,” and Hank took another gulp of beer, the bottle held between forefinger and middle as he tried to keep the car on the road. “Couldn’t just fucking listen.”
Somewhere in the back of his mind, Hank’s non-alcohol addled brain was reminding him he hadn’t told Connor anything in particular at Stratford Tower. Last he could rightly remember, they were both watching that deviant’s speech and Connor hadn’t shared his thoughts with the detective. Connor had clearly been thinking of something, but of what, Hank couldn’t decipher. A part of him, at the time, had hoped that the deviant’s message had swayed something in Connor.
Hank sure felt that it had swayed something in him.
That was it. Hank could remember nothing else.
Rather, he just didn’t want to remember anything else.
Nerves weren’t what they used to be, letting something charge down the hallway like that, unanswered. But even the best officer on the force would have trouble dodging a bullet, let alone a spray of them. Hell, the best CyberLife had to offer apparently couldn't dodge so many.
All Hank had been able to recognize was Connor, jostling and moving him, as someone’s shout was drowned out by the quick retort of gunfire. Then it was over, officers and reporting personnel moving in from the interior studio down into the hall.
Hank pressed his hand against Connor’s chest, but the spread was too wide and Connor wasn’t responding anyway. He’d gone still almost immediately. Dead fished, right on top of Hank. Poor kid never stood a chance.
Thirium oozed through Hank’s fingers as he pressed down all the same, the liquid cold and slick. For something so completely different from blood, there was plenty of sickening similarities. Like it’d been clotting for several hours rather than pumping and keeping Connor walking just moments before.
That’s when Hank noticed the hand wound, and the additional blue blood on Connor’s abdomen, where his shirt was ripped from the front and skin was peeled back to reveal sinewy marble plastic beneath.
The beer was warm, a contrast to the snow falling outside. The landscape was entirely coated in the shit, white and nearly grey. It was nearly impossible to distinguish the trees from the snowbanks they erupted from, sprawling veins of the earth reaching out to a putrid, polluted sky.
And Hank continue polluting his liver, spurned by the days before this one. He’d go to Kamski’s house. Demand answers. Why did it have to be that these androids had to suffer? Were they made, maybe, just to labor under life’s thumb, the insect wriggling on a pin while a kid burned them with a magnifying glass? Why even giving them the fleeting chance to have emotions? What gave Kamski the right to play as a mortal god?
And those girls, from the club.
They’d just wanted to be free. And after the one Traci faced the loss of the other, she didn’t choose to continue fighting for her freedom. She’d instead ended it all. With just one bullet.
Hell, Hank knew what it was like to pull that trigger and want to have a bullet carve its way right through his skull.
And that girl, after Connor had shot her friend - no, lover - had gone and done just that. And known full well the consequences of it. Not some drunk shit game of chicken with empty chambers involved.
That took guts.
That took actually feeling the loss of another being.
That took being a fucking human.
And Kamski was going to have to answer for that, one way - or another.
“Leave that fucking thing alone would you? CyberLife will be over to collect it for scrap.”
“This fucking thing saved my life,” Hank snapped before thinking. “His name was Connor.”
“I’m sure that’s what it was programmed to do. And there’s a dozen like it, c’mon. There was only one copy of the actual humans this thing killed,” the officer said, looking over the rest of the hallway.
When Hank pulled his hand away, the thirium was sticky and pulled at Connor’s shirt, just like real blood would have. “Aw Christ,” Hank whispered, resting his clean hand on Connor’s forehead. “Where’d that thing even come from, I thought your people swept the place?” Hank asked, getting to his feet.
“We did. One of the androids in the kitchen must’ve been a deviant. Would’ve been nice if it had said something before setting one of them off,” the agent replied.
“Think he paid the price for that mistake, don’t you think?” Hank asked. He couldn’t bring himself to look down the hallway as he walked away, turning his back on Connor. Didn’t stop him from hearing the mutter from the other officer.
The road conditions were getting worse by the minute. Leave it to the ex-CEO billionaire to live in the middle of nowhere on the outskirts of the city who made him. Around a couple of turns, Hank could feel the wheels beneath him skidding, the car’s rubber protesting shrilly. Hank kept the bottle of beer aloft, each time, taking swigs of it as he went.
It’d be real fitting if this was how he went out. Skidding. On a sheet of ice. Because a fucking android had gotten under his skin.
With another bottle killed, Hank tossed it into the back seat to roll around and clank with the others, leaning down to pick up another from the passenger seat.
“You really ought to stop drinking, Lieutenant.”
The voice was stark and clear as a non-polluted sunny day. Almost as if, rather than the void of the front seat, Connor was speaking from the back, leaning between the console and speaking between the beats of Knights of Black Death.
The car wheel jerked beneath Hank’s hands, the tires spinning and jumping off the worn out pathways of the hundreds of cars before it. Before Hank could yank the car back on track, it plowed right into a bank on the side of the road, the snow jumping up and dancing around the beat up clunker as the engine raced, futile.
At some point during the crash, Hank bumped his head.
The kitchen. He’d gone into the kitchen. Hank walked numbly into the room, past the people running out to the front hall.
Within was a blue mess. Spatters of blue blood were on the metal counters and against the wall. There, on the floor, it was smeared and pooled.
And by one of the pools, near two remaining androids, was Connor’s tie.
“God in fucking hell,” Hank whispered, dropping to a crouch to pick the tie up. A knife coated in the stuff was near the counter, kicked underneath. Hank could surmise what had happened - didn’t need any fancy preconstruction program either - Connor had confronted the deviant. Then he’d been attacked. It had probably pinned his hand to the countertop with the knife, and then what? Ripped out Connor’s android power cell thing?
“Why didn’t you call for backup?” Hank asked, realizing almost immediately maybe Connor had. But Hank had been in the hall, not looking out for his partner. The androids were almost naive in a way. Straightforward and determined. Was CyberLife aware they’d made something that needed constant supervision?
And yet, Connor had somehow gotten out of that all on his own, crawled his way across the floor, and gotten out to the hallway.
Where he’d taken eight bullets meant for Hank.
‘Real sack of shit.’
Hank threw the car door open, feeling the world spin as he dove for the chilling embrace of the snowbank. Music spilled out after him, rising up to fill the frozen landscape. The car hadn’t hit anything solid, but he could see the front was messed up just from the snow.
Rather than get up and try to fix it, Hank pressed his cheek into the snow.
All that son of a bitch had ever tried to do was protect Hank’s life. From the comments about how he needed to eat better, to breaking into his house at night just to sober him up. Sure, upon closer inspection, all of that care and concern might have just been wires and stacks of code. Maybe keeping Hank in good condition was a directive of Connor’s programming.
In that case, it was nothing personal.
But it sure felt nice, having something care for you. For once. It had been a long three years of isolating every single person who ever gave a shit about Hank. People who had been there after Mary died, however, drifted away. It was probably all the boozing.
Fuck, Connor probably would have drifted away too. Either the mission would’ve been completed, or he’d just get fed up.
Would never get to know, since he was dead now.
Most officers who go down in the line of duty get some sort of accolade, A recognition of their sacrifice. But what had Connor gotten?
They didn’t even touch the body. Just left it in the middle of the hallway while the wounded were rushed off for med evac, and the dead were noted, photographed, and packaged up with as much dignity as possible into body bags.
But they left Connor’s, his body just a part of the scenery now, sprawled where Hank had left him, where they’d fallen together. Hank stood over the body now, amazed at how little blood there actually was flowing out of Connor. Maybe the cool temperature stopped it from looking so much like a human who would’ve been shot. Maybe there just was less blue blood in an android than there was blood in a human being.
Or, maybe it was because Connor had already done so much bleeding out in the kitchen, fighting to stay alive, when Hank couldn’t hear him, that there was nothing else left to leak out.
But the way Connor’s limbs stuck out, the crooked angle of his neck, his stained white shirt - kept so orderly and pressed all the time - there was no mistaking his body for a lifeless husk. Hank held Connor’s tie in his hands, stooped a moment to readjust his body so his hands were folded across his abdomen and his head was more at a resting angle, all without giving a damn about who was watching.
Like this, he looked ready for a slab in a morgue, even though Hank was dimly aware Connor’s body was destined for someplace else. “Damned good thing you did,” Hank muttered. “Saving a real piece of shit like me. You were…” Hank squeezed Connor’s hand. “A damned fine partner, son.”
The urge to piss rose Hank out of his snow bitten stupor, his cheek long since having gone numb to the pain of being pressed against the ice and snow. A fine layer had settled over Hank while he laid there, drifting off of him as he stumbled to his feet.
Leaning against a trunk, he fumbled about with one hand until he felt the sweet release of letting it all go. The piss of a poor drunkard. “Aw fuck, what am I doing out here?” Hank muttered to the drifting snow. It had let up some, the flakes swirling in the darkness rather than coming down hard and fast in clumps. It was almost serene and peaceful up here.
Maybe that’s why Kamski did it. A beauty in solitude.
Except Hank’s solitude sure didn’t look as peaceful. It was vomit flecks on porcelain and a dog so hungry he ripped into his own feed bag. Hank couldn’t take care of Sumo anymore, might as well give the poor bastard up. But every day there was some new piece about animal abuse, another surrender that showed up at the shelter with the tell-tale circular burn marks and shying away from human hands.
‘I already died just now, I think, fucking drunk driving accident.’ Hank looked back at the open car door and expected to see his own body still sprawled face first into the snow, frozen and blue. But it was just the warm amber light of the interior splashing out into the snow. The track had long since changed into something else, more melodic with piano, and a singer’s voice who rose and lilted into a raw cascade of emotion.
If he died, then this wasn’t heaven. Not by a long shot.
And if he’d die, who would take after Sumo? He’d be put back into the shelter. Hell, maybe he’d get adopted by another widowed man looking for a companion for his grieving son. Or, maybe, he’d just be slaughtered like the rest, a uniformed face explaining the drain on resources and statistical chances that Sumo would find a new home.
Hank pressed harder into the tree as he leaned forward and vomited, a throbbing pain taking up residence in his skull at the force of it.
Statistical chances. Connor never bothered with that. He could have, leaving Hank to pull himself up onto that roof, citing the odds of survival being favorable. Those odds didn’t matter. The mission didn’t matter.
Hank heaved again and stuffed everything back into his pants, fumbling with the zipper. A raw heat was filling his chest. Probably just the backwash of bile. But it spurned Hank.
If he’d just die here, a waste and a wreck, then that would be the ultimate dishonor on a prick who wouldn’t even get a proper funeral. Who wouldn’t even be put into a body bag. God damn it, the least Hank could do to honor Connor’s sacrifice was get his shit together and finish out the case.
After the case? He’d think about that once he finished. One, staggered, step at a time.
Hank hung his weight on the car door, wary of getting back into the seat. A taxi, unmanned and without a passenger, drove back down the hill. Hank hadn’t noticed someone going up, but there was only one house at the end of this drive. Kamski owned the surrounding land.
“Aw fuck,” Hank said, reaching into the car to pull out the remainder of the bottles. He stuck them in the drift for some other poor bastard, and slammed the car door shut. There was no relief from the chill outside, all the heat having drained out. Not that the heat would matter much if Hank couldn’t get the car to reverse.
The engine roared in protest, and the tires squealed as Hank applied pressure to the pedal. For a sinking moment, he figured he had stranded himself all the same and would still be freezing to death out here. There was no fuel for his current spark of life to catch ablaze on in the dark forest.
But as he turned the wheel, the car lurched and spun back onto the road, sliding as Hank slammed the brake in alarm. “All right. Good job, girl,” Hank sighed, leaning his forehead into the steering wheel. “Let’s get this over with.”
There were no other cars on the road that Hank passed, and the taxi must have been traveling for quite a while back down the hill. That meant, whoever had pulled up at Kamski’s house had more time than Hank anticipated. Had one of his sources leaked? Had CyberLife paid a visit, maybe to silence Kamski and what he knew?
Nah, that didn’t make sense. They did want this deviancy issue solved, right? So maybe they were just sending a representative ahead of Hank, to warn Kamski.
Either way, the passenger of the taxi didn’t anticipate leaving for a while, otherwise, they’d have told the taxi to wait. Long gone were the days of irritable ride share drivers who couldn’t wait for you to settle your tab, or hell, Hank knew stories of people trying to catch cabbies to the same effect.
Here, you just told the automated car to wait and it did. No questions asked or life daring chases to perform.
So as the house emerged from the dreary grey of the snow and a figure was standing at the end of the walk, hands a blur as he tossed something between them rapidly, Hank felt his stomach clench. First in anxiety, then blooming in a hot release of rage.
The spark of life had found something to catch fire.
“Well I’ll be damned,” Hank said, stopping the car and squinting out the windshield.
There, in a newly minted and pressed CyberLife issued suit with the glowing words RK 800, was Connor. He adjusted his tie a bit, quickly pocketing his coin, as Hank swore in the cabin of the car again before he was practically rolling out of the vehicle.
“Don’t ‘Hello, Lieutenant’ me,” Hank said.
There was not a speck of blood on him. Had they repaired him, washed his clothes? Hank could’ve sworn they’d said Connor wouldn’t be reactivated. Too many biocomponents damaged.
This Connor’s face knit in confusion at the hostility, but the fire rekindled in Hank’s gut didn’t care. Kid didn’t deserve it, but fuck it if Hank gave a damn. “I’m sorry. I should have explained first. All of the previous unit’s memories have been uploaded into this unit. I recognize this might be alarming, but I can assure you, my efficiency and dedication toward-”
“Shut the fuck up Connor. I held you dying in my arms. You died, and your blood was…” Hank held out a hand, but it was just greyed and curled from all the exposure to the cold. Hank clenched it and Connor’s frown deepened. “And you’re just going to stand there. It’s as if nothing happened. Fuck you.” And Hank pushed past Connor, forcefully, leaving the android in his wake.
He should’ve known there were other copies. He was part of a model series line, wasn’t he? RK 800 - there was probably a 700 and 600 series before that. Fuck, a 900 series was probably already in production too.
Just a fucking android. A replaceable machine.
That’s what the officer had meant by cheap price. Humans only got one life to spend - androids? They had hundreds.
At the top of the footpath, Hank glanced back, glowering at Connor, but the other man was still a few feet behind, LED flashing yellow as he wrung his hands in front of him. It didn’t look like he was filing a report, but was lost in thought. For a flash, Hank caught the flash of red as Connor looked up at him and realized he was being watched, but Hank brushed it off and rang the doorbell.
When they were both at the door, Hank turned upon Connor. Stuck a finger right in his face, and his LED flickered that rapid yellow some more. “Don’t you ever fucking do that to me again, you hear me?” Hank couldn’t form the words he really wanted to press into Connor’s head. It was all slurred syllables. Maybe he’d hit his head harder than he thought.
That the android, a god damned machine, had managed to make him feel something for once other than the flaring numb heat of alcohol blooming across his face and chest. And that he was never, under any circumstance, to do that again. Replaceable life or not. Hank wasn’t sure what would be worse - having Connor repeatedly come back until his mission was complete or that final time of having him not come back at all.
Instead of trying to answer that, Hank just shook his finger again before trying to ring the doorbell once more. “Got it?”
Connor nodded and the confusion ebbed from his face. The LED turned back to its cool blue. “Understood, Lieutenant.”