"Maybe you did the right thing."
Somehow, Hank always knew what to say to soothe Connor's circuits. He could feel them start to wind up, the data and processing speed flaring across his mind – humans would see that his LED was yellow. The warning light could mean multiple problems.
In this case, it was something humans might recognize as frustration, disappointment, or even regret. Why hadn't he shot Chloe? And why didn't he have a satisfactory answer to that question? Connor knew Amanda wouldn't be satisfied with any answer he gave, so why should Hank?
It immediately resulted in him becoming defensive with his partner.
But, all Hank had said – maybe Connor had done the right thing. And he seemed pleased. Certainly his mood had improved from before, when they'd been walking into the house and the stilted small talk in Kamski's foyer.
That one line was enough to remove all of Connor's doubts.
Connor's LED held at a steady blue as he stared after Hank, who walked right to his car, got in, and then signaled to Connor that he was waiting, what was the hold up for?
Connor had certainly been expecting some accusation that demanded to know why he had failed. There was still the lingering impression, even if Hank hadn't left one, that Connor would be deactivated and analyzed to determine why he hadn't pulled the trigger this time.
For really, how had this been any different than at the Eden Club? There was a mission objective to get more information. To get that information, he had to disable a machine. The logic was there on the surface, but upon evaluation, all Connor had to say was that he just couldn't.
"Connor, you can call your taxi friend back here if you don't start hauling ass," Hank shouted through the open window.
"I'm coming," Connor snapped, then ducked his head so he wouldn't have to look at Hank as he got into the car.
Despite him buckling up – because Hank always made him buckle up lately – Hank didn't pull away immediately. "Are you all right?" Hank asked.
"Why wouldn't I be?" Connor responded.
Hank shrugged. "Just asking." Hank tapped his fingers against the steering wheel, mood still elevated. "You just seem, you know, rattled after having met your creator and all."
Connor stayed quiet. He didn't want to protest that he wasn't rattled because that would be a lie, but he also didn't want to give Hank an inch in his misguided argument that machines had emotions. After a moment, Hank was apparently appeased and began moving the car. That's when Connor heard the clink of glass in the back and saw the beer bottles as they rolled with the momentum.
He frowned at Hank.
A quick evaluation revealed a minor contusion just above Hank's left temple, with a slight chance the Lieutenant was concussed. On top of that, several vital signs pointed to Hank being drunk. He reached out to Hank, who tensed even though Connor stopped just short of touching him.
"Maybe I should drive, Lieutenant."
"And why would I let you do that?" Hank asked, glaring over at Connor.
"Well." Connor debated with telling the truth or lying, but Hank cut him off.
"Oh, fuck off it. Fine." Hank threw it into park. "You drive. Give me a chance to sleep this headache off."
Connor tapped his fingers on his knee as Hank got out of the car, readjusting his next objective and gauging whether that had been the right call. Hank tapped on the glass of the passenger car door, then opened it for Connor. "Sleeping is not advised," Connor said, getting out.
"Yeah? Always looking out for me, aren't you?"
"Well of course. I need you, Lieutenant," Connor replied, plaintive.
But that seemed to have the opposite effect he was aiming for, with Hank grunting and slamming the car door. Connor stood, unsure, for a couple of moments until Hank gestured to the open driver-side door. "Freezing my ass off Connor. We're not all made of plastic."
"Right. Sorry, Hank."
Connor heard a bit about 'fucking androids' again as he slid into the driver's seat, frowning. He certainly felt different from when Hank had been praising him just a few minutes before. The detective sure was quick to change his moods, which made him an adequate challenge for testing Connor's range of not-so-agreeable human interactions.
But after the day he'd been having, he wished Hank would be more in the "agreeable" category for once. There was a flash of memory as Connor recalled Hank leveling the gun at Connor's head, and his servos seized in response to the negative stimuli.
To distract himself, he started the car down the drive and away from Kamski.
"You just need me for your mission," Hank muttered.
"That's not entirely true, Hank," Connor replied, stilted.
“You asked me why I didn't shoot Chloe, earlier, and I think I’ve come up with a summarily appropriate answer,” Connor said, feeling as if he'd get back to his point about needing Hank soon enough.
“Aw, hell Connor, you seemed distraught enough back there and it’s barely been five minutes. Don’t tell me you’ve solved all of your mysteries just by getting some road behind you.” But Hank didn’t say not to continue talking. It was just the usual Hank Anderson verbal jibes.
“It’s because… The girls at Eden Club. I… You were upset with that action.”
“Of course I was. They just wanted to be free together.”
“The one killed a man, Hank,” Connor said. He had to make the Lieutenant understand before there were any more disagreements between them. “But Chloe didn’t deserve that. She’s done nothing. Therefore, I think my systems…”
The car was fighting him, trying to pull the wheel this way and that. Connor studied the engine, analyzing it. It was functioning, but had recently taken a front-mass blow. One of bolts on the front axle had suffered because of it. While trying to choose the next words to say, and without thinking, Connor contacted a mechanic near to Hank’s house with a reputable service record for vintage combustible engine cars to schedule a repair.
Hank noticed his LED was flashing yellow during the communication and seemed to misinterpret that as Connor being distressed again. “Connor, you said you looked into her eyes and just. Couldn’t do it. I’ll take it at that face value.”
“No Hank it’s… You were upset with me, when you pulled up.”
Hank frowned and let out a soft noise, before turning to the window. “My conclusion to that anger was that you were… displeased I’d saved your life. But. Maybe it was more than that. Another interpretation might be that you were upset that I’d died. And no one had informed you I’d be replaced. It's quite normal for humans to become attached to something, even a machine.”
Hank was quiet, letting Connor stew in the silence. He wasn’t saying the right things, then.
“And, in a way, you were asking me to revere my own life. You always have been asking me to be careful over the duration of our investigation. If I’m to do that, Hank, I have to show the same respect to other law-abiding androids. I’m not sure if that’s empathy, or just an inability to let good resources go to waste.” The brakes were a little finicky too, Connor noticed, as he pumped them going down the hill. “I’m sorry I didn’t help us, Lieutenant. But, perhaps, this evaluation will help shed more light on the issue and improve our future interactions together.”
“Christ, you’re somehow more insufferable.” Hank sat up. “Look, I told you, maybe you did the right thing. Can’t you just leave it at that? Do you have to overanalyze every single thing?”
“Yes, Hank. Missing crucial details could lead to lives being lost.” Then, softer. “How many casualties in the hallway?”
“Connor… I don’t know. I didn’t get a count. I was a bit preoccupied.”
“One would be too many, Hank,” Connor pressed.
“You’re really going to continue with this, then? Even though the only thing this deviant leader has done is ask to be recognized?” Hank was studying Connor now. “That’s what you said, how you interpreted my anger. How’s he any different, huh?”
“How should I have interpreted your anger, Lieutenant? Was I mistaken?” Connor dodged the question.
But Hank responded in kind and just sighed. There was a detectable scent of alcohol on his breath, and Connor was once again aware of the clanking in the backseat. “My point is, how can you still continue going after deviants? How can you say they don’t have emotions – I’ve seen you get emotional. You just did, back there at Kamski’s.”
Connor winced. But rather than try to explain to Hank for the dozenth time that machines could only replicate emotions, that Connor wasn’t truly feeling anything – all of his circuits firing to make his hands tremble and the veins carrying his thirium clench tight in his chest to make it feel as if he was close to shutting down – all of that had just been simulated. To pass an outdated test.
What had Kamski called it? Simple computations and equations, working harmoniously together.
Connor was suddenly aware that he wasn’t sure if he’d passed the Kamski test, or failed. And that fact bothered him greatly.
“It’s more than emotions at this point, Hank,” Connor started up again. “It’s that they’re killing humans. They’re endangering life. They’re putting emotions above that sanctity of life. And I find it hard to forgive them of that.”
“You know, Chris called earlier. When I was driving up.”
Connor was relieved for a moment to have the sudden distraction from the intense conversation. He sighed into a smile. “How is Chris?”
“Doing well. Considering there was a demonstration in Capitol Park and CyberLife stores were vandalized while he was on patrol.”
Connor’s grip on the wheel tightened. He hadn’t suspected that Hank had more fuel for his argument. “That might have been mentioned to me. Is he and his partner all right?”
“Both made it out just fine. Were surrounded by deviants ready to shoot them in retaliation. But Markus himself saved them. Imagine that. A deviant – valuing life.”
Markus. Connor didn’t want to speak before confirming something. He reached out to the police network, scanning for reports on Carl Manfred. Police files Connor had access to said Markus had attacked Carl's son, Leo, during a break-in attempt. It was unclear whether it had been in defense of the home or self-defense. But Leo had suffered non-lethal damage, according to the report Connor accessed. He was due to be released from the hospital in the next week.
Connor clenched his teeth, feeling the bitterness of losing validity to his argument, but nonetheless feeling heartened Markus hadn’t killed anyone. It was a complicated situation to think around. “Yes, that would seem to be the case. But he’s aligned himself with killers, Hank.”
“And you’ve never taken human life, Connor?”
“No, Hank.” Connor took his eyes off the road, having projected the next few seconds to make it safe to do so. “Everything I do is to preserve life – real life.” The fish from the hallway. Amanda had asked him once about that – why he’d done that. Why’d he’d risked the mission to save the injured police officer out on the rooftop with Daniel. And he hadn’t had an answer other than those decisions hadn’t deviated from his mission.
But maybe the better answer was that it had been the right thing to do. Connor wished Amanda had told him that then, instead of thinly veiling threats to deactivate Connor.
Connor looked back to the road, warnings flashing that more data was required to project a safe simulation. He couldn’t read Hank’s face anyway, another frustrating, circuit flaring detriment.
“Not even your previous unit? Those girls, the Traci’s, they don’t count?” Hank asked.
“No. Again, androids aren’t alive. But, your request I reconsider the notion has been evaluated. I’ll try following that projection in future confrontations.”
“Even when it’s humans who have killed more humans throughout history?” Hank asked, and something seemed to have dawned on the man. Something in his tone had changed.
“We should be better than humans, Lieutenant. After all, that’s how we were designed to be.”
Hank nodded and ran his fingers through his beard and sighed a bit before looking out the window. “What if I told you I’d killed people?” His voice was very small, nearly drowned out by the radio.
“I’m quite aware of your service record, Hank,” Connor replied, somewhat bitter about where the conversation had flowed. He’d lost the stem of it somewhere. “But for that matter, you’re human. You’re allowed to make that determination in the line of your job. All of those firings were investigated and cleared.”
“Now, if that ain’t some depressing shit,” Hank muttered, and finally stopped talking. Connor ran the social simulations, and decided against telling Hank the reason he felt he needed the grizzled detective around. So, instead, neither said a word for the rest of the duration back into Detroit. Just let the sounds of heavy drum beats and guitar riffs drown out the clanks of bottles rolling about in the back.