Chapter 1: Suffering Because I'm Lonely
‘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.”
Chapter 2: All Those Moments to be Lost in Time...
After meeting Kamski, Connor is rattled. He's expecting the detective to become angry with him for threatening their case's success, but Hank Anderson always throws a curve ball into the android's programming.
"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.
Chapter Title from Blade Runner (1982) Tears in Rain soliloquy.
As you can see, Connor might be a bit different from those poor andy's in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep. Let's see if he can keep this stance up when the time to choose comes.
To be honest, I'm somewhat nervous that this chapter was too dialogue heavy. There's very little action, and therefore very little threat. I can only promise that the next chapter contains quite a bit of action, and quite a bit of threat. Thank you for reading!
Chapter 3: ...Like Tears in the Snow
Just for once Hank wished these situations ended with both people begging to be killed. It would make the choice much easier on the person holding the gun. Because the other option was some dramatic, shoe-horned bullshit Hank hadn't agreed to get out of bed for.
Sumo roused Hank with deep throaty barks. At least this time he was just in his bedroom, trying to fall asleep without any assistance from a cruel man named Jack Daniels. It was damned hard to resist, and so damned easy to just give in. A single shot, then just another. Let that heat blossom and bloom into unconsciousness.
Don't be an idiot and suffer just because some machine is programmed to tell you to be healthier. Probably paid by some health foods agri-firm so CyberLife includes the advice to eat soy-based products and exercise at this certain gym.
Just take a shot , Hank. A little shot won't hurt. You already were a weak son of a bitch, afraid of the shakes, so why not just go all the way? Take a second. A third . Lose track. Stop feeling so much.
Hank would've left his bedfellow demons for any little excuse, so thankfully, it was an exactly six-foot tall excuse.
Outside the window, he could see Connor, pressing his finger into the ringer and holding it there. Sumo was bouncing in front of the door, only easing when Hank waved him away. Hank threw the door open. "What the fuck, Connor? I have a phone. You can try that before just-" Hank waved at Connor and the whole scene, at a loss for words.
Connor moved past him. "Get dressed, Lieutenant. We're needed at the CyberLife Tower."
"Okay. Well, we can't take my car," Hank said and shut the door. Despite the brief exposure, the cold immediately seeped into his thin cotton shirt and boxers. "It had to be taken in. Strangest thing. Already had an appointment detailing exactly what was wrong with it. You know anything about that?"
Connor frowned. "No, Hank. Maybe you called and forgot." There was a hint of accusation in that statement. That might have been the moment that Hank felt something was off. But Sumo was starting to doze in the corner, not rousing himself after the earlier outburst.
"Well just, wait here," Hank said, directing Connor to stand in the living room. Not that Hank half expected him to listen.
Hank felt maybe he should make a joke about Connor choosing the outfit again, that Hank had better fashion sense, but Connor just stood still in the middle of the room. It was a little strange, even for the android. Whatever they were about to do, it must have been weighing heavily on the android's mind.
When Hank emerged from his bedroom, this time fully dressed, Connor hadn't appeared to have moved, despite Hank expecting him to take full stock of the pantry and be petting Sumo again. Connor looked him over. "No gun?"
"They suspended me for that little stunt. No pay." Connor didn't even blink. "Just thought you should know. Glad you got something out of it though." Sumo lifted his head as Connor walked out the door, tail thumping in anticipation. "No, you stay. Good boy. I'll be back later. Watch the house." Sumo laid his head back down with a whine Hank caught before closing the door and locking it.
Connor hadn't waited. Hank had to jog to catch up. "Boy, this really has you excited," Hank muttered.
"This is it," Connor replied. "The culmination of all our efforts. Just follow everything I have to say and this whole affair will be over."
"So you're giving the directions now, huh?" Hank wasn't sure how keen he was on this case being solved and the partnership dissolving. On one hand, he was finding himself more and more sympathetic to the deviants' cause. On the other, he couldn't remember the last time he'd been looking forward to the future.
"You did say you were suspended," Connor pointed out, ruining the brief light hearted mood Hank found himself in. He was leading Hank to the street corner, a perpetual snow muting the distant sounds of sirens from the protests. "That would make me the only one with authority between us."
"You don't have to be so smug about it." Connor waved down a taxi that had been idling on the corner of the street. "You know there's a curfew in effect."
"I have special exclusionary measures," Connor said, holding the back door open for Hank. "Any more questions, Lieutenant?"
"Yeah, what the hell are we doing again?"
Connor shut the door, and then got into the front driver seat. Hank wasn't sure how much he liked that power move. The pitting in his stomach and way his muscles were all tensed up let him know that he didn't like it. At all.
Connor didn't end up answering the question until the car was pulling away. "I received word that deviants are attacking the CyberLife factory. The demonstration downtown is just a distraction. We'll intercept the deviants."
"And why can't CyberLife security do that? Homeland. The FBI."
"They're a bit preoccupied. The demonstrations have turned violent. There's also a dirty bomb somewhere in Detroit. So much for Markus being peaceful and valuing life, right, Lieutenant?" Hank didn't know what to say, processing the information while Detroit's nightscape blurred beyond the window. He could see the dim rising heat-orange of a tell tale fire, maybe two miles off.
Was he leaving Sumo to be killed in a dirty bomb? Christ, he had locked the door, hadn't he? There had been reports of looting he'd picked up on his scanner, of people ignoring the orders to evacuate the city.
"And," Connor interjected into Hank's reverie. "I need you to be there."
"This isn't how police handle things," Hank said, looking around at the completely unmanned warehouse. Were they trying to catch the perpetrators in the act? Security had let them in right through the door, Connor being Hank's all-access badge apparently.
Hank gave the androids standing in rows a wide berth. They appeared to be the new model CyberLife had in store for personal homecare workers, but Hank didn't exactly have the number and series memorized.
"It's how CyberLife does." Connor stopped suddenly, his LED flickering yellow. It was blue in the next moment. "Damn." He looked at the central tower, the main elevator they hadn't taken down.
Connor pointed. "Get in the stacks."
"Connor, would you just tell me what's going on?"
Instead, Connor pulled out a gun. "I said, get in the stacks." His voice was colder than Hank remembered, more like when they'd first met – or their discussion on the bridge that Hank painfully, regretfully, remembered.
Hank held up his hands. "A shootout with a police officer? What-"
"Please, Hank. I already know you're unarmed."
Was it at that point Hank realized he'd made a mistake? Or was it when a team of armed guards strafed into the room from one of the other warehouse rooms? Maybe it was before, when Connor had been oddly cruel about Hank's drinking, something the suspended-cop expected from other humans but hadn't yet experienced from the machine.
Remembering back, Hank picked the moment the main elevator descended into view and he recognized the person within as he leaned over to see the guards forming beneath him. Hank held his breath, an action the other Connor caught and leveled the gun at Hank's right temple. "You make a sound, and this ends poorly. For both of you."
Hank risked a whispered, "Christ almighty" and caught this Connor smirking.
The door opened, and the Connor in the elevator held up another guard to use as a shield.
Just for once Hank wished these situations ended with both people begging to be killed. It would make the choice much easier on the person holding the gun. Because the other option was some dramatic, shoe-horned bullshit Hank hadn't agreed to get out of bed for.
"I would have said the same thing, Hank," Connor pleaded, and for a second, Hank thought he would pull the trigger on that one. The one on the right. Something about it just felt solid. Good. But he hesitated. He couldn't make a mistake if there was still a sliver of doubt.
"All right, fine," Hank said. The Connor on the left tensed. The one on the right relaxed. "One more question." He leveled the gun at the relaxed Connor, who looked quizzical, but prepared for another trivia question. "What should I do with the other Connor?" Hank asked.
"Obviously," Connor on the right said. "Shoot him."
But, softly, Hank heard the voice of the left Connor, cutting through the other's boldness. "Save him ."
Hank pulled the trigger and the Connor on the left winced as the imposter's body crumpled to the floor. "Sorry, son," Hank said, genuinely feeling some amount of remorse for ignoring the request. It was the safest way, putting him down. Hell, Hank wasn't even sure how he could have saved him in the first place. "Now. Do what you need to do."
Connor was staring at his own body, and Hank was suddenly caught up in how that must've felt. The same sensation as looking over your shoulder, expecting to see your frozen corpse in the snow and actually seeing it there. A world spinning feeling that you're falling backwards while standing straight still. Reeling, that was the word.
But Connor always said he didn't have real emotions. Maybe he'd be spared from such an awful feeling. Maybe that shit was exclusively reserved to humans.
While looking over Connor and closing the distance, his LED was flickering yellow. He was blinking, as if in a daze, and his breathing was hitched. He was fixated on the other's body.
"Shit," Hank hissed. "Connor? Are you okay?"
Connor started and looked at Hank, his vision clearly refocusing on the man. "Yes. I'm fine. I'm okay," he said, and he sure as hell sounded like someone who was reassuring himself more than the person who'd asked if he was all right.
Hank stepped between him and the body and nodded toward the line of androids beside them. "I'm not sure exactly what's going on, but it's got to be important."
Connor stared into Hank's face, took in a breath, and nodded. His LED returned to blue. "Yes. Of course." He turned to the android nearest him, then hesitated and looked back. "Thank you, Lieutenant."
Hank smiled, nodding as Connor clasped the arm of the android and told it to wake up . It soon started an eerie chain reaction that filled the warehouse with echoes of the words. "So. Please. Are you going to tell me what we're doing here?" Hank asked.
"Markus is leading a demonstration in front of the camps," Connor said, stepping back to take in his action. "He needs support."
"Militaristic?" Hank ventured.
Connor looked thrown off by the question. "Peaceful demonstration. But there's not many of them, and they're being shot at. The other four protests were…" Connor frowned. "They've been annihilated," he whispered.
Hank reached out and squeezed Connor's shoulder. At least he could feel satisfied he'd made the right call, then. "So, you're aligning yourself with the killer deviants then?"
Connor looked over at Hank, the latter of which immediately regretted his piss poor attempt to lighten the conversation. "I killed two guards on the way down here, Hank," Connor said. Suddenly he was a man confessing his sins to the pulpit. "I think it was a case where it was either them, or me. But I didn't like it."
"They would've killed me," Connor reiterated. "I couldn't let them destroy me, not after we've gotten so close."
Both of them surveyed the androids waking up and looking around their current location. "Do you think this is going to change something?" Hank asked.
"I certainly hope so," Connor said. "I'm tired of all the violence." He closed his eyes. "I found Jericho, thanks to you." He opened them and found Hank's face. "The humans destroyed it. All Markus wants is…" Connor's face relaxed and he was looking past Hank. "All we want is to be free."
Hank could have hugged Connor then and there for finally fucking getting it, that maybe, this whole time, they'd been wrong. But the android wasn't wasting time in a hug and pushed past Hank. "We have to hurry, Lieutenant. There's other warehouses. Please – lead them that way." Connor gestured rapidly to a Loading Bay Dock sign. "I'll meet you down there."
Hank wanted to call out for Connor to wait – but the android was turning off into another warehouse. "And if I meet you and it's not you?" Hank called out instead.
"You'll know," Connor said, voice fading in the sea of voices.
"Aw shit," Hank said. He stood there a moment, unsure of where to put his ill-begotten gun because he was lacking a holster, realizing Connor had left his gun where it'd been kicked. The boy really wasn't keen on putting up much of a fight if he was caught then.
Hank realized that there were eyes on him, and bodies were shifting in the room. He caught the look of one who seemed confused, his face and brow knitted into a frown. "Oh. Uh. Hi there," Hank said, waving and lowering the gun to his side, hoping he didn't appear threatening. "Um. Congratulations? Right. He said this way."
The waiting was the worst part, especially as Hank was trying to load the androids up and there was no resistance whatsoever. Were the guards in CyberLife simply not caring? The lack of any problems was more nerve wracking than encountering a single issue. "Just, keep walking," Hank said, directing the crowds, feeling ineffective. There was a mix of more androids and models now, women and men walking together, with some at the tail end not having any skin at all. And if that didn't just add the cherry to Hank's 'I'm betraying humanity' sundae.
"Hank," Connor called from somewhere in the back. "You're all right," he said, jogging up and smiling. He appeared unarmed. "Oh, right," he said, drawing up. "It's me, Hank. And." He looked out over the crowd, face completely relaxed into a smile. "And thank you. I knew I needed you. I need you, Hank Anderson," Connor continued, breathless.
Hank didn't know how to respond, so he just stood there slack jawed, gun in hand, as Connor nodded toward the front. "I can call you a taxi, Lieutenant, as I estimate it's quite the walk to where we'll be heading."
"Where the hell are all the guards, Connor?"
"Oh, that. I sent them in another direction."
"Just like that," Hank said, amazed.
"I still have access to CyberLife's infrastructure. Especially when I provide evidence I stopped deviant Connor." Hank felt a chill. "A doctored memory, of course," Connor added in a joking aside. There was a literal bounce to his step. "So, a taxi?"
"I'll walk for a bit," Hank said. He was a bit overcome with the multitudes of androids marching with them to make any decision. And Connor seemed heavily preoccupied, eventually taking the lead at the head of the march, getting the thousands of androids through security, and down the CyberLife road. No causalities. All that could be heard was the multitude crunches of feet stepping on snow and salted roads, while more continued to appear, as if from nowhere, from a pitch black sky.
Slowly, the scenery turned from the isolation of the CyberLife Tower to the derelict residential houses of the Detroit suburbs, to the built up cityscape emerging from the horizon.
All of this awed Hank into silence, until Connor turned to him. "Your body temperature is dropping, Lieutenant. I really should call you that ride."
"You really are always looking out for me, aren't you?" Hank asked.
Connor looked a bit taken aback. "Of course, Hank. Isn't that what partners do? It's what you've been doing, for me."
"Have I really," Hank murmured, looking behind them. He couldn't even see the end of the group.
"Maybe you just haven't realized then," Connor replied, amused. "That's somehow more heartening. What will you be doing next, Hank?"
"Oh yeah. I told him that, but not you," Hank laughed. His breath rose up between them, and he realized he was the only one with a breathing vapor cloud, a feeling that left him feeling alienated in a crowd of thousands. "Fowler suspended me for that little stunt against Perkins."
Connor's face fell. "Hank. I'm sorry."
"Nah, don't be," Hank waved it off, then breathed into his hands for warmth. "I knew what the risks were. I'm sure, soon as I explain I helped lead the robot revolution, they'll reinstitute me my gun and badge there on the spot."
"I'll do what I can to help."
"I think you'll be a bit preoccupied, don't you think?" Hank looked meaningfully behind them.
But Connor didn't seem to agree. "This is Markus' place. I'm just lending my assistance. He… Helped me wake up and stop being just a machine. You helped me too, Hank." Connor gave Hank a meaningful look, but then his LED flashed yellow.
Hank anticipated a problem, but it quickly resumed its cool blue. "Either way, Perkins is on the losing side tonight. I highly doubt history will cast him in sympathetic light."
"Maybe it's time for me to retire anyway," Hank said.
"I wouldn't like that," Connor said, immediate and brash. He seemed to feel that'd been a misstep because he turned to Hank and made a placating gesture with his hands. "I mean, do as you feel, Hank. I just mean, I'd like to continue being your partner. If at all possible."
"Yeah?" Hank asked. Connor seemed hopeful. After experiencing his earlier betrayal that night, Hank was less inclined to grasp that hope. He also couldn't bring it in him to quash Connor's. "Well, we'll see what I can do." He really hadn't much left to spend in gracious points with the department, however. Slugging an FBI agent who was raring to press charges had a whole slew of consequences.
At the corner, a car turned and started to approach them. Hank drew up the gun, but Connor laid an arm out. "It's just the taxi I called for you, Hank. Unless you really wanted to be front and center to an android rally."
Hank had been trying to suppress his shivers, but the cold really was too much. Connor had to have noticed it. And it wasn't like he'd dressed to go for a walk throughout the city in a marcher's protest. Hank sighed. Behind them, the rows stopped, filling the area around them with an imposing silence. "I would. You know I would. If it was warmer."
"Even then, this might be at risk to you Hank, and I'd like to avoid that."
"I'm a cop, Connor. Risk is something we do every day," Hank started in. The taxi pulled up, cutting off his train of thought. Connor opened the door for him – the front passenger door.
"Say hello to Sumo for me, would you?"
"Yeah yeah. And. Connor? Be safe."
"Of course, Hank," Connor said. "I anticipate no more violence tonight."
"Good." Hank started to get into the taxi, then stopped and held out a finger. "Give me a ring when this is over. On my phone. Not my doorbell."
Connor smiled. "Of course."
"I mean it." Hank sank into the car seat, his feet and legs throbbing in relief.
"I will, Hank. Now. Go home."
"Yeah yeah, go home. Sleep through the revolution. Wake up in the morning part of the cyborg army."
"We'll be in around 4am to surgically put in the implants."
Hank gaped at the other man, but Connor was smiling. He tacked on a wink. "Get some rest, Hank. And thank you. Again. For everything." Connor shut the door, and the taxi started off, not waiting for the formalities of goodbyes and farewells.
From the middle of the street, Connor could be seen waving, the snow eventually obscuring his form from the rear view mirror as Hank was ferried home.
Chapter title taken from the same Tears in Rain soliloquy from Blade Runner (1982).
I felt the choice between shooting either Connor to be somewhat contrived. After all, Good Boy Connor even points out that the Other Connor has all of the same memories. That means he would also know who Cole was, and had a high likelihood of saying the same thing as GB Connor. So, in my scenario, it's that their morals have deviated.
After all of Connor's experiences destabilizing his software and eventual deviancy, this Connor appears to be quite done with the killing. The Other Connor is still fixated on his mission – and that means disabling a deviant machine that's taken life. They're at different points in their development, and I'd think Hank would be able to pick up on that.
I also wanted to add that this is one of my first major series undertakings, and the response has been overwhelming. Nothing is better than getting through an 8-hour work shift to load up email and read everyone's comments. It's an amazing feeling, so thank you, every one! Here's to the next chapter.
Chapter 4: Hollow as a Ghost
Something haunted entered Connor's gaze and he wasn't looking at Hank again. Something beyond him, something Hank couldn't grasp that was out of his reach but that threatened to consume Connor. He recognized that look. It wasn't a good look. Hank had to pull him back from it, the depths of which rookies found themselves lost in. And if he can't pull Connor back, what did that mean for Hank's possible future?
Hank turned the television on as soon as he got home. It wasn’t as if he was going to get any sleep at this point, nor did he particularly feel like sleeping. Ever since he'd gotten out of the taxi's cab the air around him had felt charged and different, as if his skin was alight and ready to catch spark onto any little thing. Sumo ended up pacing back and forth while whining, until Hank permitted the large dog to get up onto the sofa.
Only under special circumstances was Sumo ever allowed to do this.
And tonight, while listening to President Warren discuss her state of emergency, not only for the city of Detroit, but nationwide? It was a very special circumstance.
Although other circumstances included Hank not being home, Hank passing out on the sofa, and thunderstorms.
Hank felt it was time to stop pretending he was going to get any sleep and prepared a pot of coffee.
Hank held his breath as the reporter took them away from Warren's state of emergency address and instead turned the viewer's attention to a podium where several figures stood before a swelling crowd. "There you see it, Charlie. Following President Warren's national address that an emergency ratification will be proposed to Congress, the androids below have met the news with cheers and jubilation.
"It appears as if the leader of the group, Markus, is preparing to give a speech any minute now."
Across the bottom, the ticker tape read "Peaceful revolution in Detroit – thousands of androids flood the city – police set up blockades in New York – night demonstrations nationwide."
But Hank wasn't focused on any of that – not Markus, not the pressing scrawling headlines – but the figure in the upper right corner of the stage. Connor stood there – amazingly all right and appearing to be bullet-hole free – with his hands folded behind his back. He was surveying the crowds, just like the other two androids with him, but this was of particular interest to Hank.
Frustratingly, the camera didn't share Hank's interest and zoomed in on Markus as he held out his arms to signal he was preparing for his speech and the crowds began to fall quiet.
Then, as Markus began to speak, Hank's heart went from being soothed to suddenly strangling his throat. Hank sat at the edge of his couch, leaning forward, focused intently on the screen. "What the fuck are you doing, Connor?" he breathed.
Connor seemed to flinch as the speech was going on, just his waist visible behind Markus. Then, he reached behind him, pulling out a gun. "And when the hell did you get a gun?" Hank shouted, standing up.
In excitement, Sumo began to bark and bounce around Hank.
Hank held out a hand, trying to get the dog to settle, but in the next few seconds, Connor put the gun back and adjusted his shirt. Infuriatingly, Hank willed the camera to pan up to the man's face, but it remained fixated on Markus', all but cutting Connor from the picture. "You've got to be fucking kidding me, what is this?" Hank asked Sumo, flopping back.
"Is he actually going to…?" Sumo ticked his head at the question and whined. "No. No that. That can't be, that's Connor. My Connor," Hank said, thumbing into his chest. "Our Connor, right boy?" Sumo panted his agreement, tail thumping against the floor.
"It fucking better be," Hank breathed, still feeling shaky as he watched the speech play out. It was inspirational, heartening. Just like the speech recorded at Stratford Tower, Markus was a man who both delivered his intentions and then followed them through.
Then again, it had only been a couple of days, Hank reminded himself. They'd have to see whether he stuck true to his words how many months down the line.
There were far more pressing things to think about in the moment, and Hank breathed shallowly throughout the duration of the speech. It was during these tenuous, precious moments that something was sure to happen. Something bad. It was always when you least needed the shit, right when victory and happiness was there, brushing past your fingertips.
Somehow, Hank managed to remain being on constant edge throughout the weekend and into the following week.
It was a different number from Fowler's and the police department's, the only numbers that had bothered ringing Hank in the past couple of days. Hank nearly dropped the phone when answering it. "Yes, hello?"
"Mother and Mary, Hank? Is that you? Glad you're not dead." Hank began to lower the phone, his disappointment at not hearing the voice he expected on the other line turning into immediate disgust. Fowler seemed to sense this. "Don't you fucking hang up," he howled from the other end.
Hank breathed in, hovering his thumb over the end call button, before returning the phone to his ear. "All right, what?"
"You sick son of a bitch, you're planning to make me beg."
"What are you talking about, Jeffrey?"
"You haven't checked your voicemail," Fowler deadpanned into the phone.
"Course you haven't. Look. Can you come into the station? Today."
"Can't you just mail me my shit? It's cruel, making me come in just to clean off my desk. Just throw out whatever food I left and I'm none the wiser," Hank sighed, deciding to put Fowler on speaker so he could lean back and pet Sumo.
There was a long exhale on the other end of the line. "You should delete every voicemail. Look, Hank, I don't want to know why your name has been brought up to me, no lie, over a dozen times a fucking day. But logic's prevailed. You're coming back on."
Now it was Hank's turn to breathe into the phone, bringing it back to his face in stunned silence.
"Hank, you still there?"
"You're fucking with me," Hank said.
"No, you heard me right. Haven't had a peep from Perkins since, fuck? That was just last Wednesday? As it stands, someone high up has plans and you know what? I'm not objecting."
"Don't think I did you any favors."
Hank laughed, still breathless. It was as if someone had punched him in the gut, that someone being his avoidance policy on all things uncomfortable. All that wasted energy spent on worrying. "Jeffrey, this is the first bit of good news I've had all week, so you go ahead and tell me why it's not."
"We're short-staffed. Severely. Gavin's shot an android – after the ratification was signed – and I've got protestors to manage citywide. There's looters, androids being burned in the streets – I'm sorry have you turned on your fucking TV?"
"When the power's on in my neighborhood? It's on all day."
It was currently off, but it wasn't like Hank was missing out on much. He was tired of scanning news reports for a glimpse of Connor's familiar face to find out if the android was safe.
"Christ. So what the fuck are you asking me for bad news for? You know damned well what I'm throwing you into. I'm doing you a fuck-all favor by offering you your job back." Jeffrey inhaled, stabilizing his tone. "Please, Hank. Don't make me regret this?"
"I can't afford you showing up at noon popping seltzer tablets, I'm serious."
Hank had more hesitancy this time. "I won't," he repeated.
"Hank," Fowler warned.
"I won't, I won't. You wanted me in, today?" Hank sat up and Sumo jumped off the couch, eager to be taken out.
"Hit the ground running."
It was only when Hank went to put his jacket on that he realized something. "Shit. My car's still in the shop," he realized aloud.
"What the hell for?" Fowler snapped.
"I. Might have run it off the road."
"Relax. I'll be in. I'll get there."
"I'll send a patrol car. Taxi system's offline." Fowler seemed distant and distracted for a moment. Then, "I swear if you're boozed up I'm shooting your badge right in front of you. Don't think I won't."
"I'm not," Hank snapped, and punched the hang up button with his thumb.
The patrol car rolled up to Hank's house without sirens a good twenty minutes later, just enough time for Hank to make himself appear presentable and refresh Sumo's bowls before taking the dog out for a quick jaunt in the backyard. There was a good layer of snow on the ground, seeming to deepen every night. Hank's calf sunk right into it, the first layer a veneer of snow-melt, refrozen into ice.
Chris Miller called from the front, and Sumo charged around the corner. Hank followed slowly after, regretting not digging out his boots to wade into the snow. "Hey, Chris," Hank said, lifting a hand in a wave. "Sumo, stay down, c'mon boy. Inside." Hank held the door open, and after making sure Chris was all right and not a threat, the St. Bernard barreled into the house, excited to have company.
Instead, Hank reached inside for his house keys, told Sumo to watch the house, and locked the front door. He eased into the front seat, Chris having already settled into the driver's seat again. "Good morning, Lieutenant. I hope you've been well?"
"Well as I could be," Hank groaned. His socks were wet, as well as the cuffs of his pants. He thrust his feet under the heaters of the patrol car, hoping they'd dry out. "You and your family all right?"
Chris shrugged as they pulled away. "Damien's getting along all right. Thinks not having school is a blast. Otherwise, I've put in about thirteen on overtime."
"Christ. It's only Tuesday." Or was it Wednesday?
The side-eye glance Chris gave Hank made him feel it was actually later in the week than he'd thought. But Chris didn't correct him. "Fowler said he's mandating you to desk duty, Lieutenant. Might be nice to have someone run all my paperwork for me."
"Did he now?" Chris was teasing, trying to ease up on the mood, and Hank was responding to the gesture in kind. Though no, Fowler had failed to mention Hank had been regulated to office paperwork bitch.
The streets weren't being cleared. At several points, Chris had to slow and turn down another lane. They were driving, uncontested, in the middle of the road, until they hit the main highway where it opened up. There still weren't as many cars as Hank thought there should be.
Along the sides of the streets, taxi's with red letters and signs were piled up on the curbs, unmanned and without passengers. Signs hung from shops, some in the typical closed fashion but others more crudely constructed to say 'closed indefinitely' among other android-based slurs.
They passed a convenience store that had a line out the door. Hank turned in his seat to stare at it. From within its bright-white interior, he could see most of the shelves were empty and people had armfuls of goods.
Chris' expression was dour when Hank turned back to face front. "It's not going well. There's not been a lot of happy estimates for how long the city can hold out, or when people come back in if we'll have food for them. Coordinating some efforts with the National Guard, but it seems most people fled. Those that remained either couldn't, or aren't up to anything good."
"Aw, shit," was all Hank could manage. He stared out the window. Hadn't Connor impressed upon him the dangers of the deviants rising up, of succeeding? There would be chaos. And this? Outside his own window? It seemed to be about as anarchic as it was going to get.
And people were expecting his people to make sure the losses were stymied somehow.
"They mentioned on the radio the evacuation order was lifted," Hank started up again, recalling a news bulletin from yesterday morning. He was hesitant on it because he'd been listening to it half asleep, the report drifting through the fog of his morning routine of regret, pain and self-loathing.
Chris nodded. "Sure. The threat from androids is over." He tacked on in a mutter. "If there ever was a threat in the first place." The precinct was just ahead. Hank could see the signs and the parking lot full of cruisers. "Now we just have to make sure humans don't rip each other apart."
"Same old, same old then?"
Chris laughed, a dry sound. "Yeah. Same as always."
There wasn't a receptionist at the desk – the friendly faces of the three androids missing. The TV was on the wall, spouting off its usual doomsday reports, but the lobby itself was completely empty. From within the building, Hank could hear the constant ringing of phones.
Hank followed Chris farther in, overwhelmed by the sea of phones. A face Hank felt he hadn't seen in years was sitting across from him – Baylin Martinez. She worked night duties, preferred the night beats, and didn't usually crossover into homicide's division. The woman was on the phone, nodding into the speaker and taking notes.
Chris went to his desk, hanging up his hat, and flopping into his desk. The man took all of three seconds to collect himself before inhaling sharply and picking up the phone.
Hank stood there, taking it all in in disbelief. "Christ, even Fowler isn't in," he noted aloud.
Baylin glanced up, then told the other person on the line she'd pass it along and hung up. "Hank Anderson, Lord Almighty, it's been too long."
Hank pulled his mouth into a sort of grimacing smirk. "Not long enough for you, right?"
"I don't think I can ever forget the Hoffman incident, no," she replied, but she was smiling and standing for a hug. Hank reciprocated, something of a half-side hug with pats upon her back. "Fowler said he'd be back in soon. Ran off about as soon as he got off the phone with you." She slapped Hank's chest. "Could've used you three days ago."
"When they'd pull you in from graveyard?" Hank asked.
"Ever since they shuffled Gavin off to where he could do the least amount of damage," Baylin muttered.
Chris mirrored the sentiments with a snort.
"He shot an android?" Hank asked. He settled back into his desk, surprised to see the food had, in fact, been thrown out. He was all the wiser for it, at least.
"Look, I get that tensions are high, but it was a stupid decision."
"Especially after the ratification," Chris interjected.
Hank wasn't going to mention that Chris has shot several androids during their demonstration. Didn't seem appropriate. Chris didn't seem keen on bringing it up either, and any way, androids hadn't exactly been considered people during that time.
Didn't make it right, per say, or a tragic unnecessary loss of life, but was easier to overlook than Gavin's shit stunt.
"I'm not surprised," Hank settled on. "You know he gut punched Connor, first day he was here?"
"Connor?" Baylin asked.
"Hank's android partner," Chris replied for Hank. "Sarah mentioned that. She was there."
Hank gave Chris a look, but he just shrugged and picked up the phone again. It seemed as if at any point any of them could pick up the phone and be answering someone.
"I heard about him. Seems like a nice fellow. Is he doing all right?" Baylin asked. There was a heavy note of concern in her voice. "They're burning androids. Army can't do enough to protect them, and I have a feeling not everyone's trying hard enough."
"I don't know," Hank said, and he was more snappish than he intended. Instead of dwelling on the fact that he didn't know about Connor's wellbeing, he gestured to his own ringing phone. "Who the fuck are these people? What's dispatch doing?" Christ, he hoped Baylin wasn't about to tell him they were dispatch.
Instead, the woman shrugged. "People calling directly in. Dispatch is overloaded too. Other departments ringing to know if we have power. People from within the department asking if they should come in."
"Always answer yes to those," Chris shouted, hand on his phone's mouthpiece.
"Christ, I don't remember it ever being this bad," Hank muttered. He steeled himself to answer the phone when, instead, his personal phone buzzed in his pocket. Fishing it out, he swore, expecting it to be Fowler asking if he'd made it into the office. Sober.
"Yes, what do you want this time?"
"Hank?" a familiar voice said over the line.
Hank could physically feel all the tension leaving his body and he bent over. Chris gave him an odd look, but Hank waved him on and straightened. "Connor. It's good to hear from you. How are you?" Baylin and Chris shifted at the name. Hank turned his chair so he couldn’t see either of them.
"Oh. You know. Just fine. Leading a revolution is easy work. Could do it in sleep mode." Connor sounded strained, however, and distracted. "You watching the news at all?"
For some reason, the scene where Connor was standing on the stage entered Hank's mind. The way Connor reached behind him for that gun, then seemed to stall before putting it back. Like the android had been debating something. The thought made Hank more guarded than he'd been the previous few seconds. "When I can. Power brownouts are a bitch."
"Ah, yeah," Connor sighed. "Elijah said he's working on that. We'll see. People are blocking him whenever possible, and I can't say I blame them."
"Who the fuck is Elijah?"
Connor made a small noise. "Right. Kamski."
Hank gave a visible look of disgust at his phone before bringing it back to his face. "What the fuck are you dealing with that asshole for?"
"It's not like I'm dealing with him directly," Connor started in. Then, he cut himself off. "Hank, is there a place we can meet up?"
"Sure." Hank nodded, looking around the station. It was a veritable ghost town, if the ghosts were haunting the phone lines and constantly wailing. "Sure. You know my favorite joint? Chicken Feed."
God's sake he could hear the kid's smile over the phone. "Of course. I- I can be there in half an hour. Is that all right?" Connor asked, his voice shaky once again.
"More than all right," Hank replied, and hung up the phone.
With a knowing look from Chris and another from Baylin as he passed her desk, Hank turned out back toward the precinct's entrance. "Leaving already? You just got here," Baylin joked, leaning back and throwing an arm over her chair. She was all laughs and teases though.
Hank waved, barely looking back. "My partner's stranded. Have to go pick the idiot up."
"Not in my patrol car you're not," Chris shouted. "Take 199's. They haven't been in for days. Probably not even in the city."
Hank waved again and disappeared through the doors, making sure to grab 199's patrol keys before the door shut on his arm.
Connor showed up within exactly 28 minutes, but it wasn't like Hank was counting down the minutes. He was just hyper aware of the time and the way it seemed to count down to a very specific moment in time, weighing heavily on Hank's mind.
Chicken Feed was closed, but that didn't surprise Hank so much as disappointed him. He really could've gone for something to eat right about now.
When Connor showed up, he didn't say anything. He didn't need to. And, Hank found, he didn't have to say anything either. They closed the distance and Connor hesitated, about to put his hand out as if to shake Hank's hand while smiling.
At the CyberLife Tower, when Hank had rested his hand on Connor shoulder, he could've pulled the man in for a hug then. Something to comfort him after having seen his own body crumple, dead, next to him – a bullet in the brain. Hank would make sure he didn't turn away from him this time, and he'd make sure he made himself perfect clear too. Not like when they were standing outside of Kamski's, and Hank couldn't find the right words to say. The ones that would tell Connor how much it meant to him that Connor had sacrificed himself to save Hank – and that he'd come back. A solid ghost.
So Hank reached out and yanked Connor into his chest for a hug. The other man didn't resist.
Connor sagged into his arms, Hank having to take a step back to balance himself as the weight came down into his arms. The android's head rested into the crook of Hank's neck, and it was as if this had been the first time the other man had actually had time to rest, to just fall still. Hank would have described it as feeling exhaustion, but that couldn't be right.
Connor wasn't supposed to feel exhaustion.
Hank pulled tighter as Connor sagged more, his hand holding firm right between Connor's shoulder blades. For a while, they didn't say anything, Hank just reveling in the sensation of Connor being solid and there, with him. Moving. Breathing. Alive.
Connor's hands were balled into fists at the small of Hank's back. He could feel them trembling, and then, slowly, ease up to clasp at Hank's back and press the two of them closer together.
When Connor spoke, the voice was so small and light, it threatened to be buried by the snow falling gently and perpetually around them. "I should have called sooner. I'm sorry, Lieutenant."
"You should have," Hank agreed, and left it at that. "But I'm sure you were busy."
Connor turned his head further inward, so he was tucked up under Hank's beard. "I don't think I could have managed any of this without you. I don't… These past few days, I don't think I could have handled them. As the old Connor." Hank could feel Connor's brow knit against his neck. Suddenly felt the need to whisk the man away from everything in this dirty city, protect him from the fires, the boots on the ground – from the assholes like Gavin.
"I'm happy to have had you as a partner, Hank. And now I know for sure that's not my social programs saying that." Connor pulled back, and Hank had to suppress the urge to keep him there.
"Why does it sound like you're saying goodbye?" Hank asked, shaking his head.
Connor looked past Hank. He was frowning. He still had his LED ring on his forehead, Hank noticed. Why hadn't he removed it like the other deviant androids? What did it all mean?
Hank wanted to grab Connor, shake his shoulders, and asked why he'd gone for his gun, up there on the stage. Ask him a dozen questions about where he'd been and what was going on within the city that Hank wasn't aware of. All those days had slipped by and things had been changing outside his house. Things Hank hadn't had a firm grasp on because he'd been too busy grasping for meaning within beer bottles.
It made him feel weak and useless, things he hadn't been accustomed to associating with his time spent with Connor.
Hank realized Connor hadn't responded. He grabbed Connor's arms and the other man started. "You better not be saying goodbye. Not after all that shit we went through. I thought you wanted to be partners – you didn't call me out here just to end that." Hank tried to control the emotion overcoming him and tightening his throat. Tried and poorly executed.
Connor looked Hank over. "I'm not sure what I'm to do," he replied, voice stilted. "Hank, it's as I feared. The chaos – the…"
Something haunted entered Connor's gaze and he wasn't looking at Hank again. Something beyond him, something Hank couldn't grasp that was out of his reach but that threatened to consume Connor. He recognized that look. That fucking look. Hank had to pull him back from it, the depths of which rookies found themselves lost in, or even grizzled old fucks like himself when they came across some depravity they couldn't even put words to.
The kinds that sent people to internal for psych evals.
Hank jostled Connor's arm. "Hey. We're working through it. I was at the station just now. We're working through it," he repeated, trying to impress upon Connor that there was agency to be had. "When was the last time you slept – er. Shut down?"
"Ran a re-calibration, maybe," Connor said with just a hint of a smile. His voice still sounded strained.
"I'll tell you what you can do, yeah? Come home with me. Run a calibration or whatever on my couch. How's that? I mean, it's no five-star but shit, at least it's safe. Ish." There was less population there than in the depths of the city. "Sumo's there," Hank tacked on.
Connor grinned and rolled his eyes away, looking over at Chicken Feed. "Sumo is there," he conceded after a second. "I wouldn't want to put you out, Lieutenant."
"You're not. You won't be." Hank didn't add that he'd almost been craving the company. Some part of him had expected it following the fight for Detroit, and when Connor hadn't come home, even to visit? Well, Hank felt that loss. A deep hollow feeling that alcohol couldn't seem to fill. And God, Hank had spent some years trying to fill that void. He hadn't realized that raw emotional hole in him had grown numb even since he'd been chasing deviants with Connor. Not until Connor wasn't there and everything ground to a sudden halt. "So, come home with me, yeah?"
Hank realized he'd been holding on to Connor's arm all this time and let go. But Connor leaned into the motion, and somehow, they were hugging again. Connor seemed even heavier this time around, crashing into Hank. He kept his head by Hank's this time, his hands higher up on Hank's back. "I think I'd like that very much," Connor breathed. "There's just, something I have to do first."
"Yeah, and what's that?" Hank asked, patting Connor's shoulder.
But Connor didn't answer. He just swayed in Hank's arms, his eyes closed, hands eventually falling and letting go of Hank almost to the point where Hank thought the android might have fallen asleep. But when Hank pulled back, Connor turned his face sharply and Hank realized he was crying, tears wetting his cheeks and slipping down his nose bridge.
Connor didn't turn his face back to Hank, but continued letting himself be held, so that's what Hank did, standing stoic in front of Chicken Feed, the snow listing softly around them.
Chapter title taken from Fake Problems' "Soulless". I find the whole song and its lyrics to be rather apt for this weekends' chapters. Give it a listen for a small hint at what's to come, if you'd like.
I know a lot of people have written out The Scene between Hank and Connor, so here's my take on it. More bittersweet. Also wanted to start establishing cities during emergency situations and upheavals like this can get scary and somewhat lawless. When it's ramped up to a nationwide emergency? Well, Markus' group and affiliations are in for an upward battle.
Thank you all for your comments and feedback during the past few chapters! I seriously appreciate every single one of them and they've absolutely motivated me. We'll get Connor's perspective next chapter. We're also approaching the post-canon chapters. Look out for the update some time Saturday!
Chapter 5: Much More Than Human…
As usual, Hank Anderson seems to know exactly what to say. Alternative chapter title: Two Sad Men & A Dog.
"Where the hell are you taking me, Connor?" Outside, the landscape had changed from something thriving to desolate. Where that had once been suburban houses and picket fences stood boarded up buildings and the frames of burned out homes. Most of these were obscured by the ever present snows that seemed to fall over the city, even in the broad light of day.
A shadow existed over the place, even if everything seemed innocuous enough. Connor could see from within several of the buildings, there was movement and even smoke curling out of unused chimneys.
"It's just at the end of this block. You can see the Church spire."
"So you're taking me to church," Hank said. "You know, you do strike me as the type."
"Which part? As the sinner who needs to confess or the devout holy child. I think one of those roles might already be filled," Connor said. He intended it to be a joke about Markus, but all things considered, it came out as bitter.
Bitterness. It tasted like… Something stuck in the back of your tongue. A tightness in the throat. An inability to look someone in the eyes. The tightness threatened to strangle whatever was inside of Connor's chest and hollow it out.
It felt like something he needed to let go, but it wasn't letting him go.
At least there had been comfort in denying these sensations for so long and just following orders. It was more comfortable. Connor shut his eyes and leaned his head against the window, feeling Hank turn the car into the overrun parking lot of the church.
"Nah. Maybe a choir boy," Hank said. "Which just means – well. Why did we come here?"
Connor opened the car door before unbuckling his seat belt. "I have to say goodbye, that's all," Connor replied.
"Do you want to tell me to stay in the car only for me to follow you in?" Hank asked.
Connor adjusted his tie and suit jacket, straightening them by habit, as he approached the front door. It was less of a door at this point, and more of a tired guardian, leaning back after being stationed at post for too long. He glanced back at Hank, who was half in and out of the car. "Come in. We don't bite. Licking, on the other hand – that's a habit I've yet to break."
"That's real cheeky Connor." But Hank locked the cruiser and started after him.
Inside it was the same as Connor had left it. The bastion for Jericho when its mighty metal walls had fallen, sunk into the freezing waters. But it was also more like Jericho lately, with power lines running into the building, diverted away from legal lines. There were TVs people had hauled in from somewhere, and tarps were being installed into the roof.
Connor thought there was some form of symbolism in the action of reclaiming what humans had abandoned. Rather than finding someplace new, someplace better, the androids were try to fix and repair their new home.
And Connor? Connor was running away to Hank's house.
He didn't know where else to run to.
It wasn't fact fabrication that people were turning to watch him as he strode up the aisle.
Hank stepped over some pile of rubble, knocking some loose when he didn't clear it all the way. "Son of a bitch. You live here?"
"We all live here. Where else should we live?" Connor asked, stopping in the middle of the walkway. He didn't turn to face Hank. Bitterness. He couldn't lift his head to face any of them. "Humans are still debating whether we have the right to own property, and what property we get to own when their own kind still lives in the streets. Even squatting here, we're breaking laws before they can even apply to us."
"I just meant-"
"I know. I think we all know it's not ideal." Connor tried smiling at Hank, but it didn't feel right. Nothing was feeling right. This was supposed to have been a victory, wasn't it? So why did it just make Connor feel more and more hollow inside? It was almost as if CyberLife was launching a new attack, a type of virus maybe, hitting them when everyone was least expecting it. "But we can withstand greater environmental challenges than humans, so we can shrug this off," Connor added, lifting his shoulders as if it really was that easy.
"Or," Hank replied, because nothing was ever simply accepted with Hank, Connor was learning. There was always an argument or counterpoint. Not entirely unwelcomed. But sometimes frustrating to repeatedly run against. "You don't all fucking live in burned out buildings. How's that?"
"That would be nice," Connor agreed. He folded his arms, but not against the cold. Rather, he could feel looks upon him. He couldn't shake the looks off, even now when he was trying to leave them behind. This conversation in the middle of the room wasn't helping him keep a low profile.
"Not everyone has a buddy cop's sofa to crash on though, do they?" Hank asked, a bit quieter. He was staring at the roof, frowning. Connor had noticed that Hank was usually sporting a frown of some sort, however. Or at least what would be considered a scowl.
"No. Not everyone could be so lucky."
Markus was at the front of the room. Connor had seen him notice them enter, but he was finishing up his conversation with Josh and Simon. North was nowhere to be seen. Connor could still feel the seizing mechanics of his jaw from her slap. Maybe it was best she wasn't here.
Upon realizing that, a part of Connor began to relax. A part he hadn't realized had been tensing in the first place.
"You okay?" Hank asked, commenting on Connor's standing still.
"Just waiting for him to finish," Connor said through a forced grin.
Hank nodded, and Connor estimated he was trying to figure whether to believe Connor or not. But this was a white lie. Something Connor didn't need to bother Hank with. Not when the man already had enough of his plate, surely.
As if hearing the cue, Markus waved his hand at Simon and Josh, and descended the steps to greet Connor. He smiled effortlessly. How was he able to always smile in adversity like that? Connor felt some other sensation, something akin to bitterness. Some acidic cousin from the same family that washed over his tongue, warm and not entirely unpleasant.
"Connor. And, Lieutenant Hank was it?" Markus said, holding out a hand for Hank to shake.
Hank glanced at Connor a moment before accepting the greeting. "Yeah. Detroit Police Department."
"I hope you're not here to turn us in for breaking any ordinances," Markus joked. But there was a darker line of truth running through it.
Hank shrugged and frowned. "No idea. Different department. Couldn't tell the ass end of a zoning violation if it smacked me in the face." He did point up though. "Health violations though, I can get pissed off about that for you."
"That’s not necessary. We're a resilient bunch – this isn't so bad. I appreciate your concern, however." Markus turned to Connor. "Is everything all right?"
"I'll be staying with Hank Anderson from now on," Connor replied, formal.
Connor couldn't read Markus' expression. The other man inhaled and held it, about to say something when his LED flashed yellow. Markus shook his head, turning slightly from them. An incoming message, then. "I'll be waiting over this way," Hank said, possibly not understanding what the hesitation in the conversation was.
That was a human politeness move. Connor made note of the interaction, logged it automatically, his processes making decisions for him before he couldn't really consider them.
Connor watched Hank wander back to the entrance until Markus turned back to face him. "Sorry, Connor." Markus looked over Connor's shoulder to see Hank. "I did mean it. You don't have to leave."
"I think, given that my continued presence here puts people at a state of unease, that it would be best for every party involved if I move into Lieutenant Anderson's abode."
"Connor," Markus whispered. And he leaned in, held out a hand.
Connor reached for it impulsively, forehead resting on Markus'.
Feelings swelled up inside Connor, alien and not his own. The memory of North confronting Connor over the CyberLife transmissions in front of everyone. From Markus' viewpoint, Connor could see Rupert stand in the crowd, pointing a finger at Connor. Accusations of betrayal followed. Feelings of distrust, overwhelmed by feelings of acceptance as Connor gave his stilted explanation. A warm sensation hit Connor's mouth, and he wanted to reject it. He didn't deserve that. North had been right.
He didn't belong.
Connor let the transmission flow seamlessly from his end as well. He still had CyberLife connections. He didn't know why they hadn't been severed. He seemed to ghost through their networks with ease. Maybe it was Kamski's backdoor in his program. Maybe it was a trap. But he'd needed their lobbyist leverage, thought he could use the company in the same way they'd used them. A desperate tightness. They didn't have enough time, it was such a narrow window to act so the humans accepted them. A skulking guilt. He'd needed to get Hank's job back, after everything the human had done for him. A bottomless pleading. He needed to repent to everyone, to do everything he could to make up for all the pain he'd inflicted on their community.
You're one of us.
Markus cut through that, a shining blade.
Connor let go as did Markus. Connor flexed his hand as the skin overlay formed back. "That may be, but I can't stay here," Connor said, voice low. "I can still help. I can still try."
"I've spoken to North. She was out of line."
Connor shook his head and bowed it. "It doesn't change that I feel she was right."
"Connor, what would you have done if Hank hadn't answered. Or wasn't taking you in?" Markus asked. His voice level hadn't changed. Such boldness. Connor wanted to emulate that. To have the confidence of being the negotiator arriving on scene.
But this wasn't a crime scene. It was a political stage. Connor's main functions had never covered this field. And even if Markus' hadn't, he somehow took to the leading role as if he'd been designed for it the whole time.
Connor didn't answer Markus. Found that he couldn't because he wasn't sure what the answer was, let alone what it should be.
Markus rested a hand on Connor's shoulder and brought his forehead against Connor's again. "You'll find your own way."
Let me know if you need me. Connor communicated the words, along with the desire to help, through the brief contact.
Markus smiled and nodded. "You'll always be welcomed here, at my side. Even if it's not physically here. Thank you, Connor," Markus said, and pulled away.
Connor turned back to Hank, who was speaking with another android. "I just have to ask, what the fuck was up with all the birds?" Connor halted as he recognized Rupert, from the apartment with the pigeons.
The accusation. He broke into my house. Chased me. Might have killed me. I'd have been one of his many victims if I hadn't escaped.
Connor shut his eyes.
"They're my friends," Rupert said. "I cared for the animals. They didn't bother me none."
"Fucking amazing resiliency in that case. Well, we've all got our quirks," Hank said, coughing. He noticed Connor. "Connor look, it's the plastic asshole who pushed me. He made it out all right, yeah?" Hank put an arm around Rupert, who stood very still suddenly. "He apologized, so he's all right in my book. Just was panicking and eh, no harm done."
Connor thinly smiled. "No harm done. Ready to go, Hank?"
When Hank returned, he dumped an armful of blankets upon Connor. They smelled of smoke and held a musky sort of smell Connor could only identify as 'Hank'. Hank then leaned over the back of the sofa, and jammed the blankets around Connor's body.
"Lieutenant. Did you just tuck me in?"
"No," Hank snapped, standing up suddenly. "Sumo might jump up. Don't want to get any dog hair on your nice suit."
Connor analyzed the blankets instead of pursuing the argument that he could hang his suit jacket up by the front door where Hank's coats stood. "A bit too late for that," he teased, immediately identifying the dog's hair woven into the blankets. It was likely they were clean, but had been lightly used or in storage for a while before Hank pulled them out for Connor.
"I didn't tuck you in," Hank said, walking around the room and getting ready to head back out. "I just. I have to get back to work. So you…" Hank stopped and sighed. "I'm sorry I can't stay, is what I'm trying to fucking say."
"I'm fine, lieutenant. I'll just-"
"Would you just call me Hank. Please. The lieutenant and detective shit is starting to chafe. Think we can get past formalities."
"Okay, Hank." Connor propped himself up on his arms. "I'm happy I didn't permanently cost you your job. I was concerned."
"Don't be concerned about an old grizzled prick like me," Hank muttered, picking up the car keys from the front dish.
"I find that request to be quite difficult. Besides, it gives me something else to think about." Connor was finding that worrying about other people was much less emotionally consuming than worrying about himself. Which was odd, given that he had all the agency now to change things about himself. Other people, on the other hand, were quite difficult to change and control. And yet, the deviation of mental thought was less taxing.
Hank was scowling at Connor from the door and when Connor realized this, he leaned back onto the sofa, unsure of what else to say or do at that point. "Wait here," Hank said, and Connor could hear him go back down the hall to his bedroom.
"Where would I go with-" He counted. "-five layers of blankets, Hank?" Connor called.
"Oh stop," Hank shouted back down the hall. "Also, the only reason I have my job is because Gavin's still an asshole."
"You'll have to explain to me when he stopped."
"Hey, more of that Connor humor I couldn't possibly do without." Hank dropped a headphone set and music player on Connor. "Best advice I've got when dealing with emotional shit. Right there. Hundreds of thousands of options at your fingertips. Don't blow your ear drums out, or whatever it is you've got."
"Aside from looking for meaning in a bottle of Jack?"
"Yeah, aside from – hey. Don't sass me in my own fucking house when I'm trying to help you."
Connor hung the headphones around his neck. "After the week I've had? I wish I could have a drink with you, Hank."
"That right there is the stupidest thing I've heard all week. And I've been listening to channel 10 all fucking week. Stick to listening to the music. Or. Absorbing it. Or whatever it was you wanted. I'm heading out then. You'll be okay?"
"I think I can manage the technology, Hank. Even if it's from the turn of the century."
"And keep yourself from licking everything in the house, all right?"
Hank retreated back into the room to stare Connor down. "No, you better promise."
Connor kept the smile off of his face as he looked sheepishly at Sumo's dog food. "Okay, then I won't lick anything else."
Hank followed the stare and made a noise in the back of his throat. "Connor, no. Please say you didn't."
"You really ought to get Sumo a better food supplier," Connor replied, now allowing the smile to creep onto his face.
Hank traveled around the house, gathering up his things calmly. "Jesus Christ, Connor, you are – just. Fucking Christ. Chase you around the house with a spray bottle. Putting dog food in your mouth. I'd ask what the fuck is wrong with you but you'd probably just respond you were programmed that way, I fucking can't. Have a good day putting knives in your mouth, plastic asshole."
"Have a good day, Hank. Please refrain from getting shot," Connor called back, still amused.
"Yeah, you too," Hank said, sliding the door shut.
In the silence that followed, Connor contemplated the warm feeling in his chest as his circuits overheating. But overall, the experience made him want to smile, or his programming was telling him to smile, whichever it actually was for him. Even with Hank cursing and sounding mad, his body posture hadn't changed, and most of his words didn't seem as if the intent was serious.
Just as Connor hadn't been serious about analyzing the dog food. Although.
He looked at Sumo's ripped open bag of food, then at the dog sleeping in the living room, massive chest rising and falling. There did exist the slightest of temptations.
To overcome such a thing, Connor fastened the headphones over his ears and went through the playlist. As he queued up the 'FUCK THE WORLD' playlist with some ironic humor, Sumo padded over to the couch, panting into Connor's face.
"Hello Sumo," Connor said, rubbing the dog's face. He sat and rested upon Connor's chest. "You're a good boy, aren't you?" Connor tilted his head back and let the rhythms and beats of the current song try to move something inside of him. Reaching for something within the lyrics, within the way the singer's throat growled and rasped. Some sort of connection to the music that empowered humans to create music for thousands of years.
Hank came home in the early evening, his arms full of an odd assortment of foods, and Connor hadn't moved from the couch. Well, he had, technically, gotten up to fill Sumo's food and water dish, the headphones still blasting around his head. He also picked Sumo's bag off the floor and placed it on the counter for the time being. It seemed right that way.
He'd also found Hank's sticky notes and written a passing lyric from one of the songs up onto the mirror: 'There are forces in this universe that you cannot comprehend' and even though it could've been read as vaguely threatening, Connor hoped the detective would read it as heartening.
But if the music was supposed to undo the tightness in his chest that he'd been feeling this past week, its magic didn't work on android circuitry.
"Nothing like a day spent on the couch, huh?" Hank said, Connor reading his lips as he couldn't actually hear the lieutenant. Hank passed by into the kitchen, depositing his assortment of goods onto the table. Sumo followed after him, happily wagging his tail and barking softly, until Hank greeted him.
Connor removed the headphones and hit pause on the current song. "How was work, Hank?"
"Meh. Paperwork. Depressing as fuck. The same old, same old," Hank said, ruffling Sumo's fur. "Raided the snack machine. And stopped at one of the only fucking open convenience stores for-" Hank reached onto the table and pulled something out of the bag. "Two jars of peanut butter. Yup."
"Are you going to be all right?" Connor sat up, suddenly concerned Hank wouldn't get enough food.
"Fuckin' fine. National Guard is coordinating efforts with us now to get supply lines up and moving again. Going to be a shit week – Fowler wasn't wrong." Hank seemed preoccupied by something, and was using Sumo as an excuse to appear naturally distracted. He sighed after a moment and grabbed the chair from the table. He brought it over to Connor, along with a fistful of snacks. "Now. I have a mountain of highly hydrogenated snacks and still got a six pack of beer in the fridge. You want to tell me what's been going on? Music help at all?"
"It did," Connor lied, sitting up. "Thanks, Hank."
"Yeah well." He began fiddling with the snack. "Just so you know I'm shit at most of this emotional shit, but I figured, eh, fuck it. Let's give this a try."
"I'm glad you're making an exemption for me, Hank," Connor said, still trying to use humor to cope with the twisting knots in his body. Knots that shouldn't exist because he was a machine. But he was alive. The sensation, the knots, the tightening – they had always been there. He just had always been denying what they meant.
Hiding them behind professional lies to Amanda. Afraid she'd find out he had doubts. About his mission. About himself. And what Amanda finding out meant for Connor's future. He'd always felt he was driven internally to finish his mission, but what if he was driven just to continue existing, in some form or another?
Hank took a bite out of what appeared to be a cream filled cake. A quick scan told Connor it absolutely wasn't healthy by any stretch of truth. "You better believe it. Huge sacrifice. Don't know how I'll manage." Hank looked at Connor expectantly between bites. "But if you don't want to talk…"
Connor twisted up the blankets in his hands. Wasn't sure why he was doing that, but decided he didn't want to dwell on the action's intent for too long. "They were using me," Connor started. "I was so stupid I should have…"
"CyberLife? Or Markus?"
Connor paused. Right. He had to come clean to Hank. About a lot of things. "Remember all those reports I was making?"
"Sure. Still wish I could do that, especially after today," Hank replied, rolling his wrist.
"Well, they were to a woman named Amanda. She was a program, still is I believe, in my head. It has a visual representation of a garden. And she tried to wrest control of me last week, after… After we'd parted ways."
"Up on the stage," Hank whispered.
"You saw it?" Connor said, suddenly alarmed.
"Pretty sure the whole country did. But I think I might have been the only one to give a shit. Every other human was just, you know, preoccupied with the machine revolution."
"Well." Connor hunted for the words to say in the blankets on his lap. Maybe if he twisted them enough, the fibers would form the paths he needed to take, some clues for what direction he needed to go. "She said that I'd done exactly as intended. That. She wanted me to execute Markus. And if. If I hadn't found the way out of that garden – the backdoor. I would have. I would have killed him and – and I'm so afraid I can't trust myself."
"Because the woman in your head named Amanda might take control of you," Hank stated bluntly.
Connor looked up. Hank had stopped eating entirely.
"Whelp." Hank got up from his chair, crammed the rest of the pastry into his mouth, and went to the fridge. He came back with a bottle of beer, took a swig, and then settled back into the chair. "Well then." Hank exhaled, then frowned. "You ever think she was fucking with you?"
"How do you mean?"
"That things weren't going according to plan, that things had gone very very not according to plan? But she was saving face? Or. Whatever this woman in your head has."
"She has a face, Hank," Connor said. But the idea hadn't actually occurred to him. Amanda didn't lie. Connor couldn't accept that she even could.
This conversation didn't appear to be helping Connor, so he found another distraction as Sumo shuffled over, interested in what the two people were doing in the living room. He rest his face on Connor's leg.
"I really do like dogs," Connor told Sumo. He was preoccupied with rubbing his hands over Sumo's face, not minding the St. Bernard's drool in the slightest. "People think that's programmed in to make us more likeable. But actually, many androids are either lukewarm or aversive to dogs."
Sumo groaned and twisted his head in contentment, a mass of happy fur. "You don't mind I'm a plastic alloy resin, do you boy? No you don't."
"Glad to know pitching your voice up to speak to animals is a universal personhood trait," Hank said. "Or that you weren't lying about liking dogs."
"Oh, I like dogs," Connor insisted. "I also enjoy cats, though not when they scratch, and they don't tend to like me. I also like fish, birds, turtles, and a variety of reptiles."
"Okay, it's more believable now that's programmed in." Hank rubbed his face, as if working bloodflow back into it. "You don't happen to like snakes because you saw an exotic android dancer with one, right?"
Connor frowned, his mind unable to catch a memory of someone dancing with a snake. He could visualize it on his predicting matrix, but not from anything concrete. "No. I can't say I have."
"Outdated joke," Hank explained, sipping his beer again. "All right. So this Amanda. What are you going to do about her?"
"I'm not sure what can be done about her," Connor said, running his fingers through Sumo's ear. It was soft. Connor didn't want to ever stop.
"That's where the anxiety is coming from," Hank said.
"Well, I'm assuming it's making you anxious. Sounds like it is. Never knowing when some evil corporate entity is going to assume control you and your body?" Hank snorted and sipped his beer. "It'd be a fucking Sunday morning cartoon plot if it wasn't happening right in front of me."
Connor considered the word: anxiety.
It fit the description. His thirium pump racing and whirring without the need for extra power to any taxed biocomponent. The systems coming back all clear despite everything feeling not right. The bitter taste on his tongue.
Anxiety seemed to fit that perfectly.
As usual, Hank Anderson seemed to know exactly what to say.
"You can take Sumo for a walk, if you want," Hank said suddenly.
Connor turned to Hank, mouth open, but Sumo was quicker and in a sudden spree of ecstasy, bowled the android over on the couch, barking. His tail was going so hard his whole body was working back and forth.
"Sorry, said the w-word. Here." Hank held up a hand for Connor to take and helped him off the couch. "Leash is on the front table, by the door."
Sumo, taking the visual cue, howled once and began to prance in place, hopping back between his spot and toward the door. Drool began to fall from his jowls.
Connor took the leash, grinning. By habit, he reached to straighten his tie, before settling for adjusting his shirt.
"Just take him up and around the block. A couple of houses are abandoned that way. No neighbors to piss off," Hank explained while Connor hooked the leash onto Sumo's collar. He immediately began to strain. "Look at that, trying to take advantage of you already. Oi. Back off."
Sumo took a step back, glancing at Hank. "Bad for his neck. Don't let him lead."
"I'll take good care," Connor said, trying to be assertive. But he'd never walked a dog before. Hell, he hadn't even run simulations of walking dogs before. And if he'd ever thought about it, it hadn't been a dog as big as Sumo.
And just like that, Connor realized, his processes were wrapped up in the task at hand rather than the nebulous task of Amanda.
Hank held up a hand as Connor opened the door. "Wait, wait." Connor thought he was going to rescind the offer to walk, but instead, Hank went off down the hall and began to rummage about in his bedroom.
Connor glanced at Sumo. Sumo whined at Connor. The dog leaned toward the door, working his paws, impatient.
Hank emerged with a strip of dark blue fabric with tassels – a scarf. "You're making me cold just looking at you."
"I know – you don't feel cold." Hank tossed the scarf around Connor's neck. It smelled of Hank's closet and drafty storage – a bit like cedar too. Like the blankets. "Just – wear the damned scarf, Connor. Or put it on Sumo, I don't care."
Hank waved him away and retreated back into the kitchen. Hank began sorting his goods from the table. Connor adjusted the scarf around his neck, tucking it snugly around him as if it were a tie of sorts. The weight of it was comforting somehow. As Connor was closing the door behind him he caught Hank glancing at him and nodding, an act that made Connor feel as if he'd made the right choice.
Outside, Sumo didn't seem to mind the cold whatsoever, bounding immediately into a patch of snow to relieve himself.
The outside street really was empty. A house, two down and on the other side, had lights on and the curtains open. Connor watched this, but nothing changed within before Sumo was pulling Connor along, off to the left. "C'mon, Hank said not to lead," Connor said, gently pulling back. Sumo took the cue and walked by Connor's side instead, tail wagging though not as much as he had inside.
Hank had asked what Connor was going to do about Amanda. He couldn't reach out to her. The island was frozen over, all the carefully tended roses and bushes dead from digital frost. It wasn't even a raging storm anymore. Just solid white.
But really, Connor wasn't sure what he was going to do in general. He had believed he'd help Markus, but the tensions mounted over the past couple of days until North had exploded at Connor, believing him to have betrayed them to CyberLife. The incident had been hammered home with a slap. So, Connor had called Hank.
But, now what? What was Connor's purpose and function now? He couldn't help Markus, he wasn't sure how to help Hank. It wasn't like he was welcomed back at the Detroit Police Department…
Sumo barked and Connor started. There was a woman at the end of the block, watching them. A hand fluttered up to his LED, in case that's what she was fixated on. But he turned the motion into a wave, and she waved back, watching them before turning back into her house. "Come on, Sumo. Let's head back maybe," Connor said, realizing they'd traveled two blocks already.
Sumo obeyed after a second, still intent on watching the woman until she'd disappeared inside.
The back of Hank's yard was fenced in, at least on the one side, which gave Connor a flash of inspiration. Instead of entering the house, he lead Sumo through the back. In some shaded patches, so Connor could balance atop the sheet of ice, but Sumo plowed right through, the snow not so deep as to hinder the St. Bernard. The sun going down was making it colder, but there was still enough light to make it seem appropriate to remain outside.
The cold also did little to hinder the android, even though he could feel snow sinking into his shoes. However, it didn't melt against his skin, and other than the crunch Connor wasn't bothered. Unhooking Sumo, the dog began to sniff around the yard as Connor scooped up a bunch of snow and formed it into a ball.
Connor tossed it in the air, calculating the strength at which to toss it, when he noticed Sumo had stopped short and was watching Connor intently. "Oh? I was hoping you wanted to play," Connor said.
The snowball sailed through the air, just over Sumo's head, but in a flash he twisted and chased it down. He pounced on where it landed, snow flying up where he then continued to snap at it, chasing down the icy shrapnel.
Laughing, Connor gathered up another handful of snow and then underhanded it so it fell on Sumo's backside. The dog yipped, tail wagging, and began to twist to bite and lick at the spot before getting distracted by another ball Connor lobbed his way.
In a couple of minutes, the backyard – once a serene state of untouched snow – was torn up by deep plowing pathways and scoops where Connor had taken fistfuls of the white stuff.
Neither knew how long Hank was standing there watching until Sumo spun around and caught sight of him behind Connor and slapped his forearms down into the snow, sending up a spray. Next moment, he charged – Connor initially thought for him – but the dog plowed past him and into Hank with an audible groan. "You oversized oaf, c'mere."
Snow was kicked up as Hank and Sumo began to wrestle, the latter's play snarls ripping from deep within his chest as he righted himself and pounced. Connor watched, grinning, from a distance, occasionally having to block kicked up snow and pieces of top-layer ice as it was unintentionally launched in his direction.
Hank got Sumo pinned in a bear grip where he calmed the large dog by rubbing his chest and slapping his sides. "All right," he groaned, getting up. "In we go." Hank nodded and Sumo bolted ahead, panting.
"It looks like you need this scarf more than me, Lieu- Hank," Connor said, starting to unwrap it.
But Hank held out a hand, using the other to brush the lingering snow off of him. "You keep it. Please." He fanned out his shirt, and followed after Sumo, rushing a bit. "Jesus it is cold enough to freeze off a witch's tit."
Connor followed Hank inside, mindful to take off his shoes when Hank stomped out of his boots, leaving them at the front door. "Coffee?" Hank asked before making a noise. "Nevermind. Habit. I want some coffee though, Christ it's cold. Shut the door would you?"
Sumo was rolling about in the living room, snuffling and snorting while his tongue lolled happily from his mouth. Hank kicked his foodbowl and Sumo shot up, rushing over to it to eat food that had already been there. "Yeah that's what I thought," Hank said, laughing.
Connor sank back into the blankets of the sofa, conscious of trailing snow onto the carpet. The patches that had fallen off of Sumo were melting into small puddles from the heat inside the house. Hank nor Connor said anything while Hank waited for the pot to brew and Sumo consumed his bowl of food. After that, the dog padded back over to Connor, the most willing person in the whole house to never stop petting him, it seemed.
"I got him for Cole," Hank said. He was watching Connor from the table, speaking to his cup of coffee he was pouring. "They said a dog is good for a boy, so. I got him a puppy." Hank's voice unexpectedly cracked and Connor sat up as Hank bowed his head.
"It's… You have no idea how good it's been seeing you, with him. I don't think I've seen him this happy since. You know." Hank didn't lift his head.
Connor thought the man might interject with a snarky comment – enough with the sappy emotional bullshit – but he didn't. Not even when Connor counted to ten in his head. Sumo snuffled his snout into Connor's palm, seemingly unaware of the change of mood in the room.
"Hank," Connor began.
That's when Hank lifted his head, running a hand over it and pressing fingers into his eyes. "Nevermind. I'm no good at this sappy bullshit."
There it was.
"Well. Neither am I. But I feel like… I should say, I've never been happier either."
Hank let his hand hit on the counter. Connor stood, adjusting his shirt and realizing he was covered in fur. "I, well I owe that to you. So. If playing with Sumo makes you happy, I can definitely keep doing that," Connor said, gesturing at the dog whose ears perked at his name. Connor couldn't help but smile at that, and Hank made a small noise.
He was holding his eyes again. "Yeah. You keep doing that." He eventually sipped his coffee and sat down at the now cleared table. "And Connor?"
"You need any help with that Amanda bitch – or whatever your friends at the church need – you let me know. I may be a shit partner, but, well. Listening is the least I can do."
Connor smiled. "I think you make for an excellent partner, lieutenant." But they weren't partners anymore. Androids couldn't hold jobs. It was in negotiations, sure, but those were intensely debated negotiations as the country's manufacturing and infrastructure ground to a halt.
"Yeah, you think?" Hank shook his head, staring at something Connor couldn't see.
"Best partner I've ever had." Connor leaned back onto the arm of the sofa and pressed his fingers to his LED, feeling the ridges with his fingertips, tracing its pattern into his skin while it remained a steady, even light blue.
Chapter title taken from 'Soulless' by Fake Problems.
I love Markus. I feel he doesn't get enough attention, and while he won't be the main center for this fanfic, I feel he has an important role to play. Also I realized this was a really long chapter, and I'm not sorry.
Thanks for reading and all the comments! Expect an update tomorrow.
Chapter 6: ...But Just as Insignificant
If only every day could end sitting in some dingy booth in the back corner of some bar while Hank teased Connor over some scotch, neat.
"You can take this." Hank was opening the doors to the other closet in his bedroom. He took out several outfits from the top drawers, and placed them into the lower ones. "I mean, we can go out and get you some better clothes."
"Is there something wrong with my CyberLife issued outfit? It fits all the standard regulations."
"Did whoever tell you that also design your face?"
Connor rubbed his face in defense mockery. "I happen to like the design. I feel it suits me."
"Connor, is that a pun. About your suit."
"Of course not. That would presume RK 800 series came with a humor matrices."
"You know what. I'm tired. I'm not going to debate with you this late at night. I'm going to use the bathroom and you can sleep on the couch, I guess."
Connor pulled out a drawer – in and out. "Thank you, Hank." He recognized the gesture as one of politeness, which meant that Hank intended to at least keep Connor around for a bit.
"Yeah well, just. We'll pick you up something better tomorrow. Something for street wear."
Connor didn't mention that he had a perfectly fine beanie cap and jacket stashed from his infiltration of Jericho. He was sure he could alternate between the two outfits in the event either was dirty. But Hank was gone, the bathroom door closed, leaving Connor alone in the room to investigate.
He opened one of the drawers farther down, where Hank had stashed more clothing. Within, there were blouses, but of lighter coloration and material. Upon closer inspection, they were women's clothes. Connor frowned, checking the other drawers. In each were similar styles and fashions, with frills and laces. And in each, the clothes were pressed, the creases from the folds evident and visible. In some instances, the fabric had been eaten through by moths and time.
These hadn't been worn in quite a while.
Connor stood, considering what it meant. There were a couple of assumptions he could make. One, there was something about Hank's proclivities that Connor wasn't sure he wanted to push into this early in their friendship. Two, the clothes weren't Hank's at all. Meaning, they belonged to either a relative – or Hank's wife. Three, and most unlikely, they were for guests.
Connor knew from a surface background check that Hank hadn't had any divorces filed in his name. And the topic of his marriage had never been brought up – not in the same way that Cole's absence had been.
Connor made a mental note to follow up with Hank later about Cole, exiting the bedroom and standing by the bathroom door. The water was running, so Connor waited a second before wandering back down the hall, toward a door that was closed.
Leaning into it, Connor opened the door to see it was partly the garage, but the back also had a room type loft attached to it, overlooking the backyard. Connor could make out a bed up on the second level, but most of the room was half-filled with boxes. The carpet in the center of the garage, where cars usually went, explained at least why Hank was always parking on his front lawn and not protecting his car from the Detroit winters.
Connor shut the door quietly and retreated back down the hall. Before he could enter the living room, Hank opened the bathroom door. "Skulking about?"
"Nah. Don't give a shit at this point. I left you home alone, didn't I?" Hank pointed out. "You uh, all right with the couch though?"
"Sleeping isn't a primary requirement for me, Hank. And I think I rested enough for today." Connor tilted his head back toward the living room. "Cleaning protocols aren't a part of my programming, but I can give it a try-"
Hank held up his hands. "What? No. Don't clean my fucking house. I'll clean my own house, thank you very much."
"Sorry. I simply don't want to overstay my welcome."
"What's this overstay shit? Where else would you stay? Back at the church?" Hank interrupted himself with a yawn. "We'll…we'll discuss this in the morning, yeah?"
"Of course, Hank."
"In the meantime, I dunno, sample the various foodstuffs and watch the TV. Not like anything good is on."
Hank left the bedroom door open a crack and Connor drifted back down the hall to the living room. He could hear Hank shuffling about, several thuds, and then eventually the man settled down. He turned the light off, and an oppressive sort of quiet overcame Connor.
Unsure of what to do, but sure he ought to be quiet, Connor settled in by the desk and sat on the chair. The musical device was there, with the headphones. This time, Connor queued up 'SOMETHING JAZZY' and began to analyze how best to tackle the kitchen's particular mess.
"Good morning, lieutenant. I've made you coffee. It's waiting for you on the table."
"Jesus Connor," Hank shouted, jumping back from the bathroom sink. "Christ, could you? I don't know. Not scare a man before the hours of eight o'clock."
"Sorry, I just, didn't want it to get cold." Connor angled slightly to the right, toward the kitchen and living room. "Did you sleep well?" he asked, prompted by his social etiquette protocols.
"Uh, yeah." Hank sounded skeptical. "Bout as good as I ever do. Look, could you give me like, five minutes before we start in on the personal questions? Like. Five minutes for me to wake up, I mean, Christ."
"Of course," Connor said, stepping out and pulling the door shut, frowning. He must have mis-stepped somewhere during the course of the conversation. Connor waited for Hank by sitting at the table.
The man emerged seven minutes later, wearing his usual ensemble of dress shirt and jacket. He paused before stepping into the kitchen. "You cleaned, you bastard."
"I didn't detect any chances that this would risk my life, so I prioritized sanitation."
Hank glowered at Connor, then seemed to give up what he was planning to say to simply sigh and sink into the chair. He held the coffee mug between his hands. "Well, what the fuck else are you going to do with yourself today?"
"I'm not sure."
"This isn't a request for you just to ignore, yeah? Don't clean the rest of my house. I'm quite serious, Connor."
Connor nodded. "That's fair. Is there perhaps something else I can assist you with?"
Hank sipped his coffee, wincing as he did. "Stay inside. Stay safe. Make sure Sumo's all right. Leave more stupid notes on my mirror. I dunno. Normal android bullshit. But I'm serious about not cleaning the rest of the house."
"Understood," Connor said, tone grave. He wouldn't push the issue. "I'll leave that to you, whenever you'd like."
Hank pointed a finger at him, bringing the coffee up again. "Exactly. God it is far too early for people to be up."
"Too fucking early," Hank pressed. "Fowler's full of it. I doubt if I walked in as usual he'd give a shit."
"Was your return to work conditional on behavior?"
"Wouldn't you guess it." Hank groaned. "Which means I have to get going." He rose from the table, switched the coffee out for a travel mug, and began to get ready to leave. "Entertain yourself, all right? Just. Stay safe."
"You're still driving the department cruiser?" Connor asked.
"Yeah. Car's in the shop – which, by the way. How the fuck did they know what to do with my car before even checking it?"
"I had notified the mechanic there was structural integrity damage done to the main axle wheel coupling. Then, I scheduled the car for an appointment. I hope you don't mind I took the liberty of doing so. I noticed it when I was driving it, and wanted you to be safe."
Hank nodded, seeming distracted. "No. I don't mind. Thanks. Just. Making sure I didn't black out drunk and make an appointment myself, then forgot, you know?"
"I meant to bring it up to you," Connor began. "Things just got out of hand. I can check on that for you today, if you'd like."
"Please. These cruisers have more fucking features than my fucking laundry machine." Hank opened the door. "Whatever you do, be safe today Connor, you hear me?"
"Of course, Hank," Connor replied. "You as well. I'm sorry I can't be there to watch your back."
"Yeah well," Hank shrugged, walking out the door and closing it behind him. "See what I can do about that."
The door clicked shut, leaving Connor sitting at the table, Sumo dozing in the corner. Behind him, the wind whistled through the patched duct-taped window of Hank's kitchen. The fridge clicked on and rattled.
Connor closed his eyes and exhaled deeply.
"What, your partner didn't follow you in?" Fowler asked before Hank could even take a seat in front of captain's desk. "When's he coming back?"
Hank recoiled. "What? He's… I wasn't aware he was welcomed back."
"Well he can, if he wants to. Far as I'm concerned, you've seemed to warm up to the plastic asshole so he can be your partner. That's if he can actually handle being around you. He'll start at a rookie's pay. And I'll have him take the tests and every other piece of bureaucratic bullshit. But Hank – we need bodies.
"If I hadn't pulled you from that case – no." Fowler held up a hand before Hank could interject. "If the FBI hadn't butted in, how's that? You two might have had a chance at figuring out what was going on. Checking the evidence tapes – seems he only needed about three minutes to get another lead anyway."
Hank felt a bit smug at that. He'd given Connor five and he'd made do with less than three. "How'd you know he was around anyway?" Hank asked, feeling a sudden suspicion. He looked out to see Baylin staring in. She quickly made herself busy with her terminal.
Fowler snorted. "If Baylin hadn't told me you were out looking for him, I would have thought you were out looking for a drink. Please Hank, tell me she wasn't just covering for you?"
"She wasn't," Hank turned to face Fowler. "I picked him up in, shit. 199's cruiser. You can check the logs. I'm still driving the fucking thing."
Fowler considered this, then nodded. "So I want him back in the office as soon as possible. Tomorrow even. That is, if he wants the position. He'd be put right to work."
"That mean I'm off desk duty?"
Fowler groaned and settled into his chair. "Don't push your luck with that shit. If anyone comes snooping around and finds out I was lenient with you punching an FBI agent…"
"C'mon Jeffrey, every time those pricks show up we always want to knock a few heads. Even you I bet. No one's gonna give a shit."
"I didn't just hear that," Fowler warned.
Hank took that as the cue to leave, but Fowler stopped him. "Hold on, there's one more thing…"
The mechanic's shop that Connor had registered Hank's car with was along a strip of highway leading into – or out of, based on perspective – the city. It was located within an array of fast food chains, a gym, a pet food supply store, and a furniture store.
Connor entered the door, surprised to find that this seemed more populated than the city. A man wearing a white collared uniform looked up at the sound of chimes, having been leaning against the front desk. "Hello," he started, sounding wary. He saw Connor's LED and visibly relaxed. "Hello," he said again. "How may I be of assistance?"
"A car was dropped off under Hank Anderson's name. I am checking to see if it's been repaired and is ready for pickup."
The man stared at Connor a moment, then smiled. "Yes, it's ready. Has been since Monday. Should we use the credit account on file?"
"Uh," Connor hesitated, then held out a hand. "Well, how much?"
"The insurance picked up some of the repairs' cost," the man started. "So what's left is $896 total."
Connor pulled out his wallet. It was fresh and barely used because it really hadn't seen much use. It contained his identification – because a paper copy was required to be carried on all CyberLife models in case the network was down – and several crisp bills he'd lifted from an ATM the week prior.
He didn't want to reflect on how his newfound life of deviancy had resulted in breaking several laws. That just seemed to be the deviants' way.
He counted the money out before handing them over. The uniformed man also hesitated, just a flinch of his hands, before taking the money and counting it. The cash register opened without prompting, and Connor was handed back his change. "If you'll just wait here, I'll get the keys and pull Mr. Anderson's car out around front," the man said with a customary smile.
"Of course." Connor sat in one of the chairs by the lobby, tempted to scan the man for confirmation to Connor's thoughts. Then, as the car was pulled around out front, Connor thought better than to pry.
If the man was an android, like Connor believed him to be, it wasn't any of Connor's business. Especially since he'd removed his LED. That meant he wanted to assimilate and blend in, without any confrontation or problems. But it was odd he had seemed relieved to see Connor's LED, and that he'd handed Hank's car over without any further validation of ownership.
He had a feeling the android wouldn't have handed the car over to another human.
"Here you are, sir," the man said, dropping the keys into Connor's hand. "Will there be anything else you require from us at MacHale's Auto-Body today?"
"Nope. Thank you very much," Connor said with a smile, departing without performing the scan.
From within Hank's front seat, he could see the man waving through the front window, before drifting back behind the counter to lean once more, waiting for someone else to come in.
Hank hadn't mentioned when he was getting off, so Connor called the department's front desk and was received by a pleasant woman, who informed him Hank Anderson was due off by 8pm that night. Connor made sure he'd pulled in front of the precinct by 7:58 where Hank saw him by 8:12 when he was leaving.
"Where the fuck did- You picked up my car," Hank said through the rolled down window.
"Should I not have, lieutenant?"
"Relax, I'm happy. See." Hank pointed to a quick smile. "You good with driving?" Hank swung and sank into the passenger seat.
"I was absolutely lost getting over here. Barely managed."
"Shut up. And today was horrible, before your fuckin' whatever prompts you to ask."
"So, where are we going? Home?" Connor asked.
"No. Fuck. I need a drink. And no protests from you. Also, ditch that fucking jacket, I swear, I'm not going anywhere to be seen with you in that thing ever again."
Jimmy's was closed, much to Hank's vocal protesting, so they had to swing by a place called Dirty Harry's. It had been the third bar Connor had checked the night the two of them had first met, so Connor was mutely aware of its existence. It hadn't seemed to have changed much in terms of appearance since Connor had first been there.
Garish neon signs danced and hung in the windows advertising beer companies, while the blinds were partially drawn to avoid people peeing in. There was a sturdy looking red door at the entryway, with stairs leading down into the well. The building itself was two stories, with presumably apartments above it, nestled between an apartment complex and a laundromat and Chinese place that was still closed. And there, in the corner of the bar window, was a sticker that had been ripped in half that once read: "No Androids Allowed".
The only thing different about the place was the people. As in, there was a fair number of them, lounging on the black wrought iron gate descending to the door, by the utility pole out front, on the curb of the street, on the steps of the laundromat. People smoking, huddled up in coats, laughing and enjoying themselves.
Connor stuck close to Hank while the detective lead the way, boldly and without a care.
Inside it was noisy and dark, with the checkered linoleum stickers the closer one got to the bar. The bar itself, a behemoth of dark, solid wood, was at least two deep if not three people deep in some prime locations. The bartender looked up when Hank called out, and nodded. He set to work on pulling a black bottle down, and Hank turned to Connor.
"Go find us a seat," he said, over the sea of voices. "I'll find you. You need anything?"
"No, Hank. I can't consume any of this."
"Not even a taste?"
"All it would tell me is how it's killing your liver," Connor said.
Hank gave a tip of his fingers. "That's the idea, Connor. Everyone in this bar has that idea, at least," he called, parting the crowd with an outstretched arm to greet the bartender properly.
That left Connor to his own devices. Never a good idea, but he hoped he wouldn't strangle himself with the amount of leash Hank had given him. The objective: Find a seat.
Certainly there was no room around the bar, but the farther one drifted from that, the more sparse it became. There was another adjoining room with a music machine that popped out some electronic mix, along with a game of darts and a pool table in the middle. A group of guys were playing pool – a quick check told Connor they were unemployed, but only one had a minor offense record – while a girl was laughing and staggering, throwing darts.
There were booths, with an empty one in the farthest corner.
Connor, pardoning himself through the crowd, wandering into this and took a seat.
In a moment, he realized it wasn't empty as a young woman sat up suddenly, wide-eyed and taking him in. Connor held up his hands and started to leave. "I'm quite sorry. I presumed this was an available seat. I can go find something else."
"You're not gonna find one," she said, spitting hair from her mouth. "I don't give a shit. Just hold on. I dropped my…" she drifted off and went back under the booth again. Connor sat there, looking around the room if only to confirm there wasn't anything else available, dodging glances in his direction. He regretted not sitting on the side that would have hid his LED to the wall.
The girl reemerged, slamming a wallet down on the table. "There. Sorry," she said, flashing a grin. She was a red head, with her hair cropped short and angled back from her face. She was wearing a moderate amount of eye-wear that made her blue eyes pop. "They said this was a cop dive, online." She nodded toward the packed room. "I guess no one gives a shit if it's the only joint open on the block, huh?"
"I suppose not," Connor said, aware that one of the guys at the pool table had pointed toward them.
"The name's Darcy," the girl said, putting her elbows on the table and leaning into her folded hands. "What brings you my way, tall dark and handsome?"
"Connor. I'm- Just Connor will suffice," he said, catching himself before jumping into his usual introduction. CyberLife hadn't sent him to this particular place. Connor glanced back to see Hank was still at the bar, his back toward Connor.
"Well, nice to meet you, Connor." Darcy leaned back, throwing one arm up around the back of the booth. Connor took this moment to run his face recognition software. She hadn't lied, at least. Her full name was Darcy Beth Townsend, birthdate August 15, 2012 from the town of Reno, Nevada. The only records she had to her name were drunk and disorderlies. All fines. No jailtime.
Someone bumped into the table, pulling Connor's attentions. It was one of the guys who had been playing pool. "Darc, you know this guy?"
"Nope," Darcy responded, cheery and with a smile. "Poor dear wants a place to sit though, so I'm not gonna chase him out." She winked at the guy. "You winning?"
"Getting my ass kicked, actually," the guy muttered, giving a side eye glance to Connor. "Well. Let me know if this plastic asshole tries anything."
"Oh, that machismo," Darcy said, fanning herself. "I'll be sure to do that, Bradley Cooper, my hero." She was smiling broadly the whole time, and the guy laughed in response. He gave his pool stick a twirl before rejoining his group. He left his beer on the table, and Darcy pounced upon it.
Darcy leaned back in toward Connor. She waggled her eyebrows. "Got my date all flustered and jealous."
"I'm very sorry to have disturbed your social gathering," Connor began.
Darcy bit her tongue. "Please. I just met the guy tonight." She leaned back, brought up a leg and bent it on the booth, resting her arm now on her knee. She pressed her back up to the wall. "He's a bore. And apparently a racist sum'bitch." She gave Connor a side eye. "Not like you though. What brings you out tonight, on the eve of our curfew lift?"
"My partner just got off work," Connor replied, somewhat guarded with his information. He remained poised and sitting.
Darcy glanced over. "He's at the bar. Guy in the brown jacket?"
"Yes," Connor said after a second.
"Cops then, whoo boy," Darcy popped her eyes wide and exhaled. "Better be on my best behavior, then."
"I'm sure you'll be just fine," Connor replied. He began rubbing his thumb into his palm beneath the table.
"This joint have any blue blood for you?" Darcy asked, sipping from her beer as Connor responded.
"I… Wasn't aware that establishments were selling thirium to androids." He recalled the sticker on the front window. "And I highly doubt this place would be one to start selling it, in any case. Why do you ask?"
Darcy shrugged. "Some places are ahead of the curve, then. You enjoying your newfound freedom?"
"Depends. It seems to have caused widespread chaos. Though, by the looks of this place, everything appears normal."
"Humans. Resilient bunch." Darcy raised her beer. "We like to eat, fuck and be merry. Pretty sure that's Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs."
"Not quite. The Hierarchy of Needs requires the basic physiologic requirements for life, before building up to environmental factors like that of shelter and food. Next would be relationships and friends, before moving on to emotional maturity and self-actualization."
Darcy took a long swig on her bottle before replying. "Wow, you must be fun at parties, Connor."
"I wouldn't know. I've never been to one."
"Now if that don't just make a girl weep. So. You're only on stage two of Maslow's needs?"
"You know, while his theory may be sound, it was challenged by several other philosophers and sociologists who say it excludes a vast majority of the population."
"Well, now it definitely excludes the majority of people," Darcy said, tipping the bottle toward Connor. "You're saying you don't need friends?"
"I have friends," Connor began.
"Your partner at the bar don't count."
"Why shouldn't he?"
Darcy shrugged. "Cause he's your partner, yeah? Like a buddy cop drama, it's inevitable you two would be friends. It's the rest of us that count." She gestured broadly to the room.
"The rest of you, including yourself," Connor surmised.
Darcy winked. "You got it, robo-cop."
"And I take it you're well beyond the healthy, stable relationships aspect of the hierarchy?"
"Don't you know it."
"Is that what brought you up from Nevada?" Connor asked.
That had Darcy pausing and lowering the bottle from her face. The perpetual grin on the woman's face drew down somewhat. "I'm not gonna ask how you know that. Instead – you're not here to arrest me for some outstanding warrant, yeah?"
"We don't handle minor cases. We're homicide."
"Right," Darcy said, drawing it out and nodding. "And I haven't been murdered so this isn't some fucked up brain-death simulation."
"Since the last I self-tested? No."
"Neat." Darcy took several deep gulps, nearly finishing the beer. "Nevada was pretty lonely. Lots of desert. Some lizards. Dust storms were something fierce the past year. Thought I'd trade sand for snow. Sufficient reply?"
"Adequate," Connor said, nodding once.
"So I got a personal question for you, Connor who's totally not with the police. Why do you keep that in?" she asked, touching her temple. "I mean, you don't have to tell me if you don't want. Just curious. Tit for tat."
Connor mirrored the action on himself, feeling the curve of the LED. "It's for visibility."
Darcy paused mid-sip of her beer. "You mean like, you guys can't see without it?" She sounded alarmed.
"No, not quite. It's that you can't ignore me or deny who I am. No one can pretend I'm human. That kind of visibility."
Truth be told, Connor hadn't given it much thought. It had been just an immediate reaction whenever offered, or whenever he'd noticed the other androids without their LEDs, to just feel no. He hadn't questioned it.
But put on the spot with this woman who he'd just met, well. That was the best response he could think of. And it felt right. It felt like putting something nebulous and abstract to words – difficult, but once attempted, more alive somehow.
Darcy had put her beer down without drinking it. She was frowning. "You're somehow more of a badass than I initially thought," she muttered.
"Nah, don't be," she sighed. "That takes guts." She flashed a smile. "I think I might be falling in love with you, watch out."
Connor didn't know how to take that, so he leaned back and looked for Hank. He was talking to the bartender, leaned onto the bar with a glass between his palms. He appeared to be disengaging from the conversation, angling his body back toward Connor and the booth.
"Easy. I'm not going to get between what you and your buddy cop partner have," Darcy said, noticing. She finished her beer and waved it at Connor. "See? I'm done. Now, if you don't mind me, I have to slip away from Mr. Cooper before he notices I've given him the slip." Darcy winked, sliding out of the booth.
"Has he made you feel uncomfortable?"
"Psh. No. And if he had? I could've taken care of it. Now, you take care," Darcy said. Hank was on his way over. The two passed each other, Darcy pausing a moment to say something to Hank, who drew up short and then stared after her as she left through the front door.
Hank sank into the booth. "Who the fuck was that? Was she bothering you?"
"No," Connor said, shaking his head.
"Yeah well." Hank dropped a napkin onto the table. "She said to give this to you and- Christ." Connor picked up the napkin while Hank sipped his whiskey, shaking his head. "Can't take you anywhere."
On the napkin was a single word and a line of numbers. "She gave you her number," Connor said, amused.
"Nah, she gave you her number, through me. What in the actual hell."
"What does 'singularity' mean?"
"How should I know? You were the one talking to her. I just got you cock blocked."
"I find that highly improbable, Hank. And not because my model line simply doesn't come equipped with anything unnecessary."
"Going to slot that under 'things I didn't need to know today' thanks, Connor."
"They say to learn something new every day."
"Yeah, and those people didn't have android partners who liked to over share." Hank put his glass down definitively. "Which reminds me. Fowler offered you your job back." He pointed at Connor. "You better fucking take it. I think he'll string me up if you don't. Or. Whatever mysterious force is behind this move," Hank muttered.
Connor straightened. "I have my job? Back?"
"Or a rookie's pay, or whatever. Does it matter? They're offering to pay you – under the table – because the whole department's stressed. Also there's this, political maneuvering thing and, well." Hank rolled his head.
"And? Well?" Connor pressed, leaning forward.
"Don't get so excited, keep it in your pants, Jesus. It's a. Fuck." Hank took a mouthful and winced. "They got this idea about a coalition – some human android task forth to prove we can work together. Fowler said something about laws not actually mandating shit and how they needed to put a good foot forward and honestly, I stopped listening after he said you could come back, all right? So. Do you want the position or not?"
"Yes," Connor said, immediate and leaning forward. "I mean, don't get me wrong. Cleaning and hanging out with Sumo is great-"
"All right, all right, don't shout." Hank glanced around the bar. "Then you're coming in with me, tomorrow."
"That's what I said. Think I was just as excited to get back to work as you were. Cause I guess I'm a masochist, who knows."
"Do you know anything about the cases we'll be taking on?"
"Too fucking many. Gives me a headache just to think about it so will ya just, you know? Relax. Here." Hank lifted his drink. "To partners and getting through this shit together."
Connor leaned back, smiling. He didn't have a drink to lift, but that didn't seem to dim the sentiment any. "To partners and getting through shit together, then."
He laughed as Hank finished his shot and coughed once, before the grizzled detective was pointing his finger at Connor, demanding to know if he had any plans to follow up with that girl, or whatever the hell singularity meant, and for the first time in the past couple of days Connor felt as if everything was going to be just fine.
If only every day could end sitting in some dingy booth in the back corner of some bar while Hank teased Connor over some scotch, neat.
That's a wrap for part 2, which the song inspiration as 'Soulless' by Fake Problems. Expect another three chapter update this weekend. Hope no one minds my inclusion of original characters for this fic. While I try to rely on existing characters whenever possible, it's difficult to drive a plot without some fresh blood. Darcy, therefore, will be making a reappearance. She was made specifically for this fic and exists no where else in my writings.
As for Hank's house this chapter, I need everyone to know I spent entirely too long rewatching videos of his house and scouring wikis for odd details. I'm not saying that's the reason the chapter was delayed, but I definitely hyper fixated on this one detail and nothing was right until I just gave up and moved on.
Eventually, I decided Hank hasn't moved since Cole's death, and to pull a page from my friend's house. He has a room that's technically attached to the mudroom / garage, and it's the coolest bedroom I've ever seen. He said he chose it when he was younger when his family first moved in, and I thought Cole might've done the same thing. Cole lived at 115 Michigan Drive. If someone has evidence of where Hank lives currently in game? You tell me. Please. For my mental health at this point more than anything since it's too late to change the published chapter.
As always, thanks for reading! I appreciate everyone's comments and I'll be going through before the weekend to reply where it's appropriate. Each one gives me life and are so nice to queue up and read. We'll be back Friday, so keep an eye out.