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The Art Of Failure

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The piercing sensation in his chest that was accompanied with a feeling as if everything slowed down, moved through water, wasn’t new. He had felt it before, kept silent and hid it away.  Hank had known to some extent, because he had needed to share his fear in that moment. Back then it was necessary to continue the mission. Hank had worried and he needed to say something.

He had never told anyone else. It wasn’t that he had it often. A few times during the past weeks, in threatening situations. Completely justified. Especially now. He knew enough about deviants to understand that their thoughts weren’t rational.

It hadn’t been easy to accept that. He still hadn’t fully come to terms with it. Giving up rational thoughts for emotions seemed so useless. What had they gained him except a questionable state of mind and being jumpy?

He had never worried about guns being pointed at him, never concerned about how frail android bodies actually were. There was always a replacement ready, if he failed to save himself.

It was different now.

There was no one other body. He had to work with this, and he would only ever have this one. The Model was decommissioned; he was practically on the run. Cyberlife still wanted him back to analyze the failure.

He hadn’t completely understood what they were trying to accomplish. The Government had decided to integrate androids has best as they could. A lot of new laws were created. A few had already been finalized. Allowing Androids to earn money and have possessions. That was the first that had been established.

Connor had stopped keeping track. Somehow all of it seemed so meaningless. He had work. He didn’t want another job. This was what he was good at and what he liked to do. Working with Hank on homicide cases was interesting, very informative. Hanks experience definitely added to his ability to analyze things at the speed of light. When his mind was working properly.

The tight feeling in his chest didn’t come from anything external. It was emotion.  And it was unpleasant. It was constricting, distracting, terrifying.

He had managed to stay as calm as he could possibly manage, knew that panicking would get him killed, but the longer Hank needed to find him, the longer he had no option to escape, the more nervous he got.

There was no replacement.

And he had a good idea who had captured him.

The shaking breath he drew in confused him. It was such a human reaction. The lungs were mostly show. They had minor functions, but androids could last a long time without breathing. Why did that happen now? Another spike raced through his chest, seemingly pierced into the biocomponents and made him flinch away at the sensation. His heart raced. He feared someone would hear it.

The person pointing the shotgun at him had definitely noticed this.

And Connor knew what a shotgun would do to his processor. He couldn’t let that happen.

His hands were tied to a pipe behind him. He couldn’t compute properly. His fear clouded his judgment, distracted him, and made him unable to come up with working solutions to the problem at hand.

If only he hadn’t rioted against his masters…

It was coming back to him now. Cyberlife had sent someone to end his life. Someone who knew how to make it as terrifying as possible.

A simple bullet through his main processor would have taken care of it. But that wasn’t what they had in mind.  They weren’t interested in making it quick. Otherwise they would have shot him already.

Connor caught himself begging silently for Hank to find him. He hadn’t told the old man where he was going. Hank had no idea that something was wrong. How could he have known that he would be found out like this? He wasn’t even dressed like an android.

The LED had given him away, he assumed. His hair didn’t cover it, and he hadn’t yet found the courage to remove it. It had been a mistake.

The gun pointed at his head again, then moved to the right, slightly lower. She shot rang in his ears, as he felt a piece of his shoulder being blasted to bits. Alarms blared at him, flooded his visuals for a moment before his system analyzed that nothing vital had been damaged. It still wasn’t pleasant, and the thirium spilling over his arm could prove to be a problem soon.

Another alarm flashed, told him that the stress on the system was beginning to move to dangerous levels. He knew that. Any more of this and the system would crash. He could barely process most of the racing thoughts at this point.

They would kill him here. With his arms tied to a steel pipe in some rundown part of the city. Unless he managed to find the capacity to actually find a way out of this.

The attacker wasn’t close enough to be kicked; talking had gotten him shot in the leg before. His best option was to try to free his hands from the wiring they had tied them with. He would most likely lose the function of at least one of them, possible damage both while he attempted that. 

The jarring sensation in his wrists had prevented him from doing it until now. He didn’t want to remove his possibility of getting away if he managed to get free. His damaged leg was still functional, but it would slow him down.

He had to take the attacker out, be prepared for others to jump at him, possible bullets whizzing past him and that damned shotgun. It could blow his whole head apart, blow other parts to bits and remove his ability to run.

Trying to free his hands one more time, he looked around. His mind was starting to calm down as he analyzed his surroundings.  There was an opening in the glass roof of the building that he identified as a warehouse. He could reach it by getting past the attacker. There was a ladder and enough protruding pipes to support his weight as he tried to get up to the opening. It would work if he could manage to take out the man in front of him, and could muster enough strength in his damaged limb to make the jumps.

He had to try. Otherwise they would kill him soon.

A hiss escaped him as he ripped his wrists free of the wiring. Alarms told him what he had suspected. Functionality had gone down significantly.

That didn’t matter now. He charged forward, almost stumbled, surprised the attacked and tried to rip the shotgun out of his hands. He had disarmed so many people, the movements were automatic.

His hands wouldn’t grasp it tight enough to build the strength needed to pull it away and he was punished for it with a bullet through the shoulder from behind. His visuals blurred for a second. It had been difficult enough to see in the darkened space, now he almost blindly stumbled forward to where he had computed the best escape route.

He had to get out of here.

The damaged hands proved to be more of a hindrance than anticipated, even was he ran. They wouldn’t close properly, nerves damaged and joints deformed. He would have cursed if he hadn’t been so overloaded by the myriad of thoughts assaulting him.

The ladder was found easily, getting up wasn’t so difficult either. He was slowed down by the damage, yet the attackers seemed to be hindered by the darkness and only realized where he had run to, when he was already more than halfway up the rusty ladder.

They would catch up to him now, if he didn’t manage to build enough momentum to grasp the pipes above.

If he reached those, he had a good chance of getting away. If he didn’t, he was done for.

A bullet lodged itself into the metal plating in the walls next to him and he miscalculated the jump, missed the pipe and stumbled to the ground. Panic was taking over his thought again. He had to get out of here!

The second attempt almost ended in the same way, but he managed to find a ledge with his feet and was able to push himself up enough so he could use his arms to pull himself further up. The next pipe was easier to reach.

The damage in his hands made it almost impossible to pull his full weight up, yet the fear seemed to give him the will to push the damaged parts beyond their capability. When he had reached the opening and climbed out of it, he almost felt like he had won, like he had gotten away.

Then a bullet grazed the side of his head, took his balance and made him stumble forward. His hands were cut up by glass shards ad he lost his footing and tumbled down the side of the building. In desperation he reached out to find anything to hold onto.

He couldn’t see how far down it was, but it was better not to take risks, especially not when damaged like that.

There was no replacement.

His shoulder joint dislodged when he grabbed a broken pipe to break his fall. It ripped under his weight and sent him tumbling down into the wet and muddy ground below. Branches of dead bushes cut into his face, but he barely felt it. The errors screaming at him were enough to keep him distracted.

Now he had to find out where he was and get somewhere safe, before the attackers found him again.

Chapter Text

A coldness so piercing that he had begun shaking. He couldn’t remember a time when he had felt more cold. Why was that happening?  The body was supposed to alert him to dangerous temperatures, tell him when he needed to take measures against it. This time, however, it didn’t seem particular cold, and yet he couldn’t stop shaking. Was it a reflex? He wasn’t sure.

His visuals showed him a lot of errors, glitches, frayed edges. Colors out of alignment. There hadn’t been any damage to his head, except for the graze. He didn’t quite understand why the visual feed was so corrupted.

The cold was more concerning, however. Temperature was at normal levels, why was his body acting as if it was freezing cold? The harsh wind wasn’t pleasant, yet it shouldn’t have brought forth such a reaction.

For a second his visual feed was so clear that he stumbled. Hadn’t expected to see the abandoned warehouses in their actual rusty colors. The whole time it had been flickering in and out of an array of colors that shouldn’t have been normal. Now he knew that he had been right with that assumption.

His damaged leg caught in steel plating and he could barely break his fall by reaching out with his hands. A sharp spike was sent through his sensors, had him flinch. This wasn’t supposed to happen. What was that sensation? Was it because his system was so stressed that it gave him corrupted signals? He was supposed to feel sensation, but not to this extent.

The processors tried to compensate, tried to find an explanation for an occurrence that wasn’t supposed to have ever happened. It got increasingly harder to stifle the fear and with it the rising panic. The alerts only added to the whole mess. He couldn’t think, couldn’t process.

With systems so overwhelmed, even walking was incredibly difficult. The damaged leg only added to it.

A flood of errors blocked his vision, screamed corruption and failure at him. The thirium levels were dropping faster than he had hoped. He needed to get help. There was no getting around it now.

Initially he had thought he would have been able to repair the damage by himself. He knew more about these bodies than the average human or even android.

Now he had no choice but to find someone who could help him, for he wouldn’t be able to stay online long enough to do it himself. Humans weren’t exactly friendly these days either. The only human he could think of to help him without needing to ask was his partner.

Hank had shown affection, had protected him. He knew the older man would rush to his side. If he had been alerted to the issue.

And that was where the real problem lay.

The phone had a bullet hole through its transparent panel. It was broken beyond repair.  Even if Hank had tried to contact him, he would have never known. He also doubted that he was able to hold a conversation at that point. It took all of his concentration to move his legs, there was no room for anything else.

It surprised him. He was able to run hundreds of processes at once, but now all he could do was divert power from unnecessary areas and keep the insides working, while he tried to get to safety.

If someone had been following him, he wouldn’t have known. He was practically blind, his visuals just shady outlines of what was there. Blurred at the edges and corrupted with red lines and wrong colors, flickering in and out of existence.

How could he face Hank like this? The man would have a heart attack.

And yet, he was the only person who could help.

Practically lost, he eventually managed to reach the road, still couldn’t remember where he had actually been. The street signs flickered into vision, and he read their letters, but they didn’t make sense. It was as if someone had replaced all information with gibberish, giving him nowhere to go to.

Why didn’t he understand this? Those were letters he knew. He was living in this city; he had to know the streets!

The processors were overwhelmed, he told himself to stifle the panic once more.

Rational thought. He reminded himself. Keep it rational.

It was easier said than done. The whole deviancy thing made it very clear that rational thought was now not something that was always available. It had become increasingly harder to keep his emotions in check, especially in situations like these. He had to keep it rational. His survival depended on it.

The fear of death had gripped him before he had even realized that he was becoming deviant. He had blamed the blonde android at the Stratford tower. That had entirely been the others fault, shaking him up like that, leaving him with questions no one could answer.

He stepped onto the road, and now on even ground he realized the tilt in his balance, how bad off he really was. The errors told their own story, yet feeling it made it all so much more real. So much more threatening.

Still not knowing where to go, he tried to discern what was happening in the distance. It was all a blur of light and color on one side, darkness on the other. A city meant people. It also meant activists against androids. The other side was certain death.

He had to take the risk. At least he would have tried to get help. This had to be Detroit. Something about the blurred lines of the skyline just felt familiar.

A few unsteady steps later he knew this would be a long walk. Long, dangerous and potentially ending in either getting attacked, or bleeding out and in turn shutting down.

The sharp spike of fear returned.

He couldn’t die here.

After a few more moments he began to walk again, slow, staggering, almost falling, but as long as he managed to get to the city, it would be fine. Then he could find help. He wished he didn’t need to depend on humans for this. Other androids seemed so much more trustworthy.

His system kept spitting errors and warnings at him, forced him to stop at time to process the horrible overload of data before he was able to continue. He did this in seconds, usually. Now it took several minutes.

He hated it.

About an hour later he had finally reached the city, that seemed like home. He still wasn’t sure. None of the writing made sense, letters jumping, changing, disappearing altogether. Being unable to read struck him as odd. Given the fact that he wasn’t exactly old yet, not even a full year, but having been activated with the ability to read and write, speak, smell, hear and express all those sensation in comprehensible words, and now being unable to do any of that,  made him feel even more helpless.

People were looking at him, blurry figures, voices making no sense. That was almost worse than the failing and corrupting vision.  What if someone spoke to him now? Offered help? Or if someone approached him because they wanted trouble?

What then?

He was almost blind, deaf, couldn’t think. Glitches in signals made him flinch in unpredictable ways, stumble, run into walls, people, lamp-posts. For a moment he considered giving up. He didn’t know where to go, despite having the full layout of the city somewhere in his memory. He couldn’t find it, and even if he did, the unreliable visual feed wouldn’t help him find his way.

Frustration was nothing new to him. When he thought back, it could have been the very first emotion he actually had felt. Frustration, anger. And confusion, disturbance, fear.

They had always existed, mimicked. And then when Markus confronted him, all those emotions had suddenly been like an assault. Crashing down on him like a falling building, burying him between morals, irrational thoughts and second guessing himself.

The mission had failed. Amanda had almost made him kill Markus. He had no doubt that she had tried to take his life too.

He shook his head, tried to chase the train of thoughts away. Where had he walked to while he was distracted?  He had made an effort to stay on what seemed to be the sidewalk, but now the city lights were gone.

Or had the visual input finally given in?

He found it hard to breathe, despite not necessarily needing to do it. His sense of direction was gone, sense of balance slipping from his grasp. He could barely brace himself for the fall.

Hands slipped over wet pavement, screaming errors at him, ringing in his ears.

He never registered his body hitting the ground.

 

Chapter Text

Hank found that he felt awfully detached to the sight in front of him.  The streets were scattered with dead androids. Parts everywhere. This part of the city hadn’t been cleaned yet. It reeked of thirium, of oil, wet ground. The snow hadn’t helped and the rain still pouring down wouldn’t make this any easier.

Hank had been on edge all day, Connor hadn’t shown up at all and didn’t pick up the phone. Hank had no idea where he was and that made the whole scene look a little grimmer. Violence against androids hadn’t just stopped. It was still happening, and even when it was punished now, it barely stopped anyone from doing it.

Partially frozen corpses lay everywhere around the area. Hank hadn’t been too sure what to expect when he was assigned the case. Connor had been supposed to come along, but as the android in question was nowhere to be found, Hank had to go alone.  Ben and Chris tagged along as both of them happened to be free for the afternoon. Now they were walking around, looking at things. The report had stated a recent attack on androids, but all of these androids had been lying there for days if not weeks. He turned to Ben, about to ask what they were even looking for when the Detective suddenly sprinted across the street to one of the bodies on the pavement. That one wasn’t covered in snow. It was recent, snow colored blue around it.

Hank grimaced and followed his colleague. He could see the trail of thirium that ended where the android had fallen. He sighed, hung his shoulders, followed the trail for a moment, but it continued on endlessly. The android must’ve had walked down the road, back into town, damaged like that and finally broke down when it reached the safety of the city.

Hank couldn’t understand it. He had never physically harmed an android, even when he despised them the way he had before. Except maybe that one time he had slapped Connor. Which had been for a good reason.  He felt guilty for it regardless, yet Connors unimpressed face back then had only enraged him further.

“Hank!” Ben called, suddenly alarmed.

A deep frown found its way to the lieutenant’s face as he slowly turned around and eyed the fallen figure at Ben’s feet. “What?”

“That jacket-“

Ben didn’t need to finish. Hank took a few hasty steps towards the detective and eyed the fallen android carefully.

 That navy blue jacket that looked slightly too big for the person wearing it. It had the DPD emblem on it and Hank held his breath.

 Ben had given that exact same jacket to Connor just a few days ago, when the DPD had officially accepted him as part of the team. His heart jumped.

This just couldn’t be true. It couldn’t be.

He hadn’t seen the android all day. Was it really him? Hank’s mind refused to accept that fact. Everyone in the squad had that jacket… the facts were too obvious.

The dark hair had already given it away.

Ben had turned the body to the side, and revealed a face that made Hank’s stomach turn. No doubt about it now. That was Connor. Face full of blood, scratched, twisted in a way that didn’t quite seem like pain but came close to it.

Fear?

The android was shaking. Badly. How was that even possible?  He definitely seemed online then, and despite the rather grim sight, Hank felt incredibly relieved.

Ben seemed to have noticed it too when he took the face of the android, and carefully turned his head to reveal a rapidly blinking red LED. Hank couldn’t remember a time he had been on the phone this fast.

Maybe that time when Cole-

He didn’t want to think about that. He needed to get over it. But Connor was starting to fill the void Cole had left, and even though Hank had tried not go get attached to the android, it had happened anyway. There was something about him that forced his father-instincts back into his mind. It wasn’t just the times when Connor rushed into danger with absolute disregard for his own safety. The small moments of conversation, banter, just random topics. It made Connor seem so much more like a human being than most other people he knew.

Why was the world so cruel and always tried to take away what he had?

When Hank ended the call he didn’t remember what he had said, was too busy trying to watch for any reaction of his partner. Anything.

Connor didn’t move, except for the shaking. He didn’t react to voice, not to Ben gently slapping his face. If not for the LED, Hank would have assumed the worst.

“They coming?” Ben asked. “He’s icy.”

“Department sends someone…”Hank muttered, obviously shaken. Ben grimaced in sympathy. It was no secret that Hank had gotten attached to the android. In fact, most of the officers had grown fond of him by now. They had provided him with a place to stay for now, given him a job. He was a great asset to the team anyway. He had been designed to be good at this.

Hank just felt his world crumbled apart between his fingers once more when Connor didn’t react to any of their attempts to get him to respond. 

He never wanted to have that feel again.

Never.

 The blood being blue didn’t make any difference to him. It was still blood.

Almost fatherly he reached out to touch Connor’s face, gently ran a thumb over the icy cold cheek. “Come on son, say something.”

He hadn’t expected a response; jumped slightly when Connor flinched and snapped his eyes open.  Immediately he tensed and tried to get away, the panic so clear on his face that Hank grimaced. It wasn’t very often that Connor showed emotion this clearly. He looked like a chained animal, struggling but getting nowhere. Hank gripped his shoulders, tried to keep him from inflicting even more damage to himself

“Connor!” His voice echoed through the street. Louder than he wanted it to. “It’s okay, son. We’re getting help.” Hank promised. Technicians were on the way, they would arrive soon. Hank was certain he had given them a quick rundown of the damage he could see, but he couldn’t remember his exact words.

Connor only slowly stopped trying to fight Hank. His hands ceased all efforts to shove Hank away after he seemed to have recognized him, and Hank resisted the urge to turn away when he saw the damage to the hands. The skin had vanished at places, white material revealed below, deep scratches and cuts all over them. Wrists twisted, bent in an inhuman way.  Those hands that played with a coin like no one else. Ruined. Just like that. Who had done that?

How had that happened?!

 Connors dark eyes needed long to find Hank and the older man wasn’t sure if he was even aware of what was going on.

“Can you speak?”

The android certainly tried to respond, but if there had been a sound, Hank couldn’t hear it.

Connor slowly let go of him, weakly tried to push himself up and failed. Hank grasped his jacket. It was drenched in rain and thirium, partially frozen, frayed and broken. Connor seemed to like that jacket- had worn it almost nonstop since he had gotten it. It provided warmth and shelter. And it didn’t have the terrible markings.

Now Hank used it to pull Connor into a sitting position, carefully leaned him against the wall of an abandoned building, and finally took note of the full extent of the damage. For a moment he was relieved that there seemingly hadn’t been any damage to his partner’s torso, but that didn’t mean anything. Looks could be deceiving, especially with androids. And by now he had learned that the cold wasn’t exactly good for the biocomponents either.

Connor blinked a few times, seemingly trying to clear his vision as Hank kneeled down into the snow and carefully brushed the Jacket off his shoulders. The white shirt below was torn and his right shoulder was a horrible mess. Whatever was left of it was barely holding together. Left shoulder was dislocated. Then the damage to his face, the graze wound at the side of his head, just behind the LED.  The damaged hands and the leg.

It seemed that the leg was the worst off so far. Pants ripped around the damage and Hank could see inside, practically through as well. Wires were sticking out emitting a soft blue hue and sparked occasionally.  On top of that he was shaking uncontrollably, as if terribly cold.

But all of this didn’t worry him as much as the spilt thirium.

“Come on son, say something.” Hank’s voice was barely above a whisper. He couldn’t hold back the anger and fear. “How bad is this really?”

Connor looked at him directly for a second. When their eyes met Connor broke the contact. “Bad.” He rasped. His voice was barely audible, glitched and sounded almost inhuman.

“Fucking great.” Hank hissed. “Can you walk?”

Connor made an attempt to get up, and Hank cringed when he put weight onto the twisted wrists. Connor didn’t seem to feel pain from it, but he didn’t exactly look happy about it either. This wasn’t working as planned.

Hank was about to say something when Ben interrupted him. “Department just called. The truck’s stuck in a demonstration. They can’t get here.”

A loud and colorful curse left Hank’s mouth. “A demonstration? Detroit’s a fucking ghost town and they get stuck in a fucking demonstration?! Let them go by foot!” he shouted in Ben’s direction.

“Hank that’s six miles-“ Ben tried to reason.

Hank was having none of it. “I don’t fucking care! What’s Connor to you?!”

Ben held up his hands in defense. “Don’t take that out on me. You know I like the kid.“

“If it was any of us, they would’ve done everything they could!”

Hank saw Ben lower the phone and sigh. “I know…”

“Give me a hand.” Hank growled as he moved Connors arm over his shoulders to pull him up. The android tried to help, but didn’t seem to have enough strength to fully support his own weight.

Ben quickly took the other side and together they brought him over to Hank’s car. “They’ll be here soon, Hank.”

“Soon isn’t fast enough!” the lieutenant snapped back.

Ben bit back whatever he had planned to say and opened the passenger side door of Hanks car. Together they lowered Connor into the seat and as Hank was grasping his phone and made another call to the department, Ben crouched down in front of Connor and gave him a stern gaze.

The android weakly fumbled around the jacket, tried to push it back over his shoulders.

“Don’t worry about the jacket. “ Ben blabbed. “We’ll get you a new one. What happened to your phone? No one could reach you.”

Connor managed to slowly drag the phone out of his pocket, held it up to show Ben the damage. Ben narrowed his eyes and immediately looked for a bullet wound. When he found none, other than those Hank and him had already seen, he felt relieved for a moment or two.

“You’re shaking.” The detective then pointed out. He had noticed it the whole time.

Connor grimaced, but didn’t respond.

“There’s a store not far away-“

“No.” Connor hissed silently. “They’re looking for me.”

Ben sighed. He had forgotten about that. Connor was safe as long as he was with a human, but who knew what would happen when he was alone. It seemed that whoever had done this to him, was involved in the whole thing.

“Right…” Ben shook his head and stood to face the Lieutenant still on the phone. “Hank, isn’t there any independent place that does repairs?”

“There’s one I know of.” Hank replied and walked back up to his colleague. “Not sure how kindly they take to human visitors though.”

The Lieutenant leaned in to get a look at his partner. “How long can you hold out?”

“I don’t know. I should not be functioning at this point...”

Hank  cursed. This was way worse than he had thought. “Anything we can fix?”

Connor started to shake his head, then stopped and focused on the snow covered street. “No.”

“Well just figure something out…” Hank sighed, leaned across Connor into the car and started the engine, turned on the heater and grabbed a blanket from the back seat.

As he dragged it over Connor, he wondered if that was even necessary.  But he was cold. Wasn’t he? And he had heard of androids freezing to death at the border to Canada.  Poor things trying to escape and then…

 

When Hank and Ben got back into the car and the warmth finally crept back into the systems it belonged to, the errors returned. He flinched at the alarms, pressed his eyes shut and bit back a grunt of discomfort. His vision had never really cleared, but now it was growing black again, taking everything with it except for the glitching lines of red and their cryptic codes that should have made sense to him  but didn’t. Had the cold saved him?

His chest felt tight with fear suddenly. He had been okay just minutes ago, thought that things would be fine if someone just got to him and helped him. Was he so delusional that he hadn’t realized how bad it really was? The missing thirium definitely played a part in that.

A warm hand on his arm made him jerk to the side. He was surprised at the reaction, probably as much as Hank was when he instantly removed his hand.

The man muttered something, and Connor felt a force pressing him into the seat. Had he sped up the car? That was dangerous in this weather. It had been bad weather… had it? It had rained… or had that been snow?

He couldn’t piece it together. Horrible noises drowned out any conversation Hank tried to have with him. He couldn’t focus, couldn’t alert anyone.

Then the car stopped and someone gripped his shoulders, and suddenly words were clear in his ears.

“Don’t you dare die on me, kid.”

He wanted to reassure Hank, wanted to tell him that he could be reactivated at this point. His processor wasn’t damaged, but all the stress could lead to that. He needed repairs, needed to take the stress off the system. It was no use trying to calm himself. He had no strength left to stifle the panic and now it had gripped him full force. Raced through his insides like a storm, squeezing and making his heart race.

Hank yelled something about breathing, but he couldn’t piece it together. What had he tried to say?

The darkness surrounding him was almost comforting now. If it wasn’t for the flaring red that constantly assaulted him. The length suggested something that filled him with dread, and still he couldn’t understand the meaning.

“You’re heavy, kid you know that?”

Connor flinched at the voice, realized someone was carrying him. The movement suggested that. He could feel wind in his face.

He tried to move, failed at the attempt to even raise a hand or open his mouth, and even though he was sure his eyes were open, he couldn’t see a single thing.  A new error blared at him, this time accompanied with a shrill sound only for him to hear. He flinched away at the noise, jerked to the side to avoid it, but it wouldn’t stop.

Hanks loud voice shouted something, barked an order. He didn’t understand the meaning, but he knew the intonation.

It started to overwhelm him. The noise got louder and louder, control over his body slipped. There was a noise that undoubtedly came from him, and yet it sounded so terrifying even to his own ears.

So much like a machine.

And then it all stopped.

Chapter Text

The silence was almost overwhelming. After the past thirty minutes of being constantly assaulted with random grunts and whines, hearing none of that now was deafening. He had never seen an android, and certainly not Connor, in such a state. He had yelled at people, screamed in their faces to do something as panic settled in, gripped his insides and made him think of Cole. He couldn’t take this again.

He had scared the hell out of an android woman, but he couldn’t care less. His nerves were taxed to the max and he would take it out on the next person who looked at him funny.

That person happened to be Ben who settled down next to him and handed him a cup of coffee.

“…Why are you still here?”

“Someone’s gotta keep an eye on you.”

What’s that supposed to mean, huh?” He tried not to snap, but his voice got louder anyway.

“Hank…” Ben sighed. “There’s nothing we can do.”

Hank opened his mouth to yell, then forced himself to stay calm. It was no use to yell at Ben. He was right. “…I hate this.”

“I know.” Ben moved the cup of coffee in Hanks direction, let go of it when his friend took it.

“…It’s like a fucking de-ja vu.”

Ben didn’t reply and instead just stared at the gray floor of the hallway. Hank had driven here in some sort of rage and Ben had seen a lot of androids walking around the area. The whole building seemed to be a small office building that had been reused to fix androids. Who it belonged to and how Hank knew about it, was beyond him.

“I know, I know… it’s just a machine…” Hank hissed under his breath. “Shouldn’t… have gotten attached.” Hank crushed the cup in his hands, made the hot beverage spill over his fingers.

He barely felt it. Tears stung in his eyes, forced images he wanted to forget into his mind. This wasn’t Cole. It was just a machine. Connor would never fill the void Cole had left. He just couldn’t. Why had he been so naïve and even hoped for a single moment that things could return to normal?

Yet no matter how hard he tried to detach himself from the situation, he couldn’t.

“Does it really matter whether he’s a machine or not? You’ve pretty much jumped anyone who looked at him weird these days.”

“I got too attached… saw something in him… whatever it was.”

Hank wiped his hands in his pants when he realized the mess he had made with the coffee. Why had he left Connor out of his sight? If all of that hadn’t happened, he wouldn’t be questioning the existence of a being he had long since accepted as his friend and partner.

“I’m gonna get some air.” Ben eventually excused himself. Hank didn’t even acknowledge his words.

His mind was drifting back and forth, between Cole and Connor, the son he and lost and the friend he was about to lose.

The androids taking Connor in had assumed that he had done something to him. And even now after he had explained everything he still felt their eyes on him. Why was he trying to deny the facts? Connor wouldn’t make it. It would end the same way it had three years ago. Rip another wound into his already fragile psyche.

He had never liked when Connor had been replaced. This time he wished there was a body available. Why did he always want what he couldn’t have? He would lose his friend tonight. And he had to prepare himself for it. For, if he didn’t he would finally put an end to all of this. He couldn’t take it anymore.

If only he had known more about androids. More about their bodies. Maybe then Connor would have stood a chance.

If only he hadn’t let him out of his sight.

Suddenly he found it so much harder to suppress the tears that had been assaulting him occasionally for the past hour. He could do nothing. No amount of rage or despair could help Connor now. His hands were shaking. He didn’t want to lose him.

“Don’t do this to me…” he told the floor silently.

A hand on his back made him look up into two confused eyes from a face Hank knew a bit better since Connor hung around with the remaining members of Jericho occasionally. The blue and green eyes were Markus’ trademark by now. Connor had told Hank about it. He had gone to meet up with Markus often these days. That would never happen again, Hank feared.

“What are you doing here?” The soft voice didn’t quite seem to fit the leader of the revolution. Hank knew he was rather friendly and had helped set up this place so his people could get the help they needed. It seemed so strange that this man had fought for the rights of a whole new nation. It was almost like talking to a celebrity. What was this man doing here of all places?

“I could ask you the same.”

A warm smile greeted him. “I’m just checking on things. It’s kind of new for me to overlook so many things at once.”

Hank wasn’t in the mood to talk. The matter at hand was too pressing to be light hearted. Connor didn’t deserve this. If Connor died, he would end it. There was nothing keeping him. Except maybe Sumo. But he knew enough people who would take the dog in.

“Lt. Anderson?” Markus asked again, this time crouched down. His Hand remained on his arm, seemingly trying to calm his nerves.  “…You’re Connors partner, aren’t you?”

Hank hastily turned his gaze away when the tears threatened to overflow. He gritted his teeth, clenched his fists. He never cried. Why now? Nothing could shake him in this way.

Markus finally seemed to get the hint and sat down on a chair next to Hank. “…What happened…?” His voice was softer now, a slight edge to it regardless.

Of course Markus would get upset. Connor had practically turned the tables back there. Without him, who knew what would have happened to the whole movement.

This was easier for Hank. Letting loose all the rage he felt for the people who had done this to Connor. That felt so much more comforting. “Some bastards attacked him…” His voice was heavy with tears, betrayed just how attached he had gotten.

Markus stayed silent for a moment, then removed his hands and rested his elbows on his knees as if to think. “Do you think of him as your friend?”

Hank scoffed. “…I know that’s weird and all-“ Hank tried to explain.

Markus shook his head. “…The man I lived with… He treated me like his son, and he was my father figure… I think I can understand you.”

“I wish Connor knew what havoc it wrecks on my nerves every time he gets himself into trouble…”

I’m sure he knows.” Markus gave him a sad smile. “He’s just very determined to finish what he starts…”

“That’ll get him killed someday, if it doesn’t tonight…”

Markus grimaced. “Is it that bad?”

Hank took in a deep breath, averted his gaze once more, in favor of the gray floor. “…They told me that reactivation after shutdown is possible… but risky and if he makes it, there could be issues. The list of whatever these bastards tore apart was so long I couldn’t even read through it.”

He saw Markus flinch as he suddenly grasped his thick jacket and sunk his fingers into it as if the news had shocked him. “Shutdown…?” The young Male rasped, unable to tear his gaze off the wall.

Hank opened his mouth, didn’t know what to really say and closed it again.

“When?” Markus asked, voice level and calm, but his stern gaze betrayed how upset he was.

“About an hour ago…” Hank replied silently, voice barely above a whisper when he continued, “I actually need to make calls to the department… get a search going to find these assholes… but I can’t just leave him alone like this.” Hank mumbled more to himself than to Markus. “…Must be the worst, being alone like this.”

“You’ve lost someone before, didn’t you?” Markus asked silently. His voice suggested that he tried to be cautious, tried not to sound nosy.

Hank would have probably snapped at a human, but the natural curiosity of androids kept baffling him. Most of the time they didn’t mean any harm. He didn’t know Markus well, but he didn’t strike him as a mean person.

“My son.” Hank whispered and shoved the thoughts away. Cole was already dead. Nothing could bring him back. No amount of mourning would chance that. “I tried too hard not to get attached, and he tried even harder to be friendly.” Hank sighed in resignation and met Markus’ cautious smile.

“He left that lying around…”  Markus muttered as he held something out to Hank.

Confused Hank opened his hand to take it, and frowned when he saw a quarter in his palm.

He took the coin into his hands, turned it, looked at it from all angles and barely even noticed that a woman had approached him.

“Sir, you can see him now.”

Hank flinched, was on his feet in an instant. “Is he-“

The smile of the woman made him want to punch her. Connor was in there, dying. How could she smile?!

“We have managed to reboot his systems successfully. There are still minor issues and repairs to be taken care of. Thirium levels are returning to normal and the replaced parts are working in order. Please follow me.”

Hank walked as if someone remotely controlled him. It wasn’t far, he had taken the nearest seats he could, and hadn’t moved from that spot. He wanted to be as close as possible. Wanted to be there fast if the worst happened.

When the woman opened the sliding door, Hank felt sick. His mind instantly replayed an image of Cole, buried in between cables and wires, surrounded by machines. It didn’t look much different now. Those machines certainly had different functions, but the sight was almost the same.

He resisted the urge to turn around and run. He couldn’t do that to his friend.

Hank wasn’t sure if it was possible for an android to look pale, yet, it looked like that. Connor looked almost as white as the sheets below. Thirium was being fed into invisible veins through ports in his arms that Hank had never seen, because he was never meant to see that. A normal human being would never see the inner workings of an android.

“There is an issue with biocomponents #8456w and #1995r.  We are trying to find replacements at the moment. We cannot continue until we have them.”

Hank felt as if someone had taken the floor away from under him. Heavily he slumped down on the chair next to the bed, and reached for the pale arm that didn’t have things stuck to it. It looked so much like a human hospital room, it was eerie. The only difference was the color of the blood.

“Will he die…?”

“We have him monitored, if anything changes we will be alerted immediately.”

“And… if you don’t have the parts when something happens…?”

“I’m sorry Mr. Anderson.” The woman apologized and left the room.

Hank hated this. He wasn’t sure if he had accepted a cyber life employee repairing him, now. At least the androids here treated their own with respect.  But would the others have the necessary replacements?

The sight was so stomach churning. He couldn’t really see much of what had been replaced. His clothing had been removed; it was destroyed beyond repair anyway. His shoes were probably the only thing still intact. And those had been placed onto a off to the side.

Wasn’t this basically the same situation as three years ago? Hank knew too well what those components were representing now at least one of them… and it was so similar. Back then the android trying to save Cole couldn’t do it because it lacked the experience. At least that was what Hank assumed now.  These days he wondered if that android had ever become deviant. And if it was blaming itself for what happened.

Back then it had been the inexperience of an android and the failure of a surgeon who rather got high than help people.

And now everyone was trying to help and they couldn’t save Connor because they lacked parts? How had those even gotten damaged? He assumed it was the stress on the system. Connor had told him a few times before, that processors couldn’t cope with being exposed to extreme stress for long periods of time.

It seemed to be such a human condition. He had heard of computers breaking because they overheated… but androids? Not that he had ever really tried to learn more about them. Why had he always blamed them?

When the woman left, Hank suddenly felt utterly alone. “Why is the world so cruel, huh?” Hank whispered and placed the quarter Markus had given him in Connors palm. He covered the pale hand with his own, watched for any reaction.

It hurt. Seeing him like that. It was painful, horrible. And so much like back then. What difference did it make that his blood was blue? He still bled.

 “You better pull through, and they better have the right parts, because if not, I will personally decapitate the fucking prick who did this to you…” Hank chuckled silently when he realized what he was saying. “No… I will do that anyway… You didn’t deserve this.”

He hadn’t expected an answer. Wasn’t surprised when none came.

And so he rambled on, watched the monitors for a while, tried to understand what they were telling him with their cryptic letters. Connors LED had been blinking the whole time, occasionally sparked red, but now it had been pulsing yellow for almost an hour. Hank thought it was a good sign. Not a great sign, but definitely good. Things at least hadn’t gone worse.

When it suddenly flashed blue for a second, Hank thought he had imagined it. It had immediately returned to the yellow pulse, after all. What did that mean? Was Connor aware of what was going on? Had he listened to his rambling?

Hank sighed, ran a thumb over the hand he still held.  He still had Connors expression burned into his mind. Every time Connor had looked so spooked, something quite disturbing had happened. This was no exception. If anything, this was probably the most horrifying experience Hank had had in the past months.  His team had drifted apart; they were all doing something else now. He never had to deal with the possible loss of a partner, simply because he never had one that could cope with him for long periods of time.

Connor was vastly different in that regard.

“You’re killing me, kid.” Hank hissed under his breath.

He longed for a drink, wanted to get out of this room. It really didn’t look much different from a normal hospital room. Except maybe for the giant windows that had makeshift curtains hiding them somewhat. This was still a reused office building after all. Simply because a real hospital had no use for androids, and now with them being accepted as people, a workshop seemed too inhuman.

Hanks reason for coming here had been different. Connor told him that Cyberlife was out for him now that his mission had failed. Not in so many words, but Hank had gotten the message. And it had been utterly stupid to let him out of his sight even for a minute!

A short twitch running through the hand he held had him fix his gaze on Connor’s face. The LED pulsed red for a second, returned to yellow. His face hadn’t moved.

“It’s okay.” Hank muttered, unsure if Connor could even hear him. “I’m here. You’ll be okay.“

Hank grimaced. Hadn’t he told Cole pretty much the same thing? He had lied to his son back then. Stroked his hair, and lied. Simply because he couldn’t tell a six year old that he was going to die. He didn’t want him to be scared in his final moments and he had made an effort to recite the funniest stories he could think of without shedding a single tear.

No. The crying had come after. When the flat line forced itself into his mind and stayed there forever. He would never forget that feeling.

And Connor? He was an adult man… wasn’t he? If Connor woke up before all of it ended, Hank wouldn’t know what to tell him. He had faced death before.  And Hank hadn’t taken kindly to that when he returned, as if nothing had happened.

This time was different.

Connor was, age wise, just a few months old. His knowledge of course couldn’t really be measured in human years. Hank briefly wondered if this was the case for all androids, then he cut off that thought. He really didn’t want to dwell on this. Connor looked like an adult, even when he occasionally acted like a child. He just lacked the experience, Hank assumed.

What did it really matter anyway?

For a moment he thought about not calling Fowler and hoping that Ben had already given him the gist of the situation, then he decided it was better if he just did it anyway. He pulled out his phone, still after so many decades, slightly surprised that by now phones in buildings like these had absolutely no effect anymore.

He remembered clearly how they used to be banned from hospitals and the like. But this wasn’t a hospital in a human sense. It was just a fancy workshop.

Fowler picked up before the first ring even ended. Seemed as if he had been waiting for that call. Hank kept holding on to Connors hand, gaze focused onto the still face of his partner.

“How is he?” Was the first question Hank heard. Not even a greeting.  At least Ben had informed the necessary people already.  It wasn’t much different from a situation with a human being.

Somehow that comforted Hank as much as it scared him. Making him even more human than he was...

“…Stable for now. I guess. That’s what they told me. I don’t know much about this.” Hank muttered. He had barely even noticed that Fowlers tone was way softer than usual.

 Fowler sighed. “And you have no idea who could have done that?”

“Nothing definitive…”

“Anything, Hank.”

“Cyberlife.”

Silence on the other end. “You serious?”

“He mentioned that they wanted him back no matter what… It’s the only thing I can think of right now.”

A heavy sigh reached Hank’s ears. “…I’ll see what I can do. We need his statement too.”

“I don’t know when or if we get that.” Hank gazed over his partner again. His face was still, LED pulsing yellow.

“Hank, I can send someone else over. I know this isn’t easy for you-“

“I’m not leaving him alone. You’ll get your fucking report.”

Another sigh on the other end and Hank just wanted to hang up. He wasn’t going to leave Connor alone like this.

“The report can wait. Ben gave me a quick rundown on how you two found him.”

Hank snarled. The anger at the situation was getting to him. “I’m not leaving. End of discussion.”

He wished he could have smashed the phone across the room, but the risk of damaging anything or alerting someone was too high and so he just hung up and shoved it back into his pocket.

Once more he looked over at his friend, then stood and decided to at least get a coffee. He wasn’t going to get any sleep anyway.

“I’ll be back in five minutes. Stay where you are.” He wished he knew if Connor could hear him or not.

Five minutes turned into twenty when he realized that no one in this building actually drank coffee or had any need to eat or drink anything. And he had almost decided not to go when he ran into Markus who had a small paper bag with him, obviously from the coffee shop down the road.

He was handed the bag and a plastic cup and wordlessly accepted it, almost too baffled to say anything comprehensible.

“Seems my hunch was right.” Markus’ warm smile almost made him forget how serious all of it was.

“Thanks.” Hank grimaced, already turned back when Markus placed a hand on his shoulder.

“We got the missing parts. North is bringing them over right now.”

Hank felt as if a weight was lifted off his shoulders.  “That fast?”

Another smile crossed Markus’ features. “We have our ways.”

Hank only nodded, unable to really acknowledge what he had just been told. Connor would be saved. That was all that mattered now. He almost ran back to the room, only noticed that Markus followed him when the sliding door had already opened. The android didn’t seem surprised or shocked at the sight.

“I could access his memory, and then we’ll know who did this to him.”

Hank grimaced. “He’s going to see it too, right?”

Markus shrugged. “If he’s aware enough to notice, yes.”

“Don’t. …The state we found him in… “ Hank shook his head. He just wanted this to be over. To just stop, take Connor home; deal with whatever the whole ordeal brought on. He couldn’t imagine that this wouldn’t leave any traces. Machine or not. Deviants did have emotions. And as much as Connor tried to hide it, sudden changes in his emotions were always showing. Subtly. Invisible to strangers.

Hank just knew how to look for them.

“It’s nice…” Markus muttered absentmindedly.

“Huh?” Hank turned, frowned at the young male.

“…T-To see that people actually care… It’s been a while since I’ve seen genuine concern towards us. It makes me feel like there is hope that we are one day accepted into society without being frowned upon.”

Hank tried to smile but really couldn’t. His own emotions had exhausted him. All this fear, all the concern and anger. It was too much.

“Right now I only really care about getting him out of this alive… Sorry if that’s selfish. He saved my life a few times. And now all I can do is watch and hope that these bastards get punished for doing this to him. I don’t like feeling like I can’t do anything.” With that Hank settled back down onto the chair and continued to hold Connors hand. The quarter was still loosely lying in his palm. Connor hadn’t moved.

“You brought him here. I think you’ve done more than others would.”

Hank just nodded, wanted the conversation to end, dwell on his thoughts, pray, do anything other than beat himself up over this. He wasn’t hungry anymore, and the coffee didn’t seem interesting anymore either.

“I’ll get back to you when the parts are in.”

Hanks grumbled ‘thanks’ was seemingly enough to make Markus leave and Hank finally allowed himself to relax a little. Things were looking a bit better now. But he didn’t dare to hope. Things often turned wrong when he didn’t expect them too, He wouldn’t make that mistake this time.

No.

This time he wouldn’t move, would stay awake and would watch over his friend like a hawk.

Connor didn’t deserve to be alone in this. And somewhere deep down inside Hank hoped the android appreciated that Hank was there to watch over him, regardless of if he was aware of it or not.

 

Chapter Text

An uncomfortable sensation snapped him out of what he assumed had been a forcibly induced stand-by mode. The facts certainly pointed towards it. It was unpleasant, distracting. Systems being restarted automatically, him unable to control any of it. He was used to that, it had happened a few times before.

Had his body been replaced?

The date told him that two days were missing from his memory. Corruption? His peripheral systems hadn’t yet caught up to the processor being online again. He could not open his eyes nor access his voice modulation. That was okay for now. The feeling that had roused him was internal. Emotion.

Fear.

Everything was within working parameters. Thirium levels looked off, but not by much. There was no leak anywhere and it slowly started to return to normal too. Thirium was being fed back into his system by an outside source.

That meant it was not a new body.

Someone had found him. Someone was providing the help he needed. A sensation that could have been relief washed over him. It put him at ease, made the stress go down. He still felt uncomfortable. What had happened in those two days?

Why was he on standby in the first place?

He had no answer to that and the memory corruption seemed irreparable. Something cold was in his hand. Round, flat. He couldn’t move to grasp it, only managed a small twitch around the material. Metal. A coin?

Something moved.

Something was holding his hand. Someone?

He remembered the state he had been in before he was forced to offline.

No. He hadn’t off lined.  He had screamed at his processors to keep going when he realized what the gibberish meant. Panic had filled him at that moment. Panic so much more intense than any other emotion he had ever felt before. It had added to the already dangerously high stress and finally overwhelmed his taxed systems.

It had ultimately been his own fault, for being overwhelmed by fear and causing his systems to crash. The whole deviancy thing seemed to wrong now. This was never supposed to happen.

Never before had his systems crashed because of this. He had always been able to work efficiently, no matter the circumstances.

He heard his name. Distantly, far away. But that was Hank’s voice and he struggled to find the access to his optical unit. Nobody had moved code around. His processor hadn’t been damaged. The stress had only overwhelmed it, caused biocomponents to fail and forced the shutdown. Once the correct replacements had been gathered, reactivation was only a matter of time, if anyone cared enough to do that for him.

He wasn’t able to reboot systems himself, from a shutdown. No android was.

Hank apparently had brought him somewhere help was provided. Cyberlife would have taken him apart. He would have never seen his systems restart again.

Now that the thought about that, he wouldn’t have been aware of that until he was reactivated. The thought was terrifying, made his grasp over the code slip and lose access to the systems he wanted to start.

They would have restarted automatically. But he couldn’t stand the darkness anymore.

It felt like an eternity to him when he accessed the optical unit and forced it to activate. Slowly he managed to open his eyes, assaulted by bright fluorescent lights above him, and they fluttered shut again, to protect the delicate sensors that provided all kinds of information if prompted.

“Took you long enough, you little fucker.” Hank grumbled. His voice held the usual gruff it always did, but the tone was warm, friendly. Relieved.

Accessing his voice was harder. He found the code, activated it, but when he opened his mouth, no sound came out.

Hank noticed and furrowed his brows. “They said I can take you home once you’re up. You good?”

The nod came too fast. He hadn’t wanted to nod. He wasn’t okay. The body was fine, but that wasn’t the issue here. He knew everything there was to know about deviants. It was what he had to know. And that was why he knew exactly what was happening right now.

He was getting confused by emotion, scared of it even. Fear was a horrible emotion.

Nobody could get him out of this anyway. He had to do it himself. With all the knowledge about deviants and their irrational behavior, it sounded easy enough to do. But that didn’t take into account that he was one of them now.

Hank leaned over to the side and grasped a set of neatly folded clothing and placed it on the androids chest. Connor noticed that the whole time Hank hadn’t let go of his hand. “There’s new clothing. One of the girls got it.”

What girls? Why was Hank talking like that? He didn’t know any females of significance. North?

Connor tried to sit up, only halfway succeeding. His systems were calibrating now, making up for the two days in standby. It would take a few more minutes before he was able to move sufficiently. Hank didn’t know that. And Hank reached out to help him, grasped his shoulders and the shirt he had been provided with after they had replaced the damaged parts. It was a plain light blue color. But Connor didn’t see that.

His mind flashed to the navy blue jacket Hank had gripped back there. And he flinched, suddenly reminded of the panic he had felt.

“I’ll sort out the paper work, okay?” Hank stood, gave his hand a gentle squeeze before he let go and slowly left the room. “You go get dressed.”

Connor cursed in his mind. He managed to get dressed, didn’t spend a thought on how horrible all the injuries had been, because now they all were fixed. There was no trace left of the horrible damage done to him. Almost as if it had never happened.

But it had happened… or was his mind mixing up things? He shook his head. His processor was working fine. The memory loss of the two days was due to being offline. He had been critically damaged, after all.

He sat on the bed someone had placed him in, feet almost touching the ground, but not quite. His shoes were on the other side of the room. He didn’t trust his legs yet. Their system was still calibrating. He would fall if he stood now. Which would have been a bad idea, with the Thirium still being fed into his system.

The clothing was strange, it looked way too casual, way too human. He wasn’t sure if he liked that.

Hank returned seven minutes later with a stack of paper in on hand and a jacket in the other. A navy blue DPD jacket.

“Ben left this in the car for you.” Hank explained as he gave Connor the jacket and handed him his shoes. “They’ll pluck the shit out of you in a few.” He nodded to the device inserted in his arm.

Connor was still at a loss for words. There was too much going on in his mind, and he was sure hank had already seen the LED spinning yellow as he tried to figure out what to do now.

“Connor…” Hank sighed when he noticed the distress showing on his partners face. It was so rare to see any sort of intense emotion on him. “We need to know what happened.”

“I know.” Connor replied hesitantly, surprised that his voice worked now.

“I’ll drive you over to the station, if you’re up to it.”

“Of course.” He caught his own lie a second too late. It had been such an automatic response to obey, to do what he was told. He still found it difficult to realize that he had a choice. That he was able to refuse when someone asked him to do something.

His steps were steady when he was ready to leave. He could keep this up. Hank hadn’t gotten suspicious yet. Steady and confident steps. He followed Hank through the building, mind working on the issue at hand. He knew what had happened. He could give a statement. He would have. If he had still been the same person.

The emotions were getting in the way.

Hank still hadn’t seemed suspicious when he waited for his partner in front of the reused office building. The snow was melting, the sun reflecting on the last specs of white. Connor thought nothing of it, until he stepped into the icy cold of the early morning.

Suddenly he felt his consciousness being dragged away, forced into the snowstorm that was his mind. A spike of fear pierced his chest. Had Amanda gotten hold of him again? How?!

Frantically he looked around. This didn’t look anything like the garden. He yelled her name. There was no reply. Where was she? Where was the exit? He could barely walk in the onslaught of snow and wind around him. His legs registered a sensation, cold. Icy. When he looked down he froze. Blue blood was splattered all around him.

Where had that come from? Why? He hadn’t received any errors!

Something gripped him, shook him once and he tried to get away, tried to protect himself. His feet wouldn’t move and he lost balance.

The impact never came.

“Connor!” Hanks voice. Loud, panicked.

He managed to open his eyes, blinked against the bright lights as his optical unit adjusted to it. His hands were clawed into his jacket, entire body tense but shaking. It took long before his systems sorted out the error and corrected the issue.

She shaking continued.

Hank had grabbed his arms when he fell, carefully held him up until Connor was able to stand on his own again.

“What the fuck was that?!” Hank yelled at him. It wasn’t anger. It was concern.

“Something interfered with my processor.” He tried to explain. That was what had happened, wasn’t it?

“The weird lady?”

Connor shook his head, righted himself and started walking. Hank next to him, ready to catch him in case he fell again. Something was very wrong here.

“The place looked different. There was a snowstorm. Amanda was nowhere to be found.” He intentionally left out the detail about the blood. That was too disturbing to bring it up now.

“Didn’t you say there was a storm last time you’ve seen her?”

Connor grimaced. Hank was good at his job for a reason.

“It didn’t look like the garden. There was nothing but snow. I couldn’t see the exit either.”

Hank sighed deeply as he slumped into the driver’s seat of his car. “You’re going to be the end of me, kid.” He muttered under his breath, more meant as a joke.

Connor seemed to catch onto it, and with the smallest hint of a smirk he added, “I apologize, Lieutenant.”

“Oh fuck off.” Hank snarled, feigning anger as he slammed the door shut and started the car.

The drive to the station was quiet and Hank didn’t like that at all. Usually they would at least have some kind of conversation, how shitty the weather was, what Sumo had caught in the backyard, ranging from mice to birds.  Current cases… all of that.

“If you wanna talk, do it.” Hank muttered after a while of absolute silence. He hadn’t even turned on the radio.

Connor kept staring straight ahead, almost as if he hadn’t heard Hank. Which was impossible. It was way too quiet to be overheard. When it became obvious that Hank wouldn’t get a reply, he sighed and wondered how to approach this.

“Or you wanna keep the surprise effect for the station?” Humor usually got him a decent response.

“No.”

Hank could see the hardened expression in his partners face. “It was pretty scary back there, eh?” He tried again.

Connor opened his mouth to reply, but closed it again and sat still. Except for his trembling hands. Hank could see the LED reflecting in the window of the door. Yellow, flickering rapidly.

“We don’t have fancy tech like you do, but we’re pretty got at figuring out what happened.” Hank explained. “That trail of blue blood went on for almost two miles before Chris lost track of it. He and his patrol searched the area and found a bunch of broken down androids, attacked in a very similar matter.”

He looked over to Connor who was still staring ahead, but obviously distraught. He tried to hide it, and failed horribly. Hank winced in sympathy. For him to be unable to hide his emotions, it had to be serious. Connor was good at fooling most people.  

“We don’t know how you got out of there, but the way we found you got us a pretty good idea… you just need you to fill in the blanks.”

“Hank-“ Connor interrupted, voice weak and eyes wide as he stared at the older man. “…I don’t know if I can do that…”

Hank kept his knowing smile to himself. He had expected a response along those lines. “Isn’t easy with emotions getting in the way, eh?”

The younger of the pair turned his head away, gazed at his dark jeans before he found the quarter in his pocket and fumbled around with it. Hank briefly noted that he wasn’t doing tricks with it, he just held it as if it was something he had never seen before.

“…I…” he muttered silently, barely audible to Hank. “Could have escaped in a more efficient way… had I been able to think clearly.”

“So you were scared.” Hank insisted and caught Connor turning away even more. “Kid that is nothing to be ashamed of.”

“I was inefficient and got damaged because of it.”

Hank grumbled. “That’s what you’re beating yourself up over? And here I thought I could cheer you up with a few donuts and forget about the whole thing.”

The look Connor gave him now made Hank laugh a little. “You didn’t have the training all of us had. No one really expected androids to suddenly develop feelings. You handled this pretty well for being scared.”

“I got damaged- I… I got lost, I stressed my system so much that I …” he trailed off, suddenly sat completely still. “…I shut down… I… There…”

“Connor,” Hank placed a hand on his shoulder and pulled the car over to the side. The station was still half a mile away but this required immediate attention, Hank thought.

“…There is no replacement…” Connor whispered. “….when I…die… that’s it… there is no saving me…”

He clutched the coin in his hand with such force that Hank was glad he hadn’t taken his friends hand. He would have crushed it.

“Connor…” Hank leaned in, put both hands on the androids shoulders, made him face him. “Listen to me-“

The android looked through him, focused on something that wasn’t there. The face of his friend was twisted, an expression on it that reminded Hank of absolute terror. Not unusual when faced with death, or the aftermath of it. Androids did not forget. It was entirely possible that Connor could replay every single second of that situation.

“Kid-“ He shook him slightly, “It’s okay. You made it through that. You’re alive, and I’m not gonna let this happen to you again, you hear me?”

Connor nodded, absentmindedly. Hank wasn’t sure if he had really heard those words. His eyes still stared, LED a glaring red.  His hands clutched his pants now, digging into the material and the skin below. The slight tremble had turned into actual shaking, and Hank was sure that his idle breathing simulation had picked up.

Panic. Hank realized. A justified reaction… He knew things wouldn’t be back to normal so soon, then. Why had it never occurred to him that his partner was not shielded from this? Just because he was made to be what he was… that never meant he was safe from shock.

“It’s the first time you faced death like that, right?” Hank asked.

The soft nod he got in response made him sigh silently. “It was always just my mission.” Connor muttered, his voice thin, cracking. “There would always be a replacement…”

“You’ve had this body for almost a month now.” Hank shuddered, remembering the last android that had been brutally murdered only to come back to life a day later.

In the past few weeks with everyone busy cleaning up, there wasn’t much to be done in terms of investigating suspects. Most had been dead anyway.

It had always angered him that Connor had so little regard to his own life. It seemed that now he had finally understood it.

“Cyberlife won’t upload my memory to another model…  When I realized that…”

Hank pulled him in for the embrace that had been waiting, gently ran a hand over the trembling back of his partner.  “It’s okay, son.” He whispered. “We’ll work this out, and you stop going about investigating things without back up, understood?”

Connor nodded.  “I’m sorry for not telling you where I was going…“

Hank shook his head in disbelief and slowly pulled away. He truly felt as if he was comforting a small child who just happened to look like an adult man.

“I’m not trying to keep you from doing what you want. Just, let me know where you are so I know where to find you.”

“Understood.”

 “Let’s get your report and kick some asses, okay?”

Connor nodded when Hank started the engine again. He wanted to argue, although he realized Hank was just trying to lighten up the heavy mood.

“Okay.” He said with a firm nod.

He was sure Hank would keephim out of harms way if that was necessary. He could defend himself, but was he really ready to deal with Gavin at the precinct?