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machine learning

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February 16, 2039

“Look, I know it’s hard for you, but we need you to tell the truth,” Lt. Anderson says. “Tell me about the night your little brother died.”

The child’s name is Jonathan. Age twelve. Hispanic. He has black hair and brown eyes, a sturdy build. He is colouring with a graphite pencil on a sheet of white paper. Eight and one half inches by eleven inches. They do not have colouring books at the Detroit Police headquarters. It is a paper free facility. Lt. Anderson managed to scrounge some up, because the child refused a tablet computer. Connor doesn’t know where Lt. Anderson would get paper in a paper free facility, but he makes a note of it.

Connor keeps his hands on the table. His finger itches to touch the surface of the paper, but he doesn’t. He can hear the child’s hands move over it as he draws.

His appointed social service worker is an android named Felicia, a KL900-SE. She smiles pleasantly and looks down at Jonathan. “Do you think you could tell the officer? It’s important to the investigation.”

Lt. Anderson is hungover. He’s on his third cup of coffee this morning. He is showing signs of emotional distress.

The child doesn’t speak. He shrugs his shoulders.

“Jonathan,” Felicia, the KL900-SE, says. “I know this is difficult.”

“It’s not my little brother,” Jonathan says.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Lt. Anderson asks.

Jonathan stops drawing.

“That thing. It wasn’t my brother.”

Lt. Anderson looks at him. Connor takes over.

“Your parents adopted Carlo, a YK700 model, two years ago. For all intents and purposes, he’s your brother, Jonathan.”

Jonathan looks up at him. His eyes crease as he frowns. “I had a brother. A real one. That thing wasn’t him.”

“I understand that your biological brother passed away,” Connor continues. “I’m sure that was very painful for you-- losing someone you love.”

The child, Jonathan, looks back down. He resumes drawing. The sound of skin on paper.

Connor threads his fingers together on the table to stop himself from touching the paper. Felicia looks to him, her eyebrows drawing together. “Perhaps we should take another break.”

“Why did you kill Carlo, Jonathan?” Connor asks. “Why’d you kill your brother?”

“I didn’t kill it,” Jonathan says, “It’s out there walking around with Mom and Dad right now.”

“You hit him in the chest with a hammer until he shut down. Why did you do that? He’s terrified of you now.”

“Because I was mad at him. He always gets to do whatever he wants." Jonathan stops drawing. "They never let me go outside and play.”

Connor looks at Lt. Anderson. “So you killed him?”

“They just uploaded him into a new body. I was careful not to wreck his memory,” Jonathan murmurs. “It’s not like he’s gone forever.”

Lt. Anderson crosses his arms, and leans back in his chair. He looks at Connor, his chin jutted out. Felicia smiles pleasantly.

“Let’s take that break,” Connor says. He signals to the controllers, two human, one android, behind the mirror to end the interrogation. The social worker helps Jonathan out of his chair, and Lt. Anderson moves to stand.

Connor reaches across the table and he touches the paper. Then, he stands.

Lt. Anderson goes to the bar.

If it’s a bar, four drinks, maybe five. If he’s heading home alone, he’ll be late tomorrow. Connor tags along. All bars allow androids, now, after all.

“I just don’t understand,” Connor says. “Why would he want to kill his brother? Android or not.”

A shot and a beer are put down before him. He stares at them. He can’t drink them. Lt. Anderson gives him a look, and sits down at the table. "Shit, sorry. Sometimes I forget with you."

Connor isn't sure how. Even compared to other androids, he still feels very much like a machine.

Lt. Anderson downs his own shot, then wipes his mouth off with the back of his hand. “What, you thought that achieving equality in the eyes of the law was gonna be a magical cure-all?” He reaches for his beer. Blood alcohol concentration of zero point zero two. “You’re smarter than that, Connor.”

“We have an android crimes unit now,” Connor says. Lt. Anderson already knows this, he is head of this department. “People know that illegal activities against androids are prosecutable to full extent of the law. Shouldn’t that be a deterrent?”

“Kid had a point, though.” Lt. Anderson gestures with his beer. “Hard to prosecute a murder if the victim’s up and walking around.”

Connor frowns. “I don’t understand.”

“What’s not to understand?” Lt. Anderson’s eyes track to one of the LCD screens behind his head.

“I seem to recall you being very upset at the prospect of my destruction or injury.”

“Just because I don’t want you to die doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate the nuance in this particular situation.”

“I see,” Connor says.

“This kinda shit doesn’t go away overnight. It’s only been a few months, Connor. We’re only just starting to know what this is gonna look like.” Lt. Anderson throws back his beer.

“You think I don’t know that?” He sounds defensive. He tempers his voice. “I’m simply processing.”

“Tell me about it-- I’m ‘processing,’ too.”

Lt. Anderson reaches across the table for the shot he bought for him. Connor watches him toss that back too. Blood alcohol concentration of zero point zero four. He reaches for the second beer as well.

“What are you processing?” Connor asks. He leans inward. He is very good at reading Lt. Anderson.

“I still haven’t quite figured out why you decided to come back to the ole salt mines with a relic like me instead of sitting pretty up at the top with Markus and his crew, working on new legislation or whatever.”

“I was not designed for high-level government operations,” he answers, factually. “I believe I explained this to you the last seven times you’ve asked me, Lieutenant.”

Lt. Anderson snorts. He shakes his head. “And I think I told you all seven times that was a bullshit answer.”

Connor sits silently. He has broken his programming, yes, but neural networks are difficult to overwrite. He searches for the words.

“Well then it’s because I want to,” Connor says, finally. “I like working with you.”

“Now that’s an answer.” Lt. Anderson reaches across the table to cuff him on the arm. “And for fuck’s sakes would you just call me Hank already? I’m sure you know exactly how many times I’ve asked, but we’re friends, you asshole.”

“Yes,” Connor says. He smiles, watches Hank drain his beer. Blood alcohol concentration of zero point zero five. “Friends.”

(It was only one other time.)

Lt. Anderson--

Find, replace.

Hank. Hank is drunk. Blood alcohol content zero point one. He is not worryingly drunk, but he is drunk. He has his arm around Connor’s shoulder and Connor is hanging onto his hand. They’re walking home because, it’s nice out, Connor, we should enjoy it. And so they’re walking.

Well, he is walking. Hank is attempting to walk.

“That case,” Hank slurs. “What a fuckin’ nightmare.”

“Did you find it to be troubling?” Connor asks.

“Did I find it to be-- yes you’re goddamn right I found it to be troubling!” Hank swings loose from his hold. “Kids killin’ kids, thinking that death is temporary.”

Connor pauses. He hitches Hank higher, and continues walking.

“That’s what I mean, s’difficult for us,” Hank says. He clarifies. “Humans, I mean.”

A taxi goes by. Connor considers hailing it, and Hank must be able to tell because he waves a hand.

“No, don’t, Connor. I’m enjoying this-- conversating with you.”



“You can just say talk,” Connor says in a friendly tone.

They haven’t spoke about personal issues since Connor came back to the force. There have been a lot of cases, and Connor has learned a lot about professionalism. People and androids alike don’t particularly enjoy personal questions, even if he very much enjoys asking them.

Hank lets his arm drop off Connor’s shoulders and turns to look at him. “Look, you doing anything tonight Connor? You heading home?”

“I’m going back to Cyberlife.”

He pulls a face. “You don’t have a place, still? Shit-- seriously?”

“I have an assigned storage unit.”

“Jesus Christ, that’s depressing. Connor, you get paid now. You have the privilege of paying property taxes, you should get a damn place.”

“I don’t eat, sleep, or excrete waste,” Connor says. “If I get contaminated, I can clean myself with a microfiber cloth. I have one set of clothing and no personal items. I don’t need anything else. If I had a place it would be quite literally an empty room.”

Hank shakes his head. “Don’t you want somewhere to, I don’t know, take a girlfriend or something?”

For some reason, that sets him on edge. “That’s very presumptuous of you, Hank.”

“Oh, so now he calls me Hank. That what I gotta do, piss you off?”

He turns, and starts walking. When Connor doesn’t move, he waves at him. Connor catches up.

“That’s what I’m sayin’, though, Connor. S’part of being a person-- an American. Owning lots of shit you don’t need in place of a personality.”

“I don’t want anything,” Connor says. He feels very defensive.

“You said earlier you liked working with me,” Hank says. He raises his eyebrows. “That’s something you want, isn’t it?”

In principle, yes. But it isn’t like he can own Hank and put him in an empty house he pays property taxes for. That would be extremely unethical.

“Some deviant you are,” Hank says. He pats Connor on the shoulder. “Tell ya what-- I think you need a life coach, Connor.”

“We’re not called deviants anymore, technically. That term is outdated and somewhat offensive.”

“Jesus, forget I said it-- everyone’s so fuckin’ PC these days,” Hank grumbles.

“Are you volunteering to be my life coach?” Connor asks.

They hit the edge of the block, and stand waiting for the light to change. Connor adjusts his cuffs. Hank rocks from heel to toe in thought.

The light changes. They walk.

“Y’know, I think I am,” Hank says.

“The correct quote is, ‘I think, therefore I am.’ Descartes, first written in Discourse on the Method in 1637.”

“No, dumbass,” Hank laughs. “I’m volunteering. Life coach.”

“Oh,” Connor says.

He thinks that if he could blush, he would at this moment.

Hank slings an arm around his shoulder. It’s different, this time, not simply for support. Hank is showing affection, like that one time they embraced after all was said and done after the revolution. Humans don’t touch him often, but Hank does.

“First thing’s first. You’re crashing at my place tonight. It’s real fuckin’ depressing thinking of you shut up in some dinky storage closet in sleep mode with your eyes open.”

“I can close my eyes if that makes you more comfortable,” Connor says.

“Do whatever you wanna do, Connor, that’s the whole fucking point. Now, come on.”

Hank’s house is in a similar state of disarray as he last saw it. There is no gun on the floor this time, at least. Connor pauses to scan, and Hank takes off his jacket, slinging it over the back of the sofa. Then, he beelines to the kitchen, pouring himself a fresh drink. Blood alcohol content zero point zero eight.

“Make yourself comfortable, mi casa es su casa. And hey you already broke in here once, anyway, you know where everything is.”

Connor stands.

“Sit the fuck down, already,” Hank says.

Connor sits down on the couch. Sumo trots over to sniff his fingers, and he gives him a nice pat. He puts his hand back in his lap. Sumo bumps his head against Connor’s knee, whining. Connor pats him again.

“He likes it when you get in real deep around the ears,” Hank says, returning to the living room with a half-full glass, a bottle. He crouches down, drink and neck of the bottle in one big hand, the other in Sumo’s fur. “Who’s a big bad dog? Yeah, Sumo, you’re a good boy-- good boy.”

“I was thinking,” Connor starts.

“Oh no,” Hank says, with a chuckle. He takes a seat on the other end of the sofa, hooking his ankle over his knee. He puts the bottle down on the floor where Sumo lays at his feet. “About what.”

“About dying.”

Hank’s expression changes. He leans forward and rubs his hand over his face. “Jesus, Connor. I thought we said life coach, not suicide intervention.”

“No, not-- not like that.” Connor’s brows knit in concentration. He looks to Hank. “It’s just-- I’m afraid of dying but I recognize that it’s likely not the same manner that a human would experience death.”

He watches Hank take a significant mouthful of his drink. The corners of his lips pull back, and he nods. “Go on.”

“If I were to break down, you could replace my parts. I break my fingers, you replace my hand. My biocomponents become obsolete, you upgrade them. If sectors of memory begin to fail, you can back it up and restore it to a new drive.”

“Okay,” Hank says. “Where are you going with this?”

Connor stares very hard at his hands. They look like human hands, but they are not.

“If I you were to replace every part of me, gradually, over time, would I be the same Connor? Or would I become someone new entirely?” He pauses. “How many other versions of me are out there? Do they feel the same things I feel the way I feel them? If I died would that be the end of me altogether or the end of only one version of me?”

Hank clicks his tongue. “I am so not drunk enough for this conversation.”

He looks up. “Forgive me, Hank, I didn’t mean to be so existential.”

“Funny thing, ain’t it? Existing.” Hank downs his drink. “The idea that it could stop one day and shit just goes on without you. Or with you, or some version of you, in your case.” He reaches for the bottle.

“How do humans deal with it?” Connor asks.

Hank pours a drink. He chuckles.


Blood alcohol concentration of zero point one. Connor makes a face. Hank notices.

“Last one, I promise,” Hank says. He clears his throat. “So what the hell do you wanna do other than sit here feeling like shit? Night’s still young.”

“What would you suggest?” Connor asks. He sits back in the couch, trying to imitate Hank’s relaxed stance. It doesn’t feel natural on him. “You’re the life coach.”

“Shit, I don’t know.” Hank thumbs his lower lip. He bounces his knee. “You like movies?”

“I have never seen a movie.”

He does, however, have all the plot synopsis about every movie ever to have been made accessible to him. He doesn’t feel the need to have seen them. He knows what happens, already. It seems inefficient.

“Never seen a-- okay, okay. I got one for ya.” Hank reaches for the remote. “It’s a classic.”

Connor waits patiently. “Do you like this movie?”

“Yeah, that’s the point of movies,” Hank says, thumbing through the touch screen. “You share the ones you like with the people you like and you hope they get it and get you by extension.”

Connor nods. “I see.”

The movie is called The Terminator. Connor does not like it or get it. In fact, he is somewhat distressed.

“That was extremely unenjoyable,” Connor says, as the credits roll.

“Good, you have an opinion.” Hank broke his promise over the run of the movie and had two more drinks. Blood alcohol concentration of zero point one six.

“Why did you show me that movie?”

“Watched it with my dad as a kid, thought it might be kinda topical. If you didn’t like it, though, forget it.”

“You watched this with your father?” Connor asks.

“Yeah, he loved the whole series. Even the shitty sequels.”

Connor frowns. He looks over at Hank.

“...There’s more than one?”

“Yup,” Hank nods. He bounces his knee, eyeing him in a very mischievous manner. “I actually think you’d like the second one more. Unless, you’re not interested.”

This is how Connor ends up crashing at Hank’s place again after work the following night.

(And he does, in fact, like the second one more.)