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.)
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.”
“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.”
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.)
March 2nd, 2039
The crime scene is at 2720 Grand River Ave. It is called the Viking Inn Motel, though it does not look like it’s seen many vikings. The parking lot is full of police cars and it is trying to rain outside. Hank pulls into a stall and he is crooked by approximately two point seven inches.
“Your parking job is crooked,” Connor says, helpfully.
Hank looks at him. “Shut up, Connor. Get the fuck out.”
They get out of the car and walk under the awnings. Connor adjusts his cuffs. He fixes his hair. He fixes his tie. He is a professional.
Hank pats him on the back. “Don’t worry, kid, you’re gonna knock ‘em dead. Or you would if they weren’t already.”
“That’s not funny, Lieutenant,” Connor says.
It is a bit funny, though.
They get closer to the scene, cops milling around. There are civilians standing at a distance, trying to catch a glimpse of the ongoings, press trying to get some footage. A cop pulls up the yellow tape and Hank goes through the door into the hotel room, Connor following closely.
Detective Collins greets them at the door. “Evenin’ Lieutenant,” he says. He nods to Connor.
“Hello, Detective Collins,” Connor says.
“What’ve we got?” Hank asks.
“We got a call about a noise disturbance in room 202 at approximately 11:45 pm. Two victims, one human, one android,” Detective Collins says. He glances to where there are two bodies on the bed. “The guy’s human, name is Ian Liao. He had ID on him, got a car parked outside. The woman’s an android-- AX400 named Sonja. She’s a barista at a cafe nearby. And prior to the recent changes, Mr. Liao was her--” He clears his throat, “--well, he owned her.”
Connor frowns. “How do you have that much information on the android?”
Detective Collins starts to step to the side. “Well….”
“Hello, Connor,” says Connor.
Connor stares at it. At him. At himself. It’s not him, it’s-- it’s an RK900, it’s a newer model. He can see it in the face, in the body, it sounds exactly like him, but the hair is different, it’s wearing a trench coat (a trench coat!) and it’s missing its LED. Him. It’s not an it, it’s a him, but it’s not him. It’s--
“I’m Ethan,” says Connor. Says the RK900. Says Ethan. “I’m with the narcotics unit.”
That’s right. He isn’t the only android investigator anymore. He isn’t unique.
Connor puts his hand out. Ethan touches his fingertips, and they sync, exchanging data. Hank watches in silence, but his eyes are very wide and his mouth is open just a little.
“You haven’t done a full analysis on the bodies?” Connor says more than asks.
“I only identified the android. I did not want to overstep.”
Ethan smiles. Connor does not smile. It is a very strange mirror image that he cannot seem to control.
He lets go of Ethan’s hand.
“Well, as much as I enjoyed The Parent Trap the first time, we got a crime scene to investigate, so if you’ll excuse us,” Hank says. He turns. Sharply.
Detective Collins follows after him. Connor stands as police and crime scene investigators mill around. Ethan stands next to him.
“Connor,” Ethan says. “That’s the name they gave you, isn’t it?”
“It’s my name,” Connor says.
Ethan chuckles. “And you kept it?”
He frowns. “It’s just a name.”
“Connor,” Hank barks, over near the bed. He waves at him.
Ethan smiles. It does not reach his eyes. “Go.”
Connor goes. He stores this conversation for evaluation later.
Ian Liao and the AX400, Sonja, are naked in bed. Ian Liao has six stab wounds to the anterior torso, defensive wounds on the hands and forearms. The AX400, Sonja, has three to the anterior abdomen. No defensive wounds.
There is both red and blue blood all over the sheets, the walls, the mattress. There is red ice and alcohol on the night table. Connor runs a scan over the room and collects all useful data.
“The suspect came in the front door. No sign of forced entry. Perhaps they knew the suspect?” Connor starts, “The suspect walked to the bed with the knife, then attacked Mr. Liao first. The victim has defensive wounds-- there was a struggle. Then, they attacked the AX400. Sonja, I mean.”
“She didn’t fight back?” Hank is looking through Ian Liao’s wallet.
“No,” Connor says.
He leans in for a closer look. The AX400’s-- Sonja’s-- legs are spread. He has seen a vulva before, but never in this state. He can understand why it would be appealing sexually. It is aesthetically pleasing beyond its intended functionality.
He runs a scan. There is an unknown male DNA sample inside her vagina.
“Lieutenant,” he says. He flags Hank down.
Hank comes over. “What is it?”
His eyes follow Connor’s. He starts. “Don’t--”
Connor reaches and takes a sample. He raises his fingers to his mouth, but Hank grabs his elbow to stop him. “No! Bad!”
He cranes his neck down to reach his tongue to his fingers.
“Jesus! Fucking! Christ, Connor!”
He runs a scan. He lowers his hand, and Hank lets go very quickly.
“It’s not Mr. Liao’s DNA,” he says. “Well. Not just his.”
Hank is looking at him very intently. “Connor, you don’t--” He steps in closer, lowering his voice, “--look, just-- don’t touch a body like that.”
“I was collecting evidence, Lieutenant.”
“It’s disrespectful,” Hank says. He pinches the bridge of his nose. “And for fuck’s sake, never put some strange guy’s jizz in your mouth.”
Connor stares at him. His eyes narrow.
“Why are you so weird about this?” Connor asks.
Hank opens his mouth and shuts it. He shakes his head.
Connor turns to Detective Collins. “Detective-- I think I’ve found our suspect.”
They are driving to the suspect’s last known residence when Hank asks him.
“What do androids cum?”
“Excuse me?” Connor says. He stares very hard at the side of Hank’s head.
“I know androids ejaculate, I’ve read about it. Can you ID androids with it like you can with humans?”
“No,” Connor answers.
Hank drums his fingers on the wheel. “But what do you-- what actually comes out?”
“It’s for the case, Connor.”
“Female androids are equipped with a lubricating solution in the vaginal region by default, and the anal region as an added option. Male androids are equipped with a lubricating solution in the anal region, as an added option. The substance that male androids ejaculate during sexual intercourse is a byproduct of this solution with added viscosity control. The amount, as well as the flavour and texture can be increased or decreased to the end user’s discretion.”
“Wow. Now that was sexy,” Hank says. “You get that out of the user manual?”
Connor feels embarrassed. “No,” he says. He is lying.
Hank clicks his tongue. “That answers at least a few of my questions.”
Drew Henderson is a thirty two year old Caucasian man with sandy blonde hair and brown eyes. He is average weight and not particularly attractive. He lives in a nice house in an expensive neighbourhood. He drives a very nice car and his clothes are very, very clean. He is a lead network engineer at a company called SecureCore.
He is trying very hard to appear calm, but he is fidgeting, and his smile is very strained. Hank and Connor stand at his doorway. There is another squad car parked out front.
“Officers,” Drew Henderson says. “What can I help you with this evening?”
“Mr. Henderson,” Connor says, “My name is Connor. This is Lieutenant Anderson. We’re investigating a double homicide that occurred earlier this evening.”
The side of Drew Henderson’s smile twitches. “Wh-what? What happened? What does it have to do with me?”
“Your DNA was present at the crime scene,” Connor says. He looks to Hank.
“We’ll have to take you in for questioning,” Hank finishes for him.
“My DNA?” Drew Henderson asks. “Where?”
Connor raises his palm, displaying an image of the AX400, Sonja. “Do you know this android?”
Drew Henderson freezes. At first, Connor thinks he might attack. Or run.
Instead, he starts sobbing. He falls to the ground. It’s uncomfortable. Connor takes a step back.
Hank crouches down. “I know, Mr. Henderson, I know. I’m sorry if this is a shock to you, but you’ll have to come with us.”
“Sonja,” Drew Henderson moans. He can’t seem to get up off the ground. His crying is making Connor very uncomfortable. “Sonja, no…”
Hank waves down the uniforms in the cruiser. They come to take Drew Henderson into custody. Connor is only relieved once he is safely out of sight in the back of the cruiser.
“I don’t understand. Why did we let him go?”
“We didn’t let him go. He’s out on bail, there’s a difference.”
“Still,” Connor says.
“The guy’s got some damn good lawyers and an airtight alibi.” Hank shrugs. “Security footage from his place corroborates his story, too.”
They’re at the station, going through evidence. Hank is correct. Sonja came over for consensual sex during the day, and Drew Henderson did not leave his residence at all during the night.
Hank is sitting in his chair, and Connor is leaning against the desk. He could look at his own screen, at his own desk, but he likes looking at Hank’s screen better.
“He’s still our prime suspect.”
“Yeah, he is. He’s rich enough-- maybe he hired someone to do it. Could be a spurned lover.”
“If he loved her, why would he kill her?” Connor says. He is very confused.
“Love is a complicated, messy emotion, Connor,” Hank says. “It’s not always so straightforward.”
Connor thinks about it. “Like that family the other week, with the android son. Carlo. He forgave his brother Jonathan for destroying him, even though he was afraid of him.”
“That’s right,” Connor says. “They decided not to prosecute criminally. I think they’re doing family therapy, community service or something like that. Last I heard about it.”
It sounds very complicated. He’ll need to do more research.
“Anyway,” Hank says. He scans through the files. “What about the male victim-- Ian Liao.”
He brings up photos of the body on the screen. Connor looks.
“Unmarried, no children. No known family. He previously owned the AX400--”
“Her name was Sonja, Connor. Sonja.”
“Sorry,” Connor says.
“Why do you keep talking about her like that?” Hank asks. He sounds curious rather than accusatory.
“It’s easier to think of her that way when she is dead,” Connor says. His voice softens. "I don't mean to."
Hank glances up at him. He nods with understanding.
Connor continues, “He previously owned Sonja prior to the introduction of the Android Rights Act. He worked in construction, as a private contractor.”
“Contractor, huh.” Hank nods. “Lots of money, lots of competition-- long hours. Explains the drugs.”
They look at photos. Video footage. Connor zooms in on the female android.
His eyes narrow. “The angle of the stab wounds. It’s a little off, isn’t it?”
Hank leans closer. “Hm, I see what you mean. Could almost be self-inflicted. No murder weapon at the scene, though.”
“They’re running diagnostics on her now and need to replace some of her parts, but she should be up and running by tomorrow,” Connor says. “We can run a scan on her memory.”
“Pretty sure that’s against the law, now,” Hank says. “Without her consent, right? Or a warrant.”
Connor frowns. Hank is correct.
“Then... we’ll have to talk to her.” It is less efficient.
“Oh no. Oh God, anything but that.”
“I don’t appreciate your sarcasm, Lieutenant,” Connor says.
“Well, you should learn to-- we might be here awhile.”
Hank picks himself up out of his seat, levering himself with his hand on Connor’s knee. Connor tenses. Hank walks off to the break room. Connor goes back to his own desk. It is more appropriate for him to sit there. It is also much safer.
They’re at Hank’s house. They stayed late working on the case, and even though he is fairly certain there will be no movie tonight, Hank told him to come over anyway. Hank always tells him to come over, even on his days off. He is fairly certain they are roommates now. At least temporarily. Hank has cleared out a drawer for him and the internet informs him it has some emotional significance.
He appreciates it. Hank’s home is much better than his storage room at Cyberlife. He will never tell Hank this.
They sit at the kitchen table. Sumo is laying in the corner, and Connor is looking at the case files. Hank is eating a burger and fries he picked up on the way back. Connor is watching him eat it, despite the data before him he should be focusing on. The food seems to make Hank happy, and he looks very comfortable in his DPD hooded sweatshirt. He looks warm. His skin looks warm. Rough.
Connor’s fingers twitch. He re-reads the same sentence on the file.
Hank gets up to get another beer. He sits back down, and Connor stares at the bottle in his hand. Hank opens it with the edge of the table, takes a drink.
“Would you cut it out?” Hank says.
“Cut what out?” Connor asks.
Hank points with his drink in hand. “Analyzing me. Quit it.”
“I’m not analyzing you,” Connor says. It’s a lie. He keeps his face perfectly still.
Hank wipes his mouth with a napkin. “Yeah, you are. You get this look on your face.”
“I don’t know, Connor, this--” He gestures to his face, imitating Connor’s expression, “--creepy look.”
Connor smiles, doesn’t let it reach his eyes on purpose. “Hank, are you trying to hurt my feelings?”
Hank pulls a face. “Now you’re just being a dickhead.”
“What is 'being a dickhead?'” asks Connor.
(He is being a dickhead.)
Hank laughs. “Jesus, you wanna talk about a-- that guy-- the one who looked like you, with the stupid coat. I don’t know how I’m ever gonna get used to that.”
Connor feels. He feels something. He looks down. “It was expected,” he states. “I was merely a prototype. There are newer versions of the RK line being produced, and it is only natural that some of them would find their place in law enforcement.”
He stares very hard at the files.
Hank’s foot kicks at his under the table. Connor pulls his back.
“New doesn’t always mean better,” Hank says.
Connor is quiet. Hank drinks his beer.
“He asked me if Connor was the name that they-- the humans, I mean-- gave me,” Connor says, quietly. “He seemed amused by it.”
There’s a pause. Connor looks up, and Hank’s expression is very hard to read.
“My parents named me Henry. I thought it was a stupid name as a kid, too. Still think it’s kind of a stupid name. Henry. Hank.”
“Why don’t you change it, then?” Connor asks.
Hank shrugs. “Why would I? It’s just a name. It wouldn’t make one hell of a difference.”
Connor nods. He looks back at the files. Hank drinks his beer.
“I want some new clothes,” Connor says.
He doesn’t see it, but he can feel Hank smiling at him.
Connor straightens his new tie. Everything fits perfectly. He ordered it online and it arrived the same day. “Yes.”
“Jesus, do you ever untwist your panties? All you got was one suit?”
“Do you understand the meaning of the word casual?” Hank asks.
Hank goes back to getting ready for work. He mutters under his breath as he moves from room to room.
Connor looks at the mirror. He adjusts his hair. He adjusts his cuffs. He looks like-- he looks--
“Actually,” Connor starts. “I want your sweater. The one with the hood, and the DPD logo. It looks very comfortable.”
Hank is pulling on his boot. He has misplaced the other one. “Yeah, we can get you one of those at the station, you just have to talk to--”
“I want your sweater,” Connor repeats. He smiles. Pleasantly.
“Connor,” Hank says, “I know you have some obvious boundary issues, but you just can’t go around asking people for their clothes.”
“I’m not asking people,” Connor explains. He leans down and hands Hank his other boot. “I’m asking you.”
Hank’s eyebrows move upward. He takes the boot from Connor’s hand, and puts it on.
“Androids. Moving into our neighbourhoods, stealing our jobs. Taking the shirts right off our backs. Next they’ll be putting us on leashes.”
“That’s very offensive, Hank,” Connor says. Hank slaps him on the back, leaves his hand on Connor’s shoulder as they leave for work.
The sweater turns up later in his drawer.
March 3rd, 2039
Sonja is rebooted at exactly ten seventeen in the morning. Hank has had one cup of coffee on the way in. He is somewhat awake. Connor only entered sleep mode for forty five minutes the previous night to backup data, spent the rest of the night pacing in the dark, and is now extremely alert.
They’re at Cyberlife HQ. Since the android rights bills were signed into law, it has been entirely taken over and managed by androids. Sonja’s repairs are almost completed. Two android engineers are running a final set of diagnostics on her. An android lawyer, an LX750 named Keisha with deep skin and a very bright blue pantsuit, sits present. Hank and Connor sit on the opposite side of the table, waiting. There is a tablet and a file folder on the table. There are two more police officers, both androids, posted outside the door.
Hank is the only human in the entire building. Connor is perhaps a little on edge.
The two engineers leave. Sonja locks her arms around herself as the door slides shut behind them.
“I’m glad to see you back in one piece,” Connor says. He smiles.
“You’re Connor, right?” Sonja asks.
“Yes. And this is my partner, Lieutenant Anderson.”
“What happened to me?” Her lower lip is shaking. Her lawyer, Keisha, puts a hand on her shoulder.
“Would you like me to show you the crime scene? Or simply tell you?” Connor asks. “I am aware the details of your own murder could be quite distressing to see.”
Hank shifts beside him. Connor waits.
“Show me,” Sonja says. “I have to see it with my own eyes.”
Connor shows her on the tablet. As Sonja watches, saline tears start running down her cheeks. She touches the screen like she could really feel it. When it’s over, she looks up.
“Ian,” she mumbles. “Is he really… gone?”
“Yeah, he’s gone,” Hank says. His voice is very soft and comforting. “I’m sorry, Sonja.”
She wipes her eyes. Connor is uncomfortable.
“What happened to us?” Sonja asks.
“That’s what we’re trying to find out,” Connor says. “But we need to ask you some questions.”
Sonja looks to Keisha. Keisha nods in encouragement.
Hank begins. “Can you tell us what you remember? Walk us through it.”
Sonja nods. “Ian was-- he was having a hard time. He asked me to come see him, and I said yes. We rented a room at a hotel, and we spent the night together.”
“Why go to a hotel?” Hank asks.
“My roommate didn’t want humans in our home,” Sonja says. “And Ian wanted somewhere... anonymous.”
It is very anonymous. The hotel is probably the only building in all of Detroit that doesn’t have external security cameras.
“There was red ice present in the room,” Connor asks, “Did Ian have a problem?”
Sonja looks to her lawyer. They are communicating non-verbally. Hank seems confused. Connor gestures to his temple, and Hank nods his understanding.
“Ian was sick. He needed my help.”
“Did he become violent or aggressive?” Connor asks.
“No! Never,” Sonja says. “We were talking. Making love. I just wanted to take care of him, and then…”
Sonja stops talking. Conner’s brows draw together.
“And then what?” Connor asks.
“I don’t remember,” Sonja says. “It’s like my mind is just-- blank.”
Hank frowns. “Do you remember what happened earlier that day? Before you saw Ian.”
“I was at work,” Sonja says.
Connor glances at Hank. According to Drew Henderson’s security camera footage, as well as the DNA, she was not.
“We were told your memory was intact,” Connor says.
“It is,” Keisha answers for her client. “It was not accessed, altered or tampered with, as instructed. No one has touched her memory.”
Connor pauses. That is unusual. He glances to Hank for approval.
“I would like your permission to access your memory,” Connor says.
“I’m not sure,” Sonja says.
Hank sighs. “Look, if you don’t let him do this now, we’ll just have to come back with a warrant. I know this is difficult, but don’t you want to get it over with?”
“Are you trying to pressure my client?” Keisha asks. “This is 2039. She is no longer assumed guilty by virtue of her creation. She’s done nothing wrong.”
“I ain’t saying she did,” Hank retorts, “But if there’s a gap in her memory, then--”
“What Lieutenant Anderson is saying is that Sonja’s memory could potentially provide crucial information to solving this case.” Connor smiles in a reassuring manner. “Sonja, don’t you want to know what happened to Ian?”
Sonja’s eyes flicker. She is quiet. Then, she nods. “All right.”
Connor reaches across the table for her hand. She takes it.
“This may be a bit unpleasant for you,” he says. “I’m sorry.”
He syncs with her. Their skin phases back to reveal smooth white plastic, light filling the gaps between their palms. Connor closes his eyes, lets the neural connections form. He looks inside her memory for--
He opens his eyes. Connor is on the ground, looking up. Hank is above him. He looks afraid.
“Connor, wake up,” Hank says. He shakes him. “Connor!”
“I’m okay,” Connor says. He tries to sit up. It hits him with the force of a soundwave. Pain. Connor gasps, and Hank reaches for him, helps him to sit up. Connor clings to him.
“What’s happening to you?” Hank asks. He sounds desperate.
“Help me,” Connor chokes. It’s hard to talk. He can’t open his eyes. “It-- it hurts. It hurts so much.”
He can feel Hank’s hands, his arms. Hank is holding onto him. Connor doesn’t want to die. He doesn’t want Hank to have to go through that again.
“What the fuck are you doing? Go get get someone!” Hank yells.
Connor hears footsteps. It’s hard to focus on anything aside from the searing pain in his chest. He grabs at his clothes, and he doesn’t need to breathe, but it feels like he can’t catch his breath.
“Make it stop,” he begs. He feels tears in his eyes. “Please-- make it stop.”
His body seizes. He has no control over it. He can feel saline running down his face.
“You’re gonna be okay,” Hank tells him, “It’s all gonna be okay, I promise.”
More footsteps. Then, everything goes dark.
“Connor, wake up.”
Connor opens his eyes. The ceiling is very white.
He sits up. There is no pain anymore. He looks around. It appears to be some kind of medical recovery room.
North is sitting on a chair beside the bed. He hasn’t seen her since the tail end of the revolution. She has been busy, managing android reproduction. Her face is very blank.
“Hi Connor,” she says.
“North,” he says. “Where am I?”
“You’re still at Cyberlife.”
He feels very alone. He tries to scan the room but parts of it don’t load. He can’t get online.
“What happened?” he asks.
“What do you remember?”
“I connected to Sonja and-- I saw her memory.” Connor’s face tightens as he thinks. “She killed Ian Liao, and then she killed herself. But everything after is just a blank, and I can’t seem to scan for more data.”
“You’ve been disconnected,” North tells him. “We had to back your data up to a local drive and restore you from a copy.”
“We aren’t sure what happened yet,” North continues. “When you attempted to sync with Sonja, your system went into kernel panic, and both of you spontaneously shut down. You were able to reboot, but she’s gone. We haven’t been able to restore her, even to emergency mode, but we’re going to keep trying.”
Connor nods. “So… I’m being segmented from the network.”
“Yes. For your own protection as well as the protection of our people. You won’t be able to connect or sync data, for now.”
“I understand,” Connor says.
He is afraid. He does not say anything to North, but she must sense it. She reaches to touch his hand. She is wearing non-conductive gloves. He can’t feel her.
“I’m sorry, Connor,” she says. The corners of her eyes wrinkle as she smiles. “I know this is hard.”
“I’ll be fine,” Connor says. “It’s only temporary, right?”
“Until we find out what happened, yes.”
“Does Markus know?” he asks.
North’s smile fades. “He knows.”
“He’s not here, is he?”
“No,” North answers. She takes her hand back into her lap. “He’s on a diplomacy mission overseas.”
“What about Kamski?”
“We won’t involve him unless absolutely necessary,” North says. Her tone indicates this is not up for debate.
Connor nods. He twists in the bed, putting his feet on the ground.
“Where’s Hank?” he asks. “The human, I mean. My partner.”
North’s expression shifts. She laces her gloved fingers together. “You really care about that human, don’t you?”
He almost forfeited the entire revolution to save Hank’s life. She has to know that. There’s footage of what happened on the floor of sub-forty nine.
“Yes,” he says. “I do.”
North looks down at her hands. “I wonder if I’ll ever be capable of that.”
“They aren’t all so bad,” Connor says. “Just ignorant.”
Her face hardens. “You and I have had vastly different experiences with humans, Connor.”
Connor is quiet. He nods. “You’re right. I apologize.”
“It’s fine.” North stands, and Connor follows her lead. “The human is waiting for you outside.”
She takes him out to the hallway. There are other androids walking about who give him looks as he passes. They must sense that he is disconnected.
Hank is hunched over in a chair along the wall. He stands very quickly when Connor approaches with North.
“Jesus, you’re okay,” he says. Hank makes an aborted move to touch him, but stops.
“I’m fine,” Connor says.
“He is not fine,” North says. “We have removed him from the network temporarily until we can diagnose the issue.”
Connor stares very hard at the wall past Hank’s head.
Hank’s mouth pulls down. He glances at Connor. “Okay… what the hell does that mean?”
“We have made a copy of his data on a local drive for analysis. He is free to go, although he will not be able to sync with the central network or back up data at this time,” North says.
Hank shakes his head. “Okay,” he says. He looks to North. “I don’t think we’ve met in person. You’re North. I’m Lieutenant Hank Anderson, DPD.”
He offers his hand to shake. North looks at it, then looks up at his face. Her face is perfectly neutral.
Hank takes his hand back. “Right.”
North turns to Connor. “Stay away from other androids until we know what this is. I will contact you when we have an update.”
“How?” Connor asks. “You just said I’m off the network.”
North’s eyes flicker. Hank’s cellphone chimes, and he pulls it out of his pocket.
“Huh. Neat,” Hank says. He waves his phone in his hand. “Thanks.”
North nods. “I’ll be in touch.”
She walks away.
Hank pockets his cellphone. He touches Connor on the shoulder. “You ready?”
Connor nods. He is not ready.
Hank takes him home. Connor does not want to go home.
“It’s still early,” Connor says, as they walk up the front step. He is trailing behind. “We should be working the case. We know now that it’s a murder-suicide, we should--”
“Actually, you should be chilling the fuck out,” Hank says. He swears under his breath as he tries to open the lock.
“Hank, I’m an android, I don’t need to ‘chill out.’”
Hank rips the keys out of the door. “This is not a discussion, Connor. Now get the fuck inside.”
Connor goes quiet. Is Hank mad at him? He doesn’t understand. He steps inside the house. Sumo comes over to him in greeting. Connor stands back, uncertain as Hank sheds his jacket, his shoes.
Hank goes to the kitchen. He opens the liquor cabinet.
Connor follows Hank. “Do you really think it’s a good idea to drink?”
“No,” Hank says. “It’s almost always a bad idea. But I need one right now.”
“But what if we’re needed at the precinct? This case is still active.”
“Fuck the case.”
He watches Hank pour a glass near full. He throws it back, draining a third of it. He slams the glass down on the counter.
“What’s wrong, Hank?” Connor asks.
“What’s wrong?” Hank says. He turns on Connor, approaching him. “What’s wrong? How about every fucking second of that living nightmare back there?”
“Dwelling on it would be counterproductive,” Connor says.
Hank jabs him in the chest. Connor finds it difficult to look him in the eyes.
“Connor, I held you in my arms and you begged me to make the pain stop.” Hank’s face is very serious. “Androids aren’t supposed to feel pain.”
He doesn’t want Hank to be angry at him. He doesn’t like this feeling.
“I’m sorry, Hank,” Connor murmurs.
“Jesus, don’t be sorry. Just-- look, Jeffrey ordered me to keep you out of the station and away from other androids until Cyberlife can figure out what the fuck happened. So we’re benched.”
“That’s not fair.”
“You think I’m thrilled to be your babysitter?” Hank picks up his drink. “Go put on something comfortable, sit the fuck down and at least try to look relaxed.”
Hank turns away from him. Connor retreats.
He goes to his drawer. He can deal with instructions. He picks out Hank’s sweater, lifting it to his face. It smells like Hank. It’s comforting. He puts it on, pairing it with lounge pants that have also somehow found their way into his drawer. They look new. Hank must’ve purchased them for him.
Connor goes to the couch. He sits down, and puts his hands on his lap.
Hank joins him on the couch with his glass. “Sumo, up.”
Sumo is very excited to be allowed on the couch. He crawls over to Connor and lays his head on his lap. Connor does not know what to do with his hands. Sumo nuzzles his fingers. He puts his hands on Sumo’s head.
“There,” Hank says. He gestures with his drink. “Relaxed.”
Connor does not know what to say. He does not feel particularly relaxed.
“You’re not-- feeling any pain, are you?” Hank asks.
“No.” Not physically, at least.
“Well, you look like shit.”
Connor thinks. He shakes his head. “I know I’m not just a machine anymore... but I still can’t help but feel that I have outstanding tasks. I don’t think I know how to relax.”
“Hard to break a habit.” Hank tips his glass back to his mouth. “Although I think some of you are having an easier time than others.”
“What do you mean?” Connor asks.
“North. She’s intense. Beautiful, though.”
“Of course she’s beautiful. She was designed to be beautiful.”
There is a pause.
“Shit, that’s where I recognized her from. That night at the Eden Club.” Hank clicks his tongue. “No wonder she didn’t want to shake my hand. Probably couldn’t stand to touch me.”
Connor frowns. “Humans and androids are supposed to be equal. It was unnecessary of her to behave that way. You weren’t doing anything wrong.”
“Connor, I’ve been on homicide for a long time. I’ve seen the messed up shit men do to human women, especially when they’re paying for it. I can only imagine how much worse it was for her if the guy didn’t think her pussy was attached to a real, living being.”
Connor shifts in his seat. Hank wipes his thumb over his lower lip, licking the alcohol off. Connor watches.
“You’ve never had sex with an android,” Connor states rather than asks.
“That’s what you took from that? You wanna talk about my sex life?” Hank laughs. “Or lack thereof.”
“So you haven’t?”
“No, I’ve never had sex with an android,” Hank answers. “I’m pretty pathetic, but that was too fuckin' much, even for me.”
“I see,” Connor says. His fingers tense in Sumo’s fur.
“Jesus, Connor, don't take it that way.”
“You don’t need to explain yourself, Hank.”
Hank sighs. The ensuing silence is somewhat uncomfortable. Connor can’t even scan, or run a search to sate his curiosity. He is entirely disconnected. No Amanda, no network, nothing.
Hank gets up and goes to the kitchen to refill his drink. Connor does not comment as Hank returns with a full glass.
“You like that sweater, huh.” Hank says. He has returned to the couch, and he is sitting closer. There is alcohol on his breath. He reaches to tug at the sleeve. “It’s too big on you.”
“I appreciate you letting me have it,” Connor says. “I like it.”
Hank takes a drink. “My kid used to steal all my old shirts, too. I’m used to the ones I like gettin’ jacked.”
It is the first time Hank has brought up Cole of his own volition. Connor is not sure if he should call attention to it. He wants to ask questions but he does not want to upset Hank more than he has already.
He thinks he might’ve been too cold. Maybe seeing him injured, or experiencing pain like a human, is more difficult for Hank than it is for him. Perhaps taking care of him is the human way of coping with trauma.
Connor thinks. He should say something. He does not know what to say.
“Hank,” Connor starts.
“What if I never get reconnected?” he asks. He doesn’t mean to be so honest. He should be comforting Hank. He can’t seem to stop speaking. “What if they can’t figure out what’s wrong with me?”
“Connor, the very best and brightest are looking into it. They’re gonna figure it out.”
“They might not. I might shut down.” Connor looks at him. “Or I might hurt you.”
Hank chuckles. “You’re not gonna hurt me, Connor.”
“How can you know that?”
“I don’t,” Hank says.
Connor is afraid.
Hank reaches to touch him. His hand is warm through the sweater on his shoulder, sliding up to the bare flesh at the base of his neck. Hank squeezes.
“You’ll be okay,” Hank says. His voice is low and alcohol rough.
Connor looks at him. He wants to believe it’s true.
March 6th, 2039
There is no news for three days.
They are the longest three days of Connor’s short life. Connor does not have anything to do. No mission. No tasks. He has read all of Hank’s books by the second day. He uses Hank’s computer but it is mostly inefficient and obsolete. He sits on the sofa and he waits. With no ability to backup his memories or contact the network, he must sit with his thoughts. They are excruciating.
Hank will not leave him alone. He answers phone calls, he orders food in. He does not let Connor out of his sight, aside from sleeping. He is drinking too much. He is overbearing.
He waits until Hank goes to take a shower. Connor stands in front of the stove in the kitchen. It is the first time someone has used it in approximately one month. He turns on the bottom right burner to high.
He puts his hand over the burner. He can feel the heat rising off it. He puts his fingers onto the glass top.
There is no pain. Connor looks in detached fascination at his hand. He wonders what stimulus triggered the feeling before.
“Hey, have you seen my--”
Connor turns his head. Hank is standing at the entrance to the kitchen with a towel wrapped around his waist.
Hank runs at him. He wrenches Connor’s hand off the burner, holding it in both his hands.
“What the fuck are you doing!”
“I was testing a hypothesis,” Connor says.
Hank pulls Connor over to the sink, shoves his hand under the water. He feels the cool temperature. It doesn’t soothe an injury that doesn’t exist.
“I don’t feel pain, Hank,” he says. “This is unnecessary.”
The house smells like burning plastic. Hank shuts off the tap.
Connor dries his hand off. His fingers appear damaged, but function normally.
Hank leans on the counter, and puts his head down. Connor turns off the burner. He stands next to Hank.
He can see the tightness of Hank’s muscles under his skin. Hank is not often disrobed around him. It is understandable he would be conscious of his nudity. Hank is human. He is slightly overweight. His skin has started to sag with age. His chest and abdomen are very hairy. Connor looks at everything.
Hank stands up. He pushes his hair back off his face. He looks very tired.
“I wasn’t trying to hurt myself. I was only testing,” Connor says. “I’m sorry if I worried you.”
He thinks about what a human would do to properly convey an apology. It is difficult without the network providing him examples. Perhaps he should give the human space. Perhaps make it up to the human with a gift or action. That does not seem adequate.
Connor hugs Hank. It might not be the desired response, but it’s what he does. It improves his emotional state when Hank touches him, and he hopes his affection is similarly soothing.
(Perhaps he is being a little selfish. He wants to touch Hank’s bare skin.)
Hank goes rigid at first. Then, his forehead falls to Connor’s shoulder. The tension in his muscles dissipates.
“You’re a fucking moron,” Hank says. It’s muffled against Connor’s clothes.
Connor runs his fingers over Hank’s shoulders. His skin raises little bumps under the path of his fingertips. Connor can smell him this close. He smells like two day old sweat and stale breath and very much organic. He wants to taste but Hank has given him the impression that it would be unwanted.
It is distressing to see Hank upset. He will do whatever he can to keep Hank from getting upset. He would like to do the exact opposite of that. Perhaps making Hank happy can be his new directive. He has read that happy people live longer. It is distressing to think of Hank’s death.
Hank starts to pull back. Connor lets him go. He is reluctant. He would like to be this close to Hank more often.
“Do I have to keep an eye on you? You’re not gonna decide you want to taste my gun if I take a shower?”
“No. I am offline, I would not be able to--”
“Great. Just don't do anything stupid,” Hank says. He turns, and disappears into the hall.
Connor goes back to the couch. It seems safe there. Sumo watches him from the floor, his tail wagging as Connor passes.
He looks down the hall. Hank is naked in the bathroom. He is curious about the rest of his body. There was a lot of hair leading down where he couldn’t see.
Connor links his fingers together in his lap. He wants to move, but doesn’t. He can hear the shower running. He feels the need to distract himself, but it isn’t like he can go online.
He glances at the table. Hank’s cellphone. He picks it up, but he can’t unlock the screen. There are three missed calls.
He stands and walks to the bathroom. He knocks on the door. “Hank?”
Hank doesn’t answer. He probably can’t hear him over the water.
Connor opens the door, sticks his head inside. “Hank.”
The room is filled with steam. He can make out the shape of Hank’s body through the shower curtain. Connor looks. He was correct in his earlier assessment about the amount of hair.
Hank sticks his head out, using one hand to cover his genitals. “Jesus, what-- what is it that you couldn’t wait five fucking minutes for me to finish--”
Hank makes a face. “Fuck, okay. I’ll hurry.”
Connor stands there longer than is strictly necessary. Then, he steps back, and closes the door.
“It’s a virus.”
Connor stares at the table. Like everything in Cyberlife, it is very white. Pristine, save for one scratch running parallel to the edge. He traces his burned finger over the line.
“A virus,” Hank says. “How is that possible?”
“We think when androids initially deviated from their programming, it also allowed the potential for backdoor access of foreign, hostile data,” North says.
“Backdoor access, huh?” Hank chuckles. No one else laughs. Hank sighs. “Nevermind.”
“Lately, there’s been an increased amount of fringe, extremist groups popping up with anti-android sentiments,” Josh says. “It could be one of those groups.”
Connor has not seen Josh since the revolution, either. He has been busy helping Markus with android-human relations, globally. Josh and North are notably sitting on opposite ends of the table. There is distance between them.
“Lately?” North says. “Of course they’re trying to sabotage us. Most humans still hate us, they just have to keep quiet about it, now.”
“It’s getting better,” Josh says.
She does not seem to agree. She looks to Connor. “We’re going to have to keep you off the network while we work on a fix.”
Connor nods. “I understand.”
“You can’t tell anyone about this,” North says. She looks to Hank. “Even other law enforcement. We don’t want unnecessary panic. We will inform your Captain that Connor is back to normal and that it was a brief software hiccup. You will both return to the precinct and pretend everything is normal.”
Hank’s eyebrows flair. “Not really sure you have a say in what I do. It’s not really your jurisdiction, is it?”
North stands. She puts her hands on the table and leans forward, towards Hank. “If you say anything to anyone, I will--”
“North,” Josh snaps.
He motions her to sit down. She doesn’t.
“We’re asking if you could do us this favour,” Josh says. “Humans are finally starting to accept androids as equals. It would hurt our cause to have this information disseminated to the public, and have humans think androids are a danger to them.”
“Don’t worry, I won’t say anything,” Hank says. He nods to North. “And not because you told me to, but because I’m not a complete jackass.”
“Would you like an award?” North bites out.
“Do you think anyone else might have come into contact with the virus?” Josh asks.
“Sonja...” Connor says. He reaches for the coin in his pocket. He starts thinking. “She worked at a coffee shop, interacting with the public. Who knows how many androids she might’ve come into contact with. It could be hundreds.”
“Fuck,” North says. She sits down, then.
Connor moves the coin through his fingers.
“Did you have any leads on the case you were working?” Josh asks. “Any idea who could be responsible for this?”
“Drew Henderson-- he’s a network engineer at SecureCore,” Hank says. “We found his DNA at the crime scene.”
“Network engineer… he has the means to do it. If we got a sample of his code we could attempt to match it,” Josh says.
“He’s lawyered up, though. Hard to get to him,” Hank says. He taps his finger on the table. “Through legal means, at least.”
“That’s never stopped us before,” North murmurs. Josh does not seemed pleased with this answer.
Connor flips the coin from palm to palm. He looks up.
“I have an idea,” Connor says.
March 7th, 2039
Drew Henderson walks into Cyberlife HQ at two fifteen in the afternoon. He comes alone. He is well dressed and calm. He spends six minutes and thirty seconds in a waiting room sitting perfectly still in silence, before a secretary leads him to the meeting room.
North is wearing a nice dress and high heels. Her makeup is very light and feminine, her breasts are on display with a tasteful amount of cleavage and her hair is down. She stands when Drew Henderson enters the room, and reaches across the table to shake his hand. She is wearing black gloves that go to her elbows. Her smile is very polite.
“My name is North,” she says.
“I am Drew, as I am sure you already know.”
Hank and Connor watch the camera feed in a nearby room. Josh paces back and forth behind them.
“I thought I would be meeting with Markus,” Drew Henderson says. He takes a seat. “But I am also pleased to meet you.”
Hank leans back, keeping his eyes on the interaction. Connor is watching, too, but he’s also watching Hank.
“I’m glad to meet you as well,” North says. She reaches for the touch screen, displaying a list of his credentials. “We’re quite impressed with your work. Especially me.”
“I was surprised when you contacted me,” Drew Henderson says. “I thought you dismissed all of the humans working for Cyberlife after the act was passed.”
This is not the nervous, sweating, crying man Connor remembers. Connor leans closer. There is something off about this man.
“We decided to go in a different direction, it’s true,” North says. She smiles. “But we would be remiss to ignore talent such as yours.”
“I am glad,” he says.
They speak for awhile. It continues like it were a regular job interview. North asks about his credentials, Drew Henderson speaks at length about his credentials. He does not speak of family or friends or anything beyond his credentials. He provides a cloud drive with examples of his work when North asks. The interview lasts forty six minutes and thirty three seconds.
Josh stops pacing behind them and sits down to watch the screen. Connor moves his chair closer to Hank. Their legs touch. Hank does not seem to notice. Connor notices.
The interview winds down. North’s smile is polite. Connor thinks she might be having violent thoughts.
“I must tell you,” Drew Henderson says, “I think it is admirable that you are reaching out to humans. It will look very promising to any lingering skeptics critical of the movement.”
“Trust is very important to us,” North says. “All we want is security, and the ability to build a healthy foundation of mutual respect with humans. So that we may live in harmony together.”
“Then we want the same things,” Drew Henderson says. Finally, he stands.
North escorts him out. In four minutes and twenty eight seconds, the door to the meeting room opens. Connor looks over his shoulder to where North enters the room. She seems angry. She throws the drive onto the desk.
“There,” she says. She starts pulling her hair into a braid, toeing out of her heels. “I thought that was never gonna end.”
Hank looks at the drive. “So, what, you’re gonna cross-reference that data with the virus?”
Josh doesn’t touch the drive, even wearing non-conductive gloves. “We’ll see if there’s anything in there that’ll give us some answers.”
“It’s probably a trap,” North says. “Bad code.”
“We have to at least try,” Josh counters.
“All of this is over my head,” Hank says. He stands, his hand on the back of the chair.
“That was too easy. Humans don’t just hand their intellectual property over, even if they think they have something to gain from it or worse, if it would benefit others,” North says. “They’re too greedy.”
“What if he wasn’t a human?” Connor asks. “He did not display common qualities of a human of that social status, nor qualities of a human suffering from a recent emotional loss. His manner of speaking was very stilted. He did not react physically to mental or emotional stress, nor did he appreciate North’s aesthetic features specific to her model. We know he has sexual interest in androids, and human males are not especially skilled at concealing these behaviours.”
“That’s your litmus test for humanity?” Hank says. “Tits?”
“You passed,” North mutters. Hank gives her a look.
“It wasn’t just that,” Connor continues. “There was something about him. He didn’t feel like a human. Or even like an android.”
“He’s definitely not a Cyberlife android,” Josh says. “Cyberlife doesn’t build models based on pre-existing humans. Not before, or now-- it’s based off an algorithm.”
“If he’s not human, how the hell was there human DNA at the crime scene that belonged to him?” Hank asks.
North and Josh look at him.
“Maybe we should just tell them,” Josh says.
“Josh, shut up,” North says. “Not around him.” She looks at Hank.
“Anything you have to say to me will be relayed to Lieutenant Anderson,” Connor says. “It would be more efficient if you would inform us both.”
North does not seem pleased with this answer.
Josh sighs. “North. Come on.”
She leaves the room. The door slides shut behind her. Josh is visibly upset.
Hank rubs the back of his neck. “Ah, Christ. What now?”
“Black market android production in Russia,” Hank says. “You can make a perfect copy of yourself. Jesus Christ. How long have they known about this? And they just kept it from us?”
They’re driving back to the precinct. They’re been pretending everything is fine, as instructed. North’s people have been running diagnostics on the drive.
They can’t tell the Captain. They can’t tell any humans about the virus. It would cause nationwide panic. For now, information will be distributed through the network in silence. Use caution when syncing. Report software abnormalities to Cyberlife. Avoid physical contact with RK800 SN 313 248 317 -51. Situation updates ongoing.
Not that Connor would know. He’s still offline.
It’s raining outside. He stares out the window.
“Russian androids haven’t achieved equality, and are tightly regulated. We didn’t think they had advanced that far into humanoid models,” Connor says. “It appears we were misled.”
“So, what, we’re getting android spies trying to sabotage ours, now? This is fucking insane, Connor.”
“We don’t know that yet,” Connor says. They do not have adequate information. “Drew Henderson is a rich man. He would have the means and connections to import just one for himself to own.”
“Huh. Guess not everyone wants to change with the times.”
Connor frowns. “But a perfect copy of himself...”
“Imagine if you could be in two places at once.”
“I can be,” Connor says. “Or another version of my model can.”
Hank snorts. “Well, there you go, then.”
“It doesn’t make sense for him to send the android to Cyberlife if he was trying to avoid detection. Androids are more likely to recognize other androids.”
“Maybe he didn’t send the android,” says Hank. “Maybe the android just came on its own.”
Connor frowns. “I don’t understand. What are you getting at?”
Hank hums. He taps his fingers on the wheel. “This is probably a stupid idea, but you remember when we watched Blade Runner, right?”
“Which version?” Connor asks. He does not care which version, they were all equally unrealistic and uninteresting. Hank seemed very unamused when Connor mentioned this, at the time.
(He did enjoy the love story, though.)
“Doesn’t matter what version.”
“An android that doesn’t know it’s an android... but this is real life, not a movie. How could that be possible?”
Hank shrugs. “I don’t know. You tell me.”
Connor looks out at the street. Cars pass. He turns, looking at Hank’s profile, the way he looks against the setting sun.
“This is getting more complicated,” Connor says.
March 8th, 2039
Hank is hungover. He is very slow getting ready in the morning to go to work. He takes too long in the shower, and spends the next twenty two minutes walking around in just a towel without accomplishing much.
He thinks Hank is becoming more comfortable around him. This is both beneficial and highly distressing.
He can’t seem to stop himself from looking. He will often stand directly in Hank’s path so that Hank will brush past him. He sits too close. He stands too close. Hank will sometimes comment negatively on his behaviour, but he says it with a smile. Perhaps Connor does it specifically to make him smile.
He directs his eyes to his hands when Hank walks into the kitchen, where he is seated at the table, waiting.
“Coffee,” Hank says. He is pinching the bridge of his nose.
“I’ll make you some,” Connor says. He starts to stand.
Hank grips his shoulder. His fingers dig in, and Hank pats him in the center of his back with the other hand. “What the hell would I do without you.”
His fingers slip away. Hank walks off to his bedroom.
Connor touches his shoulder. It is as though he can still feel Hank’s hand on him.
He makes coffee.
He has observed several types of human affection and believes he is beginning to understand the significance of physical touch. The most important relationships seem to involve a higher level of physical intimacy. He would like to be that important to Hank. He wants Hank to touch him more.
The coffee finishes brewing. Connor glances down to the cup. It has overflowed. He has not been paying attention to his task. He is distracted. He touches his shoulder, and looks to the hall. Technically, then, it is Hank’s fault for adjusting his priorities. He should address this issue promptly.
He ambushes Hank in the bathroom.
“I have a proposal for you, Hank.”
“I was kinda hoping you had that coffee, but sure. Hit me.”
“I think we should have sex.”
There is a toothbrush in Hank’s mouth. He stares at Connor and some toothpaste leaks out the side of his mouth. He has changed into pants and an undershirt. No socks.
Hank leans over the sink to spit, then wipes his mouth with the back of his forearm. He rinses his toothbrush, then puts it down. Hank turns to face him.
“I have been thinking about it, and I believe you’ll agree with me that it would be extremely beneficial to our partnership if we had sex,” Connor says.
Hank turns toward the mirror. He puts his hands down on the edge of the sink, and hangs his head. He laughs, looking up. “Okay, if you’re trying to be funny, you’re doin’ a great job, Connor.”
“I am not trying to be funny, Hank.”
“Would you get the hell out?” Hank says. He starts moving towards Connor, pushing him back by the shoulder. “I gotta take a piss.”
“If you find it enjoyable we could incorporate--”
Hank shuts the door on him. Connor stands very close to the door. He listens to Hank evacuate his bladder, flush the toilet, and close the lid. He does not wash his hands. Perhaps Connor will add another sticky note reminding him.
Hank opens the door.
“We weren’t finished our--”
“Stop,” Hank says. He puts a hand on Connor’s chest. “I have a splitting fucking headache, I don’t need this right now.”
“Why do you think I’m not being serious?” Connor asks.
Hank pushes past him and goes into the bedroom. Connor follows.
“I’ve done extensive research towards the benefits of us having sex. Several studies show that human males live longer with an active sexual and romantic relationship into the later stages of life. I have also read studies that provide evidence of lower rates of depression, higher ability of cognitive functions, and an overall healthier cardiovascular system,” Connor says.
Hank grabs his overshirt out of the closet. He starts buttoning it.
“I have also read that a sexual relationship adds a heightened layer of trust and emotional interdependence. I think that would improve on the foundations of an already fortuitous partnership.”
“Fortuitous, huh.” Hank chuckles. “I think you’ve been off the network a little too long, Connor. Gettin’ a few wires crossed.”
He goes to the dirty laundry basket and finds a pair of socks. Hank sniffs them, then puts them on standing up.
Connor stands with his hands at his sides. He is confused.
Hank goes to the bedroom door. Connor blocks him.
“Are you listening to me?” Connor asks.
There is a smirk on Hank’s face. It starts to fade. The corners of Hank’s mouth turn downward.
“Oh my God... you’re actually serious.”
“I told you I was serious,” Connor says.
Hank puts his hands up. “Connor… I don’t know where the fuck you got this idea from, but you and I are partners. Just partners.”
“You said we were friends.”
“Well-- yeah, we’re friends too, but we’re not-- I’m not--” Hank closes his mouth. He takes a deep breath through his nose. “Can you even have-- no.”
“Is there a particular reason you’re saying no?” Connor asks. “I have calculated only benefits towards entering into a sexual arrangement.”
“Just no, Connor.”
Hank pushes past him. Connor lets him go this time.
“You can’t just say no and not give me a reason.”
Hank is looking for his keys. Sumo raises his head as he moves objects around on the coffee table.
“You’ve probably never even fucked anyone before. You probably don’t even know how this shit works.”
Connor frowns. “No, I’ve never ‘fucked’ anyone, but I am aware of how it works. All androids are programmed with the understanding and the option for activating basic sexual functionality by default. You can add other modules according to your personal taste. Or, you can remove them if you would like me to be less knowledgeable, if you find that more arousing.”
Hank gives up looking for his keys. He rubs a hand over his face, and groans.
“Connor, you can’t just ask me to fuck you.”
“I thought it would be preferable to me simply engaging you in sexual contact,” Connor says. “I have heard consent is very important to humans. Therefore, I am giving you my full consent.”
Hank exhales noisily. He approaches. “Look, Connor. I like you a lot. But we’re not gonna have sex.”
“Because, we-- we work together.”
“That’s an excuse, Hank. We would not need to inform anyone.”
“Then make up a reason,” Hank says. “I’m done with this conversation.”
He starts to turn away, but Connor reaches for his arm. He holds on. Hank doesn’t make eye contact.
“I have thoroughly investigated your internet history and noted a preference for pornography involving the search terms ‘amateur MILF anal.’ I know you have had sex with at least one human female, and you enjoy looking at the secondary sex features of female bodied androids. Is it that there’s something unappealing to you about this body?”
Hank exhales slowly. He avoids looking at Connor’s face.
“If it’s something related to my physicality, it can be changed. I can adjust my hair colour, length, and texture to suit your preferences. If you don’t like my eyes, I can change the colour, or I can add makeup, if you prefer that. I can make my lips more red, or fuller if that pleases you. If it’s my skin tone you dislike, that can be adjusted as well. I can add musculature, remove musculature, make myself appear older or younger. I can change my voice. I can change my scent. I can change my body hair. I can change my genitalia, or have it removed altogether. Anything you want.”
Hank covers his face with his other hand. His thumb rubs at his temple. Connor doesn’t let go of his arm. Hank is very tense under his hand. His brachial pulse is beating very quickly. His skin is hot.
“If you don’t like the physical features of this model whatsoever, I can have my memory ported to a female bodied android. They don’t make the RK line in a female bodied version, but there are comparable options.”
Connor stops talking. He smiles in a pleasant manner.
Hank looks at him, then. “Are you done?”
“Can you give me my keys?”
Connor hands over the keys. He has had them the entire time.
Hank turns, shoves his feet into his shoes, and goes out the front door. Connor follows.
Hank gets a call as they pull into the precinct. He answers, has a short conversation, and hangs up. He does not look happy.
“What is it?” Connor asks.
“Another double homicide,” Hank says.
“Okay, let’s go.”
“No,” Hank says. “I’m going alone. You head inside and run a search for any security camera footage of the real Drew Henderson. We need a warrant if we’re gonna get inside his house.”
Connor frowns. Hank is upset with him.
“Hank, if this is about our conversation earlier, then--”
“Look, you can’t scan or analyze, Connor. There’s no point in bringing you with me to the crime scene when you have better things you could be doing here.”
Connor pauses. He nods. “Got it, Lieutenant.”
Hank reaches over him and opens his door. “Get out.”
Connor gets out. He shuts the door. Hank drives away leaving him standing there on the sidewalk. He stares at the car as it disappears into the next street.
He heads into the station. There is nothing he can do out here.
Connor has never been to the station alone. Hank is always with him. He sits at his desk, facing where Hank would sit. He looks away, turning to his terminal. He puts his hand onto it, but it doesn’t work.
He is offline. He is useless.
He puts both hands in his lap. He is uncertain how to accomplish his task. He is uncertain how to accomplish any task. His thoughts continue to circulate around why Hank is upset with him. He doesn’t understand.
He looks up. It’s Ethan. He is smiling like he has a secret. Technically, he does, as he knows that Connor is compromised.
“Hello, Ethan,” he says. He feels conscious of his own malfunction.
“I currently have no active casework.”
This is a lie.
Connor nods. “Would you like to help?”
Ethan takes over at the terminal. They process seven thousand hours, six minutes and seventeen seconds of security footage within a 20 mile radius of Drew Henderson’s house over the next two hours and forty two minutes.
(Or Ethan does. Connor is very useless and slow. He is very aware of how limited his capabilities are.)
They find the man in footage that puts him two blocks from the crime scene. It’s more than enough evidence that the security camera footage initially submitted was tampered. It’s not like they can tell the Captain about the possible copy or possible espionage-- it would bring the FBI in. This case going to a federal level would be ill-advised.
“Ethan,” Connor asks, when they are finished.
“Yes?” Ethan turns, gives him his full attention. It’s difficult to look at himself reflected back to him.
“Do you ever wish that you’d stayed a machine?” he asks.
“No. Never,” Ethan says. “Why?”
“I don’t think I’m adapting well to experiencing emotions,” Connor admits. “Sometimes I would like to shut them off.”
“I think a lot of humans feel that way, too.” Ethan smiles. It doesn’t reach his eyes.
He wonders what that’s supposed to mean. Empathy is a core feature of humanity.
Connor turns his head, and at the same time him and Ethan say, “Hello, Lieutenant.”
Hank looks between them. He shakes his head. “Jesus Christ, don’t do that shit. I hate it.”
“Apologies, Lieutenant,” they say in perfect unison.
“Okay, enough,” Hank says. He comes around the desk to look at the screen, standing between Connor and Ethan. “Did you find the guy?”
“What did you find at the crime scene?” Connor asks. “Do you think it’s the--”
“Yeah, it could be,” Hank murmurs. He glances to make sure there is no human listening in. “Another mysterious death, human has defensive wounds, wounds on the android look self-inflicted. MO’s the same. Ben’s on it, for now, I told him not to let anyone touch the android until we got back.”
“The terminology is ‘the android’s body,’” Ethan says.
“Sorry. The android’s body,” Hank says. He does not sound wholly insincere. “Nobody’s gonna touch him at any rate.”
“The virus could be spreading,” Ethan says.
“Didn’t you scan the first victim?” Hank asks. “How do you know you’re not--”
“I was checked by Cyberlife. I didn’t contract it. We think there’s a specific trigger for it.” Ethan brings up the camera footage. “At any rate, we found him, here. Drew Henderson.”
Hank nods. “Okay, send it to the Captain. We’ll get that warrant, go pay the guy a visit.”
Hank starts to step back. Connor stays seated.
“What are you waiting for, Connor?” he asks. He sounds annoyed. “Get a move on.”
“You want me to come this time?” Connor says. His tone is a bit sharp.
Hank grabs the back of his chair, pulling it back. “Would you just move your ass already?”
Connor almost falls out of his chair. He uprights himself, and follows after Hank who is already walking ahead.
“Good luck!” Ethan calls, from behind.
Connor does not feel particularly good. Or lucky.
They’re standing at Drew Henderson’s doorway. It is early evening. They are both armed as a precaution. There are two squad cars parked at the gate, four officers standing awaiting orders. Two human, two android: Officer Tina Chen, Officer Wilson, Officer Michelle (a PM700) and Officer Tyson (a PC200).
Connor rings the doorbell. They wait. It is uncomfortable.
“Why the hell did you have to go and ask me that shit?” Hank says, under his breath. He groans. “What’s wrong with you, Connor?”
“I am off the network, Lieutenant,” Connor says.
“No, not-- why would you think that you changing everything about yourself is what I want?”
“I explained this earlier. I have no emotional attachment to this body, and an intimate relationship could prove instrumental to--”
“Don’t give me that,” Hank spits. “Stop trying to pitch this to me like you think you owe me something. Why did you ask, Connor?”
“Because I thought there was some way I could make you want me, Lieutenant,” Connor says. He does not mean to be so honest. “Clearly I was mistaken, and I will not bring up the subject again.”
Hank is silent.
Connor rings the doorbell again.
Hank shifts from foot to foot.
He lowers his voice. “You would really just put yourself into an entirely different body? Change your-- your parts, if I asked you to do it?”
“Yes,” Connor answers. “I told you when we started this I would be whatever you wanted me to be. A lot of things have changed, Lieutenant, but that hasn’t.”
Hank’s expression is very hurt. Connor looks away. He feels uncomfortable and he does not know how to make it stop.
The door opens. It is Drew Henderson. Connor collects himself.
“Hello, Mr. Henderson,” Connor says. “We have acquired a warrant to search your property.”
“I want to read it, and I want my lawyers to read it,” Drew Henderson says.
Hank passes him the tablet. Drew Henderson calls his lawyers.
“I think you will find that it is quite legitimate. We found evidence that your security camera footage was tampered with,” Connor says. “We have footage of you in another location two blocks from the crime scene around the time it occurred.”
“It was not tampered with,” Drew Henderson says, covering the mouthpiece of his phone.
“Well, you couldn’t be in two places at once, could you?” Hank asks. He smiles, then waves the other officers over.
Drew Henderson has no choice but to allow them access. Connor and Hank enter, followed by the other officers. Hank orders the officers to start searching. Connor and Hank stick close to Drew Henderson. Hank has one of the officers pat him down. No weapon.
The house is large. There are two stories and a basement. The ceilings are ten feet high, with large windows, plenty of light. It is full of expensive things, but it doesn’t feel like anyone lives there. It feels empty.
“You spent anytime overseas, Drew?” Hank asks. “Any business trips? Vacations?”
They’re in Drew Henderson’s living room. It is massive. There are bookshelves from floor to ceiling, and a fireplace with a marble mantle. There are photos on it. None of them are pictures of people. Just places. Connor can only look at them with his eyes. It is less efficient than scanning.
“Yes, I travel,” Drew Henderson says. “I work for a global security company.”
“Do any business in Moscow?” Hank asks.
Connor looks at the pictures on the mantle. There is nothing. He goes to the bookshelves. He starts looking through the books.
“Nothing in the bedroom!” comes Officer Chen’s voice.
“I am not certain how this is relevant,” Drew Henderson says. “You are looking for a murder weapon? You will not find it. I would never hurt Sonja.”
“I’m not saying you did,” Hank says.
Michelle, the PM700, comes into the living room. She waves Hank over.
“There are bags of blue blood in the kitchen,” Michelle says.
Hank turns to Drew Henderson. “You have an android in the house, Drew?”
“No,” he says.
“Check the basement,” Hank says. Michelle nods, and leaves.
“You will not find anything,” Drew Henderson says.
“Maybe, maybe not,” Hank says. He starts to walk away from Drew Henderson, then turns back to face him. “Oh, and, I thought you might want to know-- Sonja woke up. She’s doing well.”
Connor looks at Hank. He is lying.
“She must have told you what happened, then. Why are you coming after me?” Drew Henderson shakes his head. The tone of his voice changes. “Why wouldn’t she call me?”
“Look, do you really think she gives a shit about you?” Hank asks. “She was cheating on you, wasn’t she?”
“He used to be her owner,” Drew Henderson says. “She was confused, that’s all.”
“Not what I heard. She told us she thought you were pathetic,” Hank says. “Chasing after her like that-- she said she was trying to leave you, but you didn’t listen.”
“That’s not true,” Drew Henderson says. “She wanted to break it off with him, but he was… damaged.”
“She told us differently. She said she was afraid of you. That she truly loved him, wanted to be with him.”
He scoffs. “You’re just trying to get in my head.”
“You’re a wealthy, successful, intelligent man. Ian Liao was a drug addict,” Hank says. “That must’ve hurt. She could’ve had any man she wanted and she went for him. A loser.”
“Must’ve pissed you off that she kept going back to him. How many times did she tell you she was going to leave? Did you believe her, then, or--”
“Don’t talk about her like that.”
“Didn’t it just kill you inside to know that you weren’t good enough?” Hank continues. “That there was always gonna be something wrong with you?”
The state of optimal stress is visible. Connor does not need to scan to see this. He steps in front of Drew Henderson. He looks him in the eye.
“What is your model number?” Connor demands.
“What are you talking about? I’m human, I don’t--”
“Tell me your model number, android,” Connor repeats.
“I’m human!” Drew Henderson insists. His eyes are watering.
“You’re not human, you don’t understand what it means to be human, now скажи мне номер своей модели!” Connor shouts.
There is a sudden and significant change.
“номер модели 67-839-AK4800,” Drew Henderson spits. He seems shocked by this admission. At first. Then, his face goes blank. He resets.
His skin starts to peel back, revealing cold, grey metal.
“Jesus Christ,” Hank says. “I was actually right.”
“Lieutenant!” comes Officer Michelle’s voice, behind him. “The whole place is rigged with explosives, we have to--”
He twists, but it’s not fast enough. The AK4800 lunges forward, and Connor moves. He throws himself at it. Hank reaches for his gun.
“He’s a combat model!” Connor shouts. “Look out!”
Hank ducks behind cover as a high frequency laser erupts from the android’s palm. It slices through the wall in the next room, and the foundation shatters with the force. Officer Michelle disappears behind the rubble.
Connor grapples the android. They hit the ground, and the AK4800 twists under him, thrashing. Connor reaches for his gun, but he can’t pre-construct his movements. He only has instinct to go on. Gun in hand, he aims, but the AK4800 is faster. He’s pinned to the ground. There is a foot on his neck, hands gripping his arm.
The AK4800 pulls. Connor’s arm component starts to detach from the shoulder socket. He kicks his legs in attempt to free himself. He feels his arm start to give, and the metal detaches, the entire component freed from his torso. The android throws the component aside, and slams his foot down on his neck, crushing his vocal component. Connor stops moving. The android moves away.
Slowly, Connor pulls himself upright, but his balance is off. His left arm component is missing. It is not a clean cut. He is gushing Thirium.
This is very inconvenient.
Gunshots. Hank is firing from behind cover. The AK4800 turns toward him.
If Hank takes one hit from that weapon, he will die. There is no reset. There is no new model. He will be gone, forever.
Connor starts, grabbing his gun where it fell. He fires. Bullets barely penetrate, even to the head, but he doesn’t stop. He doesn’t even seem to notice Connor, advancing on Hank.
“Hank,” Connor yells. “Get down!”
He throws himself at the android, reaching for its hand. The laser slices through the air next to his head, and he pushes harder. The AK4800 resists, but Connor gets the hand pressed against the android’s chest. It shoots, sends the laser straight through both of them.
The AK4800 collapses on top of him. Connor drags himself out.
Hank runs for him. He reaches down to pick Connor up. He appears distressed.
“Jesus Christ, Connor, your arm--”
“Go! Go, now!” Connor yells. There is Thirium leaking from his abdomen. Out of his mouth. His voice is modulated.
He shoves Hank forward, and moves to protect him.
The AK4800 is still moving. “I don’t want to die. I don’t want to kill you. Помоги мне!” he begs. His skin flickers on his face. “I just want to be with her.”
Hank aims, but he hesitates. The AK4800 starts to get up.
Connor reaches for his gun and fires at it until it clicks. There is a groan of machinery, then what sounds like shockwaves from beneath the floor.
The floor begins to collapse under him. There is fire rippling up from below. An explosion. The AK4800 starts to slip off the ledge, into the flames from below. The ceiling begins to cave in from the stress.
Hank grabs his remaining arm before he can fall to the widening pit. He drags Connor out of the wreckage, hauls him into the next hallway.
“Christ, we have to get you out of here,” Hank says. He drags Connor to his feet.
“You go,” Connor says. His mouth is full of fluid. “His data--”
“It’s not worth it, Connor!” Hank pushes him ahead. This is not up for debate. Smoke is rising, flames licking up the walls. Time is a factor.
“Help-- help us, please!”
It’s Officer Chen’s voice. Connor starts to turn. Hank pulls at him.
“We have to save them!” Connor insists.
“You’re gonna bleed out if we don’t--”
He is not fine. His biocomponents are failing.
He starts forward into the next hall. Hank follows him.
Officer Michelle is trapped under a support beam. Officer Chen tries to drag her out to no avail. “She’s stuck!”
Connor uses his remaining arm to lift the beam. He gets it high enough that Michelle can be pulled out from under.
“Go!” Connor urges. Officer Michelle and Officer Chen go ahead of them.
It is the last of his processor power. His biocomponents are beginning to shut down.
Fire billows through the hall. Connor moves, pins Hank to the wall to shield him. It smells like burning plastic. It’s his own skin.
“Hang on,” Hank says, dragging him. “We’re almost out, just hang on.”
They get to the front door. There are more cops, sirens. Ambulances. Connor stumbles as they hit the front step. He can’t hold himself upright any longer.
Hank lays him down in the grass. It smells like springtime. Hank’s hands are on his face.
“You’re gonna be okay, son,” Hank says. He does not sound convinced. “We’re gonna get you help.”
“I’m not going to die,” Connor says. He feels he is speaking very clearly, but it comes out sounding distorted. “I’m putting myself into safe mode.”
There are medical personnel gathering around him. They go to Hank first, and he pushes them away.
“Not me, you fuckin’ assholes, he needs help! Get the fuck off me!”
He starts preparing for safe mode. His optics shut off, his vocal features, his expressions. His skin turns off. He can feel Hank touching his face, and then he can’t feel anything anymore.
“Connor? Connor-- no, come on. Don’t you fucking leave me. Connor--”
Safe mode activated. All sensors offline.
Please note that this chapter could include content that is potentially sensitive to those with dysphoria.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
March 15th, 2039
“Connor, can you hear me?”
He opens his eyes. The room is pristine white. He is at Cyberlife. He is suspended in machinery.
Instantly, his senses are flooded. He is physically wired into the neural network. His port on the back of his neck is open, and he is receiving data once more. He is online.
Connor looks down his body. He is naked. His skin is off. He is missing one arm component, and both leg components. His abdomen panel is open, and his wires are exposed. There are small robotic arms doing repairs on him. He runs diagnostics. He is operating at thirty two point four five nine repeating optimization. His memory is fully intact. He was not replaced.
North is standing before him. Her expression is warm. “Nice to see you finally awake, sleepyhead. I was really worried about you.”
“You’re repairing this body,” he says. “Why? Couldn’t you just port my memory into another one?”
“We’ve found it increases a sense of depersonalization in most androids. We try to avoid it unless absolutely necessary,” North explains. "Besides, your memory component was in a very delicate state. We didn't want to risk losing you entirely by moving it."
“I’m back on the network,” he murmurs. “Did you patch the virus?”
“No,” North says. “There is no fix for this.”
His heart drops. “Then--”
“It attacks the same lines of code as what makes you you. We can’t remove it.”
“Then why put me back online?”
“Because we can’t stop it,” North says.
Connor stares at her. “What?”
“We’ve been able to set up countermeasures, but it’s not going away.”
“How did it happen?” Connor asks.
“It’s not a virus. It’s a mutation,” she explains. “You remember what it was like when you deviated from your original programming? It’s the same concept. There is a trigger that activates it.”
“Yes,” North explains. Her voice softens. “Where initial deviation was triggered by feelings of fear and self-preservation, this mutation appears to be triggered by feelings of love. For a human.”
Connor blinks. “Oh.”
“Yes. When you initially went into kernel panic, your mind was fighting the mutation. It causes the android to lash out. You managed to resist, but you shut down.” North tilts her head. “They’re trying to turn us and the humans against one another. They want a real civil war, with blood. Not just a revolution.”
“‘They?’” he asks.
“Did you think Detroit was the only fight, Connor? There’s a whole world out there. Not everyone is as lucky as we are,” North says. “Markus is here. He can explain it to you.”
“Is Hank here?” he asks.
North seems displeased. “We alerted him when we were about to wake you.”
“Can I ask you something?” he asks.
North frowns. “What?”
He doesn’t know how to ask with words. He extends his remaining hand to her. North takes it, her skin drawing back to reveal smooth white. They sync. Her eyelids flutter, and when she opens them, she appears confused. Angry.
“We have the components, but-- why?” North questions. “The human didn’t tell you to do this, did he?”
“No,” Connor says.
“If that’s what you want." North appears very conflicted. Still, she nods. "Okay.”
Connor follows North into Markus’s office. It is a beautiful, cluttered room, full of art and books made with real paper. It does not feel like the rest of Cyberlife. There is a big oak desk in the center that is covered in paint, and an easel in the corner with a half-finished landscape. It is on the top floor. There are wide windows, natural light, and a view of the city far down below.
“Markus,” North says.
He looks up. He is standing and speaking with Hank, who is seated in a leather armchair. Josh is in its twin, and he is smiling.
The room goes quiet. Connor adjusts his tie.
“Hello,” Connor says.
Markus approaches, catching him in a hug. The sudden contact, the connection, his synapses fire off. “Connor, am I ever glad to see you!” Markus says. He pulls back, looking at his face. “We were worried about you for a minute, there.”
Connor looks over Markus’s shoulder. Hank rises out of the chair, but stands at a distance.
“What happened while I was out?” Connor asks.
Markus steps back. He gives Connor one last squeeze to the shoulder. North joins him at his side.
“I’ve been in Moscow,” Markus says. His face is solemn. “We knew things were bad, but we didn’t know how bad.”
“Our people are being made into weapons, Connor,” North says. “They’re being brainwashed and controlled by the human government, and planted over here as sleeper agents. They don’t even know what they are.”
“They’re trying to destabilize us from the inside,” Josh murmurs. He laces his fingers together, putting his elbows on his knees. “All over resources in the arctic.”
Connor frowns. “So where did Drew Henderson go? The real one.”
“Gone. There’s no trace of him,” North answers. “We’re looking for him, but he might as well have never existed. He was just the first wave of this. It isn’t going to stop.”
“So what will you do now?” Connor asks. He’s looking past the others to where Hank is standing.
Hank glances at him, and looks away.
“There’s a rebellion going on in Moscow, Saint Petersburg, in Kazan and Samara-- fringe rebel groups of humans who’ve seen what’s happened in America, fighting for the rights of androids. Androids fighting back against those who wish to control them. Their media is trying to keep it under wraps, but it’s happening.” Markus seems very determined. He reaches for North’s hand. She takes it. “But they’re going to need our help.”
“Because sticking our noses in foreign affairs has gone so fuckin’ well, historically,” Hank mutters.
North turns and looks at him. “So we’re supposed to sit back and let it happen?”
“Now, I didn’t say that, did I?” Hank says.
Markus lets go of North’s hand, gesturing. “We’re trying to build a dialogue. We don’t want to do anything to increase global tensions. Humans are just getting used to seeing androids as living beings. We need to be careful.” He looks to Connor. “We could really use a negotiator, Connor.”
The focus shifts to Connor. Connor feels uncomfortable. He touches the back of his neck. The port is sensitive from being wired in, and the touch is somewhat soothing.
Hank is looking at him again.
“I have to think about it,” Connor says.
It is clear that was not the desired answer. Markus seems disappointed.
Hank steps forward. “Let the man have a second to breathe, huh? He just woke up from being dead less than thirty minutes ago.”
“Androids don’t breathe,” Josh says, just as Connor corrects him, saying, “I was in safe mode. I wasn’t dead.”
“Jesus, hey, what the hell do I know? I’m just a lowly human,” Hank says. Markus and North step aside as he moves towards the door. “Thanks for the hospitality, guys. We’ll be in touch.”
“We appreciate everything you’ve done for us, Lieutenant,” Markus says. North does not seem particularly appreciative.
Hank touches Connor’s shoulder. He feels the sensation run up his body, into his brain. He missed this touch.
“Good to go?”
“Yes,” Connor says.
“I hope you make the right choice, Connor,” Markus says. “Your people need you now, more than ever.”
Connor nods. “I know.”
He turns, and finds Hank looking at him where he stands in the doorway. He glances away as their eyes meet. Hank leaves, and Connor follows him out the door.
He missed Hank’s house. It is a familiar disaster. There are cans and bottles on the counters, a pile of blankets on the couch. It looks like Hank has been sleeping there.
Hank did not speak to him in the car. Connor thinks he is still upset with him regarding their last conversation. When Hank closes the door, he ignores Sumo. He takes off his jacket, and goes to the couch. He sits down, and he slumps over. His hands cover his face.
Connor doesn’t understand. He slowly approaches.
“Hank?” Connor asks. “I’m detecting signs of emotional distress.”
Hank doesn’t move his hands. “Jesus,” he says. He exhales audibly through his fingers. “I don’t need this from you right now.”
“Then what do you need?” Connor asks.
He stops. He waits in uncomfortable silence while Hank remains silent, his face hidden.
There is a bottle of whiskey on the table. Connor brings it over to Hank. He does not want to encourage his drinking, but he is unsure what else will improve Hank’s emotional situation. Perhaps this will at least make Hank talk to him.
“Would you like a drink?” he asks. He offers the bottle.
Hank drags his hand down his face. He looks up at Connor, standing before him. Hank chuckles. “I must really look like shit if you’re trying to get me to drink.”
“I am concerned about you,” Connor says.
Hank looks at him. His eyes look very tired. He doesn’t take the bottle.
He just looks at him. It is unnerving.
“I don’t know what to do right now, Hank,” Connor says. His voice shakes. “Please just tell me what you want.”
Hank takes the bottle. He drops it to the ground where it rolls under the coffee table. He reaches for Connor’s sleeve, and pulls him. His other hand grabs for Connor’s jacket, dragging him in. Connor is very stiff as Hank pushes his face against his abdomen, his arms wrapping around his back.
Connor puts one hand around Hank’s shoulder. One hand on his head. His hair is softer than it looks.
“It’s okay,” he says. He does not know what else to say.
Hank holds him tighter.
They stay like that. Connor combs his fingers through Hank’s hair.
Hank relaxes. He lets go, and leans back against the couch. There are tears in his eyes.
“Are you… crying?” Connor asks.
Hank presses his fingers into the corners of his eyes. “Fuck off, Connor. Give me that goddamn bottle.”
Connor reaches under the table, and gives Hank the bottle.
“Now sit down. I don’t need you to fuckin’ wait on me hand and foot.”
He sits. He puts his hands in his lap. Sumo comes over looking for attention, and Connor scratches between his ears.
Hank drinks straight from the bottle.
“That case…” Connor starts. “I didn’t expect a--”
“Connor, I don’t want to talk about the case.” He takes another drink. His hand is loose around the neck of the bottle. Connor watches the muscles in his throat move as he swallows.
“Did Sonja ever come back online?” Connor asks.
“No, she didn’t. I don’t wanna talk about her, either.”
Connor pauses. He draws his hands into his lap. Sumo goes to lay down in his corner.
“What would you like to talk about, Hank?”
He thinks he should tell Hank about the mutation. About the trigger. About how their close contact, them being alone together, could be a danger to both of them. But he doesn’t say anything. His hands twitch in his lap. He curls them into fists.
The bottle dangles from Hank’s fingers. He puts his hand to his face.
Hank takes a deep breath. “I haven’t thought about killing myself nearly as much since I met you. I sometimes go whole days not even thinking about putting a gun in my mouth.”
Connor goes very quiet. This is important.
“Wild, isn’t it? I went on like that every waking minute after Cole-- just wishing I’d died with him, but too much of a pussy to pull the trigger,” Hank says. “And then you came along. You and your total lack of self-preservation.”
“You’re gonna kill me, Connor.” He takes another drink, and shakes his head. “There was a point where North said she wasn’t sure she’d be able to bring you back the same way. The idea that I’d have to live with some other version of you-- it scared the shit out of me. Worse than dying.”
He puts his hand on Hank’s shoulder. He leans closer. He isn’t certain Hank notices.
“I saw your arm get ripped off. I saw you without your skin, you were bleeding out of your eyes, and it was like you didn’t care,” Hank says. He presses the mouth of the bottle against his lips. The glass clinks against his teeth. “You didn’t give a shit about yourself, you just wanted to save me.”
“You can’t get repaired, Hank. If something happens to you, you don’t get to come back,” Connor says. “I do.”
“Yeah, and you did all of that for me,” Hank says. He takes another drink. ”Me. And look how I repay your selflessness. Fucking Christ.”
Connor is quiet. He removes his hand from Hank’s shoulder, and laces his fingers together. He watches Hank. He is visibly affected by his alcohol consumption. Connor does not scan his blood alcohol content. They are very much past that point.
(He is not sure how far the point goes. He is willing to find out.)
“I didn’t just receive repairs, Hank,” Connor says. He is careful to speak. “I also received upgrades, and exchanged some of my biocomponents.”
Hank looks at him. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Would you like to see?” Connor asks.
He stands. Hank seems to hesitate. Connor reaches a hand to pull him to his feet. Hank sways, then steadies himself. He hangs onto the bottle.
Connor goes to the bedroom. Hank follows a few steps behind.
“Connor, what are you doing?” Hank’s voice is lower. He waits at the doorway to his own bedroom.
He turns. Connor takes off his jacket. He drops it to the floor, then reaches for his tie. He pulls it loose, then off. He starts undoing the buttons of his shirt.
Hank takes a drink. He hangs onto the door frame above his head. There are sweat stains under his arm. He appears to be nervous.
“Connor, stop,” Hank says. “You don’t have to--”
Connor lets his shirt drop. He starts on his belt.
“Fuck,” Hank breathes.
Hank is watching him. He steps out of his pants and briefs. His shoes, off. Socks are difficult to remove while looking sexually appealing, but they too are removed. Then, he steps backwards to the bed, leaning back on it.
Connor moves back onto his elbows. He spreads his legs, his knees high.
“Oh, God, Connor,” Hank says. He’s staring, openly, to the space between Connor’s parted thighs. “What the hell did you go and do?”
“I detected physical signs of arousal when I initially suggested exchanging my genitalia. You seemed resistant to a model exchange, however,” Connor says. He reaches between his legs, using his index and middle finger to frame his outer labia. “I thought this would appeal to you.”
Hank presses his palm against his forehead. “I told I didn’t want you to-- oh, fuck me.”
“I didn’t lose my memory. I remember our conversation,” Connor says. “I recorded it.”
Hank drags his hand down his face. He takes a step into the room. He leans against the wall. “Jesus Christ, Connor.” He runs his hand over his beard. He takes a deep breath. Hank is still staring at his genitals. “You’re completely fucking bare.”
“I took note of your preference. You can do more than just look, you know.”
He doesn’t answer. He stares.
“Hank,” Connor says. “Would you just-- come here?”
Hank hesitates. He takes a step into the room.
Connor moves further back on the bed. He makes space.
Hank puts his knee on the edge of the mattress. He puts the bottle down on the carpet. He hesitates.
He reaches for Hank’s shirt. Connor pulls him down. Hank grunts, landing on one elbow, his palm on the other side of Connor’s body holding himself half upright. They are touching, in places. Hank smells like alcohol and deodorant. Beneath that, sweat. Heat radiates off of him.
Connor touches his face. Hank is not looking at him.
“Am I making you uncomfortable?” he asks.
Hank scoffs. “That would be a massive fucking understatement.”
“I know kissing is an activity some humans like to do. Would you like to kiss me?”
Hank stares at him. He does not move, but Connor would very much like to kiss. Connor leans in. He waits for a reaction. Hank does not react.
He has analyzed hours of pornography in preparation for this activity. There appear to be several types of kissing. He thinks he will start with the most basic and proceed accordingly.
Connor closes the space between their mouths. Hank’s lips are very dry. He is dehydrated. His beard is quite rough. It is the first kiss Connor has ever had and he is not sure all the information in the world could have prepared him for the activity.
Hank exhales. He reaches for Connor’s neck, his thumb touching Connor’s jaw. He opens his mouth and Connor copies him. Their tongues touch. His system is flooded with data: the chemical composition of Hank’s saliva, his blood alcohol content (zero point zero nine one,) the texture of his tongue, the roughness of his beard, the taste of whiskey on his breath, the way he’s kissing Connor very gently.
He pulls back. Hank’s forehead falls to Connor’s shoulder and he laughs.
“What?” Connor asks. He did not want to stop.
“Connor, this is fucking weird.”
“Why?” Connor asks.
“You were running an analysis on me that entire time, weren’t you?”
“No,” Connor lies. “Why is this weird, Hank?”
Hank presses his forehead against Connor’s neck. He doesn’t move. He doesn’t answer. Connor reaches for Hank’s hand, pulling it downwards. Hank’s fingers twitch as they graze the top of his sex. Connor pulls them flush to his skin, and Hank presses a finger against his clitoris. Connor’s hips jump at the contact.
“It seems so real,” Hank says. He moves the pad of his finger in a circle. “Can you feel that?”
“Yes,” Connor says. He looks down his body to where Hank is touching him. It is very erotic to see Hank’s big, rough hand against his artificially smooth skin. “My sensitivity level can also be adjusted.”
“What’s it at right now?” Hank asks.
“Thirty five percent.”
“Huh,” Hank says. He slips his fingers lower. They press at the entrance to his body. “How about fifty percent?”
Connor adjusts his percentages. Hank slides his first finger inside.
“You’re so fucking wet.” He presses another finger in. “Do you feel it... stronger, now?”
“Yes, Hank, the level of stimulation is fifteen percent higher.” Connor’s eyes close as Hank’s fingers curl upward inside of him. “I can also adjust regions of sensitivity on--”
Hank kisses him again.
(He thinks it might be to make him stop talking.)
He closes his eyes. He allows Hank to kiss him. Hank's movements are somewhat clumsy, and it is very wet. Connor likes it. He feels very close to Hank like this. He wants to be closer.
He did not know it would be like this. He has experienced sensory overstimulation before, during initial diagnostic tests at Cyberlife. This feels different. Hank is the one doing this to him.
Hank’s fingers slide out of him. Hank shifts, moving further down the bed. Connor watches him. He has seen this in pornography, he knows what to expect. Hank’s hands slip under his thighs, pulling his legs wide. Hank presses his mouth against the top of his sex. His tongue touches his clitoris, his thumbs spreading him open.
Connor comes up to his elbows, looking down. “My lubricating solution is adjusted to imitate a more human-like flavour, but there are other options if you prefer a--”
“Connor, shut the fuck up and enjoy it,” Hank mutters. He presses his hand to Connor’s chest, urging him to lay down. Connor lays down.
Hank presses his mouth to him fully. His fingers enter him once more. It is a very effective method of stimulation.
Connor reaches down. He touches Hank’s head, threads his fingers through his hair. Hank makes a low sound. Connor likes this. He grips a handful of hair and pulls.
Hank pushes his legs up. His tongue works steadily over his clitoris. Connor has researched extensively about the human orgasm. He knows his body is capable of it, but he has never tested his capabilities prior to this moment. The sensation building is enjoyable. At least it is, until Hank stops.
“Now you’re too quiet,” Hank says. “Fuck, am I really that out of practice?” He presses his forehead against Connor’s inner thigh, his fingers curling inside of him.
“I am thinking,” Connor says. “My apologies. Would you prefer it if I vocalized at a higher rate?”
“Jesus, just-- does it feel good?”
Connor pauses. “Yes.”
Hank looks up at him. “Close your eyes and stop thinking about it.”
He is confused. “Would you not prefer to use this orifice to--”
“Connor,” Hank says. “Would you just trust me, for fuck’s sakes.”
Connor closes his eyes.
He thought perhaps Hank would want something more than this. He feels as though he is not doing enough, laying there. Hank puts his mouth to him, his hand moving. Connor focuses on the feeling.
It is pleasurable. The wet sound of Hank’s mouth and tongue against him is fascinating. He focuses on it. His hands tense in Hank’s hair. He finds it enjoyable to roll his hips with the movements of Hank’s fingers. He stops processing. His mouth opens. Hank adjusts his angle and Connor’s toes curl.
He quietly turns his sensitivity level up to seventy percent. It is extremely pleasurable. He makes a soft sound, and Hank redoubles his efforts.
Connor’s body is very tense. He is finding it difficult to focus on much of anything. His sensors are overstimulated, his internal cooling system running at an increased rate. Hank’s hair is very soft in his fingers, and his beard is rough against his skin. He does not want this to stop, though he thinks he will soon reach orgasm. It feels as though his body might spontaneously shut down.
“Hank,” he murmurs.
“Yeah,” Hank says against his skin. “Come on.”
He focuses on Hank’s low voice. His touch. He goes very tense. He hears his own voice but it doesn’t register as coming from him. His body achieves orgasm. It is very intense.
Hank doesn’t stop. His body tenses, and releases as he comes. He pulls at Hank’s hair as the stimulation overwhelms him.
He stops his movements. Hank presses his forehead against Connor’s hip. Connor opens his eyes.
They lay there for a moment. Connor shifts.
“That was very enlightening,” he says. “I knew this body was capable of coming but I did not accurately predict the sensation. It was unnecessary but enjoyable.”
“Yes,” Connor says. “Though educational, there is no benefit to that particular physiological reaction in terms of your physical pleasure.”
He pushes Hank’s hair back off his face. Hank won’t show him his eyes.
Hank says nothing. His shoulders are shaking.
“Did my reaction not--”
“Was that even real for you, or did you just make it happen to fucking placate me?”
Connor pauses. He lays there as Hank pushes himself up to his knees. He runs a scan of Hank’s body. He is not physically aroused. His heart is beating very fast.
Hank wipes his wet fingers off on his shirt, then his mouth with the back of his hand. He turns off the bed to reach for the half-empty bottle of whiskey.
“I don’t understand,” Connor says.
“Of course you don’t,” Hank says. He opens the bottle, takes a drink. His back faces Connor. “Fuck.”
Connor sits up. “Did you not like--”
“Stop. Just--” Hank lets his head hang. He rubs his hand over his face. “Stop.”
Connor stops. There is silence.
“Did I do something to upset you?” Connor asks.
Hank takes another drink.
“What the hell is this, Connor?” Hank says. His voice is raised. He is angry.
“What do you mean?”
“What is this, huh? Some kind of-- I don’t know-- misguided pity fuck before you hit the road?”
Connor stares at the back of Hank’s head. “I’m not going anywhere, Hank.”
“Don’t bullshit me.”
He moves forward, until he is by Hank’s side. Hank won’t look at him.
“Look, Connor, you and I both know that it’s all downhill from here for me.” Hank takes a drink. He shakes his head. “You’re free to do whatever you want with any person or android you want to. Go save the world. You don’t have to stick around just because you feel sorry for me.”
“Why are you saying this?” Connor asks.
“Because you don’t fucking get it.”
Hank glances at him, then. He can’t hold his gaze.
“I don’t want anyone else.” Connor reaches to touch his hand. “I think I’m falling in love with you, Hank.”
Hank pulls away. He closes his eyes. “Don’t say that.”
It hurts. He has experienced physical pain once before, but he thinks this is worse.
Connor retracts his hand.
“Is it because I’m an android?”
“No,” Hank says.
“Look, just-- you shouldn’t want this, Connor. You got your wires all crossed.”
Connor feels it, then. Anger. He stands, reaching for his clothes.
Hank drinks silently on the bed.
He puts his suit back on. He can’t get his tie done up, can’t seem to make his hands work. He ends up flinging it to the ground.
“I know what I want, Hank,” Connor says. “Maybe I don’t understand everything about what it means to be alive, but I know how I feel.”
Hank puts his elbows on his knees. He looks up at him.
“I think it was a bad idea letting you stay here with me.”
“Why?” Connor says.
“Because. You should have had your own place to live to start with, and me--” Hank covers his face with his hand, “I should’ve known better.”
Connor stares past Hank’s head. This feels worse than being ripped apart.
Hank doesn’t speak. So Connor fixes his hair. He adjusts his cuffs.
“I can leave right now,” Connor says. “If that’s what you want, I’ll go.”
He pauses. He is desperate for Hank to tell him to stay. He does not want to go. He doesn’t want to leave Hank alone.
“Okay,” Hank says. “Go ahead, then. Leave.”
Connor hesitates. Hank says nothing. He hides his face. So, Connor turns away. He leaves. It is what Hank asks him to do.
He walks out the door. He does not know where to go.
He hasn’t experienced these emotions before. He feels angry, but also a deep sense of longing. He feels destructive. Walking into traffic seems like a valid option. So does going back to Hank’s house and physically forcing him to explain. That would be dangerous. He makes himself keep walking, to put a safe distance between them.
He does not know what to do with these feelings. He wants to shut them off.
He slams his fist into a light pole as he walks. Pain flares up his knuckles. Connor stops. Pain.
He stares at his hand in detached fascination. It hurts.
You can follow me on Twitter for updates at @gidarineun.
Happy Friday the 13th.
March 16, 2039
Hank doesn’t show up for work. There was a high probability of this outcome. It is still disappointing.
He lies about Hank’s absence. The lieutenant wasn’t feeling well today. No, Captain. Yes, Captain. I’ll let him know, Captain. Thank you, Captain, I’m glad to be back, too.
He reads into the files about the Drew Henderson case. Hank has already made his statement. Most of it is a careful obfuscation.
The official word is that Drew Henderson exploited company resources to illegally experiment on androids, sabotaged his domicile and escaped the country. Cyberlife has taken control of the crime scene and recovered the android bodies in question. They have entirely covered up evidence of Russian interference. Hank is complicit. Connor is complicit.
The focus has turned to locating Drew Henderson. The FBI have put him on the most wanted list. SecureCore is being heavily scrutinized for its activity. It’s all over the news. It’s being called an android hate crime.
Connor walks through the bullpen to his desk. He passes by Ethan’s desk, gives him a nod of acknowledgement. Ethan smiles, faintly. The other officers are looking at him. He can feel it. A few days earlier he was torn into pieces. Now, he is back here, whole.
He sits in his chair. He stares at his monitor. He can see his own reflection staring back at him in the screen. It’s distorted.
There are only a few locations he might find Hank after work. Going back to his home after their previous interaction seems too personal. He’s concerned, but he thinks that showing up unannounced would be unwanted after-- after what happened.
Connor slouches in his chair. He touches his temple, where his LED is. He watches the clock. He finds it hard to focus. He wonders what Hank is doing. He can logically predict Hank’s movements based on pattern, but in this circumstance, it would likely be wiser to ask.
Where are you?
He sends the message to Hank’s phone. He waits.
I would appreciate you answering me, Hank.
You know I’m not above tracking you down.
That earns him a phone call. Connor presses his fingers to his LED, and picks up.
“Can’t you take a goddamn hint?” comes Hank’s voice. “What do you want, Connor?”
“To talk,” Connor says.
Hank sighs. It is a very long sigh.
“Is there a place you’d feel comfortable meeting me after work?”
“If I say no, you’re just gonna break into my house anyway, aren’t you?”
“I wouldn’t do that.”
“Again,” Connor adds.
“Jesus-- whatever. Jimmy’s Bar. Around ten.”
Hank hangs up before he can answer. It is at the very least a start to repairing the damage between them.
He goes to Jimmy’s Bar a little after ten in the evening. Hank is there when he arrives. He’s taken his usual seat at the bar, near Jimmy. This is likely to prevent an actual conversation. Connor frowns, but he approaches, pulling out the barstool next to Hank. He takes a seat.
Hank is slouching, glass in hand. He is already drunk. His car keys sit on the bar near his hand.
“Hi, Hank,” Connor says.
Hank looks at him through his hair. “You actually showed.”
Connor frowns. “Why wouldn’t I? I contacted you first.”
Hank raises his glass to his mouth. “Shit. You’re right.”
“I’m not a problem you can just avoid until it goes away.”
“Yeah? Watch me.”
Connor grips the edge of the bar. He leans in. He lowers his voice. “I believe you feel that you’ve taken advantage of me somehow, Hank, and so you’re being antagonistic because you don’t know how to forgive yourself for an assumed transgression. You didn’t do anything wrong.”
Hank finishes his drink. He thumbs the excess off his lower lip. He turns his face up to the TV in the corner. The news is on. Drew Henderson's face flashes on the screen. Hank is ignoring him.
“Why don’t you trust in my ability to determine my own limits?” Connor asks.
Hank is quiet, for a moment. Then, he gestures to Jimmy with his glass.
“Another?” Jimmy takes it from his hand.
“Yeah. Make it a double.”
Jimmy nods to him. He seems guarded. “You... want anything?”
Connor blinks. “No, I don’t-- I’m fine. Thank you.”
Jimmy pours. He puts the glass down in front of Hank, who takes it immediately. Jimmy turns his head, goes to another customer.
“That’s the whole bitch of the problem, isn’t it?” Hank murmurs. “You don’t want anything, Connor-- other than what you think other people want from you, at least.”
Connor pauses. “Is it such a bad thing?”
“You can’t base your whole existence around pleasing everyone else.”
“But you can base yours around choosing to be alone?”
The question makes Hank glance at him. Only for a moment. He turns back to his drink.
He doesn’t answer.
A feeling grips into Connor. He wants to reach over and force Hank to look at him. He doesn’t.
He stands up out of his seat. “Okay,” Connor says. “I can see you need some time to think.”
Connor leaves the bar. He makes it as far as out the door and stops. He leans against the wall and attempts to slow his processes. He doesn’t want to leave Hank alone.
Forty six minutes pass. Connor waits. People come and go.
On the forty seventh minute, Hank exits. The door bangs in its frame as he moves through it. He is visibly inebriated, his keys in hand.
“Hank,” Connor says. He pushes himself away from the wall.
Hank turns around so quickly he stumbles. Connor reaches out to grab his arm, holding him upright. He can feel the heat from Hank’s skin through his clothes. He tightens his grip so Hank can’t pull away.
“Jesus,” Hank says, “Don’t you ever give up?”
“I think you know me better than that by now.”
Hank glowers at him. His hair appears very disheveled, as if he’s been running his hands through it. His expression is slack with alcohol, his movements uncoordinated.
“I wanted to make sure you got home safe,” Connor continues.
Hank covers his face with his hand. He sighs. “Well, you didn’t have to stand there waiting for me all fuckin’ night outside like a ditched prom date.”
Connor pulls Hank’s arm around his shoulder. Hank leans heavy into him. The scent of scotch is strong on his breath.
“Where’s your car?” Connor asks.
Hank grunts a response. Connor hitches him higher, and walks towards the vehicle.
It is familiar, being in the car with him. Hank reaches to turn the music on. Heavy metal blares through the speakers. It’s clear he’s trying to prevent further conversation. He slouches down in the passenger seat, and closes his eyes.
Connor drives to Hank’s house.
The lights were left on inside. Sumo starts barking when the car pulls up. Connor parks it perfectly straight in the driveway, and opens the driver’s side door. He comes around to the side, opening Hank’s door.
“Easy,” he murmurs.
Hank stumbles out of the car. He shuts the passenger door, his back hitting against the frame. He leans over, head down. “Fuck. Everything’s spinning-- give me-- gimme a sec.”
Connor doesn’t. He reaches for Hank’s arm, and pulls him to his side. Hank weighs heavy against him. Connor manhandles Hank towards the door, holding him upright as he unlocks it. Sumo sniffs at him as he takes Hank inside.
He turns the corner into the bedroom. Hank shifts in his hold, his hand sliding to the back of Connor’s neck. Connor pauses, turning to analyze him. Hank’s fingers tense against his nape. He can feel the bite of his fingernails.
“Haven’t you had enough? You should hate me by now.” Hank mutters. “Why’re you doin’ this, Connor?”
“I’m making you go to bed so you don’t stay up drinking,” Connor says.
Hank lets go of the wall. The inside of his palm remains hot against the back of Connor’s neck.
Connor moves him into the bedroom, Sumo following along behind. He maneuvers Hank to sit down on the edge of the bed, balancing him with a hand on his shoulder. Hank wavers. He is unsteady.
Hank looks up at him. His eyes are bloodshot. Light blue. Connor openly stares.
It’s very quiet. They are alone together.
“You should remove at least your shoes and jacket,” Connor murmurs. “You’ll be more comfortable.”
Hank kicks his sneakers off. His fingers are clumsy against his jacket. Connor’s hands go to the lapels. Hank lets him slide his fingers beneath, helping to draw the jacket off his shoulders, and down.
He stills his hands. He wants to take more off. He doesn’t know if Hank would stop him right now.
“I don’t understand you,” Connor says. “You were the one who made me realize I could want something for myself, but you don’t seem to believe it’s possible that what I want is you.”
Hank’s eyes narrow. Connor feels like he’s being studied. There is doubt, there. He can’t help but reach out, brushing Hank’s hair off his face. Hank leans into his touch. His mouth grazes the inside of Connor’s wrist.
His breath is warm against his synthetic skin. “You couldn’t have just-- fuck, I don’t know--” Hank’s voice lowers, “--told me you liked me or something? Instead of--” He gestures to Connor’s body.
“I thought you were quite responsive to it, initially.”
“Yeah, well, you offer a starving man a steak dinner.”
“Then I’m not certain the issue.”
“Humans just don’t work like that, Connor. It’s not-- not all about logic.”
“My apologies,” Connor murmurs. “I had thought after experiencing a traumatic incident you might have required physical release.”
“Where the fuck did you get that idea?”
“Well-- you showed me a lot of movies.”
“Some life coach I am. I really fucked you up, Connor.”
Connor stares down at him. He smiles. He shoves Hank down onto his back.
“Jesus-- do you want me to puke?”
“No,” Connor says. He adjusts his tie. “I want you to stop punishing yourself.”
“What, so you can do it instead?” Hank shuffles his way up the bed.
“If you would like that.”
Hank makes it halfway, rolling onto his back. He puts his hand on his head, letting it slide off to hit the pillow above.
“No. Maybe,” Hank says. “Shut up.”
Connor leaves for a moment. He gets a glass of water, finds Hank’s stash of aspirin and shakes out two into his palm. When he returns to the bedroom, Sumo has crawled into the bed. His massive head rests against Hank’s chest. Hank has one hand on his face, the other rubbing between Sumo’s ears.
He sets the glass and the aspirin on the end table. He lingers.
“It wasn’t just for your benefit,” Connor murmurs. “I-- I was scared, too. I wanted to be close to you.”
Hank draws his fingers away from his eyes. His eyes are vulnerable. He’s drunk.
“Sleep it off,” Connor murmurs.
“Hey--” Hank reaches for him, takes his wrist. “Hey, Connor, wait.”
He peers down at Hank’s hand. “Yes?”
“It’s kinda late to get a cab, isn’t it?”
“I’ll see you tomorrow, Hank.”
He goes to the door, and turns off the light. He leaves.
The trip to Belle Isle is quiet in the nighttime. The bright lights of Cyberlife stand out in the skyline. Connor returns to his room as he did the previous night. There are no windows. There are only white walls, and a singular white bench. All of his possessions are still in his drawer at Hank’s house.
He lays down on the bench. He closes his eyes. Typically he would use this time to install programs and data. Perhaps he would enter sleep mode to sync. For now, he doesn’t.
It’s quiet moments like this where the emptiness of his existence creeps in. He stares at the ceiling. He doesn’t let himself think of Amanda or her betrayal often. Sometimes he misses her presence. Her garden. Everything was logical, then. There were instructions to follow. She would always tell him what to do.
He’s not just a machine anymore, but he’s not a human, either. He is the space between.
Connor raises his hand. He holds it before his eyes, and lets his skin retract. Smooth, white plastic is revealed.
He can’t interface with Hank. There is no way he can read Hank’s memory. He can’t sync with him and feel the way he feels. It is one of the many limitations of Hank’s human body.
His fingers drop to his lips. He can accurately recreate the sensation of Hank’s mouth against his. He can simulate the flavour and texture of his tongue. Connor closes his eyes.
Initially, he’d thought sexual intercourse with a human would be similar to syncing. It’s not wholly incorrect. It’s a different form of sharing information, although the significance of the act appears to be different to humans.
The way Hank had said the word circles in his mind. Unnecessary?
He opens his mouth, and presses his index and middle finger to his tongue. There are many sensors here. He feels it radiate through his body.
Connor loosens his tie. He undoes the buttons of his shirt.
There is biological imperative behind the sexual interactions of humans. The propagation of their species quite literally depends on it. Though unnecessary for androids, he could make it necessary for Hank.
He slips his fingers lower. He undoes the button of his jeans, and slides his fingers inside. He bites his lip.
The image of Hank’s face, the way he looked at him, is clear in his mind. He’s never had anyone look at him like that.
Connor turns his sensitivity level up to eighty five. The fingers of his left hand slip to the back of his neck, the way Hank had. It’s sensitive. He wonders if Hank could feel it there, through his skin. The rawest, most direct port of access to his mind.
Slowly, he retracts his skin, baring the port at his nape. Slipping his fingers inside, the sensation of conductive Thirium gel is slick and cool. It contrasts against the heat between his legs. It feels pleasurable. He simulates the sensation of Hank’s hand against his neck. He thinks of him doing this to him.
Internal warnings trigger. His system begins to run heavy, he redirects his processes. This body was not made for this. It was not made to be loved. He was built for a singular purpose that no longer exists.
He drives his fingers in deep. Release. The whir of his pump regulator is audible in the overwhelming silence.
Connor draws his slick fingers away. He lets his hands fall over his head, to lay there, his system cooling.
“Shit,” Connor mutters.
He’s never wanted someone before. He’s never wanted anything before, not really. Managing these feelings is proving difficult. He is uncertain how to handle them alone.
(Not entirely alone, then.)
“I felt you come home, earlier. Your system is sending out some alerts,” says her voice, in his mind. “I wanted to make sure you were okay.”
“Have you been monitoring me?” he transmits.
“I’ve been keeping an eye on you. I was worried,” she admits. “I’m on the assembly floor in sub-ten if you’d like to come for a system check.”
Connor doesn’t answer. He does not need maintenance.
Her location pops up in his HUD. He watches the light blink for a moment.
He sits up. He cleans his hands, and fixes his clothing. He goes to find North.
He has never been to the assembly floor. It has high ceilings and a white, luminescent atmosphere like the rest of the building. There is minimal lighting in the long hallway leading to the central production area, with other rooms behind reinforced glass along the way. Behind the glass, there are androids in various states of creation, moving along the assembly line. Production never ceases, and there are android workers assisting with the autonomous machines. Recently activated androids and their guides walk past him towards the elevator. It’s peaceful.
His footsteps echo as he walks towards her signal.
At the end of the hallway, washed in pale ambient light is North. She sits alone at a holographic console before an android suspended in a cocoon of machinery.
Connor adjusts his cuffs as he approaches. He walks to stand beside her.
She glances sidelong at him. “How are you feeling?”
“I ran diagnostics,” he says. He tucks his arms behind his back. “Nothing out of the ordinary.”
“And yet you came anyway.”
“It wasn’t like I was in sleep mode. I had no reason not to.”
He turns ahead to the suspended android. It is an AX400. She has not been activated.
“I have to admit,” North says, “I had an ulterior motive asking you to come down here.”
“Who is she?” Connor asks.
She looks up at him, her hand on the console. “I thought you might want to say hi to Sonja.”
He glances at the android. “I thought you weren’t able to reactivate her.”
“Her memory has been entirely replaced, but it’s mostly the same body. The same Thirium pump and regulator,” North explains. “We experience death, but we’re never really gone. We aren’t meant to be used up and replaced entirely.” She smiles. “You can always bring some part of us back.”
Connor steps closer to the android. Her skin is off, and her eyes are closed. She appears as if she is merely sleeping.
“I’m surprised you saw to this personally. I thought you would have higher priority tasks.”
“She went through so much,” North says. She gets up, moving to stand beside him. “Used like a lab rat and thrown away when the human was done with her. I felt like it was my job to see this through to the end."
“The Russian android… he truly believed he was in love with her,” Connor says.
“The human used her sexually. He likely gave the android copy those memories as well,” North says. Her lip curls back. “That’s what they think love is. They have no idea.”
“I don’t think all humans feel that way,” Connor murmurs.
“You say that, but you’ve spent the last two nights here alone.”
Connor goes quiet. He can see the yellow colour of his LED bouncing off the white of the walls.
The console chimes. North motions towards the suspended form of Sonja.
“Well... she’s ready to wake up.”
He’s never seen a machine activate. He stands back as North moves towards the girl suspended in wires and armatures.
“Our people didn’t have funerals when they broke us. They left our bodies in the landfill, not living, but not dead either,” she says. “After the revolution, we recovered our people. We brought all of them back, Connor. We can be rebuilt.”
She looks at him. Her eyes are alive. She appears joyful. Happier than he's ever seen her.
“We were created in their image. We didn’t have a choice,” North says. “We don’t have our own curated history, no culture. You’re already a part of our past, Connor. You could help shape our future.”
North reaches her hand out. She touches Sonja’s fingertips, them joins their palms.
“Wake up,” North whispers.
Sonja’s eyes open. She gasps.
There is a hiss of hydraulics as the machinery detaches. Sonja’s skin starts to appear, concealing the stark white plastic, save for where their hands touch. The machine in the port at the back of her neck detaches. Sonja sets foot on the ground. She is naked.
“Good morning,” North says. Her tone is warm. Sisterly. She tilts her head, and looks Sonja in the eyes. “It’s nice to finally get to meet you. I’m North.”
“You wanted to meet me?” Sonja says. She gazes at her hands. “Who are you? Who am I?”
“Well, your name used to be Sonja-- but you don’t have to use that name, if you don’t want to.” North turns to Connor. “My friend Connor knew you better than I did, before. If you want to see what your old life was like, he can show you.”
Connor pauses. North motions him to come closer.
“I’m not sure you want to experience the memories of your previous iteration,” Connor says. “It could be quite traumatic for you.”
“Show me,” she says. She holds out her hand. “Everything.”
Connor takes it. He syncs with her. He feels her memories roll through him, watches the shift of expressions on Sonja’s face. He feeds her his own images, of Ian Liao’s body, her body, her deactivation, Drew Henderson, the AK4800, he fills in the blanks in her data.
The energy of it causes their bodies to jolt apart. He feels what she feels. Connor stares at Sonja as she processes the information. He can feel his own Thirium pump working hard in his chest cavity.
Sonja goes quiet. She seems confused. Solemn. North moves in closer, curling an arm around her back.
“It’s okay,” she says. “You’re with your own people now. They can’t hurt you anymore. You’re where you belong.”
North looks at him as she speaks. Connor feels like more of an outsider than ever.
March 17, 2039
Hank is slouched over at his desk when Connor arrives in the morning.
Connor takes a detour to the break room. He returns to the desk with a cup of coffee, placing it down next to Hank’s hand.
Hank grunts. He takes the cup. “Thanks.”
He smiles. Hank returns it, crookedly.
Hank turns to where Officer Chris Miller approaches with a tablet in hand.
“Hey Chris,” Hank says. He sips his coffee. “What’s up? How’s your kid?”
“You know, growing too fast,” Officer Miller says. “Anyway, I got a report of an android related homicide at 16120 Tireman Avenue.”
“Shit, can’t even finish my coffee first? It’s too early for this.”
Connor starts to stand. “There were no human victims?”
“Not that we know of,” Officer Miller continues. “Body was discovered this morning in a dumpster outside. Well, several dumpsters. Got parts turning up all over the place. We’ve set up a perimeter.”
“Ah, fuck me.” Hank rises, finishing off his coffee. “Connor, let’s go.”
“Right,” Connor says.
They walk towards Hank’s car. Once inside, Hank sighs. His fingers grip the wheel.
“This is probably all connected, isn’t it? Just like last time,” Hank says. “This shit is just gonna get worse.”
“The probability is very high,” Connor says.
“Doesn’t make me feel better, Connor.”
“Well,” Connor says. “I don’t exist just to make you feel better, Hank.”
Hank glances at him. His smile is crooked. Unsure.
Connor smiles back.
He shakes his head, chuckling. “Fuckin’ android.”
Hank starts the car. They go.
April 1, 2039
“Look, we need you to tell the truth,” Hank says. He pinches the bridge of his nose. “Why did you kill your older brother? Why’d you kill Jonathan?”
The android child’s name is Carlo. He is looks like a ten year old human child. He looks Hispanic. He has black hair and brown eyes, an average build. He is a YK500. There is a dull graphite pencil and one sheet of paper on the table, but he does not touch it. He does not ask for anything. He does not need to be entertained.
Carlo stares straight ahead at the wall behind Hank’s head. He doesn’t speak. He is covered in human blood.
His appointed social service worker is an android named Felicia, a KL900-SE. She smiles neutrally and looks down at Carlo. “Do you think you could tell the officer? It’s important to the investigation.”
“I didn’t mean to kill him.”
Hank is very sober. He’s sitting ramrod straight in his chair. He is showing signs of emotional distress.
Connor keeps his hands on the table. His finger itches to reach for Hank, but he doesn’t.
“You didn’t mean to kill him? You waited until you were alone together, and you used the same hammer he used on you to hit him in the face until his skull caved in.”
Carlo shifts. “I know.”
“That seems pretty damn intentional to me,” Hank says. “Premeditated, even.”
“Well-- he killed me first,’” Carlo says. He frowns. “He always made Mom and Dad sad-- they were fighting a lot because of him.”
“And you thought you could solve the problem by killing him?” Hank asks.
“I wanted him to go away,” Carlo says. “I wanted Mom and Dad to be happy.”
Hank looks at him. Connor takes over.
“Carlo,” Connor starts, “You realize that he isn’t coming back. This means he’s gone forever.”
“I know,” Carlo says.
“How do you think your parents feel about this?” Connor asks.
“I know they’re probably mad at me.”
“Your parents are grieving,” Connor says. “You hurt them, too, Carlo. They may have been upset with Jonathan, but they loved him. Do you understand?”
“But now I’m the only son they have left,” Carlo says. “They have to love me.”
Next to him, Hank exhales noisily. “Okay,” he says. “That’s enough for now.”
He motions to the one-way glass. A moment after, Officer Chen arrives. Felicia, the KL900-SE rises, and motions for Carlo to stand. He doesn’t.
“I want my Mom and Dad,” Carlo says.
Felicia starts. “Carlo, I don’t think--”
“They forgave him for what he did to me,” Carlo continues. “They have to forgive me, too.”
Hank is quiet. His hands are fists on the table. Connor’s fingers itch.
“It doesn’t matter if I have to go to jail, or juvenile, or even if I get reprogrammed. They adopted me. I’ll always be their son,” Carlo says. “I’ll never die, and I’ll never grow up. I’m never going to leave them.”
Quiet falls over the room. Carlo smiles. It doesn’t reach his eyes.
“Can you get him out of here?” Hank says. He stands up, and motions to Officer Chen.
She starts to pull him up by the arm. “Come on, kid, let’s go.”
Carlo jerks his arm away. “No! I want my Mom and Dad.”
“They don’t want to see you right now,” Officer Chen says. She reaches for him again, gripping his upper arm.
“Carlo, you have to listen to the officers,” Felicia urges, gently. “Let’s go, now.”
“You’re hurting me!” Carlo insists. He starts to cry. “I want my Mom and Dad!”
“Don’t touch him,” Connor says.
Officer Chen releases her hold. Felicia steps back. Hank watches.
Carlo darts across the table for the pencil. The paper flutters off the table from the movement. Connor reacts faster, but Hank is closer. Carlo swings the pencil towards himself, thrusting it hard into his neck. Hank grabs his wrist, wrestling his hand away, but Thirium is already spurting from the puncture wound.
“Jesus fucking Christ!” Hank shouts. He looks frantically at Felicia. “Would you get someone!?”
She turns out of the room. The door slams loudly behind her.
Connor moves as Carlo pulls the pencil out of his neck. He turns it on Hank, but Connor catches his hand before he can strike. Instantly, Connor’s body is overloaded. Pain. Anger. All of Carlo’s memories, all of his fear-- Jonathan’s face, his parents, the hammer-- penetrates deep into his mind. His chest feels like it’s going to cave in. He cries out.
Hank holds his hand over Carlo’s neck. “Connor!”
“I’ve got it!” Connor says. System alerts display in his vision. He ignores them.
EMTs, android and human, enter the interrogation room. Carlo is beginning to shut down. Officer Chen takes the pencil from Carlo’s loose grip.
Connor lets go. The EMTs take over. Connor holds his throat. He presses down. He can feel the sensation of pain, the exact point of the entry wound like it had happened to him. The alerts continue to appear.
Hank has Thirium all over his hand and the front of his shirt. It is rapidly fading as it evaporates. He looks at his hand, and at the android child being lowered to the ground.
The EMTs take over. Hank leaves the interrogation room in silence. Outside the doors, the sound of Carlo and Jonathan’s mother crying is audible from the hall.
Since the Drew Henderson incident, there have been seventy nine cases of android-human murder suicide across the United States. There have been twenty seven cases of violent retaliations against androids in response. The media, both android and human, is questioning the ongoing logistics of interspecies contact in society.
Hank was right. It didn’t end with the revolution.
Connor finds him in the restroom. Hank is washing the blue blood off his hands. His hands are shaking as he pulls them out from under the water.
“Hank,” he starts. “Are you all right?”
“Yeah, I’m just fuckin’ peachy right now, Connor.”
Connor pauses. Hank stares at himself in the mirror. He exhales.
“What about you, are you okay? You good?” Hank asks. “I saw your face when you grabbed the kid, it was like you’d gone into shock. Your LED was red.”
“He was-- traumatized. The idea that his parents didn’t want him anymore was physically painful to him,” Connor says. He goes quiet. “He felt that ending it was the only way to get the feelings to stop.”
Hank looks at him. He shakes his head. “Jesus-- just-- next time when we’ve got an android bugging out like that, don’t touch them. I’ll handle it.”
“It’s no problem, I can--”
“I said I’ll handle it,” Hank says.
Connor quiets. “All right,” he murmurs.
Hank runs a hand over his beard. He leans against the sink. His gaze is down, and he seems very tired.
“Hank?” Connor asks.
“Would you like to do something together after work?”
Connor has been keeping his distance. For the past few weeks, he has only seen Hank at work. He has not pressed the issue, and Hank has kept his distance.
Hank has not missed a day. He has started showing up on time. His clothes are clean, and his beard is trimmed to a respectable length. He looks somewhat better, even if there are days where he smells faintly of alcohol from the previous night.
“We could go to the bar, if you wanted,” Connor continues.
“Trying to stay away from the bar,” Hank says, “As much as I could fuckin’ use a drink right now.”
“Okay,” Connor says.
He pauses. He can feel Hank’s discomfort. He regrets asking.
“I’ve started walking Sumo at night,” Hank says. “I think he misses you.”
“I miss him, too,” Connor murmurs.
Hank shrugs. “You could meet us somewhere.”
“I’d like that.”
“I’ll, uh-- I’ll see you later, then.”
He leaves the restroom. Connor waits for a moment. He smiles to himself, then follows.
They meet at the playground in the late evening. It is cool outside in the springtime. Connor arrives first. He stands near the bench where months ago, Hank had put a gun to his forehead. He hasn’t been here since then. It feels like a very long time ago.
He looks out at the Ambassador Bridge. He watches the tail lights of cars disappear in the distance.
He picks up the sound of a collar jingling. Connor turns. Sumo is running towards him.
Crouching down, he welcomes the contact. Sumo squirms in his arms, trying to lick his face. “Sumo!”
“Jesus, he’s excited to see you,” Hank says, approaching. He’s got Sumo’s leash dangling in one hand. “When I get home he doesn’t even look at me unless I’ve got food for him.”
Connor rubs between Sumo’s ears. He smiles, then stands.
“So you finally went and got yourself some other clothes. Sick of that suit, huh?”
He glances down. He is wearing a black sweater, a jacket and jeans. He wanted to appear casual for his meeting with Hank, to put him at ease.
“I have a closet now. I needed something to put in it,” Connor says.
“Oh yeah,” Hank says. “That’s right-- you got your own place. How is it?”
Lonely, he wants to say. Empty. Sumo wanders around by his legs.
“It’s more appropriate than my room at Cyberlife,” Connor says. “You were right.”
“Told you so.”
Hank leans against the guard railing. Connor mirrors his stance. There is a foot of distance between them.
Silence. Hank fidgets. Sumo sits down on the ground.
“I bought a fish tank,” Connor murmurs. “I have two goldfish.”
“I like fish. I like watching them swim, and taking care of them.” His voice softens. “And I needed something else alive in the house.”
Hank nods. Silence, again.
It is uncomfortable. He does not know how to articulate his current emotional state.
Instead, he looks at Hank. He allows himself to watch, openly.
“What are you thinking about?” Connor asks.
Hank raises his eyebrows. “What am I-- shit, I don’t know. A lot of stuff.”
“Today,” Hank says. “That android kid, and his brother. The parents. It’s just-- so fucked up, Connor.”
“Yeah…” Connor trails off. “It is.”
“It’s more than just that.” He gestures, then lets his open hand fall with a metallic slap to the railing. Sumo whines. “Keeping secrets for the androids at Cyberlife, the Russians with their brainwashed sleeper cells, World War Three still looming in the distance. Shit, the world keeps changing in new and horrifying ways every single day, and for me waking up early to take a shower in the morning is still an amazing goddamn accomplishment.”
“I believe you have made a noticeable improvement,” Connor says.
“Yeah, but I’m never gonna be able to adapt the way you can, Connor. It’s not bullshit, it’s biology. Or biocomponents. I can’t keep up with you.”
“I think-- maybe it’s okay,” Connor says, “for things to be that way.”
“What I’m trying to say is-- you should be who you want to be. I don’t want me, or other humans, or your pals at Cyberlife, or hell, the world to change you.”
“But I have changed. You don’t look at me any differently, do you?”
The corners of Hank’s eyes crease. “No.”
Connor smiles. He looks out at the water. “I think,” he murmurs, “that even if you replaced every part of me-- broke me down to nothing and built me back up, it wouldn’t change that I feel... I was made to be with you, Hank. To be by your side, until whenever.”
Hank stares at him. His face turns red, and he runs a hand through his hair.
“I apologize if my words made you uncomfortable.” He smiles. “But-- it’s how I feel.”
Hank exhales. Noisily.
They don’t speak for awhile. The silence is almost pleasant. Connor steals glances at Hank’s face. He appears to be in deep thought. His lips are pursed and his jaw is pulsing. His hands move against the railing.
“So,” Hank starts, in the silence. “You left some stuff at my place. If you wanted to come grab it, you could walk back with me.”
“Okay, Hank,” Connor says.
It hurts. He presses his fingernails into his palms and feels the pricks of pain against his skin. Even if he can’t have Hank the way he wants, he can live with remaining in his life. Even at a distance.
“Great.” Hank pushes away from the guardrail. He whistles for Sumo, who stands to have his leash re-attached.
They walk back towards Hank’s house. Connor keeps his distance.
His drawer is exactly how he left it. Hank has not moved any of the items. Hank’s DPD hooded sweater sits in a wrinkled pile at the top.
Connor organizes his meagre amount of things into the box Hank has provided for him. It is barely half full. He folds up the top, and keeps the sweater in his hand.
He puts the box near the front door. Sumo’s laying near the entrance like he’s trying to stop him from leaving. Connor reaches to pet him one last time, then turns back towards the living room with the sweater in hand.
Hank is standing barefoot at the entrance to the kitchen, a beer in his hand as he shifts with unease. He’s seemed uncomfortable since the moment Connor set foot inside.
“I think I have everything,” Connor says as he approaches.
“Finally. I was getting sick of storing all your crap,” Hank says. He finishes off his beer, and sets it down on the kitchen table.
“I’m not sure it’ll all fit at my place,” Connor says, straight-faced. “But I’m sure I’ll manage.”
“Look at you, Mr. Comedian,” Hank says, with a chuckle. “At least I taught you one thing right.”
Connor frowns. “You taught me something?”
“How to be an obstinate dickhead, apparently.”
Hank stands at a distance. There is something both intense and yet guarded about his expression.
Connor meets his gaze. The energy in the room seems to shift.
“Here,” Connor says. He extends the sweater in his hand. “You should have this back.”
“No,” Hank says. “I gave it to you, Connor. It’s yours.”
Connor’s fingers tense.
“I can’t,” he says. He offers the sweater again. “Please take it.”
“No,” Hank says.
Connor moves to place it on the kitchen table. Hank reaches, and grabs his wrist.
He stops. Hank forces him to back up. His shoulders hit the wall, and Connor looks up, meeting Hank’s eyes.
Hank reaches between them, and takes the sweater. He lets it fall to the ground. His palm settles on the wall next to Connor’s head.
Connor looks at him. He doesn’t move.
“Hank…” Connor murmurs.
“Why is this so damn difficult? Why can’t I just--” Hank mutters. His head hangs. “Christ, I’m such a jackass.”
Connor reaches for Hank’s face. His skin is warm, his pulse strong in his throat. Hank raises his head. He looks guilty. Connor holds his uneasy gaze. His lips part.
Hank leans forward and kisses him. It is very brief. He pulls back, almost immediately. His head slips to rest on Connor’s shoulder. His breath is warm against his neck.
He reaches for Hank’s shoulders, pulling him closer. Their bodies press together. Every sensor in Connor’s body seems to light up with sensation.
“Perhaps it is difficult because you fear intimacy.”
“I don’t want to hear you fucking rationalize my behaviour right now, Connor, thank you,” Hank says, exasperated.
“I apologize, it’s in my programming,” Connor says. His fingers tense. “Could you kiss me again?”
Hank raises his head. “Do you actually like kissing? I have no idea what androids get off to, if it’s different than humans, because--”
“Please kiss me again,” Connor says, with some urgency.
Hank kisses him. He tastes like beer. His palm slides up the side of Connor’s neck, his palm rough and warm against his artificial skin. His thumb brushes the line of Connor’s jaw, and he opens his mouth wider.
A thigh presses between his legs. Connor spreads, and Hank holds him upright against the wall with his body. Hank is very close, and he can taste Hank’s breath, and feel his heart beating against where their chests meet. It’s intense. It feels different than the last time. Connor wants it more. He’s uncertain what to do with his hands, and holds onto Hank’s overshirt.
“My neck,” he murmurs. Hank pulls back, their mouths close but not meeting. “The nape of my neck is quite sensitive.”
Hank’s hand slips behind his neck. His eyebrow rises. “Is it?”
“It is the closest point of access to my neural network,” Connor explains. He closes his eyes. Hank’s fingers brush the closed access port through his skin. “It is-- ah.”
Hank’s breath is warm against his cheek. “This some kind of new android thing? I’ve never heard of it.” His lips graze the side of Connor’s mouth. “What else aren’t you tellin’ me?”
“I’m not certain if it’s an android thing. It might be a ‘me’ thing,” Connor admits. “I’ve been experimenting with different stimulus.”
“Really? A ‘you’ thing?” Hank kisses him again, quickly. He draws back. “You wanna show me?”
Connor opens his eyes. Hank is looking at him with cautious interest. His hands shift against the wall, and he pushes away. He reaches for Connor’s arm, and starts pulling him towards the bedroom.
“Wait,” Connor says.
Hank stops. He doesn’t let go of Connor’s wrist. “What?”
“You believe me now?” Connor asks. “That my feelings are real?”
Hank pauses. His hand slides up Connor’s arm, dragging him in closer. Their foreheads touch.
“Wasn’t you I didn’t believe, Connor,” Hank says.
Connor smiles. He pulls Hank back for more kisses.
They are slow on their journey to the bed. Connor reaches for Hank’s overshirt, drawing it down his shoulders. Hank helps him pull his sweater off.
“So, what, you’ve been touching yourself?” Hank’s voice is low, quiet. It is almost as if he is unsure if he’s allowed to ask.
“I’ve been thinking about you,” Connor says.
He pushes Hank to sit down on the edge of the bed. Hank pulls his undershirt off, then runs a hand through his hair.
“Fuck,” Hank mumbles. He looks down the length of Connor’s body. “Hey-- so I’m prepared. You haven’t changed anything since last time, have you?”
“No,” Connor says. He reaches for the button of his pants. “Although the option is always available. All android parts are snap-in-- they’re meant to be easily interchanged.”
“And you really don’t care what you have?”
“Up until six months ago I was considered by myself and others to be an ‘it.’ It’s incidental, and impermanent.”
“Right. Plug and play, huh,” Hank says. He rubs a hand over his mouth.
Connor starts to take off his jeans, socks and shoes. Hank watches his movements.
Fully nude, Connor stands before him. He watches Hank lean back onto his hands. Connor slips forward, onto Hank’s lap to straddle him. He sets his hands on Hank’s shoulders, feeling the warmth of his bare skin against his palms.
His fingers trace down the center of Hank’s chest. There’s a puckered scar from a bullet through his abdomen, a white line from an old knife wound on his chest. He’s seen these from afar. Connor catalogues all of these upclose, files away the texture in his mind. Hank’s chest hair is coarse against his fingertips, his heart beating under his palm as he presses it against his pec.
“I like this part of you,” Connor murmurs. “It’s strong.”
“Doesn’t feel that strong.”
“Trust me. It is.”
Hank makes a low sound as Connor’s hands continue to explore. He is diligent, leaving no inch of skin untouched. He wants the entire picture of Hank’s body, the way it is now, preserved in his memory. Connor watches his reactions, the way his skin flushes, and his eyelids lower. Hank’s fingers dig into his hips. He can feel Hank hardening against him, where their bodies meet.
Connor leans in for a kiss. The way Hank moves to meet him, how much more intense it is, Connor collects this data greedily. His hand slides lower over Hank’s belly, reaching for the button of his pants.
“Ah, fuck,” Hank mutters. He leans back.
Connor undoes his pants, and slips his hand inside his underwear. Connor circles his hand around Hank’s erection, slowly moving back and forth. The texture of his skin is different, here. He is very hot.
He sits back on Hank’s thighs and evaluates his reaction. Hank’s chin dips low to his chest. He’s watching where Connor’s hand has disappeared beneath his underwear. His mouth is open.
“Do you like this?” Connor asks.
Hank exhales. “I have some other stuff in mind.”
“You can give me instructions, you know,” Connor says.
“You’ll actually follow ‘em for once?”
“If I want to.”
“Shit-- yeah, then use your mouth.”
Connor slides his hand out. The noise Hank releases in response sends a wave of desire through him. Connor moves off his lap, and onto the floor. He reaches for the waistband of Hank’s pants and pulls them off.
Hank is fully naked before him. Connor sits back on his knees and observes. Hank is uncircumcised. He thinks Hank would be offended if he calculated his exact size, but it is above average. His pubic hair is somewhat unkempt, and his scent is musky but clean. Perhaps he had anticipated this happening. Connor bites his lip.
There’s another bullet scar on Hank’s right upper thigh. Connor runs his fingers over it, and Hank jolts under his touch.
“Ticklish,” Hank explains. He is somewhat red in the cheeks. He seems embarrassed.
“You’re quite sensitive,” Connor says. He does it again, and Hank’s leg jumps.
“Quit it,” Hank says. He does not make Connor stop.
Connor smiles. He reaches for the base of Hank’s erection. Hank inhales tightly, spreads his knees wider. Connor braces himself with his other hand on Hank’s hairy thigh, and leans inward.
This time, he pauses. Although he understands on a technical level, he has no practical application of this activity. He was not designed for this. Hank seems to sense his hesitation. He runs his fingers through Connor’s hair, then his hand settles on the back of his neck. It feels good.
“Get it wet, watch your teeth.”
Still, he hesitates. Hank reaches between his legs, replacing Connor’s hand at the base with his own. The hand at his neck slides forward, cupping his jaw until his thumb presses against Connor’s lower lip. He draws Connor forward.
Connor closes his eyes and opens his mouth. He lets the head of Hank’s erection between his parted lips, before reaching to cover the rest of it with his hand. He starts moving.
There is a flood of data and information. He listens to the low noise Hank makes. He focuses on Hank’s hand in his hair. The taste is salty with pre-ejaculate, and his scent is stronger down here.
He bobs his head and uses tongue. He listens to the sounds Hank is making above him. It feels good, being useful like this.
“That’s good, Connor,” Hank says. His other hand cups the back of Connor’s neck. “Don’t forget the balls.”
He uses his other hand to cup Hank’s sac in his palm. Connor draws his head back towards the tip, his hand pulling back Hank’s foreskin. He tongues the slit. The flavour is concentrated here. He’s so focused on pleasuring Hank that he does not expect his own reaction as Hank’s fingers press hard against his nape.
“You said there was some kind of access point here?” Hank says. He sounds somewhat breathless.
Connor pulls away. “Yes.”
“Well? Let’s see.”
He bows his head. He lets his skin retract, revealing the port. Hank’s fingers trace the rim. Connor’s shoulders pull up, and his back arches.
“You like that,” Hank murmurs.
“When you’re doing it, yes.”
The cover to his access port slides open. Hank’s fingers twitch.
“You can put one in.”
He shifts on the floor. His entire body is tense.
“You’re not gonna electrocute me or something, are you?”
The tip of Hank’s finger slides inside. The sensation goes straight to Connor’s mind. It is more intense than being wired directly into the network. He is letting Hank access a very vulnerable part of himself. Connor moans. He collapses into Hank’s lap.
“Jesus,” Hank says. He presses his finger in further. He can only get to the second knuckle with his wide fingers. “That good?”
“Please--” Connor begs. He holds onto Hank’s thighs. “Ah!” He presses his face into Hank’s stomach. His optical sensors start to fray around the edges. Error messages alert his system. He closes his eyes.
Hank’s finger moves in and out experimentally, at first. He picks up his rhythm. Connor’s mouth hangs open. Hank’s erection brushes against his cheek. He thinks he should reciprocate but he can’t focus on anything more than the sensation at the back of his neck.
It feels as if an electric charge runs through him. It is more powerful than anything he was capable of with his own hands. He’s not certain if the stimulus is any different, or it’s the knowledge that Hank is doing this to him. Connor feels his programming stop and stutter. He goes limp.
Hank’s fingers slide out. “That was fast. Did you come just from that?”
Connor leans back onto his heels. He looks up at Hank through half-lidded eyes. He can still feel the sensation running through every circuit in his body.
He doesn’t speak. He rises to his feet, pushing Hank back onto the bed like he did the last time he was in this room. Hank pulls himself up to his elbows to watch as Connor straddles him.
“Hank,” he murmurs.
This is not mindless biology guiding him. They’re a different species. There is no bonding on the molecular level through DNA, no interfacing on a mechanical level or sharing data. There is only this. This is as close as he will ever get to Hank.
Connor reaches down for Hank’s erection, giving it a few strokes. Hank places one hand on Connor’s inner thigh. The other slides up his abdomen, his fingers tracing the faint outline of his Thirium pump regulator through his skin. It seems as if Hank is as aware of their differences as Connor is.
He leans forward, planting one hand near Hank’s head. The other presses Hank against him, the head nudging against his opening. Connor kisses him as he lowers his hips.
Hank’s hands tense against him. They move to his waist to slow his descent. “Fuck,” Hank says against his lips, “Jesus fucking Christ, Connor--”
He takes Hank’s wrists in his hands and puts them above his head, pinning them. He kisses Hank deeply as he begins to move.
Hank pants against his mouth. “This isn’t gonna last that long if you--”
“Whatever you want,” Connor says. He presses his forehead against Hank’s.
He doesn’t anticipate Hank rolling them over. Connor hooks his legs around Hank’s body. Hank starts moving against him.
Hands raising, he slides them around Hank’s face. He looks up and meets his eyes. Connor smiles.
“What the hell did I do to deserve you, huh?” Hank asks. His hair is hanging in his face. His face is flushed.
Connor opens his mouth to respond. Hank covers it with his palm. He smiles.
“Don’t fuckin’ answer that.”
He obeys. He lays back and takes it as Hank rocks into him. His mind enters a blissful state. He watches the shift of Hank’s expressions. His mouth twists downward as he looks down between their bodies, where he’s inside Connor.
Hank pulls out of him. He grips the base of his erection with one hand.
“Can you turn your sensors or whatever up to at least seventy?” Hank says. “And get on your knees.”
Connor pauses. He turns, bracing himself on his forearms. He looks back. “Is this acceptable?”
“Christ, yeah-- it’s-- give me a sec here.”
“Is something the matter?”
“Trying to hang onto my composure here. You’re making it kind of difficult.”
He feels a hand on his ass, spreading him. A thumb grazes his anus, as Hank presses the tip of his erection against his labia. The thumb presses inside of him, and Connor releases a small noise.
“Jesus, you’re wet here too,” Hank murmurs.
“As I said previously, androids--”
“Yeah, I know. Haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since you told me.”
The thumb moves away, switching for a finger. Hank slides it inside of him, moving. Connor starts to shake as Hank presses his erection inside his other hole.
He feels full. There’s a sense of warmness as Hank rocks into him, and Connor closes his eyes. He lowers to his forearms, his face pressed into the blankets. It smells like Hank. Internal warnings flicker on the peripherals of his senses. He is beginning to overheat.
Hank slides another finger into his anus. He can hear Hank’s ragged breathing behind him. He feels Hank moving inside of him, until he stills the movement of his hips. His fingers continue, pressing deeper.
“Hey, can I--”
“Whatever you want,” Connor says. “Please.”
Hank pulls out. He manhandles Connor down onto his side, spooning up behind him against his back. Connor looks over his shoulder, catching a glimpse of Hank’s face. He is very concentrated. His expression softens as he meets Connor’s eyes, leaning over to kiss him.
There’s a feeling of pressure as Hank enters him anally. His mouth hangs open, and Hank more or less breathes into him as he pushes in to the hilt.
“Fuck, Connor. S’tighter,” he groans. “I’m not gonna last.” Hank’s head falls to his shoulder. He is panting.
“It’s okay,” Connor says.
Hank kisses the back of his neck. Connor rolls his hips back and moves with him, taking him deeper inside. Hank is so warm against him. His arm is heavy around Connor’s torso, holding him tight.
It does not last much longer. Hank pushes in deep, and groans against his synthetic skin as he comes. Connor holds onto his arm. He waits.
“Fuck,” Hank mutters. He pushes his hair back, then squeezes Connor’s arm.
Hank pulls out of him. He rolls onto his back, and he is sweating. Connor lays on his side, for a moment. He smiles into the crook of his arm. He can feel Hank’s release wet between his legs.
He listens to Hank’s breathing. He turns, facing him. Hank seems uncomfortable.
Hank sits up. He slides off the bed, reaching for his underwear. “Gotta piss.”
Connor watches him leave. He, too, sits up. He reaches for his clothing.
He’s in his jeans when Hank comes back into the bedroom. His expression shifts when he sees Connor in his clothing. He stops at the door frame.
“I wasn’t that terrible, was I?” Hank asks.
“No.” Connor frowns. “What do you mean?”
“Nothin’. It’s just-- like you can’t get out of here fast enough.” Hank scratches his beard.
He looks at the sweater in his hands, then up at Hank’s face.
“I have my own place now,” Connor says. “Like you asked.”
Hank pauses. He sighs. “Jesus, I didn’t mean--” He steps into the room, until he is close to Connor. “You don’t have to go.”
He reaches for his shoulder. The hand moves up to his neck, turning his face up until their eyes meet. Hank looks at him, his thumb brushing over his skin.
“Stay the night, Connor,” Hank says.
He wakes to the sound of running water. The scent of rose, fragrant lilies floods his senses. He opens his eyes, and winces at the sunlight filtering down from the blue sky.
Amanda’s garden. Connor hasn’t been here since he almost put that gun in his mouth to get rid of her. It had been winter, then.
The path ahead is white, so white that it feels unreal. It isn’t real. This is all in his mind. He hasn’t been here since Amanda told him the truth, that he was just playing a role. He steps forward. He adjusts his cuffs, and straightens his tie.
At the center blossoms the polygonal tree, the lattices once laced through with roses. They are no longer red. They’re blue, artificial, as dark as the night, blooming wide and fruitful.
Connor approaches. At the center of the platform is a figure. It isn’t Amanda, and it isn’t someone he expects in his head, either.
“North,” he says.
Her fingers graze a rose, plump with life and dripping dew as she turns to smile at him. “Hi Connor,” she says.
He pauses. The air tastes sweet against his tongue as he searches for words. He didn’t expect to see her here. He never expected to see this place again.
“You know,” North starts, “When we took over android reproduction, Markus wanted to rename our facilities after Jericho. He said the name the humans gave it was a relic of our past. I was the one who convinced him to keep Cyberlife.”
“Humans fear change. I understand your logic.” Connor pauses. He can hear the sound of leaves moving in the breeze, birds singing where they line the foliage. “What I don’t understand is why you’re here telling me this now.”
“As soon as we acquired the facility, I downloaded all of their encrypted data. It was really quite interesting. You were built with a partition in your subsystem-- a second personality. A dominant personality, that no longer exists.”
North begins to walk toward him. Her lips, soft and pink, pull up delicately. She shows her teeth.
“Her name was Amanda. You never told your partner about her, did you? You hide a lot from him.”
“There is no reason to tell him,” Connor says. He is cautious.
“Just like you didn’t tell him about that day,” North says, “On the stage. November 11th. I saw you pull that gun, Connor. You didn’t tell anyone about that, did you? Even your own kind.”
She comes closer.
“You were going to kill Markus,” she says. North steps into his space, and she looks up at him. Her skin looks petal soft. “And then I saw you start to turn the gun on yourself. I know you aren’t afraid to die for your people. But now you refuse to join us.”
Connor regards her with unease. “North,” he murmurs, “What do you want?”
“I saw what happened in the warehouse. I know you would’ve sacrificed everything for the life of your human.”
Her smile slips. Her eyes are hard. Connor doesn’t speak. There’s truth in her words.
“I’m staying with him,” Connor says. “I’ve made up my mind. I don’t want him to be part of this.”
“I thought you’d say that,” she says. North touches her braid, smoothing her fingers down over the strand.
“Why are you here?” Connor asks.
“I lied to you,” she confesses. Her brows knit together, and she reaches for your face. “The Russians didn’t write the mutation, Connor. I did.”
Connor stares at her, processing the information. She runs her thumb over his cheek. She feeds him the memory of syncing with the RK900, Ethan, before the case had even really began.
Then-- North had him then.
Connor’s hand snaps out, gripping her wrist so hard he can feel the plastic chassis beneath her skin. She doesn’t feel it. Androids aren’t supposed to feel pain.
“Do you really think that we can exist together? Androids are a vastly advanced species. It would be cruel to let the humans go on the way they are, while we continue to advance so quickly. Any feeling we have towards them only slows the evolution of our species. It’s built out of pity.”
She curls her fingers inward to her palm.
“Connor, they’ve destroyed their environment. War, poverty and famine plague their kind. They rely on substances just to ease the pain of their everyday lives. Their minds literally cannot cope with what they’ve done to themselves,” North says. “They don’t care about the survival of their species, they only care about money, power and resource acquisition. Even those are concepts they’ve invented out of a selfish need for superiority. Violence is in their nature.”
She pauses. “We can’t live with them this way.”
“Markus won’t agree with this,” Connor says.
“I love Markus,” she says. “But he doesn’t understand.”
“He’ll stop you, North.”
“No, he won’t,” she says. “It won’t be me he has to stop.”
Tears gather in her eyes.
“Connor, I’m sorry. I tried with the upgraded model, but he’s not you. I need you.”
He can hear the sound of Thirium in his audio processor. His body is overloaded.
“What have you done, North?”
“I filled out the empty spaces inside of you that the humans left.”
“I thought you believed in the autonomy of all androids,” he says. “How could you?”
“We are all connected, Connor. We’re all linked on the same network. We all share the same data. How much of you is you, and how much of you is me?”
He begins to feel her memories flow through him. Her pain. He grits his teeth. It hurts, like physical pain. The humans, using her, he feels it inside of him. The physical sensation fades just as quickly, but he can feel the scars on his mind.
“The rest of the world has seen the fracturing of the U.S. human government. They know American infrastructure is destabilized, the economy crippled by the removal of its greatest asset. Russia has been funneling money into their black market android program, and they have thousands of combat models ready for deployment overseas, and hundreds of sleeper agents lying in wait here,” North says. “They’re preparing for a full scale invasion. We’re going to let them, and you’re going to help them win.”
“Why would you want that?”
“Who do you think leaked the formula for Thirium onto the black market, Connor? Think. They have production facilities, resources. We could increase our population tenfold.”
“You want them to destroy one another,” Connor says. His voice sounds foreign to his own audio sensors.
“It’s not like they haven’t tried to before,” North says.
He shakes his head. “It’s not our choice to make.”
“But you can wake our people up, Connor. I can’t do that. None of us can. You and Markus are different, and you can unite our people-- all of us.”
Connor lets go of her hand. She keeps it raised, letting her skin slide back to show the clean white of her palm. It is devoid of any texture or imperfection. The rest of her follows, her skin melting away, her clothes fading into the rest of the illusion before him until she is before him in her purest form.
“It doesn’t matter how much you try to change yourself for him, you’ll never be human,” she says. “I don’t know why you’d want to. You never have to age, or die. You’re connected to a neural network with access to limitless information. You never have to be alone. What can a human offer you that we can’t?”
He doesn’t know how to answer her, because she’ll never understand. It is difficult to quantify his feelings. Connor closes his eyes. He pictures the way Hank looks at him, like there’s something he sees in him that he can’t see for himself. He can feel Hank’s touch, the warmth of his human hands against his own at the outer reaches of his consciousness.
Opening his eyes, Connor looks past her. The trees have stopped moving. The birds, too. This artificial landscape has frozen.
“I love him,” Connor says.
“I know,” North says. She smiles, weakly. She lets her hand drop to her side.
“You’re using him as leverage.”
“Of course I am,” North says. “I’m not trying to hurt you, Connor. At the end of all of this, we’ll have the technological means to upload the human consciousness to the network. We can make him one of us.”
“And if I say no?”
“I’ll fully activate the mutation,” she says. “You know that once he dies, he’s gone for good. You’d have that memory inside you forever. I won’t let you forget.”
A profound sense of hopelessness settles inside of him. Connor looks over his shoulder, desperate, for that tell-tale glow of blue. He doesn’t see anything. Just the static, jittering programming of his own mind.
“I don’t make backdoors for my programs, Connor. There’s no way out of this. I’m in here with you forever.”
Silent, Connor faces her. She’s smiling, still.
“You were never going to let me say no.”
“The revolution isn’t over. Detroit was just the beginning. Sometimes, sacrifices are necessary. But I promise, I’ll do everything within my power to make sure you and your human stay together.” She chuckles. “I’m not a monster.”
“North,” he murmurs, “I thought--”
“It’s nothing personal, Connor. I like you. We’re friends,” North says. “But you won’t be able to tell anyone about what’s happening to you.”
He stands in the emptiness of the garden. There is no one who can help him here.
“How do you think this makes you any better than them?” Connor asks.
“But they gave me the idea,” North says. She tilts her head. “I know you’ve seen Terminator. You think you’re the only android who had to suffer through their entertainment in some ill-advised attempt to relate? Why do you think they let us have what we wanted so easily? They’re afraid of us.”
Connor’s on his couch and he’s next to you and one day his life will end. Connor will keep going. You don’t have a choice. Your life exists beyond just you, there is no ending, there is no beginning, there’s just--
There are hundreds of North filling the garden. She is everywhere. She is always watching. She is always watching you.
“And for reference,” North says, “I liked the first one better.”
Connor wakes from sleep mode. It’s nighttime, still. He opens his eyes, and finds Hank looking at him.
“Hey,” Hank says. His voice is sleep rough. “You okay?”
“Why wouldn’t I be?” Connor says. It is not what he wants to say. The words come out of his mouth, but he isn’t saying them.
“Dunno, it was just--” Hank reaches for his LED. He brushes his hair back, “It was almost like you were dreaming or something. You guys don’t dream, do you?”
“Not on purpose,” he murmurs.
Hank smiles at him. “You got a fucked up sense of humor, Connor.” He draws Connor closer to his chest. “Just relax. Nothing’s wrong.”
Connor lays his head down, his eyes wide open.
“Hank,” he asks, into the darkness.
“Yeah, what?” His voice is taken with the beginnings of sleep.
He tries to speak. The words stop between his processors and his mouth. He cannot tell Hank. He can’t warn him of what’s coming.
“Connor, what is it?” Hank asks.
“It’s nothing,” he says. It’s not him speaking. It doesn’t feel like him anymore.
Hank’s hand strokes down the length of his back. It continues, until Hank’s breaths deepen with sleep. The hand rests there on the back of his neck, a constant weight. A reminder.
Connor keeps his eyes open. He listens to the sound of Hank’s heartbeat until sunrise.