Chapter 1: Day 0 & 1
October 15, 2036
Hank hated the office. The walls were painted a neutral beige, the floor was solid wood, the smell had a distinct tang of lemongrass. There was only a desk and a chair in front of it. A set of filing cabinets in the far left corner was present only by pure necessity. It couldn’t have been a worse place to be.
“Look, Hank, I’m really at the end of my rope here. You need to work with me so that I can work with you.” Fowler leaned forwards, his expression sinking into a tired scowl. One hand was white knuckled around a yellow paper notepad, the other was clenched so tightly that spiderweb cracks were beginning to spread along the pencil.
Hank fixed the man with a glare. “Fuck off, Jeffrey. I’ve been trying, okay? So get off my ass about it.”
Jeffrey Fowler leaned back in his chair, pushing his glasses up with a pointer finger. He inhaled deeply in an obvious attempt to compose himself. “Look, Hank, I’m trying to be professional. But as your therapist, and as your friend, I really need you to think about what you’re doing. You haven’t been trying at all. You’ve been drinking too much, skipping work, and God knows what else. Do you get where I’m coming from?”
The lieutenant wasn’t moved. “Not really, no. Just stay out of my fucking business. I don’t need another nosy ass getting onto me about my habits. Got it?” His tone was sharp but still low, a warning for the therapist to stop pushing the issue.
Fowler put the pad aside and reached into a drawer from his desk. There was a loud thump as he yanked out a thick manilla folder and dropped it in front of Hank. He opened it, shoving a file in front of the other man’s face. “You see this? Disciplinary reports from work, tickets for drunk driving, complaints, this binder is so thick it could be a novel! You have got to stop.”
Hank’s response was a growl. “Listen close now. I. Don’t. Care. Disciplinary reports are worthless. They aren’t gonna fire me, nobody’s actually gonna do anything because they feel bad for me! They pity me. And you know what? That’s fine with me. They turn a blind eye to me doing my own shit, and I go about my business.”
The other seemed to actually consider this response. His face softened ever so slightly. “And how does that make you feel, Hank?”
“Like punching something. Or, even better, somebody.”
“You know why they feel bad for you?”
“I think I have a vague idea.”
“Because you act like a piece of shit.”
“Thanks, Jeffrey. Really feeling the love and support.”
“I’m serious.” The black man leveled Hank with an intense gaze. It made Hank feel distinctly uncomfortable, a faint chill creeping up his back. He hated therapists. Jeffrey continued. “They’re sorry for you because you’re a wreck. And don’t get me wrong, anybody in your situation would be a wreck, but you need to at least be somewhat proactive. It’s already been a year, Hank. A year since the accident. You have to get something in your life to start a new chapter, get all those bad memories out of your head. It’s like a festering wound up there.” He pointed to his forehead for emphasis. “I’m not saying you should move on, but you need some type of closure or some type of distraction. Something needs to change.”
Hank was quiet. The only sound was the faint ticking of the clock behind his head. Pale orange sunlight coated the office, and Hank focused on the floating dust particles. “What do you have in mind?”
Jeffrey radiated nervousness. It was unusual, and it made Hank tense.
“Look, there’s this technique that somebody developed that I think could really help you. It’s really quite ingenious.” The therapist’s voice still carried the normal note of sterness, but some other, softer emotion had leaked in. It was almost gentle sounding. Hank hated it. “It’s for parents who lost their child.”
Jeffrey slid a flyer across the desk towards Hank.
The poster was brightly lit on the techpad, full of color and stylized words. The face of a smiling girl was featured in the center, with long brown hair and a large smile. It was an advertisement for the YK series, android children. It could replicate emotions. It could simulate childhood illnesses like fever and cold. It could feel pain, it could get sore and tired. It could get hungry. But of course, all of its needs could be deactivated for convenience. The perfect child.
As Hank took in the poster, Jeffrey seized the opportunity to explain. “It would be no charge. The office can cover any costs. I’m just asking for you to try, Hank, I think it could be a good opportunity for you to adjust--”
That was it.
Hank stood abruptly, slamming his hands on the desk, cracking the techpad. The screen fizzled out. The resounding boom echoed briefly in the small room. A cup of pens fell, the writing utensils clattering on the hardwood floor. Hank opened his mouth, but couldn’t think of any words to say that would appropriately summarize his feelings of rage and horror. Instead, he spun around, stalking towards the door.
“Hank, I thought--”
“I don’t know what you were fucking thinking, but I’m not having some little plastic shit in my house to replace--” Hank’s voice choked abruptly. He coughed to clear it. “That’s so fucked up, Jeffrey! Seriously!?”
Jeffrey sighed, rising from his desk. “Look, I know it may sound absurd, but it would help you. It would only be for a little, just enough to shock you out of this slump you’re in. You need somebody to take care of you, and you need somebody to take care of. This android could do it for you! You just need to give it a chance. It’s not just a machine.”
“Then what is it?”
As if on cue, the door to the office swung open. A well-dressed android stepped in, the main desk worker of the place. Her, no, its immaculate features and perfect clothes drove Hank insane. Humans weren’t perfect, and this thing seemed to defy all expectations. It made him shudder just looking at it.
“Pardon me, but the timer is up for this session.” Its voice was lilting and polite, so human-like and yet so unnatural. There was no emotion, no feeling, no room for anything but whatever was in that programming.
Jeffrey cleared his throat. “Thank you, Claire.” It was an obvious dismissal, and the android turned to leave.
Hank cut it off, thrusting out his arm to prevent its departure. He jabbed a finger towards it, poking her roughly on the shoulder. He watched in satisfaction as the LED spun into yellow for a brief moment before returning to a blinking blue.
“A machine, Jeffrey. You said it’s not a machine. The fucking poster said it could simulate emotions. Pretend to be a human. A machine programmed to be human. Yeah right. I’m not fucking delusional, I don’t need a pet robot in my house to pretend to be somebody who’s dead! You’re insane!” He glared at Claire. “Look at them! Plastic buckets of nuts and bolts with a side of fake blood.”
Jeffrey raised his hands appeasingly, as one would do with a spooked wild animal. “Two months.”
“You aren’t bargaining with me on this one. There’s no more compromising, no more bribing, no more of your bullshit. I’m not taking a kid robot.”
“This isn’t a request.”
“What’s that supposed to fucking mean?”
Jeffrey sighed, deigning not to elaborate. “Goodbye, Hank. I’ll see you again in two weeks.”
Claire escorted Hank out. If her pace was faster than it usually was, if her tone was a bit brusquer than it usually was, if her heels clicked a little more loudly than they usually did, then Hank didn’t notice.
October 16, 2036
Sumo was barking at the door. He always got riled up by doorbells. Hank blinked open his eyes, squinting against the bright sun pouring in from his kitchen window. He had the most horrible stiffness in his neck and back, credit to falling asleep passed out on the hard tile floor. His head felt heavy and a jackhammer cheerfully drilled into his skull as the hangover made itself known.
His whiskey had spilled on his shirt. It reeked, and his nose crinkled involuntarily. “Shit,” he muttered, trying to stretch out the kinks. There was only a vague memory of what had happened last night. His gun wasn’t on the floor, still in his nightstand drawer, so it must’ve not been too bad.
Sumo was still barking. Hank was about to shout for the dog to shut up and stop causing his hangover to grind into his head when the doorbell rang again. The shrill beep sent Hank’s headache reeling, but he fought through it. He should be used to it by now.
He stalked to the door, shoving the dog aside, not bothering to see who it was. Most likely a delivery guy or something. He opened the door, unconcerned about his ragged appearance.
Hank had to do a double take.
A young boy stood in front of him. Hank couldn’t stop his investigative observations from filtering into his head. He looked to be around nine or ten years old. Pale skin with dark, short brown hair. Brown eyes peered up at Hank curiously. He was dressed in a ridiculously small suit, complete with a grey tie. Hell, he was even wearing dress shoes. The thing that stood out the most was the blue LED on the boy’s temple. So, not a boy, but a machine.
“Are you lost?” Hank asked before he could stop himself. Androids didn’t get lost. Didn’t they have little GPS thingies built into their head or whatever?
The faint hum of a taxi made Hank look past the boy. The taxi that had delivered the boy was driving off on the automated road. So, not lost.
The android’s reply was prompt. “No. My name is Connor, I’m the android sent by CyberLife. I was purchased by Jeffrey Fowler and gifted to Hank Anderson.” Connor didn’t smile, but it looked very pleased with the current events.
Hank closed the door in its face. Locked it. Went back into the kitchen and downed the rest of the bottle. He wasn’t drunk enough for this shit. Then he called his therapist.
Claire, the secretary, picked up. “Hello, this is--”
“I need to speak to Fowler.”
“Mr. Anderson? How may I be of service?” The voice was clipped. Could androids even hold grudges? Hank shoved the thought away.
“A small plastic shit just showed up on my porch. Said Fowler had sent him. I need to have, words, with the man.”
“Of course. I am redirecting you now.”
Three polite knocks on the door. Sumo had settled down in front of the door, ears twitching every time a new sound emerged.
“Hank, before you say anything, it’s only for two months.”
The lieutenant felt like ripping his own hair out. “That’s not how that works, Jeffrey! I’m not adopting some random ass android that shows up on my doorstep without my permission!” he shouted into the receiver, trying to get his point across.
“You don’t have a choice. Deal with it, and get your act together.”
Hank ranted for a solid minute before realizing that the man had already hung up. “Fuck,” he grunted, carelessly tossing the phone onto the table. He didn’t want to deal with the android issue, so he decided to go to work.
He suited up, ate a piece of toast, and braced himself to open the front door again and face the kid. The lieutenant nudged his dog out of the way before exiting.
The kid-- Connor?-- was still on the porch. It was standing the exact way it had been left, straight and precise. It was almost like a military salute. The one difference was a quarter, clutched in one hand. Connor looked like it had been caught in some type of act, and pocketed the coin quickly. “Mr. Anderson, I get the impression that you were unaware of my arrival. If my presence inconveniences you, then I deeply apologize.”
“Yes, it fucking inconveniences me. What type of nine year old even uses words like those? I thought you were supposed to pretend to be like a human child.” Hank was very creeped out by the child android. It was like something out of a horror movie, those wide brown eyes and extensive vocabulary. Connor was so stiff and uptight, it was practically a business man in a small body. He wondered what exactly his programmers had thought in designing the machine. It didn’t seem very human-like to him.
Connor didn’t hesitate in its reply. “My previous handler believed in precision of language.”
“Handler?” It made the android sound like some type of military agent or weapon, hell, like some type of dog.
“Yes.” Connor didn’t explain, seemingly satisfied with its vague answer.
He glared at the machine. “And what’s with the suit? Makes you look like a miniature asshole.”
Connor paused to actually think. “My appearance was specifically crafted to ensure easy integration into a family.”
Hank scowled at him. “Well, they fucked up.”
He sighed, and brushed past the strange and unwanted android. “I want you off my porch and off my property by the time I come back, got it?”
Connor’s LED spun yellow, processing the order. “Okay, Mr. Anderson.”
“And don’t call me that. It makes me sound old.”
“Or that. You don’t get that right. That’s only for friends.”
Hank sighed, walking over to his car. He opened the door, glancing once more at the child android on his porch. He shook his head, and got in. For once in about six months, Hank Anderson was going to be on time for work.
October 16, 2036
Hank fucking hated work. The one day he had decided to arrive on time, all of a sudden it was a miracle and doomsday was coming. He was so tired of being stared at by his coworkers, being judged, having to deal with their bullshit. Damned if you do, damned it you don’t. Arrive to work on time, arrive to work late. Potato potato.
He sighed, leaning back as the heavy rock metal assaulted his ears. It successfully drowned out the pouring rain. His old car clanked cheerfully down the road, the window wipers working frantically against the onslaught. It was so dark it might as well have been night, thick clouds covering the sky. The man drove up to his house, slowing into his driveway.
He stepped out, fumbling with his keys. The man was already soaked, and he had been out in the rain for what, a millisecond? Hank hated rain jackets though. They crinkled when he walked. Before he could continue his thought process, he spotted something that made his heart sink.
On the sidewalk a little ways off to the side stood a small figure. It stood under a lamppost, the rain so thick that the light barely made it to the ground. Hank stood on his porch, peering out. He had a bad feeling. Hank seized an umbrella from his house, walking out to the android.
The LED shone a steady yellow as Connor stood stiffly, its posture interrupted by its constant shivers. Hank distinctly remembered reading that the kid androids could simulate all childhood pains and afflictions. That included the cold.
“What are you doing here, kid?” Hank asked, having to shout over the torrent of water to be heard.
Thunder rumbled, drowning out whatever response there was to be had. Connor’s mouth barely moved, and Hank wasn’t a lip reader.
The boy looked up. Its voice was shaky but strong when it replied. “I was waiting for you to get home while simultaneously not being on your property. I found that your property lines end right here.” He pointed a trembling finger to an invisible line in front of him. Connor glanced at Hank, biting its lower lip. It was almost as if it was seeking approval.
“That was fucking stupid of you. I meant that you should just leave, not loiter around like an idiot!”
Connor’s reply was prompt. “That order counteracts my primary directive.”
“Oh my god.” Hank was stuck with an android that wouldn’t go away. He was at a loss at what to do. To make matters worse, the wind was so strong that the rain was falling at an angle. The umbrella was practically useless. He turned on his heel sharply, really about done with this machine. It wasn’t his problem, it wasn’t his issue. It didn’t matter what Jeffrey said or what was “good for him.”
A small hand snagged Hank’s jacket. “Wait, Lieutenant.” Its voice was small.
He turned and glared down at Connor. “What do you want?”
“Can I at least come in?” There was an unspoken plea in the question. It pulled at the frayed ends of Hank’s heartstrings. And goddamn if Connor didn’t look like somebody else. Somebody else that Hank did not fucking want to think about right now.
Thunder boomed at the same time lightning struck. They both watched the bolt of light streak across the sky, the difference being that Connor flinched and Hank remained impassive. The boy, now that it had realized that Hank wouldn’t shove it away, was huddling close under the umbrella. It shivered, honestly a sorry mess. Weren’t androids supposed to be perfect? Hank had some questions, but filed them away under “questions to be asked with a higher BAC.”
He released a heavy sigh. “Fine. Come on.”
Hank was many things, but completely heartless and a ruthless bastard was not among them.
Once inside, the first order of business was to find the android new clothes. Just because Hank could walk around dripping wet didn’t mean that the machine could. It was his house, after all.
“Stand there and don’t move. I’ll be right back.”
“There” happened to be right on the inside welcome mat. Connor stood stock still, still vaguely shaking from the cold. Sumo trotted up to it, snuffling enthusiastically. Connor glanced at Hank, as if asking for his okay.
“His name is Sumo,” Hank grumbled, walking away to the hallway.
He stood in front of his son’s room, trying to summon the courage to open the door.
He had never been able to.
It was impossible.
The memories burned into his brain like a poker, jabbing at a still open wound.
The man turned away and entered his own room, pulling out old clothes that he had outgrown. Even then, it would look ridiculous on a kid. Whatever.
Hank walked out to a strange sight. Connor hadn’t moved from his spot on the mat, and was standing there awkwardly. Sumo had settled down over Connor’s feet, the heavy and fat dog quite happy with the new arrival. That made one of them.
He dumped the clothes on the couch, motioning for Connor to come. “Leave your shoes by the door.”
Connor looked down at Sumo helplessly. “Is it okay for me to disturb him?”
The man nodded. “He’s a fat useless lug, he’ll move if you move.”
Despite Hank’s reassurances, Connor still managed to gently slip his feet out from under the St. Bernard, depositing his shoes by the door. He walked over.
Hank looked away as Connor undressed. It felt awkward. He did his best not to think about it, not to think about anything.
“Lieutenant, the clothes are too big.”
“No shit, Sherlock.”
Hank turned back around and winced. Connor looked like a floppy ragdoll. The large clothes emphasized his small stature. “Okay. Well, it’s still better than wet clothes.” Speaking of which, Connor’s outfit had been neatly folded into a nice, sopping wet pile of clothes on the table.
There was a long moment of silence between them. Hank didn’t know what to do. This was the reason he didn’t want Connor in his house. It was just plain weird and unnatural.
“I like dogs,” Connor suddenly blurted.
“Sumo. I like Sumo. He’s nice. How old is he?”
“Uh, I forget.”
“Oh. I estimate that he’s about five.”
“Can I pet him?”
“I guess so.”
“Did you name him?”
Hank hated the semblance of normalcy. He hated the fact that Connor’s face lit up when he was excited. There was this childlike innocence in his speech that sounded just a little too real. It felt like talking to a real human child, full of questions and passion.
Connor had walked over during the course of the conversation and was now down on his knees, petting the dog. Of course, Sumo had no complaints. Hank found himself wondering whether it was different to be petted by an android. It reminded him of all the kids that flocked to Sumo whenever he went to the dog park.
It reminded him.
When had he started calling the android a “he?”
When had that started?
As soon as he had been reminded of Cole. Connor reminded Hank of Cole. And that made Hank mad.
Hank stalked over, seizing Sumo’s collar and pulling the dog up and away. Sumo followed obediently. Connor looked up at Hank curiously, a new fake emotion filtering into those fake eyes.
“Listen kid, you’re just in here because you would be fucking swept away if you stayed out there. That doesn’t make you anything more to me. It doesn’t mean you can just treat this house like your own.”
Connor’s LED spun into a blinking yellow.
Hank continued his rant. “If you think you can replace my own kid, then you’ve got another thing coming. I know you have your mission to fix me or whatever, but I’m not broken. You’re shitting yourself if you think otherwise.” He glared at Connor.
“Okay,” Connor whispered. He seemed to shrink into himself, burying himself under the clothes several sizes too large for him. “I understand, Lieutenant.”
And Hank had a feeling that yes, the android did understand. This satisfied his roiling rage, and he felt it recede as quickly as it had come, leaving a cold hardness behind. “Then get out of my house. Oh, and don’t touch Sumo again.”
Connor narrowed his eyes. With what could be called a vindictive tone, Connor let his retort fly. “You say you don’t need fixing, Lieutenant. But I say otherwise. You have personal issues that get in the way of daily life. I would recommend that you see a therapist, but you already do, to no avail. You have an excessive drinking problem and many anger issues that make social interaction a challenge. You refuse to take antidepressants or any type of drug to try and help your hormone imbalance. My job is to assist you in breaking your destructive habits.”
Hank couldn’t fathom where the insults were coming from. He noticed Connor looking longingly at Sumo, before turning an angry eye up to Hank. A rebellious gaze. Connor must have really liked Sumo. That was really too bad.
“Fuck you. What do you know? You’re just a robot. An unfeeling machine.” He drawled the last word, elongating the syllables while tapping his temple for emphasis. “Everything you do is just an illusion. You’re not a kid.”
“You’re right. I’m a YK800, model #313 248 317 - 51. I’m a prototype that specializes in self-destructive parents who have lost their child. I have unique features that allow me to adapt to any circumstance that might arise in my mission.”
Hank was going to have words with Jeffrey again. But that was for a later time. He narrowed his eyes. “Get out of my house.”
Connor had to stand on his toes to reach the top lock, but he managed. Hank watched coldly as the android opened the door to the howling rain. He could care less if the android went and stood under that street light again or decided to sit on the porch. Either way, as long as he was out of sight and out of mind, Hank didn’t care.
As soon as the front door swung shut, the man practically dove towards his liquor. He needed something to drown out what had just happened, and what better solution than a drink? He would answer that question himself.
Hank popped the cap off with practiced ease, and tilted the bottle back.
Chapter 2: Day Two
Hank has to actually work and Connor is struggling through life.
October 17, 2036
“Just because you look grumpy doesn’t mean you are!” The scribble was messy, boldly written with black sharpie against pink paper.
Hank seized the sticky note from the mirror, angrily ripping it in half. He left the two halves on the bathroom counter, stalking away from the patronizing notes he had written for himself. It was one of the dumb things Jeffrey had tried to get him to do towards the beginning of their sessions. Write positive things, keep up good vibes, blah blah, whatever. They didn’t work. Actually, they just made him more angry.
It was time to go to work. Time to face the music. He snagged his jacket from the kitchen, carefully stepping around a cheerfully eating Sumo. Sumo was always fed as soon as Hank woke up, which was usually sometime in the afternoon. The lieutenant glanced at his door, noticing the top lock still unlocked. His face twisted into a grimace. Knowing his luck, the android was still out there, loitering on his porch.
He opened the door, bracing himself.
Connor was missing. No, not missing, he was gone. As he should be. There was nobody on the porch. Hank heaved a sigh of relief, crossing his yard to his car. With a click, the door opened, and Hank swung himself inside. He sat back in the leather seat, giving his yard one more lookover. No kid android.
Before he could turn the key to start the engine, a familiar voice right behind him and right in his ear spoke. “Good morning, Lieutenant. You are two hours late to work.”
Hank emitted a very manly scream, spinning around, fist flying. Connor ducked, knuckles completely missing the boy. In his defense, it had been more of a surprised flail.
“Connor! What the fuck are you doing in my car?”
The boy was still dressed in Hank’s oversized clothes. He tilted his head slightly. Hank saw a damp spot in his back seats. “My biocomponents were in danger because of the weather and temperature, so I took refuge in your car. You really shouldn’t leave your car unlocked, somebody could steal it.” Connor’s voice was thick, almost scratchy sounding. His face was pale with a faint flush of blue.
Hank couldn’t believe he was currently being lectured by a nine year old. “You snuck into my car and slept?”
Hank didn’t know what he was going to do. He settled for the obvious. “Get out!”
Connor frowned disapprovingly. A shine of hurt seemed to shine on his face. “You’re always telling me to go away. This isn’t going to solve the issue, Lieutenant. We need to work together.” It was practically a pout, and it would’ve been cute if Hank wasn’t still reeling from having an android sneak into his car.
“Now you sound like Jeffrey. I said, get out!”
Connor exited the car, nearly tripping over the long pants leg on the way. Before he shut the door, he leaned back in. “Lieutenant, I think you should know that I am enrolled in the local elementary school. The office will provide all of my school supplies, but I figured that you should be aware of my schedule.”
The man glanced at the kid. “They let androids into school?”
“Yes. Unlike most androids, the YK series does not have access to CyberLife databases. We are given base programming and then learn based on experiences or lessons.”
It made sense, in a sick way. “Huh. Well, at least you’ll be out of my hair.”
Connor made to close the door, before pausing. “Lieutenant, as my parental unit, could you turn off my hunger module? I have not consumed a meal in the past twenty-four hours, and I estimate a probability of 7% that you will feed me.”
There was a long beat of silence as Hank took in the request. His hunger could just be turned off. The idea was incredible and also succeeded in creeping the man out. “Turn it off?”
“So you haven’t received the manual yet? Mr. Fowler most likely has it. You should ask for it at your earliest convenience.”
The boy seemed to get the impression that Hank would not follow through with his request. “Have a good day at work, Lieutenant.” The door shut with a click.
Hank shook himself out of his stunned stupor, pulling out of the driveway and onto the street. The last thing he saw before driving away was Connor on the driveway, looking like a statue with a pinched expression on his face.
October 17, 2036
It was cold. Connor was cold, and that was a problem. It wasn’t the temperature that was a problem, but rather the rain. He stood on the porch, trying to scowl at the door. He had tried to outgrow petty behavior, but the anger had boiled down to a residual dislike. Connor was tired, his legs were stiff, and he was still dressed in old clothes that faintly smelled like booze and sweat. Albeit, it wasn’t too horrible, and the rain water was drowning out most scents.
Connor flinched as the porch light flickered out. Hank must have turned off the light. Now that was just plain rude.
He rubbed his hands together, trying to summon some warmth back into his systems. Unlike his predecessors, body heat was a boasted function of his model, but that meant that internal temperature had to be maintained.
The last time Connor had been this cold, he had been in time out mode. Oh, he really hated that module—
A bright red error lit up in his vision, startling him out of his memory banks. His systems cheerfully warned him that his core temperature was beginning to reach the danger zone for his biocomponents.
Connor pushed the doorbell. He listened to the rattling buzz, counting to ten in his head. After no reply, he hit it again. Connor had a bad feeling that he had been trapped outside in the rainstorm.
“Lieutenant?! Are you in there?” He did his best to shout over the roaring wind. There was no response.
Connor exited the porch, shivering in his oversized clothes as he trudged over around the house. The boy was too short to see through the side window clearly, even when he stood on his tiptoes. He looked around for anything to elevate his position.
A small slick log would do the trick. Connor grabbed the object, dragging it over. He stepped up on it carefully, now able to see through the glass.
Lieutenant Hank Anderson was passed out on the floor with a bottle on the table. The kitchen chair was tipped over, obviously having been knocked down by Hank tilting out of the offending piece of furniture.
Connor stifled a fierce pang of disappointment. Whether the simulated feeling was at the lieutenant’s bad habits or at the fact that Connor might freeze to death outside, it was uncertain.
It was time for a new plan. Despite Connor’s dependence on care and other adults, he did have a pretty good sense of self-preservation. The boy made to step off the log, but he slipped. Connor fell off the log, nearly planting his face into a muddy puddle in the messy lawn. He winced as he felt his knee scrape something hard, turning to look at it.
The skin had torn, leaving a thin trail of blue blood. Unlike most other androids, the YK models were specifically designed to expose as little white skin as possible. Even though it was an android’s natural appearance, it could be a bit jarring for parents who were trying to pretend that the YK was an actual child.
He looked around the yard. The rain slowed, individual droplets ceasing to fall. They moved ever so slowly through the air as his processors went into overdrive.
His mission, first and foremost, was to help Lieutenant Anderson in whatever way he needed. In order to do that, Connor needed to find shelter. He considered going to a neighbor’s house and asking to stay the night, but considering the area, it was unlikely that anybody would agree. It was also very late, so it would be very rude to intrude.
With that option eliminated from his mind palace, the boy continued his scan. The yard was small and very exposed, offering little. He walked over to the car, scanning it. It was unlocked. He opened the backdoor, climbing inside.
Shutting the door, Connor considered his options. He needed to somehow get the lieutenant to warm up to him. Despite having premade plans in his head, none of them would apply until he could get the man to give him a chance.
Thunder boomed, and Connor startled. He wrapped his arms around his knees, trying to shrink into the corner of the seat. He hoped that Hank wouldn’t get mad at him for getting the seats wet. It was a very old car, a collector’s dream at this point.
Connor closed his eyes, trying to drown out the outside world with his inner thoughts. His hands went into his pocket, forgetting that these weren’t his pants. His eyes flew back open in panic. His calibration coin was missing.
An intense panic washed over him, and he scrambled to find a proper substitute. With an audible sigh, the boy found a quarter on the floor of the car. It was lucky that the lieutenant had such a messy car and didn’t bother cleaning it.
Connor instantly began to play with it, letting his mind relax. Stress flowed out of his systems like a plug had been pulled, and he settled into an idle-like mode of existence.
The boy continued to replay the memory of his conversation with the lieutenant in his head. He tried to tilt the angles, tried to think about what other things he could’ve said. The android certainly hadn’t taken the best approach. He had seen that the man had been distressed and had decided to return insult for insult. Connor had just been so incensed when the man had taken Sumo away, and for no reason at that!
He could pick the lock, get back into the house. That wouldn’t do anything. Connor knew that his appearance had been a shock. He just needed to be patient, let the man become acclimated to his presence.
He didn’t count the minutes, didn’t keep track of time. When Connor had decided on an appropriate plan, he opened his eyes. It was lighter now, the rain had turned into a faint drizzle.
Connor peered out the window, rolling the dirty quarter across his knuckles. Over the mountains of his knuckles it climbed, across the chasm between his hands it flew. The quiet sound of skin against metal soothed his ears. His hands were occupied, and he could practically hear the whirring of his systems calibrating.
His left leg was stiff from the cold and rain, the small injury stinging, but that was something that could only be fixed by care and attention, two things that he didn’t have. Two things that Connor had resigned himself to not having. The inside of Lieutenant Anderson’s car wasn’t the most comfortable place Connor had ever stayed, but it also wasn’t the worst.
He could sleep. His sleeping module was still on at full force, causing his head to feel heavy and his eyes to burn at the effort of keeping them awake. He hadn’t sunken into a full sleep, half out of uncomfortability, half out of worry that the lieutenant may wake up and come into the car. He knew that the latter was very unlikely, but he wouldn’t take the chance.
Connor would be sure to mention these issues next time he saw his parental unit.
He couldn’t sleep. He wouldn’t. He wouldn’t sleep until he had set the lieutenant right.
His vision was darkening. The cool temperature had sunk into his metal bones, but at least he wasn’t actively wet.
Connor was interrupted from his musings with the sound of the driver’s seat car door opening. He cursed himself for not noticing the lieutenant’s arrival, but he was very prepared.
October 17, 2036
“Damn, Hank. Wouldn’t want to be you.”
“Really feeling the support, Chris.”
“Hey man, I’m just saying. Maybe it can be good for you?”
Hank groaned, fighting the urge to slam his head onto the desk. He settled for slamming his paperwork stack into the recycling bin next to his work station. Policework wasn’t the same, especially not with everybody treating him like glass.
“You do know you have to do that eventually, right?” Chris was leaning against his desk, having already mostly finished his work for the day. Chris Miller was a good officer, unlike him.
Hank glared up at the other man. “If I can’t see it, it can’t see me.”
The other police officer sighed, pulling up a rolling office chair. “Look, man, I’ve been covering for you as long as I can remember, but everybody is on edge. You know the Kamski case just got re-opened, the media is practically slavering to get their hands on details. We need every man to pull their weight, and that includes you.”
“Is your sole job to guilt trip me? It’s not working.”
“I’m serious, man. They could fire you, depressing backstory and all. It’s time to man up and stop feeling so sorry for yourself.”
Hank slammed his fist on the desk. “Look, I’m trying! Can’t you see me trying here?”
“No. I really can’t.” Chris sounded genuinely apologetic. That was the problem with him, he was always so genuine. He really did just want the best for Hank, and it was driving the other man insane.
He turned, glaring at his screen. His email inbox was full, most of them ads or demands for signatures on paperwork. “Fine. Did you send me the report?”
“It’s still in process of being written. Gavin’s the one who saw the android do it, so who knows how long it’s going to take?”
Hank was really going to punch something now. “Seriously? An android goes crazy and kills its owner, and Gavin’s the one with the report?”
Chris frowned. “Well, he was the one who was closest. He caught the end of the murder and did kill the android.”
“I thought Kamski said that he would take care of this problem. Androids deviating from their purposes? Killing their owners? They creep me out, count me out.”
The younger man sighed. “That’s not how work works, Hank.”
The lieutenant was so close to walking out and just skipping his job, but he knew there was truth in what Chris said. He was already walking a fine line, no need to add the adjective “unemployed” to the list that constituted his excuse of a life. “Fine then, how does work work?” Hank asked sarcastically.
Chris stands, sliding the chair back to where he found it. “You know, maybe if you read the files in your email, you would know.”
“Somebody’s got their sassy pants on today,” Hank grumbled, glaring at his full inbox. The shining red four digit number was not encouraging. There wasn’t any better time to start though, and he resigned himself to another boring day of work.
Chris walked towards the breakroom. Hank ignored the twinge of jealousy he felt towards the hard-working man, and turned to his screen.
As he did the mundane daily work as managing email and paperwork, he found his mind wandering. He thought back to Connor, the boy intruding on his thoughts. The man grimaced, remembering the boy’s sorry visage in the car. Hank didn’t know how long he had made the kid stand out in the rain before the kid had gotten the bright idea to hide out in the car.
The man paused as he finally found the report.
Because the case had been reopened, the old files were sent out along with any new information. Hank found himself down memory lane, refreshing his memory. A while back, a household android had attacked its owner and killed the family’s child trying to get away. The machine had been shot down in a SWAT standoff outside of town in an abandoned house. Another machine had gone rouge not long after, this time a receptionist android. It had drawn a gun on an armed robber, killing the criminal. It had ran, but was captured and disassembled.
The unexplained murders had continued for a while. Even if humans were assholes, that didn’t give androids the rights to rise up and overthrow their masters. To kill them. It was a scary thought that the human-looking machines could turn against the actual humans. Hank shuddered at the thought. Eventually, they had managed to get Elijah Kamski, the main engineer behind CyberLife, to come forward and solve the issue.
The genius had managed to calm the public and explain the problem, albeit in a very evasive way. Apparently, the emotional shock in the androids had caused some type of error and thus glitch in their programming. The glitch had been fixed, and the case resolved, or so it had seemed.
The man leaned back in his chair, groaning. It was literally impossible to predict the murders, and Kamski had gone off the grid ages ago. Ever since his early retirement, the man had been unreachable by CyberLife. Nobody knew who ran CyberLife now. Despite the company’s publicity, little was known about the upper echelon. Most people didn’t question the mystery, too thankful for the company’s creation and products to look a gift horse in the mouth. Hank had read some pretty outrageous conspiracy theories, though, and couldn’t help but wonder.
Why now? There was no explanation for why all of a sudden, androids were once again becoming a danger to society. The man could do nothing but wait for the report to enter the system, waiting to see exactly what had transpired when an android had taken a little girl hostage and leapt from a roof.
He wanted to go get a drink.
October 17, 2036
Connor felt like a garden gnome. He had been standing for the past few hours, intermittently stretching or looking around the yard. The android could practically recreate the yard completely from memory by this point, knowing the lawn like the back of his own hand.
The lieutenant wasn’t due back home for another two hours, and even then, the man would probably hit up a bar. Connor could not predict when he would be home if he decided to get drunk.
He wished for a distraction, and almost as if by divine intervention, a distraction occurred.
It started with a ball bouncing into the road. Connor didn’t outwardly react, letting the toy roll into the street, stopping in the middle of the road. It wasn’t any of his business to interfere with a neighbor’s business. If he ignored them just because of a twinge of jealousy in his heart, then nobody would know the difference. In that brief moment, Connor found himself wishing that he was that little girl playing under a kind guardian’s supervision.
A small girl ran out, wearing a pink jacket and blue jeans. She looked to be about his age. She had been playing in the yard across the street, being supervised by a taller woman. Connor hadn’t been paying attention, but his boredom got the better of him.
The girl ran out into the street, seeking the red ball. The woman had been reading, but now was looking up as the girl ran.
The rumbling screech of a sports car sent Connor scrambling. His mind palace steadied his pulsing mind, successfully encouraging him to think rationally. The driver of the car looked to be a teenager, barely old enough to drive. The driver was way above the speed limit, and heading very quickly to the small girl in the road. The woman had stood up, running down the yard, her mouth forming a name as she screamed. She wouldn’t make it in time.
Connor didn’t think twice.
His mission stated that he had to help save Hank Anderson from his personal issues. There was nothing in his mission parameters that decreed he should run out and save a little girl from traffic, maybe at the cost of his own life. Connor still didn’t hesitate as he ran into the road, tackling the girl.
The two children hit the ground, landing on the side of the street as the car swerved, just barely missing the two, crushing the ball ruthlessly under the tires. Connor heard the fierce wind whistle in his ears just over the sound of his pounding heart. The car sped away, screeching as it went.
Connor looked down at the girl. She was pale, face sweaty and mouth agape in shock. It was like she had yet to comprehend what had just happened, and just how close to death she had come. Connor stood shakily, trying to shake the trembling from his limbs.
The woman arrived, scooping up the girl, holding her to her chest. “Alice! Oh my gosh, are you alright?!”
Alice nodded, still speechless, embracing the woman’s neck. “I’m alright, Kara,” she murmured softly.
Connor registered the names in the back of his head. He was unsure what to do, what the right course of action was. Before he could stress for too much longer, Kara made the decision for him.
The woman gently set Alice down, before going and hugging Connor. “You saved her, you saved her. I can’t believe that just happened!”
Kara was cold. It was strange, Connor thought to himself, letting himself be hugged. A human would have surely felt warmer, but maybe it was just the chill of a near death experience that was messing with his processors. “Yes, that man was going thirty-four miles over the speed limit.”
The woman seemed to stiffen at his words, and pulled away. She looked at Connor fully, taking in his ragged appearance and his words. Connor knew that Kara now had full view of his LED. He wondered what color it was.
“What’s your name? My name is Kara.” Kara bent down so that she was at his level. It was a nice and polite gesture, one that Connor appreciated. Her voice shook as she spoke, but she maintained a kind smile.
“My name is Connor.”
“That’s a nice name. This is my daughter, Alice. Have you eaten lunch yet?” Kara still looked visibly shaken from the experience she had just witnessed. Connor theorized that she was seeking a return to normalcy or perhaps a distraction.
Connor shook his head wordlessly.
“That’s good. Come in. I was just about to make Alice a sandwich, and you would be welcome. Are you new here in the neighborhood?” Kara began to walk up the driveway, holding Alice’s hand. Alice clutched her mother’s leg, staying glued to her side.
Connor did his best to reply to Kara’s questions, unsure about what exactly was happening. He supposed that it was some type of reciprocation for the fact that Connor had just saved Alice’s life. And in any case, it was optimal to be in a good relationship with the neighbors, just in case Connor needed assistance in his mission.
Connor entered the house behind the girls. It was pleasant, rather small. The furniture had obvious signs of wear and tear, but the place was very clean and cared for. He sat politely on the couch, folding his hands into his lap as he sat straight.
Alice sat in a plush chair near him, pulling her knees up to rest her chin on them. A stuffed fox entered her grasp as she grabbed the plushie from the coffee table.
Kara excused herself to the kitchen, exiting the room. The living room was left in silence, and the only sounds that could be heard was Kara’s bustling in the kitchen.
“I like your toy,” Connor offered, trying to break the ice. He truly did want to get to know the life of the girl he had just saved.
Alice nodded, her face hidden behind the brown fox. It wasn’t very realistic. If Connor had owned one, it would have been more life-like. The boy shook his head mentally. Where had that thought come from? Stuffed animals were unimportant to his mission and besides, the lieutenant’s disposition towards him made his probability of having a toy very unlikely.
Understanding that Alice was not seeking conversation at the moment after such a traumatic experience, Connor let the conversation die. He was content to observe the living room.
There were no family pictures. Only basic pictures of scenery decorated the walls. No sign of a male in the household, either.
“You’re an android.”
Connor looked over at the girl. “Correct. I am a YK800 model.”
“I thought they were only up to 700s.” Alice’s voice was small, strongly muffled by the soft obstruction covering her mouth.
“I am a prototype.” Connor felt vaguely proud at his proclamation.
Alice didn’t reply, instead choosing to stare off into space again. Luckily, Kara chose that moment to enter the room, carrying two plates. “I hope you like PB&J, Connor,” Kara said with a smile, setting the plates down on the table near their respective sitting locations.
Connor nodded. “I enjoy the taste.” It was a lie. Connor had never had such a sandwich in his life, but it looked and smelled good. He waited for Alice to take a bite first, but the girl made no move towards the food. Connor reached forward tentatively, beginning to eat the sandwich.
A glass of milk also entered his field of vision. The food was good. Kara was very generous. “Thank you,” he said softly.
“You’re very welcome.” Kara took a seat on the other side of the coffee table, next to Connor. “So, Connor, I haven’t seen you around. Are you new to the neighborhood?”
The boy paused, taking a moment to swallow. “Yes. I have recently become acquainted with Lieutenant Hank Anderson who lives across the street.”
“Hank?” Kara repeated, raising an eyebrow. “I didn’t think he would be the type to get a child android.”
“He’s not.” Connor didn’t elaborate, not wanting to divulge the lieutenant’s personal information, even with kind strangers who lived next to him. It wasn’t Connor’s place.
Understanding that Connor wouldn’t explain, Kara continued to make small talk. “I noticed you standing outside for quite a while. Were you waiting for Hank to return home?”
“Correct.” Connor took a sip of milk before continuing. “Unfortunately, I am locked out of the house.”
Alice made herself part of the conversation. “You can stay here until he comes back. Right, Kara?”
Kara smiled. “Of course. Any friend of Alice’s is welcome here.”
Connor wanted to protest that he had only known the pair for exactly thirteen minutes, and that their first meeting had been a near death experience, but resolved to remain silent. Something inside told him to just be quiet and enjoy the company of the two nice people.
It was a nice change of atmosphere. He actually felt welcomed, for the first time in his short life.