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Chrome & Petrichor

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Tuesday, November 30th

3:20am

Connor

 

Sumo sleeps on his lap, paws twitching as he dreams.

A few days into their new living arrangement, Hank had nudged him and suggested that Connor stop looking up the answer to every question he encountered in that “ big old Google search engine you’ve got for a brain .” The man had mused that sometimes it was fine to not know something, to let the question peter off into the void and to move on with life. That sometimes being in the dark was good for the soul. So Connor had asked what Sumo might’ve dreamed about when he sleeps, without consulting official studies or popular opinion. Just to try it out.

“Hell if I know,” Hank shrugged. “Chasing rabbits, maybe, or humping some nice lady dog.”

“You aren’t curious?”

“Sure.”

“Then I could search for professional -”

“What’d I just say, Connor?” Hank snorted, picked at the condensation-soaked label banded around his beer bottle. “Look, I don’t need every single impulse or question in my life answered. Some shit just isn’t necessary to know - like what my fucking dog is dreaming about at night. Gotta save that brain space for something that matters.”

“That’s not how human brains work, Hank.”

“It’s how mine works,” a long sip, where Connor watched his throat bob as he considered Hank’s words. Deviancy, he was learning, was a strange state where human quirks of character became less like obstacles and more like guidelines.

Hank had many of them, most of which were vague and difficult. Frustrating. Charming. Baffling.   

He pets Sumo’s back, gentle so as not to wake him, adjusting the sensors in his hand so he can feel it. He’s coming to understand why humans keep animals like this, if they feel as soothed from the sensation of their fur as he does.

As he considers possible things to do on this night, he receives a request for communications, blinking at the corner of his vision. Checking for its sender tells him it’s from Markus, and curious, he accepts.

Settling back onto the couch with a hand buried in Sumo’s fur, Connor closes his eyes and opens them to the blooming orange and red dusk of the zen garden.

Since he became deviant, the appearance and structural direction of the place has fallen under his control. If he wanted, he could overturn the entire garden into something else entirely. Despite that, he’s left everything mostly alone. He’s spent some of his free time ruminating on why: it might be a genuine affiliation with the aesthetic. An innate resistance to change, freshly formed from his newly autonomous and deviant personality. A lack of any other ideas or concepts to emulate, such was the current state of his creativity.  

Or nostalgia, perhaps - if he’s old enough to be capable of such a thing.

No answer is any clearer or more certain than the ones that came before, so he takes Hank’s advice to heart and leaves it be. He has yet to decide if living in the ambiguity is as “good for the soul” as Hank suggested.    

Every night, he retreats to the garden during stasis, because Hank expressed his discomfort with Connor wandering the house at night. Often, he sits on the boat and goes over files from work, if there are any. Otherwise, he peruses the internet or runs simulations. Sometimes, he does nothing at all.

He misses the calming presence of Amanda - the central point he could look to amidst the confusion of the world and find ready answers. Directives. With her gone, he’s left to find or make his own, and it’s a lot of responsibility.  

He’s added more fish since she disappeared. Five dwarf gouramis, to be precise.

As he walks to the central structure in the garden, he spies them swimming alongside the koi in tangles of orange and blue.   

Markus stands near the edge of the bridge, looking down at the water. He chooses an interesting visual representation of himself, Connor thinks, noting the coat he’d worn at Jericho’s demonstration outside of the camp. It can’t possibly be what he’s actually wearing now, wherever he is. With his hands clasped behind his back like that, his profile looks like something off a motivational poster, or a recruitment ad.

Little wonder that their people had followed him so, had sacrificed their newborn personhood and freedom to keep him safe from harm, when just the look of him felt so inspiring.

Connor recalls watching him speak, lit by dusty stripes of moonlight in a crumbling church, and had - for the first time in his short life - felt awe.   

“Hello Markus,” he greets and comes to a stop next to him. He glances down and sees a couple of the fish branching from the group to chase insects skipping on the surface of the water. “I wasn’t expecting you.”

“Are you busy with something?” the other android asks, polite.

“No.”

Markus nods, “Working through the night makes some of the humans here uncomfortable. I’m taking a break for their benefit.”

“It’s the same for me,” Connor says. A small smile forms, unbidden, on his mouth at the memory of Hank gruffly shoving a pillow into his arms and demanding that he “ go to sleep or fucking fake it for all I care, I can’t have you creeping ‘round the house like a psycho .”

“The police lieutenant?”

“Yes.”

“You’re still living with him then,” he raises a brow. He and Markus had last seen each other in person a week after the demonstration, and had interfaced in greeting: For Markus, a gesture of gratitude for his role in their victory, and for Connor, a chance to broaden his horizons. To indulge his curiosity because he wanted to, not because he had to. Part of what Markus had gleaned from Connor’s memories was Hank’s offer of a place stay, in the empty streets right outside of the Chicken Feed.

He still remembers the expression of bafflement on Markus’ face.  

Connor raises a brow in turn, “Is that so surprising?”

“He seems very…” the other android pauses, thinking for the right word. “Gruff.”

“Very,” Connor nods. “Our relationship is complicated, but he’s a good man.”

From what he’d seen of Carl Manfred in Markus’ memories, the two humans couldn’t be more different. Connor found Hank’s prickliness to be part of his charm, but Markus was used to a different standard, it seems.

“I saw,” says Markus. “He helped our cause, and was one of the few humans to do so...”

He seems to consider something, and adds, “I didn’t get the chance to thank him for it. I should, if I ever see him in person.”

Connor imagines that conversation, visualizes the awkward set of Hank’s shoulders and the tight line of his mouth when he’s feeling cornered, and quips, “I don’t think the lieutenant sees it that way, but I agree,” he feels the need add, for Markus’ sake, “Should you ever meet, though, I’ll warn you that he’s very unsociable and often quite rude. Don’t take it personally.”

Markus nods, face grave as he responds, “I won’t.”

Connor quietly considers that perhaps he should be more obvious about making jokes to Markus, who seems to take everything very seriously.   

“Is there a reason you called for me tonight?” he asks, steering the conversation back to relevant topics.

Markus shifts where he stands, and takes a breath.

“I’ve been given access to CyberLife’s databases,” says Markus. “So, I’ve spent the last three days going over shipping manifests, R&D schematics, production schedules, storage logs, prototype designs, preliminary tests. Everything.”

“A rather surprising gesture of trust,” Connor responds, watching the other android’s face. That isn’t the issue, he surmises, only a lead-in to his point. So Connor waits patiently for him to continue.

“It is,” Markus nods, eyes trailing the path of one of the fish. “And then yesterday...I met with Elijah Kamski.”

Ah.

“Was this in an official capacity?” Connor asks. “Or a personal one?”

Markus sighs, through his nose. “I had issued the request as an official one...but by the time I was on his doorstep, something about it became personal. More than I wanted, I think…”

Connor says nothing, allowing him a moment to collect his thoughts. He hadn’t anticipated this turn, at all.

“...I’m the only one of my model, Connor,” Markus says, finally. It’s difficult to discern from his tone what he thinks of that just yet. “The only RK200 in the world.”

He looks over, then away again. Uncomfortable. Conflicted. It radiates off him like it would a human, and Connor is stunned silent.

“I asked him if all this was what he intended for me,” Markus crosses his arms. “...He didn’t give me an answer.”

“...And you were disappointed,” Connor finishes. That, he understands.

Markus sighs again. Nods with a pinch of his mouth and brows.

So serious, this one; Connor wonders where he’d gotten it from.  

Connor shifts where he stands, eyes sweeping over the expanse of the garden. He wonders about the choices that went into making this place, what Kamski’s thought processes were: had he simply wanted to house Amanda’s image in someplace beautiful? Or had it simply been motivated by aesthetics, distant and clinical? He imagines asking the man himself, where he’d be no less forthcoming about this as he was about the location of Jericho.

Maybe Kamski himself didn’t know; perpetual unknowing seems to be a prerequisite for humanity, he’s coming to learn.

And androids, too , he thinks as he glances at Markus.

“What were you hoping to hear?” Connor asks. It’s strange to hear fraught existential concern from someone as sure and steady as Markus seems to be.  

“I was hoping to hear ‘yes’,” he responds. “Because that would have been simple. Easy. None of this has been simple, and I think I wanted that to be...if nothing else.”

Markus is easy to speak with because he is honest and straightforward - much more than Connor himself. His programming equipped him with the necessary skills for obfuscation and manipulation should he have need of either of them in the field. He’d been made to integrate by any means necessary, and that much room for vagaries and deceit was an exhausting, heavy dimension to his social relations protocols. Even before deviancy, he hadn’t enjoyed it. As a deviant, he enjoys it even less.

Idly, he thinks about his relationship with Hank, and wonders at the degree to which he was programmed for hypocrisy. Perhaps he’ll investigate, on another day.   

The other android looks down at his own hands, murmuring, “I spoke with Simon about it, after. He thinks that it’s the part of me that probably still looks for directives from humans. A part of us that waking up can’t erase.”

His LED spins slow and yellow, chasing something. It keeps chasing as Markus continues.

“You know...I didn’t imagine making it to the other side,” Markus says and the gentle, soothing quality of his voice makes the honesty heavy and somber. “I could’ve died at any time during our fight for freedom. And now I’m here, and I’m not sure what to do. This is the first time I’ve had since waking up to think about it.”

Connor had seen in Markus’ memories the slow crawl out of the junkyard, the struggle to climb the muddy slope after peeling the parts off of other androids no more or less deserving of them than he. After that, there had been one urgent path after another: finding Jericho, leading them out of destitution and hopelessness, marching and sending his message. With his task done, whatever had driven him now has no direction.

Markus transcended the banal duties that drove his programming and now he stood so tall, on a peak so high, that he couldn’t see the small steps anymore.

It’s listless and frustrating, and Connor feels it very deeply.

There’s a part of him, quiet and perplexing, that finds that the easy answer to that problem is to focus on Hank. If he thinks about Hank, he doesn’t have to think about anything else.

It feels like absolution - so freeing that if he were human he might be dizzy from the taste of it.  

But Markus does not have that, and his relationship with North doesn’t seem to carry that dimension.

It strikes Connor then, in a moment of instantaneous clarity, that this is what Markus had called him for: not to exchange data nor to keep each other updated on the political situation post-uprising.

But just to talk.

To “vent”, like Hank vents sometimes. Only it’s easier here, less likely to stop Connor in his tracks with how badly he wants to get it right.

“Have you spoken to any of the others about your concerns?” he asks. Based on his few interactions with the three in Markus’ inner circle, he presumes that Josh at the very least would be amenable to hearing them.

“I...no,” Markus murmurs, eyes flitting away. “I haven’t. I’m not sure why, either.”

Connor does: “You don’t want to disrupt their perception of you.”

The other android hums. Contemplating.

“That,” Connor continues, and his voice comes out drier than he intends. Maybe. “And you value my opinion far less than theirs.”

Markus frowns, opens - then closes - his mouth on a response. It seems Markus is unwilling to lie.  

“I understand,” he soothes. “And I’m not offended.”

It’s the truth. They don’t know each other well enough yet for that - Markus does not owe Connor his regard. Not with the mistakes he’s made while under the heel of CyberLife.

“...Thank you.”

“For what it’s worth,” he offers. “I feel it too. As do humans. I’d like to think that we’re all in this together.”

Hank had asked him once, how he managed to stay so relentlessly positive all the time, if it was a part of his programming. Connor had responded that the world seemed to be a bleak and lonely place, so there was no way he could justify being anything else. That, and he had to counteract Hank somehow .

The man had snorted, turning back to the television. But the grin he’d worn the rest of the evening had been indulgent and fond, and Connor had been so pleased by it he’d gone into stasis that night with a smile.  

Connor realises he’d gotten distracted thinking about Hank because Markus gives him a searching look, and he releases the smile that had formed on his face during his lapse.

“Your lieutenant,” Markus starts, turning bodily to face him; his gaze is curious. “When we last interfaced, I saw the confrontation at the warehouse. You were prepared to fail the mission to save his life.”

He doesn’t look angry, and so Connor nods, “Yes. I was.”

“Why?”

“I…” he shifts, feeling awkward. No amount of contemplative boat rides in the pond have given him hard answers as to the nature of his regard for Hank, no matter how hard he’s searched for the answer. It feels, at the moment, limitless. Unquantifiable to a terrifying degree. “I have yet to reach that answer myself,” he settles for some measure of the truth. “But I suppose all I can say is that I care about him very much.”

“Hm, I guess that was part of the goal, wasn’t it?” murmurs his guest, eyes drifting away to look back at the fish. “Harmony between androids and humans. Friendship…”

Friendship isn’t entirely accurate - not these days, not with how their relationship is gaining more dimensions than Connor is equipped to deal with - but Connor doesn’t know how to broach that kind of topic with someone like Markus. So he doesn’t.

“If it had been you in my place,” begins Connor, gently. “And Carl Manfred - would you have done same?”

That stills him, his LED stops spinning and stays on solid yellow. Dilemma. “I can’t say,” he answers, honest as always. Though this time it sounds like it pains him to be. “Because I don’t know.”

“Wasn’t he like a father to you?” asks Connor. Something about the hesitation makes him uncomfortable, and if they weren’t conversing he’d take the boat out onto the water and spend the rest of the night trying to figure out why.  

Markus nods, “Yes. But every android in the country was depending on me - they still do.”

One man versus the future of a people.

Connor thinks back to his choice in the warehouse and finds himself perturbed at how easy it’d been for him to decide. The sight of Hank slouching and wilted under the looming presence of the gun. The imposter, who dared to suggest killing Hank while wearing Connor’s face, who spoke with Connor’s voice as though it could possibly understand the depth of Hank’s worth.

And then he remembers the sight of Hank’s eyes, sorrowful and ready to die; not for the revolution, but because he wanted to.   

Unnecessarily, he clenches his jaw. Grinds together the artificial enamel of his teeth, and imagines that his LED is blazing red and hot at his temple.  

He looks at Markus, at the face that’s been printed in countless newspapers since the formal end of the uprising, as well as sprayed as graffiti onto the walls of alleyways all over Detroit. The face of a leader - who would hesitate at such a choice because not doing so would compromise the future of his people - and doesn’t share his feelings on this, because it might incur his judgement and Connor refuses to feel shame.

He thinks of Hank sleeping soundly in his bedroom a few paces away, alive and able to trudge through another day. If losing that had been the price for android emancipation, then Connor was never going to have paid it.

“You’re a good leader, Markus,” he says instead, gentle and trying to calm himself from the roar of his thoughts. A platitude to guide the conversation away from something immeasurably fraught. Dangerous. “And your choices led us here. I’m sorry I asked such a disturbing question.”

“You were programmed to be curious,” Markus actually smiles, and the strangeness of the sight reminds him that he’s not seen it before - hints of the person that the growing legend is threatening to outstrip. “I understand.”  

Chapter Text

Tuesday, November 30th

10:47am

Hank

 

Connor makes great coffee.

Hank takes a sip and keeps the mug to his mouth for a moment, nose right in its smell and cheeks in the steam. His house has shitty heating - even worse in winter - and he’s put off calling a guy to come in and fix it for so long that he’s not about to give in now, so a mouthful of something hot in the mornings is the next best thing. Sumo sleeping on his feet at night is the best after that.

He sniffs to clear his sinuses, and reaches down under the table to give the dog pat on the rump.

“Enjoying yourself?” Connor smiles, chin resting on his folded hands. His elbows are braced on the table and Hank stares at that little point of contact, bare synthetic skin on his cheap IKEA furniture.

Looks like he’s finally started helping himself to the old clothes Hank loaned him, after weeks of protesting that he didn’t need them. Hank is grateful, because Connor’s uniform was starting to smell a little ripe.  

He puts the mug down and squints as he considers something else, something niggling at the base of his skull, responding with a distracted, “Yeah, thanks.”

It’s when Connor tilts his head, squishing his cheek a little against his own knuckles, that Hank realizes it’s because he’s not sitting with that unnatural posture anymore, straight and still like a mannequin. Or at attention like an army cadet. He probably hasn’t been sitting like that for a while , now that he thinks about it.

Well shit , Hank thinks. We’ve gone and gotten domestic.  

“You have something on your mind,” says Connor, voice quieting down to something intimate. As though they weren’t in Hank’s house and could be as loud as they pleased - as though Detroit wasn’t still a veritable ghost town after almost three weeks since Warren issued marital fucking law. “Is it the coffee? I can make another, if you like.”

Hank makes a noncommittal noise, looking down into his cup; a well-loved piece of Detroit Gears merchandise, bought at a game he and Fowler had gone to many, many years back.

“Nah,” he rolls his tongue around in his mouth, and remembers he should probably brush his teeth today. “It’s early. Think half of me is still asleep.”

He glances at Connor, looking bright-eyed and impeccable even in a Gears t-shirt that’s way too big and pajama pants that sag so much they cover the whole of his feet. “Not that you’d know, huh? What’d you get up to last night?”

He couldn’t imagine having that much of the day at his disposal. Most of the time, he can’t wait to shove himself into bed after work, if he’s not working his way down to the bottom of a bottle instead. Having all that time at night to just sit there and think sounds like a damn nightmare.

“Markus paid me a visit,” at Hank’s small jump, he taps his temple. “Here, of course.”

That’s surprising. “You guys are buddies now?”

Connor reaches down to pet Sumo behind the ears. “Not in such terms, I don’t think,” he says. “But...with some time, I think we might be. I hope so.”

“Well,” he leans back in his chair; it creaks under his weight, and he resents how loud it sounds in the quiet of his kitchen, with Connor right there looking like some dreamboat out of a teen girls’ magazine. “It’ll probably be good for you.”

Then he smirks a little, wry as he reaches up to scratch his beard, “I hear the whole ‘having friends’ thing is real swell.”

“You have friends,” says Connor, earnestly. And actually concerned , even. Hank wants to sigh and tell him to learn to loosen up. “Myself, for one. Captain Fowler, for another. Jimmy, at the bar?”

“Eh, I’ll give you Fowler,” he grunts. “And you.”

It’s stupid how something so small gets a smile like that, someone needs to install some higher standards into this guy, he thinks while barreling on: “But Jimmy gets tips for listening to me bitch after work - that ain’t friendship, kid. More like a mutually beneficial arrangement with some transactionary shit involved.”

“I see,” Connor murmurs, thoughtful. “Don’t you think it would be worthwhile for you to try and cultivate some more authentic friendships, then?”

“What is this,” Hank waves a hand between them. “A therapy session? Let me finish my coffee, at least.”   

“You don’t pay me enough for it to be therapy,” Connor smiles. Cute. “So I will settle for calling it a ‘concerned push’ from someone who cares about your wellbeing.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Hank drawls and finishes his coffee.

“That’s same thing you say when I urge you go to your doctor, as well as control your cholesterol intake,” says Connor, watching as he stands.

“Yup,” Hank pats him on the shoulder as he passes by on the way back to his bedroom. “Means I’m not listening.”

Connor sighs at his back, then says, “Speaking of therapy -”

“Nope, we’re not doing this today,” grunts Hank. “Or ever.”

He closes the door on Connor’s retort and shuffles to the closet.

His new roommate had done the laundry yesterday apparently, and folded all his clothes into neat little squares and tucked them into his drawers. Underwear and socks, too. His shirts hang on their racks, colour-coordinated and ironed (did Hank even own an iron?) and properly buttoned, like an assembly line.  

His wife had been pretty neat, but still human; there’d be a button out of place sometimes, or one pant leg folded sort of crooked.

Hank felt for the folks who lost their jobs to androids, but there were just some things you just couldn’t beat a machine at.  

Connor had insisted on doing all these domestic chores since he moved in, claiming that it was the least he could do since Hank wasn’t asking for rent. Which, why would he? Connor doesn’t eat, doesn’t bathe, doesn’t even use his wi-fi.

But Hank wasn’t about to say no to someone taking care of all the shit he couldn’t he be bothered to, so he’d accepted - and then Connor had looked so pleased about it that he instantly felt a little sleazy. If the kid enjoyed it, it felt like taking advantage; if he at least treated it like a chore, it would’ve been better. A more equal trade, maybe…

Or was that fucked up? Better if he liked it, right?

Hank drags both his hands down his face and decides he’s going to try and not have a breakdown every time Connor does his Stepford thing and just take it at face value.

He pulls on his jeans, an old pair of navy socks, and the stripey shirt that the android seems to favour for some reason, enough that sometimes he even lays it out on Hank’s bed in the morning. He’d have to ask him about it, sometime.

When he leaves the room Connor is already set to go, no longer swimming in oversized pajamas.

There’s a lot of things that Hank won’t admit to anyone. That he’s coming to prefer the ruffled, domestic look on his android partner is quickly climbing the list. That path has ‘danger’ written all over it.

So he looks away and heads toward the front door, “Ready?”

“Ready.”

“Back to the grind, then,” he grunts, pulling on his coat. “Not that there’s shit all to do with everything still on lockdown.”

“Not for much longer,” says Connor, watching him. He’s already got his shoes on. It’s like he just can’t wait to get back at it. “And besides - you could use the air.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Hank shoves his foot into his shoe he feels the threads in his socks finally give and pop open against his toe.

*

“The self-driving cars have much better traction on the ice, lieutenant,” back to titles, since they’re on the clock. Connor needs to learn to relax. “Isn’t it about time you’ve considered upgrading?”

“I don’t trust a car I can’t drive myself,” Hank snipes, steadying the wheel after a small fishtail. Fuck, he hates snow.

“They also have proven safety -”

“Don’t care.”

Hank knows he’s pointlessly stubborn for no reason sometimes, but he’s an old man and he thinks he’s earned the right to be. What he doesn’t say though, is that keeping the car is partly sentimental. It was the first big thing he’d bought with his own money, coming out of high school. Many good friends have puked in the backseat after a night out - Fowler included, which he knows Jeffrey likes to think he’s forgotten now that they’re grown and respectable. It’d been with him all his life, and the thought of it getting crushed in some scrapyard makes his heart ache.  

He used to accuse his dad of being a sentimental sap, but now that he’s an old man himself he gets it .

Maybe something of his thoughts shows on his face, or maybe Connor’s just getting better at reading people, because he pipes up with a curious, “Fond memories?”

Hank sighs. “Yeah.”

He takes one hand off the wheel and gives the dashboard a pat.

“This car is older than half the people on the force,” he chuckles. “So yeah, lotta fond memories.”

“Hm,” from his peripheral, he can see Connor frowning a little. “I don’t have many memories that I could call ‘fond’. At least, not when it comes to objects. Perhaps I’ll understand your attachment, someday.”

“But you do have them,” says Hank, admittedly curious. “Just not with objects.”

“All of my fond memories relate to you.”

Hank draws his eyes back to the road, pretending like he has to pay attention despite there being no other cars around for miles.

Thankfully, Connor keeps talking so Hank doesn’t have to respond to that, “Though the linkage between emotions and memory still gives me trouble, sometimes. Emotions are difficult to distinguish and evaluate even in the moment they occur - I’m finding that hindsight complicates the process a little bit. Adding that relationship to objects only seems to complicate the matter further.”

Props to him for even trying - Hank’s being doing this for over 50 years and still doesn’t have a handle on it.

“Thought you guys were supposed to have perfect memories or something,” he says, taking a turn without stopping at the sign; a perk about the city still being empty.

“My memories are completely accurate,” Connor says. “I can recall any detail with high photographic and aural fidelity. Considering the line of work I was made for, not being able to do so would’ve been counter-productive.”

“Yeah?” Hank doesn’t like the sound of that. Even without being a cop, there were some things a person should be able to forget the sight of as soon as possible; he’s seen enough grizzly shit to last a lifetime. “So you can track all that, and how you felt during that moment, then.”

That gives him pause, yellowing his LED as he tilts his head in thought. His eyes fall away and his mouth parts a little as he does, the same way a lot of humans do, like his mouth for that moment was faster than his brain and he has to hold himself back to make the thought nice and pretty first before letting it out. Hank imagines trying to explain to his younger self what androids would come to look like - not so obvious, like they did in the tv shows and cartoons, but just like people. So much like people, in fact, that he’d come to be sitting in the aftermath of a revolution that gave them rights .

Wild, how much craziness can happen in one human lifetime. He wonders what Connor would live to see years after Hank’s passed on.  

“Emotions are difficult, and were even more difficult before,” Connor says. His LED is still making that slow, golden circuit. “As a deviant, I feel as though I can understand them a little bit better. I can look back on a moment where I felt frustration, understand that it was frustration, and try to locate the source of that frustration. There is a more complete integration, you might say, between my sense of self and my sense of feeling. But before…”

The LED is a cheat sheet and Hank watches it, fascinated.  

“Before, it was fractured,” Blue, now, bright in confidence and understanding. “If I considered that what I was feeling were in fact emotions, it felt like I was on the verge of a malfunction. Now, I am...less distressed about them.”

“Huh,” Hank taps in the wheel, taking all that in. “Must be nice to feel that way. For humans, shit never stops being a minefield. Sometimes I wish I could just shut ‘em off.”

“I didn’t say emotions stopped being difficult,” smiles Connor, indulgent. “Only that I now recognize that the difficulty is now fully a part of me.”

Hank takes it and nods, and Connor continues, “So I suppose, to answer your question: yes, I am able to recall my emotional state when re-examining my memories. With some degree of interpretation, of course.”

“Shit,” Hank chuckles as he drives through a red light. “Still sounds more reliable than the way we do it - way to go.”

“How do you mean?”

He thinks for a moment about how he wants to explain it.

“Sometimes it doesn't make sense, with us. Sometimes our brains just fixate on the unimportant details, for no reason at all. Think of it like this: In college I was with this girl for about a month,” he says. “And we’d always go to her place - because it was nicer and cleaner, yeah, but also I liked to steal her shampoo.”

Running a hand through the grime in his hair, the memories of her apartment comes streaming through his head in a montage, grainy like an old film: a hip one-bedroom in a trendy neighborhood, gentrified as all hell. There’d been pineapple-printed throw pillows, and the tallest shoe rack he’d ever seen. A rug the colour of a ripe orange, softer than her ratty old couch by a mile; it had left imprints on his back one time, when they’d gotten frisky during an episode of Law & Order, of all things.   

“Some expensive brand with a fancy French name...in a white and green bottle, I think. I couldn’t get enough.”

Glancing over and seeing the uncomprehending look on Connor’s face, he waves, “What I’m trying to get at here is: we spent probably a straight month in bed together and I can barely remember what her face looks like. But , I can remember the smell of that shampoo clear as fucking day.”

He’s probably reached his introspection quota for the day, he decides and finishes with a grunt: “So yeah, memories are weird. Emotions are weird. It’s all bullshit, so don’t think about it too much.”

Connor is nodding his head, but he isn’t sure that the android totally understands just yet. It’s the best he can do though, so he leaves it at that.

“What was the scent?”

“Huh? Oh,” he focuses on not skidding on the ice as he slows and takes the turn into the station’s parking lot. “Uh, tea tree or something. Kind of grassy.”

Connor hums, deep in thought.  

*

“Guess lockdown is ending sooner than we thought,” mutters Hank as they grab their chairs. For once, it was a good meeting - where there was actual information , that mattered . Would wonders never cease? “Thank fuck.”

“You don’t enjoy the overbearing presence of the military, lieutenant?” smirks Connor, turning on his terminal. “Or the lack of Chicken Feed burgers?”

Hank snorts around his mouthful of doughnut.

Before he thinks of a response, they hear a commotion out front - the sound of raised voices. All heads snap toward the direction of reception.  

Connor catches his eye and the both of them stand and make their way to the front door, Hank in the lead.

At the front desk is an android: she’s bent over and braced on her hands, pleading with the receptionist in hurried, desperate tones. Her LED is flashing a feverish red. At their arrival her head swivels toward them, ponytail slapping the side of her cheek from for the force of it. Hank flinches back, shocked at the gouge where her right eye should be, where streams of blue blood dribble down her cheek. It’s ghoulish, a staggering sight under the bright fluorescents of the office.

Her remaining eye is blue and wide in terror, lashes wet with tears.

“Help me, please,” she hisses, reaching out a hand to him - palm up, like a beggar. “I didn’t know where else to go.”

“Hey, easy,” Hank raises his hands, keeping his voice calm and steady. He keeps eye contact with her and approaches slowly, remembering what Connor had said once about androids self-destructing from stress. And the girl looks pretty fucking stressed. “You’re safe now - let’s just calm down and we’ll get this sorted out, all right?”

“Please…”

Gently, he takes her hand. She grips onto him so hard he feels a couple of his knuckles grind together, but he bears it because the touch seems to finally wind down her down a little, her slender shoulders crumpling toward her chest as she pitches forward into his arms. Hank pats her trembling back, signalling to the receptionist behind her to make a call as he hears Connor coming around to the girl’s side.

“What happened, miss?” he asks, soothing, though he doesn’t touch her.

“Please…” she gasps, muffled by Hank’s shirt; there’s a big wet spot forming on his chest from the hole in her face. “P- please …”

“We’re gonna need to give her a bit,” says Hank, shaking his head as Connor opens his mouth again. “Come on,” he looks down at her hair, where he sees tiny shards of glass. “We’ll get you into a room back there, all right? Easy now…I got you...”

She hasn’t let go of his hand, so he places his free one between her shoulders and guides her slowly into the office. Behind him, Connor’s LED flares yellow onto the crest of his cheekbone like a spot of jaundice amidst the station’s blues.