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The Gift

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“Can I name him, dad? Please? Oh, please please please!” Cole looked up at his father with wide, hopeful blue eyes. Who the hell was Hank to say no to that face? Only five years old and way too excited about the newest ‘addition’ to their little messed up family.

Hank let out a sigh and nodded. “Sure thing, kid. Better decide before it boots up or whatever,” Hank told the excited child. He looked back up at the thing that was the topic of discussion.

He really hadn’t wanted it. He didn’t need an android, and certainly not directly from Kamski himself. That’s what happens though, Hank supposed, when you save the CEO of Cyberlife.

Hank had just followed his gut. He shouldn’t have even been assigned to that post that day. He was a Lieutenant, in homicide no less. He certainly wasn’t Fowler’s usual target for security work. But they’d been stretched thin that day and didn’t quite have the numbers, so Hank had volunteered. He figured it didn’t hurt to keep brown-nosing, help his career go even better than it already was.

Kamski had been giving a demonstration of his newest models. A live one that had been set up in the streets for the public to see. That’s why tight detailing had been necessary. And of course, there had been a crazy there who’d tried to pull a gun. Hank, luckily, had seen the would-be shooter and had tackled the man to the ground. The gun had gone off, but luckily the bullet landed in the pavement and no one had been hurt.

So of course, in a show of his appreciation for Hank’s act, Kamski had delivered one of his androids to him free of charge. What was he supposed to say? Hey thanks for the thing worth thousands of dollars, but no thanks? He was in the public eye as well, media going crazy over the story. He couldn’t just… not accept.

It didn’t hurt that it was one of a kind. Kamski had personally designed it. Usually, androids that were custom-made were twice if not three times the price of the usual models. And this one had been hand-built and overseen by the CEO himself. It was worth a small fortune, in other words.

“Are you ready? All of its programming and hardware are functioning at their highest capacity.” Kamski’s personal android, Chloe as she was called, got their attention with her soft, monotone voice.

Cole looked more excited than Hank remembered him being in a long while. The divorce had been really hard on him. So had the subsequent custody battles. Hank had won, eventually, though it hadn’t been easy. He granted his ex-wife weekends, at his discretion. The toll of it all had made the usual smiling boy fairly downtrodden recently.

“Yeah, go ahead,” Hank said, having absolutely no idea what to do or say once the thing woke up. Chloe moved and pressed the LED that was a dim, offline blue on the other android.

Immediately after that, its eyes blinked open, revealing a soft, doe-brown color. The android looked at them but didn’t speak. No doubt running a systems check or whatever they did when they booted up.

Hank’s breath caught in his throat for a moment. The eyes were so incredibly lifelike. Unlike any of the models Hank has seen in the windows. It seemed Kamski really outdid himself with this one.

“And there it is!” Kamski clapped his hands together with a grin. He took a certain delight in his work that frankly weirded Hank out a bit, but he wasn’t going to admit to that out loud. “Stunning, isn’t it?” Kamski asked, looking damn proud of himself.

The android blinked a few times rapidly and looked at all of them, silently assessing. It was honestly a little unnerving. Cole let out a delighted giggle though, so Hank put all of his personal thoughts aside.

“Gotta name for it, champ?” Kamski asked Cole. The little boy nodded, looking up at their new bot with unadulterated joy. Kamski stepped into their android’s line of sight. “RK800. Register your name,” he ordered.

He stepped aside so Cole could take over, the boy now the only person in the android’s direct line of sight.

“Connor!” Cole’s delightedly voiced. Hank had absolutely no idea where that name had come from and was surprised to hear it. The name was decidedly normal considering a five-year-old had picked it out. Hank had half expected a name more fitting for a dog to come out of his son’s mouth.

The android blinked, his LED turning a soft yellow for a split second as he processed that.

“My name is Connor,” it said, speaking for the first time.

Hank stilled at the soft lilting of the android’s voice. It really was a completely unique AI. He’d never heard a voice like that, so human-like, come from a bot. Kamski looked even more pleased, a somewhat eerie smile on his face.

“Wonderful choice,” he said to Cole before he turned to the recently activated android. “Connor, do you know your function?” He asked it casually like he was talking about the weather with some acquaintance.

Connor stilled for a moment, its head tilting a bit to the side. “My primary function is to care for the Anderson family, which consists of Lieutenant Hank Anderson and his son, Cole Anderson,” the android answered. The bot’s brown eyes blinked, a slight facial change as it studied the humans in question.

Kamski nodded his head and led Connor off of its platform. The android’s first steps are calculated, but it gets the hang of things uncannily fast. “Yes, that’s right,” Kamski replied, sounding weirdly proud of his invention.

“Hello. It is wonderful to meet you, Cole,” Connor said to the little boy, whose face lit up like the damn fourth of July. The little boy reached out and grasped Connor’s hand in both of his, letting out a laugh, blue eyes bright.

“We’re gonna be best friends! Right, Connor?” Cole asked hopefully. Hank watched the exchange with growing bemusement. A pure look of what Hank could only describe as ‘processing’ passed over Connor’s face. The poor android had to figure out how to respond to human emotion right off the bat.

“Yes, Cole. We can be best friends if that is what you require,” Connor answered cordially. Hank almost snorted in laughter, but somehow managed to stifle it. The android turned to Hank next. “Hello, Lieutenant. It is a pleasure to meet you.”

Hank cleared his throat, putting his hands in the tattered pockets of his leather jacket. He wasn’t so sure about all this android stuff. He didn’t have strong opinions on them one way or the other, just never had an interest in getting one.

“Yeah, likewise,” he told the android, and Hank was probably seeing things but he could have sworn one corner of Connor’s mouth had twitched up into a bit of a smile before its expression evened out again.

“Well, you should be all set,” Kamski said as he passed a few things to Hank. A guidebook that Hank had no intention of reading, as well as a few numbers that Hank should call if Connor ever broke or needed replacing. “Thank you again, Lieutenant Anderson. I owe you my life, and this is the least I could do,” Kamski said seriously.

Hank fidgeted a bit, rubbing the back of his neck. “Just doing my job, Mr. Kamski. Thanks for…” He gestured to Connor. “It’ll be good for Cole,” he admitted. He hadn’t wanted to accept the help of an android. He could be a good father on his own, dammit, but he had to admit that an android to help with housework and homework and stuff would have its positives. Another solid ‘person’ there for Cole when work got busy for Hank.

Kamski smiled and nodded as his Chloe waited dutifully behind him, blue eyes staring forward into nothing. It was a little unnerving. He looked to Connor and could have sworn he saw…warmth in its brown eyes as it watched Cole, who was spouting off a bunch of things about his Kindergarten class.

They finally got pleasantries over with, and said their goodbyes to Kamski and his android, before they went to pile into the car and head home.

“Please! Let me sit up front!” Cole begged. Connor tilted its head a bit and its LED skipped to yellow for a moment before going back to blue. It turned to the small child and spoke to him with a soft but firm voice.

“It is not recommended for children of your height and age to sit in the front of a motor vehicle. Perhaps when you are older,” Connor told him. Cole pouted a bit but didn’t put up much of a fight, climbing into the car and sitting on his booster seat. Connor helped him with his seatbelt like it was second nature. Like it hadn’t literally just been activated today.

Hank watched the scene for a moment longer before slipping into the driver’s seat and turning on the car. Connor slid into the passenger seat beside him and looked over at Hank. “I recommend that you obtain an autonomous car, Lieutenant. They have near perfect driving safety records and would be beneficial to you and your son,” Connor piped up.

“Dad hates autonoininy cars!” Cole declared from his place in the backseat, hilariously messing up the word ‘autonomous’. Hank snorted and put the car in drive, looking around as he pulled out of the parking spot.

“He ain’t wrong. I don’t trust those things. I like my own hands on the wheel, thanks.” Hank was rather stubborn when it came to newer technology. Despite being brought up in the age of the technology boom, he’d never quite warmed up to it. Born in the wrong time or something like that, he guessed.

Connor’s LED went yellow and skipped a few times. “I don’t understand,” the android admitted, before facing forward to look out the windshield. A quick glance over to Connor made Hank see that the robot’s face was fixed in a look of…confusion, it seemed. Damn, Kamski had really pulled out every feature for this thing. It was uncanny.

They got home and Hank could almost visibly see the android scanning the surroundings, making task lists for itself. Cole sped ahead of them into the house and laughed loudly at the same time barking could be heard.

“Ah, yeah. That’s Sumo. Got him not too long ago. He’s still a puppy so he’s still being housebroken,” Hank told the android, who nodded in understanding.

“I can assist with training as well, Lieutenant,” Connor told him succinctly as they walked up the steps and into the house. Hank shook his head.

“Call me Hank. I’m not on duty.” A moment of silence passed between them as Connor seemed to process this before the android nodded.

“Of course, Hank.”

A bounding puppy came running from the house, tongue lolling out of his mouth as he ran circles around Hank's legs and sniffed curiously at Connor’s immaculate shoes. The dog then went about its business in the yard, which Hank was glad to see.

“According to my research, a successful urination in the correct location is usually met with a treat,” Connor told Hank, who almost laughed again at how stiff the thing sounded. God, he was really going to have to get used to having a walking talking Siri living with him.

“Yeah, sure does,” he answered Connor before walking over to the puppy to give praise. Connor watched for a moment before it moved inside of the house, further inspecting the surroundings.

Hank brought Sumo in and watched as Connor found the treats and dutifully gave one to Sumo. “Good dog,” Connor said simply, with a pat to Sumo’s head. The puppy wagged his tail and ate the treat hurriedly.

The android then proceeded to immediately start chores. Dishes in the sink, picking up recycling and trash. Hank felt a little weird about it, honestly, but that’s what the things were built for right? It was fine.

Hank sat down on the couch and let out a sigh as he turned the television on. A basketball game played in the background, but he wasn’t really focused on it. He was watching the android out of his peripheral vision.

It only took an hour for the thing to have the entire house cleaned and organized in a way it hadn’t been in a damn long time, if ever. He heard the soft lilting voice talk to Cole in the boy’s room. It was met with the enthusiastic rambling of his son’s happy voice.

Yeah, this really could be good for him. Good for them both.

The android came back out and started making dinner, brown eyes focused on its task. Hank watched it curiously, studied the human-like motions. It was honestly amazing. It had only been activated just today, and it was already making food.

After dinner, Hank stalled a bit. “So uh…do you need somewhere to sleep or…” He really had no fucking clue how these things worked. He hadn’t ever been interested in getting one for himself, hadn’t planned on even looking at the things out of curiosity.

Connor somehow managed to look amused. “No, I do not require sleep in the same sense that humans do. I have a stasis mode that can simulate sleep if you find that more comfortable. However, I can enter stasis sitting or even standing, and as such do not require a bed or room of my own,” Connor answered.

Hank hummed and took the last swig of his beer before setting it in the recycling bin. “Alright. I’d feel kind of weird if you just…stood in a corner or something. Maybe you can sit on the couch at least?” Hank suggested. It didn’t seem like the android had sensibilities that could be offended, but Hank didn’t like the idea of it just…standing somewhere, unmoving.

Connor nodded, face impassive and agreeable. “Of course, Hank. I aim to please. I will do whatever it is that you require of me.”

Hank paused, an eyebrow raised. “Yeah uh…maybe don’t say it quite like that. Sounds like the beginning of a…” he trailed off when Cole sprinted out of his room to request a story. He cleared his throat and crossed his arms, definitely not finishing that thought out loud. “Hey buddy,” he said instead. “Ready for bed?”

Cole beamed, totally oblivious in his innocence. “Yeah, but can Connor read me a story?” The small boy looked hopeful, glancing at the android. Hank looked over at it too and could have sworn he saw a glimmer of affection in the brown of its eyes. Probably just the lighting or some advanced program Kamski had given it.

“I would be happy to, Cole. But first, my scans indicate that you have yet to brush your teeth for the evening,” Connor told him, and yeah that had /definitely/ been a slight upturn of his mouth. A damn smile. Hank tried not to get transfixed. It was just a very advanced model. Top of the line, handmade by the top genius himself.

Cole pouted, obviously not having any of Hank’s thoughts or hesitations. “Aww man! I hate toothpaste!” The little boy protested, but he dutifully trudged to the bathroom and Hank heard water a second later.

Connor looked back at Hank for a moment before it went to Cole’s room, sitting on the bedside as it waited for Cole to finish up. The boy ran into the room and plucked a story from his bookshelf, handing it to Connor eagerly.

The android did a quick scan of the book. “Ah. Yes, this is a children’s literature classic. Have you read Rainbow Fish before, Cole?” Connor looked like it knew the answer already, judging by the book’s worn spine, but wanted to have the conversation. It was remarkable, Hank thought, as he leaned against the doorway to watch.

Cole nodded, eyes wide and excited. “It’s one of my favorites!” The boy exclaimed. Connor hummed and opened the book, the android’s soft lilting voice reading the story out loud as Cole slunk further into the bed, comforter pulled up to his chin.

Cole’s eyes started to drift shut, being lulled to sleep by the sound of the android’s voice. Even Hank had to admit that Connor’s voice was rather nice. As nice as a machine could have, he guessed.

“Connor, if I had shiny scales, I’d share one with you,” Cole said this in a very serious manner. Connor had just finished the story, closing the book with gentle movements. The machine looked…honestly touched by Cole’s words.

“Thank you, Cole,” the android replied, but Cole was already out like a light, breathing softly. Hank watched, enraptured as Connor took a moment to watch the boy, just like Hank did sometimes. Connor then stood quietly and put the book back on the shelf.

He turned and tilted his head a bit at Hank. “I will now enter stasis on the couch, if that is still what you require?” Connor asked him, keeping its voice to a low volume so as not to wake Cole.

Hank cleared his throat a bit and nodded. They moved out of Cole’s room, Hank leaving the door cracked just so.

“I will wake you in the morning when it is time to get ready for your work and Cole’s schooling,” Connor informed him. And there was the stiffness of an android again. Diplomatic almost, and ever-logical face impassive. Hank wasn’t sure if he preferred that or the faux-emotions. He couldn’t decide which was stranger.

“Yep,” Hank agreed easily before turning away, no longer being able to handle looking at the new android for some reason. He went to amble down the hallway toward his bedroom, before he heard a quiet, “Goodnight, Hank.”

Hank paused and turned, watching as the android settled into a sitting position on the couch. Sumo bounded up and settled in the android’s lap happily. Hank didn’t even bother to say the dog shouldn’t be up on the couch.

“Goodnight, Connor.”