The one thing Connor doesn’t like about deviancy - well, one of a few things, but this one is the biggest - is just how much he feels things. His processors take in more data than most androids because he needed to have a higher level of awareness. The massive amount of sensory input never used to bother him though.
Well. That wasn’t true. When he thinks about past spikes of input like this, it feels just as awful and frustrating. It just didn’t upset him back then because it literally couldn’t ; he didn’t have emotions to attach to it. It was just a distracting warning in the corner of his vision that he ignored until it went away.
Now, he can’t stand crowds, he needs sunglasses to cover his optical sensors when it’s too bright out, and most of the time he doesn’t like being touched without warning. He can’t focus if the room is too noisy. It’s all overwhelming and if he could experience pain, he would describe it as painful.
“Is there a way to turn your sensors down closer to our levels?” Simon asks one day.
Connor shakes his head. “It depends on the rest of my system status. It becomes much more sensitive if my stress levels are higher.”
“Oh. Okay.” He pauses. Connor almost wishes Simon still had his LED, because he can’t read the other android’s face. “What do you do when that happens? I mean, we should know so we can help.”
“Eventually the systems can’t keep up, so they stop. Speech and language programs go offline, and motor skills go to low-power mode to compensate for the loss of resources. It’s... unpleasant, and having emotions doesn’t help,” he admits. Simon nods.
“So, kind of like autism in humans?”
He tries running a search, but nothing of use comes up. CyberLife must not have found it important enough, which is a bit of an oversight considering his intended use as a negotiator who would need to know how to best approach any suspect.
His LED must be yellow, because Simon shifts in his seat as he explains. “It’s a developmental disorder. I’m guessing you searched and couldn’t find anything?”
Connor smiles awkwardly. “Yes.”
“When you’re home tonight, look into it. Maybe something there will help.”
“How did you know about it?”
Simon doesn’t reply at first. Connor realizes the moment the question is out that it has a rather obvious answer, and that it could lead to unpleasant memories. Simon never told him what he did before waking up, and never talks about it. He wants to take it back immediately; for all Cyberlife put into his social modules, he has trouble understanding the impact his words have. Often people take what he says in an entirely different way than he intended. He doesn’t want to offend his friend.
“The family I was with had a daughter who’s autistic,” Simon finally says, so soft most others would not hear. “She was living with her parents between jobs after college. She helped me run away when I woke up.”
Connor isn’t sure what to say, so he just nods. Simon smiles and for a few seconds, Connor’s thirium pump regulator speeds up. He doesn’t know why it does that.
(Yes, he does. He’s just afraid of admitting it. Just like he is afraid of admitting why the same thing happens when Markus smiles. He doesn’t want to ruin his friendships with them.)
“There are some other androids with similar experiences, if you want to talk to them,” Simon suggests. “They meet every Saturday at 10 in the morning in the community room.”
When he arrives back home at Hank’s house, he sits on the couch and looks it up. The small tablet in his hands has access to much more than his standard databases, making the search much easier. It takes some time to sort through the more useless results written by people even he can tell have no idea what they are talking about, and he only heard of autism a few hours ago.
He puts together a list of accurate and helpful resources in half an hour, setting up a search filter to exclude the bad ones. The pieces fit together as he goes through diagnostic criteria and blogs and websites.
Deficits in nonverbal communicative behaviors used for social interaction, ranging, for example, from poorly integrated verbal and nonverbal communication; to abnormalities in eye contact and body language or deficits in understanding and use of gestures; to a total lack of facial expressions and nonverbal communication.
Hank makes comments to that effect about him frequently. He stares too long, doesn’t smile much and it looks off when he does. He can read expressions and body language if he devotes enough of his attention to it, but it takes a lot out of him, so he uses it sparingly. Hank says, at least twice a week, that if Connor didn’t still have his LED, he would have no idea how Connor feels.
“Why’d they make you look so goofy and give you that weird voice?”
“CyberLife androids are designed to work harmoniously with humans. Both my appearance and voice were specifically designed to facilitate my integration.”
“Well, they fucked up.”
As a machine, it was to be expected to an extent. It isn’t an issue in most active models, but it was determined to be unnecessary for him. Outside of a crime scene, why would he need to understand other people? Before attempting to build a friendly relationship with Hank, why would he need to understand sarcasm, or show his emotions as facial expressions?
Stereotyped or repetitive motor movements, use of objects, or speech.
Connor thinks of the coin sitting in his jacket pocket. It was originally given to him to keep his motor skills sharp, and help him blend in so he wasn’t always standing completely still like a statue. It distracts him from his system’s warnings about sensory input, giving him something to focus on so he can clear his mind. Maybe that isn’t what the manual had in mind, but... It was similar.
Insistence on sameness, inflexible adherence to routines, or ritualized patterns of verbal or nonverbal behavior.
Before becoming a deviant, he always had a mission, a list of tasks. His objectives changed, but the format was always the same. Now, he has none, because there is no one to give them. He builds his own to compensate, and keeps his schedule as regular as possible. It usually isn’t possible, considering his line of work, but he tries. Never too early, never too late, right on time down to the second. Markus likes to tease him that no one would ever be late if they just followed Connor.
The rest of the lists and blog descriptions fall into line perfectly. Obviously it doesn’t work like it does with humans - it can’t, quite literally - but it feels right. It explains things in a way humans can understand, that he can say to Hank and Hank will know what to do. And... having a name is somewhat of a relief.
He wants to tell Hank, but there is nothing in his archives and modules to help prepare him. Looking online again doesn’t help either. Maybe he can just leave some of his list open until Hank happens upon it?
This shouldn’t be so difficult.
He waits until later that night, when they’re watching baseball. It still takes forty-five minutes and twenty seconds to build up the courage to do it. Finally, as commercials take over the screen, he straightens his posture and takes a deep unnecessary breath.
“Can I tell you something?” he asks awkwardly.
Hank glances over then waves him on. “Be my guest.”
His verbal processors stutter to a stop. He’s on a time limit before the game comes back on, but it’s like breaking down his programming all over again. Hank is waiting patiently, like he always does, and Connor appreciates it far more than he could ever put into words.
“Simon suggested something earlier today and I have been researching since then, and I think I’ve come to a conclusion about something.”
“Yeah? And what’s that?”
“It’s technically impossible and I don’t know how it could be happening. It’s not a malfunction, just an oversight made more obvious by deviancy, but-”
“Jesus Christ, Connor, what are you talking about?”
There’s a few seconds of silence. Connor counts them, his stress rising along with the number. Maybe he was wrong, and it is a malfunction. Or it’s ridiculous to compare himself to humans in this way. He wants to take it back already, and delete his lists, and-
“That makes sense now that you mention it,” Hank finally replies. Connor snaps his head to the side to look at him, and he can see the yellow of his LED reflecting off the television.
He furrows his brow. “What do you mean?”
“Think about when you first came to harass me at the bar, and recited your damn instructions to drag me to a crime scene.”
You know where you can stick your instructions?
Oh. He had said that, hadn’t he? He understands now what Hank meant, but only because someone explained it. (North was explaining the complexities of sarcasm to him, so he showed her the memory to see if she could help. She laughed for a solid two minutes thirty-six seconds until she realized how embarrassed he was.)
“Oh,” he repeated out loud.
“Yeah, oh .”
“But it makes sense?”
Hank shrugged. “Yeah. Why not? I didn’t think it was even a thing for androids, but if it is, you’re the poster child.”
“I wish I knew that before I worried so much,” Connor mumbled. “I had a script ready for every possibility but this one.”
“A script? What, was it a fucking itemized list from the DSM?” At Connor’s silence, he snorted and took a swig from his can of soda. “Christ. Never change, kid.”
Connor let out a small smile. “I’ll try.”
“Got any ideas of where you wanna go from here?”
“Simon told me about a group of other androids in a similar situation. I’d like to go at least once to talk to them.”
“You plan on telling anyone else?”
He thought about it for a few moments. “I’m not sure. I believe at least some people at the precinct should know, in case any issues arise, but...”
Hank nodded. “Sounds good. Make up a list of what you want them to know and we’ll figure it out.”
“I haven’t thought of that part.”
“What about that list?”
Connor shrugged. He didn’t want to pass out the whole document. He certainly didn’t want to pass it out to everyone. Things had become easier around Gavin, but not so good that Connor was confident sharing such personal information with him.
“I honestly didn’t plan past telling you ,” he admitted.
“Well, think about it, and let me know what you want me to do.”
Sumo wandered over, plopping his head in Connor’s lap. Connor couldn’t have hidden the smile on his face even if he wanted to as he scratched behind the big dog’s ears.
It isn’t a glitch, or a mistake. He isn’t broken. He’s just Connor.