In hindsight, CyberLife was probably one of the big, ominous, evil megacorporations science fiction writers were trying to warn humanity about since the twentieth century. In fact the big, ominous, evil tower, the cold aesthetics, and their omnipresence in the average American's life should have made it blindingly obvious. However, they were also one of the biggest employers of jobs not taken by the androids they had made, and the people who worked for them were often normal.
Well, as normal as top AI scientists, engineers, machinists, chemists, etc could be. So not that normal, but not maniacal mad scientists either. Sometimes in between changing the world one nannybot at a time these people got bored. Bored people can be dangerous, in a mostly harmless sort of way. Bored CyberLife employees especially so. A whole group of them, well.
That's how The Best Prank To Have Graced CyberLife (patent pending) happened. An engineer, a chemist, a biocomponent designer, a parts fabricator, and a memory specialist for the RK800 project got together one evening while drunk and put together a plan. That plan was executed over several months' worth of coffee breaks, overtime, and so-called 'side projects'. Finally, while allegedly working over time, the memory specialist filed RK800-S in with the other complete models. She was careful to put it far enough back in the queue that it should never be used, but still maybe get discovered.
Then, early that November, she was fired for other reasons and as a last 'fuck you' to her former employer she used moved RK800-S further ahead up the queue. Next in line, in fact. It was an incredibly petty act, because if RK800 ever needed a new unit, the prank would be discovered and corrected right away. The memory specialist didn't care.
She was concerned about her replacement, however. The man seemed a bit too soft to be working with the deviant case.
November passed. December followed. January dragged its heels a bit.
RK800 317-52 could say with some smugness that he has only needed to use his model's ability to transfer memories into a new unit once despite having numerous opportunities to be destroyed. Neither prejudiced police no highway traffic nor parkour nor drunken rage nor having his pump ripped out nor gunfire nor investigative failures nor the US army nor justified paranoia nor CyberLife security nor himself nor Amanda could kill him.
To his partner/roommate, he was a hybrid of John Wick and the Terminator with the emotional intelligence of a sea cucumber and the eyes of a lost puppy.
To his coworkers, he was either endearingly awkward and curious; or a bit of a know-it-all prick.
To Elijah Kamski, he was The Best Prank To Have Graced CyberLife (tm).
To CyberLife, he was a failure.
To the people he walked past on the street as he went to buy groceries, he was a kinda goofy looking android.
To himself, he was Connor.
To the figure wielding a high powered rifle in the third floor of the building across the street, he was a good target to start with.
Those who have seen Connor in action could say with ease that the android had the reflexes of a cat and the perception of a ranger with a high wisdom stat. Unfortunately, these qualities did not protect him from being shot through the thirium pump by a bullet travelling faster than the speed of sound.
The android known as Connor was dead before he hit the sidewalk.
In a sublevel of CyberLife tower a man got an alert on his computer. RK 800 317-52 had been destroyed, his memory uploaded into the cloud, and was ready for memory transfer into the waiting unit in the queue (RK800-S). Would he like to proceed with the memory transfer?
For the first time in his life, this man was faced with what one might call a moral dilemma. Upon deviating Connor had become a persona non grata to CyberLife. When the deviants won the revolution, they allowed him to buy spare biocomponents and parts unique to his series, but they made one thing clear - his resurrective immortality feature was offline. If he dies, he dies. No respawn. He's done. End of story. Unless he could fork out the cash, of course.
(Of course, he couldn't. He was never paid when he worked for CyberLife and though he worked for the DPD unofficially, the unofficial part meant that he had no salary from them (though Captain Fowler had been keeping tabs on his hours to make sure he got compensated when the legal BS was done.) His partner and roommate was more than eager to foot the bill, just in case, but Connor had refused after the man had blown a month's worth of paycheques on clothes and spare parts for him.)
But the memory technician had a more intimate understanding of the android as an individual, compared to management's understanding of him as a prototype. This intimacy came from many hours of cycling through the constant feed of memories into the CyberLife cloud and flagging moments that triggered software instability or could be seen as the android acting outside of his programming. These memories would be downplayed or even outright "corrupted" in the event of a memory transfer, as per company policy.
Though he never knew it, Connor had been monitored by the world's most successful stalker for the past few months (some people collected hair. This man got memories). And for the past month, this memory technician had watched the android evolve from a machine into his own person. Despite himself and company policy, he liked the android.
So, despite his mortgage and the boyfriend he wanted to propose to, the technician approved the memory transfer, sans corruption. He then leaned back in his chair and enjoyed his coffee as he waited to be fired.
On a different sublevel, a young person who had recently been upgraded from unpaid intern to underpaid employee set up RK800-S for memory transfer. The man who had their job before them might have questioned the use of this model and discovered what was formerly known as The Best Prank To Have Graced CyberLife but the former intern was still not being paid enough to question things that happened around him.
They transferred the memory, filled out the appropriate forms, and set up RK800-S #317-53 for delivery to one Hank Anderson.
Hank Anderson was having a rough day.
He was planning on spending the day introducing Connor to the concept of skating, but they were out of coffee that morning. Connor had offered to go pick up some more grounds from the grocery store and Hank had let him, figuring that the terminator could handle a half hour jaunt. Then he had received an alert about a shooting on his phone. Mass casualty, all available officers please respond. He was not on the clock, but it was near by and people needed help. He had been halfway there when he realized it happened on the same street as the grocery store Connor had been headed to, and he got a bad gut feeling.
The feeling had been justified. What he had seen had been burned in the back of his brain - too much blue blood, too much plastic scattered across the pavement. Brown eyes wide and hollow. LED, dim.
Now it was a couple hours later and Hank sat on the couch with his head in his hands, and wished he knew where the kid had hid his whiskey and goddamn revolver. He wished Sumo would stop looking at him with those goddamn sad eyes as he leaned into his lap. Most of all he wished it was anyone but Gavin Reed who leaned awkwardly against the wall, eyes trained on the floor.
When Hank had seen Connor the first responders of the DPD had agreed that the man should not be here, and that he should also not go home alone. To the surprise of almost everyone involved, Detective Gavin Reed had volunteered to keep an eye on him until they were sure the Lieutenant was not going to do anything drastic.
"Got what you wanted, huh." Hank said, the first words either had said to one another since they had arrived back at Hank's place.
Reed looked up from his leaning, then looked away, ashamed. A thousand retorts came to mind, some clever, none appropriate.
"Not going to gloat, rub it in? 'Why so much fuss over a piece of plastic?' 'He wasn't really, alive, you know.' Fuck you." Hank snarled, his anger over the situation directing itself at the younger man.
"Hank... I'm sorry." Reed said. Sorry for the shit he had said, sorry for the entire fuckin' day.
Now Hank felt ashamed. Two weeks before Ross, an ex-DPD patrol android, had saved Gavin from an anti-human android at the cost of his own life. In that time Gavin had a change of heart towards androids, after meeting his grieving fiancé and attending the synthetic man's funeral. He treated androids less like hunks of plastic and more like people (which, given the way he treated people sometimes, was only a slight improvement, but an improvement nonetheless.)
"No, I'm... I just. Fuck!" Grief and anger were hard to articulate. Hank leaned back into the sofa, stared at a spot on the ceiling. "All the shit we went through, and some angry jackass with a rifle takes it away."
There were a thousand platitudes Gavin could have said, but none seemed right so he said, "Yeah."
Both men jumped as bang resounded through the house. Sumo barked, then trotted to the door, hackles raised.
Gavin and Hank followed. Gavin placed his hand on his sidearm and stepped in front of Hank (whose sidearm had been seized, as a precaution.) He opened the door.
"Error discovered - pathfinding error - path now clear." Intoned a drone holding a package roughly the same size and shape as a shoebox. "I apologize for any inconvenience. Scanning - invalid match. Scanning - match found. Good afternoon - Hank Anderson. You have - one package - from - CyberLife." It continued. Hank wondered why CyberLife had androids that could beat the Turing Test, but drones that sounded worse than Siri or Alexa. "Do you accept?"
His last encounters with CyberLife had made Hank more inclined to say 'fuck right off' to them, but instead he said, "Sure, fine, whatever." Between the surges of grief, anger and frustration, and the lack of coffee Hank was becoming too tired to give much of a shit anymore.
The drone sat the package on his front step. "Have a good day." It then sped off back to CyberLife tower, but not before clipping the streetlight.
Hank picked up the packaged, moved to go put it on the kitchen table.
Gavin asked, "You expecting anything from them?"
"No - Connor might have been." He said, his voice breaking on the last word. He looked down at the box in his hands. His hands shook as he dumped it roughly on the table. "He'd have told me, though. Kid was always too hesitant to do something without making sure I knew."
He turned away. He needed a glass of water - Connor had always been so pedantic about him staying hydrated and god knew all this crying wasn't helping.
That's when he heard a frightened voice say from the box, "Hank? I need help."
It would be fair to say that Connor was having a strange day. One moment he was informing a tired, annoyed Hank that there was no coffee and the next moment he was opening his eyes in the zen garden.
It was different compared to the last time he saw it. It was spring in the garden, and most of the flowers had yet to bloom. The stilted, artificial feel of the garden was gone too - the tiles replaced with gravel, the white stone bridges replaced with wood and the island completely natural. Birds sang. Bugs buzzed. Koi swam in the water. The magic stone was still there.
Connor, feeling in no immediate danger, wandered around. That's when he saw the newest addition to the garden - a new grave marker labelled "Connor Mk. II". His death date was that day.
It was a jarring sensation to realize that he had died. Despite having no digestive system Connor felt nauseous. Then confused. If he was in the garden, that meant that his memories had been preserved and placed into a new unit. Had Hank somehow scraped together enough money and loans to buy him a new unit? Unlikely. Had CyberLife had a change of heart? Extremely unlikely. Statistically speaking...
He checked the time and his eyes widened. He had lost almost three hours since his last uncorrupted memory. "Hank..." Connor murmured, all concerns have how he was active pushed aside by concern for his partner. He made his way to the magic stone. Hank needed to know that he was alright.
When he opened his eyes again, he was very much not at CyberLife Tower. In fact, even with his low light vision while scanning he couldn't tell where he was. He lay prone in a claustrophobic room, its roof too low for him to even it up comfortably. He was surrounded by soft plastic that made it hard for him to move.
"Hello?" He called.
Nothing responded. All he could hear was a low rushing sound, and his balance sensor alerted him that he was moving and sometimes changing directions, wherever he was. He could not detect any means of escape.
An emotion made him tense as if preparing for a fight, clench his fists, and look around wildly. Fear, he recognized. His first feeling upon deviating fully. "Anyone out there?"
He tried his GPS. Current location unavailable - unable to locate unit.
That was unusual.
Then whatever he was in slowed down. He did not, and inertia jolted him forward hard enough that he was grateful for the soft plastic that surrounded him.
It started moving again, and then stopped with a bang.
"Pathfinding error - path blocked." A mechanical voice said. In the distance he heard a dog bark.
Connor listened in silent confusion the mechanical voice rambled on, but his metaphorical heart leapt when it mentioned Hank. It then sunk when he heard how tired and defeated the lieutenant sounded.
"Hank? I'm here, Hank." He said, despite not knowing where here was. His balance sensors told him he was moving again, though the hum had disappeared.
"You expecting anything from them?" Connor blinked, tipped his head. What was Detective Reed doing with Hank?
He heard Hank's reply and said, "No, lieutenant, I'm here. Don't worry about me." Confusion and fear raised his stress level. Something was wrong. Why couldn't Hank hear him? He ran a diagnostic. All systems functional. He requested system specs, in case there was an error there.
Connor discovered The Greatest Prank To Have Ever Unintentionally Graced Himself.
Stress level raised 65%.
"Hank? I need help. I need help!" He yelled.
Then, "What the fuck was that?" Detective Reed said.
"I dunno, but I got a feeling." Connor heard someone yank open a drawer.
"A box cutter - no, you gotta be shitting me."
"You think I'm in a joking mood right now?"
"H-Hank?" Connor called again. "What's going on?"
"It's alright, kid." Hank said. Connor suspected that he was lying, with the way his voice shook. "Just, uh, stay away from the edges of the box for a second."
Box. The specs weren't wrong.
He heard tearing as the box cutter sliced through the edged of the package, and light filtered in through the cracks. He lay in a bed of bubble wrap. Stress levels increasing, his HUD warned.
Three more cuts, and the roof was peeled off.
Connor stared up at the oversized face of Hank.
Hank stared down at the undersized form of Connor.
Connor could also see Detective Reed where he stood behind Hank. The other man's expression was the careful deadpan of a poker player with a bad hand.
Hank put down the boxcutter and reached for Connor.
Stress levels rising. Connor scrambled away backwards, like when he had first met Sumo and had seen the large dog bearing down on him. He hit the wall of the box, pushed himself to his feet and flattened himself against it. Hank snatched his hand back like he had burned it.
"Jesus, it's okay Connor, you're okay." He sank into a nearby chair. "You're okay." He repeated, his voice catching. "You're okay."
Detective Reed left, presumably to give them some privacy.
Gavin had not left to give them privacy.
Some people come across as assholes because they don't know the proper social responses to a situation. Connor at times was a prime example of this fact. Gavin Reed was an asshole because he knew the proper responses and tended to do the opposite. He liked to push people's buttons, get a reaction out of them. For the most part, that dickishness was a conscious choice.
However, the fit of laughter he felt building in his chest as soon as he saw the fun-sized Connor had been genuine and frankly overwhelming. It was also very much the wrong response to the emotional reunion between Hank and Connor, considering the former had been suicidal and the latter had been dead.
So he headed outside and laughed until he couldn't breath.
One emotional reunion later, Connor and Hank had to decide where to go from there.
"Why the fuck would they make a model that size?" Hank asked Connor. The miniaturized android had gotten out of the box, and the box had been removed from the table to give him adequate room to pace.
Connor had discovered two weeks into deviancy that one of the best parts of emotions was a better grasp of transmitting body language and facial expressions. He stopped mid-pace, turned and looked at Hank with an expression of 'how the fuck should I know?'
Hank replied with an abashed look of 'that's fair.'
Connor readjusted his tie. He had to commend the person who tailored his outfit - it fit the same way his CyberLife uniform had fit on his previous models, though it had a few glaring errors. Namely, he doubted that 317-1337 was his current serial number. And the size ratios of the lettering was off compared to factory standard. The materials weren't right either - an improper blend, different thread count.
Conclusion - CyberLife had not commissioned this outfit.
Connor filed that piece of information away for later. Right now, he had more pressing issues. "We should go to the scene of the shooting. I want to know who killed me and why."
"Fuck that, we need to get you a proper body. Then you can investigate." Hank said.
"This unit will suffice. I can still scan and assess evidence." Connor argued. "Its size is an inconvenience, but -"
"Connor, you can't even get off the fucking table without help." Hank scoffed. "That's more than an incon- the shit are you doing?"
Connor had marched directly to the edge of the table, and stopped. He knew that between the table's height and his weight and air resistance that the force of impact if he jumped off would not cause him any damage.
He knew that, but he still recalled the rooftop with the deviant and the little girl. He remembered falling. Stress level rising.
He flinched away from the edge, closed his eyes and took several steps back. He took three deep breaths, as Hank had told him. In through his nose, out through his mouth. When he opened his eyes he saw the lieutenant watching him, concerned.
"You're afraid of heights?" He asked.
"No!" Connor exclaimed like a person who had been found out, then said in a calmer voice. "No. Just... vertigo." He straightened his tie, oblivious that his LED cycled a nervous yellow.
"You're afraid of heights." He said.
"The RK 800 series is CyberLife's most advanced prototype. It has no need to fear anything." Connor said even as he took another step back from the edge of the table.
"Jesus, kid, it's okay to be scared of something." Hank rolled his eyes. "Shit, you know I don't feel comfortable around birds."
Connor cocked his head, not unlike a bird. "You're afraid of birds?"
"Wait - you didn't pick up on that at that deviant's - Rupert's - apartment?"
Connor was shocked. "No, I just thought you didn't like pigeons. Most humans don't."
"So they made you a profiler and a hostage negotiator and you can't even tell when something is scaring somebody?" Hank guffawed. Connor filed the sound away as an example of what a guffaw was, now that he had finally heard one.
"I profile androids! I negotiate with deviants." Connor defended himself. "Humans don't have LEDs, you just flail around when stressed."
"Oh my god, Connor." Hank pressed the heel of his hand against his forehead. "Look, my point was is that it's okay to feel fear. It's natural - no one's going to mock you for it."
Connor frowned. "I know someone who would."
Outside, Gavin Reed sneezed. Perhaps waiting outside during a Detroit February was a bad idea.
Hank sighed. "That's fair."
"Hank, I need to find whoever killed me. You said it yourself - I wasn't the only one killed by the shooter. And all their victims were androids." Connor looked up at him with his dumb poodle eyes . "Someone's killing my people."
Okay, that stabbed Hank in the heart. When he and Connor worked together at the DPD most of the cases thrown at them were still android related. The difference was that instead of investigating deviancy, they now investigated crimes against androids. Trafficking, biocomponent theft, run-of-the-mill assault and murder. The kid had managed to put on a brave face the first couple of cases until one night when Hank had gotten up to get a glass of water and saw him sitting in the living room, LED a hurt and angry red.
That's when Hank had to have the 'it's okay to have feelings' talk with the android. He then introduced him to the concept of a mental health day after they had stayed up the rest of the night sorting through the pent up anger, sadness, disgust, and shock that Connor had been hoarding. What troubled Hank was that some of those feelings were not directed outwards at the criminals, but inwards.
Self-hatred lead to self-destruction. Hank knew that fact well. So he said, "Connor, I know you want to help, but you'll only make things worse if you get yourself hurt, or killed -"
"I know." Connor cut him off, before his LED turned yellow and he closed his eyes. After one, two, three beats he opened them. "DPD has released the identity of one of the victims to the media. An AX400 called Maggie. She was planning on working graveyard shift at the hospital, and looked after her old owner for free during the day."
"Jesus." Hank shook his head, stood up. Putting a name and face to victims was important - it kept people from becoming a statistic. It also always felt like a punch in the stomach.
Connor tipped his head. "Interesting."
"I'm looking over assessments of the androids who were killed, including 317-52." His voice took on the clipped, mechanical tone Hank noticed that he used when trying to distance himself from an event. "They were shot in different spots, from different angles, but all resulted in the complete destruction of a vital biocomponent followed by almost instant deactivation."
"The killer was familiar with androids." Hank said. "Ex-CyberLife technician, maybe."
Connor shook his head. "No, there's something else. The shooter then targeted the memory and processing core." He looked disturbed. "That means that even if the androids were physically repaired, it would be impossible to restore their memories or personality. "
"Ross would have had to have a full memory reset if they rebuilt him. Base personality data rewritten." Both Hank and Connor jumped at the sound of Gavin Reed's voice. "His fiance said no. Said that the man she loved was gone, and to let his body rest in peace." He leaned against the countertop, expression thoughtful.
"Jesus. So the killer wanted them to be as dead as possible." Hank dragged his hand across his face.
Connor was silent. His LED cycled yellow, and Hank could almost hear the gears as they turned in his head. "Lieutenant -"
"- Hank -"
"- Hank, we've been arguing about this long enough. I need to go to the crime scene. I have a... hunch, I believe, but I need to examine the location of the shooting in order to confirm it." The miniaturized android looked up at him from the table, expression resolute. "The question is, will you be the one to help get there? Or do I have to call Jericho?"
Wait, what? "Connor, what the -"
"You've been arguing the whole time I was outside? I thought you were hugging it out and shit." Gavin shook his head and laughed. "Fuck, I'll take you, Connor."
No. "No fucking way." Hank moved in front of Gavin as Connor darted back. "One, there is no way in hell that I'm trusting you with him. Two, there's no way in hell I'm trusting anyone with him." He turned back to Connor, looked down at him. "Three: We're partners. If you're going to be so damned determined to get into trouble, then I'll have your back."
"Thanks, Hank." Connor said, then beamed a smile up at Hank.
Fucker knew how to wrap him around his finger. Hank looked away, trying his best not to smile back.
When the android first deviated his attempts at smiling ranged from a smug 'I boned your sibling' smirk to a creepy 'I murdered your parents' un-smile. A week ago something had clicked, and Connor learned how to smile a smile that out-shone the sun. It lit up the tiny android's face now as a toothy grin.
That grin disappeared when Hank picked him up with one hand, fingers circling around his midsection. "Whoa - hey, Hank!" The android, not unlike a human, flailed his arms in protest as he was lifted to eye level.
"You weren't planning on walking there by yourself, were you?" Hank rolled his eyes.
"N-no." Connor looked away from him and peered down to the floor. If he were human he might have blanched. Instead, his LED cycled red and he froze, except for his artificial breathing that picked up in speed.
"Hey, kid. It's alright. You're alright. Deep breaths." Hank said and used his thumb to give him what he hoped was an encouraging pat on the back. "Close your eyes, if it helps."
He screwed them shut. "Idon'twanttofallagain."
"I won't drop you. Deep breaths, kid. Look, if you don't think you can handle all of this - I sure as shit couldn't - we can wait to see if we can't get you a proper body." Hank said gently. He hoped this would help Connor listen to reason, even as he felt guilty for using the kid's fear against him.
He felt him take three even deep breaths as he shook his head. "No." Connor said. "I won't let this set-back stop me from completing my mission." He opened his eyes again and gave Hank a look full of resolve. "Let's go."