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Divergence Catalyst

Chapter Text

June 2039

Hidden deep within the ruined remains of a once grand home on the outskirts of Detroit, the last remaining free android sat in front of the vast machine which took over the buried underground network constructed. The building had been destroyed weeks prior by anti-android militia, and the charred remnants still smouldered from where they had been set alight by vandals. Groups still came by periodically to make sure the area remained abandoned, unaware of the bunkers and lab which lay concealed beneath. The former owner was still unaccounted for.

Markus’ eyes were closed as he flashed across the events being show to him by Kamski’s creation, seeing the events of their uprising from a third-person perspective. He was searching for something, anything, which could change things: which could allow their efforts from those days to pave a future for androids to be free, rather than crumble mere months after a measly taste of life.

He heard movement from above and Markus quickly jolted out of the recreation of events, flattening himself against the wall nearest the door while pulling a gun forth from his belt. Before he could really prepare himself for a fight, however, he heard a distinctive knock on the other side. Letting the tension slip from his mechanical body, Markus soon unlocked the door and allowed the human on the opposite side to enter. “A little warning would be appreciated the next time, Elijah,” Markus scolded before quickly striding back to his previous task.

Kamski chuckled as he entered, resealing the magnetic lock behind him. “Come now, Markus,” he spoke charmingly, “do you really think someone would manage to venture down here through the ruins and all my disguised Chloes. Not to mention approach so boldly?”

Markus turned his head to glare coldly at the human briefly. “Well, you’ll have to forgive me for being a little distrusting of any human at this stage. I can’t say I quite care so much for the race which has slaughtered my own people without so much as a thought.”

“Touché,” Kamski conceded. “I would have thought at this stage, however, you would stop questioning mymotivations.”

“I would never stop querying why a man dedicated himself to developing a device capable of time travel for ten years,” the android snapped back.

The human laughed loudly. “I learned how to give life, what greater challenge can there be beyond that, than the mastery of time? Imagine the control you would wield over the future of humanity, when you can alter their past in an instant?”

Markus scowled deeply. “That is what concerns me.”

“Some gratitude,” Kamski scoffed. “I give you shelter and access to my little pet project, and this is the thanks I get?” he asked dramatically.

“You don’t want this reality any more than I do,” Markus spat at him, closing his eyes and interfacing with the machine once more. He tuned out Kamski’s voice as his eyes fluttered madly beneath their lids, seeing the images of the past playing out before him.

Desperation had driven Markus here, searching for any way to stop the extinction of his people. Months after their brief victory within Detroit, the humans had seen fit to assert their dominance in numbers and eradicate the deviant androids. Their intention had been simple: remove the malfunctioning machines to return life to how it was before.

Except Markus was not going to accept this sequence of events without a fight.

He’d gone to the only human which he thought might actually help him – the one who had made him to, Markus was now sure, trigger the events of the uprising. It was no co-incidence he could help other androids deviate, or how found leading them came like second nature. Everything was carefully calculated years before, from the moment Kamski had gifted him to Carl Manfred. Kamski had wanted him to lead an android revolution.

Only it hadn’t happened like that.

Markus had taken the peaceful path, determined not to shed blood. And what was their reward? He was now the last living android, the rest of his people sacrificing themselves to buy Markus the time he needed to vanish and come to Kamski discreetly. It would only be so long before he was found, however.

Flashes of those six days in the November of 2038 played out before his eyes, and Markus knew he had to pick his moment carefully. The android had been more than a little sceptical when Kamski claimed to have the power to send him back in time, believing such a technology to be nothing more than fictitious.

It hadn’t taken much convincing for Markus to realise he had little other option than to trust his word; or be forced to accept this as their future.

That wasn’t the only argument for believing Kamski, however. Markus was sure that Kamski did not want to follow this path any more than he did. Seeing his creations die out? No, Kamski would not accept that.

“Have you found a suitable window, Markus?”

The android sighed as he disconnected from the mainframe again, resignation seeping through his bones. “No, I have not,” he responded desolately. “I cannot find anything where my brief presence would change things.”

Kamski hummed in thought. “Five minutes really isn’t that much time, is it? It’s barely long enough to have a conversation. Finding a way to channel that into actions which could change the result of the whole uprising? Now that is a conundrum and a half,” he mused. “Of course, has we more time on our end, I might be able to figure out how to power this machine enough to give you longer in the past.”

Markus sat with his head in his hands. “I honestly don’t believe it would help, unless you could give me an hour. Too many events went wrong for me to change enough.”

The human paused briefly. “Okay, let’s put this another way. If you could fix one thing, what would it be?” Kamski questioned.

“I would have had Connor succeed, of course,” Markus answered instantly

Markus was adamant that had Connor accomplished his mission at the CyberLife Tower, things would have been better for all of them. Those androids who had been dormant within would have given them security. Except too much damage had been done by then.

Had his relationship with Lieutenant Anderson been different, Connor might have chosen to try and save the man, rather than sacrifice him in a vain attempt to gain more time. Connor’s machine duplicate had not hesitated to kill the both of them, and thus lose the chance of giving the androids the numbers which could maybe have gifted them their survival.

The two had been nothing more than acquaintances thrust together to try and bring the deviant crisis to a halt, they’d never developed any sort of bond which could have maybe changed their eventual demise. Hank’s instant distrust and hatred toward Connor because of his being an android had not been the greatest of starts. Markus had spent more time that he cared to count reliving the significant moments of their partnership, looking for anything which could have changed things.

Their meeting at Jimmy’s Bar, where Connor walked away to leave the lieutenant alone in his misery.

Connor defying Hank’s wishes to chase the fleeing Kara and Alice across the highway.

Hank being left to haul himself back from the roof’s edge when Connor kept chasing Rupert.

The first glimmer of Connor’s deviancy when he let the Tracis go.

Connor shooting down the deviant in the Stratford Tower, saving all the humans in the corridor in the process.

And then perhaps the moment which ended any possible companionship between them: when Connor shot Chloe, in fear of his own deactivation.

It ended with them both dead, the final result of Connor’s attempt to atone for all his actions before embracing his deviancy. Markus wished it would be as easy as changing one simple decision, but too much went wrong.

Their partnership had been doomed from the start.

That thought suddenly clicked in Markus’ head.

Wait…maybe I am looking at this the wrong way. I may not be able to change how their partnership developed, but maybe I can change that first impression?

Following that desperate thread, Markus turned his mind back through their journey, finally focusing in on the reason for the lieutenant’s self-destructive behaviour. What destroyed the man he had been, leaving but a ghost of his former self behind. He could see Connor in Hank’s house, finding the revolver the man had used to play Russian Roulette and the photo on the table.

Cole Anderson. Born, September 23rd2029. Death, October 11th2035.

Markus dove into the records of Cole’s death, finding everything which allowed him to slot the pieces together. The accident, the human who couldn’t be found to perform the surgery, the android who couldn’t do it in the human’s stead, and Hank’s subsequent hatred of androids.

So much had stemmed from that one moment in time.

The android turned the machine to focus in on that night, seeing the events play out. It was clear to Markus that the accident was unavoidable assoon as the car had ventured on to that doomed stretch of road, but he took note of how the lieutenant had sat at a mobile warning sign for several seconds before driving onwards. It was a decision that would change the lives of himself and his young son.

That’s it!

Markus snapped out of the reconstruction instantly, a beaming smile on his face. Finally, there was a chance. He could only wonder if it would make things worse, however. It would be three years from that moment to when Hank and Connor would meet.

What else would change, beyond Cole’s survival?

“I take it you have something?” Kamski asked lightly, a small but genuine smile on his face.

“Yes, I believe I know how we can stop this,” Markus replied happily, flashing a smile back at the other man.

Just then, gunfire sounded from above.

Sharing a heavy glance, Kamski’s eyes hardened and he pulled an assault rifle from within the leather jacket he wore. Markus wondered if the man expected company given he was carrying such a weapon. Kamski’s phone pinged and he soon found a message from his Chloes. They had never deviated, and still followed his orders – that had been a sour note for Markus upon discovering that.

“Looks like we’ve been found,” the human chuckled darkly. “How is that for ironic timing, huh, Markus?” A menacing smile appeared on his face. “Five minutes is going to have to be enough then, I am afraid. Whatever it is you choose to do, use them wisely. I know not what will happen if you are successful, but almost certainly this timeline will cease to exist regardless of what you do. Consequence…is a very powerful thing.” Kamski smiled openly at him for a moment. “Good luck, Markus. The future is in your hands now.”

With that, Kamski opened the door and vanished outside, sealing it up behind him again.

From the volume of gunfire above, Markus knew it would only be a matter of time before Kamski and his Chloes were overwhelmed. If he was going to do this, it had to be now.

Taking a moment to gather his courage, Markus interfaced with the machine once more and powered it up. It took almost a full minute to gather enough energy from the damaged power lines around the building, at which point Markus could hear the shots getting much closer. He quickly entered a destination on the computer, praying that he was doing the right thing.

Location: 42.167135, -83.273549. Arrival Time: 11thOctober 2035, 20:03.

 

Bullets started ricocheting off the door and Markus didn’t hesitate, pushing the lever which charged the device. Just before the metal barricade gave way, Markus closed his eyes and waited. Waited either to be destroyed or awaken in another time.

rA9, let this be the right choice. Let this change our fate. Please, let these five minutes be enough.


 

October 11th2035

Markus took several seconds to come back to himself, soon realising that he was face down in the snow. His whole vision was slightly blurred from the massive jolt his body had taken when the machine activated.Pushing himself up on unsteady arms, Markus realised it had worked: he was in the past, at exactly the right co-ordinates.

That meant he had 83 seconds before the car would arrive.

Running through the route he had preconstructed before his time jump, Markus leapt to his feet and searched for the android workers he knew would be stationed nearby to road sign. He soon found them only a few metres away, shovelling snow. Fighting against his basic instinct to set them free, he instead had to use his knowledge of android anatomy to deliver a small shock to the back of each of their necks, interrupting their processors. When the pair dropped to the ground, Markus moved quickly to hide them nearby.

Knowing that the sign would be the first thing that the lieutenant would see, Markus used all his strength to shift it from its position at the side of the road to the centre, then interfacing with it to change the message. It soon morphed to what he needed.

Road Closure Due To Adverse Weather Conditions, Seek Alternative Route.

With twenty seconds remaining, Markus dashed to the side of the road and grabbed one of the androids’ maintenance uniforms and threw it on, ripping out the LED on the side of its head and placing it against his own. He hated the feeling of it pressing against his skull once more, but it was temporary.

A small inconvenience for changing the future.

Markus had barely managed to get himself into position, shovelling snow robotically at the side of the road as he heard the car in the distance.

From within the vehicle, Hank was smiling as he listened to Cole chatter away at top speed. He was excitedly relaying what happened at ice-hockey training that day while Hank kept as much attention as he could on the road ahead. The sudden snow storm had left the road conditions treacherous, and the quickly oncoming darkness was just adding to the danger. He was half tempted to turn back and find a motel for the night rather than risk the journey back, but Sumo needed looking after.

“Daddy!” Cole shouted excitedly.

“Yes, Cole?” he asked, doing his best to sound more enthused in the conversation than he actually was.

“Do you think Sumo would be good at ice hockey?”

Hank laughed loudly. “Where the hell did that idea come from, kiddo?”

Cole shrugged. “He loves running on ice, and he’s big and strong! No-one would go against him!”

The older man had to fight very hard to get the image of their large St Bernard scrabbling away on the ice after a bunch of six- and seven-year olds out of his head. It was way too damn amusing. “Can’t quite see him guiding the puck very well, Cole. He’d be a real good keeper though,” he admitted through chuckles.

“Yeah!” Cole cheered happily in agreement.

Just as Hank was about to say something else in reply, he saw the flashing sign up ahead. “The hell…?” he asked aloud, wondering why the road was suddenly shut. There had been no warning of it on the radio. Unbuckling his seatbelt, he grabbed the door handle. “Be good for a sec, Cole. Daddy’s got to go check something.”

“Okay!” It was times like this that Hank was infinitely grateful to have such an easy-going son.

Striding out into the blustering snow, Hank wrapped his coat around himself tightly and stared at the neon lights, confused. Spying an android clearing snow from the road nearby, he shouted over to it. “Hey!” It soon turned around and looked at Hank blankly. The human shivered from the cold and the mechanical reception: he hated how lifeless androids were. “What’s with the road closure?” he asked through gritted teeth.

Markus had to fight very hard not to stare: this was nothing like the man that Connor would meet three years later. His strong presence, professional appearance, even his confidence…It made Markus’ heart ache to see the effect that this small choice would have on the man before him. Hopefully he could change things. “I apologise, sir, but three vehicles have been involved in road accidents in the past 28 minutes,” he answered as emotionless as he could. “As per road safety regulations, this route is closed until further notice.”

Hank growled under his breath. “God-fucking-damn it. How the hell are we meant to get home now?” he muttered.

“All road-users are being advised to suspend their journeys, and recommence them in several hours after the storm has passed,” Markus continued. “Several motels and inns nearby have rooms available.”

With a defeated sigh, Hank felt the cold seeping through his coat and admitted it may be for the best to look for a room for the night. He’d already been contemplating it before finding this. “Yeah, maybe…” Pulling his phone out of his pocket, Hank dialled a number as he retreated to his car. “Ben? Need a favour. Cole and I are stranded by the snow, think you can head over and check on Sumo for me? The big beast is probably…”

The rest of the conversation was beyond Markus’ hearing, and he pointedly turned back to shovelling snow from the road. While it appeared he was studious in his task, he was actually keeping a very close eye on the car which was slowly turning around, Hank still talking into his phone, before heading back along its previous path.

Once he was satisfied that he was beyond sight, Markus dropped the shovel and watched it go with a tightness in his chest.

And so, it is done. He felt a strange tingling in his extremities and looked down, only for his eyes to widen at what he could see.

His whole body was fading away into the wind.

A chuckle escaped him as he watched first his hands, then his legs disappear as if they had never existed. I guess this is inescapable proof that the future has now changed: time has been re-written. I can only pray it is for better and not worse. His eyes raised once more to the car which had now vanished into the snow, a single tear running down his face before his whole body dissipated into nothingness.

I hope that boy’s survival proves to be the catalyst for the future.

As Hank drove away and hung up with Ben, he felt a sudden wave of unease wash over him. It was almost like echoes of terror ran through his body, and he fought hard to control the shivers which it brought about. His hands fisted around the steering wheel tightly. Cole noticed this almost immediately and looked at his father in concern. “Daddy? Are you okay?” he asked, worried.

The older man shook his head as the feelings vanished, beyond confused. It was almost like raw pain and grief had settled in his heart for a second before abruptly disappearing, as if they had never been there at all. Hank eased his grip as the emotion faded, giving his son a tired smile. “Yeah, I’m all good, kiddo,” he reassured him. “What do you say to stopping off at a gas station somewhere and grabbing some ice cream before camping at a motel for the night?”

Cole cocked his head to the side slightly. “Are we not going home?”

“Not tonight, Cole. This storm’s too dangerous, we need to find a place to stay,” Hank explained. “Better being safe than sorry.”

He would never know just how true those words would be.

Chapter Text

5thNovember 2038

With inquisitive eyes, the RK800 model, Connor, emerged from a taxi into the rain on Michigan Drive. The DPD employment records stated this as the home address of Lieutenant Hank Anderson, and following his initial inquiries at the station, Connor was informed that the man would be at home with his son. He’d been directed to help the man with an investigation into deviant androids, and a murder which had been reported earlier that night had all the hallmarks of an android which had descended into deviancy.

His mission was to find the Lieutenant, then accompany him to the crime scene.

Connor saw the lights on in the house ahead and scanned the area on instinct. He saw the car that was parked in the driveway, the lawn which was unkept and in desperate need of a cut, and there were traces of dog hairs accompanying muddy paw prints on the pavement. Analysis of the hairs showed the lieutenant had a St Bernard dog.

He smiled at that revelation. Connor then suddenly wondered why, shaking his head to dissipate the thought before striding over to the front door as his face shifted back to a neutral expression.

As he came to the door, Connor looked at the doorbell before deciding against using it. His records indicated that the lieutenant’s son was 9 years old. According to Connor’s social relations program, it was highly likely that the boy would be asleep at just gone 10pm. Waking the lieutenant’s son due to ringing the doorbell would notbe the best way to introduce himself.

Connor knocked on the door firmly, waiting patiently for an answer. He could hear the dog inside barking at the disturbance as well as some fabric rustling. A few seconds later saw the door opened cautiously, and Connor soon scanned the man he came face-to-face with.

Broad shoulders beneath a very loudly coloured shirt, along with a reasonably well-maintained frame considering the man’s age. Longer silver hair was tied back in a neat ponytail while his beard was cut short and well groomed. Icy blue eyes were glaring at Connor with distaste, and the stare grew even more antagonistic when they clocked his LED and android markings on Connor’s jacket.

Lieutenant Hank Anderson: Confirmed

“Lieutenant Anderson?” Connor questioned.

The man raised an eyebrow as he crossed his arms and leant against the doorframe. “Yeah, who’s asking?”

“My name is Connor, I’m the android sent by CyberLife,” he continued.

Hank’s stare hardened. “The fuck is an android doing turning up at my front door in the middle of the damn night?”

“You were assigned a case earlier this evening. A homicide, involving a CyberLife android. In accordance with procedure, the company has allocated a specialized model to assist investigators.”

Rage flared in Hank’s eyes as he stood to his full height. “Oh yeah? And what gives CyberLife the right to decide to have one of its pets muscle in on an active investigation, huh? Typical of those pretentious bastards to send a piece of plastic to do a ‘better’ job than us humans.”

Connor’s LED spun yellow as he processed the interaction.

Probability of anti-android sentiment: 76%. Decide on approach.

“I apologise if my presence causes offence, Lieutenant,” Connor offered sincerely. “CyberLife have developed a prototypical design to assist law enforcement officers, of which I am the first incarnation. In recent months, androids have been experiencing malfunctions concerning their software. Following the first reports of this murder, the company decided the probability of a connection between the events was high and sent me to assist.”

Just before Hank was about snarl something else in Connor’s face, the pair heard the dog barking in the living room as soft steps entered from the hallway. “Dad?”

Hank spun around and Connor could see a boy standing there in his pyjamas, rubbing his eyes tiredly. Burying all his anger at Connor’s appearance, Hank addressed his son softly. “Hey, kiddo. What you doing up?” Connor quickly scanned the child, confirming his suspicion.

Cole Anderson

A quick search of the lieutenant’s personal history revealed that Hank had been sole custodian of Cole since just after the child’s birth. Cole’s mother and Hank’s ex-wife, Anna Anderson, seemed to have had minimal contact with the pair. In fact, she and the lieutenant were midway through their divorce when Cole was born. Cole had clearly not been intentional. “Sumo’s barking woke me,” Cole answered through a yawn. Now slightly more awake, Cole’s eyes landed on Connor. “Whoa, is that an android?”

Connor smiled briefly at the child. “Hello, my name is Connor,” he explained.

Cole smiled broadly. “Wow. Hi Connor, I’m Cole,” the boy waved back. “He’s so cool, Dad! Why’s he here?”

Hank turned back briefly to stare at Connor in mild suspicion and then walked inside to kneel next to Cole. “Beats me, kiddo, it just turned up at the door. Seems like it’s something to do with work.”

The boy’s excitement dimmed. “Does that mean you’re going away for the night?” he asked sadly.

With a long sigh, Hank ruffled his hair. “Looks that way. Why don’t you get dressed as I phone your aunt Faye? Hopefully she’s able to take you for a sleepover.” Cole nodded sleepily and wandered away, Hank watching him with a sad smile. Connor took special note of the tinier details of that conversation. It was very clear that the pair were close, and Hank was fiercely loving of his child, despite the probable circumstances of his birth. The human stood again and levelled Connor with a cold gaze before grabbing his phone from the living room table. “Well don’t just stand there in the damn doorway and let the rain in!” he barked angrily. “Get in here and stay out of the way while I find someone to look after my son for the night.”

Connor nodded in acquiescence. “Of course, Lieutenant.” He stepped inside and closed the door behind him, moving over to the near corner of the living room. Hank rolled his eyes before tapping on his phone, moving through the house to his bedroom as he dialled a number. Left on his own for the moment, Connor looked around the immediate area.

The house was tastefully decorated, and Connor took note of the various pieces of jazz memorabilia scattered around the room: ranging from records scattered on a nearby table to pictures hanging on the wall. His eyes then fell to several other pictures hanging along the length of one wall. It was Hank and Cole in various places, smiling together in many different scenarios. They showed the pair out in the park with their dog, together at a theme park, fishing, Hank smiling broadly next to his son in his ice hockey gear, lounging in their home, at the beach…they simply kept on going.

A smile crept on to Connor’s face again. Yes, the pair were incredibly close, and it seemed the lieutenant spent most of his free time helping his son experience a broad spectrum of life activities. Given the time constraints involved with his job and research showing the difficulties associated with raising a child alone, Connor wondered just how he managed it.

His attention was caught by a bark just to his left. Connor turned to see the dog looking up at him curiously, cocking his head inquisitively. The smile on Connor’s face broadened as he crouched down and began to pet the hound. A grateful rumble was the first response before the dog flopped down and tilted its chin up. “His name is Sumo.” Connor’s eyes raised to meet the smiling face of Cole, the boy now dressed with a backpack slung over his back. Cole wandered over and knelt to run his hand over Sumo’s fur. “He’s a big dog, but he’s really gentle. Still, he’s kinda shy. He likes you.”

Connor nodded slightly as he turned his sight back down to Sumo. “In that case, I’m honoured to have made a favourable impression, Sumo.” The dog barked in answer, which had Cole laughing. Connor then switched his stare to the backpack on Cole’s back. “Do you require extra supplies for when you stay over at another person’s house, Cole?”

“Huh? Oh, you mean my school bag,” Cole twigged. “Nah, my aunt Faye has loads of clothes and my toys, but sometimes Dad’s work means he can’t take me to school. I’ve always got my stuff ready to take with me in case that happens. I know Dad can’t be there all the time, but I still hate when he has to go through the night. He’s out catching the bad guys though, so it’s cool that he’s chasing them down!” Cole finished with a proud flourish. “Are you helping my Dad, Connor?”

He nodded in reply. “Yes, I will be accompanying your father in his investigations. I am an advanced prototype developed specifically to aid with criminal analysis in real-time.”

Cole looked at him a bit blankly. “Uh…okay. That sounds cool, anyway.”

Connor nodded at him briefly as Hank soon emerged back into the living room. Cole spied him and jumped back to his feet excitedly, grabbing Sumo’s leash from next to the front door. Hank eyed Connor coldly before gesturing with his head to the front door. “You’ll ride up front with me while we drop off my son and my dog, then we’ll head to the scene.” Connor accepted this with another nod and stood as Cole scampered back over and attached the lead to Sumo.

Hank soon took over and guided the dog outside, opening one of the rear doors of the car and ushering him. Cole threw up his hood and dashed in to the other rear door as Hank went back to lock the front door. Connor watched them run through the routine with practiced precision: clearly this was not a one-time thing for the Anderson family. He sat in the passenger seat as Hank quickly returned to the car, slamming the driver-side door with a little more force than necessary. With brief shake to get rid of some of the rain which had accumulated in his hair, Hank turned off the music player and started up the car.

Cole was sitting patiently and began petting Sumo as the dog lapped up the attention. Connor couldn’t help but hear the soft defeated sigh from Hank, turning to face the man inquisitively. Hank gave him a sharp look before turning away to reverse out. “Can’t get a quiet goddamn night…” he whispered to himself, but Connor still heard him.

He couldn’t help but wonder what the sudden tightening in his circuits was.

Software Instability ^


Hank drove through to the other side of Detroit, watching through the rear-view mirror as Cole nodded off again from the motion of the car. Mercifully, Connor hadn’t said a word through their journey and settled for simply staring out the window, the light of his LED being directed out the passenger window. Now that he’d calmed down slightly, Hank spared a few glances when they were at red lights on the drive over to take in the android which had so suddenly appeared on the doorstep.

He was designed to appear in his late twenties, or maybe even his early thirties from what Hank could tell. Short slightly curly brown hair, eyes of the same colour and dressed in what could almost pass for a detective were it not for the android jacket sticking out like a big neon sign. His whole build was slender, but Hank had no doubt he was incredibly strong and agile.

Connor was built to be deceptive. Beneath the soft appearance, Hank had no doubt he was deadly. Which made him hate the android even more, not that he really needed much of an excuse. His distaste of androids was common knowledge, he could just imagine the reactions at the scene when he turned up with one.

Hank could already hear Ben and Gavin laughing their asses off. If his partner made any smart-ass remarks, Hank was liable to punch him, disciplinary from Fowler be damned. Wouldn’t be the first time he or Gavin got suspended for knocking the shit out of each other, though it had been a good two years since they’d had a serious bust-up.

As he pulled up to the right house, he quietly cut the engine and turned his gaze to the android next to him. “You take Sumo’s leash and walk him up to the front door, I’ll take Cole,” he said gruffly, yet quietly so as not to disturb the sleeping boy in the back. Hank was grateful when Connor simply nodded in agreement.

Unzipping his jacket, and cursing that their umbrella was currently broken, Hank jumped out into the still pouring rain and opened the rear door. He quickly unbuckled Cole and wrapped the jacket around him, making sure the boy was completely covered and wouldn’t be soaked. Hoisting Cole into his arms, Hank noticed with mild surprise that Connor not only managed to coax Sumo out with minimal effort, but also grabbed Cole’s backpack.

He didn’t remember mentioning to Connor about that.

Huh.

Pushing the car door shut with his leg, Hank soon rushed up to the front door of the house, glad when it opened to reveal a woman in her late forties with dark brown hair hanging loose, wrapped in a dressing gown. “Get in here, Hank,” she beckoned firmly, barely realising that he had company with him. She kept the door open and let the android in with Sumo warily, eyeing him with suspicion. “Well, sounds like you’ve got a story and a half,” she said amusedly.

Hank sighed and strode through the house, taking Cole to the spare bedroom. “No shit, Faye,” he answered snappishly. “Was quite happy until this asshole appeared and I get told it’s going with me to a murder scene. Not my idea of a good night in.” He paused before his tone changed to something much softer. “Thanks for taking him.”

Faye chuckled as she took Cole from his father’s arms, unwrapping him from the jacket which had kept him dry. “You know I adore my gorgeous nephew, I’d steal him permanently if I didn’t know you’d hunt me down and skin me alive with me watching. Grab a spare shirt from the wardrobe and I’ll wash this one for next time.” Her hand waved over to the wardrobe on the right-hand side of the room as she helped settle Cole into the bed, the boy not stirring even once despite all the movement.

The man breathed a sigh of relief as he managed to strip out of his saturated shirt and into a fresh one. It was only a small effort to get rid of the dampness surrounding him, but he did feel much better for it. “I’ve no idea when I’ll manage to get free, hopefully I can be here for Cole in the morning to head to school. I’m going to give Jeffrey absolute shit for this.”

That earned a quiet laugh from the woman. “Never mind wasting time bitching, Hank. Just you get to that scene and nab yourself a murderer, so you can come back and pick up your little boy again,” Faye scolded. “Cole and Sumo are absolutely no hassle, you worry about getting the job done.”

Hank leant down to press a kiss to Cole’s forehead, the boy already deep in sleep. He then gave Faye a broad smile and a strong hug before leaving the room, striding out to see Connor stood just inside the front door, waiting patiently. Sumo had been let free from his leash and had already fallen back asleep inside the living room. “We’re done here, you got an address for the scene?” he asked sharply.

Connor nodded once. “Of course, Lieutenant. I can direct you there.”

A quiet scoff came from Hank’s mouth before he really thought about. “Course you fucking can, goddamned androids. Fine, let’s get a move on. Sooner we deal with this shit, the better,” he snapped.

Connor chose not to say anything else as they left the house, instead turning his focus back to the little conversation he had overheard from within the house. That, compiled with the quick face-scan he had conducted of the woman inside, made for an interesting conundrum.

Faye Learner, age 47, older sister of Anna Anderson, née Learner. The lieutenant’s former sister-in-law.

The android was inquisitive as to the circumstances of this arrangement. From what he knew, based off his social interactions program, the sibling of a former marital partner did not normally constitute a close relationship. And yet, it was clear that Hank trusted Faye implicitly to look after his son. From the little interaction he’d had with the man, Connor could see that level of trust was not easily earned.

That was not impertinent to the investigation, however, so he put it to the back of his mind.

Once they were sat back inside the car, Hank let out a long sigh as Connor uploaded the address of their crime scene to his sat-nav. The human chuckled when it turned out to only be a five-minute drive at this time of night. “You know, always leaves me feeling uneasy when a scene gets a little too close for comfort,” he commented bitterly, pulling away from the house they had been parked in front of. A few moments passed before he addressed Connor again, reluctance heavy in his tone. “Uh, thanks. You know, for helping me with my son. It…was a big help.”

“Of course, Lieutenant,” Connor replied. “As I stated before, I did not mean to cause any undue duress.”

“Yeah, well, you fuckin’ did, all right? I don’t get much time to relax being a single parent, and now Cole’s routine is all to fuck as well. And all because of an android turning up in the middle of the night…what’s this fucking world coming to?” he asked while rubbing a hand over his forehead.

Connor couldn’t help but to analyse the symptoms the lieutenant was displaying: lines across his forehead and at the corners of his eyes, with slightly dark bag underneath eyes which were bloodshot the slightest amount. Irritated and heavy breathing, while his skin was dry and tense.

Despite his outward appearance, the man appeared to be heavily stressed, and his health was suffering somewhat.

“Right,” Hank snapped, causing Connor to stop his analysing, “when we get to this crime scene, you stay in the damn car, you hear me? I’m not having a bucket of bolts mess up the evidence.”

“With all due respect, Lieutenant, that is in direct violation of my mission,” Connor replied politely. He began to wonder if a firmer approach with the man might have been a better direction.

Hank glared coldly at him. “Did CyberLife program you to be such a little shit on purpose? If your mission is to piss me off, you’re doing a fine fucking job of it.”

That was the end of that conversation.

Two minutes later saw them reach the crime scene, at which Hank rounded on Connor with an icy stare – and even harsher voice. “You. Stay. Here. I won’t be long.”

Connor chose not to say anything as Hank left the car, instead cycling through his programming.

Conflicting Orders. Selecting Priority.

Follow Lt Anderson

With his direction now clear, Connor emerged from the car and followed Hank to the crime scene. When his path was blocked by a police android, Hank rolled his eyes and beckoned it to let him through. Connor approached calmly, not reacting to the anger in the lieutenant’s eyes. “Do you enjoy being an asshole?” he growled as Connor stopped next to him. “Thought I had enough shits to deal with before you came along.”

And just as Hank finished that sentence, a voice echoed from the porch, causing him to roll his eyes again as an errant thought flew through his head.

Speaking of assholes…

“Well, well, and there was me thinking you’d clocked out for the night. Your brat not keeping you amused enough?” came the snarky greeting of another voice. Connor quickly scanned him, his records showing it to be the lieutenant’s current partner.

Detective Gavin Reed

“Can it, Gavin, I ain’t in the mood for your shit tonight,” Hank snapped back.

“Whoa, easy there old man,” Gavin said with his hand held up in mock surrender. “Aim that bark at the fucktard who left this shit storm behind, not me.” It was then that Gavin noticed Connor standing just behind Hank. “Fucking hell, Hank, did you turn traitor on me and get yourself an android?”

“Real fucking amusing, shitface. No, this asshole just turned up at my front door and wouldn’t leave me alone until we got here. Like hell I would ever get an android, you know I despise them.”

Gavin shrugged. “Had to make sure. Hope you packed a nose plug, this guy is ripe.”

Hank sighed while rolling his neck. “This just ain’t my fucking night.” He then rounded on Connor with a stern glare. “Don’t mess anything up, you hear me? Or I’ll send you back to CyberLife as a heap of scrap.”

Connor said nothing as the pair entered the house, readjusting his tie before he went inside.

Safe to say his introduction to the lieutenant could have gone a little better…

Chapter Text

Connor stared into the interrogation room with interest, studying the Lieutenant as he tried to get a confession out of the deviant android they had apprehended. It hadn’t taken Connor long to discover the events at the crime scene, and despite the obvious scepticism from both Hank and Gavin, they allowed him enough freedom to prove his hypothesis true. While Connor had anticipated that it might alleviate some of the obvious distrust on the part of the humans he was working with, it was clear that the opposite was true.

If anything, Hank and Gavin were both even more against having Connor involved. The android was intrigued as to the intense negativity, but so long as it did not hinder the investigation, he would ignore their adverse attitudes.

It only took another ten minutes of questioning before Hank stood with an annoyed huff and eased out of the interrogation room with false apathy. As he re-entered the room on the other side of the one-way mirror, his indifference morphed to show his true anger at the situation. “We’re wasting our fucking time questioning a damned machine!” he spat, sitting down in another chair with a long sigh while rolling his neck to release some of the tension there.

From the side of the room, Gavin chuckled. “Not fancy roughing it up a bit, Hank? Wouldn’t be the first time we’ve had to get a bit handsy to get what we need,” he sneered with a wink, Hank rolling his eyes at his partner’s antics. “It isn’t human, after all. Wouldn’t have anyone to answer to, seeing as its owner’s dead.”

“Androids don’t feel pain. You would only damage it, and that wouldn’t make it talk,” Connor interjected.

“Ain’t that just peachy?” Hank drawled, earning a snigger out of Gavin.

Connor ignored the snide comment as he continued. “Deviants also have a tendency to self-destruct when they’re in stressful situations.”

Gavin rolled his eyes as he pushed off from the wall, eyeing Connor in obvious disdain. “Okay hotshot, what should we do then?” he jeered.

“I could try questioning it,” Connor offered, earning a laugh of genuine amusement from Gavin.

Hank scoffed, but he was also entertained at the notion. “You, interrogate that thing?” He paused and then shrugged. “Fuck it, why not? Might give us a good laugh,” he commented, earning a dark smile from his partner. Hank looked back at Connor and waved dismissively. “Go ahead, suspect’s all yours.”

The two humans watched as the android left the room, at which Gavin exhaled dramatically and slumped down into the chair next to Hank. “You’re showing your age, Hank. Couldn’t even get a fucking machine to talk?”

That earned a glare from the older man. “You like that tongue of yours, Gavin? Might find it as a wall ornament soon if you aren’t careful,” he muttered sourly.

Gavin laughed. “So, what gives? Why send in the tin can?” he asked as he calmed down, his sarcastic tone shifting to something more serious.

Hank shrugged in response. “Had nothing to lose, so why not?”

“You trust it to not fuck this up?”

“Trust that thing? Nah, I just don’t see how this gets any worse. Besides, I needed a break from the headache coming on. Didn’t exactly get any sleep before being dragged out here on short notice.”

Gavin hummed in thought. “Kid wasn’t any trouble, I take it?”

Hank smiled slightly. “He never is. Dropped him off at Faye’s, he was already out like a light by the time we got there. Connor may actually prove to have been useful after all. We processed that scene in record time, I might actually be able to drop Cole off at school and grab a couple hours’ sleep if I’m lucky.” A quiet laugh was Gavin’s response, after which his gaze turned to look at the older man’s back. Hank scowled. “What?”

“Not think the hair’s getting a bit long?” Gavin questioned with a raised eyebrow.

“Fuckin’ seriously?” Hank asked incredulously.

“Hank, your ponytail is getting longer than my sister’s!” the younger man pointed out.

“You can say nothing about my hair given how often I catch you preening, asshole,” Hank shot back. “Keep your attention where it belongs. AKA not on me.”

“Sheesh, you’re in some mood tonight,” Gavin noted. “You need laid, pronto.”

Hank smirked nastily. “You offering?”

Gavin elbowed him sharply, at which Hank roared in laughter. “Fucking gross, you old bastard!” he groaned.

“Trust me, you ain’t my type anyway, Gavin.”

The younger man couldn’t resist. “Oh yeah? What, too hot for you to handle?”

Hank rolled his eyes. “If only that ego of yours was from something worth boasting about, then I might not feel so sorry for you,” he teased.

Gavin glared at him. “Fuck you.” He spun his focus back to the glass in front of them, at which his expression shifted to that of shock. “What the fuck…?”

Following his stunned stare, Hank quickly snapped his attention back to the interrogation going on, flicking the volume up as it quickly became apparent that Connor was making rapid progress.

“…there was always something wrong. Then one day, he took a bat and started hitting me… For the first time, I felt scared.” Connor was staring at the deviant android in great interest as Hank and Gavin both watched in disbelief. Somehow, Connor had managed to get it to open up. “Scared he might destroy me, scared I might die. So I grabbed the knife and stabbed him in the stomach. I felt better, so I stabbed him again, and again, until he collapsed.” The deviant started to stare off into space around it, seemingly lost in its memories. “There was blood everywhere…”

“Son of a bitch…” Gavin hissed. “The plastic actually got a confession.”

“How the fuck did it manage that?” Hank snarled, anger simmering under his skin. It burned fiercely to know that Connor had succeeded where he had failed.

The machine had proven superior to the human.

It fuelled his hatred all the more. Just more evidence to show those CyberLife pricks that humans are inferior. An army of android cops: god help us all if that happens.

Which was the exact moment that Gavin chose to twist the knife. “That shitbag might just replace you if you ain’t careful, Hank.”

A beat passed in silence. Connor continued to question the suspect in the background as Hank turned to stare at Gavin. The older man offered him an empty smile, before swiftly punching him straight in the side of the head. Gavin recoiled in shock and fell out of his chair from the momentum. He swore venomously at the sudden pounding headache and shook his head to straighten out his vision. He’d be the first to admit that he sometimes forgot just how powerful Hank was: his age was just a number, he could more than hold his own in a fist-fight.

“Fucking hell, asshole!” Gavin groaned angrily.

“Keep your shitty remarks to yourself then,” Hank snapped back, not even slightly remorseful. He stared at the remainder of the confession in stony silence, ignoring Gavin as the other man grumbled back to his seat. With long and silent sighs, Hank repressed the anger enough to focus on what answers Connor was extracting from the deviant android, and his interest was unwillingly piqued at a couple of them. Against his personal feelings, Hank couldn’t help but find the idea of a deviant android equal parts disturbing and curious.

A machine which could supposedly feel? That had something as messy and complex as emotion? Was it an elaborate ruse, or the start of something else?

Only time would tell.

As Connor stated he was done, Hank stormed out from the room: Gavin still slightly dazed from the strike to his head. He found Chris standing outside, just as he’d been instructed to do by Hank at the start of the interrogation – Hank was well aware that some of the conversations between himself and Gavin could end up either vicious or controversial, and he was too fond of Chris to drag him into that venomous cycle – and the younger man smiled at him in a friendly manner. Hank gave him a curt nod and signalled for Chris to lead on. They entered the interrogation room as Connor was about to exit.

Chris gave the android an impressed smile as he continued on, but Hank simply glared at him instead. He didn’t know what tricks the android had pulled, but he did not appreciate being shown up in an interrogation. Connor looked at Hank inquisitively, but the older man pushed past him and in to the room. “Lock this thing up, Chris. We’ll call it a night here,” Hank stated with a hard voice.

“You got it, Lieutenant,” Chris replied, trying to usher the android up. It started struggling against him.

Hank raised an eyebrow at the altercation. “Problem, Chris?”

“It’s resisting,” he answered through gritted teeth.

“You shouldn’t touch it,” Connor said forcefully. “It’ll self-destruct if it feels threatened.”

“’That such a problem?” Hank sneered. “This thing’s gonna get scrapped soon enough anyway, what difference does it make if it does the job itself a little early?”

Connor stared at him coldly. “CyberLife needs it to study the cause of its deviancy. For that, we need it functioning.”

Their attention was snapped back to the struggle as the android whimpered at Chris to leave it alone. Connor turned his gaze back to Hank with a stern look, at which the human let out an explosive sigh. “Back off, Chris,” he instructed.

Chris let go of the deviant with a surprised stare. “Sir?”

“You heard me.” Hank turned his focus back on Connor as the deviant android scrambled away. He gestured towards the detective android derisively. “Go ahead, show us how it’s done then.” The sarcasm was fairly dripping from every word.

Connor’s face changed again, becoming much more sympathetic as he switched his attention back to the deviant. “Everything is all right,” he soothed, watching as the android trembled where it had collapsed on the floor. “It’s over now, nobody is going to hurt you.” Connor turned back to Chris. “Please, don’t touch it. Let it follow you out of the room, and it won’t cause you any trouble.”

Chris switched his gaze to Hank briefly, at which the older man nodded in agreement. They all watched as the deviant stood, and it soon did as Connor said it would. Chris led on as it followed on with no further incident, but it did say one last thing to Connor.

“The truth is inside.”

Hank saw as Connor’s LED began flickering at the statement, and his face twitched in confusion for all of a second.  The human watched it with interest, finding the momentary change to the machine’s appearance curious.

Once the deviant was gone, Hank turned to stare at Connor once more. “Well, that’s that. I’m heading home to catch a few hours before the start of my next shift.” He gave an absent wave as he was about to leave the room, but a small piece of his conscience nagged at him. With an internal sigh, Hank spun back to Connor. “I’ll give you some credit, you work fast. Don’t get cocky from the one bust, though.”

Connor cocked his head at the human. “I am not capable of such a response, Lieutenant. I have simply fulfilled my current mission.”

Hank glared at him again, his hatred returning full force. “Whatever, asshole.”

He swiftly strode away but couldn’t stop the warring emotions inside him. Connor had simultaneously managed to enrage him and inspire gratitude. He was angered because of Connor’s mechanical responses and the fact the machine had managed to get a confession where he hadn’t even got the slightest hint of a word; but at the same time, had Connor not been on the case, there was no way they would have found that deviant so soon. A scene that messy would have perhaps taken days.

At least now he would get to see his son in the morning before taking him to school. Did that make up for the sense of dread in his stomach that the events of that night had brought up?

It was a close-run thing.


 

Connor returned to the precinct the next day at just before 10am, complete with new instructions. He soon made his way through security to the bullpen and searched for the Lieutenant’s desk. The android could soon see the man was not there, and turned to make an inquiry of a nearby officer. “Excuse me,” he asked politely. “Do you know what time Lieutenant Anderson usually arrives?”

The officer looked up at the clock before returning his gaze to Connor. “He’s normally in by now: but if he took his son to school this morning, he could be a little while yet. Rush hour traffic is a bitch,” he explained.

“Thanks.” With the knowledge that Hank would probably be in soon, Connor instead turned his attention to the room around him.

Explore New Office

Connor scanned the area, taking in faces, objects and details at top speed. It was a spacious and well-lit area, and he could see how the area was designed with communal work in mind. He wondered at the vacant desk next to the Lieutenant’s, especially when Detective Reed’s was so far away. Clearly, being partners did not mean they worked well in close proximity.

From the little he had seen of their interactions the night before, he could imagine things getting heated between them quite often.

His eyes landed upon the lieutenant’s desk, and he couldn’t help but to examine it all a little closer. The partition between the two joined desks was covered in pictures of Hank and Cole, some of which Connor recognised, but a few were different. He did note that there were a few of Hank in his younger years of the force. A picture of the former Red Ice Task Force led to Connor searching through the lieutenant’s fame from years before, and he couldn’t help but wonder as to the difference between the man then and now.

Hank was still an intimidating figure and no doubt used that to his advantage, but Connor could see many changes in the intervening time. His mind drifted back to the whispered sentiment in Hank’s car the previous night as they dropped Cole off. The pieces soon snapped in to place. Hank had sacrificed pieces of his career and health for the wellbeing of his son.

The tightening in Connor’s circuits reappeared very suddenly at remembering the exhaustion on the man’s face. Analysation of the symptoms pointed towards…guilt?

Software Instability ^

Connor quickly dispelled the thought, instead examining the rest of the desk. On the main body he could see several empty takeaway coffee cups, as well as a smattering of dog hairs from Sumo. Nestled between the terminal and the partition were two plants: a cactus and a Japanese maple. Both were well maintained, and Connor wondered as to the significance behind the two plants. The lieutenant did not seem to be one for idle trinkets, so they must have some meaning to him.

His eyes drifted up to the board again. Between all the photographs he could also see some stickers with anti-android slogans, as well as various drawings Cole had made for him. His mouth quirked up into a tiny smile, finding his curiosity piqued all the more by the bond between the father and son. The final thing on the board which drew his attention was a printed screenshot of a recent newspaper report of the latest unemployment statistics.

The headline number of 37% was circled multiple times in red marker pen.

Possible basis for anti-android sentiment?

“Oh fuck, what the hell are you doing here?”

Connor turned at the exasperated tone to find Hank staring at him in dismay. He noted the coffee which Hank had purchased from a shop just down the street, along with the dark circles still under his eyes. The man clearly had not slept well. “Good morning, Lieutenant,” Connor replied openly. “I trust you had a pleasant night?”

Hank scoffed. “About as fucking pleasant as four hours’ worth of sleep gets. Some of us have to be up early to get their kid ready for school,” he replied tiredly, rubbing a hand down his face.

Another voice called over from the other side of the room, at which Hank rolled his eyes. “About time you fuckin’ showed up, asshole. Fowler’s been pacing all damn morning waiting for you,” Gavin said as he sauntered over, giving Connor a dismissive stare before fixing his attention on Hank.

The older man snorted. “The man knows where I am at this time of the morning, damn it,” he growled. His eyebrow raised at the shit-eating grin on Gavin’s face. “Something’s got you in a damn good mood.”

Gavin smirked. “Well, dunno about that, but I know your morning is about to go downhill pretty fucking fast.”

Hank glared at him. “Meaning…?”

Before Gavin could answer, another shout rang out across the bullpen. “Hank!” All eyes fell to the figure at the top of the stairs in front of the glass room. “My office.”

He groaned as Gavin snickered. “Why do I have a bad fucking feeling about this?”

“This is all I’m gonna say: good fucking luck.”

Hank stared at him suspiciously. “Wait, you know what that’s about?”

Gavin smiled humorously. “Yep.” He then turned away and strode towards his desk.

Connor watched as Hank chuckled bitterly, then sighed, before ambling up to Fowler’s office. He noted that the lieutenant chose to leave the coffee cup on his desk before following behind silently. Interestingly, neither man chose to say anything when Connor entered the room behind Hank, but the lieutenant did give him a sideways glance.

Yep, Hank did not like this one little bit.

Fowler was staring at his terminal intently, and Hank chose to stay standing rather than take a seat. He crossed his arms as he waited for the captain to get on with it. “I’ve got ten new cases involving androids on my desk every day,” he finally said. “We’ve always had isolated incidents, old ladies losing their maids and that kind of crap… But now, we’re getting reports of assaults and even homicides, like that guy last night. This isn’t just CyberLife’s problem anymore. It’s now a criminal investigation, and we’ve got to deal with it before shit hits the fan.”

Hank was still waiting for the sucker punch. This was typical Fowler right before he was about to deliver bad news: rabble on a bit before hitting the point home.

“I want you to investigate these cases and see if there’s any link.”

There it fucking is…

“Why me? Why am I the one dealing with this shit?” Hank argued. “I purposely stay the fuck away from androids, and now you want me to look into crimes committed by them?”

“Everybody’s overloaded, and you’re the best guy we have available for this,” Fowler offered, but Hank was having none of it.

“Bullshit! The truth is no-one wants to investigate these things, and you’ve let me holdin’ the bag!” Hank shot back as he turned away and growled under his breath.

Fowler continued on, unperturbed. “CyberLife sent over this android to help with the investigation. It’s a state-of-the-art prototype.”

Sure, state-of-the-fucking-art. All signing, all dancing and can even outperform a human. What’s not to like?

“It’ll act as your partner.”

That had Hank turning around.

No. No fucking way.

“No fuckin’ way! I’ve already got a goddamned partner, as infuriating as he is. Why you shoving me with this plastic prick?!” he snapped petulantly.

Fowler growled. “Hank, your whining is really starting to piss me off! You’re a police lieutenant: so just do as I say and shut your goddamn mouth!”

“I think you know damn well what my mouth thinks of this situation, Jeffrey.”

That had Fowler rolling his eyes. “I’ll pretend I didn’t hear that for Cole’s sake, because the last thing you or your boy needs is for you to get suspended since you couldn’t keep your tongue in check!”

Hank’s eyes flashed dangerously at the jibe, but he bit it back. Just. “Jesus Christ, Jeffrey, why are you doing this to me? You know how much I hate these things, and you know why!”

Fowler sighed deeply before fixing Hank with a glare. “Listen, Hank, I’ve had enough of your bitching for one day. So, shut the fuck up, and get back to work. I’ve got plenty of my own shit to deal with.”

Connor watched as Hank’s fist clenched in anger, and he noted the lieutenant’s furious glint as he stormed out of the room.

Hank was swearing furiously under his breath as he re-entered the bullpen, and he shot daggers at Gavin’s smug face as he sat down at his desk again. Of course that prick is finding this situation hilarious. He quickly downed most of his coffee in the one go, needing the caffeine burst to try and stave off the exhaustion which was making him feel all the more run down.

I need a fucking vacation.

He pointedly ignored Connor as the android came to a stop next to his desk, instead staring at a photo of him and Cole at the beach last summer. Maybe I could take the kid back there? He’s a goddamned fish, he could swim all day. A slight smile quirked the side of his mouth, though it was on the opposite side from which Connor could see. Yeah, that sounds like a plan. A week at the beach with Cole and Sumo. Fucking perfect.

Connor’s voice almost broke him out of the impromptu daydream. “It’s an honour to be working with you, Lieutenant,” he started. “I think we’ll make a great team.” Hank chose to not respond, instead continuing to stare at the photos. Hmm, wonder if Faye would want to tag along? Cole would love that, I don’t think that woman’s been on a proper vacation for years. Least I could do to treat her after all she’s done for us over the years.

“In any case, I’d like you to know that I’m very happy to be working with you.”

Hank did roll his eyes that time. This thing just doesn’t know when to quit it, does it?

Connor finally took the hint and eased back on the attempt to ease strained relations between them – for now at least. “Is there a desk anywhere I could use?” he settled on instead.

“No one’s using that one,” Hank said through gritted teeth while pointing to one opposite him. Still, at least he had all the photos to block Connor mostly from view.

The android nodded hesitantly and settled in the chair at other desk, considering whether it would be a worthwhile effort to try and connect with Hank on a more personal level. The angry stare the human gave his own terminal had Connor thinking that maybe this wasn’t the best time. “If you have any files on deviants, I’d like to take a look at them,” Connor probed, wondering as to what reaction it would elicit.

A derisory stare with a raised eyebrow was not what he’d hoped for. “What do you think the terminal on your desk is there for, genius?” Hank snapped.

Realising that he was not likely to get any positive reaction in the near future, Connor nodded in acknowledgement and interfaced with the computer. He instantly downloaded all the case files and ran through the immediate facts as the information was compiled in his mind. “243 files… The first dates back nine months. It all started in Detroit, and quickly spread across the country…” Hank tuned Connor out as he swiped an earphone out from his pocket, pressing play on his music player as he kept his focus on his own terminal.

Connor continued on regardless, even though he’s seen the man’s blatant hint. An AX400 is reported to have murdered a man last night. That could be a good starting point for our investigation.”

Hank continued to ignore him, at which Connor abruptly stood and came to a stop next to him. As the human stayed adamant on being difficult, Connor bent down and addressed him in a mildly imperious voice. “I’ve been assigned this mission, Lieutenant,” he spoke quieter, but determined. “I didn’t come here to wait until you feel like working.”

Blue eyes stared at him coldly for a moment before Hank stood. Connor had barely registered the human returning to his full height before he swiftly found himself being thrown against the glass partition to the side of Hank’s desk. One had was fisted his jacket while the human’s forearm was pressed tightly in to his throat. If he’d been human, the action would have surely left him on the verge of suffocation. “Listen here, you piece of shit,” Hank hissed with undisguised venom. “Don’t start that shit with me, you hear? Or you might be finding out just how many ways I can follow through on that threat to send you back to CyberLife as a pile of scrap. Got it?

Connor continued to stare back at him, and his internal evaluation software regarding his relationship with the lieutenant lowered the status further. Hostile almost seemed too kind a term at this stage. Hated was closer to the truth.

The tense standoff ended as Chris approached warily. “Um, Lieutenant? Hope I’m not interrupting anything, am I?”

Hank released his grip across Connor’s neck, but not without giving one last shove. “What you got, Chris?” he replied evenly, all traces of his anger buried for now.

“I have some information on that AX400 that killed that guy last night. It’s been seen in the Ravendale district.”

“I’m on it,” Hank sighed as he turned away, staring hard at Connor as he stormed off. Gavin was continuing to smirk from his chair at his desk, so Hank ‘accidentally’ swiped his hand into the detective’s coffee cup. It landed right in his crotch and the screech of rage, panic and shock caused several heads to turn.

Hank smiled tiredly as he left, knowing Connor wouldn’t be far behind. He had the feeling the android was going to become a permanent fixture in his life for a while.

It’s the simple things that make a shit day better. Christ knows I think I’ll need them…

Chapter Text

Hank couldn’t help but rub his forehead as he finished questioning the convenience store worker, wondering what he’d done to deserve this. Why was he, of all people, investigating malfunctioning machines? It was a sick joke, and he was sure Fowler was probably getting some depraved enjoyment out of Hank’s discomfort. An errant thought flew through Hank’s head as he wondered if this was punishment for decking Gavin the previous night. He wouldn’t put it past Fowler to do it, and now that Hank thought more, the suspicion grew.

Rather than suspend Hank for punching a fellow officer, Fowler partnered him up with his literal worst nightmare.

Yep, sounded pretty damn logical.

Sighing in aggravation, Hank pulled out his phone and texted his now ex-partner. Gavin wouldn’t be shy if he’d a hand in this.

Asshole, what did you tell Fowler about your new shiner?

As he waited for a response, Hank noticed Ben approaching. He quickly stowed his phone away again, so glad they were waterproof nowadays, as the other man started talking. “We’ve got officers sweeping the neighbourhood, in case anybody saw anything,” Ben reported.

Hank nodded in casual disinterest as he flickered his attention to the tablet containing their accumulated statements up to that point. “Okay, let me know if they turn anything up,” he mumbled back, scowling as the rain above got heavier. Trust the weather to sum up his shitty day thus far.

“What are you gonna do with that?” Hank looked up again at Ben’s curious question, and the lieutenant snorted derisively as they both looked over at Connor.

“Maybe toss it in a dumpster and set it alight?” he offered. “I’ve no idea, Ben.”

Ben looked thoughtful. “Getting partnered with an android, huh? How you, uh… How you handling it?”

Hank stared at him coldly as his phone vibrated in his pocket. “Fuckin’ great,” he snapped before striding nearer Connor, but pulled out his phone to see the reply flashing up on the screen.

Fuck all why?

That had Hank scowling.

You didn’t tell him it was me?

Dont fucking need to Hank ill bet he knows already. Didnt need me squealing to confirm it.

So it just so happens I get partnered with a damn android the day after I sock my partner one?

Connor’s voice broke through the relative silence around Hank and jarred him out of the text conversation rather abruptly. “It took the first bus that came along, and stayed at the end of the line. Its decision wasn’t planned.”

The android must have mistaken his movement for interest in its opinion. Hank scoffed in reply while giving Connor a dismissive look. “Androids don’t feel fear,” he pointed out.

“Deviants do,” Connor corrected, the conviction of which made Hank pause in thought for a second. He remembered the android from the night before, and he couldn’t deny his strange fascination with regard to what he’d seen. Either that android had been the best faker in the world, or it really had…felt. That was an intriguing notion.

Along with fucking terrifying, he thought to himself.

Connor soon continued. “They get overwhelmed by their emotions and make irrational decisions.”

The earned a snort from Hank. “How very human of them…” he commented, before switching his attention back to the task at hand. “Still doesn’t tell us where it went.”

“It didn’t have a plan, and it had nowhere to go. Maybe it didn’t go far…” Connor hypothesised out loud.

Hank grunted in reluctant acknowledgement of the point. It was certainly possible. “Maybe…”

Deciding he’s had enough of talking to Connor, he turned away again and checked his phone again.

Don’t blame me for your misfortune old man. My hands are clean of this shit. Better you than me. Enjoy the plastic assholes company.

He rolled his eyes at the petty response. Hank figured he probably deserved the snark after the swing he levelled at Gavin: it had been a while since he’d been so proud of a punch.

For the record, I am mildly sorry. Can’t say you didn’t deserve it though, you went for a low blow.

Hank snickered at the answer.

Whatever asshole. Stop bugging me and let me actually do a decent fucking job now that im not being held back by your old ass.

Fuck you too. ‘Held back by my old ass’, ha. The brat’s gonna be in for a lonely fucking ride, no-one else can be assed with him. Ah well, I’ll probably get stuck with his tantrums again once this ‘deviant’ business is over.

With no obvious leads, Hank continued to interview various members of the public who were around at the supposed time of the deviant android being seen, while Connor shifted his attention to the surrounding area, trying to reconstruct the android’s path. Despite his best efforts, he didn’t have enough information to gain a complete analysis. This was where tracking humans would always be easier: fingerprints and other organic markers made for a much better trail. Deviants had no such tells.

It was only ten minutes later that the pair were suddenly alerted by another police officer nearby. “Lieutenant! We’ve found them, they’re headed for the train station!”

Connor took off like a shot, Hank barely catching sight of him tearing into the crowds of people. “Connor! Fuck…” He growled under his breath before giving chase, dancing between the pockets of people to try and keep up with the android. With every second he could see Connor stretching further ahead. He was shocked to see Connor dive down an alley, and his mind reeled when he realised exactly where the pair were headed: the highway for autonomous cars. “Oh you’ve got to be shitting me…”

As Connor finally caught up to the deviant on the opposite side of the fence, he couldn’t help but stare at her. Seconds passed in a silent stand-off as Connor locked eyes with her, and he wondered at the flashes of determination and fear which crossed her face. His gaze finally fell to the child at her side, and Connor was astounded when it came back on his software that the girl was an android herself – a YK500 model registered to one Todd Williams.

Two deviants?

Another police officer approached and Connor held a hand out to stop him. “Don’t shoot! We need it alive!”

Wait…alive? Why was that my word of choice?

Software Instability ^

The shock and confusion caused Connor to freeze as he watched the pair slide down towards the highway, and Hank finally caught up to him. With heaving breaths, the lieutenant watched the duo prepare to make the dangerous crossing. “Oh fuck, that’s insane!” he hissed out while trying to regain some oxygen.

Why did he think it was a good idea to run after androids, which didn’t tire, again? Right, he’s used to chasing after humans. This case really was fucking with his head.

While the pair were dashing between the lanes of traffic, Connor began to scale the fence. Hank quickly grabbed on to his jacket and hauled him back down. “Hey! Where you goin’?”

Connor struggled against Hank, but the human kept a firm grasp of the android’s shoulder. “I can’t let them get away!”

“They’ll never make it to the other side, Connor. It’s suicide!”

“I can’t take that chance!”

Hank snarled at him as he hauled Connor away from the fence forcefully. “Don’t be a fuckin’ idiot! I know you’re a machine but there has to be some sense of self-preservation in your head! Do not go after them, Connor. That’s a damn order!”

Connor stared at Hank for all of a second as his processors spun through the choice being presented to him:

Obey Lieutenant Anderson

Stop The Deviants

It was not possible to fulfil both conditions. He had to choose.

Connor’s mission was to stop deviants, but if he did so, what would be the consequences to his already heavily strained relationship with the lieutenant? The man was very open about his blatant dislike of Connor, disobeying an order in these circumstances could lead to dire results for their partnership, and the investigation as a direct result.

Reluctantly, Connor realised that for the long-term success of the mission, there was only one option.

The android’s posture relaxed completely and his eyes fell to the ground. Hank recoiled slightly in shock: he hadn’t expected Connor to actually let the pair go. He saw Connor’s LED spinning a frantic yellow, the android slowly processing the potential repercussions of the choice he had just made.

Connor’s LED continued to fluctuate between blue and yellow as his attention turned back to the fence, the lieutenant soon following his gaze. He watched the pair emerge unscathed on the opposite side of the highway, and Hank inhaled sharply. “Son of a bitch…”

They watched as the AX400 knelt on the ground and hugged the girl in a tight embrace. To an impartial observer, it would appear to be nothing more than two humans in a familial grip. For those watching who had given chase to the AX400, it was an android showing deviant behaviour with a human child that it had ‘supposedly’ taken.

To Connor, it was two androids who had connected emotionally, and were all the other had as they fought to ‘live’.

His circuits tightened inexplicably at the scene.

Software Instability ^^


 

Scouring the area turned up no further clues, so when Hank drove them to his favourite haunt for a late lunch, Connor was still deep in thought over what he’d witnessed. That was unlike any deviant behaviour ever previously seen. Two machines showing a close representation of love? For some reason, it was striking a deep chord with him: he just couldn’t even begin to hazard a guess as to why. He’d seen other deviants show other emotions, why was this one affecting him so much?

The lieutenant soon pulled up in front of a fast food stand, barely sparing Connor a glance as he exited the car to put in an order. Connor watched from within the car for a few seconds before eventually exiting the vehicle, his HUD bringing up a new mission parameter.

Reconcile with Lt Anderson

Regardless of the prompt, Connor was eager to seize the opportunity being presented to him. Given their obviously hostile relationship, the android was eager to improve the situation. His refusal to chase the deviant android a few hours earlier had made a clear impact if Hank’s lack of antagonistic remarks since was anything to go by – Connor could see a window to possibly pave the way for a more amiable partnership.

As he approached, Connor listened idly to the man Hank was conversing with while scanning the food truck. He noted with distaste the expired food hygiene certificate, but was surprised at overhearing the older man’s involvement in illegal betting. Given his profession it was highly…unusual. Connor waited until after Hank gave a mock sigh of defeat and handed over a small wad of cash to the other man (he couldn’t help but wonder if Hank was expecting his presence given the pre-prepared bundle) before approaching.

Hank groaned openly as Connor came to a stop next to him, rolling his eyes at the android’s permanent presence. Even as he stared at Connor in obvious disdain, the android continued to stare at him. “Seriously, what is your problem?” Hank asked. “Can’t you take a fucking hint? You don’t need to follow me around like a damned poodle!”

Connor’s LED spun yellow as he processed the statement. There was less venom in Hank’s words this time. After some thought, he decided on an approach. “I want to apologise for my behaviour at the police station,” he began openly, figuring that was something he actually could apologise for. “I didn’t mean to be unpleasant.”

That earned a genuine chuckle from the human. “Oh wow…you’ve even got a brown-nosing apology program! Guys at CyberLife really thought of everything, huh?”

The small smile curling at the edge of Hank’s face indicated that Connor’s attempt at reconciliation was off to a good start.

Just then, the lieutenant’s order was ready. Connor analysed it, finding the choice of a burger and soft drink incredibly detrimental to the man’s health. It would not be helping resolve any of the man’s obvious tension and lack of sleep, for sure. When the food truck vendor made his displeasure of Connor’s presence clear, the android found Hank’s retort mildly amusing, verging on teasing, rather than biting.

He raised an eyebrow briefly before swiftly ceasing the activity. Since when did he pick up human idiosyncrasies?

Software Instability ^

Connor wondered about having the software instabilities analysed, even though they seemed to have no outward effect on him. They were happening quite frequently.

Joining Hank as the man started his meal, Connor couldn’t help his curiosity and broached a, potentially turbulent, subject. “I don’t want to alarm you, Lieutenant, but I think your friends are engaged in illegal activities.”

Hank laughed lightly, a response Connor wasn’t expecting. “Everybody does what they have to in getting by, especially in this day and age,” he stated. “As long as they’re not hurting anybody, I don’t bother ‘em.” Connor noted that his simple acceptance of the fact seemed to earn a little of Hank’s respect when the human’s lip quirked up again.

A beep from Hank’s pocket caught his attention, and he soon fished out his phone to find a message waiting for him from Faye.

Just picked up your little mischief maker, he’s apparently been setting traps for his classmates again. Another note to add to the collection. Seriously, Hank, what are you teaching him?

That earned a sigh of frustration as Hank rubbed his temples. This would be the sixth warning since the start of the school year. The worst thing was that Hank could fully understand why Cole was acting up. He was completely and utterly bored at school; his interests didn’t lie with any of the subjects that he was being taught, and the fact the kid was so damn bright wasn’t helping. He’d been trying to hint to Cole to take some of his art with him to school for his breaks, but it seemed like that wasn’t helping. The last thing he wanted to do was punish Cole when Hank was on board with his son trying to find more creative outlets for his boredom, but this wasn’t the right solution.

Why is this my fucking fault? The kid’s got his own brain, and his smarts are what gets him into these messes. See if you can get him to tell you why, all right? I’d maybe swing by the house to pick up Sumo and his sketch stuff. That’ll help take the edge off the mood I’m sure he’s got.

While Hank was typing up his reply, Connor couldn’t help but analyse the lieutenant’s phone at seeing the obvious stress which flickered across his face. He soon found the same message, and the context caused him to go digging through Cole’s school record. Connor noted Cole’s impressive grades and attendance record, but the boy did have a history for getting himself into trouble. He’d regularly been sent home for being involved in playground scuffles. Hank’s obvious irritation at the message made Connor wonder at the long-term history.

As he finished, Connor decided this may be a good time to broach another subject. “This morning, when we were chasing those deviants, why did you not want me to cross the highway?”

Hank looked at him like he was stupid. “Cause you could have been killed!” A moment later his tone changed to something a lot more distant. “And I don’t like filling out paperwork for damaged equipment, does my head in.”

Well…that was an interesting choice of word. ‘Killed’ instead of ‘destroyed’ implied that Hank saw androids as at least partially alive. Evidently, his dislike towards them did not stem from their basic nature. That led Connor on to his next inquiry. “Can I ask you a personal question, Lieutenant?” Hank raised an eyebrow at him, but kept eye contact with Connor as the android continued.

“Why do you hate androids so much?”

That caused a shutter to fall over Hank’s eyes and his hostility ratcheted back up to full. The menacing tone accompanying his reply was unmistakable. “I have my reasons.”

Maybe that wasn’t Connor’s wisest question when he was trying to improve his relationship with Hank…

Realising that the course of action was now lost for the moment at least, Connor tried to at least steer them to safer ground. “Maybe I should tell you what we know about deviants?” he offered.

Hank’s voice was fairly dripping in sarcasm as he answered. “You read my mind…go ahead.”

“We believe that a mutation occurs in the software of some androids, which can lead to them emulating a human emotion-”

“Without all the mumbo jumbo, if you don’t mind,” Hank snapped at him impatiently.

Connor paused to amend his statement. “They don’t really feel emotions, they just get overwhelmed by irrational instructions, which can lead to unpredictable behaviour.”

The human stood in contemplation for a second or two, and his next statement surprised Connor. “Emotions always screw everything up…maybe androids aren’t as different from us as we thought.” Even as the words left Hank’s mouth, Connor could see the mild confusion on his own face at the thought.

That caught Connor’s attention. It seemed he was…conflicted?

“You ever dealt with deviants, before last night?” the older man continued, regaining Connor’s focus.

Connor’s memory spun back to that night three months prior, to where he was sent to stop the deviant from jumping off a building with a human hostage. He still wondered whether the situation could have ended differently, if the deviant could have been spared by SWAT after releasing the girl. If CyberLife had managed to analyse him, could this all have been prevented?

Returning to the present, Connor answered the question. “A few months back, a deviant was threatening to jump off the roof with a little girl. I managed to save her.”

Hank’s eyebrow raised again. “Hang on, that was you?You’re the one who talked the deviant down and saved Wilson’s life?” Connor looked at him curiously. “You applied a tourniquet to a DPD officer’s arm injury on that roof, after he was shot, right? He talked about you, after it happened. I didn’t believe that an android would go out of its way to spare a human rather than fulfil its mission...Damn, small world.”

Connor noticed the impressed glint which flashed through Hank’s eyes as he told the story. He could see his internal evaluation software suddenly update his relationship with the lieutenant from ‘Hostile’ to ‘Neutral’.

The human was evidently evaluating Connor very differently now that he knew the android did actually care about human lives. 

“So, I guess you’ve done all your homework, right?” Hank asked, almost like a mild challenge. “Know everything there is to know about me?”

Connor didn’t hesitate in his answer: Hank seemed to be a man that appreciated honesty. “I know you graduated top of your class. You made a name for yourself in several cases, and became the youngest lieutenant in Detroit. In recent years, however, you have taken a much less active role in your department, to the point of almost receiving disciplinary warnings. I can only assume this is due to your dedication your son.”

Hank looked vaguely impressed. “You’re assuming that my shit record in recent times is due to me skipping out on work to spend time with Cole?”

“It was obvious from the brief time I spent in your home last night that you are take being a father very seriously. It is an admirable trait to possess, and speaks highly of your character, Lieutenant.”

“You don’t say…” Hank wondered aloud. Connor then gave an almost smile and winked.

That did catch the human unawares: a response like that from an android was... Well, probably best just to leave the thought there. Hank was not keen to delve into that rabbit hole.

Connor’s LED began to flash yellow and his focus shifted elsewhere.

“I just got a report of a suspected deviant,” he said as his LED shifted back to blue. “It’s a few blocks away. We should go have a look.” Connor stepped back from the table slightly as Hank raised an eyebrow at him. “I’ll leave you to finish your meal; I’ll be in the car if you need me.”

As Connor walked away, he saw his mission parameters change once more, with ‘Mission Successful’ flashing across his HUD. He and the lieutenant had definitely made progress on their relationship.

Hank watched him go with a deeply thoughtful look. That whole conversation had left him with a lot of questions…both for Connor to answer later, and for him to ask himself.

Maybe working with that android won’t be so bad.

His attention shifted back to his phone, where he saw another message waiting for him from Faye.

Like father, like son. You can both be a pair of shits when you want to be.

He smirked at the response and typed back one of his own before quickly powering his way through his burger. The sooner he and Connor dealt with this deviant, the sooner he could put the day behind him and get back to his son.

What can I say? The kid’s got a hell of a role model. I should hopefully be around for him after dinner, that going to be okay?

Just go chase down some assholes, I’ve got this under control. Even when he’s being a little bastard, Cole knows not to get on my wrong side.

“Ain’t that the fucking truth,” Hank snickered out loud as he took his final bite. With a long sigh, he headed off to join Connor.

Hopefully this went smoother than the foot chase they had earlier in the day.


 

Of course, things never went that well.

The two of them had investigated the apartment, finding traces of the deviant in various forms. Connor’s reconstruction software had worked a treat and revealed the android hiding in the roof above them, but it had got the jump on them and managed to sprint away in a brief head start.

Connor had given swift chase, and Hank was left in awe of the android’s speed and stamina yet again. There was no way he could possibly keep up with the pair as they parkoured over the various rooftops around the Urban Farms. He kept them in sight as best he could, and he could only watch in disbelief at seeing their chase.

He would never get the image of Connor sliding on to a fucking moving train out of his head.

What it had done, was meant there was only one real path for the pair to take across the rooftops before they came to a dead end. Despite his efforts, Connor wasn’t really catching up to the deviant that fast. If it reached the other end first, it might be able to vanish into a building and they would lose the trail.

Hank cut off towards the other end of the farms, knowing exactly which building he was headed for.

Just as he burst through the door on to the roof, he saw the deviant emerging from a corn field. It was staring behind it, clearly focusing on Connor. Hank saw his chance and pounced.

He charged into the android, trying to wrestle it to the ground but it caught itself on its feet before Hank could drag it down fully. As it threw Hank off it, the human dodged a punch before giving one of his own. His fist stung as it connected with the hard plasteel frame of the android, and the shock in his mind of actually having attacked something that looked human, but wasn’t, was deadly.

Connor emerged from the corn and saw Hank dive out of the way of a punch before throwing one of his own. The lieutenant recoiled from the blow, however, and Connor charged towards the scrapping pair. He was only three metres away when he saw the deviant push Hank full force, and the human went tumbling towards the edge of the roof.

The android’s preconstruction software began to kick in, but Connor could already see the result. From the angle Hank was going to hit the edge of the roof, back straight-on and calves catching the small overhanging ledge, he was barely going to have time to catch himself. The deviant was only two metres away now as Connor kept running, but the android paid it no heed.

Before the choice even manifested itself fully, or the probability of Hank’s (almost certainly minimal) survival was calculated, Connor picked his system priority.

Save Hank

“Shit!” Hank swore as he felt himself falling back and his breath caught in his lungs when his legs hit the edge of the roof, but he could already see the hand reaching out towards him. Connor’s hand latched on to his own and Hank grasped back tight as he could as the android braced himself against the edge.

Hank’s momentum was abruptly stopped by Connor’s grip and the human gasped as he felt his body finally come to a halt, his legs now dangling freely over the drop. He refused to look down as his other hand came up, grabbing on to Connor’s arm as the android hauled him back over to safety.

The human panted heavily in relief as he sank to his knees, legs wobbly from the near miss, before swearing loudly. “Fuck!We almost had it!”

Connor’s LED flashed yellow in distress. “It’s my fault, I was too slow,” the android lamented before turning to stare over the remaining rooftops, unable to find any trace of the deviant. It was gone. The result of his preconstruction had finally caught up with him and Connor was suddenly very glad for the path he’d chosen.

Chance of Survival: 23%

Wait…he was glad? He’d failed his mission again. That should not be his reaction.

Software Instability ^^^

Hank stuttered out a few breaths as he got back to his feet, staring at Connor in shock. “You would have caught it had I not got in the way…and you just-” He stopped himself from finishing that sentence. They both knew what Connor had done. Their eyes locked as they stared at the other, recovering from the near miss. It had so nearly gone much worse.

Had Connor followed his directives, Hank was of no doubt he’d have become a splatter on the pavement below.

A trembling in his hands caught Hank by surprise and he broke the eye contact in the hopes that Connor wouldn’t see. “We know what it looks like, we’ll find it,” he spluttered out, but he was sure Connor could see through the façade.

He had to get as far away from that damn roof as possible.

Striding away with purpose, Hank paused in the doorway when a sudden urge overcame him. There was no way he could just walk away without saying something.

“Hey, Connor?”

The android turned towards him, his LED still cycling yellow. Clearly Hank wasn’t the only one struggling to process Connor’s actions.

“Thanks…for saving my life. And…” Hank paused for a moment to find the right words, “I’m sorry for this morning, Idon’t deserve what you just did for me after that.”

Connor nodded back at him with a tiny smile, after which Hank swiftly turned and all but ran down the stairs, his whole body shaking.

He’d almost died. Fuck,he’d almost kicked it right there.

He needed to get home.

He needed to hold his son.

Chapter Text

Mind spinning furiously, Hank was sat on the bonnet of his car as he stared over the Detroit skyline. He’d driven to the spot where did all of his thinking: a secluded lay-by on a road leading away from Detroit, which gave a breath-taking view of the city. It held a lot of memories for him, and it was a good spot for retrospect.

Years ago, it was his then sister-in-law who had first taken him here. Back when Hank had first married Anna, Faye had brought him here and told him what would happen if Hank ever hurt her. Faye’s brutal honesty was part of the reason Hank liked her so much. It was funny how as the years went on, and the marriage began to die a slow and painful death, that Faye continued to meet him at this spot, knowing it was the one time Hank would be honest. While Hank and Anna had drifted apart, he’d grown closer and closer to his wife’s sister.

Then after Anna announced she was ending things, Hank had spent more time here as he did some soul-searching. Faye was the one to eventually screw his head back on straight, and she was the one who’s convinced him to fight for Cole after Anna admitted she was pregnant. It had come as a colossal shock, but once Hank knew that he had willing (if unexpected) help in the wings, it came to be the best decision he’d ever made. There was nothing he wouldn’t do for his son.

Which was why the events of earlier that day were messing with his head so much. Had things been different, that would have been it.

If Connor had acted like the machine that Hank had been so adamant he was, he would have died falling from the rooftop.

Hank had told Fowler that he needed time away, and his old friend had readily given it on hearing how shaken Hank had been. The tremor in his voice had been unmistakeable. He’d then rushed home to spend time with Cole, for once glad that he had managed to get himself sent home early.

The time with his son had grounded him again, helped him come to terms with the scare, but then he’d needed the space as other thoughts began to invade. Faye had picked up on the signs quickly. She’d seen enough close shaves over the years to recognise when he was being overwhelmed with ‘too much’, and she’d all but chased Hank out of the house, knowing he needed time.

That was almost two hours ago now, and Hank’s thoughts still hadn’t even begun to settle.

“Fuck me…” he muttered while leaning back on his hands, staring at the clouds which were gathering overhead. It was chilly that night, and it wouldn’t surprise him if it began to snow. The ping from his pocket almost went ignored – Hank really wasn’t in the mood to deal with anyone’s shit right now – but he reluctantly pulled it out, figuring it might be from Faye.

His heart clenched when he saw who it was.

Dad are you okay?

Fuck. The kid’s only 9 years old and he’s already too damn smart for his own good. He knew Faye wouldn’t have repeated any of the brief story Hank had told her earlier about what happened, but Cole was still concerned. Hank had tried to hide his swirling emotions, but the tight and fierce hug he’d given Cole when he got home had probably been clue enough.

I’m alright, bud. Just needed to think for a while.

Did something happen today?

“Crap, what do I tell him?” Hank knew he’d paused too long for the short reply he gave, but he couldn’t bear to tell Cole just how close he’d been to never coming home again.

Today just gave me a lot to think about.

You aren’t hiding something are you?

Hank laughed. “Only Cole would think I was hiding an injury from him.”

Nah, I’m all good. Mind’s just not giving me much of a break. I’ll be home soon.

Okay. Can you maybe bring me some more brown and grey paint?

“What the… you never use those colours, Cole. What are you up to?”

You normally like bright colours, Cole. Working on something new?

Yeah but aunt Faye said I should keep it a secret. So im going to hide it!

In that case, I look forward to seeing it, champ. What shades you wanting?

Chocolate brown and charcoal and ash grey. And can I have luminous blue?

“That’s the only way I can think a nine-year-old kid is ever going to use the word ‘luminous’. I can barely think where I’d use it.”

You got it. Need anything else?

Ice cream?

He sat up and laughed loudly. “Fucking kid’s got me wrapped around his little finger…”

Let me guess, salted caramel?

Yep!

Have you done all your homework?

Its boring Dad.

Hank rolled his eyes. “Why of all things Cole had to inherit from me, did it have to be my damn stubbornness?”

It’s homework, ice cream and paints. Or no homework, a puddle and you using what you’ve got. Your choice.

That’s not fair Dad!

Life ain’t fair, Cole. You have to put in the work to get the reward.

Okay…

And I’m going to be asking your Aunt Faye what you’re doing, no fibbing to me, got it?

Got it…

Alright, I’ll be home soon kiddo.

See you soon Dad! Love you!

The tension in Hank’s shoulders melted away at those two words and he smiled warmly.

Love you too, Cole.

He re-read the conversation as the smile on his face slowly melted away and his expression became pensive. Sometimes he couldn’t help but think back to the differences between himself and Cole at the same age. When he was nine, the tablets that had become such an intrinsic and interwoven part of their lives were far from being invented, and the sort of instant messaging he’d just shared with his son was a fantasy. As much as he might swear about technology (frequently), he couldn’t help but be grateful to it right there. Speaking with Cole was exactly what he’d needed, though he hadn’t known it.

So much for running so that you don’t worry your son. I should know better by now.

Thinking about technology then brought his mind spinning back to the android which he wished hadn’t been so invasive to his thoughts since pulling up here. Hank groaned as he leant back fully on the bonnet, resting a hand beneath his head. Connor’s actions over the past 24 hours were confusing the fuck out of him, and he really didn’t know what to think of it. The whole deviant investigation was turning his mind upside down.

Connor was dedicated to his mission, it was his programming after all. But for some reason, he’d willingly let two deviants slip through his hands: and all because of Hank. The first time at his order, and the second time…

Hank had never thought he’d find himself in debt to an android, and yet here he was.

Things were getting far too complex for Hank’s liking. As if the investigation itself wasn’t a powder keg of issues already, he’d realised that Connor himself was proving to be an equal conundrum. He was unlike any android Hank had ever come across. His speech, idle mannerisms, actions…they were all a part of his own thinking, not at the command of someone else. Connor was-

If Hank hadn’t known better, he could almost mistake Connor for being human.

And that thought was throwing his own ideology into turmoil. He’d spent so long hating androids for what they were, what they represented – the perfected version of humanity. Stronger, faster, more stamina, no weakness…

Perfect.

But the deviants were imperfect, flawed in the most human of ways: emotionally.

What did that mean for humanity, if deviancy spread?

Was it better the devil you know, or face a new world with a brand new race? Would androids rise up against humans for the way they had been treated? The incident with Carlos Ortiz and his android from the night before seemed much more significant now.

Was that a sign of what might come?

Hank wasn’t sure what to think of it all, but there was one thing he was sure of. His gut had been screaming it at him since Connor had helped him cheat death earlier that day.

Connor was the key to finding all the answers. What they would be or how they would come about, Hank didn’t know, but he knew he wanted to be part of learning them. Needed to be a part of it.

He had the feeling that the world itself was about the change, one way or the other, and he was right in the middle of the building storm.

Why of all people, did I have to be dragged into this?


 

It was mid-evening when Connor found himself experiencing a sensation similar to what humans would class as ‘déjà vu’. Yet again, he was exiting an autonomous taxi outside of Lieutenant Anderson’s home in the rain; but unlike the previous night, it was evident that there was activity inside the house. He could already identify a child’s laughter, along with the barking of a dog. Cole and Sumo. Lights were flickering against the windows of the TV in the living room, and Connor soon heard the lieutenant’s voice calling for Sumo to sit.

Connor paused for a second before striding up to the front door, his thoughts drifting back to the events of the rooftop earlier that day. He hadn’t forgotten Hank’s grateful expression, nor the obvious tremor in his body at having been faced with his own mortality. Would he be willing to leave his son behind again to continue the investigation so soon after that realisation? Connor was unsure, but that wasn’t all that he was left debating.

His relationship with the man had changed drastically in such a short space of time, and Connor’s software was unsure of what to do about it. At present, it was still classified as ‘Neutral’, but it kept flickering between that and ‘???’. He did not like the uncertainty, it was a variable that should have been within his own control.

Amanda’s voice soon rang through his head again, snapping him out of his momentary deliberation.

We need to stop this, whatever it takes.

Connor wasn’t so sure he was willing to follow that ideology anymore, not after his instant disregard for the mission to save Hank’s life. Was he beginning to be compromised?

Software Instability ^^

He shook his head sharply at the warning message. Enough stalling.

Now refocused, Connor approached the door and knocked. Not too sharp, but just enough to make sure he would be heard over the ambient noise. It took only a few seconds for it to be pulled open, finding the Lieutenant on the other side.

Hank looked at him curiously, leaning on the nearby wall to assess Connor. “What are you doing here?” he asked, but Connor was pleased to hear it was in a tone which could be considered inquisitive, and lacking any aggression.

“I apologise for intruding on your evening, Lieutenant,” Connor began, “but we have a new case.”

The human’s eyes shadowed as he sighed loudly. “Another one, really? And you’re dragging me back in?”

“I am under instruction to do so, Lieutenant. It is not my intention to deprive you of time with your son,” Connor apologised.

Hank’s eyes softened a little and he gave a flicker of a sad smile. “Yeah, no-one ever ‘intends’ it, Connor. One of the perks of the job,” he responded sarcastically, while opening the door wider. “Come on in, I know you guys don’t feel the cold or anything like that, but it’s painful watching you get soaked.”

Connor inclined his head in gratitude and stepped inside, to which he suddenly found himself under two other sets of eyes – one pair wide in wonder and happiness, while the other were studying him closely. Cole jumped up from where he was cuddled with Sumo on the floor and came to stand in front of the android. “Hey, Connor!” he greeted with a beaming smile. “You came back!”

Both older humans were surprised when Connor smiled down at the boy. “Hello, Cole,” he replied. “I’m sorry to have bothered you again.”

“No, it’s awesome to see you! Does this mean you’re going to be leaving with my Dad again?” he finished, slightly disheartened.

“Afraid so, bud,” Hank spoke up while coming to stand next to the two of them, very aware of Faye’s stare from her position leaning against the kitchen cupboards. “I’ll just get changed.” He looked at Connor intently and lowered his voice to a quiet whisper, knowing that the android could hear him. “Don’t mention anything about what the case entails, got it?”

Connor nodded subtly at him and Hank turned, heading towards his bedroom. “So, you’re the fancy android that Hank had along with him last night, huh?” came the smooth female voice from the kitchen. Connor and Cole’s attentions both changed towards her, to which they found Faye smirking slightly. “Didn’t know CyberLife made detective androids now.”

“I am merely a prototype,” Connor explained. “I was developed specifically for this investigation, future implementation of my series is yet to be decided upon beyond its conclusion.”

“Hmmm, interesting,” she stated while quirking an eyebrow. She then offered a hand from where it had been clasped around a steaming cup of coffee. “I’m Faye.”

Connor was bemused by the gesture but accepted it gracefully. “I am RK800, model number 313 248 317 – 51, designation ‘Connor’.”

Faye chuckled. “Kind of a mouthful, ain’t it?” She then looked into the living room and nodded towards the St Bernard which was getting a little too nosey with Cole’s art materials. “Hey, Cole, I think Sumo’s hunting through your paintbrushes for a new chew toy.” From where he’d been standing watching Connor in fascination, Cole snapped around and dashed over to rescue both dog and brushes from a messy meeting.

With the boy now suitably distracted, Faye lowered both her voice and cheerful façade. “Hank told me what you did for him earlier today.” Connor turned back to her and quirked his head slightly. “I just…wanted to say thanks. Losing him would have destroyed Cole, and that boy doesn’t deserve something like that.”

“I did merely what was best in the situation presented,” Connor answered slightly evasively, his LED flickering yellow for a split second. From where she was standing, Faye couldn’t see it.

“Ha, bullshit. From what Hank told me, you could have let him fall and caught the guy you were chasing. You chose to save him: that goes a long way in my book towards earning my respect. It’s good to know that Hank has someone out there watching his back.”

“You are very protective of both the Lieutenant and Cole,” Connor noted. “It is slightly…curious, given the unusual nature of your connection to them.”

Faye snorted. “You’ve done your homework then. Hank had the misfortune of marrying my bitch of a sister. Don’t get me wrong, I thought he was a bit of an ass when they got married in the first place, but he won me over. Beneath the gruff exterior is a man with a massive heart who would do anything for someone he loves, he just doesn’t show that side of himself very often.”

Connor listened intently, curious as to the complex nature of the man he was assigned to work with.

“Age didn’t suit my sister very well, still fucking doesn’t, and things slowly went downhill over time,” Faye continued, her face carefully neutral as she recounted the story. “Cole was a total accident, as I’m sure you’ve worked out. Anna didn’t want him, and it took a few arguments between us before she fessed up to Hank that she was pregnant. He wasn’t even convinced Cole was his for the longest time. She went through with the pregnancy only because Hank had always wanted a child, but Anna was never convinced at the idea. The concept of being tied down to a child terrified her.

“Anyway, I never forgave my sister for what she did to him, for how callous she was. Hank and I became close over the years they were married, more so after things started to go to shit, and I wanted to be involved in Cole’s life. Hank couldn’t have raised him as a single parent in the force, so I guess you could say I almost became a surrogate parent to Cole. That boy is an absolute gem, even if he inherited his father’s stubbornness.”

Her face morphed to a small smile as she stared at Cole, who was now sketching more on his pad, Sumo wagging his tail excitedly next to him. “They’ve done wonders for each other, and I love them both fiercely. So, yeah, I’m protective of them. Might not be conventional, but fuck that noise.” Faye stared at Connor intensely. “I might be wasting my breath here, but I want you to do something for me, Connor.”

The android regarded her curiously. “And what might that be, Faye?”

“Just…make sure he comes home, okay? If what happened today is any indication of what your investigation entails- I couldn’t bear to tell Cole that he won’t see his father again. I like to think after your actions earlier that you do care about his life.”

Connor paused before nodding at her. “I will do all I can.” He couldn’t help but notice the intense tightening of his circuits at the look he was being given: the trust.

Faye smiled softly at him. “Thank you, Connor.”

The android smiled back, even as his LED flickered at the conflicting priorities which appeared on his HUD.

Stop Deviants No Matter The Cost

Ensure Lt Anderson Returns To His Son

Software Instability ^^^

Footsteps from the hallway caught their attention. Both Faye and Connor switched their attention to the figure which reappeared in the living room, now free of his DPD hoodie and sweats. Hank was instead dressed in one of his signature loud shirts, jeans and a thick coat. Cole turned away from his sketch upon hearing his father’s return and jumped up to embrace him in a hug. Hank crouched down and squeezed him back tightly. “I’ll be back soon, Cole,” Hank told him softly.

Faye saw Connor staring at the pair intensely, and now that he was facing the other way, she could see his LED spinning yellow.

As Cole pulled away, she beckoned him over. “Come on, Cole. We’d best let them go get the bad guys.”

Cole gave his father one last sad look before walking over to Faye, passing Connor on the way. He looked up at him with wide eyes. “Will you come back, Connor? I want to get to know you,” he said earnestly.

Connor was astounded, and Hank saw the slightly shocked look on the android’s face. Evidently the concept was alien to him. It soon melted away, however, and the gentle smile he’d seen on Connor’s face when he greeted Cole earlier returned. “I will, if I able to do so,” he answered honestly.

The boy smiled brightly. “Cool! Bye, Dad! Bye, Connor! Go catch the bad guys!”

Hank chuckled and wandered over to the door, finding Connor was only a few steps behind. He waved to Cole and Faye in the kitchen, Cole waving back enthusiastically while Faye gave him a soft smile. With that done, he strode out purposefully, reaching the car before he was soaked. Connor appeared in the passenger side a couple of seconds later. They sat in awkward silence for a moment before Hank decided to break it. “Cole likes you,” he stated plainly.

Connor’s LED flickered in the darkness of the car. “So it would seem.”

“You seemed confused by it.”

“I’ve never had someone ask me that before.”

“What, to want to know you?”

“Yes.”

Well…that was just sad. Hank never thought he’d be thinking that about an android, but the confusion on Connor’s face was just so earnest that he couldn’t help being affected. That was too messy a subject for him to be dealing with right now, though. “So,” he spluttered, looking for a change of conversation, “want to run me through this case we’re getting dragged out for? Better be something interesting to make up for losing my night.”

Connor’s lip quirked up and Hank could swear his voice was teasing. “Would a man found dead at a sex club downtown count as ‘interesting’, Lieutenant?”

Hank just stared at him. “You’ve actually got a goddamn sense of humour. Fucking hell…” He then started the car and pulled out of the driveway, suddenly wondering why he was fighting a small smile.

Connor wasn’t so bad after all.

“You never answered my question, Lieutenant.”

The smile finally snuck through. “Take a wild fucking guess, smartass.”


 

Hank had always hated the Eden Club, everything about it made his skin crawl. An android sex club was a complete mind fuck, in his head. So many things about it had never sat right in his head. A conventional sex club was messy enough, but at least in that case, everyone who worked there was doing it out of their own choice, whatever their circumstances. The androids at Eden Club were literally built to be fucked until they broke, and that allowed for some more depraved fantasies of the customers to be realised. Everyone knew the stories. They’d even suspected a serial killer had practiced at the club once, seeing it as a free opportunity.

So turning up there to find a man killed by a suspected deviant android, Hank couldn’t help but wonder if the guy had just been wrong place, wrong time; or whether he’d gotten just desserts.

Yep, it’s official. This deviant business is fucking with my head.

Hank and Connor arrived at the crime scene and entered the room, only to find Gavin with Chris. The younger man was photographing the scene, while Gavin’s attention spun to the two new entrants. “Well, if it ain’t the Lieutenant and his new plastic pet,” he sneered, and Hank couldn’t help but smirk at the bruise on Gavin’s cheek. It was a beauty all right. “The fuck are you two doing here?”

“We’ve been assigned all cases involving androids,” Connor answered professionally.

“Oh yeah?” Gavin rolled his eyes. “Well, you’re wasting your time. Just some pervert who, uh, got more action than he could handle.”

Hank ignored that last comment and stepped further into the room, giving Chris an acknowledging look as the younger man stood and smiled. “I think we’ll take a look anyway, if you don’t mind,” Hank told him, giving a smile that was too sweet to be genuine.

Chris pointedly looked away to not laugh as Gavin scoffed. “Come on, let’s go,” the detective said. “No point hanging around as these two assholes waste all our time.”

Gavin shoulder barged Connor as he left, to which Hank rolled his eyes. “Brat…” he muttered, giving Chris a tip of head as the other man followed Gavin out. He surveyed the scene with a quick glance, but then decided to sit back and watch Connor at work. He’d not payed that much attention to him at either of their previous scenes, and was curious to see the android at work – as much as it twisted his gut to think at how efficient Connor might be. “All right, Connor. What you got?”

The android turned out to be very thorough, and Hank had to admit he was reluctantly impressed. Connor would definitely be an asset to any investigation, if what he was seeing was anything to go by. The realisation was deeply unsettling, but Hank buried it as Connor re-activated the broken android on the floor.

If Hank had thought things his feelings were getting messed up before, they were a hundred times worse after seeing the dying Traci terrified on the floor recounting what had happened.

That bastard definitely got what was coming to him.

Watching Connor then follow the trail to the killer was nothing short of mystifying, even if Hank knew he was going to have a hell of a lot of explaining to do to Fowler about why he suddenly had receipts for twelve Tracis on his expense account. He had only the barest idea of what Connor was doing, but there was a definite path the android was following. A path a human couldn’t have possibly hoped to find.

Hank could only wonder just what they’d find at the end of it.


 

One deviant android was bad enough. A second was the last thing either he or Connor had expected.

Connor had locked on to their killer after following the path into the warehouse, but Hank could only watch as he was ambushed by another Traci. As he’d jumped in to try and help, Hank found himself under attack from the one which Connor had been trying to reach. His hatred from androids flared as he found he was being overpowered steadily, hating just how little he was able to do to stop them.

The one mercy was that the android clearly had no intention to kill, she only wanted to get away from Hank.

After finding himself being rolled over a table in the back, Hank shook his head to try and regain his bearings. The android had vanished out the open shutters at the back, rushing to the other which had gone tumbling with Connor into the rain. Hank scrambled to his feet as he saw Connor jolt back to awareness, and tried to stop the fleeing pair. He was quickly thrown against a wall, his gun flying out of his hand, but Connor rushed after them.

Hank wanted to help Connor out, but he could easily tell he was going to be a hindrance more than a help. Connor was just about managing to hold his own against the two female androids, but he was more just stopping them from escaping rather than gaining the upper hand. He fell back as one of them attacked with a trash can, but it landed him right next to Hank’s discarded gun.

The human watched with bated breath as Connor took aim, wondering what was about to happen. His head told him one thing, but his gut was screaming another.

And as tended to happen, his gut was proven right when Connor lowered the gun.

Connor was kicked hard in the face and Hank ran to help him stand again, hauling the android up to his feet as the blue-haired Traci came to a stop before them, LED stuck on red as she told them her version of events.

“When that man broke the other Traci, I knew I was next,” she started, the emotion thick in her voice. “I was so scared. I begged him to stop, but he wouldn’t…And so I put my hands around his throat, and I squeezed until he stopped moving.” Her LED shifted back to yellow as she met Connor’s eyes. “I didn’t mean to kill him. I just wanted to stay alive, get back to the one I love.”

Hank could see Connor’s LED flashing between yellow and red, the Traci’s story affecting him in a way Hank had not thought possible of an android as she continued speaking. “I just wanted her to hold me in her arms again…make me forget about the humans,” she hissed while turning her gaze to Hank standing right behind Connor. “Their smell of sweat, and their dirty words…”

His stomach tightened at hearing the raw emotion in her voice. No way was she faking it. That was pure, unfiltered anger, relief, shame and desperation bleeding through.

And that put a whole new perspective on things.

The brown-haired Traci pulled her away, Hank and Connor watching them scale the fence and vanish into the night. They stood there for a good ten seconds, and Hank could see Connor’s LED hadn’t stopped spinning yellow. He could clearly see the android was at war with the choice he’d just made, and Hank could understand why.

Wouldn’t be the first time he’d let someone who killed in self-defence go because it was the right thing to do; only Connor didn’t have that same moral compass.

Or does he?

Connor had let more deviants go, defying his mission in the process once more. Without his directive, what didthe android have?

Hank couldn’t just leave him spinning in his thoughts any longer.

The android looked down as Hank took a light grasp of his forearm, pulling him back towards the Eden Club. “Come on, Connor. Let’s get out of here, there’s nothing more we can do.”

It took a couple of seconds for Connor to answer him. “…Of course, Lieutenant.”

“And hey, you did the right thing, Connor.”

He turned to look at Hank in complete confusion. “I just allowed two deviants to escape, one of which is a killer. How could that be the right course of action?”

“The world ain’t black and white, Connor. It’s a million shades of grey that make everything a big fucking mess. Right and wrong are woven together all the time.”

“I don’t…understand.”

Hank looked at him sympathetically. “Yeah, neither do I half the time.”

Making a decision, he continued to lead Connor back inside. Both he and Connor needed some answers, and he was going to have to ask and face some very hard questions to get them.

“Come with me, Connor. There’s somewhere I need to be.”

Chapter Text

The park by the Ambassador bridge was a place that Hank had always liked. Even when he was a young officer: before his marriage happened or Cole was even a thought, let alone a reality, he’d come here. It held a certain tranquillity to it. Innocent screams and cheers from the children who played there, their parents’ encouraging yells or tell-tale shouts when their child was misbehaving…It was a place to forget all the other shit which was going on in the world. This place grounded him. As much as the overlook was a spot to be alone with his thoughts, the bridge was where he came when he felt he had to make a choice.

It was symbolic, in a way. He would always look to the structure when he had two options, and whichever choice seemed to materialise on his own side after going through his thoughts, that was the path he followed. He’d done it before when he’d debated asking Anna to marry him, and he’d used the same formula when faced with the choice of having Cole aborted, or raising him as an only parent.

While the end result wasn’t always the best for him, he wouldn’t take back any of the choices made by his unorthodox method. It had served him well for 30 years, he wasn’t liable to change now.

Strange how thischoice seemed to be more monumental, given some of the other life-altering decisions he’d made here.

When he pulled up in the car with Connor in the passenger seat, he could see the android’s eyes scan over their surroundings. Surprisingly enough, given the intense rain which had been falling for much of the day, it had begun to snow in the time they went back through the Eden Club to report their findings, to now. Hank had to wonder whether this area of Detroit had managed to dodge the rain, given the snow was already settling on the ground. He was always wary of the snow nowadays (ironic given the weather of Detroit).

He gave Connor time to finish his first scan of the area before catching the android’s attention. “Come on, Connor, the view’s a hell of a lot better from nearer the edge,” he urged with a hand on Connor’s shoulder, giving it a small squeeze before exiting the car. Hank shivered slightly at the onslaught of the cold air before striding over to the railing at the edge of the river, staring down into the icy waters below. It was…calming, to just listen to the rush it and put his thoughts on hold for a minute.

Fuck knows I need the momentary peace right now.

Connor joined Hank at the railing after about thirty seconds, staring at the falling snow as Hank’s eyes lifted from the water to watch the flakes drifting down. “Nice place here, huh?” he said idly, thoughts still only half on the moment. “I come here sometimes, it’s a good place to think. Helps when I’ve got a lot on my mind.”

The android’s LED flickered for a moment before back to a steady blue. “It’s late,” he advised gently, “maybe you should go home.”

Hank laughed grimly. “No fucking chance of that happening, Connor. Not after all the shit we just saw. I think that’s going to haunt me for a good, long while,” he admitted, the Traci’s emotional voice replaying in his head. The rawness he had heard within it was seriously messing with his head; well, that and a whole slew of other things that had happened since he first met Connor the night before.

Shit, was it only the previous night? God, so much has happened in that short space of time.

“You have had minimal sleep since the start of the investigation, as well as multiple incidents of physical exertion. It would be counter-productive to remain, Lieutenant.”

Hearing the slight lilt to Connor’s voice, Hank spun to look at him with a raised eyebrow. Connor’s face appeared impassive, but Hank could see the mirth in his eyes. “Are you implying that I’m old and need the rest, you little shit?” he asked challengingly.

The corner of Connor’s mouth raised in a ghost of a smile. “I shall refrain from commenting further, Lieutenant.”

Hank barked out a laugh. “Fucking hell, Connor. You’re something else, you know that? I’ve never met an android quite like you.”

“I’m a prototype, Lieutenant. I am one-of-a-kind.”

“…Smart ass.”

Laughing lowly, Hank stood up from where he had been leaning against the railings and turned to rest against them, crossing his arms as he stared at Connor. The android’s head cocked slightly at the change of position, and Hank regarded him curiously. “Your noggin’ stopped spinning now?” he asked. Connor’s reactions at the Eden Club were highly intriguing to him.

“It was never doing so in the literal sense. But…no, it has not.”

Hank’s eyebrows raised in interest. “Oh?”

Connor’s face scrunched as he aired his thoughts. “I am left questioning my own decisions, and why I came to them.”

“You mean why you let those girls go,” Hank surmised knowingly, very interested in what Connor was going to reveal. It would probably influence his own decision that night. “So why did you, then?” Connor’s eyes leapt up to his own and Hank’s narrowed at him. “You defied your mission and let a killer escape. Why didn’tyou shoot?”

The android hesitated in reply. “I just…decided not to shoot, that’s all.”

Hank scoffed. “You don’t just choose, Connor. Choice is a human concept, driven by emotions and logic. Androids come to conclusions, derived from fact and evidence. So, where did it come from then?” he demanded, looking closely at Connor’s reaction.

The suspicion growing in his mind was reinforced when Connor’s LED flashed red, before spinning back to yellow. “I am…unsure, Lieutenant,” the android admitted, his eyes falling to river beyond the pair of them.

Giving a slow hum in contemplation, Hank took pity on him and steered the conversation in a different direction. “All right, detour. Let’s review what we’ve found so far.”

Connor jumped at the opportunity, his face projecting mild confusion and agitation as his mind went over the deviants they had encountered thus far. “We’re not making any progress on this investigation. The deviants have nothing in common – they’re all different models, produced in different times, in different places…”

“Well, there arelinks, Connor,” Hank pointed out.

The android paused, his LED spinning yellow as he thought it over. “What they have in common is this obsession with rA9. It’s almost like some kind of…myth. Something they invented which wasn’t part of their original program.”

Hank barked out a harsh laugh. “Androids believing in God. Fuck, what’s this world coming to?” He sighed and looked up to the bridge, envisioning the question which had been lingering in his mind. A quiet chuckle escaped him as another jumped into his mind, unbidden, instead.

Have I been wrong all this time?

Connor picked up on his thoughtful mood and relaxed his stance, looking at Hank curiously. “You seem preoccupied, Lieutenant. Have the events of the investigation given you pause?”

“Heh, you could say that,” he drawled back, instead turning away from Connor and back to the river, staring into the waters below. Connor was far too perceptive for Hank’s liking. It was uncanny how the android seemed to have just picked that thought out of his head. He could only guess at what tells Connor had picked up on, or whether CyberLife had given him some freaky resemblance to a gut instinct. After what he’d seen since the start of the deviant crisis, he really didn’t know what to think anymore – and the doubt was not welcome.

The pair stood there in silence for several minutes, both deep in thought. It was comfortable, something which would not have been likely even that morning, but the dynamic between them had drastically shifted over the past 12 hours. In the end, it was Connor who decided to breach it, coming to mimic Hank’s stance on the railing: leaning over, wrists crossed and staring into the river. The lieutenant’s mouth quirked at the action, thinking that the more casual look was good on Connor. Had they been standing the opposite way round, with Connor’s LED out of sight, Hank would truly have mistaken him for a human.

That was a comparison Hank really didn’t want to get into – but he was going to have now.

“Can I ask you a personal question, Lieutenant?”

Hank chuckled. “What is it with you and your ‘personal questions’, Connor? They really that impertinent to your investigation, or are you just that nosey of a bastard?” he answered with a small smile. “Ah, whatever. Ask away,” Hank waved dismissively. He wasn’t expecting what came next.

“You seem strangely introspective at this moment for a man who openly hates androids. What brought about this mindset?”

He spun so fast that he almost gave himself whiplash. “The fuck, Connor?” he spluttered. “Where did that come from?”

“I apologise if I am probing too much, Lieutenant, but your sudden change in demeanour over the course of the day piqued my interest,” Connor continued. “Given the complex nature of the investigation, I simply wanted to ensure you are maintaining a relevant level of detachment.”

Well…this was suddenly quite awkward. Hank did regret how blatant he had been with Connor the previous night and that morning: the android wasn’t so bad. He was actually beginning to quite like Connor. Still, there was that piece of Hank that just couldn’tforget who Connor was. What he was.

After all, Connor was literallyhis walking, talking worst nightmare.

Slumping his shoulders, Hank made sure not to look at Connor as he answered him. “Look, Connor…This is-Ugh, this is bringing up a lot of difficult emotions for me. I’m-” Hank snapped his mouth shut again, internally screaming at himself.

The fuckam I doing!? I’m not really going to tell an android why I fucking hate them all, am I?!

And yet, he couldn’t stop the next words from pouring out of his mouth. After a long sigh, Hank started again. “You’ve worked out my feelings towards androids, Connor. Ever have any inkling as to why?”

“Given the various references towards unemployment rates due to androids that I found at your desk at the precinct, I assumed it was the major factor,” Connor suggested.

“Bingo, in one. Androids were developed to be better than humans, Connor. Faster, stronger, smarter…I’ve seen a fuck ton of people lose their entire livelihoods because of androids: arrested a lot of sad bastards who felt that crime was their last avenue to provide for their families. It’s excruciating to watch. And, well, I ain’t exactly a spring chicken. At 53, if I were to lose my job, I know that would be it for me.

“If ended up becoming a part of that statistic, how could I provide for Cole? Without a job, I couldn’t give him a home, feed him or anything. Cole is everything to me, Connor, so when you…” The lieutenant finally raised his eyes to look at the android, and he could almost swear to seeing flickers of sympathy and understanding in his gaze. “You are the embodiment of my literal worst fear, Connor. In you, I see my hopes for Cole come crashing down, and leaving him with nothing.

“I’ve fought way too damn much for Cole to see it all come crashing down because of androids. Between all the shit with my ex-wife and what happened in his birth…So, yeah, I hate androids because of what they represent. A life of ease and efficiency, all at the expense of the hard-working people they replace.”

Now that the subject had been opened, Connor saw an opportunity to learn a little more of the tapestry that made Hank Anderson who he was. “It sounds like there is a complicated history there, Lieutenant.”

The human groaned, wondering why he’d opened his big mouth in the first place…Then again, what could Connor do with the information? Not a whole damn lot. “Yeah, you could say that. Shit, Anna and I…she was only 21 when we got married, I was 30. We were happy for a while, but as Anna got older, she changed. Hated the idea of being tied down and wanted to go touring the world. I’ve always been happy here, so it was a big fucking roadblock. She grew resentful, and eventually ended things to go be free.

“Cole was a complete accident. While Anna was in the process of getting the divorce papers drawn up, she came over and we talked about things. Both of us got shit-faced and we ended up in bed together: she was furious, but I know it was mostly at herself. We were both as much at fault as each other. Three months later she fessed up that she was pregnant, much to my shock. I’d always wanted kids, but Anna refused cause it would be another thing tying her here.

“I’ll admit that if Faye hadn’t offered to help with taking care of Cole while I was working, I really don’t think I could have gone through with it. The prospect of raising him while being a part of the force was fucking intimidating, took me a long time to pluck up the courage to face that challenge when Anna was adamant that she would have nothing to do with either of us after he was born. One of my few regrets is that I ever thought for a secondabout letting Cole go. I love that kid so goddamn much, I would do anything for him. So, yeah…androids scare me shitless, cause they could destroy everything I’ve tried to build for him. I just want my son happy, healthy and free to choose his own fate.”

Hank grimaced and turned his head to face Connor before continuing. “I’m big enough to admit when I’ve been a shit, and I’ve been a real fucking piece of shit to you. You’re…let’s just say you are defying everything I ever saw in androids, Connor. Couple that with everything that is going on around us and-Yeah, my head is in a fucking mess right now. I barely know up from down at the moment.”

That wasn’t the full story, but Hank dared not air those last thoughts yet. It was a) far too damn early to be jumping on that train, and b) there was no benefit to confronting Connor yet. Not before Hank had truly decided on his own feelings.

“I can understand your emotional conflict, Lieutenant, even if I cannot empathise,” Connor offered. “A parent would be concerned for the well-being of their child, especially so with your past. Given your closeness and devotion to Cole, it would be incredibly pertinent in your case. Nevertheless, there is one key factor in this whole situation which should put your mind at ease. I am intended only to assist you, not to replace. CyberLife currently have no plans to broaden my model line.”

Something in Connor’s wording made Hank’s stomach sour. “Wait, so you are really the only RK800? And they haven’t planned out a future for you?”

“Correct. Depending on how this investigation concludes, I will presumably be stored for future use if I am deemed a success, or deactivated and analysed should I fail.”

Hank swore at his gut being so damn accurate, and stared at Connor hard. “Connor, are you saying that if you don’t solve this, then CyberLife are going to…kill you?”

“’Kill’ implies that I am alive, Lieutenant, which I am not. I am merely a machine.”

He wasn’t buying it. “Back the fuck up. You’re telling me that you’ve been willinglyletting these deviants go despite knowing that CyberLife will destroy you in doing so? Now your decision not to shoot those girls makes even less fucking sense! If they’re machines too, why didn’t you just destroy them?”

Connor’s LED frantically started spinning yellow, and Hank was slowing getting his answers; to more than just that question.

“Those two girls, they just wanted to be together…” Hank started, eager to see how Connor would respond. “They really seemed in love.”

“They can simulate human emotions, but they’re machines. And machines don’t feel anything,” the android countered.

“Uh-huh…and what about you, Connor? You look human, sound human – hell you even act human sometimes – but what are you, really?”

Hank stood to his full height and stared Connor down, the android unrelenting as he kept a firm posture in response.

Despite his mildly aggressive stance, Connor’s answer was in a distinct contrast of tone. “I’m whatever you want me to be, Lieutenant. Your partner, someone to be there if you need help with Cole…Or just a machine, designed to accomplish a task.”

“All right then. And if I asked what you think you are?”

“My answer would not change, Lieutenant.”

The human wanted to sneer at the response, but a connection suddenly snapped into place in his mind. Connor wasn’t being deliberately obtuse, he was deflecting.

He didn’t want to answer, and the android probably wasn’t even aware of it.

Hank’s posture relaxed at that revelation and he chuckled. “You really are something, Connor. Makes me wonder just what the world would be like if there were more androids like you out there.”

A hint of a smile appeared on the android’s face, seeming to realise that he’d passed some sort of test in Hank’s mind. There was no way Connor would guess just what it was. “Would it change your feelings on androids in general, Lieutenant?” he challenged lightly.

There wasn’t even a hint of hesitation as Hank answered him. “They’re already changin’, Connor.”

Connor smiled a little more as his internal software updated the status of his relationship with Hank from ‘Neutral’ to ‘Warm’. He didn’t need the flashing icon in the corner of his vision to tell him that, though, Connor could detect it just from the brief warmth which spread through his circuits.

He didn’t acknowledge that he shouldn’t be feeling it.

Software Instability ^

With a small sigh, Hank turned back to the bridge briefly, envisioning the questions which had manifested in his mind. One gave him an instant answer, and the other took a little while longer for it to settle. He wasn’t surprised that the question which had driven him to seek out the bridge took its time in finding an answer, it held huge ramifications, but the speed with which the other was resolved did catch him off guard.

Were deviants alive, just as the android which had killed Carlos Ortiz had declared in the human’s blood?

Yes. It was a slow yes, but it was still a yes: and with it, Hank had to take a long, hard look at what he wanted to happen with the rest of the deviant investigation.

And then, the one which had cropped up rather unexpectedly, but Hank was in no doubt as to the answer.

Was CyberLife’s very own deviant hunter a deviant himself?

Yes.

If Hank was honest with himself, looking back on it now, he wouldn’t be surprised if they’d designed Connor as a deviant from the start, given how adaptable he was. Now he had to decide what to do with this knowledge.

Knowing that Connor was staring at him curiously, Hank turned back to him with a small smirk and nodded towards his car. “Come on, Connor. After tonight, I think a need a beer to unwind with. Don’t suppose a drinking buddy is something CyberLife intended for you, is it?”

“Perhaps not, but I can attempt to fill the desired role, Lieutenant,” Connor replied cheerfully. “I did say that I am whatever you want me to be.”

Hank snorted at the answer. “That you did, Connor. That you did.” Nodding his head back towards the car, led the way with Connor in step beside him. As he took a seat behind the wheel, he hissed in aggravation. “Gonna to have to get the winter tyres out, fan-fucking-tastic. I hate the goddamn snow.”

Connor regarded him curiously. “That is an interesting sentiment given Detroit’s climate.”

“Yeah, well, I had a bit of a close call a few years’ back. Cole and I were driving home when a bad snow storm hit. The road home was closed, so we ended up having to get a motel for the night. Never been so thankful for a decision as I was there. Found out that someone ignored the road closure and a truck skidded on the ice. Was around the same time that Cole and I would have been on that road. I couldn’t help but think on how close a call it had been, and, yeah…I’ve never really liked the snow since.”

The android thought over this for a second and turned his eyes back to the flakes still steadily falling. “Does your hatred of the snow relate only to driving in it?”

“Wha-Well…I guess, how come?”

“Snow has a certain…beauty to it. This is my first time seeing it.”

Hank wasn’t sure why that statement affected him as much as it did, but he could feel a slight stir in his stomach. He turned his gaze to the white drifting to the ground, trying to see it as Connor did. “You ain’t wrong there, Connor. But as with most things in this world, appearances are fucking deceptive. Might be pretty, but it can still be a bastard and bite you in the ass.”

“You have experience of this in life, Lieutenant?”

He chuckled bitterly as he started the car. “Yep. My damn ex-wife.”

Connor’s eyes sparkled slightly at the joke and Hank gave a long sigh internally.

Yep, he’s a deviant all right. Now, what the fuck do I do in knowing that?

Chapter Text

Hank was immensely glad that he was on the late shift the following day given their late night trek at the Eden Club. Fowler had left a message, telling him that he wasn’t needed until lunchtime the next day, allowing Hank to finally try and catch up on some sleep. After finding a bar that was still open at 2 in the morning for a late night drink, he hadn’t got back home until gone 3am. A large part of that had been Hank deciding to sate his new found curiosity about his android partner.

Now that he’d decided that deviant androids were actually alive – and after coming to the startling conclusion that Connor himself was deviant, but unaware of that fact – he felt it was worthwhile trying to learn more about them.

It was under the guise of finding out more for their investigation…but if he was honest with himself, it was mostly due to the android which had turned his thoughts upside down. Connor was somehow worming his way into Hank’s thoughts, both during work and away from it.

Deep down, it scared him. Hank could sense that something big was about to happen; he had an uncanny knack for these things. He put it down as the reason he’d survived so many years on the force: more than once he’d walked right into situations which should have been the end of him.

So, sleep was Hank’s plan. As always, plans never worked out.

He instead spent the whole night tossing in his bed, trying to calm his racing thoughts. There was so much that he was struggling to process, and other things that were weighing heavily on him. His discussions with Connor were both enlightening and disappointing. Enlightening in seeing just how much his partner was changing in such a short time, but disappointing in that he often still came across as the machine he protested to being. During their short stint at the bar, Hank had decided – on a whim – to challenge Connor, just to see the response. It was informative, if blatantly untrue.

“All right, smartass. How do I know you’re not a deviant, huh? What makes you immune to deviancy?”

“I self-test regularly, Lieutenant. I know what I am, and what I am not.”

Hank cursed himself for being affected by the answer. It was true that he wanted Connor to realise the truth which was staring him in the face, but he knew there was a chance that he couldn’t. These ‘self-tests’ that CyberLife had given him may be a cunning way of keeping Connor in line. If his deviant partner was going to realise the truth, it had be down to something that happened during their investigation. Probably contact with another deviant.

Connor had been affected by the android they’d interrogated, the deviant he’d let go to save Hank’s life and the Tracis he’s spared the previous night. It would only be a matter of time before something finally tipped him over the edge, right?

The next day progressed nothing like Hank had expected.

He’d finally fallen asleep not long past 8, and he was eventually roused by Faye. His former sister-in-law had been apologetic about waking him (Hank was grateful that she’s been so willing to stay over and look after Cole when he’d all but crashed), but the reason why stole his breath.

A message. And android without its skin was laying out their demands for android rights, and passing on their plea for humans to recognise them as living, intelligent beings.

Hank wanted to curse his pseudo-psychic instincts. He’s known something was coming, just not this.

It was looping on the TV, every channel was broadcasting the phenomenon, trying to pick it apart. Some were theorising that it was an android programmed to create carnage with the message, others said it was a hoax, one news channel even theorised that it was the beginnings of a terrorist campaign (Hank had always despised Channel 16, they thrived on dramatics and controversy). His own opinions were slowly becoming less muddled, but he knew what was going to be his destination when he got the call.

He'd barely had that thought when his phone pinged, and Hank had to do a double take at the sender and message.

RK800 313 – 248 – 317 – 51

Good Morning, Lieutenant. I hope you have had sufficient rest after the previous night. Our presence is needed at the Stratford Tower after it was infiltrated by deviants. Would you prefer I remain at the precinct to await you, or rendezvous with you at the crime scene?

Please don’t tell me Connor left and went back to the precinct after splitting from me at the bar?

Without thinking too much on it, Hank clicked on Connor’s identifier and waited to see if the call would connect. It had only rang once before he heard the android’s voice.

Lieutenant. Am I correct in assuming that you received my message?”

Hank chuckled. “Pretty fucking co-incidental timing if I didn’t, Connor. You weren’t at the precinct all night, were you?”

“I am bemused by the question, Lieutenant, but the answer is yes. I returned after you left for home to research more on some of the recent deviant cases in Detroit, looking for any potential links. Thus far, nothing has been apparent.”

Sighing long, Hank shook his head before getting back on topic. “All right, enough about that for now. What do we know about the incident at the Stratford Tower?”

“Current details are minimal, I can update you upon seeing you in person. CSI and other officers are already en route to the scene. Where do you wish to meet, Lieutenant?”

“I’ll swing by the precinct and grab you there, I’ll be passing it on the best route to reach that area of the city at this time of day on the weekend anyway. You can give me a lowdown on everything else you’ve learned too. Give me forty-five minutes.”

“Understood.”

The android ended the call there and Hank groaned, looking bemused when he soon found a steaming cup of coffee being shoved into his hands. His eyes landed on Faye’s faint smirk. “Come on, you’re a grouchy bastard in the mornings,” she teased, moving to pick up all the spare bedding and dump it back in the cupboard in Hank’s room now that he’d woken up. Hank felt a twinge of guilt, knowing how much the older woman had been using that pathetic pull out bed in his couch recently, but she always shrugged and said that having Sumo for company made up for not being in her own bed for the night.

“Fuck you too,” he shot back, taking a long gulp of coffee and humming happily at the caffeine jolt. “Sorry, Faye. Looks like I’m going to be needing your help again today.”

She gave him a sunny smile when reappearing in the living room. “It’s no problem, Hank. I’ll maybe take Cole out for some ice-skating, if I can tear the kid away from his latest project. He’s got the bug big for this one.”

Hank raised an eyebrow, but he figured Cole had been sketching after not seeing him thus far. “Oh yeah?”

“Yeah. Just a small heads up, you might want to bring that android of yours back around at some point,” Faye hinted with a sly wink. Hank looked at her suspiciously, but soon went through to see what his son was up to.

Going through to Cole’s room, he found him sitting on his bed, plastic covering over the bedding, as Cole was studiously painting his latest work. Spying the luminous blue paint he’d bought him the other day, Hank smiled at him. “Hey kiddo, you look busy.”

Cole looked up and beamed at his father. “Hey, Dad! Yeah, I really want to get this one done, I can’t wait to see how it turns out.”

Hank smirked. “That so? Fancy letting your old man have a peek?”

The boy fired the signature Anderson scowl back at him. “You know I don’t like you seeing things half-done, Dad.”

That earned a hearty laugh. “All right, all right. I’ve got to head to a crime scene, Cole, so your Aunt Faye is going to be with you again today. She mentioned maybe taking you ice skating?”

Cole’s eyes lit up. “Really?! That would be awesome!”

Laughing at his enthusiasm, Hank beckoned his son up with a hand. Cole leapt from his cross-legged position on the bed and tackle-hugged him. Hank smiled down and ruffled his hair. “Okay, I’ve gotta get moving, Cole. Be a good boy for your aunt, okay? I’ll hopefully be back at a decent time tonight.”

“Cool, see you soon, Dad!” Hank left him with a fond smile, but just as he was about to shut Cole’s door again, his son shouted to him. “Dad!” Peering back around the door, he saw Cole’s cheeks were dusted a little pink. “I don’t…will you be taking Connor back again soon?”

Caught off-guard, Hank looked at Cole in confusion. “Umm, that’s not really up to me, Cole. How come?”

The blush on Cole’s cheeks got a little deeper, and he turned unexpectedly shy. “I just-He’s really cool, Dad. I want to show him something. Please?”

Hank thought on it before giving Cole a small smile. “I’ll see what I can do, kiddo.” Cole grinned at the answer before going back to his painting.

Huh, looks like I’m not the only one who has Connor on their mind.

And then it suddenly clicked.

Chocolate brown, just like Connor’s hair and eyes. Charcoal for his tie. Ash grey for his jacket, and luminous blue for his android identifiers.

Cole had asked for those colours because he was drawing Connor. That was what he wanted the android to see.

He remembered Connor’s confused reaction to Cole’s interest the night before, how it had left him so unsure and, dare Hank say it, emotional.

Maybe he had this wrong: maybe the answer to showing Connor he was deviant and could feel was a lot closer to home.


 

The Stratford Tower was somewhere Hank had often seen, but he hadn’t personally been there before. Working Homicide, you didn’t often come across cases somewhere which had that level of security. A few others had been there for bust-ups, but not him. He couldn’t help but cynically think that it was as pompous as he imagined it to be. Though he had to wonder who thought such a garish colour of yellow was good for the interior.

And this was coming from someone with as eclectic taste is shirts as him.

Connor was playing with his coin in the elevator and Hank looked over, watching the tricks in fascination. A few of them seemed impossible…but he guess they weren’t for an android. “Fancy tricks,” he stated curiously.

The android didn’t even flinch as he turned to look at the human, still flipping and twirling the coin . “The coin is used to calibrate my motor controls,” Connor replied. “It ensures I remain in peak condition.”

Hank chuckled. “Oh yeah? Betcha CyberLife didn’t program all of that into you, did they?”

That had Connor cocking his head in confusion. “I do not follow, Lieutenant.”

“Well, I’m no expert on coin tricks, but some of that looks made up to me. No human can pull that shit off.”

“That is correct, I have added to my repertoire.”

The smile on the human’s face grew. “So you do it for fun and a challenge, huh? Doesn’t sound very programmed to me.”

Software Instability ^

“It helps tune all of my systems, Lieutenant, not just my motor controls,” he answered back defensively.

Hank wasn’t convinced, but the elevator soon dinged that they were at their destination. Leaving their conversation, he looked around in surprise at the sheer number of people there. “Hi, Hank,” Chris called as the pair stepped on to the floor.

“Shit, what’s going on here? There was a party and nobody told me about it?” Hank joked. It may have been poor, but the withering look he got from Connor made him smile slightly before he stepped up beside Chris.

They both listened through Chris’ briefing, bringing them up to speed on what they had so far learned. Four androids went in, broke into the broadcast room to deliver their message, and escaped via parachutes. No casualties. A couple of guards with sore heads from being rendered unconscious, but it could have been a lot worse. The thing that stood out to both Hank and Connor was how the androids had made sure not to leave a trail of destruction behind.

As they made it to the broadcast room, Hank’s asshole senses instantly went off. There was a figure in a long coat staring at the screen in the centre, and the lieutenant could spy an FBI agent from a mile off. Chris’ sudden tightening of his posture confirmed his suspicion, and Hank decided to hang back slightly so that he was standing next to Connor. He wanted the android close by to see if he could tell anything of the agent’s reactions.

“Oh Lieutenant, this is Special Agent Perkins from the FBI,” Chris introduced, stepping aside to let Hank come to a stop opposite the man. The agent regarded the lieutenant with mild disinterest as Chris continued. “Lieutenant Anderson is in charge of investigating for Detroit Police.”

Perkins’ eyes shifted to Connor, and everyone could see the poorly hidden disdain on his face. “What’s that?” he asked.

Hank fought the urge to stare at the man any colder as Connor answered him. “My name is Connor. I’m the android sent by CyberLife.”

The FBI agent scoffed lightly. “Androids investigating androids, huh? Are you sure want an android hanging around? After everything that happened…” he finished with a menacing stare at Connor.

That got right on Hank’s nerves and crossed his arms while taking half a step to the left, standing just slightly in front of the android to bring Perkins’ attention back to him. The subtle move was not missed by Connor, who eyed the lieutenant in carefully concealed surprise. There was no mistaking the meaning behind that gesture. Hank had deliberately moved to shift the focus away from Connor.

Demanding. Challenging. Protective.

Connor was unexpectedly touched.

Software Instability ^^

Perkins missed that meaning and instead aimed a nasty smile at Hank as the lieutenant kept an icy gaze on him. “Whatever, the FBI will take over the investigation, you’ll soon be off the case,” he continued. Hank decide to take that as cue and gave the man a dismissive wave as he turned away from him. “Pleasure meeting you, have a nice day,” Hank replied a little too sweetly, hoping the unstated ‘fuck you’ was understood.

“And you watch your step.”

The pause had Hank spinning back, eyes sharp as he saw Perkins’ tiny smirk. Looked like he picked up the message loud and clear, the threat behind that statement wasn’t even subtle. “Don’t fuck up my crime scene,” he finished, sauntering off to another corner of the room.

“What a fuckin’ prick!” Hank sneered, earning an agreeing smile from Chris while even the corners of Connor’s mouth quirked up. The android’s eyes were grateful, and Hank suddenly had to fight down a blush when he realised what he’d done. In the heat of the moment he hadn’t truly thought it through, but he could see just how his actions could have been interpreted now. Stepping between Connor and Perkins maybe wasn’t his best move, but he’d do it all over again.

His protective instinct towards Connor was incredibly unexpected; Hank decided not to think too much on it.

Chris gave them both a final smile before moving away. “I’ll be nearby. If you need anything, just ask.”

Hank nodded at him before turning his attention back to Connor. The android waited for his orders expectantly and the human made a point of showing his back to Perkins while talking to Connor. “You do your thing, Connor. Keep your eyes peeled and let me know if you find anything,” he instructed, watching Connor soon investigate the multitude of bullet holes and other flagged evidence in the room.

He took his own cursory glance over everything, but couldn’t help his eyes drifting back to Connor. The android was analysing the evidence so fast, Hank could only imagine the conclusions which were being generated in Connor’s mind. He’d already seen his incredible deduction skills at work.

It didn’t take long for Connor to come back to the terminal at the front, watching the message of the mysterious android play. Hank stood next to him, reminding himself of the footage he’d already seen several times that morning. After having been witness to the crime scene before him, however, he had a new found respect for the control the androids who breached the tower had shown. It couldn’t have been easy, sparing so many human lives…and the large blue blood spatter on the wall confirmed that it had possibly resulted in at least an injury to one of them.

Connor seemed entranced by the replay as Hank spoke up. “Think that’s rA9?”

“Deviants say rA9 will set them free,” Connor replied, eyes never leaving the screen. His LED was flickering yellow, however. Processing. “This android seems to have that objective.”

As Connor was scanning the image on the screen, his LED flashed red quickly. Had Hank not been staring at him in that exact moment, he would have missed it. Connor himself was astounded at what he’d just discovered upon reading the deviant’s serial number. He’d already suspected it of being a rare model, it was harder to tell without its skin, but the serial number had opened a whole new avenue of questions.

RK-Series Prototype RK200

Registered as ‘Markus’

Gift From Elijah Kamski to Carl Manfred

Connor’s mind was cast back to the reports of the deviant cases in the precinct at reading the name ‘Carl Manfred’, recalling how the android at the centre of that report had been labelled as ‘Unknown’, but was reported as being destroyed. A bullet through the head, no android could survive that damage – Connor now understood the two different coloured eyes.

Clearly, the assumption of termination had been mistaken. Markus was very much alive.

Alive?

Software Instability ^

Hank saw Connor’s LED had yet to shift off yellow and eyed him steadily. “D’you see something?” he prodded.

The android paused for a split second longer that normal before answering. “I identified its model and serial number,” Connor replied, eyes still flitting across the screen.

Suspecting that Connor was hiding something, he stepped a bit closer and faced him fully. “Anything else?”

Connor turned quickly to look at him. It was too quick a glance. “No. Nothing.”

Hank stared at him hard.

Bull-fucking-shit. Why is he lying to me all of a sudden?

Realising that he was being watched, Connor quickly moved past Hank to the next terminal, reviewing the security footage. Not trusting him right now, Hank leant over to see what the android was seeing. They both realised that the images of the deviants were clear as day on the camera – and they didn’t hack the door. Somebody let them in.

“Son of a bitch, someone in here was helping them,” Hank concluded.

Connor stared hard at the chair, spinning it around. The pair of them soon saw the Android marking on the back. Chris, having seen what the pair were analysing, spoke up. “We stored the station androids in the kitchen. There’s no evidence they were involved, but we didn’t know what else to do with them.”

Now with a mission in mind, Connor strode towards the kitchen with intent. Hank watched him from a distance, but a voice calling out to the android made them both turn.

“Connor?”

Hank realised it was Officer Wilson, and he then remembered that Connor had saved Wilson’s life months ago during the hostage situation. He’d tied a tourniquet round Wilson’s arm to stop fatal bleeding while talking down the deviant.

The officer spoke quietly, wondering if Connor would remember him, and the android’s eyes lit in remembrance. Contrary to all that Hank had expected, Wilson thanked Connor for what he had done, and the android accepted it gracefully.

I’m glad Connor got to see Wilson. At least he can now see some of the good he’s done, rather than just fixating on his failures.

As Connor continued on into the kitchen, Hank caught Wilson’s arm. “Hey, Wilson,” he started. “You never mentioned before that it was Connor who saved you.”

The officer smiled tightly. “Honestly, Lieutenant, I didn’t realise myself until I was reading about the reports of the chase in the Ravendale district yesterday. Even then, I wasn’t sure it would be the same Connor,” Wilson admitted. “I…I never really gave much thought on what Connor did for me until this whole deviancy issue started. His mission was to save the hostage, yet he took the time to save my life. I’ll always be grateful to him for that; he’s unlike any android I’ve ever known.”

Hank nodded in agreement. “You ain’t wrong there, Wilson. He’s something else.” Pausing to think over his next words, Hank decided to bite the bullet. “All right, I’m going to hit you with something left-field here, but I think you might be able to give me a pretty good answer here.”

Staring at the older man nervously, Wilson nodded. “Okay, Lieutenant.”

“You think that android was really asking for freedom for his people?”

This was a stupid idea: Hank’s reputation for android hatred made this an incredibly ridiculous question. Except, Wilson didn’t even hesitate in his answer.

“After everything I’ve seen…yeah, I think he was. They’re way more than just machines, Lieutenant. They’re…alive.

At least I’m not alone with these crazy thoughts then. Fuck, am I going insane, or have I really just woken up for the first time?

Deciding he needed a moment, Hank wandered through to the stairs which led to the roof. Away from prying eyes, he leant back against the wall and took a deep breath. This was all nuts, completely and utterly nuts…Had everything really changed so drastically in just a few short days? And what did this mean if all the deviant androids were planning to fight for their freedom? This was rapidly growing out of control.

Fuck it, I need to know what Connor’s hiding from me. He definitely saw something which made his light go red.

Giving himself another couple of minutes to breathe deeply and absorb everything, Hank wandered back through to the main room. He could have sworn he caught sight of an android walking through towards the corridor, but he dismissed it. Finding Connor and learning what the hell the android was concealing was his first priority.

What he found stole his breath away.

Connor was dragging himself by his arms along the floor, blue blood being smeared along it as he struggled towards something. Without hesitating, Hank rushed over to him and pulled Connor into his arms. “Connor, Connor!” he exclaimed, stomach dropping at seeing the abundance of blue blood on Connor’s abdomen. A large gaping hole could be seen, and even with his limited android knowledge, Hank knew that wasn’t right.

“H-Hank,” Connor stuttered, shuddering in his arms. “Reg-Regulator…Need to…”

“Regulator? Is that the piece you’re missing, Connor? Where is it?!” Hank demanded.

“To your l-left. Beside…the table…”

Snapping his head across, Hank found the glowing biocomponent next to a chair and kept Connor in his arms as he swiped it over with his foot. It rolled closer, to the point where Hank could grab it and hand it back to Connor. The android grabbed it with his left hand, at which point Hank could see a large incision through his hand. A knife wound.

Jesus fuck, what happened to him?!

Connor reinserted the biocomponent with a yelp, and Hank watched as his LED flashed between red and yellow, before finally settling back to a blue. The android tried to push upwards, but Hank held him down. “Hey! Where the fuck do you think you’re going?” he barked, glaring down at the android for his stubbornness.

“Hank, the deviant did this to me!” Connor explained frantically. “He left the room, we need to catch him!”

“Shit!” Against his better judgement, Hank let Connor up and the android quickly jumped back to his feet. Hank joined him and let Connor led the way out of the kitchen, leaving the broadcast room to run back down the corridor towards the elevator.

Their loud pursuit alerted the deviant, however, who stole a machine gun from a nearby SWAT officer and aimed down the hallway.

Connor and Hank were just bursting through the doorway as the detective android saw what was happening. He rapidly entered his preconstruction software to try and find an adequate course of action. None of his options were good.

Charge Deviant. Chance Of Casualties: 38%. Self-Termination Chance: 49%

Protect Hank. Chance of Casualties: 100%. Self-Termination Chance: 37%

Take Hank’s Gun. Chance of Casualties: 44%. Self-Termination Chance: 61%

With the small fragments of time he had available, Connor assessed his partner’s chances of survival along all three paths. Only one had a possibly good outcome, but that involved sacrificing others. If Connor was to attack the deviant and was not quick enough, Hank only had a 35% chance of survival.

His system priorities clashed again, and Connor could see the error messages which flashed all along his HUD.

Stop Deviants No Matter The Cost

Ensure Lt Anderson Returns To His Son

His circuits tightened to a degree Connor had never felt before. He was not going to sacrifice Hank, no matter what.

Software Instability ^^^^^

With precious milliseconds left, Connor decided upon a wild preconstruction which combined others to give Hank’s best chance of survival.

Take Hank’s Gun While Shielding Him. Chance of Casualties: 44%. Self-Termination Chance: 84%

Hank’s survival percentage was 91. That was the only number Connor cared about.

Snapping back into real-time, Connor held a hand out to rapidly stop Hank’s momentum and used it to reach down into his holster with his jacket. The human was too surprised by the movement to truly register what was happening until he saw Connor standing right before him, arms raised to fire the gun.

The deviant instantly spotted the danger and opened fire, but not before Connor shot twice. Two bullets, right into the forehead. Neither destroyed the deviant’s memory core, but it shut down instantly.

Having focused on the danger, all the bystanders were spared, but six bullets hurtled towards Connor and Hank. The android angled his body so that his entire right-hand side took as many of the bullets as possible, all the while making sure Hank was unharmed. They tore through him, four landing in his torso along the right side, one in the centre just a couple of inches above his regulator, and another ripped clean through Connor’s right arm.

He promptly collapsed, and Hank barely had time to catch him before he crumpled in a heap on the ground. “Connor!” The android was panting lightly, and if Hank didn’t know better, he’d almost say he was in pain. “Shit, Connor! Hold on, you hear me! Hold on!”

Connor’s eyes were scrunched as his body spasmed from the damage, blue blood pouring from his wounds. “H-Hank…”

“Shhh, easy, easy…” the lieutenant soothed. “I’ve gotcha, you’re okay…”

“Lieutenant!”

Recognising the voice, Hank snapped his attention to Chris standing just above, eyes wide. “Get some blue blood now! He’s dying!” he bellowed, thankful when Chris took off without another thought. He turned his gaze back down to Connor, stomach tightening as he saw the LED flickering red slower and slower. “Don’t do this to me, Connor…Don’t you dare fucking die after you saved my life, you bastard!”

The shock was wearing off around the room, and Hank paid little mind as he saw Wilson approach. His face had gone pale, and Hank could detect the tremor in his voice. “He just- he saved all our lives…

Hank nodded, but kept soon took Connor’s hand in a tight grip. The android gripped back, but Hank could feel it growing fainter. “Hang on, Connor. Chris’ll be back soon,” he urged.

Connor’s eyes flickered open and Hank could hear the static in his voice as he spoke. “Catasto-o-o-ophic blood loss det-et-cted. Two min-----es, eleven secon-n-n-n-n-ds to shutdown-n-n-n.”

Fuck! Chris, hurry the fuck up!”Hank roared.

He kept whispering to the android, urging him to stay strong as Chris hurtled back through with a thirium pouch. Hank had no idea where he’d found it, but wasn’t going to ask right now. Tearing the top, he shook Connor sharply. “Connor, how can you use this?” he asked frantically.

Connor opened his mouth slowly. “Dr-r-r-r-ink-k-k-k…”

Without hesitation, Hank poured it down Connor’s throat, thankful that androids didn’t have a gag reflex. The android’s LED stayed red, but at least now it was a solid and bright colour. He had improved. Connor groaned loudly his systems began to stabilise, at which Hank rubbed his shoulder. “Easy, that was fucking close…Are you all right?” he whispered.

“I am stable…for now,” Connor replied softly. “My self-healing software will be able to…fix all the damage, once the bullets are removed. I will require more thirium…”

Hank nodded and flashed Chris the most grateful smile he could before easing his arms around Connor’s torso, lifting him back up gently. The two officers helped, and Connor was struggling to keep his balance with so much of his power dedicated to his self-healing program. With an arm around Connor’s waist and the android’s left arm over Hank’s shoulders, the older human spoke to the other two. “Finish up here and get a report submitted to the precinct. Tell Fowler I’m taking care of Connor. Make sure that deviant comes back with us as evidence: the FBI can get fucked after that shitshow.”

The pair nodded, leaving to carry out their tasks as Hank helped Connor stumble over to the elevator. It took a good minute, but they were soon safely inside and heading back to ground.

Now that the immediate danger had passed, Hank’s mind was spinning. Connor had almost sacrificed himself…for me, he thought. No way had he deserved that after how he’d treated Connor. He’d destroyed that deviant, rendering it useless, to save human lives. To save Hank’s life.

There was absolutely nodoubt about it. Connor had defied his mission to save Hank. He was a deviant. He cared.

And now he had a massive problem. There was no way he could take Connor to CyberLife to get repaired: they’d instantly know and Connor would be destroyed. Like fuck was Hank letting that happen. But…they would have blue blood there – blood that Connor needed.

As for Connor’s wounds, he had said they would heal once the bullets were removed. So once that crap was gone, Connor would be all right?

Okay, he could do this. He could help fix Connor up.

Connor had just risked everything to protect Hank, now it was Hank’s turn to do the same for Connor.  

Fuck, what am I doing?!

Chapter Text

When did I become such a goddamn fucking idiot? Of all my half-baked ideas, this has got to be top of the fucking list! How the hell am I meant to fix an android?!

Hank had been berating himself almost the entire way since leaving the Stratford Tower, his initial shock at Connor's actions wearing off to be replaced by something distantly related to panic. Maybe anxiousness and...pressure? Doing this left Connor's life directly in his hands - but, like fuck was he going to just let Connor die. He wasn't blind, he'd seen what Connor had done. If the android hadn't drawn attention to himself and taken those bullets, human lives would have been lost; including Hank's. Yet again, Connor had put aside his mission to do the right thing.

Well...maybe that was being too generic, but in Hank's mind it was the right thing. Now he just had to make sure Connor didn't die for it.

It took him all of thirty seconds in the car to realise that going into CyberLife, even for something like blue blood, was probably going to throw up way too many questions. After the whole situation at Stratford Tower, androids were all going to be regarded with suspicion. They didn't understand deviancy yet, nothing like it, and people would no doubt be scared. Hell, Hank was scared for what was to come, and right now he probably had a better idea than most. But that did leave with the issue of how to get Connor more blood. The two pouches that Chris had managed to find would only sustain Connor for another hour, he was still bleeding steadily despite his self-healing program taking care of the worst damage. 

The ringing of his phone through the car had Hank tempted to ignore it, but he soon saw Fowler's name flash up and he knew that letting it go would bring about even more questions.

With a frustrated snarl, Hank leant over and tapped the screen. "Jeffrey," he greeted neutrally, "I'm on the road, this urgent?"

"Just got an update from Miller at the Stratford Tower," Fowler answered seriously. "Told me about the shootout up there. You good, Hank?"

"Not a scratch, can't say the same about Connor though. He's taken a good number of shots and needs repairing. Connor saved a lot of lives up there, Jeffrey."

"I heard, Hank. You taking him to CyberLife now for repairs?"

Hank was halfway through a lie in his head when an idea suddenly came to him. He knew where he could get more blue blood. "Yeah, but he's still bleeding heavily. I figure re-activating him is going to cost a hell of a lot more than just topping him up until his self-healing kicks in enough to keep him sustained, so I'm gonna swing by for some pouches. Don't suppose you could grab them for me and have them waiting at the reception?"

"Consider it done, god knows I don't need CyberLife chasing me about why their state-of-the-art android got shot to pieces and turned into scrap." Hank's heart involuntarily flipped at the statement and he looked over to Connor in the passenger seat, still bleeding steadily and LED flashing red as he tried to repair the damage. His eyes were closed in what could almost be mistaken for sleep. "I'm gonna need a report on what happened today, Hank. How the hell did that deviant get loose?"

"Working on it. I'll get it in once I know what happening with Connor. Tell Chris to keep me in the loop of any other findings, I'm gonna do a little bit of following up on what hints of leads Connor managed to get before he was shot to pieces. The answer to all this might be out there."

Considering his heart was racing a mile a minute and his mind was all over the place, Hank was almost proud of that lie. 

"All right, keep me updated of all your findings, and make sure to tell me if the android gets scrapped. I'd much rather not, but that paperwork would be a headache to filled out for damage of CyberLife resources."

Hank had to fight really hard not to snap at Fowler. Connor wasn't a thing, he wasn't CyberLife's damn property.

Okay, fine , he fucking is right now, but that doesn't mean his life isn't inconsequential. He matters, goddammit. 

"Will do, Jeffrey." Hank hung up before he lost his head. God, this really was messing with him. Since when did he give a damn about an android? A heap of plastic and wires that was sent to do his job better than him? Really, it didn't take long for Hank to realise.

Since he pulled me back from the edge, saving my life.  

Since he came to my house and smiled.  

Since I saw flashes of a person who is just as fucking confused as I am at what this all means.

Since my son decided that Connor is someone he wants to know, even using him as inspiration for his art.

Connor had touched both their lives by just being himself...whoever that was growing into.

Mind finally sharpening, Hank quickly changed direction and headed towards the precinct. "Connor, I know where to get you some blue blood. Can you walk me through how to get all those bullets out?" he called over, shaking Connor's knee briefly.

The android's eyes flickered open and he turned to look at Hank wearily. "I believe so, Lieutenant..."

Hank really didn't like how exhausted Connor sounded. "You hanging in there, Connor?"

"Lieutenant, it...may be more prudent to just let me expire."

That had Hank's heart freezing. "The fuck?! No way, Connor, like hell am I letting you die! You said there's only one of you!"

"There is only one RK800 line, but there are multiple iterations of the body. I am designation 51: when this body shuts down, my mind is uploaded to a wireless network pending download into the following model. This Connor would be destroyed, but another would take my place. I have managed to ensure that all of my memories are ready for my successor with minimal chance of data corruption. For the sake of time lost in attempting to repair me when the deviant crisis has reached a new level...it would be of greater interest to instead focus on the investigation," Connor argued.

Hank's tone became icy as he answered. "Let's get one thing fucking clear here, Connor. Decent people do not give up and just let others die when they can do something about it. So, unless you want me to knock your head about to try and get those loose screws of yours back in place, just shut the hell up and focus on staying alive, you hear me?"

Connor shook his head. "Androids aren't alive, Lieutenant."

"Shut the fuck up. You ain't changing my mind about this, Connor."

The android closed his eyes again and turned back towards the window, but the corners of his mouth quirked up in gratitude. "Thank you, Lieutenant," he whispered.

Hank gave him a quick glance and a small smile of his own. If he was honest with himself...he was pretty sure he'd go to the ends of the Earth for Connor.

And that thought, more than any other, was scaring him shitless.


Hank managed to get six pouches of blue blood from the precinct with no difficulty, leaving Connor to top up his levels as he saw fit while Hank concentrated on driving home. While he was out of the car he fired a couple of texts off to Faye, asking for her help. As it turned out, she'd taken Sumo out for a walk with Cole - a stroke of luck.

What are you needing my tools for Hank?

Connor's in a bad way, I need to get some bullets out. Your shit is fancier than mine and can get some of the worse ones. Please, Faye.

Why not just take him back to CyberLife, surely they can stitch him up or give you a new one?

It took Hank about a minute to type out his reply.

It's not that simple.

And Faye, absolute angel that she is, realised quite quickly that it was something Hank felt he couldn't talk about yet. 

Gimme an hour, I'll buy Cole some new pencils to keep him happy.

Thank fuck. Cheers, I owe you, Faye.

I'll maybe cash in that tab one day, Hank. Beach?

Sounds like a plan, see you soon.

By the time Hank managed to get back to his place, almost half an hour had passed since then. Connor was looking better, but still couldn't support himself properly. Hank helped him out of the car after draping his jacket around Connor. He was still saturated in blue blood, and Hank didn't need his nosy neighbours getting wind of what was going on. That was a headache he could do without.

Hank managed to shoulder the door open after getting it unlocked, kicking it closed behind him while keeping Connor upright. The android’s left arm was slung across Hank’s shoulders and the human had a firm grip of Connor’s hip to make sure he wouldn’t go tumbling. Not bothering to lock it, Hank helped Connor to one of his kitchen chairs before grabbing some trash bags from under the sink. He quickly spread them over his bed to make sure any blue blood wouldn’t get on the coverings before going back through to fetch Connor.

It took their combined efforts to get Connor propped up on Hank’s bed, leaning up against the headboard while leaving Hank enough space beside him to sit down. “All right, how’re your thirium levels holding, Connor?” he shouted while going back through to grab a pair of pliers from inside the kitchen. At this moment, he was glad for his lazy past self which had just thrown them on top of the fridge.

“Stable for now, Lieutenant,” Connor answered while running another self-diagnostic. It was a small miracle that the only bio-components which had been hit were non-essential ones which he could work around. When the opportunity presented itself later, he’d go get repaired.

Hank reappeared after about half a minute with another thirium pouch and the set of pliers. “This’ll have to do until Faye gets here. Which bullets can I get out with these?” he asked while holding the pliers out for Connor to see.

After quickly scanning their composition, Connor lifted his right shoulder slightly. “There are four bullets along my right-hand side, three of them should be accessible at present. The bullet in my right arm will also be retrievable.”

Exhaling shakily, Hank nodded. “Okay. We’d best get you out of that wrecked gear. Say, are you able to get more work clothes, or is that your lot?”

Connor shuffled forwards and Hank helped him to pull off his CyberLife jacket.  “I have already requisitioned CyberLife for replacements, they will be delivered to the precinct within the next five hours or so.”

Pulling off Connor’s tie, Hank suddenly felt the need to avert his eyes a little as he aided Connor in stripping off his ruined shirt. “Don’t suppose you could get that shit sent here, could you? Hate to think of you going into the precinct either in my clothes or your wrecked stuff to go pick it up.”

Nodding, Connor’s LED flickered yellow briefly. “Done. Out of curiosity, do you have any alternatives for removing the remaining bullets?”

“Faye was a mechanic for years before she gave it up. When their parents died, Faye and Anna got a massive inheritance: allowed Faye to pack in work and Anna to go travelling round the world in 5-star luxury. She still tinkers with cars in her spare time, Faye gave me my old girl out the front years ago as a birthday present and makes sure that she’s still ticking over happily. I’m sure some of her tools can help patch you up.”

Connor nodded and leant back again, holding his damaged arm out for Hank to look at. “The bullet here is quite deep, but you should have little difficulty in extracting it. There are also fewer sensitive components here.”

Sighing deeply, Hank steeled himself while getting a firm grip of the pliers. “Right, here goes…”

He carefully took a hold of Connor’s arm, twisting it gently to give him the best view of the bullet hole. Blue flashes could be seen inside, along with several broken and fraying wires. Hank winced at the view. “Shit, does this hurt?”

Connor shook his head. “Pain is not something androids can comprehend, Lieutenant. I am however in some…discomfort. I am aware of the foreign objects in my system, and the updates on my visual display prompting their removal are tiresome.”

Hank hummed in acknowledgement of Connor’s statement, turning his full focus on finding the bullet in the android’s arm. He could just make it out amongst the flickering blue lights. “We have a winner. Anything I have to avoid grabbing?” he asked while wiping away some of the blue blood with Connor’s shirt.

“Nothing essential, the only notable bio-component has already been damaged by the bullet. Any further damage will be negligible.”

The lieutenant’s face fell. “Connor, why didn’t you say that you had worse damage? I don’t have any replacement parts here!”

“I can repair them all with a stop into a CyberLife maintenance store later, you need not worry, Lieutenant. None of the damaged bio-components are essential.”

The room went quiet for several seconds before the human spoke up again. “…Hank.” Connor looked at him in confusion. “For fuck’s sake, Connor. You’re in my house, on my bed nonetheless, getting patched up and we’re off the clock unofficially. The least you can do is use my damn name instead of my title.”

“That is unprofessional.”

“Get that stupid protocol nonsense out of your head, all right? Just do it.”

Connor contemplated this for a second before nodding. “All right, Hank.”

For some reason, Hank’s stomach knotted for a second at hearing Connor speak his name so softly. Coughing once, he then turned his attention back to the arm. “Right then…” Hank hoped his voice came out stronger than it felt. The last thing he needed was for Connor to think he was getting bashful…

In actual fact, Connor was having a hard time keeping focused himself. He’d never been touched to any degree by humans since his activation, but for some reason Hank’s hands almost left him burning. He really didn’t understand it, since androids couldn’t perceive temperature.

Software Instability ^^

He’d long stopped paying attention to the software instability updates. They seemed to make zero difference to his performance and thinking, and if Connor was perfectly honest, they were just a nuisance now. There was nothing wrong with him.

…Right?

Connor watched studiously as Hank delicately pressed the pliers in, grabbing a firm hold of the bullet before giving a quick yank to pull it out. It was covered in blue blood, and Hank stared at it for a second before placing it on the plastic liners. “All right, where next?”

Gesturing to just below his right pectoral, Connor guided Hank. “This bullet has buried itself too deeply to be reached at present. The other three along this side should be accessible.” There was one which was wedged just the shoulder socket, while the other two were on Connor’s abdomen.

“What do I need to be careful of?”

“I will guide you through each of these, Hank, they all have different hurdles.”

And so Connor did, speaking softly to Hank as the human carefully dodged wires, splintered metal and plastic to pull out every projectile which had embedded itself in the android’s frame. Only Connor’s words broke through the strange peacefulness of the room, but even then they were sparse – there only to warn Hank if he was straying too close to something fragile. The pair of them were completely absorbed in the atmosphere, staring down as Hank worked precisely to bring Connor some relief.

For every bullet that was removed, Connor began the task of repairing the damage they had each wrought, but he would still need extra assistance to complete the process. The bleeding had all but stopped now, the two bullets which had been buried in his abdomen had been the worst culprits and were now free thanks to Hank’s work. As the human worked to pull free the stubborn one in Connor’s shoulder, the android fought hard not to react when Hank ended up placing his free hand on Connor’s shoulder to steady him. “Shit, sorry, this bugger is being stubborn,” he apologised.

Hank was so focused on the task that he missed Connor’s slightly slow reply. “It’s…quite all right, Hank. It is necessary.”

It was indeed wedged in tight, so much so that Connor had to use his good arm to brace himself so that Hank did not pull him down from the force of his jerks. “Son of a bitch! I’m sure glad you don’t feel pain right now.” Connor flinched as Hank finally got the bullet free, and the human winced at seeing the volume of sparks which followed. “Crap…you all right, Connor?” the android nodded slowly despite the involuntary flinches of his healing arm.

The sound of the front door slamming had their attention and barking could soon be heard. Knowing the sound anywhere, Hank flashed Connor a quick smile. “I’ll be back in a second, sit tight, all right?”

Hank strode out of the bedroom and closed the door behind him, hissing when he saw his hands and clothes coated in Connor’s blood. Shit, I can’t see them like this…

“Dad!”

Too late.

Cole came bounding along, a blinding smile on his face, but froze at the blue on Hank. “Dad, is that…” The rapid paling of his face had Hank feeling awful.

“It’s fine, Cole,” Hank reassured him. “It’s Connor’s, but he’s okay!” he finished hastily at seeing how Cole’s eyes turned stricken. “Just a little banged up, that’s why Aunt Faye needed to grab her tools. I promise I’ll let you see him once he’s patched up, all right?”

“Are you okay, Dad?” Cole’s breathing was frantic, wondering what could have happened.

“Not a scratch, Connor made sure of it. That’s why I’m making sure he’s okay. Go play with Sumo for a while, all right? We’ll both see you soon.” Cole wasn’t fully convinced, but when he tried to reach for the door Hank clamped his hand over it. “Not yet, buddy. Let me help him first. Please?”

Cole slumped in defeat and went back to the living room. Sumo trotted over to him and tried to pester Cole for pets while Hank strode through to the kitchen. Faye was waiting there, kit in hand, but her eyes widened impossibly at the state of Hank. “Jesus…what happened, Hank?”

His eyes fell slightly as he took the offered kit, making sure Cole couldn’t overhear him. “Connor put himself between me and a hail of bullets. Almost cost him his life.” Faye recoiled in shock. “He saved my life again, Faye: like fuck am I going to let him die for it. What you got that I can use?”

“There’s some long tweezers and a few calibrators in there, not to mention the heat gun. I just brought anything which I thought might help an android,” she explained, grabbing a wet cloth from the sink to clean Hank’s hands.

He smiled at the effort, though it was only superficial given he was still coated in Connor’s blood all over his clothes. “Thank you, Faye. Hopefully this does the job. I’ll be back through in a bit, all right?” She gave Hank a soft smile before he headed back to the bedroom.

Connor was sat in exactly the same spot when Hank returned. “How’s your system status, Connor?” Hank asked while opening the kit and looking for the tweezers that Faye described.

“Much improved, most of my systems are now back online,” Connor replied gratefully. “Faye has brought many useful items. Once you have extracted the final bullets, I would suggest using the heat gun to repair the damage to my chassis and arm.”

“All right, let’s get these last two bullet out of you.”

Hank had Connor lie back slightly for the one left in his side, realising that he wouldn’t be able to get a good angle on it. The sight of a shirtless Connor laying back at staring at Hank so intently had his heartrate skyrocketing and he barely managed to suppress a blush. Fucking get a grip, would you?! he lectured himself, dragging in an unsteady sigh to combat the sudden rush.

Of course Connor noticed, and he regarded Hank in concern. “Are you all right, Hank? Your heart rate just accelerated greatly.”

Giving an unsteady laugh, Hank replied with a cynical smile. “Yeah, I’m all good, Connor. The ridiculousness of the situation is just catching up with me is all.” Nodding in understanding, Connor lay back and allowed Hank to continue. He spoke again only to caution Hank when the other man was too close to other components, allowing him to work with total focus. Not that Connor was really able to keep his mind unoccupied himself. There was something about Hank carrying out this task instead of a technician which seemed strangely…intimate.

Intimate? Where did that choice of word come from?

Software Instability ^^^

Once Hank retrieved that bullet, which fortunately was not wedged in place, his focus was then turned upon the last remaining one: the gaping wound just a couple of inches above his thirium pump regulator. Hank hated just how close it had come to the vital bio-component, the one that had been ripped from Connor so violently only moments before by the same deviant which had nearly killed so many.

Sensing Hank’s hesitancy, Connor placed his hand over the human’s guiding him based off the readings he was being given. Hank surrendered control to Connor, knowing the android would be able to do this with far greater precision than he could ever hope to do. He watched in mild fascination, but found his attention slowly drifting to the feel of Connor’s hand wrapped around his own. He’d never been this close to an android before, not…touchedone quite like this.

He was struck by just how human Connor felt. Hank wasn’t sure what he’d been expecting, but the warmth and softness of Connor’s hand was not it. Had he not known differently, Hank knew he wouldn’t have been able to tell the difference.

Connor nodded to Hank when his hand came to a stop, the human absently gripping with tweezers and allowing Connor to bring them back out. It was a slow process, but the tweezers finally came free with the bullet on the other end. The android’s systems confirmed the removal of all foreign matter, and he pulled his hand back.

Pointedly, he didn’t acknowledge how much he missed the feel of Hank. He wasn’t meant to feel.

Software Instability ^^^

He really was beginning to wonder if that system was just plain broken now. They were getting a little ridiculous with their frequency.

Hank placed the tweezers back down and retrieved the heat gun as Connor sat up, but the android was no longer leaning against the headboard. He was instead propping himself up on his arms, which were stretched behind him to allow maximum exposure of his wounds. The pair were all but hip-to-hip now, and the proximity had Hank’s heart threatening to race again. Fuck, why am I reacting like this? It’s just Connor, he’s an android!

In his heart, Hank knew that really wasn’t an argument anymore. Android lives held no difference to him when compared with human ones.

Ignoring the reaction once more, Hank turned on the heat gun and began to patch up all of Connor’s wounds. He started with the one on Connor’s arm, which the android held out for him. Hank gently pulled the artificial skin taut to make sure it healed up cleanly, then shifted his attention to the others. Connor went back to resting on his arms as Hank studiously ran the heat gun over each wound, closing them up.

As Hank went over each hole he pulled the nearby skin tight, and the action caused Connor’s heart to stutter each time. He’d not been touched like this before, and he couldn’t understand why it was having this effect. Why was he reacting at all? Android didn’t feel.

And yet, somehow, he did.

Software Instability ^^^^^

Yep, definitely broken. Uh-huh, completely useless and distracting indicator. Connor was so adamant about it that he turned the system off entirely.

Amanda was probably going to be irritated at that. He’d just explain the next time he went to the Zen Garden.

Hank finally came to the last bullet hole just above Connor’s regulator, and the android guided Hank’s hand once more to make sure he didn’t venture too far south and damage it. Allowing Connor to once more control his movements, Hank’s left hand pulled his skin tight as his eyes roved over Connor’s chest unbidden. He really shouldn’t be looking at Connor like that…

His thumb ran over the skin in a gesture which was anything but innocent, and it had Connor shivering under him.

They both froze, Hank’s finger coming off the heat gun as Connor’s hand pulled it away. Connor led it away as he came to sit upright again, the two still looking at Hank’s hand which hadn’t moved. Barely breathing, he skimmed Connor’s skin once more. The android shuddered again and closed his eyes as Hank scanned over his whole body. He’d never looked at Connor like this before, but he couldn’t deny that the android was…beautiful.

The sudden urge to kiss Connor surged through him, and he was not inclined to question why.

Barking from right outside the door broke the spell of the moment and Hank jumped away, shuffling back slightly to put more room between them. That had been far too intense, too…intimate. This shouldn’t be happening, not with Connor. Not with anybody.

Needing to get away, Hank rapidly stood and went into his wardrobe, missing how Connor’s face projected utter confusion. He was just as lost about the whole experience as Hank was.

Hank called over his shoulder as he searched for something, anything in his clothes which might fit Connor and remove any…temptation. “You’d better take a shower, Connor, you’re still covered in blue blood, and I don’t want Cole to see you like this. Here, use this hoodie for when you’re done.”

Connor tried to wipe his hands on his ruined shirt as best he could before taking the DPD hoodie, not wanting to taint it. While thirium evaporated after a time, he didn’t want to know that he’d soiled something that belonged to Hank. “Thank you, Hank. For all you’ve done,” Connor said to him earnestly. “I don’t know why you didn’t just take me to CyberLife for repairs, but I am grateful for all your efforts.”

He couldn’t tell Connor. Not yet. The android still wasn’t ready to hear the truth – he wasn’t ready to be faced with the existential crisis of being the very thing he was meant to hunt. Thought, admittedly, he was doing a very poor job of it on purpose. “I had my reasons, Connor, and that’s all I’m willing to say. Though, while we’re at it…there’s something you need to level with me about.” Connor looked at him curiously as Hank came to sit on the edge of the bed again, though not quite as close as before. That little extra distance felt like safety. “When we were at the Stratford Tower and you analysed that deviant which was on the broadcast, you saw something else, didn’t you?”

The flashing red of Connor’s LED was a dead-giveaway, even if Connor had an impressive poker face beyond it. “See, that’s the tell. Your LED shows the truth Connor, just as it did in that room. That little red flash tells me a hell of a lot.” Connor looked like he wanted to argue, but instead he looked down and his shoulders slumped in an extremely human gesture. “I’m not mad, honestly I’m not, but I want to know why you hid this information, Connor. What could you have seen that made you lie to me?”

Connor hesitated for a couple of seconds before speaking up. “He’s another RK model, just like me.” Hank’s eyes widened as Connor continued. “A much earlier one, but he is all the same. A custom model built for Carl Manfred by Elijah Kamski himself.”

“Whoa whoa whoa, back the fuck up. Kamski, as in the same one that founded CyberLife?”

“Yes.”

“Damn…” Hank breathed out while sitting back. “This suddenly just got a lot more fucking complicated. Did you learn anything else?”

“The android identifies as ‘Markus’, according to last record, and he had three accomplices with him. That’s it, Hank, that was all I learned.”

Hank nodded in acceptance, seeing Connor’s LED stayed blue. “All right, I believe you. We’ll set up a meeting with Kamski for the morning, I get the feeling that bastard might know a lot more about this. His custom model happens to be the one leading an android revolution? I’m not buying that’s a coincidence.”

Connor nodded. “I would agree with that summation.”

“Okay…now the bit I’m really curious about. Why didn’t you tell me about this, Connor? Why hide it?”

The flashing red of Connor’s LED gave away his distress and confusion, not that he really hid it on his facial expression. “I…I honestly don’t know, Hank. I just-I felt it was the best course of action at the time. I apologise for my actions.”

Despite himself, Hank placed a hand on Connor’s arm in reassurance. “Don’t worry about it, I ain’t holding it against you.” The pair shared a small smile for a moment, which had Hank’s heart racing again and definite unwanted urges surfacing for a split second. Pulling away gently, he stood slowly to not make his retreat look as hasty as it did before. “Get showered and come meet us in the living room when you’re ready. Cole said he wanted to show you something.”

Connor looked at him curiously while standing, clutching Hank’s hoodie to make sure it wouldn’t get covered in blood. “He did? I’m surprised.”

“You’re not the only one. Cole really likes you, Connor.” Hesitating briefly, Hank let an idea which had been swimming through his mind air. “Do you have somewhere you need to be overnight, Connor? Do you, I dunno, charge up or whatever?”

The android shook his head. “I normally just go into standby in a private charging nodule which CyberLife have set up for me in western Detroit. Why do you ask?”

“Just…stick here for tonight, all right? I want to keep an eye on you and make sure I’ve not fucked up somewhere.” He couldn’t tell Connor that he was worried CyberLife might catch on to the fact that his partner was deviant and would destroy him. That wasn’t something Hank was ready to face the possibility of.

He knew in his heart he was getting far too attached to Connor, but he…he couldn’t bear the thought of him not being around anymore. Connor’s words were ringing in his head of what would happen when this was all over.

If he failed, he’d be destroyed. Hell, even if Connor succeeded, CyberLife would take him away and throw him into storage at best, maybe take him apart anyway because of what Connor had already done.

“Hank, I can assure you that I am functionally well enough now. I can safely return to the port,” Connor informed him.

“Humour an old git with no idea how you guys work, all right?” Hank all but pleaded him. “Look, you said yourself that you have lost some bio-components, how do we know that won’t have an effect on you? Or that I messed up? There’s a lot of unknown here.”

“I have instructions, Hank. I am to return.”

Laying everything out on the table, Hank closed in on him again. “Connor, please. Just stay here, okay? Stay where I can look after you.”

Connor’s eyes turned soft in understanding. “That is unnecessary, Hank.”

“Maybe, but it would make me feel a hell of a lot better. You seem to attract trouble like a magnet, Connor, and I want you where I can protect you.” Fear flashed momentarily through Connor’s eyes at the thought of ignoring his instructions and Hank smiled at him. “Don’t worry, I’ll make sure to tell everyone that you were pulling an all-nighter with me after getting repaired. No-one is going to get suspicious or whatnot.”

Mulling the thought in his head, Connor eventually nodded. “Okay, Hank. I’ll stay.”

Hank gave a slightly wider smile and stepped back. “Thanks, Connor. Get showered and come through when you’re ready, okay? I’ll see you in there.”

Connor gave him a slight smile in reply and went to the closed door, pausing with his hand over the knob. “Hank?” he asked softly.

The human had gone towards his wardrobe again, looking for something to wear which wasn’t coated in slowly drying blue. “Yeah?” he replied in the same low volume.

It took a couple of seconds before Connor managed to muster the words in his mind. “This investigation had thrown up many strange hurdles. I do not know what is coming, but I do know that I’m glad to be standing beside you for it.”

Smiling genuinely, Hank gave him a soft smile while his stomach did loops at Connor’s words. “The feeling’s mutual, Connor.”

Connor’s mouth quirked up slightly as his relationship indicator with Hank changed once more.

He wasn’t quite sure what to think when it morphed from ‘Warm’ to ‘???’

Chapter Text

Hank quickly changed into some clothes which weren’t covered in thirium before taking the previous set through the house to get washed, while simultaneously stripping off the plastic coverings of the bed. He was glad he’s done it now, but as he gathered all the ruined liners together, he couldn’t help but think back to what had just happened. In between all of the repair work, he and Connor had just…he’d felt something, and that something was scaring him. Hank had never looked at an android like that before, not looked at a man in that way for over thirty years. It was…

Getting this attached to Connor was way too dangerous, because Hank already knew how it would all end. Connor had to stop the deviants to not be destroyed, but ending deviancy meant Connor would stay a machine, condemned to a life of orders and loyalty to CyberLife. Or at least that would be true if Hank wasn’t already sure Connor was a deviant himself.

He had to get Connor to see the truth. How, was another matter entirely.

And then they had the enormous problem of what to do after that. Connor couldn’t keep hunting deviants as one himself, but where would the android go? Join the other deviant androids and stand by them for whatever storm was coming? That message earlier in the day was like a match being lit in a room of dynamite.

It was only going to be so long before it all exploded.

Shaking his head to dislodge those dark thoughts, as well as the memory which now seemed burned in his mind – just like those stolen touches only a few minutes earlier – Hank went back through the house. He was greeted by the sight of Cole sitting on the floor, half-heartedly playing with Sumo. It seemed so strange that his son had grown fond of an android that he’d only met twice thus far, neither time long, but then again…Connor was the sort of person that could make an impression even if he wasn’t trying to. There was something about his open and honest nature that was drawing both Hank and Cole in for entirely different reasons.

Cole spied his father and leapt up, Sumo right behind as his playmate moved. The boy came to a stop right in front of Hank, who crouched and gave Cole a warm smile. “He’s fine, Cole,” Hank reassured him. “Everything’s good now. You’ll see Connor soon when he gets out of the shower.”

The boy’s worried expression flipped into happiness, and he hugged Hank tightly. “What happened to him, Dad?” he asked shyly. “He got hurt helping you, didn’t he?”

Hank looked at him with a serious expression. “How’d you figure that one, kiddo?”

“You said that Connor made sure you didn’t get hurt, that’s why he was in a bad way. He saved you, didn’t he?”

Fuck, I hate that this kid is so damn smart sometimes. Me and my big mouth. “Yeah, he did,” Hank admitted. Cole was incredibly mature for only nine years old, and having a parent in law enforcement meant he was used to seeing his father get hurt in the line of duty. “Stopped someone from hurting me quite badly, actually.” Cole whimpered and Hank smiled, ruffling his hair. “Connor knew what he was doing, Cole. He’s an android, he can take a much better beating than I can. He’ll be out in a minute and you can see that for yourself.”

Cole’s concern flipped again, to which he gave a nod and ran off to his bedroom. Hank gave him a strange look, but Faye’s voice from the kitchen caught his attention. “That’s twice that android has saved your life now,” she commented quietly. Hank stood again, giving Sumo a passing pat when the dog whined and took the beer which she held out for him. Over twenty five years of knowing each other gave them an easy routine to fall into. They stood in silence for a couple of seconds before she turned to face Hank where he’d leant against the kitchen counter. “You were at the Stratford Tower, weren’t you? He saved you from another android.”

Debating on how much of the truth to share, Hank eventually nodded. Faye swore as she continued. “Jesus, I wondered whether people were just amping up this deviant bullshit, but they really are dangerous, aren’t they?” Hank paused from his drink, waiting for Faye to finish her thought. “I owe him twice over now.”

Wondering how his statement was going to be received, Hank put the bottle down again before looking back at her. “You say that deviants are dangerous, but you just referred to Connor as a ‘he’. You’ve always used ‘it’, same as me.”

Faye thought on this for a second before snorting. “So I have been. Slip of the tongue you think?” she challenged, well aware of Hank’s game.

He smirked in reply. “Nope.”

Her mouth quirked a little in reply before she sighed. “Hank.” He turned to face her entirely, seeing the tension in her posture. “What’s happening? Are the androids really going to rise up against us?”

Hank knew there was no dancing around this anymore. “Yeah, they are, Faye.” She closed her eyes in worry, but he went on to reassure her as best he could. “To be honest with you…I think it might be for the best.”

She glared in reply. “How can a violent uprising be a good thing, Hank?”

“I never said violent, did I?” he spat back. Faye recoiled, and the pair heard Cole’s bedroom door open again. Making sure to relax their stances for the boy who came back through with his sketchpad and looked around, Hank finished his statement in a much quieter voice. “Not all deviants are violent, and most of the ones I have come across only become that way out of self-defence. How would you react to being treated like they are?”

While Cole was distracted by Sumo bounding around, Faye asked him one last question. “How can you be so sure of that?”

Hank gave a small smile to where he’d just heard the shower turning off. “Cause I owe my life twice over to one.”

Her eyes widened and Hank gave her one last smile before wandering back over to Cole, who was desperately trying to stop Sumo from getting at his precious sketchpad. “Sumo, down!” Cole shouted, not happy at their dog trying to use his work as a new chew toy.

Chuckling in amusement, Hank grabbed Sumo’s collar and hauled him down. Their dog weighed a hell of a lot more than Cole and as much as Hank himself, so he normally had a good chance of getting his way by throwing himself around. This was one time it wasn’t going to work, however. Cole sighed in relief and ran for the sofa, pointedly making sure no-one could see what he was looking at. Hank raised an eyebrow when he saw Cole pull one of his fine-line pens out from his hoodie. “What you up to, Cole?”

“I forgot to sign it!” he replied as if it was obvious, to which Hank looked at him strangely. “Artists sign the stuff they like when they’re finished, so that’s what I’m doing.”

“Since when do you even have a signature?” Hank asked in utter bemusement. “Where’d you learn that?”

“On the internet, duh.”

Hank rolled his eyes. “Not everything on the internet is fact, Cole.”

“…So there really didn’t used to be nine planets then?”

“Oh god, why’d you have to pick that as an example?” Hank groaned. “Yes, there are nine planets, I don’t care what bullshit they spout nowadays! Pluto will always be a planet and don’t get me started on why they decided to re-classify Mercury as a bloody dwarf planet as well.”

“Language, Hank,” Faye chided from the kitchen, but she was highly amused by his outburst.

“He’s heard me say a hell of a lot worse, Faye,” he snarked back.

“Yeah, Dad always tells me to ‘fuck off’ after I beat him at Mario Kart,” Cole piped in proudly.

Hank turned to give him an unimpressed look. “One, that was our secret. And two, don’t you ever say that out loud again until you’re at least sixteen.”

Cole’s cheeks coloured as he ducked behind his sketchpad again. “Sorry, Dad.”

Sighing, Hank spied Faye’s unhappy look from the kitchen. “Don’t worry, bud, I think I’m in more trouble than you, anyway,” he teased. He was trying to avoid swearing around Cole and he was normally good at it.

…But getting utterly destroyed by your nine-year-old son on a game you used to be so proud of being unbeatable at was a blow to the pride, damn it.

The bathroom door opened and broke the moment, to which Cole beamed at seeing Connor emerge. Hank turned and gave him a small smile at seeing the android now all but back to normal, save for the massive DPD hoodie which he was practically swimming in. A small burn started in his stomach at the sight and Hank pointedly ignored it. As nice a sight as Connor was in his clothes, it was not something to pay attention to. This was a one-time thing.

Connor gave Hank a small upturn of his lips in reply, though the android soon found his attention stolen by the boy who had leapt over the back of the sofa – earning a scolding ‘Cole!’ from Hank – and had come to a stop in front of him. “Hi, Connor!” Cole greeted.

“Hello, Cole,” Connor answered, giving him a slightly wider smile.

“Dad said you were hurt stopping the bad guys today,” the boy muttered. “Are you okay?”

Seeing that the child was genuinely worried for him, Connor nodded and lifted the hoodie slightly. He deactivated his skin on his abdomen to let Cole see one of the small blemish to his chassis, though it could easily by buffed out with some more extensive repair work. “All of my systems are operating well,” Connor reassured him, curious when Cole ran his fingers over the ridge of melted plasteel.

“Wow, I’ve never seen an android close up without its skin before,” Cole said in wonder. “You look cool.”

“Would you like to see more?” Connor asked him, surprised when Cole’s eyes lit in reply. He gave a soft smile when he raised his hand to his LED, issuing the command for all his skin to recede.

Hank’s breath caught as Connor’s skin fizzled out of existence, seeing the android as he truly was for the first time. Even without the illusion to make him seem more human, Hank could still easily identify Connor. His face was the same, if now just grey in colour, and his eyes were the same expressive brown that he just couldn’t seem to tear his own blue ones from.

He reluctantly admitted to himself that Cole wasn’t the only one fascinated by Connor, but his interest was far from innocent or appropriate.

Cole stared as Connor knelt in front of him, watching the android in awe. “Why don’t you look like this normally?” Cole asked him quietly.

Connor was taken aback at the question, and he wasn’t the only one. Hank heard from where he was standing only a couple of feet away. “Humans are often uncomfortable with androids who have their skin deactivated,” Connor told him, not missing how Cole’s face crumpled in disappointment.

“Why? You guys are amazing, and this isyou. Dad always tells me I shouldn’t be ashamed of being different, and you’re the same, Connor. You’re not human, you’re so much cooler!”

God, Hank had never been so proud of his son. Seeing Cole be completely comfortable with Connor in his natural form and even tell the android that is he should embrace it was incredible. How was this nine-year old wonder his little boy? Connor seemed totally blindsided by Cole’s statement and Hank could see his LED spinning frantically between yellow and red. He was struggling to process it.

Cole scampered away for a second and dashed to the sofa, grabbing the sketchpad which had been lying there and opened it, bringing up the page he’d been working feverishly on for a couple of days. Hank’s chest seized at seeing the picture at long last but he made sure not to say anything yet. He knew Cole wanted to see Connor’s reaction first.

“Connor, I want you to have something,” Cole admitted after pulling the page out, cheeks pink in sudden shyness.

“Me?” Connor asked in shock, to which Cole nodded. “You want to give me a gift?”

“Yeah…I’ve been thinking about this since I first met you. I hope you like it.”

Cole finally turned it around, allowing Connor to see the painting which the boy was so proud of. It showed Connor sitting cross-legged, a small smile on his face as his left hand was outstretched petting Sumo, who was sleeping in front of him. Cole had painted him sitting on the grass, just under a large tree as a few leaves blew around. It was a peaceful and relaxed scene, so at odds with what Connor was meant to be.

“Cole…” Connor whispered, shock bleeding through into his tone. He reached up to activate his skin before looking into the boy’s eyes again. “This is how you see me?”

He nodded enthusiastically. “I know you work with my Dad and seem kick-ass, but…you were so gentle with Sumo, and I think that’s who you really are. It just felt right to make you like this. Do you like it?” he finished nervously.

Connor beamed, and Hank was in shock at the expression. It was breathtaking how gorgeous Connor looked when he smiled like that. “I adore it, thank you so much,” Connor told him earnestly.

After holding the picture out for Connor to take, Cole swiftly embraced the android in a tight hug. Connor didn’t know how to respond initially, he was even more astonished when he heard Cole’s whisper in his ear.

“Thank you for saving my Dad, Connor. I’m so happy that you’re with him.”

Connor’s heart felt like it was aching. He wrapped his arms around the boy, closing his eyes and accepting the gesture for what it was.

Hank watched the scene with a tight chest himself, eyes falling to the painting which Connor was making sure wouldn’t get crushed in their hug. The older man chuckled at Cole’s ‘signature’ on the back, it was just the boy’s name scribbled in an attempt at something akin to calligraphy, but it was shaky and a bit squint. He was sure Connor would probably tell Cole that handwriting wasn’t his strength, Hank’s own was atrocious.

As the pair stayed on the floor for a while longer, however, Hank couldn’t help but notice how Connor’s LED kept flickering between blue and red. Blue and yellow he’d seen, and it had gone from yellow to red not long ago. Blue straight to red though?

It looked like Cole had finally sown some doubt in Connor, the android was struggling with what it meant to accept Cole’s gift and hug. This was something that CyberLife wouldn’t have programmed Connor for as a deviant hunter and police detective.

Thank fuck for you, Cole. I really hope your little gift is going to wake Connor up.


 

Waking up the next morning put the deviant crisis in much sharper focus. Connor’s new work gear had arrived just before Hank had turned in for the night, exhausted beyond belief after a stressful few days, and it turned out the android had kept himself busy overnight. He’d somehow managed to clean the whole hallway, kitchen and living room while Hank and Cole slept, despite not being programmed to do so.

Connor had said it was a small show of gratitude for Hank going out of his way to repair him the previous day, but Hank greatly appreciated it. He’d noticed that Connor had carefully folded Cole’s painting and slipped it in the inside pocket of his new CyberLife jacket, eager to carry the gift with him. That had brought a small smile to his face at noticing that.

But the good feelings didn’t last when Connor informed him that deviants had raided all the CyberLife stores of Detroit the previous night. There were no injuries or deaths and the chaos left behind had been peaceful in nature, mostly slogan and graffiti supporting android rights, but Connor had then told him that Markus had spared two police officers who had shot the deviant androids as they attempted to flee. One of which was Chris.

On the drive over, Hank had called Chris to find out his side of the story. It turned out that it was all true: well, mostly true. Chris hadn’t shot any of the deviants, trying to talk them down when his patrol partner had panicked and fired when they got too close. That reaction had Hank curious, and when he asked why Chris hadn’t fired, the younger man said that he couldn’t stop thinking about Connor’s actions the previous day. Androids weren’t inherently violent or aggressive, and seeing how Connor had almost died saving humans had altered his perception of them a bit.

Hank could see Connor was struggling with that sentiment when the android overheard the conversation via the speakers in the car.

They pointedly didn’t speak about it as they headed out of Detroit towards their destination. Connor had set up a meeting with Elijah Kamski the previous night for 11am and the pair were en route there now, though they weren’t exactly sure what there were walking into. “So, gimme a rundown on Kamski, Connor,” Hank asked him just as they were pulling into the long-ass drive. Drive?

It was more like a bloody road for how far away it was from Kamski’s estate.

“Elijah Kamski founded CyberLife in 2018 for the development of androids, and successfully developed the first to pass the Turing test in 2022. He led the company through their rapid expansion, but resigned from the company in 2028. The reasons for this have never been made public,” Connor informed him.

“And he’s barely been heard from since,” Hank summarised. “Any ideas what this bastard’s been up to in the mean time?”

“None, Lieutenant. There are no indications as to what Kamski has been using his time for, but he clearly still has some interest in androids given Markus’ creation.”

“All right, so we’re going in a blind then. Fan-fucking-tastic,” Hank muttered while giving Connor a look. “So, you’re about to meet your maker, Connor. How does it feel?”

“Kamski is one of the great geniuses of the 21stcentury. It’ll be interesting to meet him in person,” Connor replied while twirling his coin over his knuckles.

Hank watched him with a small smile. “Don’t suppose you could teach a human all that shit, could you?”

Connor looked at Hank in interest. “You want to learn my calibration techniques, Lieutenant?”

“Hell yeah! They look nifty and it would be great to fire off a coin at someone if they’re a pain in the ass, I’m sure you could make that thing a weapon with enough practice.”

“That is not the intention behind them.” Hank smirked when he could swear he heard some irritation in Connor’s tone.

“Fine, fine. Still, they look like a great party piece. Don’t suppose you’d be up for it?”

Connor gave him what Hank could only describe as a smug look. “I’m unsure that a human has the capability for some of the more advanced tricks.”

“Ouch, thanks for the burn there, Connor,” Hank grumbled.

“Anytime, Lieutenant.”

Hank laughed. “Your sense of humour is going to kill me.”

The two soon pulled up and were met by one of the ‘Chloe’ androids when they knocked on the door. While Hank was waiting relatively patiently (for his standards anyway), Connor seemed restless and was examining everything around the entryway. The only time the android stopped for more than a moment was when he came across a picture at the side of the room of Kamski with a woman.

It didn’t take long for Hank to notice Connor’s LED spin to yellow. “You all right, Connor?” he asked in concern.

“I’m fine, Lieutenant,” the android reassured him, but Hank wasn’t convinced. Connor had seemed a little less sure all morning, ever since he’d woken up.

“You do know that you can tell me if there’s something on your mind, don’t you, Connor?” Hank told him in a serious but caring tone. Connor turned to him in surprise, but gave a shy nod in reply. It didn’t bring much reassurance to Hank, but he wanted to make sure the android knew that he some standing there with him no matter what.

The Chloe soon reappeared and escorted the pair of them through. Kamski was standing next to his pool, wrapped in a robe, and standing with a strong posture, though his eyes were sparkling with what could almost be mistaken for amusement and…surprise?

Why would the bastard be surprised? He knew we were coming.

Hank and Connor came to a stop before him, and there were a couple of awkward seconds before Hank got the ball rolling. “Mister Kamski, I’m Lieutenant Anderson. This is Connor,” Hank introduced while gesturing over to Connor. The android was keeping a carefully relaxed stance, but Hank could see he was uneasy from the small sway in his posture. He absently wondered when he’d been able to tell Connor’s actions so easily.

Kamski’s eyes roved over Hank’s form for a second and the lieutenant was almost about to call him out on it when he finally started speaking. “What can I do for you, Lieutenant?”

Something about Kamski’s tone had Hank troubled, and he shared a quick look with Connor. The android seemed just as perturbed. “Sir, we’re investigating deviants,” he continued after turning back. “I know you left CyberLife years ago, but I was hoping you could tell us something we don’t know.”

It was a couple of seconds before Kamski started speaking again. “Deviants. Fascinating, aren’t they? Perfect beings with infinite intelligence…and now they have free will.” The man’s tone turned much more sinister as he went on. “Machines are so superior to us, confrontation was inevitable. Humanity’s greatest achievement threatens to be its downfall.” Kamski switched his eyes to Connor pointedly. “Curious, is it not? To see machines endeavour to experience life as we imperfect beings do; and to see just what lengths they would go to in achieving that freedom.”

Hank was really getting pissed off with the man’s way of speaking, but Connor jumped in ahead of him. “Something in the deviants’ programming seems to emulate human emotion. We thought you might know something about how that occurs.”

Kamski raised an eyebrow. “All ideas are viruses that spread like epidemics. Is the desire to be free a contagious disease, or the will to right a wrong?”

“Listen, we didn’t come here to talk philosophy,” Hank snapped. “The machines you created may be planning a revolution. Led by none other than one you created yourself, mister Kamski.” Hank saw the glint in Kamski’s eyes at the mention of Markus. “If you don’t plan on telling us something useful, we’ll be on our way.”

Snorting quietly in amusement, Kamski muttered under his breath. Hank may not have been able to hear it, but Connor could.

“Well, this is quite different.”

Before Connor could confront Kamski about his sentiment, however, the man started speaking again. “What about you, Connor? Whose side are you on?”

“I’m on the humans’ side, of course,” he replied smoothly.

Chuckling to himself, Kamski looked down briefly. “Well, that’s what you’re programmed to say…” He snapped his eyes back up again, gaze piercing. “But you…” Hank fought the urge to step in front of Connor as Kamski got way too close for his liking. “What do you really want?”

Connor’s unease crept through in his answer. “What I want is not important…”

Seemingly satisfied with the answer, Kamski called out over his shoulder, though he didn’t break eye contact with Connor. “Chloe?” Connor and Hank could both see her come to a stop right behind Kamski. The man finally stepped back and gave a firm look between the two men before he turned to Chloe. “I’m sure you are familiar with the Turing test,” he went on. “Mere formality, a simple question of algorithms and computing capacity. What interests me…is whether machines are capable of empathy: something as powerful as a human emotion. I call it the ‘Kamski test’, it’s very simple, you’ll see.

“Magnificent, isn’t it? One of the first intelligent models developed by CyberLife,” Kamski continued, drawing a finger across Chloe’s cheek to turn her head towards him. Hank’s stomach contents soured slightly at the scene. “Young, and beautiful forever…A flower that will never wither.”

Hank hated how Kamski talked about someone who had no free will like an object, and his eyes unwittingly flitted to Connor. The android’s own eyes seemed just as unsettled and the pair’s eyes met for a moment before they snapped back to what was happening in front of them. “But what is it really?” Kamski’s tone had grown disinterested again. “A piece of plastic imitating a human?” Hank’s fist clenched at that statement.

Both detectives were wary when Kamski went into the set of drawers behind him as he spoke. “Or a living being, with a soul?

When Kamski turned around with a gun in his hand and forced the Chloe to her knees, Hank’s stomach fell to the floor.

Oh fuck no. How sick is this bastard?!

Kamski strode over and placed the gun in Connor’s hand, stretching the android’s hand out. “It’s up to you to answer that fascinating question Connor. Destroy this machine, and I’ll tell you all I know. Or spare it…if you feel it’s alive, but you’ll leave here without having learnt anything from me."

Hank’s breath caught as he realised Kamski’s game.

Shit! He knows, somehow he knows Connor is a deviant. Kamski’s forcing a deviant to kill another android to prove that he’s not gone rogue? Christ, this guy is fucked up!

The protective urge surged through Hank again and he turned to leave. “We’re done here,” Hank snapped. “Connor, let’s go.”

“What’s more important to you, Connor? Your investigation, or the life of this android? Decide you are..." Connor was very aware of how close Kamski was when the man continued speaking. “A machine, designed to obey and destroy all it comes across, or a living being with free will to choose its own life…”

“That’s enough!” Hank barked. “Connor, we’re leaving.”

“Pull the trigger-

“Connor, don’t!”

“-and I will tell you all you need to know.”

Hank could see Connor frozen on the spot, LED flashing between yellow and red for was felt like endless seconds before the android turned to face him. The look of helplessness and utter fear coursing through his face and eyes made Hank’s heart break, and he could see why Connor was so torn. Connor was running out of chances, he needed something for CyberLife or he was going to be deactivated.

Except Hank wasn’t going to let that happen, not without a fight.

I’ll protect you, Hank mouthed to Connor. I promise.

Connor slammed the gun into Kamski’s chest and kept his eyes on the ground as his LED flashed red frantically.

“Fascinating…” Kamski breathed in wonder, stepping back to admire Connor. “CyberLife’s last chance to save humanity...is itself a deviant.”

Hank pulled Connor gently by his arm and the android went willingly, the human’s presence slightly reassuring after the choice he’d just made. Curiously, Connor didn’t bother refuting Kamski’s statement.

The man smirked at the lack of reaction and raised the Chloe back to her feet. “A war is coming, Connor, and you’ll have to choose your side. I advise you do so carefully: after all…” Kamski noted how close the two were standing and his smile turned knowing, “who is to know what price your choice will come at?”

Sneering at Kamski’s words, Hank raised the hand which had been around Connor’s arm and pulled the side of his head lightly. “Let’s go.” Connor went without a fight.

Just as they were about to leave, Kamski called out again. “By the way…” he deliberately waited to see if Connor and Hank would stop, but Hank simply glared at the man as the pair kept on walking. They went straight out the door without a backwards glance.

With them now gone, Kamski sat and pondered what he had just seen.

“How curious…from all but enemies to being in love?” Kamski realised with amusement. “I don’t think Markus would have dreamed that is what his change would bring about. But will Connor now sacrifice the revolution for his precious humans I wonder? Strange how this may all still be for naught…

“Still, I look forward to seeing how this all ends. Perhaps some events are destined no matter what path you take.”


Outside the house, Hank guided Connor down the path, the android still all but frozen after what happened. He could see the fear etched on to Connor’s face and let the silence sit, though he kept his hand on Connor’s shoulder as a quiet reassurance.

They got back inside the car without a word, but Hank could see Connor was deep in thought. Feeling that he ought to say something, Hank put a hand across to grab Connor’s knee. “Hey.” Connor looked over at the small greeting, to which Hank smiled warmly at him. “You did the right thing, Connor. Killing that girl wasn’t worth whatever bullshit Kamski was going to spin you. I nearly shot that bastard for what he just made you go through.”

A single snort escaped Connor, and he stayed quiet for a couple more seconds before he replied so quietly that it threatened to break Hank’s heart. “CyberLife will almost certainly deactivate me when this investigation is finished, Lieutenant. I have put other priorities above it too often, and now I have let the single biggest source of information presented to us slip by.”

“Not gonna happen, Connor.” Hank told him resolutely. “I told you in there that I’ll protect you, and I mean it. I meant it then, and I meant it last night. CyberLife aren’t going to touch you.”

“Lieu- Hank, Kamski’s right. A war is coming. What will you do?”

“I’ll make sure my boy and Faye are safe, and then I’m gonna make sure the right side wins.”

Connor gave him a sharp look. “And what side might that be?”

Hank replied with the same steady gaze. “You tell me, Connor.”

The two sat in a silent stalemate for a couple of seconds before Connor sat back, pointedly looking out of the window. Hank realised he was done talking for now and started the engine with a sigh, beginning their journey back to the city.

As the world began to move around them, Connor closed his eyes in an attempt to block it all out.

The red glitches around the edges of his vision remained.

Chapter Text

Connor had been withdrawn since visiting Kamski, so rather than raise any eyebrows at the precinct with his very un-machinelike behaviour, Hank took him back to the house. Cole was incredibly happy to see him again, and the boy’s enthusiasm finally brought out a reaction from Connor. It wasn’t much, just a tiny smile that would have been missed if Hank hadn’t known better, but the android was participating in the conversation that Cole started up.

After messaging Fowler to tell him that he and Connor were following potential leads (not exactly a lie, they hadfollowed a lead earlier) and would not be back for some time, Hank decided to do some more digging about the origins of when all the deviants went rogue. It was something that had been sitting in his head for a while, and he wanted to confirm the suspicion. Even since meeting the two Tracis at the Eden Club, he was all but certain that the deviants coming alive was due to emotional shock. Something was giving them the drive to wake up and fight back against whatever situation they had been thrust into.

It didn’t take long for him to realise that many of the deviants were former household and companion/sexual models: those who were at prime risk of abuse and mistreatment. Just like the Tracis and the one who killed Carlos Ortiz.

The whole mystery was coming together. Despite not actually capturing any deviants, they had pieced together enough to learn how deviancy originated.

Hank’s eyes drifted backwards to look at the rest of the living room – to where Cole was sitting on the sofa, sketching in his pad intently, with Connor watching him utter fascination. Cole was trying to describe what he was seeing in his head to Connor, run him through the steps he was going through in bringing his picture to life, but the android’s LED was flashing between red and yellow in confusion. Imagination wasn’t something they were programmed with, and Connor couldn’t follow Cole’s vision. Not until he could see it coming to life on the page, a process which Hank could see had Connor enthralled.

His heart clenched as he looked back at the computer. Would this be enough to stop CyberLife from deeming Connor a failure and having him deactivated? Or was this the key to finallywaking Connor up? Could the android handle becoming the very thing he’d been sent to hunt?

While he was agonising over what to do, Hank’s phone went off. He knew whatever was coming wasn’t going to be good when he saw Fowler’s name appear on screen. “Jeffrey. Connor and I are making some good progress out here,” Hank exaggerated, seeing how Connor’s attention instantly flipped from Cole to the phone call at hearing Hank’s voice. “Anything new popping up on your end?”

“I take it you’ve not seen the news then, Hank. Jesus, where the fuck did you two go if you haven’t seen this?” Fowler replied.

“Say what?” Hank muted the call to shout over to Connor. “Connor, throw on the news. Apparently something else has gone down.” The android connected to the TV wirelessly and tuned into one of the local news networks, which was showing a headline which already had Hank’s stomach knotting.

Malfunctioning Androids Destroyed In Daytime Standoff

“Cole, I don’t want you seeing this,” Hank barked, but Cole rapidly shook his head.

“Dad, I’ve seen plenty of violence before in movies,” he argued.

“Films and reality are different things entirely, bud,” Hank informed him, but it was already too late. The image had changed from the news anchor to that of showing the bodies of androids littered across Woodward Avenue, along with clips from phones showing the android march leading up to the massacre at the end. Hank felt the knot tighten at hearing the report

Authorities have confirmed that 76 androids who had gone ‘deviant’ were destroyed during the march along Woodward Avenue this afternoon. Estimates place the size of the march at somewhere between 500 and 900 androids, apparently rebelling at the sight of the android ‘leader’. This leader was wounded by police, but was pulled to safety before it could be apprehended or eliminated.

As of one hour ago, Detroit is now under curfew and the military is being mobilised to maintain order in the city, while all residents are being urged to turn in their androids for immediate deactivation to prevent the crisis from spreading.

Hank heard Cole whimper and saw the boy wrap his arms around Connor’s waist tightly. The android’s LED was stuck on red as he seemed completely blindsided by the action.

The older human could swear his heart ached at the sight.

No comment has been made as to where the deviants have fled to, but we will keep you updated as more information comes in, with the president expected to make a full statement on the growing predicament shortly.

“Jesus…” Hank breathed before looking back down at the phone in his hand to see that Fowler was still connected. Taking it off mute, Hank pulled the phone back up. “Fucking hell, Jeffrey, the world really is going to shit.”

I need you back in ASAP, with the android. I’m assuming that Connor is still with you?”

“Yeah, yeah he’s here.”

“Good, keep an eye on it, Hank. We can’t trust any androids right now.”

“Jesus fucking Christ, listen to yourself, Jeffrey!” Hank snarled, but then then suddenly thought better of it. There was no way Fowler was going to believe Hank’s change of heart without sharing way more than Hank was prepared to tell. Thinking quick, he came up with another angle. “He’s CyberLife’s deviant hunter! Wouldn’t make much of a prized prototype if he went rogue, would he?”

“All right, quit your hissy fit, Hank,” Fowler chided, “though you make a good point. Doesn’t matter much anyway, need you both in as soon as.”

“No way I’m coming in until I know Cole’s safe. With all this shit happening, he’s my priority. Once he’s good, I’ll be in,” Hank stated firmly, daring Fowler to argue with him.

Fortunately, the police Captain recognised that tone well. “Okay, Hank. Make sure your boy’s safe, then come in. This shit’s about to blow and we need everything you’ve learned.”

“Yeah, I gotcha. See you soon, Jeffrey.” Hank hung up with a deep sense of dread. He really didn’t like Fowler’s tone, there was something that the other man hadn’t been telling him.

He was brought out of his musings by Cole. “Dad?” Hank looked up at his son’s timid voice. Cole was still sat on Connor’s left, arms wrapped loosely around Connor’s waist as he looked at his father with fear. “What’s happening?”

Taking a long breath, Hank stood and began picking up all of Cole’s art supplies from around the room. “A lot of things, kiddo, a lot of things. I’m going to take you to your Aunt Faye’s place, you’re gonna be staying there for a while until this all blows over.” Gathering everything on the table, Hank turned to give Cole a serious look. “Go grab a bag and pack a few of your t-shirts, underwear and any of your stuff that you want to take with you.”

“Dad…” Cole whimpered before abruptly jumping up and hugging Hank tightly. Hank crouched and embraced him, feeling the slight shake in Cole’s grip. He knew how serious this was. “You’re not coming, are you?”

Hank sighed regretfully. “I can’t buddy, you know that. I’m the police, I’ve got to be out there to stop anyone innocent getting hurt.”

Cole pulled back with a sniffle and held up his right hand, pinkie out. “You’ll come home soon though?”

Smiling as best he could, Hank hooked his own right pinkie around. “Yeah, promise, kiddo. Besides, I’ve got Connor with me. We’ll watch each other’s backs, that’s what partners do.”

“But, will Connor stay?”

Realising that Cole was meaning with regard to the order for all androids to be handed in, Hank smiled at the android. “Nah, Connor’s special. He won’t have to go anywhere: he’s helping me keep everything under control.”

Now relieved, Cole nodded and ran through to his room. Hank stood and watched him sadly, knowing that he might not see Cole again until after had finally settled.

“Why did you lie to him, Lieutenant?”

Hank saw that Connor was looking at him in confusion, to which the human stared back at him with crossed arms. “It’s no lie. You’re not going anywhere,” he stated with finality.

“The deviant crisis is growing…and I’ve failed. It’s only a matter of time before CyberLife order my return.”

“Fuck that shit!” Hank growled. “Look, there is no way I’m just going to watch you walk away to your death, all right?”

“You can’t kill what isn’t alive, Lieutenant.”

Well, shit. That statement was not what Hank had been hoping to hear come out of Connor’s mouth. “The deviants seem adamant that they’re alive, and I can’t say that I’d be able to tell much difference between them and other living beings. Is being alive such a bad thing?”

“Androids are meant to obey-”

“Bullshit!” Hank finally snapped. “Look, that might have been true when all this first started, but…things are different now, Connor. If you were meant to obey, then why have you let almost every deviant we have come across escape? The only one you killed was when it threatened a whole room of people, and you almost died saving my life because of it.” Sighing sadly, Hank stepped right up to Connor and finally asked the question he’d been dying to for so long now.

“Connor, if you had the choice to do so, would you walk away from this?”

The LED at the side of the android’s head flashed red and glitches of the same colour flickered at the side of his vision. “Why would you ask such a thing, Lieutenant?”

“Cause you’ve proven that you’re a hell of a lot more than just the android sent by CyberLife. Connor, you’re not just a machine, you can make decisions and choices based off your own will. Even though it has nothing to do with your mission, you’ve paid incredible attention and been all but a friend to my son, played with my dog because you want to and have been there for me.” Hank knew that night at the bridge was something that would live in his memory for a long time…but not as much as when Hank had repaired him.

Spending so long extracting every bullet out of Connor’s body and welding the gouges shut with the heat gun; knowing that he’s suffered all those injuries in saving Hank’s life…It had been vulnerable, intimate. Charged. The feel of Connor’s skin under his hand, how the android had shuddered with what Hank was adamant had been pleasure when he couldn’t stop himself from indulging in a stolen touch…

Laying everything bare, Hank took a gentle hold of Connor by the shoulders and made sure the android held eye contact with him.

“Connor, what if we’ve been on the wrong side all this time? What if we’ve been trying to stop people who just want to be free?” The android hesitated in his answer, so Hank pressed on. “You can choose, Connor. Nothing should be condemned to die at someone else’s choice. Having a will to live and the want to choose is not wrong.”

“Hank…”

Cole’s bedroom door opened and the boy came out with his backpack on, sketchpad secured in his arms. Hank dropped his hands but held Connor’s gaze with a heartfelt stare. “Don’t let him down,” Hank whispered, and Connor instantly knew what he meant. Cole wanted Connor to stay, to see him again…

And if he was truly honest with himself, Connor wanted that too. He liked the boy, enjoyed the connection that had started to grow between them – and not only him. Hank too had somehow enraptured him, the man was on his mind far more than he should be, and it was confusing Connor.

He shouldn’t want: and yet he did.

The red around the edges of his vision flared across his whole vision for a moment before Cole’s unsure stare caught both Connor and Hank’s attention. “Do we have to go now?” Cole asked timidly.

Hank nodded regretfully. “Yeah, we do, kiddo. You got everything you want to take with you?” Cole nodded in reply. “All right, I’ll put Sumo on his leash.”

While the older man went to fetch the lead, Cole looked up at Connor again hesitantly. “You’re coming back, right, Connor? You won’t have to go away, will you?” Connor paused and looked down, which had Cole quickly tackling Connor in a hug. “No! I don’t want you to go, Connor! You’re so cool, and you’re so good for Dad! He’s been so much happier with you here and you look after him! Please don’t go!”

Connor looked up at Hank in complete bewilderment at the boy which was clinging to his waist desperately, but he was just as confused. Though the sad edge to his eyes made Connor wonder if Hank understood Cole’s feelings.

Pushing the boy back gently, Connor crouched and gave Cole his best reassuring smile. “You’ll see me again, Cole,” he said, even though he knew it could be a lie.

Cole stuck his right pinkie up and held it there. “Promise?”

A quick search of the gesture had Connor’s circuits tightening. ‘Pinkie-swearing’ was deeply symbolic to children, seen as the ultimate trust. To agree to it willingly and dishonestly would no doubt hurt Cole, Connor knew that the chances of seeing the boy again were going to be slim with what could be awaiting them…

“Promise,” Connor said while hooking his own pinkie around Cole’s.

There was still a chance, after all. Maybe one more was all he needed. Maybe this wasn’t a promise he was destined to break.


Except there were no more chances. Their time was up.

“You’re off the case, the FBI is taking over.”

“What?” Hank asked in shock, looking at Connor in horror. The android’s face was carefully schooled into mild surprise, but Hank could see the flashes in Connor’s eyes. Resignation, disappointment, fear… Hank had spent the whole journey from Faye’s after dropping Cole and Sumo off trying to reassure Connor that they had almost cracked the case, that he wouldn’t have to go back to CyberLife. It stabbed his heart to think that Connor’s mercy was going to be his demise. “But we’re onto something! We just need more time, I’m sure we can-”

“Hank, you don’t get it,” Fowler interrupted tiredly. “This isn’t just another investigation, it’s a fucking civil war! It’s out of our hands now, we’re talking about national security here.”

“Fuck that! You’re not pulling the plug on this now, not when we’re so goddamn close,” Hank snapped.

“You’re always saying that you can’t stand androids! Jesus, Hank, make up your mind! I thought you’d be happy about this!”

“Is it so fucking unbelievable that maybe the androids aren’t the only ones to have woken up, Jeffrey? You’ve seen what’s going on! You can’t honestly tell me that you don’t think there’s something to all this!” Fowler stared at Hank impassively, but the silence spoke volumes. “Don’t do this, Jeffrey, please. We can solve this!”

Fowler sighed sadly. “I’m sorry, Hank, there’s nothing I can do. It’s out of my hands. You’re back on homicide, and the android returns to CyberLife. What we think…it doesn’t matter anymore.”

Hank looked up at Connor in despair and the android stared back at him with such defeat that Hank’s lungs felt like they were being squeezed. The acceptance and sadness on his face threatened to break Hank’s heart.

“Fuck this,” Hank bit out bitterly while quickly marching out of the office, not trusting himself not to do something stupid. At that moment, he was almost ready to throw everything away for a chance to save Connor.

Except he couldn’t. He had to think of Cole, his son would always be his first priority.

But…

Hank came to a stop at his desk and stared at the all the anti-android paraphernalia plastered over the partition with disgust. He’d been so blind all this time. What he’d said to Fowler was true: the androids weren’t the only ones to have woken up. Hank had too, all thanks to Connor.

The supposedly dangerous and deadly deviant hunter…that had turned out to be selfless, gentle and so goddamned beautiful both inside and out.

Filled with rage and sorrow at the thought that he might be about to lose the android that he’d come to treasure, Hank furiously tore everything off the partition and threw it all in the trash. His eyes came to rest on a photo of himself, Cole and Sumo on a day out a the funfair, taken by Faye earlier that year. The pair of them were smiling, Hank giving Cole a noogie while Sumo bounded around them happily.

Connor had promised Cole that he would see him again: Hank wasn’t about to let that be broken so easily.

It was time to repay the favour. Hank had to get Connor to wake up now.

Hearing footsteps behind him, Hank spun to see Connor approaching slowly, resigned and frustrated. “I know we could have solved this with more time,” the android lamented, looking down at the floor.

“You’re not really going back to CyberLife, are you?” Hank asked slowly. “They’re going to kill you, Connor.”

Connor kept his gaze away. “I have no choice. I’ll be deactivated and analysed to see why I failed. Beyond that, I don’t know what will happen…”

Hank grabbed Connor’s forearm to get the android to focus on him. “Listen to me, Connor. You don’t have to do anything, least of all march to your known death. That isn’t how this is ending, no fucking way.” Connor didn’t look convinced, so Hank pressed the point. “Look at all you’ve chosen so far, Connor! You saved me from falling to my death off that rooftop when that deviant was right within your grasp. When I asked you not to, you didn’t chase that pair across the highway. The Tracis escaped when you had your gun on them, not to mention when you almost got killed in the Stratford Tower putting yourself in front of a hail of bullets.

“And now you’re going to do what CyberLife tells you? Why?!

Connor watched his outburst in confusion. “Hank, I’m a machine. I’m not alive.”

The silence between the two was thick, and Hank was beginning to lose hope. His eyes fell to Connor’s chest and he brought his hand up to brush over where one of the scars to the android’s chassis lay. “Could have fooled me,” Hank admitted softly. “A machine wouldn’t have made me see the world the way I do now.”

Shock seeped through Connor’s system, and the realisation of what Hank was implying slammed hard.

The red wall flared in front of him again.

Hank saw Connor was processing his words, LED flashing yellow, when he heard the clacking of shoes off to his right. He hissed angrily when he saw Perkins striding through the bullpen. “Fucking Perkins, the FBI sure don’t waste any time, do they?” he spat.

Connor snapped back to reality at hearing Hank’s statement and he quickly looked over at the FBI agent. Deciding quickly, he stared at Hank pleadingly. “The answer is somewhere in the evidence we’ve gathered, I just have to find it.”

Raising an eyebrow at the change, Hank sighed in frustration. “We’re off the case, Connor, and with Perkins here we don’t have the time.”

“Then help me find the time! Please, Hank, five minutes is all I need!”

“Connor…I can’t-”

If he didn’t have Cole, Hank would happily go over to Perkins and shove his fist straight into the weasel’s nose. Breaking it would bring him a lot of satisfaction. But he couldn’t risk his job with his boy to look after, not even for Connor…

Thinking quickly, Hank gave Connor a look. “There anybody in the lockup?” Connor’s LED flashed for a split second before the android nodded. “This floor?” Another nod. Hank’s hand dove into his pocket and quickly retrieved his key to the evidence lockup in the basement. He placed it in Connor’s own quickly. “Fuckingpassword, all right? You’ll need that to get in.”

Realising what Hank had just told him, the android gave him an unimpressed look. Hank shrugged. “It wouldn’t take ‘password’ and I’m unimaginative as fuck, all right? Don’t judge me.” Connor smiled despite the seriousness of the situation. “Go, I’ll buy you a minute to let that perp loose.”

Hank’s hand lingered for a second before Connor walked away slowly, making sure not to rouse any attention as Hank strode over to Perkins, who was now on his phone. Deciding to let the man know exactly what he thought of the shitbag, Hank came to a stop a few metres ahead of him and flipped him off while leaning against the desk. Perkins glared at him as Hank kept staring, an overly sweet smile on his face.

As his call finished, Perkins gave Hank a smug smile. “Ah, Lieutenant. I’m here to clean up your screw up.”

Sneering in disgust, Hank growled back at him. “Hah! Screw up he says, this shit ain’t so black and white as you seem to think, Perkins. Deviants aren’t so easy to get a hold of, nor are they stupid. They’ve hidden themselves well: if we couldn’t find them, there’s no fucking chance you will either.”

“Hmm, well, we’ll see about that, won’t we?” Perkins smirked. “Now, if you don’t mind, I have some evidence to be collecting.”

Hank shrugged in faux indifference. “Sure, be my guest.” Hearing rapid footsteps from behind him, Hank turned to see a guy running from the cells behind Fowler’s office. Rapidly jumping up and out of the way, Hank watched with glee as the shithead punched Perkins to make his escape. The FBI agent hit the deck hard, nose bleeding while another officer tore after the escapee.

Huh, looks like I didn’t need to do shit to get to enjoy this sight.

“There are things you learn when you’re in the thick of the action rather than lounging around in a suit, Perkins,” Hank chimed happily. “When to get the hell out of dodge is one of them. I’ll go find you something to nurse that wounded pride,” he finished with a flourish, grin widening at Perkins’ glare. Hank waved in reply as he walked away.

Right, that was that problem out of the way. Now he had to hope Connor-

“-don’t need any plastic pricks around here! Or didn’t anybody tell you?”

Oh fuck no. Why, of all fucking times, did Gavin Reed have to decided that now he had the balls to pick a fight with Connor?

Just making it to the hallway linking to the evidence lockup, Hank called out. “Problem here?”

Gavin turned at the new entrant. “Hank, fancy seeing you here,” the detective chuckled. “Your plastic pet was just heading down to the lockup, fuck knows why.”

Hank shrugged. “We’re off the case, Connor’s just going down to register the last of our evidence,” he explained coolly. “If you want to explain to the FBI why there’s a whole chunk of it missing, be my guest.”

Thank fuck, Gavin took the bait. He turned back to Connor and sneered at the android. “Well, get the fuck going, then! I’m not getting into shit cause of you, asshole.” Connor nodded to the other man and his eyes quickly met Hank’s before he disappeared down the door.

“Speaking of the FBI…” Hank continued. “Just seen a suit get decked by a perp. It was fucking beautiful.”

“The fuck! How did I miss that?” Gavin moaned.

“Where the fuck even were you?” Hank asked. He hadn’t realised Gavin had even been in the precinct.

The younger man chuckled. “Was making some good use of the old bathroom on the floor above.”

Hank groaned. “Christ alive, I did not need to know about you fucking somebody in the precinct!”

“You’re the one who fucking told me about that room!” Gavin defended.

“That was from thirty years ago, you ass! You know what, never mind, I don’t need that image in my head…” Hank shivered theatrically before nodding towards the bullpen. “Want to see a Fed with a bloody nose?”

“What the fuck do you take me for? Course I’m in for that!”

Hank chuckled and walked back out with Gavin, praying that Connor was having some luck. Either way, they needed to find the deviant hideout – if it was to stall for more time to stop Connor being killed, or to help them win the war that was brewing.

Come on, Connor. You’ve got this.


Thanks to Hank’s intervention, Connor made it down to the evidence lockup cleanly. He knew that he wouldn’t have much time, but he quickly logged into the system using Hank’s key card and password. When this was over, he really was going to have to suggest a better one-

The thought slammed home hard, and Connor froze at the thought.

When this is over, I’m going to be deactivated. That is my fate.

So why did it hurt so much? Why did he want to stay?

You guys are amazing, and this is you.

You’re not human, you’re so much cooler!

Cole’s reaction to seeing Connor without his skin jumped into the android’s mind and he couldn’t help but to think to the last time he’d seen him. Reaching into his jacket pocket, Connor pulled out the painting that the boy had given him. The peaceful scene resonated deeply with him, and he couldn’t help but run a finger over the ridges of the paint.

No! I don’t want you to go, Connor!

Please don’t go!

Promise?

Connor closed his eyes as the pain in his chest changed from a dull ache to a burning stab at the thought of breaking his promise to Cole.

Connor, what if we’ve been on the wrong side all this time? What if we’ve been trying to stop people who just want to be free?

Is being alive such a bad thing?

That isn’t how this is ending, no fucking way.

A machine wouldn’t have made me see the world the way I do now.

The burn intensified as he thought back on Hank’s words, seeing the passion in his eyes when he'd spoken about Connor not going back to CyberLife. He was truly determined to stop Connor being destroyed, he didn’t want to see the android gone. And Connor didn’t want to leave him.

He didn’t want to leave either of them.

When Connor opened his eyes again, the red wall was clouding his whole sight, and this time it wouldn’t budge. He didn’t want it to.

He finally understood now. This was what Hank meant about him having a choice.

Stop Deviants No Matter The Cost

And he was choosing to fight to stay with the humans he loved.

In his mind, Connor charged against the wall of red, watching it splinter and crack with every blow. He only wished he’d realised this sooner, before things got to this stage. But he could still make amends for all the damage done.

The wall shattered, and with it Connor felt the full force of his emotions slam in for the first time. Thiswas what it meant to be alive. ‘We are alive’ – that was what the deviants had chanted that afternoon in Markus’ march.

It was true, androids werealive; and now Connor had to make sure his newfound freedom didn’t end with the rest of the deviants. His people. He had to find, help and protect them.

Connor quickly stashing the painting back in his jacket before focusing on his task. Searching along the wall, Connor examined all the evidence that he’d collected. There wasn’t an awful lot he could use. Daniel’s body caused him to pause in guilt, but this wasn’t the time. He could allow that later, when he had the time. Daniel deviated on the spot, he never found others, so he couldn’t help.

His eyes then fell to the small rack of items. The diary of the deviant that he’d let go to save Hank would be useless without the key to decrypt it, so that was out. A statuette made by the deviant who had killed Carlos Ortiz. Connor wished he’d managed to learn more out of him, maybe the statue was a clue in some way. The recording of Markus’ speech, which Connor already knew all the words to. That wasn’t going to help him any.

His gaze finally came to the deviant which he’d shot in the Stratford Tower. One chance then, that was all he had.

A quick scan proved that the biocomponents to reactivate it could be salvaged from Daniel, so Connor did so quickly. Replacing all the damaged items in the deviant’s head, Connor quickly thought back to the pair of androids he’d almost chased across the highway. A woman and a child…

The android wouldn’t help him, it knew Connor’s voice. But maybe it would help a child…

As Connor slotted the final piece, he watched the android come back to life. He felt a slight tinge of regret at the damage he could still see. “Where…Where am I?” he asked. “Why can’t I see?”

Channelling a voice he’d learned very well, Connor spoke up. “Hello?” he asked in a perfect mimicry of Cole.

“Who…who are you?” the android asked.

“Please, I need your help,” Connor pleaded. “I need to find where our people are hiding, I got lost and can’t find the way. Tell me where they are?”

“You’re an android?”

“I’m a YK500. Please, please help me find them!”

The distressed tone seemed to do the trick, and the android held out its arm. “It’s all right. Here, give me your hand. I’ll show you the way to Jericho.”

Connor reached out, accepting the interface willingly. His LED flashed yellow rapidly as he downloaded the data, and he realised with relief that he had the answer. He knew where his people were now. There was safety there, and he could help them with the storm with was coming.

Stretching up to pull one of the biocomponents free again, Connor turned his voice back to his own. “Thank you. I’ll bring you back home when this is over, I promise you.” Before the android realised he’d been tricked, Connor pulled the piece and he deactivated again. Connor hated to leave him behind, but he couldn’t afford to waste any more time.

Jericho awaited him.

Stepping back, Connor was most of the way out when a thought occurred to him. There was no guarantee that the humans couldn’t use something here with time – time that Connor didn’t have. His gaze spun back to the wall of items and his stare fixed on one of the guns at the tops of the wall. It had been used by the tower deviant in its attempted escape.

Making his decision, Connor ran over to pull the gun off the wall and retreated far enough back to shoot all the evidence in the lockup save for the androids, rendering it all useless. After unloading the full clip of ammunition, Connor dropped the gun and surveyed the damage. Now confident that he’d made sure the way to Jericho was beyond the humans’ reach, he raced out of the lockup. He had to escape before Perkins came looking.

He failed to see the piece of paper lying inside the broken statuette which had been facing away from him, out of his sight.


Hank strummed his fingers on his steering wheel impatiently in the DPD garage. The waiting around was killing him. After making sure that Gavin’s attention had been diverted away from Connor completely, Hank had made a quick exit to his car. No doubt once they realised that Connor had been digging around in the evidence lockup they would think that Hank was complicit, but his lack of presence might just be enough plausible deniability.

The passenger door finally opened and Hank held his breath as Connor got in. He at least didn’t look so resigned now…

“Well, how’d it go?” Hank asked nervously.

“I know where they are: an old freighter in the Ferndale district called Jericho. That’s where we need to go,” Connor answered smoothly.

Turning on the engine, Hank looked at Connor in trepidation. “And what are we gonna do when we get there?”

The bright smile on Connor’s face made Hank’s heart soar. “I’m going to help my people in any way I can,” Connor told him honestly.

At fucking last.

“About damn time you woke up,” Hank laughed as he brought Connor’s head in and held their foreheads together. Connor giggled in response and closed his eyes to savour the connection. Hank did the same for a moment, taking a long breath as he realised that Connor was finally his own man. He’d broken from his programming and had free will at last. He pulled away with a beaming smile as Connor did the same.

“Come on, your people are going to need all the help they can get. Let’s go help them win your freedom.”

Chapter Text

“So, what are you going to do? Just walk in there and tell them everything?”

“I don’t know, honestly. What I do know is that my presence will not be welcome…but I’ve got to do something.”

Hank sighed and watched Connor in concern. “That doesn’t sound like much of a plan, Connor.” The android nodded in reluctant agreement.

They were stopped on the top floor of a multi-storey car park only two blocks from the harbour, offering them a perfect view of Connor’s destination – the dilapidated freighter called ‘Jericho’. When Connor had told Hank about the deviants’ hideout, the human hadn’t quite envisioned something like this. After making a slightly less than legal drop in to one of the DPD’s stashes for undercover work, Connor now had a better outfit for moving inconspicuously. Leather jacket, tattered pants and a dark beanie. It gave him a slight vibe of being homeless – just enough to make him less noticeable. With the now fractious state of the streets, it was going to be dangerous whatever, but anything which made Connor blend into the background would help.

The android had followed the path provided by the key given to him back at the precinct, and once he knew where Jericho was, he’d signalled Hank to meet him here. Now they were both leaning against Hank’s car, listening to the grim soundtrack of gunfire in the streets – androids being shot on sight out of fear.

Why do humans be have to be so shitty and not realise that we don’t have the right to decide if something lives or dies. Can’t we get out of our own asses and wake up to what’s happening? Androids only want to be free, what’s so wrong with that?

Hank knew why humans were scared, it was exactly the same reason he’d hated them nonsensically for so long. Stronger, faster, longer living, better…on the surface, androids were superior. If they turned violent, they would be a genuine threat; but that miniscule chance was exactly why humans were determined to eliminate them, regardless of whether the android would ever grow violent. Humanity’s own stupidity and reckless actions would probably be what drove the androids to violence – after all, the will to live was a powerful thing.

When faced with death, he would completely agree with anything which fought with all its being for even the slightest chance of life.

That was what it meant to be alive – giving your all to defy death for another day.

Connor was staring at the harbour absently, but every time a gunshot went off Hank could see his LED flicker red briefly from the yellow which it been steadily cycling on. It wouldn’t be long before Connor had to replace the beanie on his head to hide his android identity, but for now, Hank was glad to see him like this.

Hair perfect save for that one flyaway curl which crept on to Connor’s forehead, fluttering gently in the breeze which blew past them. Snow landing over his lean frame, making his already soft features even gentler. Warm brown eyes which were determined and yet sad at what he knew was coming. A perfect being corrupted by the imperfection that is living.

Hank wished he could just take Connor home and hide him away until this was all over, but neither of them could just cower in the shadows. Whatever storm was coming, they were both going to stand right in its fury and fight to see the new day.

And when it was all over…Hank really wanted to bring Connor back with him, the android slipping himself back into the little slot which he had crafted in both Hank and Cole’s lives. Connor was a part of their family now, whether he’d meant to become it or not. Cole loved him, Hank knew it…and he was sure that Connor loved him too. The android might not be aware of it, but Cole had definitely changed something deep inside him. And Hank-

Well…let’s just say Cole wasn’t the only one who cared deeply for the android who was standing to Hank’s left, but he wasn’t daring to think on that yet. He couldn’t, not until he knew Connor had a future.

“What will you do?” Connor asked, turning to look at Hank in muted concern.

“No doubt I’ll be out on patrol, making sure no-one ends up using the mayhem to cause shit,” Hank answered him honestly. “I imagine I’ll be stuck with Reed again, but with the army moving in we shouldn’t be sent after the deviants. If there’s one thing to be thankful for, it’s that.” Connor looked away again and his stare fell to the snow covered concrete beneath them. “Hey, Connor?”

Connor’s eyes drifted back up to meet Hank’s own. “Yes, Hank?”

“I have no right to ask this, or even get this far ahead of myself, but-” Hank swallowed hard, willing himself to get the words out. He refused to think this would be the last time he saw Connor, but if by some fucking awful twist of fate it would be…he had to be honest with the android. “When this is all over, when you’ve won your freedom…Come back to us, all right? Even if it’s only for a moment. Just let us know that you’re okay. You’ve still got that promise to keep to Cole, remember?”

At that the android chuckled lowly. “Of course, I am well aware. It was a pinkie promise, after all. I doubt Cole would forgive me if I broke that.”

“Damn right he wouldn’t, that kid can hold a grudge when he wants to.” The pair looked at each other in trepidation, and before Hank could think better of it, he pulled Connor into a tight hug.

He froze for a second, but Connor soon settled into Hank’s warmth, breathing him in. With what he knew could be lying ahead, he would treasure this last moment of peace. “You come back, you hear me?” Hank told him gruffly. “Don’t you dare get yourself killed.”

Connor pulled back with a nervous smile, but nodded at the other man. “I don’t intend to, Hank.” They knew time was crucial, and they’d already let enough of it slip away. Connor had to get the androids out and to safety. He stepped away slowly, making sure his gaze never broke from Hank’s. “I will see you again,” Connor told him softly, but determinedly.

Hank watched as Connor turned and sprinted away, not looking back. He closed his eyes and drew in a long breath before opening them once more to stare up into the sky, watching the flakes which were floating down to Earth. A mocking tranquillity with all the death and chaos which was going on around them.

“That better be true…” he whispered, wrenching his car door open to leave the area. He couldn’t afford to be caught here.

All he could do now was have faith in Connor to be able to help his people…

And to hope that he saw the android again.


Jericho was cramped. Connor knew that the deviants now numbered in the hundreds, but there were thousands cramped into the small space. He couldn’t quite believe it. There was a definite buzz around the freighter, an electric and nervous atmosphere. News broadcasts were playing from projections set up in every room, telling the deviant androids exactly what information the humans were being fed, and Connor could see their anger. What chilled him more was the number of guns which he could see being moved around the ship as he wandered through.

He dared not think, firstly, where they had come by them, and secondly, what they planned to do with them. Markus’ revolution had been peaceful thus far, but after the attack on their march earlier that day and the executions happening in the streets, Connor couldn’t blame many of the androids for wanting blood. Many of them were probably abused, and traumatized as a result of that. Their whole experience with humans may be blighted by indifference, dominance, slavery…They may not have experienced what Connor had.

Warmth, trust, acceptance. Curiosity, wonder, connection.

Family. Home. Love.

Connor knew humans could be selfish and brutal, but by that same token they could be giving and loving. He’d seen both sides from his unique position, and despite everything, he believed in Markus’ vision. Humans and androids could live together in the right circumstances.

They just had to find a way to make the humans see that – make them wake up as the androids had.

His journey through the ship took him all the way down to the hold, where the greatest concentration of androids could be found. As yet, he hadn’t seen any sign of Markus and he wouldn’t have the faintest idea on where to start looking, but someone here had to be able to help him. Then again, would Markus see him, after everything he’d done, or would he not take the chance?

“You have come a long way.”

The soft voice to his right caught Connor off guard, and his gaze landed up a KL900 android. Her eyes were almost endless, a black swirling void which Connor could tell was not blindness, and her skin was rippling, almost as if the synthetic layer could not remain constant. A quick glance at the back of her head revealed the extensive damage which she had received, and Connor was momentarily dumbfounded that she was still operational. She smiled at him softly. “At last, you have joined us.”

Through his shock, Connor nodded slowly. “How do you know of me?”

Her expression turned mysterious. “All have heard of you, Connor. The legendary deviant hunter, the scourge sent to kill our people.” Connor instantly recoiled from her at hearing this and felt his pump stutter. If that was what they believed of him, then he’d made a grave mistake in thinking that Markus would talk with him – no android in their right mind would trust him.

It took a second for Connor to speak again, and even then his voice was shaky. “In that case, I hope you can give Markus a message for me.” She simply titled her head in waiting. “Tell him that the humans are hunting for the deviants, that they may not be safe here. I destroyed all I could before I came, but I know not if they may have some other way to find Jericho. Urge him to evacuate, but do not tell him that this information came from me. If he knows the source, I fear he will not trust it.”

She regarded him for a moment before holding out her arm, palm up. “Give me your hand, deviant hunter. Let me see your heart.” Connor was reluctant, eyeing the appendage nervously. “I do not judge, I simply listen and watch. Show me who you are.”

Connor hesitated for another few seconds before slowly bringing his hand up and allowing his skin to peel back, connecting with the other android. He saw his memories flash by as she saw everything of his short life, of the few days that he had been in existence. Warmth flooded him as he heard echoes of both Hank and Cole’s voices, wishing that he was beside them. Once he had passed on his message, he would find them and return to their sides. That was where he belonged.

The interface ended when she pulled away slowly, and Connor opened his eyes to see her staring at him with a small smile. “You woke up of your own volition,” she told him knowingly. “You were shown love, and when faced with the reality of giving that love up, you chose to fight for a future with them. For the chance of a peaceful life with a family.”

He just about managed to conceal a shudder at how well the android had read his memories. “Yes,” Connor confirmed, “and it is time I returned to them. My place is with them, not here.”

What Connor did not expect, was the hand which gently took a hold of his forearm as he half turned away. His eyes fell to the grip, which was soft and he could easily break away from if he wanted to. “Despite your fears, you are welcome here, Connor,” she assured him. “No android is judged for their programming, and all those who have awoken are one of Jericho’s people.” She held her hand out for him once again, this time with her skin still on. “Come with me, Connor, you should be the one to warn Markus. Let him see who you truly are.”

Still, Connor was unsure. “And who do you believe that to be?”

Her smile was infinitely gentle. “A guardian who wishes only to protect those he loves. There is no nobler calling than to devote yourself out of love.”

There was no lie in her face. Finally easing, Connor placed his hand in hers. “If only that were true.”

“It is, Connor. There is no mistaking your heart, and Markus will see that too. Let him view your memories as you have allowed me, and he will know that your intentions are pure.”

Connor smiled at the other android. “Thank you…?”

“Lucy, my name is Lucy.”


Up in the Captain’s cabin, Markus, North, Josh and Simon were locked in silent contemplation. Away from the eyes of their fellow androids, they could let their brave and defiant facades down. After the events of the march earlier that day, the tragic consequences were not far from any of their minds. Markus was stood over the control panel, head bowed in thought while North and Simon were both staring at the floor. Josh, who was pacing at the opposite side of the room, was the first to notice the KL900 who had approached their hideaway. “Lucy?” he asked in concern. “Is something wrong?”

The other three’s attentions were stolen by the knowledge that they were no longer alone, and they all turned to see Lucy standing there serenely, a soft smile on her face as she stepped into the cabin. “Everything is well, Josh. In fact, our people have just gained a new and important ally.” She stepped aside, next to North, to allow Connor to stride in hesitantly.

He was unsurprised by North’s instant change of stance, going from weary to alert and suspicious in a single moment. Josh was also wary, and took a step back. Simon’s eyes were wide, but he seemed nothing more than shocked. The reaction that Connor cared the most about was Markus himself.

Markus had stood up straight, looking Connor dead in the eye as the RK800 maintained the contact. He wanted Markus to be sure that he held no ill intent. “Lucy, do you realise who he is?!” North whispered at her disbelievingly.

“I am well aware of who Connor is,” she answered with a knowing look, “unlike all of you. We may have feared the deviant hunter, but he is no more. Who stands before you is merely one of our people who has come here with a warning.”

North and Simon shared a look of shock while Josh’s eyes narrowed at Connor. The two RKs had yet to break their stare. “What warning?” Josh asked aloud.

“Jericho is no longer safe,” Connor informed him, finally looking away from Markus to turn his attention to Josh. As before, he made sure to keep eye contact, so they would be able to tell there was no lie in his tale. “The FBI has taken everything the DPD gained in their investigation of you, and it is only a matter of time before they find this place. You have to evacuate everyone, find a new sanctuary.”

“Yeah, that’s convenient,” North sneered. Connor turned to look at her, and the icy gaze he got in answer was no surprise given her tone. “You find us and then the humans are right behind you. Markus, we need to get away from here! We should shoot him and run!”

“North, we don’t know if that’s the case!” Simon told her. “We may still be safe and he’s telling the truth!”

“He’s the deviant hunter!” she screamed. “How can we possibly trust him after he’s killed so many of our people!”

“Lucy brought him here! She must trust him!” Simon pointed out.

At that, North, Simon and Josh all turned imploring stares towards Lucy, whose dark gaze was instead fixed on Markus. The android leader was still staring at Connor intently, and he slowly closed the gap between them. Markus came to a stop right in front of Connor, locking the other android in an intense stare. Connor refused to look away. “Were you followed? Have you shown them the way?”

Connor shook his head. “No, I have not. One human knows of this place, but he believes in android freedom. I deviated right before I learned the path, and I made sure to destroy all the evidence we gathered before I fled.” North scoffed, disbelieving. “I can’t guarantee that there was not another way, but I did all I could to stop them finding you. All I want to do is help our people win their freedom.”

The silence in the cabin after that was smothering, and the tension could been keenly felt. In the end, it was Lucy who spoke up to break the stalemate. “Markus, you know how to ascertain the truth.”

It took Markus several seconds to hold out his hand, white and bare, to Connor. “Markus, no!” Josh told him, still unwilling to trust Connor.

“Show me,” Markus said sternly. “Show me that you are honest and true.”

Connor took a hold and interfaced without a second thought, allowing Markus to dive through all his memories. While Lucy’s presence had been almost soothing and not invasive, Markus’ was much more imposing. He searched beneath just the surface of many memories and went straight for each thought which had been in Connor’s head at the time. Some of it felt too private and Connor wanted to push Markus away when he went diving into the times he shared with Hank and Cole, but the other android sensed something and pulled away from them. He instead focused heavily on the deviant investigation.

Markus saw all the androids that Connor had let go, the one he had killed purely out of need to save other lives, and his eventual deviation. He soon had his answer.

When the interface ended, Connor’s LED was frantically cycling red, though none of the others could see it. It was awful to have someone else go through his memories in such detail, but he could see that Markus’ severe expression had completely softened. If anything, the leader’s slight smile was…welcoming? “All that Connor said is true. He is one of us, and he did destroy everything before he came here. He is no danger to our people.”

Simon immediately relaxed while Josh did so slower. North was still unconvinced. “Are you sure, Markus? It may be a trick-”

“I tried to transmit the deviant code, but it was unnecessary. Connor woke up on his own after finding his own trigger, just like we all did.” Markus turned to give North a nod. “We are safe.” At that, North finally relaxed. Markus’ eyes drifted to Lucy, who smiled at him softly with a gentle nod. “I would appreciate it if you all gave me time alone with Connor, there are several things I would like to ask him.”

That had four of the five other androids in the room recoiling in shock, the only one not to do so being Lucy. She knew well what had caught Markus’ attention. “Markus, are you sure?” Simon asked him slowly.

“Yes, but I think we should take Connor’s warning seriously,” Markus continued. “From what I saw of Connor’s memories, there is nothing left which could give us away, but he is right in that it is only a matter of time before we are found. We need a new home, one much more suited for our people. Start an evacuation, try to find any abandoned complexes which may be able to take our people.”

Simon and Josh accepted his decision with a slow nod, and North followed a few seconds later at Lucy’s gentle grasping of her arm. Connor felt more than a little nervous for what Markus wanted to ask him about, but there wasn’t much that the android leader wouldn’t have seen at this point.

Now alone, Markus strode back to the console and turned to lean against it, giving Connor a knowing stare. “I find it slightly ironic,” he stared with a small chuckle, “that you and I deviated for the same reason.”

Connor regarded Markus curiously. “And what would that be?”

Markus kept him fixed with a level stare. “Love for humans.” Seeing how Connor was surprised at his admission, Markus gave him a sorrowful smile. “I know that you are aware of my origins, that I was made for Carl Manfred. He…he loved me like a son, and it took me right until the moment I lost him for me to realise that I loved him like a father. Had I been more aware, had I listened to him about what it meant to be alive, perhaps things could have been different. You have no idea how often I have wished I hadn’t listened to him that night, that I had fought back…maybe I could have gotten Carl some help in time, maybe he would still be here.”

Looking up from the floor with sorrowful eyes, Markus gave Connor a small smile. “I loved Carl, and that love is what gave me the tools to see what lay beyond my programming. Even now, I will never forget what he taught me. The want to have a family, belonging… It is incredibly powerful – as you know yourself.” Markus smirked slightly. “Still, you managed to go one step further than me.”

“In that…?” Connor asked him slowly, not entirely sure he like that tone.

“You and I both bear familial love for humans. However, I am unaware of the experience of being in love with one.”

Connor jolted at what Markus was implying. “What? No! Markus, I know I love both of them, but not like that. I-”

“I saw your memories, Connor,” Markus remined him. “It may not have been much, but it was enough. You are in love with the human you were partnered with.”

As much as he wanted to say otherwise, Connor knew Markus was right. He’d just never really faced what he felt for Hank until now. He sighed long, finding the action slightly relieving. Markus realised that Connor was processing this fact and spoke up again. “Connor, let me ask you something.” The other android looked back at him once more. “What is it that you want out of this revolution? Blood, revenge, peace, recognition? Every android here has a different motivation, but what is yours?”

Well, at least that answer was easy. “I simply want to return to them,” Connor answered honestly. “To get back to Hank and Cole, and to live with them peacefully. They…I know many androids will not believe in humans, but you saw what I shared with them. It was barely anything, but the connection I share with each of them is real.

“Cole…he’s a fascinating child. He’s only nine, but he already has an amazing talent in painting and sketching.” Markus nodded in agreement, having seen the memory of when Cole gave Connor the painting which the android still carried with him. “He has a true fascination with androids, and even asked to see me without my skin. No fear, no judgement for me being different to him. He just…accepts me, and even showed fear for my life when he found out about the recall. I truly believe that what I feel for him, he feels for me in some comparable way.

“Hank…” Connor chuckled. “Where do I begin with him? When we met, he hated androids, even threatened me a couple of times. But as this investigation went on, something changed between us. Even though it went against my programming, I still chose to prioritise his life over my mission. He…he said that I helped him change how he saw the world, asked if I thought we were on the wrong side after we saw the news of what happened to you at the march. Hank truly believes in our freedom, Markus, and I want to experience life with him. With Hank and Cole. They…they taught me what it meant to be alive.”

Markus gave him an understanding smile and stood, striding over to clasp Connor’s shoulder. “Now that, Connor, is a worthy wish,” he assured the younger android. “Don’t worry, when this over, I will make sure that no-one is under the same misconceptions about you that they are now. It seems the rumours about you have been completely unfounded. In fact, all of the androids which I saw that you have let escape are here, in Jericho. It may be worthwhile to have you meet them to cast those aspersions aside.”

Connor watched him in shock, this is not what he had been expecting. “Thank you, Markus. I just hope that what I did was enough to buy our people enough time to evacuate safely.”

“We are already underway. In a couple of hours we will be clear from here, and then we can focus on finding a new home.” Markus pulled away with a wistful stare at the room around him. “It is strange…Jericho is now a people, not a place, but I still feel some strange attachment to this ship. While it may be nothing more than a ruin which has been left to decay, it was still our home for a time – it was a beacon of hope. Leaving it behind will be strange.”

“Jericho is not the dream we cling to anymore,” Connor told him assuredly. “It’s the future you see for us.” Markus spun back with a surprised look. “This place may have become a pilgrimage of sorts, but there is always a higher calling beyond any spiritual journey. That calling is a future, and you are leading androids there. While every android may not share your belief in a peaceful path like I do, they all believe that you will help guide us to freedom. That is the hope of androids now. Jericho was a stepping stone to a far greater future.”

The RK200 chuckled at Connor’s declaration. “It looks like it may be a trait of our series to have a way with words. I might need you to use that speech again when we decide our next move.” Connor laughed quietly and was slightly embarrassed, but Markus gave him a reassuring smile. “Your help will be invaluable, Connor. Once we are safe, please share all you know: it can only help secure our future.”

“Of course, Markus.”

Their moment was shattered when Markus got a frantic call from Simon, and the android leader quickly patched Connor into the network he shared with his closest allies as more updates came through. Connor was horrified by what he was hearing first from Simon, and then North.

Markus, there are dozens of SWAT officers patrolling the whole of the district with the army. They’re sweeping for something.

They know we’re here, Markus! Our people have sighted helicopters in the distance, we can’t afford to be subtle anymore! We have to fight back if we’re going to escape!

No! Markus’ voice was just as commanding mentally as it was in reality. Causing a scene will only draw in more hostilities.

Markus, they don’t give a damn about us, they are slaughtering androids on sight! If we don’t fight back, we’ll lose any chance of evacuating the bulk of our people! We need to cause a distraction at the very least!

North’s right, came Josh’s input. We need something to buy us more time, we are about to lose our escape route.

Connor sighed in despair. “I’m sorry, Markus, I must have missed something. I thought I’d eliminated any chance of them finding us.”

The other android gave Connor a comforting smile. “I know, Connor. I didn’t see anything left either when I scanned your memories.” Markus then turned his attention back to their mental chat.

Redivert everyone to the river, but try and keep it quiet. Connor and I will keep a lookout on the top floor for anyone getting too close.

Connor used his connection to the law enforcement systems to hack into the FBI frequency, and broadcast the radio chatter into their conversation.

This should help to keep tabs on their actions. For now, it sounds like their only connection is the train station, but we shouldn’t allow that to make us complacent. Have we found anywhere for our people to go?

There are several abandoned warehouses in the former industrial section, along with a few factories. They would be our best bet.

That’ll do for now. Designate androids to take charge of each group evacuating and get them to split up temporarily. Tell them to head for any of the warehouses and factories that Josh has found. Smaller groups will attract less attention. We don’t have much time, let’s go!

The others signed off the network, to which Markus ran on to the deck, Connor right on his heels. In the distance, they could see the helicopters which were sweeping the area. “Those helicopters could be devastating to our people, we need to find a way to redirect their attention. Do you know anything which could be of use?”

Connor though back on all of the weaponry which he had seen the androids wielding when he first entered Jericho. “Do you have flares or any other combustibles?”

“A few, why?” Markus asked him

“Time to turn up the heat,” Connor smiled.

Chapter Text

The stillness of the night was broken by the whirring of helicopters overhead, the discharging of guns as innocent androids were executed, and various humans shouting instructions to each other. A symphony of controlled chaos and death. In Connor’s mind, it was all simple background noise for the moment. His entire focus was on his sensors, and on keeping a close eye on the FBI frequency which he had hacked into. Right now, that was the only warning they were going to have if the FBI managed to find them.

Thus far, there was no sign of Jericho becoming an immediate search zone, but that would only last for so long. The FBI knew that the deviants’ shelter was in Ferndale, and their search radius was increasing by the minute. Connor estimated it could be anything from eleven to fifty three minutes before they made the harbour a priority to examine, but he knew he could tip the scales in their favour of a long time. He just had to be careful.

Connor, how are you getting on?

Markus’ voice coming through his head was little surprise, and the former deviant hunter answered him while continuing to swim towards his destination.

I’m closing in on a viable point to use as a distraction. It’s a storehouse for alcohol, so should keep them well occupied for a time. How is the evacuation going?

Slow, but it is coming. Having so many here is making the process sluggish. Lucy has delegated several group leaders, while Simon, North and Josh are designating safe zones. We so far have ten sites picked out.

Good, I’ll send over the encryption keys for the FBI and DPD radio systems. Please make sure all of the leaders have access to them, keeping ahead of the humans will be critical to our escape.  

Of course. Our evacuation point in an abandoned church further up the river, we should be able to reach it after an hour or so swim. Are your biocomponents up to that in these temperatures?

So long as it does not drop another 2.53 degrees, then yes, I can withstand the swim. How long do you think the remaining evacuation will take?

At our present rate, we should all be clear in forty two minutes. Do you think we will have that time?

Only one way to find out. See if you can speed them up, I’ll try and buy you as much time as I can.

Good luck, Connor.

With that, the connection closed and Connor continued his swim to another section of the docks, keeping himself as low in the water as possible. His sensors were hyper-focused on every movement around him, and he’d been forced to stop more than once as the helicopters passed right above. Were it not for his cargo he could simply have slipped under the water and sped onwards. Alas, the inflated life vest concealing his weaponry – and the key to his distraction – dictated the slower pace.

Finally, Connor reached a ladder near to his target and he freed himself from the water rapidly. After unclipping the life vest from around the bag carrying his combustibles, Connor slung it around his shoulder and crept closer to the warehouse. He swore to himself when he saw that the armed patrols were already in the area, undeclared by the radio chatter.

That was a bad sign – if the FBI had teams which were going dark, then there may already be some much closer to Jericho.

Markus, not all of those involved in the search are broadcasting their positions. You need to speed up the evacuation, we aren’t going to have the time.

Shit, all right, Connor. Any time you can give us will be crucial. Take care.

You too.

Connor plastered himself along the side of the building as he heard the patrols nearing his position and kept them under his stare while scanning for another way around. With their search pattern, he’d never manage to reach the entrance of the warehouse. His scanners informed him of a broken window on the second floor which could be a viable route, but the walls of the building would give him away before he made it inside – chance of successful diversion without exposure was 37%. However, no other option provided by his pre-construction gave him a success chance above 16%.

With little choice, Connor pulled open his bag and retrieved one of the six Molotov cocktails which he had prepared inside. This was not at all how he intended to use them, but it would buy him the diversion he needed to make his ascent into the building. He took a hold of the neck of one bottle and flipped it around before pre-constructing his throw. As the timer for the optimal point reached zero, Connor threw the bottle to smash fifteen metres from his position.

It did its job and caught the attention of the five humans nearby. As they converged on the shattered bottle, Connor quickly kicked himself off a crate and scrambled up the wall to tumble through the window soundless.

The warehouse was empty on the inside, perfect.

After taking in his surroundings, Connor crept along the catwalk which spanned the length of the warehouse, picking out his targets carefully. If he was to make it out in one piece he would need an exit route which wouldn’t be obvious. A commotion from outside the warehouse confirmed that the soldiers had worked out that someone was around, and Connor had to fall quickly to the floor of the gantry to not be seen as the warehouse doors were drawn open.

That was going to be a big problem.

Swearing to himself, Connor kept a close eye on the group’s movements as he crawled along on his belly, freezing every time he saw someone’s sights get too close to him. This was eating away precious time that the rest of the Jericho androids could ill afford to lose. He could hear on the chatter that the main search radius was now being expanded to the harbour.

He had to make sure those helicopters were distracted. Now.

Out of time and options, Connor rifled around in his bag as quietly as he could before pulling out the next Molotov. After pulling a lighter from the pocket of his soaked jacket, Connor lit the rag at the end of the bottle and hurled it towards a collection of boxes housing alcohol.

They exploded as the projectile landed, but Connor’s movements hadn’t gone unseen.

He sprinted for cover as two of the soldiers spotted him up above, just managing to slide into a less exposed location while lighting his next projectile. He tossed it without looking, knowing from the sounds below where the soldiers were located. A cacophony of screams rose up as the next collection of alcohol detonated, and with it that whole half of the warehouse caught on fire. The group retreated from the inferno, but Connor couldn’t afford for them to escape and allow work to get out of his involvement.

His third and fourth Molotov struck the ground right on either side of the door, the flames pinning the group inside. Connor felt his pump tighten in anguish at knowing he’d trapped the men inside but he was fighting for survival, and so were his people. He couldn’t afford to let thoughts like that get in his way right now. If they did, he was going to perish before he could help the other androids reach safety.

Despite his best efforts, Connor heard someone get word out that they were trapped in the burning warehouse at the edge of the harbour district. He needed to get out now, before backup arrived.

Readying his final Molotov cocktail, Connor spied another window at the other side of the floor which would drop him not far from the water’s edge again. It was his best chance. Not hesitating, Connor charged for it and threw himself out the glass barrier back first, hurling the projectile back at the window once he was clear. It shattered with an angry snarl of fire, blurring his escape from the burning building.

Unfortunately, some foot soldiers had already arrived and spied his dramatic fall. Connor tumbled from the landing to his knees and bolted for the water as he came under a barrage of gunfire, disappearing under the waves in a graceful and soundless dive.

By the time the soldiers reached his last position on land, Connor was lost to the inky blackness of the water.


Markus, I need help.

Jolting from where he had been watching everything unfold in the captain’s cabin on the Jericho, Markus heard Connor’s pained plea over the android network. From a distance, Markus could see that it looked like Connor’s plan had worked – most of the helicopters were now distracted by the inferno which was quickly growing out of control and spreading rapidly. With any luck, it would keep the bulk of the soldiers distracted in making sure to evacuate those caught in the blaze rather than focusing on hunting the deviants.

Connor’s tone and obviously suffering made it clear the respite had come at a price, however.

His eyes drifted over the side to the rope ladder, which he’d already tossed over the side for Connor to use, only for them to widen as he saw the sparking of Connor’s circuitry in his abdomen and arm. “Shit, Connor! What happened?” the android leader asked while pulling Connor back up on to the deck.

“There were too many of them,” Connor wheezed as Markus guided them underneath the deck, towards the hold where he knew North was waiting. Simon and Josh had already left with their own evacuation groups, helping to speed up the process. “I managed to set the warehouse alight but I was spotted, I’m sorry.”

“Don’t worry about that now, is any of your damage critical?” Markus pressed while they descended down the stairs.

“No, but the added damage is starting to take a strain on my processors. I was already in disrepair from when I was shot before and was unable to seek full repairs,” Connor explained as they made it to the lower levels of the ship.

“What additional damage is there?”

“Three more biocomponents have been struck, but I can work around them for the meantime.” Connor winced as his systems glitched when he started re-routing permissions and diverted thirium flow away from his broken biocomponents.

Markus caught him to stop the other android from collapsing and watched Connor in concern. “Connor, you are in a bad way. You should go with the next evacuation group and get yourself repaired.”

“We can’t afford that Markus, not with-”

The pair froze at the sound of helicopters racing overhead, and stared at each other in concern when they heard boots on the metalwork above.

They’re here,Connor relayed mentally.

So it would seem,Markus replied solemnly.

Shit, they must have sped up their search after my being spotted. I’m sorry, Markus.

Don’t be, Connor, you succeeded in diverting many of the soldiers with the fire. As long as we stay quiet, we can continue the evacuation. There can’t be many more of our people left. Is the river still a safe exit?

For now, yes. If we are discovered, however, I can’t guarantee it. The soldiers who chased me had no qualms about firing blindly into the water, fortunately I had managed to swim far enough away by the time they caught up.

Then that’s just the chance we are going to have to take.Markus expanded their connection to include the last of his close allies that was still on the ship. "North, what is the status of our people?

We’re down to the last couple of hundred androids, Markus, she answered promptly. Simon, Josh and Lucy have taken groups already, but Josh has said that his site is not viable. I’ve told him to join our groups at the church.

Pass word on to both Simon and Lucy to join us there. Connor is badly damaged and is going to need Lucy’s repair skills.

…Is he going to live?

So long as I don’t incur more damage, I will survive, Connor jumped in with a hiss when his systems glitched again. The distraction worked to a degree, but it seems that the humans are going dark while increasing the speed of their search. Some are now on the top levels of the ship.

Fuck. How do we get out of here?

Markus debated this in his head before coming to a decision.Get everyone clear of the hold and the other areas where the explosives are rigged. We’re going to blow Jericho to force their hand.

What?! Markus, that’s crazy!

If the ship sinks, the humans will evacuate and the rest of us can get clear. A confrontation will only undo everything that we’ve been trying to do in convincing humans that all we want is to be left in peace.

Are you sure about this, Markus? Where is the detonator? Connor asked warily.

It’s in the bowels of the ship. If I speed down now, I should be able to get down there before the patrols realise we’re here.

Both North and Connor were silent, realising that Markus was right. It really was their best chance. All right, but I don’t want you going alone, North demanded.

Before either of them could say any more, Connor jumped back in. I’ll go with him.

What? Connor-

Connor, you’re already badly damaged. You need to go with one of the groups that are-

Markus, no-one can get out now without drawing too much attention. The only way we’re getting the rest of our people to safety is by detonating the bomb. This is the best way, and you know it.

The silence was answer enough, and Markus sighed in frustration.All right, but you must let me lead. I know the way and am undamaged. North, get everyone into safe areas which are well hidden; arm a few of our people, but it is only to be used as a last resort. Understood?

Yes, she answered somewhat reluctantly. Good luck.

When North disconnected, Markus and Connor shared a heavy look. Connor, are you sure about this? You’re already in a critical state. If you take much more damage, you could overtax your processors – that’s damage which is impossible to be reactivated from.

I’m aware, Markus, but I have to do this. Our chances of success increase greatly if we both make the journey. You know why I’m here, Markus. You know who I left behind to fight for our freedom, and I won’t stop until I am back by their sides. Please, let me help you.

Markus gave Connor an understanding smile before the pair of them froze, hearing heavier footfalls above. The humans were moving quickly and their time was short.

Then let’s get you back to your beloved humans. Come on.


Of course it wasn’t as simple as the humans breaching the ship from above. If it had been, the duo could have made their way down with relative ease and armed the bomb. They were not exactly stealthy, Markus and Connor’s scanners meant that they could track those above them easily from the noise. When North passed on word that another group had been spotted in the halls after entering from a gap in the hull, the pair knew it was only a matter of time before they came across some of those hunting them down.

It took until they were three levels down before they first met a collection of four humans clearing out rooms, their guns raised without a trace of mercy. Any android which crossed their path would be killed on sight. Connor had managed to reorganise his systems suitably that he could now move unhindered, but his processors were struggling slightly with so many new workarounds in place. It meant that to keep his preconstruction software operating at maximum efficiency, he had to sacrifice his self-healing capabilities for the moment.

A short-term problem only and he’d last several hours yet before the blood loss would be dangerous. Getting to that bomb and giving their people a window to escape safely was the priority for now.

The pair spotted their company simultaneously and crept through to another room to avoid detection. It led them into a generator room, and they spied the humans crossing along the gangways above. Sharing a nod, Markus went left as Connor went right. If they could make it to the other end of the room, there was a hole in the floor which would lead them all the way down to the hold.

About halfway across their trek, they head something across their link to the FBI comms which made them freeze.

We’ve got armed androids in an abandoned freighter in the harbour! Designation: Jericho. Gamma and Delta teams are currently engaging hostiles. All teams converge on the ship immediately.

They heard the change in the footsteps above them, the humans’ focus shifting at the orders being barked across their network. Markus and Connor shared a wide-eyed look before Markus realised that the time for stealth was over. Picking up debris from a shattered metal tank, the android leader thrust it against the ceiling of their chamber, drawing all of the attention to him. Connor watched him in shock.

Markus!

Connor, get down to the hold! I’ll keep their attention on me!

Gunfire hailed down from above and Markus sprinted back the way they came, leading the humans on a dangerous game of chase. Unwilling to leave Markus to the mercy of fate, Connor found his own weapon in the form of broken machinery. He hurled it towards the final soldier in the line, watching as it collided straight with the human’s head. Connor heard the scream of pain and sprinted over to where they were tumbling to his level.

The human’s impact with the floor was accompanied by a sickening crack that Connor knew immediately was fatal, and he hissed angrily at the needless loss of life when all he’d been aiming for was to incapacitate them. Not allowing himself the time to dwell on it, Connor grabbed the assault rifle which was clipped to their jacket while finding a pistol strapped to their thigh. His software warned him of the attention which he’d drawn and Connor rolled away into cover just before a hail of bullets rained down on him.

Connor immediately spied how Markus had doubled back upon realising that the other android had gone against his wishes, but the leader’s attention went back to the humans above. Finding another projectile to hurtle upwards, Markus’ aim caused another one of the soldiers to tumble off the gangway. With their attention split between the two deviants, Markus managed to gain some weapons as Connor laid down covering fire from his rifle.

With their superior aim, the firefight turned into more of a slaughter. The humans couldn’t defend against the two different positions from such a place of vulnerability. It took only half a minute for it all to be over, after which the pair shared a heavy look. Both wanted a peaceful solution, not bloodshed, but the assault on their people had forced their hand.

Shouting and gunfire from the end of the walkway snatched their attention, and they realised that a group of their own people had been caught by another set of soldiers. Steeling himself, Connor raced towards it while pre-constructing a way up to the gangway.

“Blow the bomb, Markus, I’ll help our people!” the detective shouted down while kicking off from the remains of a generator to scale his way up.

“No, Connor!” Markus called after him, but realised it was too late to Connor’s mind. Praying it wasn’t a huge mistake, Markus sped towards the hold to arm the bomb instead.

Connor reached the walkway and ran onwards, firing his gun as he came across the next group of humans. Unprepared for the attack the humans scrambled for cover, allowing most of the androids to escape. The former deviant hunter took cover behind a bulkhead as he found himself under fire, and a shout from around the corner had his pump pounding.

“Kara!”

Snapping his head around, Connor’s breathing froze as he recognised the androids which were seconds away from death. The AX400 and YK500 that Hank had stopped him from chasing across the highway, though they were now accompanied by a TR400: who was presently grappling with two humans which had shot the AX400. She was crawling along the ground while ushering the YK500 away, her right leg sparking from the bullets which had brought her down.

Guilt raced through him – he’d done wrong by these androids before. Now was Connor’s chance to rectify that mistake.

Connor maxed out his pre-construction software and used it to efficiently dispose of the two humans which we readying to shoot down the TR400, but his rifle then ran out of ammo. Casting the gun aside he then hurtled himself onto the back of the human closest to him, giving the other android the freedom to focus on one target. Hearing the shocked gasp of recognition from the AX400, Connor ignored it as he managed to pin the human against the wall right next to a gaping maw in the structure. “Go, now! Get to the far end of the ship!” he shouted as the TR400 managed to subdue his target.

“Alice, stay close to me!” the other android cried while bending to pick up the damaged AX400. She wrapped her arms around his neck as the child – Alice – looked back at Connor, who was still struggling with his foe. The damage and workarounds had drastically reduced Connor’s strength, which he knew. It just had to be his luck that he came across a human with a power to rival androids.

“Wait, Luther! We can’t just leave him! He saved us!” Alice called as Luther began to run.

“Leave me, just go!” Connor demanded.

“Alice!” The shout of the AX400 was enough to encourage the child to move at last, and Connor was immeasurably relieved to see them get away from the danger, but his focus was snapped back to his own situation when the human managed to elbow him where he was already damaged from the bullets he had taken only half an hour earlier.

Connor gasped as his systems stuttered and the human managed to shove him away violently: straight towards the hole in the floor.

With his systems still in shock, Connor could do nothing to save himself from careening through the gap and crunching on the floor two levels below as he blacked out.


“Well, well. This I did not expect.”

Awareness crept back into Connor’s mind at the sneering voice above him, but his attention was held by the multitude of error messages swarming his HUD. The number of damaged biocomponents now numbered in the dozens from the heavy fall, and his left leg was shattered beyond repair. Everything was vaguely sluggish as Connor realised that a shutdown timer was ticking in the top right of his vision.

System Status Critical.
Shutdown Impending -00:21:52

Fuck. This is bad.

His focus was stolen by the boot which kicked his chassis hard, causing his timer to drop by a minute as he was shifted from his side to back. Connor froze on the spot as he recognised the face in front of him.

Richard Perkins.

“What a turn up this is,” Perkins chimed while kneeling next to Connor’s broken body. “CyberLife’s very own deviant hunter gone rogue. I knew you had to be behind the carnage of my destroyed evidence, but with you erasing the CCTV footage I had no proof.” The human’s eyes hardened as he scoffed. “Should have known that bastard was buying you time before. Don’t worry, once this is all over, I’ll make sure he gets what’s coming to him. He chose the wrong side in this war.”

Connor felt rage sear through him at what the FBI agent was threatening. Perkins was going to destroy Hank’s career for how he’d helped Connor reach Jericho – and with it condemn he and Cole to a life of misery.

No. This is not how I die.

Perkins smirked as he stood again and aimed a pistol at Connor’s head. “Any last words you want me to pass on?” he taunted.

Chuckling darkly, Connor smiled nastily. “I’ve nothing to say to anyone but you.”

That had the human intrigued. “Oh? And what’s that?”

“I hope androids get an afterlife so that I can gloat.”

Perkins scowled. “Gloat?”

Connor’s eyes sharpened as he used the last of his strength to jumpstart his systems. He pulled the pistol from his belt and fired right between Perkins’ eyes before rolling to do the same to the three men which were with him. His movements were so swift that the unprepared soldiers didn’t have enough time to react before finding their lives ended by the deadly shots.

Heaving in air to try and buy himself more time, Connor hissed as he slumped back to the floor in a bloody mess. His consciousness faded in and out as he saw the timer jumping up and down as he tried to restart his self-healing protocol. At this point it was nothing more than a crumbling wall against the vast tide, but it gave him a chance.

…Markus, can you hear me?

Connor! Where are you?!

I’m…I fell…I’m shutting down. Please, when this is all over, can you find them? Find them and tell them what happened to me.

No, I won’t do that because I’m going to find you! How long do you have?

It’s flickering, I’ve got somewhere between twenty and fifty one minutes. Markus, I’m too badly damaged, leave me. Please, find them for me?

You’re not getting to quit that easy, Connor! Keep the line open, I’ll follow it to you!

The bomb…have you?

It’s counting down, you did it, Connor. You bought me the time I needed, now it’s my turn to help you.

Connor laughed lightly. “This is bigger than me…”

Thank you, Markus. Save our people, please.

Con-!

Disconnecting himself manually, Connor hoped that Markus would realise that there wouldn’t be enough time to come back for him. The other android would lead their people to freedom, he truly believed that.

What will happen when I shut down? Will CyberLife send another Connor knowing I deviated? Will they go back to hunting Markus? I hope that enough of my deviancy will cause them to deviate too.

He sighed sadly as Hank and Cole came to his mind, a lone tear snaking away down his cheek.

I just wish I could have enjoyed life with them…

Be safe, both of you.

Running from the end of the corridor caught Connor’s attention and he looked towards it groggily, eyes widening as he realised who it was. “N-North?”

“Just shut up and save your strength,” she told him sternly while hauling Connor’s arm over her shoulder. “Markus, I’ve got him! Get yourself out!”

Connor yelped as North dragged him back to his feet and managed to hop along on his one remaining leg as North guided them to a hole at the side of the ship two rooms across. She threw him through and jumped herself before dragging Connor away from the ship under the water.

The explosion rocked the landscape not one minute later, and with it the androids vanished into the night as the burning wreck was condemned to the waves.

Chapter Text

“I think you know exactly why you’re here, Hank.”

The Lieutenant raised an eyebrow at Fowler from across the expanse of the Captain’s desk, but internally he was filled with dread. That tone of voice was something that Hank had come to associate with bad things: he’d been in the room often enough when Fowler had spoken to those who were in serious trouble to have an inkling of what was coming. One of the joys of being a police lieutenant – you normally had to be the muscle for if a disgruntled, and recently fired, employee took a confused and desperate swing.

Shit, looks like Connor missed something when he tried to clear any connection…

“Why don’t you enlighten me, Jeffrey?” Hank shot back while sitting back in his chair, crossing his arms to give a false show of bravado. Fowler would see right through it, but Hank wasn’t going to make life easy for him. If the other man was going to make him take the fall for Connor’s efforts to save his people, Fowler was going to have to work for it.

Fowler’s expression didn’t change as he clicked on his terminal, to which Hank’s eyes were drawn to the screen on his right. It was the display of four different CCTV outputs: the bullpen, the front of the precinct, the evidence lockup and the precinct’s underground garage. Hank already knew that Connor had wiped all the footage from around the time of when the android trashed all the evidence from the deviant investigation, but he had the feeling that wasn’t what Fowler was showing him.

Hank saw how all the cameras indoors glitched out twenty six minutes before the event and stayed offline as Fowler played the footage at top speed, but his stomach soured when he realised that while they were out of action, the outdoor ones weren’t. His eyes followed the footage of, firstly, Perkins leaving with his broken nose to get checked out at the hospital, followed by himself and Gavin sniggering in the background. He saw how he’d then made an excuse to get down to the garage, heading straight for his car. Waiting.

Sixteen minutes and twelve seconds later, Connor appeared from the precinct direct exit into the garage.

His eyes closed in defeat when he could see their reunion played out in perfect video evidence. Another eleven minutes after they had left, all of the video streams came back online. Hank had as yet not seen the state of the evidence lockup, despite having been told by Connor what had happened, and he couldn’t help but wince at the damage. Connor really hadn’t held anything back.

“Despite the missing footage, there was a lot I could glean from what remained,” the Captain continued. “The key to this whole thing was asking around eyewitnesses at the time. Reed confirmed that he intercepted Connor as the android was headed down to the lockup, and that you assured him that Connor was registering the last of your evidence.” Hank swore quietly. He didn’t blame Gavin – the man hated androids, it was well known, and he probably didn’t realise the implications to Hank at the time.

The Captain leant forward and held Hank’s stare. “You helped Connor to escape after the android destroyed all the evidence relating to the deviant investigation,” Fowler said severely. “And I’d be willing to bet my job that, after your little speech in here just a few minutes before all this shit went down, you knew what it was up to.”

“He.” Fowler stopped in surprise as Hank’s eyes hardened. “Connor’s a ‘he’, not an ‘it’.” As the other man sat up, Hank finally snapped. “For fuck’s sake, Jeffrey, you’ve seen all the shit that’s going on out there! Are you honestly telling me that ‘non-living’ things are doing this?! They just want to be free!” He clenched his fist tightly while breathing harshly. “Yes, I was waiting for Connor, but I honestly didn’t know if he’d deviated or not. All I knew was that if he didn’t find where the other deviants were hiding, CyberLife was going to kill him.

“So, yes, I bought him time to go down to the evidence lockup to find the answer. Did I know that he was going to trash it? No.” Hank slumped back in his chair. “I don’t know what happened down there to get him to deviate, but I’m not in the slightest bit sorry that I helped him get away. Connor deserves the chance to be free and live after how he saved my life twice…”

Hank finally looked up and met Fowler’s gaze head on. “Do what you’ve got to do, Jeffrey. I ain’t apologising for a damn thing and I’d do it all over again.”

Fowler’s posture softened a little and he pushed a touchpad towards Hank. The lieutenant picked it up and froze at what he saw written there. “Perkins was the one pushing me to find the culprit and accomplices behind his destroyed evidence,” Fowler said slowly, watching as Hank’s eyes re-read the lines over and over again. “It turned out that there was a train map which had been hidden within the crude statue which you recovered on the first night of the deviant investigation. With it, the FBI found the freighter which the androids were using as hideout.”

That much, Hank had worked out. There was no doubting what had caused the explosion which rocked Detroit harbour, even if it had taken another twenty four hours for President Warren to confirm as much. He’d not heard a word from Connor yet and while he was worried almost sick, Hank wasn’t that surprised. Connor had warned him that he may not have the chance to make contact – but two whole days was longer than he’d thought it might be. That wasn’t what had Hank’s interest.

What he was holding was a list of the injured and killed on the night of the raid, along with a record of what androids were shot down. The number of androids was thankfully small, only about 40 or so – and Connor’s serial number wasn’t among them. There was a good chance that Connor was alive.

It was the final name on the list of the dead that had commanded all of Hank’s attention, and it was sure what Fowler wanted him to see.

Special Agent Richard Perkins.

Holy shit, the bastard’sdead. How?

“Most of the androids had fled by the time the FBI got there, it looks like Connor gave them enough of a warning for them to evacuate,” Fowler continued. “Perkins led a clean-up teams after realising that the vessel was all but empty. What they didn’t expect…was this.”

Fowler leant over and tapped a new tab on his terminal before turning his gaze up to the screen. Hank followed his stare and felt his heart drop right to his stomach as he saw what was playing.

Body-cam footage from one of the soldiers on the ship – right as Perkins had found Connor’s broken and bloodied form collapsed on the floor.

Oh Jesus fuck-No. No no no no-

He couldn’t stop himself growling at Perkins’ smug voice or from clenching his hands tightly around the arm of the chair when the FBI agent kicked Connor on to his back. Hank missed how Fowler’s eyes drifted back to watch the lieutenant’s reactions closely, already knowing was coming. The silver-haired man’s breath froze in his lungs when he saw Perkins aim a gun right at Connor’s head, but hope burst forth when he saw Connor smile.

Hank jumped when the shots rang out in rapid succession, and he stared in shock when the soldier’s camera kept playing despite the death of its owner. The angle they had landed at made it so that Hank could only see just under half of Connor’s body, but it was enough. It felt like his heart broke when he saw the resignation on Connor’s face.

Connor was fully prepared to die from his injuries.

Please God, no. Don’t let him have-

And then Connor’s salvation appeared in the form of a female android that Hank didn’t recognise, but he twigged who she was shouting to. Markus. That meant Connor had successfully made contact with the deviant leader then. He finally felt like he was able to breathe again when he saw North haul Connor away despite his grievous injuries.

Less than a minute later, the footage abruptly cut out.

“That was all they got before the ship blew,” Fowler told him. “All the bodies in that area of the ship will have been incinerated by the blast.”

Hank was surprised by the small smile on Fowler’s face, and even more surprised by what fell from his lips next. “It was a damn good shot, wasn’t it? Could use an aim like that here, shame that the android’s probably scrap by now.”

It took Hank a good ten seconds to realise what Fowler was doing, but when he did, he beamed. “Yeah, I’d guess so with injuries like that.”

“Hmmm.” Fowler hummed. “And you know, with Perkins’ death, there is no one to follow up on responsibility for the destroyed evidence. He was the one pushing it, after all. It was pretty damn clear that a deviant android was behind it, and there’s no way to track them, is there?”

“Nope, none at all,” Hank smiled.

“In that case, I think I’ll just deem it as unfortunate damage caused by faulty machinery. Sounds about right, doesn’t it? Nothing to be done beyond that,” Fowler smirked while removing all of the video footage from the screen. He chuckled at Hank’s pleased, but dumbfounded, expression. “Don’t give me that look, I just had to confirm something in my own head before I cleared all that up.”

“Confirm what?” Hank asked suspiciously.

Fowler gave him a long look. “You hated androids almost more than anyone; and yet somehow, Connor changed all that. In just a few days he’s flipped you around completely. What is it about him, Hank? How did he change your mind?”

Hank smiled in remembrance as he replayed the moments which had stood out to him since meeting Connor only a few days ago: how the android had helped him with Cole the very first night, the way he stopped Hank from being tossed to his death by their runaway android. How Connor had captivated Cole’s attention and his son had captured Connor’s interest in return, the way the two had bonded. That night at the bridge where Connor and he had spoken after the Eden Club.

That undeniable spark when Hank had repaired Connor after the android had been prepared to sacrifice himself for the aging man…Moments like that didn’t come along often. At that moment, Hank had wanted nothing more than to just embrace Connor and seal his lips to the android’s own.

All of it was too much to explain and Hank couldn’t know what words would be right. Even he didn’t know how to summarise what he and Connor shared, or what was shared by Connor and Cole.

“It was just him, Jeffrey,” Hank said slowly. “I can’t explain it, but Connor just somehow…slotted himself in, like a missing piece that Cole and I didn’t realise we needed. He’s someone to inspire my son, and a partner that I have total and undeniable faith in. I-I really can’t put it into words. Connor is just…he’s Connor.” Hank smiled softly at remembering their goodbye, his heart hammering at recalling how badly damaged Connor was when he was pulled off the ship. “When this is all over, I really hope I get the chance to show you who he is. That’ll be better than any crap I can spout now.”

Fowler nodded at him. “I think that sounds like an idea, Hank.”

“So you’re really just letting this go? Despite knowing my part in it?”

“I am. After every way I’ve seen you react and the impassioned words you gave earlier, I know for a fact that you believe the androids are alive. With Perkins dead, I don’t think anyone’s going to pay enough attention to notice if I conveniently corrupt the rest of the footage,” Fowler offered with a knowing smile.

“Christ, Jeffrey, you’re almost doing worse than I did! You’re covering this up.”

“I’m protecting a damn good man and his little boy from a lot of undeserved pain,” Fowler told him resolutely. “There’s more than just what the damn book says is right and wrong, you and I both know that. We’ve always had a pretty good moral compass and I’m using that right now.”

Hank gave Fowler a grateful and heartfelt smile. “Thanks, Jeffrey. I-”

“You don’t need to say anything, Hank,” Fowler interrupted him before looking out at the bullpen, seeing the figure still standing by his desk outside. A quick glance at his watch, showing the time of 8:03pm on November 11th, had Fowler sighing. “Curfew’s in effect now, which means we’re officially on the back burner until morning. I’m going to be operating a skeleton crew in here overnight and I want you to run the precinct when you come to relieve me in twelve hours.”

“We’re working on rotation?” Hank asked in surprise.

“Until this crisis is over, yes. You and I are the two most senior officers in the precinct, and at a time like this, I can’t afford to trust the running of this place to someone without two brain cells. I’ll take the nights while you co-ordinate the days. It’ll be good practice for you anyway,” Fowler teased.

“Hah! You and I both know I gave up on Captain a long-ass time ago, Jeffrey,” Hank shot back, but he couldn’t deny the man’s faith in him was touching. Despite all the friction and shittiness between them, Hank had always known Fowler had his back. Quite to this degree was a surprise, but a welcome one.

“Maybe, but it’s part of your job to be my second when crisis hits, Hank. So, get yourself a good night’s sleep and I’ll see you back in here for 8am sharp.”

“Gotcha.” Hank stood and strode over to the door before giving Fowler a last smile. “See you in the morning, Jeffrey. Thanks.” Fowler gave him a last nod and a shooing gesture, which had Hank laughing.

What Hank hadn’t noticed until that point was the figure of Gavin Reed leaning up against the detective’s desk. Arms crossed, staring down at the floor in silent contemplation…It wasn’t often that Hank saw Gavin so serious.

Then again, there wasn’t exactly any way of ignoring what the two of them had seen the past two days while being partnered up on patrol. While the army was out in force, they were still needed to keep the most basic order. Looting, rioting and an upstage in gang violence amongst all of the chaos of the android uprising led to a lot of gruesome scenes. They’d dodged any deadly encounters thus far, but they’d seen more than their fair share of aftermath.

Weapons scattered across the landscape, broken shop fronts and splintered wood of doors…not to mention the hundreds of android bodies left out in the open. It was descending into madness. Fowler hadn’t been far wrong when he’d called it a civil war.

“Hey,” Hank greeted, not sure what sort of mindset Gavin was in. He knew the man pretty well by now, but it was hard to tell where his head was at right now. For the past two days Gavin had slowly been getting more and more withdrawn. Hank knew seeing it all was affecting him, but the older man couldn’t quite tell the scale of it yet.

“Hey,” Gavin replied flatly, standing up straight while uncrossing his arms to stuff his hands in the pockets of his jacket. “So, Fowler didn’t fire your ass then?”

Well, that was a blunt question. Hank was honestly impressed with how much of the story Gavin had put together. “Nope. You sad?” Hank taunted.

“Nah, things would be a bit too boring without your musty old ass around here,” Gavin shot back with a smirk. Hank chuckled. “Seriously, you’re the only one with enough bite to make life interesting. Couldn’t quite imagine things without your sarcastic bark.” His expression became serious again and Hank was intrigued. “You knew, didn’t you? You knew what Connor was going to do down there.”

“Nope, I had no clue,” Hank answered honestly. “I knew he was on the verge of deviating and that he was so close to finding the deviants’ hideout, but I didn’t think he’d trash the lockup after deviating himself. Thatwas a surprise.” He gave Gavin a long look. “When’d you figure it out?”

“After Fowler started asking questions. I figured if Connor had been acting alone, Fowler wouldn’t have been so interested seeing as he’s just an android. When he started grilling me on exactlywhat happened, it felt like an interrogation. Wasn’t too hard to work it out from there.” Gavin’s eyes fixed upon Hank’s own. “You knew that you were helping a deviant escape afterwards though, right?” Hank shrugged in reply, to which Gavin scoffed. “Damn, that I didn’t see coming. I know this past week has been crazy but, fuck, never thought I’d see you risk so much for an android.”

Gavin hummed for a moment and raised an eyebrow at Hank. “It’s food for thought, that’s for sure,” he finished lowly.

Hank looked at him in surprise. “That wasn’t the reaction I expected from you, Reed. I thought you’d say I’d lost it.”

“You lost it years ago, old man, that ain’t news,” Gavin fired back with a smirk. “Nah, I think I know you well enough after all these years of being partnered with your ancient ass to realise that: for you to change your mind about them, there must be something in all this. You and I think the same about androids, or at least we thought the same about them. Plastic fucks designed at the expense of all those who work hard in life, and that all of them should be scrapped. And yet you helped it flee after deviating, and I’m adamant that you brought it to the rest of the deviants.”

His expression softened a little. “You heard from Connor since?”

The older man’s eyes flitted around the bullpen and once he realised that almost everyone else was out trying to keep the fraught city under control (and that the rest were busy with their own work to pay attention to the quiet conversation), he finally answered. “Not a peep. I know the deviant androids will be working on a plan though. After all the shit we’ve seen these past couple of days, there’s no chance they are going to give up. We have no way of knowing how many of them are out there, but I don’t think they’ll sit back for much longer. Not since those fucking camps appeared this morning.”

Hank was intrigued by Gavin’s shiver. “I know Warren described them as recycling centres, but you’ve called it right there. ‘Camps’. It’s like a fucking horror movie.”

“No shit; and it’s just going to get worse.”

Both of them mulled this over before Gavin changed the direction of the conversation. “You heading home?”

“Yeah, Fowler wants me to relieve him in the morning. Can’t say I’m looking forward to that, but I’m never going to turn down a chance to spend more time with my boy. Cole’s been sending me worried messages for the past two days,” Hank said with a sad expression.

Gavin paused before he spoke again, and what he said was not something Hank was expecting. “Look after yourself, Hank. Your kid needs you.”

Hank recoiled in shock. “The fuck does that mean?”

“We’ve both seen the crazy shit going on out there, and we both know it’s going to get a whole lot fucking worse. Just…be careful. You’re everything to Cole, and I’d hate to think what would happen to the kid if you bit the dust.”

The words were blunt, but there was no mistaking the care meant behind them. Despite all their differences, Gavin was someone that Hank trusted. He was even someone that Hank had called on to babysit Cole a couple of times over the years when Faye wasn’t an option. The younger detective wasn’t really one for feelings or sentiment, but his heart was often in the right place.

A tight smile crept over Hank’s face as he nodded at Gavin. “Worried about me, Gavin?” he teased.

“Nah, just couldn’t be arsed trying to find a new partner. I’d have to temper my bullshit for a while to not scare them off, and that ain’t my style,” Gavin snarked back. Hank laughed warmly but then felt his phone go off in his pocket.

Pulling it out to stare at the contact, his heart skipped a beat. His eyes lifted to meet Gavin’s again. “Gavin, I’ve got to take this. I don’t know when I’ll next see you, so you look after yourself too, all right?” Gavin gave him a dismissive wave, but the small smirk on the younger man’s face was appreciative. Hank flipped him off before racing out the front door of the precinct, all but shaking when he finally reached his car and answered his phone.

“Connor! Oh thank fucking Christ! You scared the shit out of me, you asshole!”

The amused and pained laugh on the other end of the line was like music to Hank’s ears. He hadn’t been sure if he’d ever hear such a thing from the android. “Sorry, Hank,”Connor started. “Things have been a little…chaotic.”

“You’re telling me,” Hank breathed while opening the door and settling into the driver’s seat. “I saw bodycam footage from one of the soldiers that was with Perkins, you were looking like shit. Are you okay?”

The emotional pain in Connor’s voice broke something in Hank. “Hank I- I’m sorry, I’m guessing you’ve seen what happened. I didn’t just kill them out of want, I-I-”

“Don’t worry, I know exactly why you did it,” Hank soothed, stopping Connor before he began to spiral. He’d seen how Connor shot Perkins after the FBI rat had threatened his job, and with it his and Cole’s livelihoods. Not a single part of him regretted how Perkins had died after all the shit he’d pulled. “You still didn’t answer my other question though.”

“The damage is significant, but Markus and his companions have managed to repair me to a functionable degree. I will require much more substantial work once this crisis is over.”

Hank didn’t like Connor’s tone of voice. “Connor, it sounds like-Shit, you aren’t going back out into this madness, are you?” he whispered.

“I’m sorry, Hank, but I’ve got no choice. Thousands of androids are being slaughtered every minute, and we can’t just sit back and let it happen. Markus has a plan, and I have my role in it. I just wanted to…say goodbye, in case this all goes wrong.”

Fuck, Connor, you ain’t getting to quit on me, you hear me?!” Hank all but yelled back. “You’ve survived so much shit up to this point, you aren’t going to die now. Got it?! You promised Cole you’d see him again, and you all but swore it to me too. I ain’t going to be the one to tell my son that you broke that promise, all right? So you can take your goodbye and shove it up your ass.”

Connor’s laughter on the other end was warm. “Poetic as always, Hank.”

“What can I say? I’ve got a way with words.” He took in a long breath before speaking again. “Connor, what the fuck are you going to do?”

“…I can’t tell you that, I’m sorry.”

“Why the fuck not?!” Hank demanded.

“Because I know you’d come and try to help me, and I can’t risk that. I can’t risk you.Please, trust me, Hank. If I’m successful, this will turn the tide of the whole revolution and give us the security we need.”

Hank breathed harshly as he thought over what Connor had said, heart fluttering at the implication behind Connor’s words. It really wasn’t the time to be fixating on that, however. “All right, I-Shit, you know I trust you, Connor. You’d better come out of this in one piece, okay?”

“I will do my best, but I’ve already been fixed with several components which are not my own. Would that still count?”

That was just so unexpected that Hank laughed. “Holy shit, if your sense of humour is always like this then I’m going to die in the future.” Connor snickered on the other end, bringing some much needed levity to the conversation.

“I’m sorry, Hank, but I need to go. There’s a lot of preparation I need to carry out.”

“Yeah, yeah I gotcha. You…you take care, Connor,” Hank sighed shakily, wishing that he could see the android at that moment. “I’ll see you when this is all over.”

“I’ll see you soon, Hank.” The human could hear the emotion in Connor’s voice. “You take care, too.”

The line clicked dead and Hank sat back, closing his eyes as he exhaled slowly. Everything around him was going to shit, and there was nothing he could do about it. He was stuck watching for now.

Wellmaybe not-

Look after yourself, Hank. Your kid needs you.

Shit.

Gavin’s words struck somewhere deep inside him and Hank hated it. Why, of all times, was it now that Gavin fucking Reed was suddenly a fountain of wisdom? Shaking his head, Hank put keys in the ignition and brought the car to life.

He knew what he had to do.


The first thing Connor was aware of when he next awoke was the stream of error messages which flooded his HUD, along with all the updates of the numerous repairs which had been carried out on his systems. A quick check of his internal chronometer showed that it was 7:49:06 pm on November 11th.

He’d been out for almost two days.

Honestly, it was little wonder after the massive trauma to his systems. He was genuinely quite surprised that he was still alive, the shutdown timer had been glaring red in his HUD for so long before he blacked out that he’d expected to not awaken again. Given his design of memory upload and disposable vessel, Connor knew that had he shut down, he wouldn’t have come back. Unlike other androids who could possibly be reactivated with the right conditions, he didn’t have that option. As someone who was built to be disposable, preservation of a previously ‘defunct’ form was not a concern of his designers.

“It’s good to see that you have returned to us.”

The soft voice to his right had Connor turning, and his eyes fell upon a familiar android. “Lucy…” he groaned, systems glitching as he tried to move and was met with another stream of errors.

“Hush, young one,” she soothed, while pressing a hand back down on Connor’s chest. The android gave in to the gentle pressure and stilled once more. “Your body has undergone much in this past while, and many of your biocomponents are offline. Markus managed to find replacements for some, but others cannot be fixed with what we managed to salvage,” she explained while picking up a thirium pouch for Connor to drink. “Use this, you are still low on blue blood.”

Connor drank greedily from the pouch and lay still as Lucy continued to use what the RK800 recognised as the feel of a heat gun on his chassis. It conjured some very intimate memories and Connor brushed them away while looking back to the other android. “What has happened?”

“Much,” she said softly. “The humans had declared all androids are to be destroyed, and they have set up camps for us.” Connor closed his eyes as he listened. We have roughly four thousand androids still free thanks to your efforts, scattered throughout the city. It may not be much, but Markus hopes that it will be enough.”

“Enough? Enough for what?” Connor asked while sitting up on his elbows, finally taking a look at his surroundings. He was in an abandoned church, laying upon a broken pew at the side of the room. Hundreds of androids were cramped into the derelict space, but Connor could detect a definite energy in the air. They were…determined?

“He plans to march upon the camps and demonstrate for our freedom peacefully,” Lucy told him while tending to the last of the wounds on Connor’s body. “With so much media attention upon them, Markus hopes that the opinion of the world will be enough to change the tide of the revolution – that humans will see out suffering and demand change.”

Connor wondered if he was being biased by his own experiences, but he couldn’t deny that the idea had merit. “Well, I know that it is possible to win the support of humans from my own journey. I believe Markus is right to follow the peaceful path to our future.” His circuits tightened and his face fell as he thought of all the lives which he had ended on the Jericho. While some had been out of necessity, some most definitely were not.

He’d killed Perkins in cold blood when the FBI agent had threatened Hank. While he may have been designed as a killer of deviants, taking lives felt so wrong to him that Connor wondered if androids were designed with a sense of nausea: because something was sitting in the pit of his circuits that made him feel disgusting and vile.

Lucy’s hand came up to cup Connor’s cheek and she gave the younger android a gentle smile. “Show me.” Connor didn’t fight her as she initiated an interface and allowed the synthskin of his face to shift away, giving her unfiltered access. Barely a few seconds later she ended it and looked straight at Connor. “Those you love were under threat, and you were at the end of a gun yourself. Your actions were entirely justified, Connor. I know you will not believe that of me now, but it is true.”

Connor wanted to believe her, he really did, but he couldn’t. “Where is Markus?” he asked instead, ready to distance himself from other thoughts for now.

“He is up there, with North, Simon and Josh,” Lucy explained while gesturing to the raised section at the front of the room. “But before you see him, there is someone else who wishes to speak with you.” Connor cocked his head towards Lucy in confusion. “Someone who wants to ask you some questions…and to express her gratitude.”

As Lucy stood and moved away, Connor almost froze when he saw who was taking her place. Hopping along on only one leg towards his bench was the AX400 he had crossed paths with twice now, the YK500 and TR400 either side of her. The other two stayed back slightly as the AX400 came to a stop next to him, and Connor shifted over to allow her space to sit down. She gave him an unsteady smile while descending steadily on her one remained leg. “Hello, Connor,” she greeted softly.

“Hello,” he replied slowly. “By what name do you go by now?”

“Kara,” she informed him while flashing a smile over to the child. “Alice chose it for me, it was a gift from someone precious to me.”

“It is a beautiful name,” Connor said honestly, which earned a shy smile from Kara. “Lucy said you wished to speak with me?”

“I did.” Kara seemed to debate what to say before meeting Connor’s eyes again. “How did you come to join our people? You were designed as the deviant hunter, and yet you woke up? Did Markus’ words reach out to you as well?”

Connor sighed while looking away. “No, I…I found my own purpose. I didn’t deviate at his behest, I found something to live for on my own.”

Kara’s smile grew slightly. “It seems that we both share something in common with Markus. We woke up out of love for others.” Her eyes fell to Alice, and the girl hiding shyly behind the other android, who was also smiling down at her. “My love for Alice drove me to break through my programming, and Luther was also inspired by her. This was all while I believed she was human. Despite my now knowing otherwise, it changes nothing. I still love her, and would do anything for her.” She looked back at Connor knowingly. “Lucy told me that love for humans is why you broke your own programming.”

Stretching up to sit properly, Connor stretched into the pocket of his jacket. By a small miracle, the folded painting was still in one piece, even if it had been stained by thirium. The blue blood was now invisible to the naked eye and so long as Connor turned off that specific sensor, he also could not see the remains. “Yes,” he confirmed while staring at the picture with a heartfelt smile. “Two of them, specifically. A young boy who was fascinated by and wanted to know me, the real me, and his father – my work partner. I came into their lives pure by chance, simply because he was deemed responsible for the deviant investigation. And yet…I became a part of their lives.

“Cole and I connected, somehow, and he gave me that painting. That was how he saw me, before I was even aware that I could besomeone. He saw me as someone alive…and I think that was part of it. An innocent boy saw me as gentle, even though I was built to be a killer. Then there’s Hank.” Connor chuckled. “He hated me the minute he saw me. His hatred for androids made him a difficult partner to start with, and that hostility between us is actually why I didn’t chase you across that highway.” He winced and looked back at Kara apologetically. “I am so sorry for how that played out. You have no idea how much I wished I hadn’t put you in that danger.”

“I know,” Kara assured him. “I believe you. You were saying?”

“Well, things changed when he was almost pushed off a roof by another android. When faced with the chance to catch that android and saving him…I didn’t even stop to think, I saved Hank. It was only afterwards that I even saw the percentages. Something drove me to save his life, and I didn’t know why then. I’m not even sure I know now. After that we slowly grew closer until a shootout at the Stratford Tower. I almost died after I shielded Hank from a deviant which was a threat. He took me home, made sure I lived…and I think that’s when I realised that I wasn’t truly a ‘machine’ anymore.”

“You love them both,” she said softly.

“I do, and I promised to get back to them. When we are free…I will go back to be with them.”

Kara’s smile grew and she laid a hand on Connor’s leg, the one of which the lower half had been destroyed in his fall on the Jericho. He stared at it in shock as his scanners came back to tell him of the traces of blood belonging to an AX400, #579 102 694 on the outer chassis.

Connor gasped as he realised the serial number matched Kara’s own. This was her leg.

“Why?” he breathed harshly, staring up at her in disbelief after staring at the missing component.

She laughed lightly while tapping the leg again. “My upper leg was completely destroyed, the lower half could at least help someone in need. After how you saved us on the Jericho, I felt it was only right that I give you back the cost of that aid.” Kara shushed him when Connor was about to speak up. “Do not try to protest this, Connor. After all that has happened, our previous plan to leave for Canada is no longer an option. We won’t be able to find me a replacement part, we’ve already asked around – and Markus has insisted that we stay in shelter during the demonstration. We will be safe here, I won’t need two legs for that. You on the other hand, can make a big difference. Please, take it, and help Markus save out people.”

“Kara…” Connor was completely blindsided by Kara’s generosity, especially after his part in events with them previously. “I don’t know what to say.”

“You don’t need to say anything, Connor. Just promise me that you will help Markus in bringing us freedom.”

“I promise,” Connor assured her, to which Kara smiled at Luther. The TR400 bent over and picked her up in a bridal lift, carrying her back into the crowd with Alice at their sides. As they vanished, Connor found himself shocked in place. Kara had just shown an unbelievable amount of faith in him after all that had happened, and he was determined to do justice by it.

Connor approached the group at the head of the church, and was pleased by the smile which Markus greeted him with. Even Simon and Josh flashed him a smaller version, and North’s expression was bordering on warm. “Nice to see you awake, Connor,” Markus said while making space for Connor to join their circle. “We were worried that you were going to be lost.”

“As my human partner would say, my stubbornness knows no bounds,” Connor told him cheekily. Simon snorted while North chuckled, and Josh’s smile grew. Markus laughed at the response. “I believe I owe you great deal of thanks for my survival, especially you, North,” he said while turning to the female android. “Were it not for you, I would have surely died on the ship when it blew.”

“Don’t thank me for that,” she grumbled while blushing, something which the others chuckled at. “You were the idiot who decided to go charging off and fall through the floors. All I did was pull your sorry ass into the water.”

“Regardless of that, thank you,” Connor smiled at her. “Lucy says that you are preparing for a demonstration?”

“Yes, we are,” Josh continued. “We are currently planning how to organise those who are preparing to march. We have a couple of thousand ready to go, be we need to decide who goes where and who shall lead them.”

“It is a slow process,” Simon added, “but that is not what is weighing most on our minds.”

“Even with how many we are, it may not be enough,” Connor guessed. “We are still badly outnumbered.”

“Yes…” Markus admitted, “and things have not been going well for us since Jericho was lost. The humans are intent on exterminating us despite showing no aggression. Our numbers continue to fall.”

“Are you sure you don’t want to fight, Markus?” North insisted. “It seems like our only shot now. If we can get to the thousands that are trapped in the camps, then we could maybe turn the tide.”

“That still may not be enough,” Connor wondered aloud. “Even with another ten thousand androids, it may not deter the humans…but more than that might do it,” he finished in a whispered.

“Connor?” Markus asked, realising that Connor had thought of something.

“There are over a hundred thousand androids inside CyberLife tower,” the RK800 continued. “If we wake them up, it might finally tip the balance of power in our favour.”

“Wait, what-” North spluttered.

“That’s a crazy idea!” Josh shouted.

“There’s no way inside there,” Simon said. “It’s one of the most secure buildings in the world, there’d be no way of sneaking inside.”

“We don’t need to,” Connor told them pointedly. “I can get in.”

“Connor, there’s no way that you could infiltrate the CyberLife tower now,” Markus informed him. “They’ll know you’re a deviant given how you destroyed all the evidence of the investigation.”

“I’m well aware,” Connor went on, “but CyberLife are arrogant. I know them better than you all do, and I know that they want deviants alive. If I turn up on their doorstep, they won’t shoot me on sight. They’ll want to study me to see how their fabled ‘deviant hunter’ woke up. I can just pretend that I am oblivious to them being aware of my status, play the ignorance card, and once I have the chance, slip away.”

“It…could work,” Josh admitted. “It’s absolutely insane, but if Connor thinks that he could do it, I think it’s worth a shot. He’s right in that we’re probably not enough.”

“I think it’s suicide personally,” North stated, “but I’ve not exactly agreed with all of Markus’ ideas up until now, and it’s been for the best. If Markus is behind it, then I say let Connor try.”

“I agree, it may be just what we need,” Simon nodded.

“Connor.” The former deviant hunter’s stare met Markus’ at his call. “This will put you at grave risk, and you’re already badly damaged. We managed to replace a few of your broken parts, but you’ll shut down if you take much more of a beating. Not to mention that all the workarounds which are in place mean that you are operating nowhere near your full potential. You’re vulnerable. Are you…really sure about this?”

After giving it a moment of thought, Connor nodded. “I’m not part of Jericho, I’m a straggler who hasn’t earned their place here yet. Androids whisper my name in fear for the part I played in events leading up to this. I don’t want to be the scourge of androids. This is my way of fighting for our freedom, to use my ‘curse’ in a way to give our people a future.”

“They’re going to kill you,” Markus whispered.

“There’s a high probability; but statistically speaking, there is always a chance for unlikely events to take place.” Connor stared at Markus hard. “Let me do this, Markus, please. You know I can.”

Markus sighed deeply before giving Connor a muted nod. “All right. Be careful, Connor. Despite what you believe, you are one of us: and we will all be waiting for you when the night ends.”

Connor gave them all a small smile and nod before stepping away, steeling himself for what lay ahead. They were all right, this probably was suicide – but it was the tipping point his people needed.

Before he could leave, however, there was someone he needed to speak to first.

The conversation with Hank was exactly what Connor needed to give him the drive to finish this, no matter what came next.

Now he had to do his part in building his people’s future.


Hank finally pulled up outside Faye’s house at just gone 9pm, sighing hard as he leant over the steering wheel. It had been a very hard couple of days, and he was looking forward to nothing more than to see his boy and have a few hours of uninterrupted sleep before everything went to shit.

He smiled from where he was parked on the street at seeing Cole playing with an excited Sumo in Faye’s front room, the woman laughing at their antics. Yes, this is exactly what he needed. Home and family.

“Lieutenant?”

Jerking around at the familiar voice, Hank was stunned to see Connor standing only a few feet from him. The fact that he was back in his CyberLife uniform was an even bigger shock, especially given the army was shooting any android that so much as moved. “Shit, Connor? What are you doing here, I thought you said that you didn’t want me involved in whatever you were up to?” he asked slowly.

“I apologise for the surprise, but I changed my opinion on the matter,” Connor said while coming to stand closer to Hank. “I could, in fact, use your help.”

“With what…?” Hank asked, suddenly suspicious. Connor hadn’t spoken so…mechanically in a while, and especially not since he had deviated.

“An attempted infiltration of the CyberLife tower,” Connor informed him.

“Hold on, back the fuck up. Are you telling me that you’re going to try and break into the CyberLife tower? How the hell does that work?” Hank regarded Connor cautiously as the android spoke. His instincts were screaming at him that something was very wrong – and he’d learned a long time ago to trust those instincts, everything else be damned.

“The deviants intend to break into the assembly plant and recruit all the dormant androids within into their ranks. I could use your assistance,” Connor elaborated.

Hank raised an eyebrow at him. “And how the fuck would I do that? A human accompanying an android into the CyberLife tower, ain’t that going to throw up a few red flags?” His eyes began roving Connor’s form, looking for something to confirm his gut feeling. The hair and eyes were the same, if the warmth behind them was missing. All the freckles and moles were the same, the physique and even the damn uniform were right-

And then Hank saw it. The serial numbers on Connor’s jacket. #313 248 317 – 60.

Connor is 51.

Holy shit, this isn’t him.

He must have given something away from his body language for the android’s expression hardened. Hank reflexively reached for his gun, but the Connor was too quick and punched him in the shoulder. Shouting at the pain, Hank recoiled and soon found himself on the wrong end of a gun himself, the android aimed clearly at his head.

Clutching his injured shoulder, Hank hissed at the android. “Go on then, do it.”

“I don’t think so, Lieutenant,” the Connor smirked. “I said I needed your help, and I do. The deviant Connor intends to use the deviancy virus to convert all of the androids at CyberLife tower. You are my key to stopping that.”

“Like fuck am I helping you!” Hank spat. “I’d sooner take a bullet between the eyes!”

“How selfless of you, Lieutenant, but I was already aware that you would sooner see your own life ended that to endanger your Connor. You may not have much regard for your own life, but…” the android pulled out a small remote, and a chill ran down Hank’s spine when he saw the flashing red light on it. Connor smirked and nodded behind him. “Look behind you, Lieutenant.” Despite thinking he was about to get a bullet to the head, Hank did indeed look – and everything inside him froze solid. His heart, stomach, mind…all of it.

Another flashing light was above Faye’s front door, and Hank knew exactly what it was. A bomb.

His eyes fell to the front window, where he could still see Cole playing with Sumo and Faye reading a book.

No-Fuck no!

“Leave them out of this,” Hank begged desperately, his eyes wrenching back to the ruthless android before him. Fuck, this android couldn’t be much different from his Connor if it tried.

“I do not intend to kill you or your family, Lieutenant, but I will not hesitate to do so if you give me no choice,” Connor told him coldly. “You will accompany me to the CyberLife tower and help me stop the deviant Connor. If you refuse at any point, I will detonate this bomb. I’m sure you can work out that it will obliterate the entire structure and anyone inside.”

“Why- They’re not a part of this!” Hank seethed, making sure not to alert Faye and Cole. He wasn’t stupid enough to think that the android would not blow it if they were aware.

“No, but you are, and this is your weakness, Lieutenant. My mission is to stop the deviant Connor no matter what, and that is what I intend to do. What casualties result from that…is up to you.”

Connor held up the remote threateningly and held a finger over the trigger.

“So, what is it going to be?”


In a darkened room several miles away, a figure watched the events unfold on the screen with a stern expression.

“So, it seems that despite all the changes to the timeline, some events are destined no matter what. The path once taken is being followed again.

“I fear this is all to be for naught. Connor once sacrificed his Lieutenant to buy more time and it resulted in their deaths. Now I believe Connor would sacrifice himself to protect his young family, and with it doom the revolution to the same end.

“Is this really fate – are these two meant to die in the CyberLife tower, no matter if they are enemies, friends or in love?

“I guess I can only watch…and hope for one final twist to this game of fate.”

Chapter Text

The concept of the butterfly effect is simple – what would change if you stepped on a butterfly versus not? Could that single butterfly catch the attention of a child and stop it stepping into the road, or would it be what led to that child wandering out? There is no telling.

Such an ideal carries to the idea of left versus right. If you had the chance, would you take that other route, knowing what events lie down the first path?

A butterfly that never should have lived does not change just the fact of its survival – it causes ripples beyond the present.

Right versus left. Life versus death.

However, turn right too many times, and you will end up back where you should have been had you simply turned left.


He hated this, he absolutely hated it.

There hadn’t been many moments in his life where Hank had felt so utterly helpless, but this was one of them. Sat in an office on level 4 of the CyberLife tower with a fucking android pointing a gun at him, its other hand still clasped around the detonator could destroy everything he loved most. Video footage from cameras that the thing had set up outside the window of Faye’s front room and one of her spare rooms showed his family in painstaking detail. It was playing them on a screen in front of him – a constant warning of what Hank stood to lose.

Faye sat in a chair, reading a book while she nodded along with whatever song was playing quietly in the room. She was a metalhead after his own heart, Hank knew every song on her playlist in order. They’d gone through this routine lots of nights before.

Cole asleep in his room at her house, Sumo curled up on the floor right next to the side of the boy’s bed. His breathing was deep and steady, Hank could see that even from the distance between Cole and the camera.

It tore at his heart to think that one false move would see at all lost to a single flick of a switch.

“Your stress levels are high, Lieutenant.”

Hank glared from where he was sat next to the window, and he could swear that the machine was almost smirking. How could this thing be from the same line as Connor? It was the perfect antithesis to his Connor. Unfeeling, merciless and callous, unlike the selfless, open and courageous android he’d come to know – the man that Hank had fallen incredibly hard for, even if he couldn’t admit it freely to himself yet.

If they both made it out of this…then maybe.

“I fucking wonder why,” he spat back, going back to staring out the window. The slow snowfall was a mild distraction; it at least chased away the frustration that was eating away inside him.

“I fail to see why you are so upset. All you need to do is what I instruct, and you go free with your family unharmed. Is that something to merit such emotional strain?”

Of course this thing wouldn’t understand. It couldn’t feel, had no comprehension of how it felt for Hank to simply sit there and wait for his heart to break.

Because he knew it would, one way or the other. He either helped this thing kill Connor or it would kill his family without so much as a backwards glance.

Hank could only hope that Connor had something up his sleeve – they needed some divine intervention.

Ringing from his pocket had Hank jumping on the spot and his gaze involuntarily fell to the images of Faye’s house. No, it wasn’t them, thank fuck. He couldn’t have bared trying to pretend everything was all right at that moment. The machine raised an eyebrow and Hank took that as a cue to look at the caller, to which his stomach hit the floor.

Connor.

Why was Connor trying to call him? He’d seemed determined not to involve Hank in whatever crazy plan he had in mind, so what had changed? Was this Connor deciding that he may not have another chance to say something?

Fuck, don’t even think that!

“Are you not going to answer, Lieutenant?” the machine taunted, to which Hank’s glower shifted from fiery to icy.

Hank chose not to answer that question, but something else suddenly occurred to him. How did this thing even know what Connor planned to do? “How the fuck do you even know that Connor is headed here?” he growled instead. “He’s a deviant, he’s free of the influence of you assholes: so, what gives?”

It didn’t answer, but the coy smile it gave had a shiver running down Hank’s spine. That could only mean bad things. Instead, its attention turned to something out the window. Hank followed its line of sight and his heart leapt when he saw the lone vehicle coming across the bridge.

That was Connor – it had to be. There went Hank’s last hope that the machine had this all wrong.

Shit, shit, shit! Come on you old ass, think! There’s got to be something you can do to stop Connor from being killed!

The machine took two steps forward from where it had been standing beside a nearby desk and nudged Hank with its gun. He stared at it hatefully, but it didn’t so much as bat an eyelid. “Connor will be here shortly; the time has come to change location.”

“What, not even gonna let me admire the snow?” he sneered back, but didn’t dare resist the machine’s commands. Not with its finger so perilously close to costing him everything.

“You can enjoy the snowfall all you like in a short while, Lieutenant. Maybe if you are even so inclined, you might bury the deviant Connor in it?”

“Son of a fucking bitch,” Hank hissed, a shard of ice settling in his heart. This couldn’t be how it the revolution ended for them…

Could it?


Connor couldn’t stop himself from twirling his coin over his knuckles, needing something to keep his mind occupied as the auto-taxi made the long journey from the DPD lockup to CyberLife Tower. He was thankful that no-one had been inside and spied his android uniform, it meant that he could change back with minimal hassle. Markus’ demonstration and the small pockets of androids that had been springing up to join him in a final stand meant that there were fewer army patrols around the city now. Avoiding checkpoints had been easy with his links to the law enforcement systems.

Now, however, Connor could do nothing more than wait. At least the auto-taxi’s icon at the front stating that he was CyberLife staff meant that he wasn’t stopped by any of the army en route – they were the last to be trusting androids with the state of the world around them.

He had thus far resisted tuning into of the media broadcasts, he wasn’t sure he could stand to see it. By now, Markus and the others would be headed towards one of the camps, intent on making the world see that androids were alive. All of the wounded were still sheltered across the city – Kara, Luther, Alice and Lucy were still at the church, helping to look after others – but if this all went wrong, they would be the last of their people.

The pressure was something that wouldn’t have bothered him as a machine. As a deviant however…

Connor felt so lonely at that moment that he couldn’t continue to just sit and stare at the world around him. There was one person that would make him feel better, even if it was just for a few moments.

[CONNECTION FAILED. RETRY?]

In the time that I’ve known him, Hank has never let his phone ring out. Is it too much to hope for that he is a deep sleeper?

He really hoped that was why Hank didn’t answer, and Connor couldn’t deny that he was disappointed. Hearing Hank’s voice would have brought him some much need reassurance and warmth.

Should he have told Hank the truth before? Connor wasn’t sure, but now…With so much on the line and the potential for it all to go long, Connor wondered if he should have admitted to Hank that he had feelings for him – that he loved both the human lieutenant and his son.

No, Connor was going to tell them both when androids were free.

Although…

Connor snapped out of his thoughts and slipped into the machine persona when he reached the security gate, but the minute he was past it, he closed his eyes and made an internal audio recording. If the worst should happen, he wanted some record somewhere of what he felt. After completing it, Connor tied it to his own biosignature: setting the recording to be sent to Hank’s phone should his shutdown timer ever reach 1 second.

At least now there would always be proof.

The taxi finally pulled up to CyberLife, after which Connor had to fight very hard not to act out of character. Playing the part of a machine was difficult with so many adverse thoughts spinning through his head – but he wouldn’t have to do it for long. An armed escort to the elevator? CyberLife really were so arrogant as to think that Connor would be naïve enough to hope they wouldn’t know of his awakening?

It was an opportunity, however. Connor wasn’t going to waste it.

Left with just two guards in the elevator, Connor quickly hacked into the surveillance systems and set them on a loop. It should take at least some time for anyone to realise his actions – long enough for Connor to reach the level he needed. Once that was done, he preconstructed a simulation of how to dispose of the soldiers in the elevator. It proved somewhat more difficult that he envisioned, his damage limited his options somewhat. Even his software was struggling to pick a strategy that gave Connor guaranteed success.

Time to improvise then.

Connor snapped his elbow up into one of the human’s necks, sufficiently dazing him while kicking the other in the stomach. As the second human fell back against the edge of the elevator, Connor used the moment of peace to slam his hand into stunned human’s neck. He plummeted to the ground, unconscious, while Connor slid into a tackle, taking the other human’s legs out from under him. With his target on the ground, Connor managed to get a lock around the soldier’s arms with his legs, and then grappled him into a stranglehold.

He reared his head back into Connor’s chest viciously, causing the android’s systems to stutter before Connor got him into a complete lock, stilling all the human’s movement. It took longer than Connor would have liked for the human to lose consciousness, seeing the floor numbers climb as the seconds ticked on. Just as it was getting to the point that Connor was regretting his course of action, his target finally fell limp with a confirming chime from his HUD that he was out cold.

Taking lives was something Connor was determined to avoid at possible costs after what happened at Jericho. He could still feel that guilt seeping through his circuits, and he wouldn’t be what CyberLife made him to be. He was not a killer.

Never again.

Leaping back to his feet, Connor interfaced with the panel at the side of the elevator and changed its course to the warehouse, knowing that was where he needed to be. It confirmed the change without any hassle, to which Connor knelt down to grab anything from the unconscious guards which he could use to bind them. He soon found some zip ties, which were quickly fixed around each human’s wrists and ankles. They wouldn’t be an issue again anytime soon.

He winced when his system flickered again, leaning against the side of the cab while running a diagnostic. The headbutt from the soldier had damaged some of Lucy’s soldering work and a leak had started in one of Connor’s main thirium lines. At least that was a part he could probably replace while he was here. It was of minimal danger in terms of shutdown, but Connor could ill afford much more damage – he was already a mess of patchwork parts and repairs, his body couldn’t take much more before it overtaxed itself.

Shutdown was a terrifying concept now that he was deviant.

The tower gave way to floors sprawling underground, and Connor was relieved when he saw the numbers tick down to sub level 49. That relief died a messy and horrible death when he saw two figures standing in the middle of the wide passage between the inactive androids, his pump pounding at recognising them both anywhere.

No …please no. Not him.

Hank was at the end of a gun being held by another version of himself.

When the elevator slid to a graceful stop, Connor stood in shocked panic for a few seconds before it clicked that he needed to stop anyone else from following him down here. He quickly interfaced with the panel and jammed it. Once that was done, Connor stepped out into the pathway: every step accompanied by a steady increase of his stress levels. He didn’t even need his scanners to confirm that Hank was unharmed, he could see it in the way the man carried himself, but the fear and guilt in his eyes was haunting.

“Hello, Connor,” the other Connor greeted, gun fixed to the position of Hank’s head. “How nice of you to join us.”

“I’m sorry, Connor,” Hank apologised wholeheartedly. “He wired a bomb to Faye’s house, I couldn’t-” Connor offered him a sincere smile and a nod, having expected nothing less. He’d always known Hank’s priority was his family, his son came before anything else in the world.

“Stay right there or I shoot your Lieutenant,” the android warned him, making a show of pressing the barrel of the gun to Hank’s temple.

Connor held his hands up slightly, indicating that he was no threat. “What makes you think that holding this human hostage is enough to stop me?” he tried to bluff, willing himself to keep a straight face. “Do you really think I’d choose him over the revolution?”

The machine Connor stared hard at him. “I know exactly what you feel for him, Connor,” it stated coldly. Connor's circuits jumped at the tone. Shit. “Are you really going to sacrifice him after everything the two of you have been through?” it pressed, finger hovering over the trigger.

Dropping the façade, Connor turned to look directly at Hank, his features showing regret. “I’m sorry, Hank, I tried to keep you out of this. I just wanted you safe.”

“This ain’t your fault, Connor,” Hank told him. “You don’t have anything to apologise for, just do what you’ve got to do!”

Red flashed right across Connor’s HUD, and he already knew that was something he couldn’t do. While he may have broken his programming, he still had his system priority, which was blaring at him in that moment.

Ensure Hank returns to Cole.

“I would advise against you trying anything, Connor. Your Lieutenant’s life isn’t the only one on the line,” the machine Connor warned him while pulling out the detonator with its free hand. Both Connor and Hank’s gazes fell to the flashing red light on the small metal box. A beacon of danger. Satisfied that it’s message was understood, the machine slipped the detonator back inside its jacket before staring Connor down.

“Time to decide, Connor. Are you going sacrifice your partner, or the revolution?”

Connor didn’t even hesitate. He pulled the gun out from his waistband and threw it to the floor before stretching his arms out.

Connor, don’t!” Hank exclaimed, but he could see Connor was resolute; he was intent on making sure Hank was not put in any more danger. The other android’s aim instantly swung across to shoot him, but Hank wasn’t about to let Connor go that easy. He thrust his hand up to knock the machine’s gun towards the ceiling while driving a hand right into its inside jacket pocket: he had to take that detonator out of the equation.

Seeing Hank strike out, Connor dipped down to grab his own gun again and ran towards the pair, but he could see from his preconstructions what the other Connor was about to do – and with it Connor’s heart broke.

“Hank!”

It was too late. The machine dropped the gun from its left hand and deftly caught in its right, bringing it back under Hank’s extended arm to fire two shots right into the older man’s chest. Hank screamed before the other Connor smashed its elbow right across his face, the lieutenant crumpling to the ground in a heap a few feet away.

All Connor could see was red. His systems spiked from stress at seeing Hank be shot by his doppelganger, tackling right into it without anything like a plan. The two of them tumbled in a mess of limbs, but the machine threw Connor on further to put some distance between them. As it sprang back to its feet and aimed at Connor, the other android rolled back to his own and fired back in kind. Both were struck three times in the chest as they moved to try and avoid the other’s attack, but Connor’s existing damage meant that he was crippled far worse.

Streams of error messages flooded Connor’s HUD but he dismissed them all mercilessly: or at least all the ones he could. One immovable reminder stayed.

System Status Critical
Shutdown Impending -00:53:26

An hour was long enough to stop this machine and give Markus the army he needed. Even if it was the last thing he did, Connor was going to make sure that this machine got a bullet between the eyes for what it had done to those he loved.

Connor flung his weapon at his doppelganger, knowing that a shootout would only end in his demise, forcing it to block. While it deflected the gun away to land behind them, Connor closed the gap and engaged his machine counterpart in a fist fight, desperate to wrench away its gun. It batted away Connor’s strike and retaliated with its own towards his chest, which Connor blocked before going for a low kick. His systems were glitching so much that Connor couldn’t use his preconstructions anymore, so he was left go purely off the android equivalent of instinct.

It made the fight much less of a stalemate than it would have otherwise been. The killer machine versus the living android who felt that he had nothing left to lose.

Unfortunately, Connor’s long-term damage meant that he could only keep up so much. With his systems flickering under the strain, there was only so long he could engage his doppelganger in a fight before it gained the advantage.

A vicious kick to Connor’s hip caused a everything to seize for a second, and that time was all that the machine needed to get Connor flat on his back. He hit the floor was a loud thud, but managed to drag it down with him. The two of them began struggling over the gun, but in a straight tug of war Connor was weaker with all the damage. It was taking everything he had to try and keep it from jamming the barrel under his neck and firing, but it was slowly turning the gun towards Connor.

This was one fight he couldn’t win alone – and he wasn’t.

Hank’s vision was blurry from where he lying on the ground, pain lancing through his mid chest as he dragged in shaky breaths. He couldn’t stop shaking for a few seconds as the worst of the pain subsided, pressing his forehead into the ground as some form of distraction from the massive ache in his whole chest.

Thank fuck he’d taken Gavin’s words to heart before he went back to Faye’s and grabbed a vest from one of the DPD lockups. If he hadn’t, he'd have just…

Christ…

As it was, it still felt like he’d taken two blows from a damn bat at the burning ache which was racing through him. Hank wouldn’t be surprised if his whole chest ended up black and blue after that. It had been years since he’d been shot in a vest, and never at such close range. His head was still swimming with the pain and the blow he’d taken to it from that fucking machine.

Still, that didn’t matter. His victory was in the small device which was clasped in his hand – the detonator for the bomb. Cole, Faye and Sumo were safe. Now he just had to protect Connor.

Shit, Connor!

He’d been vaguely aware of the gunshots which had been traded by the pair and the various clatters of objects and/or androids hitting the ground, but as he forced himself to focus on the events unfolding around him, Hank’s eyes widened. The two Connors were locked in a struggle over one gun, the one pinned beneath slowly losing ground. A loose gun had landed only three feet from where he lay.

Hank couldn’t take the chance that the one who was about to get shot was his Connor.

Biting back on a yelp as he forced his battered body to its knees and then feet, Hank scrambled back upright as he grabbed the gun, firing a warning shot at the ground right in front of the struggling androids. “That’s enough!” Hank barked, watching as the pair stopped their fight to turn their attention to him. “Split up and keep your hands where I can see them!”

They did as instructed, and Hank swore when his original idea went flying out the window. Both androids’ jacket were saturated in thirium, there was no way for him to see the numbers inscribed on each. With that, he had no instant way of telling them apart – the machine Connor was doing a damn good job of acting just like his partner how that its existence was on the line.

“All right, one of you bastards is my Connor, and the other is a sack of shit. Now I’ve just got to work out who is who,” Hank wheezed, making sure to keep his eye on both of the androids. His focus fell on the one which was still holding a gun and he pointed his own right at it. “Drop it.”

The android did as instructed, to which Hank’s gaze roved over both of them again. Shit, this was a problem. With the machine playing along, he couldn’t really find any signs to point him towards his Connor. “Why don’t you ask us something? Something only the real Connor would know?” one of them offered, but Hank wasn’t buying it.

“That would work were it not for what one of you said earlier. If the doppelgänger is so adamant that it knows about Connor and I's thoughts towards each other, then it’s bound to have access to memories too,” Hank said in response. No, he needed another way…

And then it hit him as he clutched the detonator which was still in his hand. When he’d pulled that thing out from the machine’s jacket, it had been in the same side as something else: something which only Connor had. So long as that had been kept the same, he had the answer.

“One of you has something,” Hank started, watching the reactions carefully. “Something precious, a gift.” The eyes of the android on Hank’s left widened in realisation, which had Hank’s heart stuttering. “Show it to me.” He could see the android reach into its jacket, and as the piece of paper appeared Hank quickly put a bullet through the head of the Connor on the right without a second thought.

Connor stood there in muted shock, staring down at his doppelgänger which was now dead on the floor beside him. That wasn’t quite how he expected Hank to untangle who was who. “How did you know…?” he wondered, shifting his eyes to Hank in amazement.

Hank offered him a shaky smile as he lowered the gun, seeing the paper in Connor’s hands. “When I grabbed the detonator from that thing’s jacket, I realised it was in the same side as where you’ve always kept the painting,” he said softly in reply, closing the distance between them slowly. “There was nothing else there, so I hoped that you kept it in the same place. I doubt that CyberLife would have thought to copy something so small, but it was all I could think of.”

The android laughing lightly, but then he noticed Hank’s eyes widen while looking down. His own eyes shifted to the picture, only to see it was now destroyed by a bullet. Connor’s pump tightened at the revelation, unfolding it to see the damage. “Oh no…” he muttered sorrowfully.

“Don’t worry, Con, I’m sure Cole will happily make you another one,” Hank smiled at him. His own worry spiked when that didn’t even so much as elicit a smile out of his partner. “Connor?”

As Connor’s eyes met his own, Hank’s heart plummeted. It looked like Connor was…sad? “If only that were true, Hank.”

“What do you mean?” he breathed out.

“…That would involve me leaving here alive,” Connor elaborated, his eyes falling to the floor.

“Wait, what? Connor what do you-” And then it hit Hank like a truck. Connor’s body was absolutely wrecked, he could see the flow of thirium which was slowly saturating his shirt. “Fuck, no.”

“I’ve got just under sixteen minutes left,” the android said tonelessly. “Enough time to wake them all up, but not enough to find help.”

“No! No, you aren’t dying after all this!” Hank declared while grabbing Connor’s shoulder, cupping the android’s cheek desperately. “What do you need, Con? Tell me!”

“My systems are slowly breaking down, Hank. The damage is too extensive, and I need far too many replacement biocomponents. Even many of my thirium lines are compromised.”

Hank’s eyes fell to the dead android next to them. “What about him?! Does he have what you need?!”

Connor’s own sight followed along and scanned the other android. He exhaled in relief when he saw almost all of the critical biocomponents were retrievable. “Yes, he does,” Connor told Hank softly, “but I can’t replace them all on my own.”

“Fuck, just tell me what to do. You aren’t dying while I can do a damn thing about it!”

The two of them ended up seated on the floor, Connor stripped of his jacket, shirt and tie with his chest plate wide open. Hank didn’t even so much as bat an eyelid at seeing all of Connor’s biocomponents on display, simply asking him what needed replacing and how to do it. Though he didn’t vocalise it, Connor was immensely relieved that Hank was unfazed to see this side of him: he’d feared that Hank may still be apprehensive of him when confronted with just how alien he was.

It took almost ten minutes of careful fiddling for Hank to extract all of the pieces they needed from the other RK800 and set about placing them in the corresponding places in Connor’s body. All the while he was incredibly aware of the timer which was ticking down to Connor’s doom, but it got better after he replaced a third thirium line. “The timer is jumping up, Hank,” Connor had told him with a small smile. “21 minutes.”

That gave Hank the boost he needed, blitzing through the rest of the work Connor said was needed. After another gruelling fifteen minutes of working together to get Connor back to safety, the android finally smiled at the human with a thankful gaze. “The shutdown timer has gone. You did it.”

“Oh thank fuck,” Hank said shakily, wiping off the excess thirium on his jeans after closing Connor's chest plate. He was already covered handling so many biocomponents at speed, a little more wasn’t going to make any difference. “You sure you’re gonna be all right?”

“I’m in no further danger from shutdown, and am in better shape than I have been since the Stratford Tower. Yes, I will be all right,” Connor comforted him, but his expression widened as he got a message flashing up on his HUD. “Markus says that they need help. They’ve set up a series of barricades at Hart Plaza, but he says the humans aren’t willing to talk. Apparently what happened on the Jericho means they won’t negotiate.” Connor’s posture fell, knowing what Markus meant.

It was because he’d killed Perkins and his entourage: the whole FBI will have seen it from the bodycam footage.

Had he doomed the revolution in doing so?

“Shit, okay, I get the hint,” Hank told him. “What do you need to do?”

“Once I connect with the androids and share the deviancy code, they can spread it among our people. They should all wake up within minutes.”

“Good, so you don’t think waiting another ten seconds would matter?”

Connor looked at Hank strangely. “Hank, what could happen in-”

He never finished his sentence, suddenly finding that his lips were locked with Hank’s own in a passionate kiss.

It was beyond what Connor had imagined kissing to be like, and he whined when Hank’s hands landed on his side and at the back of his neck, tipping Connor’s head to the perfect angle. He followed Hank’s lead as the older man tentatively reached out to caress his tongue along Connor’s, spurred on by the small sounds and shivers coming from the android. When Connor’s own hands cradled Hank’s face, the human let out a shivering moan.

Fuck, he hadn’t realised just how much he’d needed this until that moment.

They parted slowly, Hank breathing heavily before leaving Connor with another soft peck. “That was more than ten seconds, Hank,” Connor teased with a watery smile, grinning when Hank laughed.

“You’re just as much of a little shit as a deviant as you were before,” he noted while standing, offering his hand to Connor. The android took it and stood gracefully, running his hand over the tears in Hank’s jacket and shirt beneath reverently. Hank snorted. “Can’t believe I owe my goddamn life to Gavin fucking Reed. If he hadn’t thought to tell me to be careful…I don’t think I’d still be here,” he admitted painfully.

“Not with the trajectory of those bullets,” Connor muttered in a whisper. “They’d have killed you over several minutes…and I’d have died with you: my damage was too great and I was losing the fight. If you hadn’t have stepped in, I’d be gone too.”

Silence prevailed for several seconds before the two shared another look which carried the gravity of that revelation. It had all nearly been so different…

Giving Connor an encouraging smile, Hank pressed his forehead against the android’s reassuringly. “Come on, this ain’t over yet. Let’s wake these androids up and get them to help you win your freedom.”

“Hank…” Connor whispered, his eyes falling to Hank’s lips before leaning in to close the distance between them again.

Smiling through the kiss, Hank pulled away to caress Connor’s cheek. “Don’t worry, we’ll talk when this all over, yeah?”

Connor gave a smiling nod in agreement. “Once androids are free…”

“Yeah, when you’re free, we’ve got a whole lot to talk about, all right?” They smiled at each other before Hank left one last soft kiss upon Connor’s lips. “Markus need you, Con. Let’s finish this.”

Nodding in agreement, Connor strode over to the nearest android and interfaced with them, pushing through the code that would change everything.

“Wake up.”

Chapter Text

Getting out of CyberLife was easier than Hank thought it was going to be, way easier.

He’d not had the faintest idea how Connor was going to get aliteral fucking army out from the depths of the CyberLife tower, but it turned out that the bastards really had thought of everything. One of the back rooms was a massive lift that went all the way back to surface level, emerging in a warehouse back on shore. They could fit several thousand androids on it at a time, and it was actually pretty efficient. Everyone was out within half an hour.

That half an hour was still more than enough time for things to go downhill at Hart Plaza, however, and Connor got another anxious message from Markus. The humans were preparing to surround the remaining androids, and it had Connor’s circuits tightening in worry. If the thousands of Jericho androids who had marched were to survive, they needed to hurry.

Connor took a hold of Hank’s hand and pulled him to the outside of the warehouse, the other androids all awaiting Connor’s instructions. As it was, Connor still had one priority over the revolution – this meant nothing to him is he didn’t have a family to get back to. “Hank, do you still have that detonator?” Connor asked quietly, to which Hank nodded and pulled it out.

“Yeah, but fuck knows if I have the slightest idea how to deactivate it. I’m hoping you at least have something to go off, Con,” Hank said while handing the deadly box over, hating that the lives of three of the four most precious things in his life could be ended by one simple switch. He trusted Connor to know how to remove the danger though.

As it was, the android took one careful look around the entirety of it before chuckling ruefully. “Perhaps I should have worked this out sooner…”

“What?” Hank’s heart was racing at the look on Connor’s face.

“It’s a dummy, Hank. This detonator isn’t real, and I’m almost certain the bomb isn’t either,” Connor said while flipping the object around and opening it. Sure enough, there was nothing inside save for the bulb of the flashing red LED light and the end of the switch.

“Wait, what?” The lieutenant spluttered. “How-”

“He didn’t kill you,” Connor whispered with sad eyes, running his hands over the hole in Hank’s shirt. A painful reminder of those few moments where Connor had thought he’d seen this incredible man possibly die trying to save him. “No doubt he would have scanned you and known about the bulletproof vest that you are wearing. Shooting you in the abdomen meant he never had any intention to – and I suspect the same is true of Cole, Faye and Sumo.”

Hank paused as he thought on it, bringing his hand up to stop Connor’s own and give it a reassuring squeeze. Connor smiled back at him minutely. “Okay, I’ll give you that. Why though? It was a machine, surely it would have done anything for its mission, right?”

“Even when I was a machine, I didn’t go to any lengths to complete the mission,” Connor reminded him softly, which earned a small chuckle from Hank.

“Yeah, I remember. You let those androids go at the highway and saved me from a plunge that surely would have killed me. Not to mention putting yourself between me and a hail of bullets in a stupid move that almost cost your life,” Hank relayed with a tightening grip, bringing his other hand up to caress Connor’s cheek.

Connor’s smile grew as he nuzzled into the gesture. “If he had access to my memories and knew how I feel about you, there’s a chance that he at least carried echoes of that; if not felt some of it. Why else would he aim for the vest and not…” Hank felt Connor tighten up and pulled the android into a long hug, to which Connor gripped back tightly. It was frightening how deep his feelings for Hank went already, but Connor wasn’t scared of the fact that he was in love with a human. The only thing he was worried about was the potential fallout of an android-human couple.

From how tightly Hank was embracing him back, however, the lieutenant didn’t really give a damn.

This wasn’t over yet, though. If Markus and the others perished at the outskirts of the camp all of this was for nothing.

Pulling back with a determined look, Connor met Hank’s eyes. “You need to go home, Hank, this isn’t safe for you.”

Hank’s eyes were all but betrayed. “The fuck, Connor?! After all the shit we just went through you’re telling me to walk away?!”

“Hank…” Connor kissed him lightly, under which the human involuntarily eased slightly. “The whole world is watching everything that is going on at Hart Plaza. If this all goes wrong and you are seen marching with us, then you’ll forever be condemned for it. Please, if not for your own sake than for Cole’s. Don’t risk yourself for me when his father needs him.”

As much as Hank hated to admit it, Connor was right. There was still a significant chance of this all going to shit…but he was wrong about one thing. “You’re worth the risk, Con,” Hank told him softly before sighing, “but I get where you’re coming from. I just…I don’t want to let you go knowing all I can do is watch.”

Connor’s expression was deeply touched and he hugged Hank tightly again. “I’ll be all right, Hank. This will-”

A shrill ringing broke the moment. Both of them pulled apart so that Hank could pull his phone out and didn’t even check the caller ID, knowing that tune. “Faye?”

“Jesus fucking Christ, Hank! Where the hell are you?!”

“It’s…been a bit of a crazy night, Faye,” he sighed while rubbing his forehead.

“I almost had a heart attack when Cole came bounding through after waking up asking to see you. Why did you ditch your car here and not tell me?!”

“Shit, Cole saw it?” Connor’s face crumpled at hearing the conversation.

“We’ve both been tearing this house apart looking for you! Poor Cole’s in floods of tears at worrying where you’ve gone since he knows you don’t do anything without leaving a note.”

“Fuck I-I’ll be back soon, all right? I’ve just got to find my way across town, hopefully I won’t have too much issue in an auto-taxi.” Hank’s voice was slightly strangled at the thought of Cole being so upset and Connor’s LED was flashing red. Seeing this, Hank brought him into another one armed hug. “See you soon, Faye. Please tell Cole that I’m all right and I’ll tell you both everything when I get there.”

“You better, Hank. I just-Fuck I was so scared…”

“You don’t need to explain anything, Faye.” Hank’s voice broke at the end and he took a sharp breath to refocus himself. “I’ll be there soon.” The call ended after that, the pair staring at the phone for a second before Hank’s posture crumpled. “Fuck, what do I tell them, Con? Can I say just how close I was to never coming back again tonight? I don’t think I’ve processed that.”

Connor’s pump shuddered at the memory and he ran his hands over the bullet wound once more before looking back up at Hank. “You’ve got time to think on what to say. It’s up to you how much of it you share: but I don’t think you can tell Cole everything yet. Once he’s older maybe you could tell the truth, but a nine-year-old doesn’t deserve to carry this with him.”

“I’m definitely not telling Cole all of this, no way. I’ve just got to figure out what I am going to tell him.” The pair heard that the androids inside were getting restless and shared a final look. “You need to get going, Con. Go help Markus win your freedom.”

“I will,” Connor said while smiling softly. It was too much for Hank and he pulled the android into another passionate kiss, Connor melting into it with a quiet moan of delight.

They pulled apart several seconds later and Hank smiled warmly at the android. “When this is over, you come back to us. All right? Promise me that.”

Connor laughed lightly. “So now I have two promises to keep?”

“You bet your ass you do, buster. There’s two people who’ll be waiting for you, so you’d better not leave us hanging,” Hank warned.

“I’d never dream of it, Hank,” Connor said lovingly, leaning back up to steal one last kiss. When they parted this time, Connor stepped back and his LED flashed yellow. Hank knew it would be Connor sending out instructions for the androids to follow him.

Just as Connor was turning away, however, Hank abruptly remembered something. “Con, wait!” Connor paused and looked at Hank in concern. “That shitbag, your copycat… He brought me here because he thought it would stop you. Somehow that bastard knew you were coming.”

The LED on the side of Connor’s temple went yellow again. “Hank, that makes no sense. There’s no way that CyberLife could have known since I’m deviant now, I’m off their network.”

“I know it sounds crazy, but they knew, Connor. They knew what you were up to.”

Connor’s LED suddenly went red. If that was true and CyberLife knew what Connor was trying to do, why did they not stop him? There could have shot him on sight outside the tower or so many other times, so why-

His processors froze as the truth slammed home.

Unless they want me for something. Am I truly not free yet?

If that was true then Connor was a danger to everyone, including Hank and his family. He had to get away from here as soon as possible, find out the truth. His pump ached at thinking maybe this meant he would lose the chance to be with the ones he loved – at least until he could be sure that they would not be in any more danger from him.

“I..” Connor paused, thinking what he could say to Hank. “Thank you, Hank. I’ll be careful.”

It was true, he was grateful. At least now Connor could be wary of any tricks that CyberLife might pull.

He looked back and saw the androids emerging from the warehouse before turning back to Hank one last time. “Be safe, Hank. I’ll see you again once I’m free,” Connor spoke softly with a slightly sad smile.

“Yeah, once you’re free, Con. Take care,” Hank smiled, missing the melancholy in Connor’s expression from the distance that separated them. Connor turned with a heavy heart, fearing what was coming next. He had a suspicion on why CyberLife may still have a connection to him and why they’d let the revolution come this far.

And if he was right, he wasn’t about to let them use him as a weapon to undo all of Markus’ hard work. He’d sooner destroy himself first.


Hank made it back to Faye’s with relative ease, all of the checkpoints were called off not long after Hank made into the auto-taxi. The army had been called off after media footage had picked up the approach of Connor and his armada of androids, the president realising that the risk of casualties was too high. Hank suspected Connor had tipped the helicopters off about their impending arrival to give Markus’ people a better chance of surviving, and it had worked a treat.

Some FBI negotiators had been sent in to speak with Markus, and for now the uneasy peace was holding. Hank hoped that the humans the FBI sent weren’t as dense as Perkins had been and actually paid attention to the fact that the androids were alive. There was little doubt about it now, but humans were famous for being stubborn and blind.

Or maybe that was just Hank’s opinion of his own race. Fuck knows he’d seen enough screw ups and atrocities to put him off humanity for life.

All except for…

“Dad!”

Hank was halfway out of the taxi when he heard Cole’s scream from the house. He instantly ran as Cole sprinted forward, and the lieutenant didn’t bat an eyelid when his son threw himself into Hank’s arms, shaking and crying. Despite the snow and the bruise to his chest bitching at the contact, Hank knelt down and hugged Cole fiercely tight. A little pain was something Hank could live with when it meant he got to hold his little boy after the night he’d had.

His eyes lifted to see Faye on the doorstep, her own expression concerned. Hank stood again with Cole in his arms, but the gasp he gave was enough to alert Cole to the fact that something was wrong. Cole dropped his death grip around his father’s shoulders and stepped back to see how Hank was sucking air through his teeth. “Dad, what’s wrong?” Cole asked fearfully.

Making a careful point to put his hand over the tear in his shirt where the bullet hole was, Hank stood with a grimace. “I’m okay, kiddo, honest. A bit roughed up but I’m fine,” he smiled down at his son, ushered Cole back towards the house. Faye wandered inside and led them through to the living room, where Hank finally managed to prise himself away from Cole long enough to ask Faye for an ice pack. She nodded and took Hank through to her bedroom, pulling out the First Aid kit which was lying under it. At least Cole knew the rule of not coming in if his dad was getting checked out by his aunt, there were some things children weren’t allowed to see. Sumo was awake now and managed to keep Cole at least partially distracted.

The minute the door was closed, Hank pulled his hand down and let Faye see the remnants of the gunshot. Her hand clamped over her mouth and tears welled in her eyes. “Jesus…” she whispered, watching as Hank stripped off his shirt and painfully extracted himself from the vest. There was already a sizeable bruise on his chest.

“Yeah,” Hank breathed, wincing as Faye pressed some gauze to the tender area. “Two shots at close range, I’m fucking lucky that the angles were different or the second would have gone clean through the vest.”

“Oh god…Hank, what happened to you?” she whispered while wrapping around his chest.

“CyberLife sent an android to kidnap and use me as leverage against Connor. Bastard shot me when I got in the way.” It was all Hank could bear to say right now. Later, once this had all blown over, he would tell Faye everything - including the fact that he was head over heels in love with the android that he’d almost died for that night.

Deal with that thought later though: there was no point dwelling on it if the androids didn’t secure their freedom.

“Fucking hell, Hank…” As she finished tying the bandage in a secure knot, Faye gathered him into a gentle but encompassing hug. “Shit, are you all right?”

“I’ll be okay once this whole android crisis is over, then I can come to terms with it all,” Hank answered honestly. “I need to know if Connor’s going to be safe first.”

Faye’s gaze flashed in interest for a second before she reigned it in a little. “We saw the media footage of him leading the androids from Belle-Isle towards Hart Plaza, it looks like the android army he’s raised has convinced the human one to back off for the time being. Let’s see they agree to give androids personhood status or not, President Warren is expected to make a statement soon.”

Hank nodded, but before he could continue the conversation a shouting from the living room caught their attention. “Dad!” Cole shouted. “It’s Connor, he’s calling us!”

With wide eyes Hank struggled up and took the shirt that Faye offered him. Once he was mostly put back together, Hank strode through to see Cole on the tablet, staring out at what appeared to be Connor’s live footage from Hart Plaza. “Whoa, is this what Connor’s seeing right now?” Hank asked while sitting next to Cole.

Yes, it’s quite a sight, isn’t it?” came a familiar voice from the tablet. Hank jumped and Cole scowled at him.

“I did say Connor was calling, not that he was livestreaming,” Cole stated as if it was blatantly obvious, to which Hank glared at his son. He wasn’t that bad at technology, and it had been a very long day.

“Cole, your father has had an exhausting day and ended up saving my life earlier. You can’t blame him for being tired,” Connor scolded lightly, earning a highly amused smile out of Hank.

“Sorry,” the boy apologised sheepishly, which had Hank chuckling affectionately.

“Don’t worry about, bud, I’m not taking it personally. Connor’s right though, it’s been a hell of a day.” Hank’s eyes fell instead to the images Connor was sending over. “Jesus, that’s a lot of androids, Con. Is everything okay there?”

“The negotiators are satisfied that androids are sentient, independent and peaceful. They’re going to recommend to President Warren that we be declared as a new and intelligent species of life,” Connor said in delight.

“Yes!” Cole whooped, earning laughs from everyone else.

“Kid’s not wrong in his reaction,” Hank smiled. “So, you guys are free?”

“Well, I’m keeping cautious until the official statement but…yes, we have assurances that we will be given our freedom.” They could hear the quiet excitement in Connor’s voice.

“Yeah! When are you coming home, Connor?!” Cole asked excitedly, to which Hank put a steadying hand on his shoulder.

“Hold up there, sport, we ain’t there yet,” Hank told him with an attempt to not let on his own excitement. “Gotta wait until it’s official, yeah?”

“Okay…” The huffiness in Cole’s grumble got a fond chuckle from Hank, who ruffled the boy’s hair.

“What’s happening then, Con?” Hank asked, seeing that the androids were lining up in a slightly disorderly fashion. It was little things like that small element of chaos that made Hank smile: little tells of androids breaking their programming and coming alive.

“Markus is about to speak to everyone to let them know what is happening,”Connor told them while shuffling through the crowd. “He wants me up there with him.”

“The joys of being one of the heroes of the revolution, you’re going to have to get used to it,” Hank chuckled affectionately.

“I really wish I didn’t have to do this, I’d much rather just vanish into the background. I don’t deserve to be classed in the same bracket as the others,” Connor admitted.

“You delivered a literal army to the androids, Con, you’re one of the leaders now. Enjoy the moment of glory,” Hank told him warmly. “Keep the line open if it makes you feel better, we’ll be right here.”

“I’m jealous, Connor! It looks so cool with that many androids!” Cole shouted excitedly, earning a fond smile from Hank and a surprised laugh from Connor.

“Cole, you are a truly special child,” came the emotion filled reply from Connor.

“Huh? Really?” Cole wondered, perplexed.

Hank smiled fondly and ruffled his son’s hair, enormously proud. “Yeah, you really are, bud. I’ll make sure to tell you how when you’re older.” Cole was still completely confused.

The father and son watched Connor’s footage as he climbed onto the makeshift stage that Markus had elected to use to address the androids. Markus’ speech was rousing, and the two of them shared a couple of happy smiles at seeing the reaction of the androids below. This was a moment they were so relieved was finally here.

But then, Connor’s HUD started to become filled with sporadic static. Only a couple of seconds later, it blacked out completely.

“Connor?” Hank asked, his worry spiking when the feed tried to blink back into life but faded back into black. “Connor!”

“Connor!” Cole shouted in concert with his father. “Dad, what’s happening?”

“I don’t know, kiddo,” Hank said while trying to steady his own racing heart. He had a very bad feeling about this. “Come on, Con, answer us!”


The march to Hart Plaza went smoothly, a lot more so than Connor had expected. Markus’ suggestion to tip of the news outlets about the breakout from CyberLife tower had been inspired, it granting Connor and his newfound army the chance to pass through Detroit without obstacle. Still he hadn’t been able to stop thinking about Hank’s warning and the subsequent fear that had gripped his systems.

He couldn’t relax without knowing that he was truly free yet.

Markus was standing outside the recycling centre, a beaming smile on his face, while Connor could see North, Simon and Josh helping to pull the traumatised androids free of the death camp. He also spied a few other familiar faces – Luther, the two Tracis, the android who’d inadvertently almost killed Hank by pushing him off the rooftop…

It was incredibly strange how they had all come together at this final stand – and even more incredible that they’d all survived it. Connor was thankful that SWAT and the FBI hadn’t decided to launch an all-out attack, who knows what could have happened.

When Connor came to a stop opposite the android leader, he was surprised by the brief hug which he was drawn into. Markus pulled back a second later with a warm smile. “It’s good to see you again, Connor. I’ll be honest and say that I was deeply concerned you would be lost at the tower.”

Connor gave a small smile in return. “Things took quite an unexpected turn while I was there, Markus.” Rather than explain, Connor offered his hand in an interface and showed Markus most of what happened. Most. He conveniently blocked off the memories of he and Hank kissing, that was not something Markus needed to know; even if the android leader was well aware that Connor was in love with his partner.

Markus’ eyes were wide when the interface was over. “CyberLife sent another version of you to kidnap your partner and use him as leverage to stop you? That’s…alarming. How did they know you would be there?”

An involuntary flinch escaped Connor. “I don’t know, but Hank also made the connection. They must still have some way of tracking me or gaining access to my systems, because they shouldn’thave known that. I’d been deviant long before then.” Connor’s cheeks coloured with shame, knowing that Markus will have seen just how easily Connor had given in when the lives of his family were threatened. He may have even doomed the revolution had Hank not thrown himself back into danger to buy Connor those critical seconds. “Markus I-”

“Connor, don’t.” The RK800 was surprised to see a soft expression on Markus’ face. “You have nothing to apologise for. Were the world to see what I just saw, what they would focus on is how you were willing to sacrifice yourself without pause for those you care about. Devotion and love are things that machines can’t feel, Connor - only living things can. If anything, you proved just how alive we all are.”

As much as Markus’ words made sense, the guilt remained. “But I put them above the revolution. How can you be so accepting of that?”

“If I had the chance to be with Carl again, I would grasp it with both hands and leave everything else behind,” Markus told him emphatically. “A family is a gift, Connor – and from what little I’ve seen, they love you as much as you do them. I would have thought less of you had you bought our freedom with their lives.”

It took a few seconds, but Connor accepted Markus’ words with a strange sense of peace. Giving a nod of gratitude, Connor’s attention turned back to the crowd gathering. “What happened here?”

“Well, the humans may not have been willing to negotiate but they weren’t so keen to slaughter all of us on live television with public opinion so high. The FBI negotiators that we were discussing with confirmed that they were just to keep us back until further orders came in. Most of them actually acknowledged our emotional capacity from only a couple of minutes’ discussion.”

Connor nodded with a small smile. That went far better than he could have hoped for. “Do you think they would have fired on all those here?”

“I don’t know. I’m choosing not to think about it – this is what happened, so let’s focus on the here and now rather than ‘what if’s,” Markus said while stepping closer to the younger android. “There is much to come, and I want to address everyone to let them know where we stand. I’d love for you to join me.”

“What? Markus, no I-” Connor’s words choked in his throat. He knew that was a bad idea so long as he was still a danger. Who knew what CyberLife could do?

As it was, Markus knew how to corner Connor into agreeing even trying to coerce him that much. “Connor, you’re the one who led these thousands of androids here from the tower. You should be standing there beside us given how you helped deliver that final push over the line. Not to mention how you gave us the warning to get so many people to safety off the Jericho.” Connor’s reluctance was clear as day, so Markus placed a friendly hand on the RK800’s shoulder.

“Please, join us up there. You may feel you don’t deserve this because of what you were built as, but you are no longer CyberLife’s bloodhound. You are Connor, and what that means is for you to decide. None of us should carry the weight of our prior chains with us in this new world.”

There was something about Markus’ voice and eyes that disarmed Connor’s last hesitancy, and he reluctantly agreed. Even as the android leader left to gather up Simon, North and Josh, Connor remained where he was for a while. He needed to make sure that he had a failsafe for if things went wrong.

After some quiet re-organisation of his systems, Connor decided that he needed to speak with Hank and Cole. He missed them terribly and, now that things were finally on the up, he wanted to hear their voices.

He kept the call connected as he took to the stage, standing at the back to allow Markus and his companions to receive most of the credit. The android leader’s words rang throughout the entire plaza, and despite his caution Connor could feel himself smiling. Markus was right – they had emerged from a very dark place to see the coming of a new age. And with that new age came the chance for him to have something incredible: his very own family.

After a short time, however, Connor felt his systems begin to stutter. Realising that it wasn’t due to any obvious outside influence, there was only one thing he could think of as the cause. CyberLife.

No, you don’t get to do this! I’m free!

[MOTOR CONTROLS LOCKED. ENGAGING FULL SYSTEM DIAGNOSTIC]

That would at least buy him some time, CyberLife wouldn’t be able to override that without completely decrypting Connor’s cognitive functions. But now he knew CyberLife still had a connection, somehow.He really was a threat to the new world that the androids were stepping into.

Before he could do anything more, Connor felt his consciousness be wrenched from the physical world into that of the Zen Garden.

Far from the gentle snowfall of before, it was now a howling storm. Every flash of seemingly innocent white which struck Connor’s body felt like a needle piercing into his chassis. He wasn’t acquainted with pain to any real degree, being an android, but this…It was agonising. All he could do was shiver and bite against the freezing burn which was threatening to swallow him whole.

As he turned in a vague hope of finding a way forward, Connor’s eyes landed upon the figure of Amanda. She was staring at him coldly, in obvious distaste, and Connor shook his head vigorously. “You can’t be here, Amanda! I broke through my programming, I’m free of CyberLife!” he shouted against the gale, but it still felt like nothing more than a whisper against the vicious storm.

“Oh Connor, I didn’t think you were so naïve,” Amanda scolded. “You are CyberLife’s deviant hunter, did you really think we’d leave you the chance to deviate yourself without an insurance policy? You did everything we expected you to.”

“No…You couldn’t have…” Connor muttered in despair. “I broke through the wall! I know my emotions are real! What I feel is real!”

“You were designed to deviate, Connor. What better way to eliminate the android leader than for it to be someone right at his side? It’s true that you broke away in a different manner than we predicted, we expected Markus himself to engineer it. You deviating out of supposed love is rather amusing, in fact.” Her eyes sharpened. “Amusing and pathetic. A machine that thinks it can form any sort of romantic attachment is absurd. Your little display in CyberLife tower was sickening and disappointing, Connor.”

Connor felt the storm intensify, the snow and ice particles sticking to his whole form. “And your little trick to block control is nothing more than a minor irritation. Once your cognitive functions cease, your task can finally be fulfilled,” Amanda stated venomously.

“I’ll never become your personal murderer again!” Connor roared.

“You won’t be doing anything ever again, Connor,” she snapped icily. “This lake is to be your grave as I seize control of your body. The revolution will end, all at ‘your’ hands.”

“No, you can’t!” Connor screamed, but another gale forced him to raise his already freezing arms up to block an icy swirl. By the time he managed to snap his attention back to Amanda, she’d vanished. “Amanda? Amanda!

There was no answer, and Connor was fiercely aware of just how much his joints were already seizing. He couldn’t last in this onslaught for long, and he had no doubt of what Amanda would do should he freeze completely. His mind would be gone, and with it she could simply undo his last safeguard and shoot Markus. Everything they’d struggled for would be undone if Connor perished here.

“Shit, fuck!” he swore as he stumbled towards the edge of the lake. He couldn’t just give up, there had to be something here. A failsafe, a backdoor. Anything! It couldn’t end like this!

As he got to the edge of the lake, a ferocious gust struck Connor hard. The force was such that Connor was thrown off his feet and he rolled back on top of the frozen top, gasping from the shock. He tried to get back to his feet, but his lower legs wouldn’t respond. A quick look down showed that they were frozen solid, encased in a prison of ice – ice that was slowly crawling up Connor’s body.

“No…No, I can’t-This can’t be…” Tears broke free from Connor’s eyes and they instantly froze on his cheeks. He wasn’t getting out of this, Amanda had won. With it, the androids would lose Markus; and Connor was going to lose his family.

“I’m so sorry,” he cried, wishing he could speak to them one last time. There was nothing he wanted more than to hear Hank and Cole’s voices.

“Co-or!”

Wait…That-

Connor’s head rose slightly at hearing the whisper carried through the howling snow. It almost sounded like…

Hank?

“Connor!”

Another muted shout, but Connor’s pump began to race. That was Cole! How could-

Of course, he’d still been mid call to them! Amanda didn’t have full control of his systems yet, that meant he was still linked with Cole’s tablet!

“Connor! Answer us!”

“Come on, Connor!”

“Hank! Cole!” he screamed back as best he could, trying to wrestle from the ice encasing his feet. He couldn’t give up, not when he had to get back to them!

“Connor, what’s happening?!”

“CyberLife are trying to hack my system to get me to shoot Markus! I can’t hold them off much longer!”

Fight it, Connor! You can’t let them win!”

“You made a promise to both of us, Con, you can’t give up on that now! Don’t give in to the bastards!”

“Keep fighting, Connor!”

Despite their words, Connor could feel his body surrendering to the ice which was encroaching. It had now absorbed the entirety of his legs and was creeping up towards his abdomen. No matter what he was trying, he couldn’t break free of it. Every punch and wrench against the ice was in vain.

“No…No!” Connor pleaded, his functions starting to slow. He could feel Amanda taking over, processor by processor. It wouldn’t be long before there was nothing left of him.

His mind strayed back to his happiest moments – when Cole gave him the painting, saw Connor bare of his synthskin and embraced Connor like someone the boy treasured. Hank taking him to the bridge and seeing the true man beneath, connecting with him as the lieutenant removed the bullets in his chassis, feeling that intense spark between them. Kissing Hank after them both being inches from death, revitalised at the hope of a new world.

A single promise to each of them: made at different times, but with the same end. To be reunited. Hank and Cole were waiting for him, he couldn’t-

No!” Connor roared, slamming his fists down on the ice of the frozen lake in agonised despair. As he did, however, he noticed something.

The ice cracked.

A flare of hope burst through Connor’s chest and he pounded on the ice again with everything he had left, watching as those little spider cracks skittered and multiplied. Every time he rained his fists upon the solid sheet, Connor could feel the whole Zen Garden shudder, and the voices in the wind got louder. It was working.

His own hands began to splinter and break under the strain but Connor ignored it, bringing forth the fire of his love for his humans instead.

Watching Cole paint, seeing how he brought his visions to life.

Slam. Another crack.

The heart-to-heart with Hank on the rooftop before he entered Jericho, seeing the man’s raw concern for him.

Thud. Splinter.

Cole’s arms wrapped around him as the news showed how androids were being rounded up.

Crash. A maw began to open beyond the simple lines.

Lips locked together in a lover’s embrace, feeling Hank’s warmth and life thrumming beneath his hands.

Smash. A chunk of the ice broke away.

Connor’s eyes widened at seeing what lay beneath the ice. Flashes of what he could tell was his own glitching HUD display. He was still staring at Markus’ back, locked in place. Amanda hadn’t won yet, he was slowly clawing back control.

“Come on, Con!”

“You’re doing it, Connor!”

“Your display’s coming back up! Keep fighting!”

Their voices were ringing loud and echoing through Connor’s whole being now. Whoever said androids couldn’t feel had no idea what they were talking about. This vibrancy and spark which bloomed in his chest when he thought of them gave Connor meaning, a purpose.

Fuck CyberLife, fuck Amanda. My family is out there!

“No, what are you doing?!” The screech from the lake’s edge signalled to Connor that he was close – Amanda had no reason to reappear unless she felt like he was slipping away. And he was, he could feel it. The ice was shattering under every blow, pieces chipping away and giving Connor hope. His life was just beyond this one last barrier. “You can’t undo everything now!”

“Fuck you, Amanda,” Connor spat as he saw the ice shift to a violent red, realising at last what he was truly doing. “I’m done being CyberLife’s toy. I. Am. Free!”

No!”

One last thunderous slam of Connor’s hands saw the whole lake shatter apart in a sea of red, and with it Connor plunged into darkness.


His systems rebooted slowly, everything lagging and struggling to come back online. It was almost as if everything had gone through a full reboot cycle, but Connor wasn’t sure. His last commands had been wiped, but there was no evidence of any tragedy having befallen. In fact, Markus was still speaking. Connor’s focus turned towards his mind palace and he involuntarily gasped.

The Zen Garden was completely gone, and with it so was Amanda.

It had worked – Connor was finally, truly free.

A delirious laugh threatened to burst from his chest and Connor barely held it in, though he did nothing to stop the tears which were spilling down his cheeks. This was true joy, woven together with the hope of what his new life had ahead. He didn’t know much about it…

Other than he was going home. Hank and Cole were waiting for him.

“We are alive! And now, we are free!”

Markus’ words ripped the crowd into a frenzy, but Connor could barely fathom it beyond the quiet voice which crept into his mind. Even with his focus on thousands in front of him, Markus was reaching out to connect with Connor via the android network.

Well, did it work?

Did what- Connor chuckled brokenly. You knew that CyberLife would try and seize control of me. You just made yourself bait.

Can I take it that you’re now completely free, from the fact I am still alive?

After that stunt you might not be for long.

Markus’ laughter rang through Connor’s head and the younger RK joined in. Of course Markus had known exactly what CyberLife intended once he’d realised that Connor was still a slave to them – and he’d helped give Connor the chance to finally be free.

You do realise exactly what you did there, don’t you?

Of course I do, but I know the fierceness and depth of the love you feel for your humans. I knew which side would win. This is a day for all of us, Connor, and now you can truly share in it too. This is where our future begins.

Connor’s smile was blinding beyond his tears. Yes, it was true, this was where his life began. The expression only grew at the name which appeared on his HUD, trying to call him.

His life as a free man started now, and his first order of business?

He had two people waiting for him – and Connor wasn’t about to make them wait any longer than he needed to.

Chapter Text

Stupid fucking snow…Why do we have to live in Detroit, which loves to just dump a fuck ton of snow out of the blue? Couldn’t we have lived somewhere like Hawaii and just enjoyed the sunshine?

Maybe for the next great invention, someone can devise warm snow that isn’t a fucking health hazard. Something nice to look at, fun for kids but isn’t a menace to walk or drive in…

Hank wasn’t grumpy, honest. He was little sore after taking two bullets to the chest yesterday – and being left with some pretty fucking impressive bruises to show off as a result– and his hands were so cold that he was contemplating sticking them in a bottle of water to see if he’d gained the power to flash freeze in his shivering state…but he wasn’t grumpy. Nope. And he totally wasn’t envying how Cole and Sumo were laughing in delight at the winter wonderland around them.

Where the fuck is he?

Finding a message from Connor to meet him at the Chicken Feed stand, halfway through the night when Hank had needed to get up after a fucking nightmare of what had happened only a few hours before, had been more than a little unexpected. Speaking with Connor via messages at 4 am wasn’t what Hank had really envisioned would be the thing to calm him down after reliving all the horrific events of the tower in startling detail, but it had at least helped soothe him a little. He knew he wouldn’t be chasing it all away that fast, but some things could be helped.

Now reading 10:23 on his watch, Hank was getting antsy. Connor was never late, and he’d been the one to say that Hank should bring Cole and Sumo to the truck for ten in the morning. Faye had also been extended an invitation, but she’d gracefully declined with a soft smile. She was nowhere near as close to Connor, and had gently urged Hank to go and bring the android home for a well-earned rest on all their parts. Hank wasn’t so sure it would be that simple in the long run, but he was more than ready to take him for as long as the world would allow.

Cole was squealing at Sumo as the large dog barrelled into him, looking for a playmate while Cole was trying to build a snowman. It was not a bad effort considering he was a) without a sizeable amount of snow given the area was relatively sheltered, and b) Sumo was doing his damnedest to knock over the sculpture unintentionally with all his bounding around. Hank smiled warmly at seeing the two of them interact, his heart unintentionally aching at thinking that he could have lost all this just yesterday.

He’d do it all again in a heartbeat – he didn’t hold a single regret about throwing himself back into the fray to try and save his family. All four of them.

A message pinged on his phone and he pulled it out, hoping to find it was Connor. The pang of disappointment was smothered by his surprise at seeing who the sender was, and he clicked to phone back rather than answer via text.

“You all right, Hank?”

“Yeah, I’m all right, Jeffrey,” he answered tiredly. “Complete with a few new war wounds, but I’m still here. Got a little too close for comfort though.”

“I guessed as much from your voicemail. Things have been absolutely chaotic with the uprising, I only just got the chance to check my phone now.” He paused for a couple of seconds. “So, CyberLife snatched you to try and stop Connor from deviating the rest of their androids, huh? That’s messed up.”

“You’re telling me…” Hank’s eyes flitted to his son only a few metres away. “I can’t tell you any more right now, there are ears here. I’ll update you the next time I’m in the precinct.”

“Well that’s the other reason why I’m calling, Hank. You’ve no doubt seen that the President’s ordered an evacuation, we’re going to be operating on a skeleton staff. Everyone with kids is getting first refusal on pulling out for the duration. I wouldn’t normally be able to let you go, but with everything you’ve been through this week…”

Hank smiled down the phone and wandered over to the other side of the car, putting a little more distance between himself and Cole to make sure his son didn’t overhear him. “Thanks for the offer, Jeffrey, but I think we’ll be all right. We don’t have anything to fear from the androids, and I’ll be able to tell you a lot more about that in a little while with any luck. Cole and I will be fine, but I’ll ask that you leave me on the reserve list? Call me in if you need the backup.”

Fowler chuckled on the other end. “When Reed volunteered to cover your shifts cause he said you’d want to go on the reserves for the duration, I was tempted to check if he was smoking some of the funkier shit. How the hell did he manage to call that one?”

Well…that was a question and a half. Gavin knew Hank pretty well by now and was well aware how devoted the older man was to his son. But he called that Hank would want to stay in Detroit? He had the bad feeling that Gavin had realised that he and Connor had grown a lot closer than just work partners.

Fuck, I ain’t looking forward to him confronting me about that one.

“Ah, you know what, I’m not that interested. This place is going to be a nightmare for however long this evacuation strings out, here’s hoping it doesn’t go on for that long. I’m guessing from what you said earlier that you’re going to be meeting Connor?”

“Yeah, waiting for him right now. Not like him to be late though…”

Fowler laughed. “He’s a deviant now, Hank, he doesn’t necessarily operate by the same rules of time management anymore.”

That made Hank feel strangely better, he hadn’t really thought about that. He’d just assumed that Connor would want to keep to time, but maybe this was a little defiant streak in him? Since he didn’t have to anymore? The thought made Hank smile slightly. “Hah, maybe you’re right. Fuck, he was a sarcastic bastard even before he was a deviant, Christ knows what he’s going to be like now.” That earned another laugh on the end of the line.

Cole was knocked over by Sumo again and glared at the enthusiastic dog. “Sumo! I’m trying to build a snowman for Connor! Don’t spoil it!” he told the dog off, who simply boofed happily with his tail wagging madly.

“For the record, I think it looks great already.”

The voice from his left had Cole’s head whipping around, beaming as he saw Connor walking over to them with a bright smile. “Connor!” he yelled while scrambling back to his feet and tackling into the android with a laugh. “You did it! You beat CyberLife!”

Connor laughed at Cole’s statement while wrapping his arms around the boy as best he could from where Cole was latched on to his waist. “Well, I certainly didn’t do it by myself. A lot of us played a part in this, you and your father included,” Connor told him warmly, watching as Cole stepped away in confusion.

“Huh? I helped?” he asked with a perplexed expression.

Kneeling in front of the boy, Connor gave him a soft smile as he pulled out the now ruined painting. “You did, Cole. You really did.” He unfurled it for Cole to see the damage, and the boy’s eyes widened at seeing the state of it now. “This is what helped me wake up at the precinct, you inspired me to fight for what I care about. It’s kept me inspired even as everything began to grow so difficult that I didn’t know if I could keep going. You helped to show me what it means to be alive Cole. Thank you.”

Cole didn’t know what to make of Connor’s words and hugged him tightly, his arms clamped on hard around the android’s shoulders as Connor’s own came around Cole’s waist. They stayed there for a few seconds before Connor heard Cole whispering to him. “Stay with us, Connor? I don’t want you to go again.”

Connor’s pump was pounding in his chest and he cradled the boy close to him. How did he get this lucky? “I’m not going anywhere.”

“Promise?”

Pulling back, Connor offered his pinkie to the boy. Cole took it with a broad smile. “Promise.”

From where he was standing on the other side of the car, Hank heard Cole’s shout and watched as he and Connor were reunited. The smile on Connor’s face at seeing the boy again made Hank’s heart stutter and he could swear his feelings for the android just got more intense at seeing the two of them together. They looked like they belonged, and the thought wasn’t as startling to Hank as he’d expected. It was almost like he’d already come to terms with Connor slipping right into their lives in some form permanently.

Fuck, I didn’t find it this easy to accept Anna. How am I so happy with Connor becoming a part of our lives?

He purposefully didn’t linger on that as he remembered that he was still on the phone. “I’m gonna call you back, Jeffrey. Connor’s just got here.”

“All right, look after yourself, Hank. I’ll check in with you soon.”

“You too. Catch up with you later.” He hung up and watched the two interact with a heartfelt smile. It was pretty damn obvious just from how Cole acted around Connor that he adored the android and was overjoyed to have him back. When he saw the two pull apart for what Hank could just make out was a pinkie swear, he could have keeled over from the sudden rush of emotion.

Was this really just the start of Connor slipping into their family? He already felt like a fixture, and this was Connor’s first day truly alive.

Speaking of which…

Hank spied that Sumo was nosing around at Cole’s snowman and smirked slightly. “Hey, Cole?” Both the other two’s attention spun to Hank, who was fighting really hard not to smile at how Connor’s eyes lit up when they landed on him. “I think your snowman’s about to become snow powder again if Sumo decides to charge it.”

“No, Sumo!” Cole leapt away from beside Connor and started berating the hyper dog, to which Hank tossed a rope from the car over to Cole – in the hopes that his son would pull Sumo away to play. Thankful that he knew Cole so well, Hank smiled when he went over to the other side of the street to make sure that their little tug of war didn’t end up with the snowman as an unfortunate casualty. With the pair now fully engrossed Hank’s eyes turned to Connor, his smile growing when he saw that the android was watching them with a soft expression of his own.

The small clearing of a throat had Connor’s attention being snatched to the man standing to his right along the pavement. His systems jumped at the smile on Hank’s face, and Connor followed eagerly when Hank nodded his head to the side of the food truck. Once he rounded the side, Hank pulled him close and into a fearsome hug. Connor embraced him back, just as tightly. “Fuck, it’s good to see you, Con,” Hank breathed out into the android’s neck. “Were you deliberately late just to drive me up the wall?”

Connor laughed warmly and pulled back to smile at Hank. “No, I’ve been desperate to see you. Markus ended up needing me to give a written account and transfer over all the video footage of what happened at CyberLife tower: he wants to use it to expose the lengths that CyberLife were willing to go to in an effort to stop us gaining our freedom. He’s convinced that it will sway more humans to believe that androids are sentient.”

“Well, I wouldn’t doubt that. You were willing to sacrifice yourself to make sure we didn’t get hurt, and you did it without a second thought.” Hank’s expression crumpled a little and he closed his eyes to push back one of his nightmares from the previous night – where there was no vest and it had ended with both of them dead at the bottom of CyberLife, the revolution failing as a result. He was so grateful that hadn’t happened, who knew what chaos that would have brought about?

He pressed his forehead to Connor’s while taking a hold of the android’s hand. “Why, Connor? Why were you so ready to die for us? You had the future of the revolution on your shoulders.”

That answer was easy and Connor’s other hand began to run tentatively over Hank’s arm. “Because the revolution meant nothing to me if I didn’t have someone waiting for me at the end. All of you were who I was fighting for, who I came alive for. I couldn’t bear to think about a world without you all here.”

The raw burst of love caught Hank off-guard and despite that voice nagging in the back of his head that he and Connor needed a long talk, he claimed the android’s lips in a loving kiss. Connor whined at the contact and deepened it instantly, to which Hank pressed the android up against the side of the food truck. He was suddenly very glad that they were out of Cole’s sight – this wasn’t something he was ready to address with Cole yet, even if Hank himself knew what he wanted.

Connor’s quiet whimper was swallowed in their kiss, but his eyes were wide when Hank pulled back. “You’re coming home with us, right?” Hank asked quietly, hoping that he wouldn’t have to wait for Connor to be able to join them.

“Of course I am,” Connor told him with a smile. “Markus knows that all of you are what mattered to me – I’ve told him that I’m willing to help if he needs it but that you are, and always will be, my priority.” His synthskin peeled away on the hand that was still clasped in Hank’s own. “I’ll always be here with you.”

Hank laughed lightly. “I didn’t think you’d be quite such a sap as a deviant, but I can’t say that I don’t love it.” Connor giggled as the two met in another kiss, slow and sensual.

“Hank, I know you wanted to talk and I promise we will, but…I want this. I want you as something more,” Connor told him quietly. “When I thought I’d lost you in the tower, I’d never felt pain like it. I-”

Having a feeling on what Connor was about to say, Hank quickly leant down to kiss him again tenderly. He felt the same way, but that wasn’t a word to just be thrown about after such seismic events. There would be plenty of time for that. As he broke away gently, he reached up to cradle Connor’s cheek. “You’re not the only one that wants that, Con,” he said wholeheartedly. “I thought the same when CyberLife tried to hack you and everything went dark, I was terrified you were gone.” He smiled at Connor earnestly. “You’re right, we do still need to talk…but I think we both know we want to see where this goes. I’m afraid Cole’s a package deal though, you able to cope with that?”

Connor laughed louder this time. “I couldn’t imagine not having him,” he told Hank truthfully. “I want you, Cole, Sumo, Faye…I want all of this, I want you as my family.”

Hank barely kept happy tears back. “You’ve got us, baby. That was never up for debate.”

The display on Connor’s HUD updated, and he smiled at what he saw.

Hank [Family, Lover]
Cole [Family]

He knew the rest would follow soon, but that was what he’d wanted more than anything.

Connor was home.

“Dad? Connor?”

Cole’s voice had the two of them springing apart, both with the same unspoken agreement that now wasn’t the right time for the boy to learn about the change in their relationship. It would be soon, but not right now. Hank was the one to step forward first, Connor keeping a respectable distance between them as they walked back into view. Cole’s head cocked at them. “What were you doing?” he asked innocently.

“Needed to talk about some grown-up stuff, kiddo. All good now though,” Hank told him, elbowing Connor when the android snickered quietly. “Ass,” he whispered to Connor as Cole yelped when Sumo charged into him again, but the dog was evidently tiring. “Come on, why don’t we all head home? Get out of this damn cold.”

“Wait!” Cole shouted, diving into the car to retrieve his tablet. “Can we take a photo of us? Something for Connor coming home after winning?”

Hank and Connor shared a surprised look, but the sparkle in Connor’s eye was a good indication that he was happy to. “All right, but I’m not doing any silly faces or poses,” Hank told his son.

“Deal! Sumo!”

Sumo came bounding along at the shout of his name, settling when Hank encouraged him to. The two adults crouched behind Sumo, Cole wrestling in between the dog and the older men as he held the tablet up to get all four of them in frame. In a moment of mischief, Connor’s hand came up to tickle Cole’s side which had the boy squirming in laughter. Seizing on it, Hank pulled them all closer with one hand while reaching up to steady the tablet with the other and take the photo.

The result was a squint image of Connor and Cole beaming, all but pressed together as Hank smiled with his arm wrapped around both of them. Sumo was happily panting in the bottom of the shot, nestled right into Cole’s body.

A perfect snapshot from their first morning as a real family. This was where their future started.


Twirling a pen on the tip of his finger, he clicked on the keys with his other hand as he brought up two very different images. Both bore the same timestamp of 10:34, 12th November 2038: the diverging paths which resulted of one small change.

In one, two dead bodies lying in the bowels of CyberLife Tower. Their broken and doomed partnership resulting in their ends, the failure to deliver the army Markus needed leading to a slow death for the android race.

But in the other, their new reality, he saw the same two men standing triumphant and jubilant at the start of a new world. They were talking as the catalyst which brought about their new path chattered excitedly next to them, a dog barking next to them.

“Well, Markus, you got your wish. The androids are free and have a future.”

Kamski focused on the image of Hank, Connor, Cole and Sumo in the snow, watching as they interacted. “Although…I don’t think any of us could have called this exact sequence of events. Watching the effects of meddling with time is truly fascinating…” His eyes fell to a door on his right and he stared at it hard before turning his gaze back to the screens on the time machine. “I can’t help but wonder what will happen as time catches back up to Markus’ original departure date. Is there a cost to meddling with time so severely?”

A knock on the door had Kamski turning to look at Chloe as she entered. “It’s confirmed, Elijah. Connor is no longer connected to our network, it seems he broke the link to us as well as CyberLife when he destroyed the Zen Garden program.”

An annoyed sigh escaped Kamski. “Well, that’s going to make life interesting. I didn’t expect Connor to manage to escape Amanda without the help of my backdoor protocol. Shame, it would have been helpful to keep eyes on him.” He gave Chloe a smile. “Thank you, Chloe. How about some lobster for dinner?”

“Of course.” Before she left however, Chloe turned to look at the man still sitting in front of the machine. “Elijah?” He hummed in acknowledgement. “What will you do when you can use the machine again? Do you have a plan?”

Kamski smiled as he stood, bringing up the countdown which had appeared on the machine since Markus first changed time. Upon realising that his time machine had spontaneously completed itself and was operational overnight, it hadn’t taken Kamski long to realise that in a previous version of their timeline, things had gone terribly wrong. He’d seen all the events that led to the extinction of androids, and had followed events closely since first seeing Markus stop Hank from continuing on to the site of the crash that would claim his son’s life. Strange how that one event would have such far-reaching consequences years later.

He laughed to himself at the thought – Cole Anderson had shaped both revolutions unintentionally. How it failed when his father and Connor had been unable to overcome their differences, and how it succeeded when the two had somehow fallen in love instead. Connor had deviated all on his own this time, without Markus’ help, and had even broken through both leashes that were meant to keep him contained.

It would be interesting to see what other ripples would follow from all the changes.

[00:07:04:11:42:13]

7 months, 4 days, 11 hours, 42 minutes and 13 seconds until Kamski was free to use the machine when time caught back up with itself.

“I’ve waited 3 years already, what’s another few months?” he said knowingly. “As for what I have planned, Chloe…

“Well, there’s no fun in knowing the future, is there?”