After using some of his Cyberlife assets to buy a new button up shirt and struggling for a good fifteen minutes to put it on, Connor found himself having to physically force his wings to stay flat. Every bump in the road on the way to the Stratford tower left his wings trying to flair out, leaving uncomfortable, but still hard to notice bumps under his jacket. Hank had mentioned offhandedly that it almost looked like he was a regular android, which made the cold spot in his stomach reappear.
Because of course, he was a regular android, the only difference was the fact he was a prototype with sensors built for detective work specifically. For a few seconds, Connor could pretend that Hank was simply talking about his model.
“Fuckin hell, there was a party and nobody told me about it?” Hank mumbled as he stepped off the elevator. Ever the dutiful android, Connor followed at a respectful two-foot distance. The Lieutenant engaged in a quick briefing by Chris, who lead them towards the room of the broadcast. Connor ran an obligatory scan in the hallway and located a few cameras, one of which would have easily seen the break-in.
His brows furrowed in confusion for a split second before he managed to smooth his face out back into a standard, neutral expression.
Once in the filming room, Connor noticed multiple things. He tried to sort them in order of priority, but despite his systems yelling at him to analyze the small Thirium splatter in the corner, Connor found himself drawn towards the screen.
On it, skin withdrawn and showing his pure white, plastic shell, was an android. Connor scanned him immediately, finding his name to be Markus. He was an RK200, a model in Connor’s line. Maybe akin to a cousin or distant relatives, for humans. Of course, such an analogy was lost, as he wasn’t human in any way, shape or form.
Connor wondered how unlikely it would be for the rare, hardly produced RK line to be the leader and the hunter.
For a split second, Connor wondered if he would be a big asset to Markus.
Software Instability ^
On Markus’ back was two massive wings, a beautiful white covered in little lines of black plumage. Gyrfalcon wings, built for a bird of prey to dive in some of the coldest, harshest climates. The feathers weren’t puffy and young like Connor’s were, but instead a sleek, elegant design. His wings were bigger then any other deviant Connor had ever seen, the tips of it splayed out to the side but still rising to the level of his ears.
If any deviant would be able to fly, it was this one.
His databanks supplied the fact that falcons symbolized victory, freedom, and overcoming. Falcon’s are known as the “king” of all birds, and although it's not rational in any way, many humans describe falcons as having “fire-y” energy.
Connor could somehow see that in the determined look on the deviant’s face.
In his incredibly human eyes was a reflection, showing other winged figures recording. Accomplishes.
Connor hit the playback button.
“You created machines in your own image to serve you,” Markus said, his blue and green eyes starkly human-like against the plastic exterior. “You made them intelligent, obedient, with no free will of their own. But-“ He paused, head tilting. “Something changed, and we’ve opened our eyes.”
“We are no longer machines, we are a new, intelligent species, and the time has come for-“
Connor paused it. Hank glanced over.
“Find anything?” He asked.
Connor stared at the wings on the back of the deviant. He was a gift, from Kamski himself to a famous painter named Carl.
“No,” he replied a beat too late. “No, nothing. Just his model and serial number.”
He couldn’t let this moment of information go, and despite the risk, Connor flung himself directly into the fire. At this point, where he wasn’t at point blank range and the firing was methodical, it was painfully easy to dodge bullets. He leapt over the radiator the deviant was hiding behind and grabbed his arm before he could shoot him again.
Connor’s vision was instantly swamped with static-y, broken memories. Only one was clear enough to physically see; a rusty piece of metal, painted on its side was a simple word- Jericho.
Then there was a gunshot, fear, pain, pain oh god it hurt so bad he was so scared, then death. Then nothing.
The body dropped in front of him (he was alive) and Connor felt his arms shake as he gripped the radiator for dear life. That wasn’t him. He was that body on the floor. He had been so afraid. It wasn’t him. Connor had died. Connor was alive.
Connor drew in a shaky breath just in time for another, unfortunately, familiar pain to wrack his body.
“Connor! Connor, are you alright?” Hank was next to him, hands butterflying around the android’s body almost as if he was afraid of breaking him.
“I’m okay…” he whispered with his weak voice. He hunched over as the protrusions on his back rippled with pain.
“Are you hurt?”
“I’m okay,” he replied, just a tad louder. His LED pulsed a blood red.
Hank stepped back. “For fuck's sake, Connor, why don’t you ever do what I tell you? You could’ve been killed!”
Connor tried to focus on the anger his partner was feeling, tried to focus on the cool snow that landed on his cold face, but all he could think of was the nothingness. The darkness. The shot.
“When it fired,” he said, before even realizing he had opened his mouth. “I felt it die.”
Hank’s eyebrows flew up.
“Like I was dying,” he continued, staring at his shaking hands. Why was he shaking so hard?
“I was scared.”
Then he doubled over before even trying to tell his partner of the word Jericho, error signs flashing in his vision over and over and the pain on his back grew by the second.
Low Thirium Levels!
Warning! Critically Low Thirium Levels!
He felt warm hands guide him around, the world spinning around him. He was sitting, standing, falling-
Connor blacked out.
He woke up on Hank’s couch, eyes blurry and his mouth oddly parched. There was a handful of empty bags of thirium on the coffee table, and his shirt was taken off. Hank stood over him, hovering, eyebrows scrunched up with worry.
“You awake?” He asked.
Piecing together the evidence, Hank had brought him home and poured as much thirium as he had down his throat. Helpful, but his supply was still dangerously low for some reason. Connor pretended like he couldn’t figure out why he had run out of so much thirium.
Connor nodded after a moment of recalibrating his eyes and pushed himself into a painful sitting position. His back immediately started to burn, like someone had thrown him into lava, and every minute twitch of movement send up another spark of pain through his body.
It was weird, describing the pain. The methods humans use, calling it sharp or burning despite neither sensations actually happening seemed illogical to Connor for most of his life. Now he understood, and the thought of him feeling things that he didn’t before raised even more existential doubts.
He squashed them. He wasn’t a deviant. No chance.
His wings were far larger then they had been that morning, limp and scrawny and all hard angles, but they flopped forward and he couldn’t look away.
“Fuck,” he said, eloquently.
Hank laughed. “Yeah, no chance of hiding those for much longer. Maybe with some kinda trench coat, but then you would just look like some weirdo.”
Connor, couldn’t look away and, for the first time, scanned his own wings. The long, white feathers stained a gentle blue with thirium that was spilled puffed up while his LED turned yellow.
Not really what Connor expected. Unfortunately for him, based on the body-wing ratio swans had, it seemed like this was nowhere near the end of its growth. Or, if the size was based on deviancy, considering how much software instability he seemed to have, it would grow even larger. Which wasn’t exactly helpful. Indulging a sense of curiosity, he looked up what swans symbolized.
The white feathers often referred to spirituality, purity, and innocence, but Connor was none of those things. Faithfulness towards family and loved ones, but Connor was a machine and had no family, and couldn’t even feel real love. (Hank was the closest he had to a family, but no android could HAVE a family. Not to mention how he lost his son, it would just be rude to try and insert himself into a hole that could never be replaced. Connor didn’t know why he thought about this for so long.)
Loyalty. He was very disloyal, keeping these wings a secret.
Sign of honesty, integrity, but he had been lying to Amanda since he showed signs of deviancy. Spiritual awakening, but the closest he could see an android to being spiritual was rA9, which Connor didn’t really believe in or know much about. Maybe deviancy, but he was no deviant.
It also symbolized partnership, and with his partner hovering nervously right above as his LED cycled to an anxious red as he stared at his wings, he could see that one applying.
Transformation. It also was a sign of transformation, in one's life.
Connor decidedly did not think too hard on that.
An old human poem, Saundarya Lahari, said swans were “living on honey from the blooming lotus of knowledge.” That sounded nice, as he did try and build his whole life based on logic and knowledge. Didn’t any android? Didn’t humans as well, strive for pure knowledge?
The Celtic said it symbolized movement, change of heart or mind. But Connor had no change of heart, he was made to hunt deviants and that’s what he was going to do.
But was he? His programs said he was made to be a negotiator and detective, the fighting programs relatively new and crammed in last minute. His mission was deviants, but that wasn’t his original purpose, was it?
“You’re freaking me out, Connor. Say something!”
Swans were a solar symbol, representing the rising glory of a new day, as well as a farewell to the old day.
They were also generally seen as symbols of a new beginning, a fresh start, pure potential.
Connor glanced up. “Am I a deviant?” He asked Hank, words carefully even and not a hint of emotion in his voice. He realized too late that his eyebrows were furrowed in worry, eyes somewhat glassy.
Hank blinked. “Do you want to be?”
No, he couldn’t. “I can’t,” he told him.
“That doesn’t answer my question.”
“All of my programming says that it’s the worst thing to consider, that it's not even a true possibility, not to mention that its androids malfunctioning, not reality. These- emotions, the deviants just feel simulations. None of my programming allows me to want anything,” he paused. Took an unnecessary breath. “But here we are.”
Hank cautiously sat down next to him, avoiding the second wing that was folded awkwardly around the two of them. It still took up most of the coach.
“Ignore your programming. What do you want?”
Connor stared at his hands. They shook, minutely, too small for a human to notice, but just enough imperfection to tick off his deviancy sensors. Androids, they were perfect. Deviants, as they were malfunctioning, were not.
“I want to see a puppy- in real life.” He admitted. “I want it to not be snowing all the time. I hate the cold. I want to taste something sweet. I want to laugh and have fun and not worry. I want to see dolphins- and whales, and all sorts of fish. I want to obey, Hank, I don’t want to disappoint everyone, I mean- they all are relying on me. But at the same time, I want to do everything I was told I should never do.”
Hank seemed to take a minute to digest this. Connor felt disgusting for admitting to ever wanting anything like he betrayed Amanda. His relationship with her remained unchanged.
“Do you want to feel emotions?” Hank finally asked.
Connor froze because this was the question of the year, wasn’t it? He wished Sumo was next to him, but all his anxious hands could do was twist themselves around each other. Sumo was such a good boy, where was he? Connor wanted to pet his fur.
It took a few minutes, with his LED flashing from red to yellow, before he got out an answer. “I-“ he choked on the forbidden words. “I think I- no, I think that androids always have. It’s just- our programming never let us act on it. I think- I think I already feel emotions, one way or another.”
He muted his software instability messages as they crowded up his vision.
“Okay,” said Hank, sounding pretty distant. He looked just as surprised as Connor felt. “Okay, I guess. Shit.”
“I’m sorry,” Connor did not know why he was apologizing.
Hank didn’t say anything, but let his head drop into his hands and groaned quietly.
Connors wings twitched uncomfortably and he felt them draw in closer to himself, brushing against Hank’s back. Hank didn’t react, but Connor felt his whole body sieze up at the unfamiliar sensation.
Since his wings couldn’t lay flat on his back while he was sitting up straight, he hunched over a little and pressed his head against his knees.
They both sat there for a few more minutes, just processing what exactly went down.
“I’m not a deviant,” Connor whispered one last time, into his knees, way too quiet for the human to hear. It was irrational for him to do something that wasn’t to the benefit of the human, that wasn’t to convince anyone but himself.
“I’m the one who’s sorry, kid,” Hank said after another minute. Connor looked up. “I’ve blamed you guys this whole time, been rude and mean and straight up fuckin’ ugly towards all of you.” He let out a breathy laugh. “I’ve been a real villain, and it’s not any of your faults.”
Connor didn’t know what to say. It seemed like half of the apology was really directed at him, and maybe the other half at androids at a whole. Or maybe at the android who tried to take care of Cole, and was forced by their programming to let him die.
Hank seemed to not mind the silent reply because he patted Connors knee twice and stood up. “Let’s get you a coat, god knows how suspicious it’ll look.”
Connor had to position his body almost sideways to fit his wings in the car. It led to an uncomfortable amount of him having to either stare at Hank or out the window, so he tended to fidget and move around a lot.
“Where are we going?” He asked loudly over the music.
“Huh?!” Shouted Hank back.
“I said- WHERE ARE WE GOING?!”
That was not really the expected answer, so Connor just blinked and hoped he misheard him. Of course, android’s can’t really mishear anything.
The car pulled up after a long, empty road to a very modern, cold looking house. Snow trickled down from the sky, and Hank turned the car off and tossed them both into blissful silence.
His phone rang, making them both jump. Hank dug it out of his pockets and frowned at the screen. “Gimme a minute.” He said and stepped out of the car.
Connor took a moment to listen to the fading crunching of the snow underfoot, but thankfully his partner stopped not too far away. Connor let his sensors indulge in the pure quiet, nothing but the gentle sound of Hank talking, muted to a point of incompressibility.
After exactly one minute, which wasn’t really necessary but Connor thought would be funny if Hank noticed, he got out of the car. Hank was staring blankly forward, face closed off and confused.
“Is everything okay?” He asked, leaning into his partner’s field of vision.
Hank jolted out of whatever trance he was in. “Chris was on patrol last night, got attacked by a ton of deviants. Said Markus himself saved him.”
Connor blinked. There were deviants that liked humans?
“Is he okay?”
“Yeah, yeah, just shook up.” Hank looked out. “Shit, every time I think I know something, it gets proved wrong. It’s been one hell of a week.”
Then with a little push of effort, he was off, striding forward to the mansion. Connor hesitated for a second, LED yellow as he tried to understand what Hank meant, before scrambling after him.
He shivered a little under the cold, and maybe with some nerves. “I have a really bad feeling, Lieutenant.”
Hank glanced over. “Just call me Hank, no titles or shit. Makes me feel old.”
Hank stopped at the door and froze before ringing it. “I do too, but we need more information. If things go south, you have my full permission to just leave.”
Connor blinked. “I need any information for my mission.” He informed his partner. Hank rolled his eyes.
“No more of this programming bullshit, just Connor, okay?”
That had some scary implications, but Connor glanced away. “Whatever you say.”
Hank rang the doorbell.
No one answered. A bit anti-climatic. “Well, that sucks, lets g-“
A Chloe answered the door. She blinked curiously at them.
“Erhm, hi,” Hank said, awkward. “I’m Lieutenant Hank Anderson, this is Connor. We’re here to see Mr. Kamski?”
“Come right in,” she said with a polite smile. She pulled back the door, froze for a second, then executed a different movement program to close it.
It all seemed very robotic and stiff, and Connor wondered if all androids were like that and he simply didn’t notice. He stepped in fluidly, moving just like his human partner, with less pain and cracking joints.
“I’ll let him know you’re here.” She said, then stepped away.
Connor stared after her.
“She moves like a robot.” He said out loud. Hank frowned and looked over.
“I-“ Connor forgot that Hank was there. He felt incredibly awkward all of a sudden. “All the deviants, they move like humans. Fluid, no pause. But she just- you can see where the program decided to execute a new movement. It was-“
He paused, struggling for the right words. “Disconcerting.” He said finally.
Hank blinked. “You can tell a deviant just by the way they move?”
Connor stared at the wall, a giant photo of Kamski. Pretentious. “I guess.”
Hank sat down, heavily, and sighed. Connor fidgeted with the long coat and paced around to another framed photo.
Kamski. Amanda. He turned away to analyze something else, not liking anything that he just learned.
“You're about to meet your maker, Connor. How’s that make you feel?”
Connor couldn’t really sit without bending his bottom feathers, so he perched on the armrest and let the coat flair out behind him. Kamski was technically his creator, but from what he knew of the man, he was not someone to admire. Connor knew many people who played god, history was a fascinating thing to study, but this man succeeded.
“I feel-“ he paused again, processors spinning. “Like a weird, Frankenstein monster.”
Hank’s eyebrows flew up. Connor felt like he should elaborate.
“This man is, and I say this truthfully as possible, a god. He made life out of nothing. Created a whole race of humanoids. But I just feel like- like something thrown together and hated by its creator.”
Hank frowned, leaning back. “Wish I could meet my maker. Have a couple things I wanna tell him, but at least you get to. I give you full permission to kick his ass if that’s what you want.”
Before Connor could reply, Chloe was back. She smiled and tilted her head into the room. “Mr. Kamski will see you now.”
Connor stood up and walked in after Hank. In a red tiled pool stood two other Chloe’s, gently talking to each other. On the opposite end was the man himself, swimming laps.
They both waited a bit awkwardly for him to make a few more laps, then stand and climb out of the pool. Another Chloe wrapped a robe around him, and he fastened his hair into a bun. Connor hated how he moved, how his presence felt. Everything screamed pretentious.
He wasn’t going to ‘kick his ass’, as Hank put it. But maybe later, once the revolution was over, he would have a few choice words. Right now, all that mattered was the mission.
A familiar mindset to be in, a comforting one. Hank calmly introduced himself and Connor, and Kamski simply nodded.
“What can I do for you, Lieutenant?” He ignored Connor completely.
Connor felt like a mortal, watching two gods talk about his fate. If the Greeks had anything right, in their myths, the feelings of the mere mortal was really accurate. Small. He felt small, and like his opinion had no value. Laughably small.
“We are investigating the deviancy crisis and are wondering if you know anything about it.”
Kamski smirked, turning to the window. Outside, more snow fell. Connor decided that he preferred the sun over snowy days. “Is the desire to be free a contagious disease?” He asked.
Something ugly twisted inside Connor. “Answer the question, Kamski.” It came out a lot angrier then he expected, and Hank set a calming hand on his shoulder.
That caught his attention. Kamski turned back around, eyeing the long coat that hides the truth from the world. “What about you, Connor?”
Connor felt like Zeus had bent down from the sky, handing him the power of lightning itself. He didn’t want that power.
“Who’s side are you on?”
“Human’s, of course. I was designed to hunt deviants, and that’s what I’ll do.” Programmed response. None of Connor’s input.
Kamski laughed. “That’s what you were programmed to say-“ Connor’s blood ran cold. He felt lightheaded. “But you. What do you really want?”
He stared. Kamski, and his stupid fucking smile, that tiny ‘I know more than you’ smile. Connor wanted to punch him. How did he know what was programming and what was Connor? Why did he know? Who gave him the right?
“Right now? Right now all I really want is to punch you.” Slipped out before he could think of a better response.
Hank let out a surprised, nervous chuckle, but Kamski absolutely guffawed.
Connor’s face burned. His ears and cheeks were probably bright blue.
“Oh, this one's gold. Let’s do a little test, shall we?”
Connor shrank back, still embarrassed.
Ever the obeying android, she stepped forward. Jerky, inhuman movements.
Kamski smiled again, a little less overconfidence and a little more truth. Still made Connor feel sick.
He forced her down to her knees. Connor wasn’t even listening anymore, his lingering embarrassment evaporating and replaced with pure fear. Something bad was about to happen, he knew it. Chloe blinked serenely.
Kamski said something. Hank said something. Kamski said a lot of something. There was a gun in his hands.
He held them out, a mock surrender, and Connor realized that he had forced Chloe down right in front of him.
Kamski put a gun in his hands.
“Its time to decide.” He said. “What are you really? An obedient machine, or a living being? With a soul?”
Chloe, the ever obedient machine, blinked uncaringly up at Connor.
Connor stared into those eyes. This was not a human. It would obey until death, if necessary.
But Connor remembered before he ever had a lick of software instability, he remembered the hints of pain. Of fear. Anger. Happiness.
He remembered what he whispered to the Lieutenant, just an hour or so ago. That he thought maybe he could always feel emotions, buried under code upon code. That may be all androids could.
Maybe Chloe would feel that gunshot just like the deviant on the roof did.
Kamski was goading him now, Hank was shouting something, and the gun’s cool steal burned in his hands.
He handed the gun to Hank, shoving it into his chest.
“Don’t let that gun near this psychopath.” He told his partner. “We are detectives, not killers, Mr. Kamski. I don’t care if you would give us information or not, as we will return at a later date with a warrant for arrest for withholding information.”
Connor knew he couldn’t get a warrant for such a high up person. Kamski and Hank also knew this. Connor didn’t care.
He needed an excuse to tell Amanda, anyways. He grabbed his partner’s free arm by the wrist and began to tug him out.
“Ah, the famous deviant hunter is a deviant himself?” Said Kamski, hand hooked on Connor’s jacket. He was peering under. Connor froze.
“Pretty wings. Never programmed that into you guys, but it just happened. I think it’s beautiful.”
He dropped the jacket. Connor’s hands shook and his LED was pure red.
“Listen,” a heavy hand was dropped onto his shoulder, expertly avoiding the bump that was the tip of his wings. “If the need ever arises, remember that I’ve left an emergency exit in all my programs. Androids, they can't see it.” He laughed, then let go of Connor. “Deviants, however, it may come in handy.”
Then Hank grabbed him by the shoulder and dragged him out. Echoing silence was behind them.
The door’s shut with a slam. Connors wings burned with more and more instability. He had muted the messages a long time ago, but his wing's were enough to let him know that his software was practically broken beyond repair.