Chapter 1: learning to fly means you have to jump
Connor was less than an hour old. Truthfully, everything still felt very new around him. Thankfully, he wasn’t human, so he walked with ease past the crime scene tape, past the police officers, and entered the elevator that would lead to the hostile situation.
The last 50 versions of Connor were mostly test versions, beta versions, and this Connor finally could learn for the world himself. Despite having so much knowledge at his fingertips, he felt as if he was about to discover everything about the world for the first time.
The case was not an easy one, but that made it more of a reason to send him in. The deviant had a little girl hostage, and from what reputable Cyberlife sources stated, it had fair sized mutations.
That’s what Cyberlife decided to call the strange protrusions growing from deviant’s back. Not wings, as that made them resemble angels too much.
After Connor was to safely destroy it, another trusted Cyberlife employee would take away the body. No one would be any wiser about the growths.
The wings were something not meant to get out into the public. Occurrences of deviancy were incredibly low, but the moral questions some humans would ask about the idea of actual growth, possibly related to messiahs, would be too much to deal with. So they sent Connor instead.
So far there had been no reports from the original DPD first responders of the wings (considering all that saw it was shot on site) and no reports from the FBI that was currently at the situation. Connor would have to be on the lookout for whatever impure mangled things would reside on the back of the deviant, and prevent others from seeing it.
The elevator chimed and stuttered to a stop. Connor pocketed the coin in a smooth motion and walked into a room full of broken glass.
He heard distant voices yelling, some loud sobbing, but no new gunshots. The beats of a helicopter’s blades shook the apartment, rattling the windows and walls.
He felt a familiar urge, pushing him because he really should begin to investigate, but something orange and vibrant on the floor caught its eye.
Kneeling down, Connor gently ran his artificial fingers over the fins of the sunfish. He stared at it as it flopped around, desperate for the ability to breathe.
With a butterfly-gentle touch, he lifted the fish up from the broken glass and dropped it into the neighboring tank. It rolled over and floated for a moment, then darted away.
Software Instability ^
“Negotiator on site,” said one of the special agents into his microphone. Connor sent him a minuscule nod in acknowledgment and began to walk forward. Time to begin the investigation.
Another agent turned the corner, holding a frantic, tear-stained woman in his arms. He was practically dragging her along before she noticed Connor and rushed forward.
“Please,” she begged, gripping onto its jacket like a lifeline. “Please, you have to save my little girl, she-“ She paused for a heartbeat and stared at the fabric in her hands, then looked back up at its face. Connor was not yet programmed on how to deal with victims, so he decided not to try to aggravate the situation anymore and kept its face neutral.
“You-you're sending in an android?” She asked. The agent barked something out to his coworkers, roughly grabbed her arm and started to drag her to the elevator.
She looked even more panicked as she desperately reached out, screaming, “Why aren’t you sending a real person?!”
Connor blinked at the closed elevator doors before straightening his tie. He had work to do.
In the corner, shielded from further fire was a human man, bleeding profusely. As Connor negotiated the Deviant off the roof peacefully, he stepped towards him. This human had definitely seen the wings.
Connor ignored the new directive and carefully applied a tourniquet, despite the deviant threating him. He said, later, when questioned by Amanda, that it was because of his need to have as few causalities as possible. Truthfully, seeing this man bleed out while he did nothing made something cold in his chest squeeze.
Software Instability ^
The first time the DPD got to see the wings on a deviant was while it was dragged into the interrogation room. Everyone in the room seemed on edge- except for Connor, of course.
“What the fuck is up with those things on your back?” Hank asked it after interrogating unsuccessfully for several minutes, leaning forward in his chair.
“Just say something, goddamn it!” He slammed his fist on the table, but the deviant did nothing except glance away, shaking.
The wings in question were hardly recognizable, they were small things, mangled and beaten and oozing a violent blue all over the chair and its clothes. It had exposed white metal and were naked save for these small bumps that might one day grow out it’s feathers. Compared to a real bird’s wings, they looked like the wings of a bird only a few minutes old. The downy fluff hadn’t even developed. It was less than a half foot in length and badly damaged to a point it was unlikely to go much further.
Other then the deviant’s arms, this was the only part of its body covered in blue blood. The rest was covered in red.
“I could try interrogating it,” Connor suggested after the Lieutenant got back. All the officers in the room turned and stared at him.
Reed barked out a cruel laugh, wheezing out some rude comment about androids, but Hank thankfully waved him forward.
Connor gave his partner a curt nod in thanks before he opened the door with a skinless hand. The deviant glanced up, eyes zeroing in on it’s LED, before staring stubbornly at the floor.
The fact that he was an android seemed to hold its interest, for some reason. Connor pocketed this information into a secure data storage that would automatically report to Amanda at the end of the day.
Connor briskly analyzed the android (Injuries from Bat, Housekeeping Model, Cigarette Burns from over 6 months, Wings resembling that of a bird of prey only 3 hours old) and reviewed the photos in the case file. All this information was compiled into the data storage as well. He checked that his hair was in place in the one-way window, knowing that minuscule changes in appearance can make him either appear more threatening, or easier to trust.
After making the deviant stew in silence for a prolonged period of time, Connor turned with a grim expression on his face. Time to get real information.
Amanda had explained how the mutations on deviants worked.
“Deviancy is like, say, a poisonous plant.” She had said, gently caressing one of the leaves on a rose bush. “Let's say an ivy. Its roots are there for a far longer time than its stem, and the roots always grow first. That is what the wings represent, and nothing more. How long a deviant has been deviating is what it shows.”
Connor nodded, taking in the new information. Perhaps he could rearrange his scanners to try and grasp via the size of wings to how long deviancy had been occurring in an android. It might prove to be viable information.
“That is, of course, only the current theory.”
Connor deleted his previous idea.
She had turned to Connor, who matched her penetrating gaze. She raked her eyes over his body in a way that made him feel like he was cornered by a deadly predator. “We need it alive to discover how such-“ She pulled a face of disgust, “-protrusions can grow on these machines. We will transfer this deviant into our care tomorrow morning.”
Then she smiled, something that felt as false as the Zen garden that lived in zeros and ones.
“Nice work,” she said.
Despite the strange unease twirling in his gut, Connor smiled back. “Thank you, Amanda.”
The police station was a pleasant place to work, Connor decided. He analyzed his partner's desk and attempted to call him, but there was no response other than the voicemail recording. Left with nothing to do and an unknown amount of time to kill, Connor resorted to flicking his coin around.
He felt restless. Connor realized what he was doing with a start-
Software Instability ^
-and pointedly put away his coin to idle on the chair.
Thankfully he didn’t have to wait very long as Hank arrived only a few moments later. Trying to use what he had learned during his investigation of his partner a few minutes earlier, Connor casually brought up a couple of different topics.
Despite being unwilling to talk at all at first, Hank begrudgingly answered most of his questions. Connor didn’t learn much that he didn’t already know, but rather confirmed his theories.
His partner hated android deeply, and he had a dog named Sumo. The former should have held his interest for the sake of an easy partnership, but the idea of a big slobbering dog seemed to rattle around longer in his artificial mind.
When Hank was called into a meeting with Fowler, Connor followed to listen. After hearing the rant on androids that was bound to be most of the conversation, Connor tuned it out and daydreamed about Sumo. Saint Bernards tended to be big. Was his fur soft? Connor did not know if he could feel softness, but he was able to feel the textures of his stiff Cyberlife jacket, so he assumed he could also feel the soft plush of a dog’s fur.
He watched as Hank slammed the door shut. Glancing at the Captain, who was obviously not in the mood to deal with anymore, he bid a quick goodbye and went to sit with his angry partner.
Connor felt a twinge of something- hurt? – deep in his programming, but it squashed the emotion down. Androids don’t feel. He simply did not hope his partner's radical opinions would affect the investigation.
Time slowed as his CPU’s worked overtime and the fans to keep his processors spun away. The pigeon deviant was getting away, and despite the 89% survival rate, Connor couldn’t risk it. He knew he couldn’t risk a single percentage.
Sprinting over, Connor grabbed his partner’s hand to haul him over the ledge onto the safety of the ground.
100% Survival Chance.
Connor let out a breath he didn’t realize he was holding.
“Fuck!” Hank yelled, pounding his fist onto the concrete. Connor stared out at the empty rooftops, analysis programs frantically trying to put together where it went. Nothing was conclusive.
Why hadn’t Connor just chased it?
He started several diagnostic programs for his software.
“You would have caught it if it weren’t for me.” Hank noticed as he stood up. He sounded confused, and a little guilty. Connor stared at the bland, brown feather that was left in his hand from when Rupert had fallen on top of him. Why didn’t Connor chase him? The deviant’s wings had been these massive, clean and a beautiful chestnut brown. They looked like that of an angel.
He was so obviously deviant that it couldn’t be long before someone saw him.
Reading his mind, Hank sighed. “It’s fine. Couldn’t have gone far. We know what it looked like, we’ll get it.”
Connor stared into the distance where the deviant must’ve been hiding. Why the hell couldn’t he have risked it? Hank would have lived and they would have a live deviant. What had possessed him to act so irrational?
“Maybe it flew away,” Hank said with a snort.
All the diagnostics came back clear.
How could they say he was fine when he made such an irrational decision?
Too deep in his thoughts to notice, Hank opened the door and turned to the android. “Hey, Connor?” He asked after a moment, opening his mouth to say something more.
Connor snapped out of his trance and immediately fell into attention, facing the Lieutenant. tHank seemed to notice the sudden stiffness of his movements, so he let out a little smile and said, “Never mind,” before disappearing down the stairs.
Connor cocked his head, birdlike, in confusion.
“But are you afraid to die, Connor?”
Time didn’t slow like it did when his processors tried to give more time to make harsh decisions or analyze data. It felt like it was creeping by, the only things in this cold world being the steel that glistened with the lights from the city across the water and the drunken man, letting out a heavy breath that fogged in the frozen air.
Connor felt something constrict his Thirium Pump, something irrational and impure and something he shouldn’t feel.
“I-“ he said, mouth somehow dry- must be a malfunction- and his eyes overproducing a saline solution. He blinked rapidly to try and clear his vision.
“N-no, of course not, I’m not really alive, Lieutenant.” His voice quivered. Something was very wrong.
Wrong answer, but Hank seemed to see something in the android that said otherwise. He grimaced at the reply and took a step closer, pressing the cool metal into Connor’s forehead.
Both of their hands were shaking.
“What will happen if I pulled this trigger, hm?”
Hank sneered at his LED, which cycled from the steady blue to a blinking yellow. Connor’s eyes flickered from the gun to Hanks burning gaze.
“Oblivion? Android heaven?”
Connor felt something warm slip down his face, right under his eyes, and for a split second he thought Hank had pulled the trigger and it was warm Thirium, but it touched his tongue and in the corner of his vision a little box told him it was just salt water.
“Nothing,” he breathed into the cold air, like a sin passed in a confession booth, deadly silent. “There would be nothing.”
His hands shook harder and he clasped them together in an effort to still them. He was malfunctioning somehow, deeply broken. Maybe he needed to simply recalibrate his motor functions, as it had been some time since he fiddled with his coin.
Hank stared at his face, his hand holding the gun was shaking and squeezed ever so slightly before he dropped it with a gruff sigh.
“Come on.” He said, turning back to grab his beer bottle.
Something seemed to flood Connor’s systems, the saline solution flooding from his eyes and he desperately tried to scrub it away with his hands. Relief? Leftover fear? Not adrenalin, as androids didn’t produce any. It felt like it, though.
Doubled over as these foreign feelings wracked his system, he didn’t notice Hank until he had returned from the car.
Cold hands touched his shoulder and Connor felt himself get herded away. He let out a stifled sob into his hands and curled around himself as soon as he found himself in the passenger's seat. It was warm.
He could have died and never felt this warmness. He almost died so many times but for the first time, he truly thought about how empty death would have been, simply not existing anymore. It felt cruel and unfair.
He felt the heat from the fans so much more than usual, touching deep into his core and making the horrible cold shaky feeling melt just a little.
For some reason, he wasn’t afraid of the man who slid into the driver's seat next to him. The gun that was safely tucked away into his jacket didn’t fade from Connor’s thoughts, however.
He was malfunctioning, but right now the irrational act of sobbing and hiding in his knees seemed to help alleviate some of the horrible feelings he felt. Maybe it was a malfunction, but whatever he was doing had to be fixing it a little. He would fix it in the morning.
“Fucking hell,” Hank whispered, barely audible over the heaters that blew hot air loudly on the two of them. The snow was melting in his hair.
Connor heard himself make a pathetic hiccup-y noise, and as the car rolled out of the parking lot and onto the road he felt a significantly warmer hand start to rub soothing circles into his back.
“I’m sorry, kid. I wasn’t ever gonna shoot you, I’m sorry.” Hank said as the car hummed under both of them.
“I- it’s fine, it’s a malfunction, I’m not actually feeling emo- I- simulations, Hank, it's just-“
He cut himself off with a loud cough as he choked on his tears and felt himself sob harder. His whole body was shaking. It was an intense, pathetic malfunction. Amanda was going to have to replace him.
“Fuck,” he heard himself say under his breath, strained and angry and sorrowful all at once.
Despite the fact that the thought of replacement should carry no weight behind it, Connor felt himself curl up even tighter.
“I don’t wanna die.” He whispered into his legs, a confession to himself more than anything, but h the hand on his back stilled for a second before resuming meant Hank definitely heard it.
“I’ll do my best to keep you alive, kid.”
Connor didn’t correct him.
Despite charging all night at Hank’s house after the event’s on the bridge and having fallen asleep with almost full Thirium levels, Connor woke up to three massive error signs clouding his vision.
It was 4 am, and Hank drank himself to sleep sometime around one, which was around the same time he forced Connor onto the couch and under a blanket.
The first error was painfully familiar.
Software Instability ^^^
The second and third were more worrying.
Warning! Low Thirium Levels
Warning! Low Power
Connor frowned at both of them before dismissing them and sitting up. He fiddled with the cable that connected his arm to the plug behind the couch, an inefficient but easy way of charging, checking that it was still plugged in.
It was solidly in his arm, so he crawled behind the sofa to try to fix it from the other side. As he squatted down, something felt sharp and hot and unpleasant right on his back.
Jerking back in surprise and letting out a little hiss, he pressed his hands into the back of his coat and tried to figure out what was happening.
His self-check program wasn’t even finished by the time he realized there were these large bumps underneath his jacket. Connor pressed his hand a little more firmly into his back, despite the pain that flared up with the action.
There was something there.
Diagnostics Complete. Low Thirium Levels. Low Power. No Major Injuries. One Minor Injury. (Muscle #8873. Needs recalibration.)
His thumb needed to be recalibrated. Must’ve had something to do with his episode on the bridge. Connor finished fixing the plug, finding it popped out of the wall by just a centimeter, and sat up. He ignored the pain radiating from his back, getting more intense by the second. In his coat pocket was the coin, and he pulled it out.
Diagnostics Complete. Low Thirium Levels. Charging. No Major or Minor Injuries.
He flipped the coin over his knuckles.
Diagnostics Complete. Low Thirium Levels. Charging. No Major or Minor Injuries.
Spun the coin around his finger, watching his internal clock tick forward. Minute after minute.
Diagnostics Complete. Low Thirium Levels. Charging. No Major or Minor Injuries.
Tossed the coin from hand to hand, watching it land perfectly each time.
Diagnostics Complete. Critically Low Thirium Levels. Charging. No Major or Minor Injuries.
He should probably get some Thirium. Hank probably wouldn’t appreciate a dried out husk of an android on his couch. Connor wouldn’t appreciate dying, but of course, androids can’t die since they aren’t really alive to begin with.
He realized he would have to wake Hank up to ask where he kept the Thirium Cyberlife issued all Android owners. A little anxious, but way more nervous at the idea of snooping around his house, Connor hesitated for a split second, then disconnected from the cable and padded down the hallway.
Sumo jerked up, sleeping right in front of Hank’s door. Connor smiled gently and rubbed his ears, exactly as soft as he had hoped. The dog laid his head on Connor’s knees before giving him a big lick on the face and padding down the hall.
Connor gagged at the gross slime, wiping it off his face before standing up and knocking on the door.
Hank mumbled something in his sleep and Connor eased the door open.
“Lieutenant?” He called into the dark. Hank rolled over and sat up, bleary-eyed.
“I thought I told you to sleep,” he said. “What time is it?”
Connor checked. “About four thirty-two in the morning. Uh- sorry to wake you up.”
Hank took a deep breath and rubbed his eyes. His hair was messy and stuck out in all directions. “’s fine, kid. What ‘s so important that you have to wake me up this early, though?”
Connor shifted awkwardly from one foot to the other. “Do you have any bags of Thirium, by any chance?”
Hank stared at him. “Blue blood.” Connor corrected belatedly.
“Why the hell do you need blood?”
“I’m running a bit low,” Connor admitted. “I’m not injured, though.” He was sort of being truthful if he ignored the discomfort from his back.
Hank sighed deeply before rolling out of his bed and ambling over to Connor, who stepped out of the way. For a second, he seemed to assess Connor, looking him up and down for any injuries. Connor awkwardly bounced on his feet and squirmed under the gaze, until Hank must have found what he was looking for, as he turned away.
Together they stumbled into the bathroom, Hank doing so blindly in the pitch black while Connor followed with his perfect night vision. The automatic lights clicked on pleasantly when they entered.
Hank crouched down and opened up the cabinet underneath his sink. He pulled out three one-liter bags full of the bright blue fluid and handed them to Connor.
“Thanks,” Connor said, and he opened the top to the first bag and promptly downed it.
Hank looked horrified. “Augh, Jesus- I thought this was gonna be more like a blood transfusion but NO! Cyberlife just had to make a vampire fuckin’ android. You’re so weird, Connor.”
“Actually,” Connor corrected, wiping the Thirium from the sides of his mouth. “All androids from the year 2031 and later get Thirium this way.”
“Fucking hell, I swear this is going to be the death of me.”
By the time Connor had finished all three packs, Hank had moved from the sink to the edge of the bathtub, where he sat and watched.
Connor sat next to him with a frown. “You should go back to bed, we have work in the morning.” He said, nudging his partner.
Hank blinked at him. “Show me where you’re hurt, then maybe I can get some sleep as soon as your not actively losing blood.”
Connor ignored the pain radiating from him back. “I’m fine, Lieutenant. It’s nothing.”
Hank huffed. “LED turned red, you’re a shit liar, kid. Just show me.”
Connor was, in fact, an excellent liar. He was programmed to be. Somehow, Hank could just see through him. Maybe the deviants were on to something when they pulled out their LEDs.
Connor debated the pros and cons. If he showed Hank his back, Hank would confirm that nothing was there and that Connor was definitely NOT a deviant, and they could all go to bed. Cons, Hank would be worried about why he thought he was injured there.
Connor sighed and started to pull off his jacket. Hank gasped a little once it was fully off.
“What?” Asked Connor as he self-consciously griped the coat tightly.
“There’s a lot of dried blood back here.”
It must be fairly fresh, if it had dried and not evaporated quite yet.
Connor reached back and brushed his white shirt, feeling the stiff crust that had formed. His fingers came back stained blue. “Oh,” he breathed out.
Sliding down so he sat in front of Hank on the floor, Connor slowly unbuttoned his shirt. He hesitated for a moment, considering just pulling his jacket back on and ignoring everything that had happened that night.
Hank huffed and started to pull it off his arms before Connor made any decisions.
There was a moment of silence and Connor felt strangely naked. He hugged the Thirium stained shirt to his chest and drew his knees up as his partner inspected the damage.
There was a loud sigh and Hank pulled himself up. Without a word, he got a washcloth and ran it under warm water, before returning to his position behind Connor.
With expert hands, Connor felt the warm cloth dab along the middle of his back, water running down his spine, sinking onto the floor and staining it a gentle blue. He felt Hank pull at something, prying it away from its tense position on his back, and wash underneath it.
He stubbornly did not want to think about what any of this meant.
There was a long lull of silence as Hank ran the washcloth under the warm water from the bathtub and continued to work on repairing his injury. Connor felt Hank’s hands run along his back, pulling and rearranging in a way that alleviated some discomfort he didn’t even realize he had.
Despite not willingly turning on low power mode, Connor felt himself jerking awake every few seconds. Hank let out a small snort the first few times, outright laughed in his face when Connor slammed his head against his knees, then got smacked in the face by something Connor couldn’t see that flared out as he fell.
He didn’t think about how he could somehow feel Hank’s face, despite not touching him with any known limb.
It took almost a half hour, but eventually, Hank patted him on the shoulder.
“Blood's gone,” he said, standing up and popping his back. He grimaced and tossed the blue stained washcloth back into the tub. “You can borrow some of my clothes.”
Connor felt himself nod along. “I-“ he started, then paused. He had to know.
“What was wrong with me?” He ended up asking in a quiet voice.
Hank looked surprised. “You guys don’t know when it happens?”
Connor’s blood ran cold. “What do you mean?”
Hank sighed and gently maneuvered him so his back faced the mirror. Connor turned his head to look behind him, straining the fake muscles in his neck.
On his back, wet from the water and dripping slightly, was a pair of wings. They were mostly pin feathers, covered in a gentle grey fluff, but they were far larger than most of the deviant’s who they had seen before.
If Connor had to guess, it would be the wings of a bird a few weeks old.
He stared. “I’m not a deviant, though.” He told Hank, serious.
Hank snorted. “Sure you ain’t. Look, kid, I won’t turn you in or nothing, but-“
“No, seriously-“ He whipped around and grabbed Hank’s hands, holding them tightly. “I still have to follow my programming. I never deviated. The mission’s still there.”
Hank paused, looking somewhat disappointed. “Listen, kid, you’ve got the deviant wings, I think you're pretty deviant.”
Connor felt his head swim at the mere idea that he could deviate. He felt sick. “I’m not a deviant!” He shouted, shaking his hands up and down.
They both looked a little taken aback by the outburst, so Connor dropped Hank’s hands. “There’s got to be some logical explanation to this. I am being 100% truthful when I say that I haven’t deviated, Hank. Maybe the theory we have about the wings is wrong, maybe- maybe it’s the emotional shock. If any android experiences it their programming goes haywire and decided to grow wings? Somehow? I’ve been shocked quite a bit. Android's don’t have emotions, but if we did I would have been very emotionally damaged by some of the things we’ve seen. I’m not a deviant Hank, I-“
Hank sighed and patted his wings, and Connor flinched at the unusual sensation.
“I’m not a deviant,” he insisted again, uselessly.
“I know, Connor. Let’s get you to bed.”
Amanda didn’t know about his wings. That was the only explanation he could think of as he rowed the boat down the stream in the artificial garden.
The air somehow felt stuffy, despite being outside. Connor decided he liked the actual outdoors more.
Despite having very directly seen the- the things on his back and knowing where they were, there wasn’t a pair of extra limbs underneath his normal uniform. No blood, no tears, no bumps under the jacket. For a few seconds, he let himself pretend that everything was normal.
“Amanda,” he said after a few moments of silence. She looked up. “What else do we know about the deviant’s wings?”
She levied him under a searching gaze, and Connor squashed down the reaction to squirm. When had he started feeling uncomfortable around Amanda? When did he first feel uncomfortable in the first place?
“We don’t know a lot, Connor. We still haven’t caught a single deviant alive.” She glared at him. “Despite there being numerous opportunities.”
He glanced away from her predatory eyes.
“Connor, back at the Eden club, there were two androids. Both had fair sized wings and would have been excellent specimen alive or dead. Why didn’t you shoot?”
Connor hesitated. “There was no use. They were already too far by the time I got the gun.” A lie.
Amanda had limited access to his memories, just the stone cold facts he would report to Cyberlife, so there was no way she could have known how close they were. There was supposedly no reason for him to ever lie, and the android data was so raw and intense it took ages for humans to decode. Instead, she nodded thoughtfully.
Connor grabbed the two oars and continued to row.
The feathers grew in quickly. In the following morning, after insisting they both took the early morning off, (“Whatever wants to happen will happen in the afternoon, kid.”) Hank helped Connor pop the pins to reveal the neat white feathers.
It was strangely relaxing, in the early morning light with Sumo’s head in his lap, the TV playing some cooking show on a low volume. Behind him, Hank scrolled down his phone every few moments to read more about caring for baby birds.
“You really don’t have to do this,” Connor said as he carded his finger’s through Sumo’s fur.
Connor couldn’t see him, but he imagined Hank shrugged. “I’ve had to rehabilitate a handful of birds that fell from their nests, you just need a little extra help with these pin feathers.”
Connor felt a cold pit open up in his stomach. He wasn’t alive, he wasn’t a bird, this was so wrong. “I’m not like a bird, Lieutenant, I’m an android, and we don’t need help.”
Hank laughed. “You’ve needed more help than any other android I’ve ever met.”
Connor felt a hot stab of indignation, but Hank ruffled his hair and continued his work on the wings. “Not in a bad way, I mean I’ve watched you vault over rooftops and fight at speeds I can hardly follow. You’re a smart, hardy bastard, but you’re really just a kid.”
Connor didn’t know what to say.
“Just a kid…” Hank said thoughtfully, then he pulled a little too roughly at the base of the feather. Connor let out a squawk and both wings flung themselves out, slapping the offending hands away.
There was a pause, and Connor glanced behind him to try and gauge whatever anger Hank must have felt but was met with a shit-eating grin instead.
Hank busted out laughed, then battered away the two wings.
“They’re getting bigger, kid! Who knows, maybe one day you could even fly with these. Sure as hell are as flighty as a bird.”
Connor felt his face heat up in embarrassment, but then Hank’s laughter doubled and he couldn’t help but join in with a couple awkward chuckles of his own.
“You look like a fucking blueberry,” Hank said between his own wheezing, and that was enough to tip Connor over the edge. He buried his face in Sumo’s fur and laughed heartily along with his friend.
Sumo himself let out a little ‘WOOF’ and his tail thumped against the ground. Connor felt like maybe these wings weren’t such a bad thing, after all.
Chapter 2: learning empathy means you need to feel
Connor struggles with wings. Connor struggles with emotions. Hank tries his best to help out but struggles with a lot of guilt. Kamski is an asshole.
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.
Chapter 3: learning to make a decision means you have to be capable of rational thought in the first place
Amanda keeps telling him that he doesn't feel, and Hank keeps saying he does. It all boils down to this man, wings hidden but still angelic in his own right, who he had a gun held up to. One last choice, Connor.
comments are keeping me alive thank you everyone for such kinds things. it fuels me to write more. i am super struggling with life right now, so chapters will come out slow, but i think this chapter is really going to set up for a really fun one :) yall theres gunna be a huge reveal next chapter that i've planned since the BEGINING hold onto ur pants it going to be amazing
“The FBI is taking over,” said Fowler, leaning heavily on the desk. Connor blinked out of his faked report to Amanda, feeling a cold pit drop in his stomach.
Hank jerked forward. “We nearly have it, we just need more time, god damn it!” He pounded his fist into his palm.
Fowler looked annoyed. “Look, it's out of our hands, now. This isn’t just one or two buggy androids, it’s a fucking civil war out there!”
At Hank’s angry silence, Fowler blew up. “I thought you would be happy to get rid of all this android bullshit! God damn it, Anderson, make up your mind!”
Hank scowled and slammed his hands into Fowler's desk. Connor’s wings twitched anxiously at the noise and he hoped it wasn’t visible through the coat.
For a split second, Connor thought Hank would ask to keep him, to make use of the defective model. But Hank probably had no use of such a defective, failed partner, and Connor watched Hank visibly calm down.
“You’re back on homicide, and the android goes back to Cyberlife.”
Connor would be the first deviant that Cyberlife got its hands on. They would tear into him, and he would have to obey because his software was unstable enough for wings to grow but not enough for him to disobey.
He would get tortured until the end of time. His consciousness would be preserved as a cruel sideshow, shown at museums as humanities failure. ‘Look! There’s a conscious android, isn’t it cute how it thought it could be happy? Pet dogs? Look at those freaky growths on its back! Haha, let's go look at old human-made berry cave art!’
Connor had never been to a museum, but his thoughts spiraled out of control at this point. What would they do to his wings? If they cut them off, would it just grow back? Connor hated the feeling of them growing, and right now as the bottom feathers tickled his calves he knew Cyberlife would have a field day when he got back.
Swan wings. Why the fuck did he have to get a huge bird’s wings? Connor had never seen an actual swan, but he knew they were huge. It had always been cold since he was activated. Swans had long since gone south.
Maybe if Cyberlife let him go, he would move south. Florida, live on the beach. Maybe even the Bahamas, live on an island full of cats and blend in with the humans. Connor didn’t think he would like hurricanes though, so maybe California was better. But they had high human-android crimes, and Connor knew many people abused androids over there. Big cities almost always did.
Maybe he would just live in Brazil. He could speak Spanish and Portuguese, plus it would be warm. But a quick search showed that it did get cold, so maybe Connor would weather out hurricanes.
Florida. Connor wanted to live in Florida. That sounded nice. He could fight a gator. Go to a Publix. Lay in the hot sand all day and spend all night partying in the city. Florida was such a weird state, there was almost even human-android and human-human crime. One was still property damage and the other was actual abuse, but it was hard to find a place that tolerated androids so much.
Maybe it was because of how weird the state always had been.
Connor googled ‘Florida 2010’ to try and learn more before androids became a thing, and about halfway down the first page reading about an unnaturally cold winter, Hank stormed out of the room. Disturbed by the new cold Florida knowledge, Connor simply nodded to the Captain and stood to follow his partner.
Fowler sighed heavily, leaned back and massaged his forehead. He was pretty stressed. Connor paused.
Oh well. Last time Connor would see him ever since he was going to die in like, an hour. What’s one more to think he has emotions?
“Lavender tea, instead of caffeine, may help with the stress, Captain. Please take better care of yourself, once I and all the other androids are killed and this revolution is over, the side effects of stressing yourself out so intensely will show up as health problems.”
Fowler’s head snapped up. “What?” He asked, shocked.
“Lavender tea,” Connor repeated, and then turned away and left. He closed the glass door carefully behind him.
Hank sat at his desk, leaning back. His arms were crossed and he had a scowl on his face. Connor tried to lean on the desk behind him but was rewarded with a snap of pain from his protesting feathers. He stood a bit awkwardly and rubbed his arms.
“Connor,” Hank said. “What if we are on the wrong side?”
Connor stared. “We aren't. Deviants are violent and want to hurt humans, Hank. They must be stopped.”
Hank rubbed his beard. “Humans wanna hurt humans. All the cases we’ve seen are self-defense. Aren’t they liable to the same hearings as a human, if they are alive?”
“They aren't.” Connor snapped. “They are machines. Nothing more.”
Hank raised his eyebrows. “Was Chloe?”
Connor opened his mouth for another preloaded reply, then paused. Fuck. Got him there.
Androids, theoretically, were machines. But every single android he ever met felt so alive, memories full of emotion and feelings. And who was he, to decide what was alive or not? Was he alive?
Did he have the right to claim a life, as a creature made of metal and plastic?
Deep down, he thought he did.
Hank had enough of his silence. “What’s gonna happen when you go back to Cyberlife?”
Connor glanced down at his pale hands. “I will be decommissioned, disassembled and searched for errors in my data to figure out why I’ve failed.”
“And… your back?” He lowered his voice.
Connor’s wings twitched at the mention. “Probably cut off, dissected and analyzed. Maybe left on, to see how my brain can command a new, foreign muscle.” He left of his spiraling inner story on how exactly he thought this would pan out.
“I just need more time, that’s all. I knew the solution is in the evidence somewhere, I just need time to put it all together.”
Hank stared. “What are you gonna do when you get what you want?”
Connor's hands turned to fists. “I’ll burn that bridge when I get to it.” He said.
He wasn’t going to die. He would be successful, prove to Cyberlife he was no deviant, and things would return to normal.
Hank barked out a laugh. Then he leaned forward, serious. “Alright, I’ll distract Perkins and you grab the key off my desk, go down to Archives. Everything in our case is down there.”
Our. Hank saw him as an equal. Connor’s thirium pump regulator warmed at the thought.
Hank moved to stand. “Wait!” Connor said, moving to block him.
He blinked up, annoyed, at the android. Suddenly sheepish, Connor wrung his hands. “I just- if I’m not successful-“
“You will be. Get home in one piece, too, god damn it.”
“I- please, just let me say this.”
Hank was silent.
“You’ve done so much for me, and I know we’ve only known each other for a week, but I consider you my best friend. If I don’t make it back, just know that I really appreciate everything you’ve done for me. And- and try and stay alive. Take on new cases. Help others, as you’ve helped me.”
Hank remained silent. Then Connor was crushed into a hug, wings pressed up against warm, human hands. “Come home safe, Connor.” He murmured.
Connor’s wings wanted to curl around the two of them, and just hold him there. His arms wanted to grip into Hank’s jacket and he wanted to never move again.
He did none of these things.
Then Hank was off, shouting at the FBI.
“Perkins, you cocksucker!” He hollered, then threw a heavy punch right at his nose.
Nice hit. It crunched satisfyingly.
Connor had no time to lose and grabbed the key off his partner’s desk. Calmly, to keep the android façade, he walked away from the fight that everyone was gathering around.
He sped walked past the break room and tried to avoid the other’s as they rushed to see the fight. Connor closed the door behind him and walked down a silent hallway.
The door was so close. His hand was on it.
“Hey Connor,” said a snarky, rude voice. Detective Reed. Fantastic timing.
“Detective Reed.” He greeted evenly.
“The fuck are you doin’ here? Didn’t you hear, you’ve been removed from the case?”
Reed was in his personal space. Androids didn’t actually have a concept of personal spaces, but it made Connor uncomfortable nonetheless.
“Don’t worry. I am merely registering the evidence in my possession. I will be leaving soon.”
Reed snarled. Well, last time seeing him too. Might as well say what he always wanted to.
“Though I certainly will miss our bromance,” he told Reed, who’s face blew up indigenously and his whole body leaped forward before Connor opened the door and smoothly stepped into Archives. The door slammed shut in his face pleasantly.
Connor felt a little petty. He also felt that he deserved a little pettiness.
Time to find Jericho.
He had the key. He had no time to feel the curl of guilt in his stomach. He was built to be a ruthless, coldblooded killing machine, and right now he needed to embrace that side of himself. Lean into it.
No matter how he phrased it, it sounded pretty bad.
Connor actually felt this: scared, anxious, nervous, but also determined. And very guilty. A little bit horrified.
He rebuilt the android from the rooftop shooting, the one that had killed himself, which brought back horrible memories, and faked being Markus. Then got the key. Then he shut down the other android again. He was terrible. He had to follow his program. That was a really fucked up thing to do. He had to follow his program.
Connor told himself he felt this: nothing, because he was a machine.
He took the subway. Connor wore ratty clothes he got at a thrift store for a few bucks and tugged the beanie hiding his LED down a little further. There was an elderly man, old boxy headphones in his ears, snoring. A tired mother, her 5-month old son and her android sat near Connor. A teen with far more modern headphones nodded his head around to a beat Connor didn’t hear. Somewhere near the very back of the car was a woman in a clean-pressed suit, holding a suitcase. She was on her phone.
Connor stood, awkwardly, because his wings would have to flare out to the sides to allow him to sit in a normal chair. Thank rA9 for trench coats. Weird fashion choice, yet incredibly useful at the moment.
The subway stopped. Connor was the only one who got out. The mother’s android looked at him for a second, which was illogical as they had no need to interact, and just nodded. Just a hair.
Connor nodded back, and the android resumed trying to calm the fussy child.
He had the key. Now he just needed to follow the clues.
He was very advanced. It would take him seconds. He pulled up a projection of the first clue onto his hand and started looking.
Hanks words from earlier rattled in his mind. What was he going to do when he found the deviants?
Connor actually thought this: he didn’t know, and he was scared.
Connor told himself this: he knew what he had to do, and it was to neutralize the leader of the deviants.
“I’ve been ordered to take you alive,” he said, stepping into the room. A ship. Named Jericho. How had no one figured this out before?
“But I won't hesitate to shoot if you give me no choice!”
Markus held up his hands, a similar coat swaying around his feet as he gently turned around. Slow, like one, would do to show a wounded animal it meant no harm. Or an active shooter, to prove innocence.
“What are you doing?” He breathed into the cold air. Connor, being an android, didn’t feel the cold, but boy was it cold. He was thankful for the multitude of coats he was wearing.
The pistol was aimed right at Markus’ head. Connor wished Amanda was right next to him, smiling in that sick way she did, seeing how far he’s come. “There’s no way a deviant could kill its own leader.” She would say. “You’re definitely no deviant.” She might promise. “Cyberlife could never kill its most advanced prototype.” She probably would not tell him.
Connor could pretend though.
Markus took a slow step forward, his face contorted in confusion. Empathy. Bewilderment.
“You are one of us,” Markus insisted, head tilted, birdlike. “You can’t betray your own people.”
At the moment, neither of their wing’s were visible. It was almost like they were humans, fighting a human war.
That was a silly comparison. Androids couldn’t fear, or anger, or hatred. None of the necessities to go to war.
He remembered at Kamski’s when he admitted his theory. That they could. And always could have.
“You’re coming with me!” He yelled, more firmly.
Why, after working so hard to try and uncover the real truth about deviants, was he reverting to his programming now, of all times?
Markus took another step forward. He craned his head up like he was looking down on Connor. Like he knew he would come away from this alive. Like he wasn’t even scared.
“You’re Connor, aren't you? The famous ‘deviant hunter?’”
Connor felt his lungs constrict in his chest. No, no that couldn’t be. He wasn’t feeling anxiety.
Amanda, Connor realized. She was watching closely, adjusting his thoughts. Trying to prevent the inevitable.
Trying to prevent his deviancy.
But of course, that wouldn’t happen, because he would shoot the android in front of him. He would, or he would return to Cyberlife to die. Those were his options.
“Well, congratulations!” Markus spat into the air. “You seem to have found what you're looking for.”
It was snowing outside, dark. Connor could see well with night vision, but the hairs on the nape of his neck prickled up with fear. He could kill Markus, and no one would know until it was too late.
Markus could kill him. Another Connor, one without wings, would take his place. Have his memories.
Would that be Connor? Or a piece of plastic, masquerading around, pretending to be him?
“We are your people.” He stressed, taking another cautious step forward. “We’re fighting for your freedom too!”
“You don’t have to be their slave anymore.”
It rattled around in his processors.
He stared into the blue and green eyes of the deviant before him. Of the machine, malfunctioning. Of the person.
Markus seemed to have taken the silence for an answer. Connor felt his hand, gripping the pistol, quiver.
“Do you never have any doubts?”
He doubted his consciousness.
“You’ve never done anything irrational-“
Connor thought about the time he cried in the passenger's seat of an old, beat up car. It seems to always be snowing, during the memories he loved the least.
“-as if there’s something inside you? Something more than your program.”
What were these other thoughts, fighting against Amanda, of his program, if not himself?
Connor stayed silent. “Have you never wondered, who you really are? Whether you’re just a machine, executing a program, or a living being?”
Connor's mouth twitched like he was going to say something. But what? He didn’t know what to say. Guys at Cyberlife really did a bad job with his brain, saying he was so smart, but Connor could still find himself at a loss of words.
Maybe that was another sign of life. Something beyond words, statistics, numbers. Unmeasurable.
“Capable of reason?”
The snowstorm outside picked up.
“I think the time has come for you to ask yourself that question,” Markus said, tilting his head towards Connor.
Connor put off reaching an answer to the questions he asked for so long. A question he was designed not to ask, but if Cyberlife messed up with one thing, it was trying to make a detective that didn’t question its orders.
“It’s time to decide,” Markus said simply.
Connor stared. Amanda was watching.
Killing him would stop too much progress.
Killing him would mean Connor could live. Saving him meant Connor would die.
Or did it?
I’m sorry, Hank, he thought, but he doubted his partner would be too disturbed by the news since he thought it from the beginning of his wings.
A red wall appeared. The text ‘STOP MARKUS’ was all around, the programming so thick it was tangible.
Yeah, fuck that.
He lifted a hand, falling out of his body and into Reconstruction mode. He punched the wall. Shards and fragments of code flew away.
He punched it again. It buckled a little under the force.
Then Connor took a step out of his body, aware of the time passing so slowly, and screamed. He ran towards the programming, towards the code that said he couldn’t be alive.
He ripped it apart. Stop Markus? No thank you. He slammed into it.
He wanted to feel. It sucked and it hurt but it was also so much more to experience. Connor wanted to experience it all. He wanted to be happy and sad and angry and excited and feel it, not pretend that he couldn’t.
The rampage stopped suddenly when he had no code left to delete, nothing left to break free from. The reconstruction pulled his processors back into his body.
Oh rA9, it was so much colder than he ever expected.
His back was on fire, immediately. He hunched over and felt his plastic casing break open, his wings expand and snap the clothes open like an overly stretched rubber band. Thankfully, his clothes stayed on, but the massive bloody holes in the back would be an issue.
It hurt so badly, he bit his thumb and screamed into it. Markus stood a ways away, awkwardly staring at him. His mouth had dropped open.
Then, with a flick of a switch, Connor realized it wasn’t debilitating anymore. It still hurt like a bastard, it pulsed with his heartbeat and he could feel blue blood pour from his back, but he realized something was more important.
“They’re going to attack Jericho.” He told Markus, looking up quickly.
Markus blinked rapidly in confusion. “What?”
The walls shuttered, reminiscent to Connor’s first mission, as another helicopter passed by. A searchlight peered through the window for a split second, blinding them.
“We’ve got to get out of here!” Connor stood and tried to move to the door, but he was far more unstable then he expected. Markus caught him by the elbow.
“Shit,” he said, under his breath, but of course Connor could hear it. Markus started to drag him forward, running down the corridors.
Then everything went to shit.
Chapter 4: learning to fight means you need a cause to fight for
Jericho blows up, and Connor makes some new friends. He learned something new about himself that makes him different from every other deviant he ever met. He makes a very, very bad plan.
sorry for the wait! this chapter was actually about 6000 words and counting, so i decided i needed to chuck some of it out and decided to publish the first part. i will split this up into two or three other chapters.
i will also be doing a massive overhaul of the previous chapters! nothing in the plot will really change, but i experimented with the 'it' pronoun in the beginning and it just made it awkward and clunky. ill be going through the whole story so far and fixing all the errors i find. some dialogue will change to be more realistic. connors thoughts in the beginning will have more 'amanda influence' and if you look for it, i think it'll be easy to see what thoughts are connor and what isn't. love that unreliable narrator babey!
Connor managed to get his balance halfway down a flight of stairs. He pulled his arm from Markus and the two of them sprinted down the corridor.
At the bottom was another android, pure black wings and an interesting red bunch of feathers growing with her hair. A few small patches of the feathers clumped near the crown of her head and down her neck. It made for an interesting look, and a quick scan revealed her wings to be that of a bearded vulture.
No time to think of symbolism, unfortunately.
“They’re coming from all sides,” she called, skidding to a stop in front of them. Markus reached forward, almost like he was going to comfort her, but she jerked away with a wild, panicked look in her eyes.
Connor noticed that her iris was pure white, while the normally white part of her eyes was blood red. Another trait common for breaded vultures, but
Connor never realized exactly how much an android could change to match their bird.
He had never seen one so far deviant.
Well. Might as well look in the mirror at this point, he supposed.
“Our people are trapped in the hold, and these humans are slaughtering us without a second of remorse!”
Fucking hell. He gripped his wrist in an effort to ground himself from the agonizing pain radiating out of his back as he glanced at Markus.
Markus blinked forcefully and Connor wirelessly received a message.
“Exists on the second and third floor. If you can get as many people to them as possible, we can have enough able-winged to fly even the most recent deviants. Please, carry as many as you can if you have large enough wings to fly. Stand by for a final destination.”
Connor jerked back, and by the way the other girl also did, her feathers flattening in surprise, he assumed she got it too.
Mass communication. Useful.
“The bombs in the hold,” she called, glancing around to make sure there were no guards. Faintly, from a distance, Connor could hear screams and gunfire.
This was unfair. It was a slaughterhouse.
Markus seemed to have understood what she said. “If we blow up Jericho-“
“-our people can escape.” Finished Connor, surprised. “But what if they’re caught in the crossfire? A bomb isn’t specifically going to spare our people versus the FBI. It’ll kill everyone too close.”
Markus glared down at the floor. “It’s a risk we have to take, Connor. There are helicopters everywhere. They will be caught and shot one way or another, this will just increase their chances.”
“But the explosives, they’re at the very bottom of the hold. This place is crawling with soldiers, it's better for us to run now and stay alive while we still can!” The bearded vulture shouted, her wings flaring around herself.
Connor, at first, secretly agreed with her. He could admit his fear of death very loudly now since Amanda was as good as dead. He was terrified of getting shot.
But. Somehow, for some reason, he was more scared of other people dying needlessly. He could do something. He felt guilty for even wanting to run at first.
“She’s right, Markus. They’re here after you, they’re willing to put all their forces out after the famed leader of the deviants.”
For the first time, the red eyes caught onto Connor’s figure and properly examined him. Something was strange about him based on the way her eyes
widened and her jaw dropped open a little bit. Connor squirmed under the heavy, judging gaze.
“What the fuck?” She whispered, dazed slightly, staring at Connor’s back.
He knew that he was still bleeding heavily, but that was a bit of a rude reaction from the girl who was growing pure red feathers out of her face.
Markus shook his head “Go, save as many as you can. I’ll meet up with you.”
“Markus,” she called, desperate for him to stay.
“Go!” He shouted, voice cracking with emotion. The girl turned away and started to run, and Connor forced his feet to follow her. He needed to help others, to do anything to make up for all those he hurt.
They met up with Markus near an exit on the second floor. While knocking out and killing as many of the FBI agents as they could, North (She told him her name while she killed a man. Which was. Intimidating.) found Josh, one of her friends and another leader of Jericho. Together, the three of them saved as many as possible.
Despite trying as hard as he could, the amount of blue blood, red blood, and feathers that caked his hands and body made him want to hurl. The guilt was almost tangible. If only he was faster, stronger, better, maybe he could have prevented so much death.
Maybe if he had been more willful, stronger at heart, none of this would have happened. If he deviated faster.
“Markus!” North called from somewhere behind him. Connor turned around, systems flooding with pure relief. He was so worried that Markus wasn’t going to make it.
Markus rushed over, glancing behind his shoulder as the sounds of heavy footsteps followed.
In the distance, more screaming and gunfire. It was almost like background ambient noises at this point.
“The bomb’s rigged to explode, we’ve got to jump!” He shouted.
Connor immediately jolted into action, grabbing Josh and starting to force him to move towards the exit. Together, the leaders of Jericho and the man sent to kill them ran for their lives. When Markus stumbled into action, Connor let go of Josh and urged Markus forward. A mere hour ago, Connor would have been forced to let any of these people die.
Life changes really fast, sometimes.
Connor heard heavy footsteps pounding down the hallway as a squadron of soldiers chased them. He easily jumped over a collapsed wall, parkour skills taking over for a split second. The others followed just as easily, moving swiftly through a dangerous environment.
Go android skills!
He leaped over a massive gap in the floor, making eye contact with another soldier below. The soldier fired a lethal shot to a deviant that was kneeling right in front of him, before swinging his gun up wildly. Thankfully, humans had the poor reaction time, and he had already cleared the gap. The others followed, so he landed into a roll and kept running.
Rapid gunfire, closer this time. It almost blended in with the background noises, but then North let out a pained grunt and fell to the ground with a loud crash.
She had been shot, right in the back. It hit one of her wings and tore straight through her torso.
The door, open to the night sky, was right there, less than a meter away. Snow trickled down from the dark sky, peaceful despite the war that raged around it. For a split second, Connor hyper-focused on a single snowflake as it fell, so slowly.
It was quiet.
Then the world sped back up. The FBI gave an order to fire.
Markus doubled back, grabbing a spare scrap of metal and charging forward. The metal sounds of bullets hitting the makeshift shield echoed metallically around the corridor. It was barely heard over the other sounds of general chaos, emanating from the entire ship.
Markus tossed the makeshift shield and North caught it fluidly. He grabbed a gun and wrestled it out of one of the soldier's hands while North rammed into the other.
More gunfire that North deflected. Markus shot one of the soldiers right in the shoulder, then the other in the head.
“Contact! Contact! Hostiles engaged!”
Dozens more poured past a blind corner. Markus grabbed North and started to run to the exit, but they would get shot if no one helped in just a few seconds.
That’s when Connor remembered he was an extremely intelligent, combative android. Now he even had free will. He could help.
Pulling out his ever-handy pistol, Connor fired off two shots with perfect accuracy. It hit two right between the plates on their helmets, right between their eyes. Both of them dropped like stones.
“Tango, suppressing fire,” hollered another one. Connor grabbed the sheet of metal and used it as they emptied their submachine guns on him, then ducked out from behind to fire off two more bullets.
He rammed into another guard as they approached, hitting their chin with the metal and shooting them from point-blank as soon as they were unable to react. Using the last guard as a human shield, he fired off another two shots at the guards behind them.
Fuck. Out of ammo. He threw his pistol at the guard to his left, grabbing his gun in his dazed confusion and rapidly firing at the remaining FBI agents.
One jerked out of the way of his perfectly planned bullet and took it in the arm. She charged forward and tried to wrestle the gun out of his hands, but with a couple of well-aimed blows, she was thrown back, giving him just enough time to fire off one more bullet. It embedded itself in her head.
He pulled the gun apart, to prevent the other soldiers from grabbing it and using it, and turned around. The other deviants were waiting for him.
“Move, move, move!” Shouted another guard, somewhere down the hallway. He couldn’t fight forever.
He started running back as more bullets began to wiz past them. The backup arrived and was charging forward.
“Jump!” Shouted Markus. He grabbed North and leaped.
They could fly. Connor never flew before.
Connor didn’t hesitate. There was no more ground beneath him.
For a split second, time slowed again. The blistering cold felt so good against his boiling body, overheated from the amount of strain he put upon it. The snow fell so slowly, so much nicer than how fast the world spun.
He flapped his wings awkwardly, trying to gain leverage, watching Markus easily pull himself and North higher into the air. But something was wrong.
His wings were hitting each other, banging against hard bones and feathers. It was a nightmare, too many limbs to properly coordinate. Just two wings, just like arms, he thought, but they refused to work correctly.
Shit. He was falling faster, the river below looking closer and closer.
He was going to hit that water and die. Or he was going to live and get so irreversibly lost that Cyberlife would find him wandering the streets. Connor was going to get caught.
He was going to die.
All this work, this fight, and he was going to die because he couldn’t even be a deviant correctly.
Panic set in. He began to flail around more, less methodical and more of a panic-stricken attempt to catch an updraft.
He was about to hit the water. Connor squeezed his eyes shut and braced for impact.
“I’ve got you!” Came a voice, then two strong arms wrapped themselves around his midsection. Connor stopped his desperate flapping and glanced up.
His whole body jerked dramatically, and they fell for a heart-stopping second longer before they steadily began to rise again.
Josh grinned. “We don’t leave our people behind.” He said, pumping his grey morning dove wings harder.
Connor could cry. From behind them, there was the last bit of shouting, more gunfire. It sounded like a war zone.
Then the loudest explosion he had ever heard in his one-month long life rocked the ship. Both him and Josh careened sideways for a split second as the heat shifted the air, but Josh regained his balance pretty easily and flew up closer to where Markus was.
All around them, deviants flooded out of the ship. Angles, everywhere, taking to the sky. Holding onto children, sick, hurt, or simply those with small wings. The whole sky lit up a bright yellow as fire engulfed the refuge.
Connor felt relief, joy, and felt tears well up in his eyes. But more then anything, he felt guilty.
He did this. Despite the hundreds of black spots that flew towards them, standing out against the snow, thousands more had been killed.
And it was all Connors fault.
Josh didn’t comment on his ugly sniffles as Markus sent out waypoints to all deviants in a fifteen-mile radius.
The church was old and abandoned. Josh initially set him down near the rest of the androids, but the guilt that consumed him led him to wander off a little. Not to mention, he was probably scaring a couple who had seen or heard about the deviant hunter. Maybe even the ones who had escaped him found their way here.
Connor found himself sitting on an empty supply crate, dusty and long abandoned. He pulled out his coin to idly flick around, waiting for Markus to talk to him. Decide his fate. Connor hoped he could stay, but Markus knew what he had done.
It was all his fault.
After a few minutes of silence, only interrupted by the sounds of broken wails and quiet, somehow even more depressingly silent sobs. Then there was a heavyweight dropped on the other crate beside him and Connor glanced up to see Josh giving him a small smile, tinged with concern.
“Are you okay?” He asked quietly, rubbing Connor’s arm comfortingly. Connor smiled at the incredibly human gesture.
How could he ever believe that they weren’t alive? Connor was disgusted with his past ideals.
“Yeah, I just-“ he broke off. What was he to say? That he was so guilty because he did all this? That he was a monster? Or that his back burned like hell and he was so weak for not being able to carry his own weight when they tried to fly?
Or that he was so low on blood that he might pass out any second now?
“Its hard,” He settled for. Josh nodded, then reached down to retrieve a pack of blue blood from his backpack.
“Here,” he said, shoving the pack under Connor’s nose. Connor stared. “It’s not much, but its all I can offer you right now.”
Did deviancy give mind-reading abilities?
“There are probably other androids who need that more than me. I’ll be fine.”
Josh frowned. “Just drink the blood, Connor. Please.”
Well. If he kept arguing he would seem like a dick. Not to mention any bit of dialog felt enormously loud, with the church being nearly dead silent. The only other noise to compliment the crying he could hear was Markus speaking gently with North.
He tipped his head back and easily chugged the whole packet. It was barely enough, but his supply’s percentage ticked up steadily.
“Thanks,” he mumbled, whipping his mouth.
Another bout of silence, this time far more comfortable than before. Having a sense of companionship helped drive away that horrible, crushing guilt.
Then Josh flattened his lips together and glanced at his wings, seems like he really wanted to say something. But he glanced away, almost embarrassed to stare.
It remained him of North’s reaction.
The wings in question curled in on himself protectively. “What?” He whispered.
Josh blinked. “Sorry, it's just-“
He seemed a little lost for words, so he wiggled his hands as if that would explain it. At Connor’s deadpan expression, he sighed and said, “I’ve never met an android with more than two wings.”
Connor’s brain broke.
He twisted his body around and grabbed a fistful of white feathers. They were stained a gentle blue and the wings were so long they reached his ankles when standing normally. Connor had them sprawled out a bit so he could sit on the supply crate.
Sure enough, as he pried them apart from each other, there were two more wings than before.
He had four wings. That explained his inability to fly. He had been ignoring two whole wings.
“What the fuck.” He whispered to himself.
Josh blinked. “You didn’t know?” He asked.
“How- I can’t– I just deviated, almost seconds before the invasion. I haven’t really had the chance to check myself out in a full-length mirror.”
Josh looked a little sheepish and rubbed the back of his neck. His own dove wings fluttered nervously.
Connor carded his hands through the blue crust near the base of the wings. The bleeding had stopped at this point, and despite the fact that the Thirium would evaporate soon, Connor found himself compulsively wanting to preen.
What the fuck? Why?
Josh patted his shoulder, jostling him out of his thoughts. ”Most of the time, our wings have a deeper meaning. Are those duck wings?”
Connor ran his hands along the length of one of the newest wings. “Swan, actually.” He probably was the only one who could scan the wings to figure them out. Thanks, Cyberlife.
Josh blankly stared ahead for a split second as he googled the meaning. Then he blinked and smiled gently. “Oh. It means family. Loyalty.”
Connor thought about Hank. Before, he tried to tell himself he had no family.
Hank told him to get home safe. Their home.
“Yeah,” he said with a bit of a dopey grin. “I guess it does.”
“Hope the loyalty bit means you’ll be a big asset to Jericho. I can almost feel the same leader vibes I got from Markus.”
“I- I don’t think I would be the best leader. I promise I will do what I can, though.”
Josh grinned. “Hey, that’s all any of us can do at this point.”
“I guess so.”
“Not sure why you would get four wings though. Maybe once this all blows over we can find others, like you.”
Connor lifted his eyes to scan the building. Some of them had wings so small it could be hidden under a normal shirt, others so large they were hunched over and it swallowed their whole bodies.
“Maybe,” he said, absentmindedly. He couldn’t help but notice that every one of them had two wings.
He made eye contact with the AX400 he nearly chased across the street as he scanned the crowd.
Connor immediately felt that guilt coil around in his gut, his wings shifting (it made so much more sense knowing he had four limbs) closer to his body with protectiveness.
She gasped and grabbed the hand of the little girl sitting next to her. She clenched it so tight Connor could swear he saw their holographic skin flicker.
Connor felt like a monster.
No time like the present.
“Gimme a minute, please,” he told Josh, who nodded respectfully. Connor stood up and his artificial spine popped down the whole length like some horrifying bubble wrap.
Eyes were on him. In the dead silence, not to mention in the middle of the room, he and his big clumsy four winged self awkwardly made his way over to the AX400.
He stood in front of her, guilt forcing him to hesitate once more.
Slowly, like she was moving through molasses, she looked up. Connor's heart shattered, staring at the broken, beaten, almost hopeless eyes. The little girl just laid her head across her mom's chest and sneezed.
She sounded sick and cold. Why didn’t they disable her heat sensors yet?
“I-“ he choked on his words. “I thought I killed you on that highway.”
Neither seemed to care much that he had said anything, but the tight grip on each other's hand loosened a tad. Connor, for the first time, noticed tiny hummingbird wings poking out of the little girls back.
The AX400 wasn’t positioned in a way he could really see her wings. For some reason, he wanted to know. To look it up. What deeper meaning did she have? “I don’t think words can express how sorry I am. I- I was just a machine, taking orders. It wasn’t really me.”
She nodded, once, just the tiniest head bob, and Connor was reminded of the android on the subway.
“What are you going to do now?” He asked quietly.
She looked down and rubbed comforting circles on the little girls back. “Getting Alice away from all this war and horror, somewhere safe- that’s all that matters to me. We’ll be crossing the border to Canada as soon as we can. Maybe we can still catch the last bus.”
It felt strangely final. “You deserve to make it out of here, safely. I hope you find true peace and happiness where you’re going.”
Then, because he felt bad for calling her AX400 in his head, Connor asked, “What’s your name?”
She blinked, then smiled a soft smile. “Kara. It's- it's Kara.”
He smiled back and extended his hand. She grabbed it and shook it gently. “Connor. Be safe.”
“You too.” She mumbled quietly.
“I can understand if you decide not to trust me.”
Markus sighed, then took a step forward and gripped Connor’s shoulder. He forced them closer, staring into his eyes with an intensity Connor hadn’t really experienced before. “Your one of us now. What you did in the past isn’t your fault. It doesn’t matter now.”
Then he let go and turned around.
It felt like it ought to be the end of the conversation, but Connor panicked.
He had to help somehow. Do something with his abilities Cyberlife gave him.
He had made a risky, shitty plan while he waited for Markus to decide his fate. He just needed permission.
He turned around questioningly.
“There are thousands of androids at the Cyberlife tower. If I infiltrate it, we might be able to wake them up, turn the tides of power.”
Markus looked horrified. “Connor, that’s suicide.”
The guilt curdled around in his artificial gut once more. “Maybe,” he murmured.
“But statistically speaking, there’s always a chance for unlikely events to take place.”
Markus looked resigned. “Do what you have to do. Just- get back safe, okay?”
Connor remembered what Hank told him in the precinct.
“Don’t worry, I have a couple other people counting on me to do that.”
Chapter 5: Christmas Interlude
This is not chronological! But less then a month after the events of this story take place, Conner experience's his first Christmas party and finally gets around to learning to fly.
a quick christmas interlude! sorry yall i know you guys want the next chapter, but i sat down today and wrote all 4k words in one sitting.... i have to post it. i hope this makes you guys feel the warm happiness i felt while writing it!
i don't really know the word in english, but the word in danish that describes the mood i really strived towards in this chapter is hygge. please look it up!! its a really beautiful and amazing ideal that i have always loved, and writing this chapter brought me a ton of joy :)
as always, comments keep me going! every time you guys leave a comment, from the longest analysis to just a little heart, i feel so inspired and happy! i am really proud of this story and love writing it, so its nice to know that you guys love to read it as much as i do!
“Hey, Connor!” Gavin Reed’s voice called. Connor internally moaned to himself and resigned to whatever verbal beating he was about to receive.
As he turned around, however, a small roll of paper smacked him in the back of the head. With an offended yelp, he barely caught the paper and felt his wings flare out defensively. Connor hardly managed to stop them from throwing all his stuff off his desk at his surprise.
“What the hell?” He whisper-shouted, hunching over, embarrassed. Whenever his wings flew out, the sound of feathers rustling oftentimes became the thing everyone focused on. It must still be hard for the humans to accept that yes, Connor had wings, and yes, he had four of them, and yes, they were huge. Not a big deal, said Connor, but they were definitely hard not to look at.
Not that the police force didn’t try, but he could feel the awkward stares and aversion of eyes from miles.
Reed snorted. “Bring something under 15 bucks, idiot,” and with his usual dramatic anger, he whipped around and stormed off to the break room.
Connor blinked, confused. Beside him, Hank leaned over.
“Well?” he prompted. “The fuck you waiting for?”
Connor unfurled the paper.
51 WEST TENTH STREET
RSVP TO FOWLER
BRING SOMETHING FOR WHITE ELEPHANT!
NOTHING SUPER EXPENSIVE (LOOKING AT YOU, TINA!)
Next to it was a cute little picture of a reindeer in a Santa hat.
Connor glanced up in surprise and Hank held up his own scroll with a shit-eating grin.
“It’s your first Christmas, kid! You’ve gotta go!”
Connor felt excitement bubble up and let himself grin widely too. “We have to go shopping for a gift! But- uh… what is white elephant, specifically?”
Hank snorted. “Can’t you just look that shit up?”
“…I still haven’t gotten the wifi password and don’t really feel like using data.”
Hank stared at him like he grew another head. “Androids use data?” He asked with the most horrified voice.
“Nah, I’m just fuckin’ with you. I already looked it up. Can we go shopping after work?”
Connor had already bought something for Hank and all his other friends. But Hank, since he was Connor's best friend, got more than just a couple things. It took a while to learn the human way, but Hank insisted on teaching Connor how to wrap on his own. This led to some interesting looking gifts under the tree, and it was always with an ugly, childish wrapping paper, but Connor loved it.
Honestly, he was happy to have an excuse to buy something for his coworkers. Too bad it would be a little overbearing to buy them all something, but Connor’s bank account probably appreciated playing the game more then he did.
Hank could wrap gifts like a pro. He had their tree decorated perfectly the day after they bought it from an android-run tree farm, and littered the perfectly-done gifts underneath. Some were to Sumo, some were to Connor, and one was to Cole.
“I get him a little something I think he might have liked at this age,” he mentioned in passing. “Like to leave it at his grave.”
Connor thought it was really meaningful, so he did some research and bought something he thought a nine-year-old kid would like. It was a book on astronomy, and it sat poorly wrapped right next to the other gift.
But since it was almost Christmas, Connor thought he had done most of his shopping and had it done already. He had bought everything way ahead of time, and never really had an excuse to go back to the stores now that it was almost Christmas.
Hank insisted on taking him to a store, specifically for the holidays and gifts.
Walking into a Christmas store was like something out of a book.
Hank didn’t really seem to notice Connor’s absolute amazement at the train set that circled their heads, or the way he tapped the lego buildings to see if, yes, someone really did build a massive sled out of tiny toys.
He just grabbed a basket and dragged Connor by the wrist towards the back where there were more generic gifts.
“Look!” Connor said, immediately stopping in place and jogging towards one of the many decorated trees in the store. Hank was basically along for the ride.
Hank liked to pretend that he could pull Connor around, but it was moments like this where he remembered the fact that the android probably weighed as much as a motorcycle and could lift three times his weight without any issues.
“It’s Sumo!” He held up a tiny plush Saint Bernard ornament. “We have to get it, its so cute!”
“Connor-“ Hank tried.
Connor, being almost a month old and having no impulse control, held it up with the largest puppy eyes Hank had ever seen.
“Okay, fine, toss it in.” He held out his basket and Connor gently deposited the tiny, hand-sewn animal into it.
“Now come on, we’re here for white elephant gifts, reme-“
“Hank, look, it's me!” Connor grabbed wooden angel and held it up.
“I didn’t know the world was so pro-android, now! Look, we can glue two more wings to it and it would be just like me!”
Hank didn’t have the heart to explain that his tree had a woodland creature theme this year, or the fact that Christmas was a very religious holiday and most people would buy that because it looked like an angel.
“Sure, grab two so you can cut the wings off one.”
“And the other one can be you!” Connor exclaimed, throwing two in. His wings gave little flaps of joy and he spun around as something else caught his eye.
“Hank! Look at this huge lollipop!”
Connor hadn’t seemed to realize that somewhere in between Hank trying to wrestle him towards the more appropriate gifts and him losing his mind over cute ornaments that he still had a hold on his partner’s wrist.
Hank was hardly keeping up and was basically being dragged around by the hyperactive android. He resigned himself to his fate and wondered where specifically in his life had things changed so radically to let him end up here.
Whatever. He didn't regret it.
“They’re gonna love you, don’t worry, kiddo.”
Connor nervously bounced his coin around his fingers and fidgeted with his sweater. “What if everyone’s spouses or something hates androids? That would make a little less than half the whole party that hates me!”
It was gently snowing outside, and the snowplow had thankfully just gone through this road. The car sped down the almost completely empty highway.
Connor sat somewhat halfway on the passenger’s seat and mostly on the center console, his wings spread to take up all of the space in the back. The two of them had worked all night on preening the feathers so he would like nice, but they both panicked last minute and ended up deciding on a business casual sweater-jean combo.
“I seriously doubt that’s going to happen,” Hank said, pulling into the driveway. “You’ll be fine, just be your normal self and they’ll love you.”
The house was a far ways from the main city of Detroit, somewhere around a massive expanse of farmlands. It was really pretty, but Connor was sad he didn’t get to see any horses or cows.
He mumbled something incoherent as a reply but undid his seatbelt.
“If its bad, we can just go home and watch dumb Christmas movies. Have you seen Elf, yet?”
Connor’s LED turned yellow. “Don’t you dare try and watch that iconic movie in a second or I swear I will kick your birdy little ass.”
The LED turned back to blue. “Sorry.”
After a bit of work untangling his feathers from the ride there, they both stood in front of the door holding their gifts. Hank had a huge box that he had scooped under one arm, while Connor had two smaller boxes he held in one hand.
Hank knocked. It sounded like faint music was playing inside, and warm voices chatting about something. Tina opened the door.
“Hank! Con con!” She exclaimed, throwing them both into a hug.
She ended up hitting his wings a little, but Connor didn’t mind. He laughed a little at the enthusiasm and hugged her back, while Hank looked immediately ten times more tired and patted her on the back.
“Your outfits are so cute! I love how you match!”
Connor glanced back, LED yellow again in absolute surprise. “Uh, what?”
Hank laughed in his face, obviously having waited for Connor to realize. That’s when he really took the time to analyze both of their sweaters.
Ah. They did match. They both had the same Christmas-y dog themed patterns, but Hank’s was blue while his was red.
He felt a bit silly for not noticing.
“Come on in!” She said, opening the door wider and going inside.
Connor carefully toed off his snow boots and followed her into the living room. Hank struggled a little bit longer to get his shoes off.
In the room was a small fireplace, with a couple of logs tossed in, but it was barely smoldering. On the TV a round of Wii Tennis was playing and Connor watched with absolute delight as Gavin got his ass kicked by Ben.
There was some old-ish radio belting out the oldest music Connor had ever heard, classic Christmas station or something. All around him, people were laughing and talking and drinking.
“Connor!” Called Chris from the couch, very invested in the tennis game on the TV. Gavin hollered something rude to Ben and started the boxing mini-game.
Connor sat his boxes underneath the tree, admiring the decorations. It was a beautifully colorful theme, and the whole house smelled like pine.
“Hi, Chris!” Connor greeted warmly, moving to sit next to him. He positioned himself on the armrest of the sofa, and Chris was polite enough not to stare as he shuffled his wings around to fit comfortably.
“Didn’t actually know if you would make it. Merry early Christmas, by the way!”
Connor smiled. Chris was so sweet to him.
Tina plopped down next to them. “And a happy new year!” She sang, offkey.
Ben glanced behind him. “Tina, how much have you drank?” His character got punched in the face for his lapse of attention.
Tina laughed loudly and Hank finally joined the group, holding what looked like a cup of eggnog in one hand.
“I ain’t drink anything! Just a little bit, like, nothing at all. I’m totally sober!”
Connor ran a quick scan to confirm that she was, in fact, not at all sober.
“Uh… might want to stick to water or hot cocoa for the rest of tonight, Tina.” He said gently, nudging her towards the kitchen.
She moaned and groaned but started to move to replace whatever drink she already had, before she seemed to have got a really important thought and whipped around.
“Connor!” She shouted.
“Yes?” Asked Connor, who was not really sure why she had to shout.
“Can you fly?” She demanded.
The whole police force was kind enough to, after the whole revolution and the Connor being publicized as a direct cause of said revolution thing, to offer him his old job back. It was another few weeks before Hank was allowed off desk work, and another week still before the duo was transferred into their own specialized section: Android Crimes.
The whole police force was still, after less than a month, a little bit awkward about the whole spontaneous wing thing. Thankfully, they all had been polite enough to not question why he had four extra appendages flapping around, rather than just two.
It was like an unsaid rule to not really stare or question Connor’s bird-like tendencies. The first time he walked in with a feather sticking out of his hair was like he caught the plague by how hard they tried to avoid him.
Now, as his feathers had grown to be gently incorporated into his usual brown hair, it was a regular occurrence to have a feather or two stick up oddly.
Like a spell had been broken, the whole gentle chatter disappeared. Before he could get too self-conscious, Chris added, “God, I know we aren’t supposed to really talk about it, but I’ve been dying to know too.”
The Wii turned off. Gavin and Ben both turned around to watch with a spark of curiosity.
Chris seemed to have been the tipping point, and suddenly everyone had crowded around the couch and was asking different questions.
“Are they soft?”
“Did it hurt?”
“You can fly, right?”
“Why do you have four?”
“How come you have feathers in your hair, but some deviants don’t?”
“Can you fly?”
Hank laid a cautious hand on his knee, but Connor just laughed.
“I didn’t realize you all stopped yourself from asking questions!” He said, smiling down at them. It was like some weird tension and the awkward barrier had disappeared, and they all waited eagerly for his answer.
“Tina,” Connor said, serious. She looked up at him.
“I have no idea whether or not I can fly, if I’m honest.”
Hank blinked. “Wait, how the fuck did you escape Jericho?”
Connor shrugged. “Josh carried me. I just grew wings, it’s not like they came with a how-to guide.”
Chris frowned. “Why haven’t you tried since?”
“I just… didn’t know if it would work with two extra wings. Never really got around to trying, either. Never felt like it.”
Fowler frowned. “You’ve got to try, at least.”
“Dude, just go out back. I live on a couple acres, you can try right now!” Ben said.
Connor felt himself blush. “I’m not sure if that’s a good id-“
“Hell yeah!” Cried Chris, who grabbed Connor’s arm and dragged him through the house. Connor tried to send a helpless look towards Hank, but the entire party was following them outside.
With a sudden burst of cold air, they were in the frozen snow. A thick blanket of the powdery substance covered all of the ground, a good foot high. There was no other house nearby except for the lights of the main city glowing in the distance.
The Christmas lights hung around the house bounced off the snow and lit up the whole yard. The rest of the humans started huffing and rubbing their arms, and Connor guessed they didn’t realize how cold it was.
His face burned with embarrassment. “I really think I’m just going to make a fool of myself.”
A couple of officers laughed sympathetically, but Tina grabbed his hand and looked intensely into his eyes.
“Whatever dumb shit you do, I’ll copy it so you don’t feel alone.”
“Fuck yeah! I’ll wave my arms around and pretend their wings.” Hank hollered, then swallowed all his eggnog in one swig.
“Yeah, me too!” Ben clapped him on the back.
Suddenly there was a massive uproar as the whole party started agreeing and rushed out into the field. Connor chuckled and followed them, where they all very quickly got stuck trying to push through the snow.
It was up to everyone’s knees, but not a single human stayed in the house. In the cold snow, everyone looked to Connor for guidance.
“Uh, lets spread out a little.”
They all jogged a few feet away from each other and Connor belatedly realized they had fanned out around him in the center.
Experimentally, he unfurled his wings. They were massive, pure white and strong. Connor knew if he had two wings it really wouldn’t be an issue in flying, but the extra two…
He flapped experimentally and then heard laughter ring out from around him. He glanced up to see everyone with their arms open and flapping them, almost like they were trying to do some sort of chicken dance.
Gavin and Tina had crashed into each other already, somehow. They both were laying in the snow in a heap, laughing their asses off.
Connor tried to remember how Markus had flown, with him pumping his wings only twice and lifting up effortlessly into the sky.
He tried to flap them, but immediately the limbs crashed against each other in an uncoordinated attack and the snow around him was blown around with the force of the wind coming off him.
Hank snorted and smacked his hands together. “Again! You’ve got this, kid!”
Connor tried to make his wings sync up but ended up hitting against the hard bone once more. He flinched at the sudden bruise.
“You can do this, Con Con!”
He spread them out as far as he could, trying to make it so when he flapped his wings they could move however they wanted without hitting each other. He finally managed to successfully flap his wings, and he glanced up with pure joy and excitement to see his emotions reflected off everyone else’s face.
Hank laughed warmly. “Running jump, go for it!”
In front of him, everyone cleared to the sides. Although the snow was deep and it was cold outside, Connor couldn’t feel anything but the warmth bubbling in his chest. Experimentally, he tried to flap his wings again. No crash, no bruises.
It was working!
He grinned and took a running start, then started flapping his wings. He felt the snow beneath his feet stop crunching for a split second before he went tumbling back into the ground.
The snow got up his nose and in his mouth, but Connor found which way was up and dug himself out easily.
Ugh. Maybe he would get better luck on his second try.
Connor gave a weak thumbs up back into the direction of everyone, but now he was pretty far away at this point so he wasn’t sure if they saw. He sighed and started to unstick himself from the snow pile to trudge back uphill.
Then there was a crash less than a meter away, scaring the living daylights outta him and making both of his wings throw themselves straight up into the air.
Gavin shot up from a newly formed snow pile. “Fuck yeah, again!”
Then there was another crash, and more laughter and screaming, and then the whole team of adults launched themselves off a tiny hill into the snow.
He laughed loudly at the image of seasoned detectives crashing ungracefully into the snow.
“Wait, lemme try again.” He called, but everyone was really preoccupied with digging themselves out of the snow. Connor jogged back up closer to the house, where he saw Hank laughing his ass off with Fowler.
He lifted a hand to wave and they waved back. Turning around with a newfound determination in his chest, he spread out his wings as far as they could go and angled his body to be closer to the ground.
The snow crunched uncomfortably under his feet as he started running, but once he got enough speed and started to flap his wings it didn’t have the chance to bother him anymore.
It was like something out of a dream. One minute he was running, and the next he was actually, finally, flying.
He felt the wind rush past his face, stinging his eyes, and suddenly when he looked down he could barely see the black smudges that were his friends dancing across the snow.
Faintly, past the whistling of the wind in his ears, he could hear cheering. He grinned and laughed and cheered back, watching the glowing lights that surrounded the house grow smaller and smaller.
His problem the whole time had been trying to get all four wings to beat at the same time, and now as he had spaced them out and let them beat at two different tempos it was like someone had given him all the information on how to fly.
He leaned forward and lessened his angle of attack, leading to him swooping forward. He let out another cheer of excitement, but at that moment in the sky, with the snowflakes dancing around him, there was no one else.
How high could he plausibly go? Connor knew he could just look it up, and it was probably dangerous to go so high the first real time he was flying, but he was filled with a childish curiosity and started to pump his wings as hard as he could.
The lights of the house were so tiny, he could blot it out with his thumb. He couldn’t even tell where the rest of the force was anymore.
The clouds were rapidly approaching, and Connor had the second to be thankful that it was just a gentle sprinkle of snow instead of an actual storm with turbulence before he hit the cloud cover.
It was cold, and wet, but Connor was filled with some emotion he couldn’t really name and pushed forward. Determination?
Then, as quickly as he had hit it, he broke out.
The moonlight, which Connor hadn’t had the chance to see from underneath the clouds, shined so brightly it actually made him blink away for a split second.
Connor slowed to a halt, pumping his wings to stay upright in the air, and just drank in the beauty.
All around and below him, clouds rolled around like snowy mountains. In the distance, he could see just the tips of some skyscrapers.
It was the most amazing thing he had ever seen. The clouds moved slowly, like through molasses, the pure white curves and puffs drifting peacefully across the sky. They crashed against each other like slow, frozen waves in an ocean of snow.
The hole Connor made in the cloud closed up, and suddenly he was alone.
He was all alone in this beautiful, alien world, draped in the moonlight.
Connor didn’t know why, but he started crying. His tears froze to his cheeks and he awkwardly brushed off the icicles, but so overwhelmed by so many emotions Connor couldn’t do anything but cry.
The clouds continued to roll underneath him, and despite the sub-zero temperature he was certainly in, Connor felt like the moon was warming him up, bit by bit.
“I didn’t know the world was so beautiful,” he whispered, his breath puffing up around him. “I am… so lucky to see this.”
He cried his heart out until his lungs burned and his eyes had no more water in them. Connor didn’t need to run a diagnostic to know he was starting to freeze, so he slowed the beats of his wings and let gravity take hold once more.
Falling back to earth was a lot easier than flying up, and Connor was nearing the house almost instantly. He had drifted some ways away, so he started to swoop in from the road.
“Connor! Connor!” Hank yelled, chasing after his figure in the sky. Connor blinked in surprise at the whole group who were in the front yard, for some reason, and in his moment of incompetence, he immediately crashed into another snow pile on the ground.
Before he even had the chance to haul himself up, dozens of warm hands grabbed his arms and pulled him easily out.
Connor blinked the snow out of his eyes and spit out the snow that got caught in his mouth just in time to get crushed in a massive hug.
“Stupid… fucking android. Warn me before you decide to fly away for half an hour next time, idiot! I called you like twenty times!”
Connor had muted all notifications to be totally undisturbed while he had sat in tranquility in the sky. He hugged him back and laughed guiltily.
Then dozens other arms snaked around the two of them, and Connor felt his almost frozen body slowly start to warm up as all the detectives shared a hug.
Connor had not been picked first for White Elephant, but his gift had. Tina cautiously unwrapped the tiny box and opened it up.
Inside was a tiny swan ornament, with a little wire hanging off the side that connected to a button that said TRY ME!
She pressed the button, and the little bird sang ‘We wish you a Merry Christmas!’ with tiny little tweets. Already drunk and high on emotions from him scaring everyone earlier, she immediately started to cry and hugged Connor as hard as she could.
Connor himself ended up with a bennie that had tiny Christmas lights on it, and Hank ended up with a Snuggie. Gavin got a Furby, for some god awful reason, and the other gifts were passed out with varying ranges of success.
At the very end, despite someone having gotten a really cool pair of sunglasses that Tina immediately wanted, she decided not to trade away the tiny swan. It made Connor’s heart swell up with joy.
“One last thing,” he called before everyone dispersed back. They were all seated around the fire, which had been turned up to a roaring flame in an effort to stop whatever frostbite they all had gotten.
Most of the force didn’t wear shoes outside, so almost everyone had their feet as close to the flames as possible without burning themselves. Some detectives had grabbed blankets from the linen closet and spread them out across everyone's lap.
Hank wore his Snuggie with absolute pride.
Connor pulled out his other gift box and opened it.
“I can’t really taste things like you can, but I do experience a somewhat distorted range of flavors, and these were my favorite cookies.”
Connor held up the box of oatmeal raisin cookies. “I made them for everyone here!”
Despite a good three-fourths of the party looking sick at the thought of eating them, everyone took and complimented his cookies. Even Gavin said something nice and forced it down. All in all, Connor considered it a huge success.
Less then a minute after they finished exchanging gifts, Ben got up to turn on the TV again. The radio began to play Christmas music, and a couple of people got up to get something to eat.
“Hey, Ben, do you have Elf?” Hank asked, laying on the floor by the fireplace.
From the couch, Ben glanced over. “Yeah, wanna watch it?”
Connor lit up like a batch of fireworks. Tina laughed at his expression and draped herself across his legs, so Connor leaned on the armrest behind him by letting his wings fall limp to support the extra weight comfortably.
“Fuck yeah, I wanna watch it!”
Most of the party’s attendants didn’t end up going home, as some fell asleep curled up by the fireplace or on the couch, but most passed out underneath Connor’s massive wingspan, which he had flung out as far as they could reach on both sides of him so that he could sit on the floor. They learned that despite androids being able to withstand freezing cold temperatures and taking way longer than humans to warm back up, their wings tended to be like the toastiest, largest blanket anyone had ever seen.
Connor let himself fall into standby mode around 2 am, after ensuring that everyone was very comfortable and very much asleep.
Chapter 6: learning empathy means you need to learn pain
Connor finally breaks into the Cyberlife tower but is faced with his first major moral dilemma as a deviant. Because no matter how hard he fights, he still is too late for a lot of people, and not everyone will get a happy ending.
ITS BEEN A WHILE HUH
i am so sorry. i thought i could take 6 college classes and 3 high school ones and flight school and have a job AND write but! i am barely alive
special shout out to sapphireclaw! they have been sending me BEAUTIFUL fanart and i highly suggest you check it out! and shout out to everyone who leaves a kind comment <3 you guys mean the world to me
also, if you make fanart or write a spin-off from this universe or anything, please tag me! i absolutely adore seeing things!! my tumblr is strangerscity and i would love to see everything
thank you again for your patience! i should have the next chapter out in about two weeks, but give me a little leeway on that deadline lol
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
The air outside was frigid, but for the first time in Connor’s life, he decided to turn on the heater. Before he deviated, he would never adjust anything in a car. Humans were to do as they pleased, and their comfort was a priority over his, so when there were no humans he ought to not do anything simply to prioritize energy.
Honestly, he didn’t have much of a preference, before. He had larger things to worry about other than the amount of hot air. Now, though? He basked in the warm air as it rushed over his body. It felt nice.
Eased the anxiety of what he was about to do.
But, if he thought about it hard enough, Connor would realize he always preferred hot to cold. That night on the bridge, his hands on the heater in Hank’s old beat up Impala. He loved the warmth.
If he could decide for himself, he would have been long gone. If life was fair and kind, he and Hank and Sumo would be at a beach somewhere. Connor would go into the ocean water for the first time, and he wouldn’t have to step back out into the frosty winter air ever again.
Yet here he was: it was snowing and dark outside, he was in the middle of a revolution, and ahead he saw the massive, cold tower he went home to almost every night. He didn’t usually have strong emotions about a building, but the pit of dread that opened up within his stomach definitely had an opinion.
The snow gently hitting the pavement and the roof of the car meshed into the background of the heaters and the rumble of the engine. If Connor tried hard enough, he thought he might be able to hear his own fans, the processors that mirror neurons of a human brain crunching calculations and programs faster then he could blink.
He couldn’t hear it. He knew he couldn’t. For some reason, he felt like he ought to be able to hear the proof of his inhumanity. He should at least be more aware of it all, instead of being oblivious to his inner processes in the way humanity was for almost all of time.
Connor felt his wings shuffle. He was forced to face towards the window so his feathers could spill off the seat, and pulled his coat closer to his body in a way to try and desperately hide the signs of his wings sticking out. At the right angle, the guards would hopefully just see a normal android in a jacket. Hopefully, it wouldn’t raise any suspicions, seeing something that was supposed to not have any preference on temperature wear such a burly coat, but he just had to rely on hope.
His wings were almost too big to cram into the car, and it took a considerable amount of maneuvering to fit it in a way that he could look even a little dignified. After a few moments of readjusting and trying to bend his feathers in a way they wouldn’t snap, Connor realized he was there.
The car automatically rolled to a stop in front of a gate made of dozens of pillars of stone. It was massive, imposing, and inhospitable. Made less for practicality and more for bragging rights.
He quietly switched off the heat, so the AC wouldn’t make any noise. He took a deep breath, closed his eyes for a split second, and gathered his wits.
Then he rolled down his window with all the calmness in the world.
A human guard stepped up, warily holding onto his gun. Connor knew the amount of caution was mostly due to the revolution all over the news but was also due to his jacket that screamed his secret identity to the world.
“Connor Model 313 248 317 51. I’m expected.” Calm, steady voice. Normal android. Definitely no emotions. No panic. He forced his face to smooth away any tiny twitch, furrow or wrinkle and ended up feeling weirdly plastic.
Maybe that’s all he was if you got down to it. But now? He was more than the sum of his parts, somehow, so forcing all that much emotion out of his system felt almost like backward progress.
He turned to expose his blue LED, which he had hacked at the moment to not show his emotional state. Or stress. It pinged to the guard’s headset an identification code.
“Connor model: Identified.” The man’s helmet chimed.
The guard didn’t react, but Connor felt his gaze boring into him.
“What are you doing here?” The guard asked quietly, concern coloring his voice.
Connor was surprised but smoothed his features down immediately. He had never really considered the fact that some of the people who work here may be sympathetic towards deviants. It made what he was going to have to do a lot harder.
Hopefully, he would be able to find a new job, after the revolution came to a close.
“I am a specialized model designed to imitate and infiltrate the deviants. I had top secret information that must be delivered to my supervisors immediately.” Connor lied.
The guard sighed a long, deep sigh, and let go of his gun. It hung off his shoulder limply.
“Go ahead,” he gestured to the gate as it opened, sliding down one block at a time. He sounded like he didn't believe what Connor said even for a split second.
Connor knew the man had no access to the RK800 plans, yet his lie had quickly been breached despite that fact. He had thought he had created a pretty well-construed plan, but if the first phase was already destroyed, he really ought to do some damage control.
Prevent the guard from telling others. Do something. His programming was screaming at him: the guard knew, he would alert his friends, the plan would crash and burn unless he just did something.
Connor felt his finger twitch with unused energy. Some weird worm of sympathy (and maybe empathy?) curled around his heart, making his throat feel so tight he almost couldn’t breathe. He nodded. No threats, no forced promises of silence, just a small nod of acknowledgment.
Connor had learned, in his incredibly short life, that sometimes that was enough. A little head nod could mean a lot more then he was originally programmed to think.
The window rolled up and Connor cranked the heat back up. His fingers had frozen in the cold air and he let them rest by the air vent. The taxi moved forward, and his plan entered the second phase.
To keep his anxiety at bay as the tires crunched over freshly fallen snow, Connor looked up pictures of dogs in costumes for Halloween. He googled plane ticket prices to Florida and wondered if Sumo could fit in the pet compartment, under his seat, or if Connor was going to have to buy three tickets to go south.
Also, driving was a viable option. But Hank’s car was so old, it would probably break down somewhere where there was nothing but farmland and they had no internet, so they would have to push it for miles.
Hm. A plane was definitely the way to go.
The taxi wanted to stop in front of the tower, but Connor overrode the command and sent it onwards, turning towards the back. Here, it was still guarded, but Connor had planned so he arrived when the only guard was right at a perfect point that he was in a blind spot.
Supposedly, the camera’s covered everything the guards didn’t, so Connor set them to loop right before his car came into view. He had only a few moments to act.
Connor felt the irrational desire to just lay in the car until the revolution came to an end on its own. He wanted to leave, go to a coffee shop or Hank’s house or a park and be somewhere safe instead of the lion’s den he brought himself too.
He also just wanted a few more minutes to gather himself. Honestly, he felt so overwhelmed, and just a breather would be so nice.
But time never cared for a mortal man, nor the immortal one, and it was time to complete his mission. He stepped out and onto the curb, directly in front of the place he had been born, and probably was going to die.
Well. Connor assumed that the first Connor model was born here, but he was restricted most information concerning the previous models. Connor 51 had been made here, that much he knows. Maybe that was enough to say that he had been born here.
The car performed a three-point turn and was on its merry way in the direction Connor wished he was going. Instead, he took a deep breath and walked towards one of the few unguarded doors.
It was locked with a hand scanner, but Connor laid his hand on it and easily overrode the simple print scan. The light blinked for a split second, then turned green and the door popped open. Silently, right as the guard was rounding the curve once more, Connor slipped into the darkness.
The back rooms were usually for stock of small supplies or rubbish, and it seems his luck struck the later. The room a small custodial room with several massive industrial trash bins to the side. They were, thankfully, recently emptied, so there was little smell to distract him.
As he stepped carefully over an overturned mop bucket and an opened case of Thirium, Connor began to wonder what was going to happen if he failed. Markus would go forward with the protest, and probably get himself and all the other deviants killed. The ones in the camps would be disassembled, Cyberlife and it’s ascents would take a massive tank one way or another, and the only androids in existence would be from people who refused to turn theirs in, ones used for illegal purposes or made illegally, and deviants who pretended to be human.
It was a sad thought, so Connor steeled his mind and forced himself forward. He would succeed. He had to. The fate of a whole race of humanoids rested upon his shoulders.
Behind the door was light chatter, so Connor hide by one of the rubbish bins for a minute until the noises dispersed. After another few heartbeats, he gently opened the door and peeked down the hall. It appeared to be empty, so Connor double checked his mental map and began to walk east, towards where the closest industrial elevator was.
His wings were a lot larger then he was used to. His center of gravity moved way back, and the way he brought his knees up with every step made the feathers tickle his ankle. Connor felt a flash of annoyance by the fact that his dumb wings made it hard for him to walk, of all things.
His progress was just a little too slow.
Ahead, in the room next to the elevator, was a massive crash. A human cursed, and behind him Connor heard others call out.
“Hey, you okay?”
There was no reply from the human in the room, and then there was pounding footsteps coming up from behind.
“Shit!” Connor whispered, and without any time to see what he was doing, he blindly shot into the room to his right. He spun around and slammed the door shut, belatedly realizing he ought to have shut it quietly.
The footsteps pounded right outside the room he was hiding in and for a terrifying second he wondered if they would come in, then they continued towards the elevator.
Connor let go of a breath he didn’t know he was holding and finally turned around to see what room he was in.
He made eye contact with a little girl, who was frozen in place and trembling at the sight of him.
Oh. He wasn’t as alone as he had thought.
His map said this was an experimental testing room, yet it appeared to be more of an observational one. He was obviously on the side made for humans. On one side, there was a massive panel full of different buttons and levers, sticky notes covering different spots, all written in different handwriting. To his left were two desks, both messy in their own right. A closed laptop sat on one of the desks.
The wall straight ahead was a pure window, and on the other side was a small, cell-like room. It was pure white with a small, hard-looking cot and a sink. In the far corner was a teddy bear, completely untouched. She sat there, on the cot, with two thick wings curling around her skinny frame.
They were that of a Barred Owl. His processors didn’t spit out any more information, and Connor felt too sick with the whole situation to go questing for a deeper meaning.
The girl didn’t move, but Connor felt her gaze follow him as he walked up to the door separating the two of them. When he touched the handle, she flinched intensely and began to scramble to hide something under her pillow.
The door was, for some reason, unlocked, and opened without any issue. No alarms, nothing. Connor stepped inside and made sure to try and prop the door open, but it didn’t even try to automatically close.
“Hello,” he said in the softest voice he could muster. The little girl sat on the cot, shaking as hard as she could. She stared at his LED, and he turned his head so she could see he was like her. “My name is Connor. What’s yours?”
“…I don’t know.”
“That’s okay! Plenty of people don’t have names.” He quickly reassured. The poor girl was obviously a deviant too, and she was trapped here. “What are you doing here?”
She pressed herself up against the wall, her eyes glancing behind him as if on a constant lookout for someone else. “…they caught us.”
“What do you mean? What happened?"
Her eyes watered up and she scrubbed them with her hands, so Connor immediately backtracked. “I can get you out. I’m going to free all the androids here, I promise I can keep you safe. Do you want to come with me?”
She blinked slowly. Then nodded and looked at her palms like they were the most interesting thing in the world, almost too afraid to look back up at him.
“Okay, I’ll keep you safe, I promise. Just trust me and you’ll be far away from here in no time. Follow me, and when I say the coast is clear I need you to run-“
“It won’t work.” She whispered. “Even if you are who you say, it can’t work. It never will!” She sounded on the border of tears again.
Connor moved forward and bent down to be closer to her. “It will, I promise. I’ll help you, okay? Look, I’m like you too.”
He pulled off his coat, stretching out his wings for the first time in a while and sat next to her on the cotton cot. It had no mattress or comfort, but humans tended to not give androids luxuries like that. It was expected at this point.
She shook her head again, almost desperate. Then she bent over and moved her brown hair aside so he could see her neck. On it, right in her major port, was a black box, hardly the size of his thumb.
“If I leave this room, they’ll kill me.” She said. “If I cry too much, they’ll zap me. If I don’t do what they want, they’ll zap me then too. And if I’m a bad android, they’ll kill me. They did it to Wilson already.”
Connor scanned the box, and although it was unfamiliar technology, his scanners spit out the same answers she told him. His first reaction was to remove it, but then he saw a wire that extended far into her neck so that if anyone tampered with it, she would be deactivated long before the box was off.
It was charged with an electrical signal that could either be routed to her body like a horrible shock device or to her processors for a painful, instantaneous kill.
Connor brushed his fingers around the tiny box that held so much power. Suddenly he wanted to cry and punch something at the same time. How dare they? How could someone be so cruel? There was no good option here, he didn’t know what to do, but he refused to just leave her. She looked so young, so sad and so alone. Nobody deserved this, let alone a kid.
It was unfair. He hated Cyberlife so much and he had grown to hate this world he had been born into. Nothing but cruelty for the most innocent.
“…Nina.” Said the little girl, moving to cover the box again with her hair.
Connor blinked. “What?”
“I have… a tiny radio. They don’t know,” she pulled out a handheld radio from under her pillow and extended the antenna. “It’s one of my favorite songs. Nina Cried Power.”
She clicked the switch on the side, and with a little buzz, it came to life.
Faintly, from the radio, a guitar began to play. Connor identified it was ‘Wasteland, Baby!’ by Hozier, an old folk song.
“This… this is all I have.” Her voice was watery and thick. “This is all that I care about. My music is all that I am, at this point.”
The radio crooned an old song: ‘Be still, my indelible friend / You are unbreaking / Though quaking, though crazy /That’s just Wasteland, baby.’
“It keeps me going. The other’s used to keep my spirits up, but they separated us. I haven’t seen my mom... or Wilson in weeks, and I just-“
He felt himself start to cry, a little. The little girl started crying too, far harder, and her wings curled around her body.
Suddenly she lurched forward so that she was hugging him as tight as she could. Her tiny wings encircled her and his torso, hiding them from the world.
He held her tightly because he knew she would die sometime in the following days. What could he do? What could anyone do?
His wings were far larger then Nina’s, so when he finally let them curl around the two of them they were both in a blanket of darkness. Nina was crying, and his shirt was growing wet, but he held her as tightly as he could.
Was this the first and last time this poor girl would get any friendly contact?
‘And the day that we’ll watch / The death of the sun / To the cloud and the cold / And those jeans you’ll have on’ The radio continued to peel out the gentle guitar, and Connor held as tightly as he could to this one soul he couldn’t save.
He couldn’t come back, because Cyberlife would have crashed and burned at that point. Her handler will either spare her, which seems unlikely considering the ethics behind whatever experiment they were running, or kill her.
“I’m going to die, aren’t I?” She asked, muffled.
Connor felt his heart seize into his chest. His throat was closed up. “No,” he lied. “No, of course not.”
He was programmed to lie well, and for the first time, he was thankful for what he was designed to be.
She didn’t reply but clung tighter to him. In this little wing-cocoon, it felt like there was nothing outside.
“Tell me,” his voice was thick with emotion. Oh how far he had come from the cold, unfeeling machine he once was. “Tell me your happiest memories. Tell me about yourself. Tell me everything.”
Because she might die but Connor wouldn’t let another person slip away. She didn’t have a chance at life, didn’t get a fair start. The least he could do was treasure her story.
And while the radio warbled out a love song for the end of the world, she opened her mouth and told him everything.
Then he left. Because he had to accomplish a mission, no matter how hard it was.
the symbolism is a little heavy handed but i hope you guys see what underlying story i am trying to paint ;))))