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A New Age

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The room was dark as the five androids piled inside, lit only by the sinking moon in the sky. There was no electricity to aid them, so they adjusted. How long had it been since Markus’ speech? 20 minutes? 30? Connor knew he could check his internal database if he wanted the answer. He decided it didn’t much matter.

They’d returned to the church after their success. If you could call it that. Yes, they’d won their freedom. For the time. Still, there was much to be done. This was why they’d found the back room, so they could deliberate their next moves in peace.

The four leaders of Jericho stood in something if a half circle, faces serious, but the android could still see the lingering emotions of victory in all of them. Connor stood slightly apart, leaning against the wall, arms crossed. He could hear Markus begin, explaining how they needed a plan. Things were still so tentative. Their next few moves would be vital to keeping their newly found freedom.

Connor was paying attention, he really was. Yet, he couldn’t help feeling the gun that was in his hand only moments ago. He felt the pressure of his finger against the trigger. He heard Amanda’s voice, her own victory seeming so assured to her. He could still feel the cold of the blizzard in the Zen Garden. He saw himself slowly raising the gun as Markus declared their new age. He was going to shoot him. All their efforts were going to be for nothing.

“Connor.”

The sound of his name snapped him from the chilly memory and he turned to look at the face of their leader. As he did, he noticed that all of them were now pointedly staring at him. He felt a strange sensation flood through him. One he vaguely recognized as shame. He hadn’t meant to lose his thoughts. “Yes?” He managed to ask, voice too quiet. Yet, in a room full of androids, it didn’t go unnoticed.

“Do you have any ideas?” Markus continued, his own voice soft. Much softer than Connor deserved, he realized with bitterness. He still wasn’t sure how he’d ended up in this room in the first place. Markus had insisted that he come, proclaiming that it was his right after what he’d done for their people. However, Connor knew that it wasn’t nearly enough to make up for what he’d already done to them.

Yet, they were all looking at him expectantly, as if he were part of this team, a part they could look to for help.

However, he was at a loss. He wanted to help. He wanted to give them all the answers they needed to ensure they could stay safe. But, his programming was offering no help. Out of the countless skills that had been afforded to him, nothing was helping him with a revolution.

As he looked into Markus’ mismatched eyes, he tried to recall what the conversation had been since they’d entered the room. His audio processors had picked it up, after all. Even if he hadn’t been paying attention.

Markus had expressed the need for a safe place for their people. As much as they had found solace in this abandoned church, there wasn’t enough room for the thousands of androids that now needed refuge. Many humans were evacuating, yes. But, many would also stay. Such was their way. They had to know that their people could be safe during this… transition.

He supposed he could download a schematic of the city to find any possible abandoned places, but he knew Markus could do this, too. It wouldn’t add anything. He needed to think of something ,else. Shelter wasn’t the only thing their people were in need of. There were different types of safety. They needed to be able to go outside without fear for their lives. At least, with minimal fear. Was there something he could do with that? Perhaps.

“I…” He started rather lamely, not even sure if his idea would work. “I may be able to use my connections to the Detroit Police Department to conjure up some kind of… interim protocols. For android protection until there are more… binding contracts.”

He heard a snort from one of the other leaders at this and turned to face them.

“That’s a waste of time.” North said harshly. “The human police force doesn’t care about our safety. They won’t protect us unless they’re forced to.” She crossed her arms, eyes afire.

“North-“ Markus started, but Connor cut him off.

“I have to try.” He insisted. “There is a small chance it could work.” He thought of Hank, of how drastically his view had changed on androids over the last week. Maybe others had had the same change of heart. “The right people may be willing to listen.”

“He’s right.” Simon cut in, his support surprising. He’d barely spent any time with Connor. He had very little reason to think he’d be capable of accomplishing this particular mission. Not that Connor minded the reassuring smile Simon showed him. “We don’t know how long it’s going to take for the humans to create their new laws. We have to be safe until then.”

“Public opinion is in our favor.” Josh reminded them with the ghost of a smile. “Connor should give it a shot.”

It was odd that any of them were hearing him out, let alone agreeing with him. It gave him a strange sensation that he couldn’t quite put his finger on. He almost smiled. Especially as Markus nodded his head, saying, “Do what you need to. Our people’s safety is worth it.” with his own hopeful expression. North only shook her head, but didn’t argue any further.

After this, the other four began their debating again, letting Connor fade into the background once more. He didn’t mind. He was almost… excited? Was that the word for what he was feeling? He had to admit that it felt nice to have an objective. He was still so new in his deviancy, so uncertain. To have a task would be most useful in keeping him sane. At least for now.

The uneasy feeling he’d had since his meeting with Amanda subsided a little bit. Though, he was still nervous. She was gone for now, but that didn’t mean she couldn’t come back. He cast a wary glance at Markus as he thought on this. He would do what he had to to make sure that Amanda didn’t get what she wanted. No matter what.

As the meeting came to a close and all parties had their separate duties, Connor was eager to leave. As much as Markus claimed he belonged there, he still felt othered. He didn’t quite belong, not really. Not yet.

“Connor.” Markus spoke his name again as he strode towards him, resting a hand on his arm to hold him up as the others passed. When they were alone, he continued. “You seem troubled. Is there anything I can do to help?”

Connor blinked at him, head ticking to the side. “Help me?” He echoed like a lost child. Another vision of the gun in his hand flashed through his memory banks and he frowned deeper.

“Yes. You’re one of us now, whether you realize it or not. If I can help you with anything, I will.”

He didn’t know what to say to that. Did he need help? Honestly, he didn’t know. Everything was overwhelming, but he doubted Markus could sift through his own untrustworthy emotions for him. No, he’d have to figure that out on his own. He also couldn’t solve the conundrum of Amanda, either.

With a pang of guilt, he wondered if he should tell Markus what had almost happened. What he’d almost done to him.

No. It would be a mistake. The leaders of Jericho’s trust in him was still tentative. He couldn’t risk breaking it now. Even if he’d been able to avoid the worst. He couldn’t help them if they didn’t trust him.

So, he merely gave the older android a small smile. “Thank you, but I’m alright. I appreciate the sentiment.” As Markus let go of his arm, he frowned again, “I won’t let you down, Markus.” He heard how determined his own voice sounded in that moment, surprising himself. “I won’t.”

Markus gave his own smile at that, “Thank you, Connor. I’m grateful for your help. We need all we can get right now.”

Connor nodded at that and Markus let him turn to leave, a notification filing into his vision.

// CURRENT OBJECTIVE: GAIN COOPERATION FROM DPD //

—-

It had been the perfect excuse to contact the lieutenant. Not that he’d really needed an excuse. The way they’d left things after their time inside the CyberLife tower warranted a follow up. Connor had urged the man to return home, to stay safe. He’d been more than pleased to hear the sound of his voice when he’d called. Relief from a worry he hadn’t realized he was feeling flooded through his biocomponents. Hank was safe. He was still in the city. Now, Connor needed to see him.

He’d be lying if he said it was only for his task. It was strange to admit, even to himself, but he wanted to see the older man simply for comfort. He didn’t know why as the lieutenant was ill equipped to solve any of his problems, but he was excited to see him all the same.

So, when Hank was finished explaining everything he’d seen on the news, how he’d been proud to see Connor marching through the streets with an army of newly freed androids (this sent his thirium pump pulsing faster for a moment), he requested a meeting with the man.

Hank had agreed more quickly than he’d thought. Albeit with the expected amount of expletives.

As the call ended, Connor stood from the pew he’d perched himself on after the meeting had ended. It had taken him almost an hour to work up the courage to pull the lieutenant’s phone number from where he’d stored it in his memory databanks. It had been silly, he knew. The unexpected feeling he’d encountered had caused him to pause. Nervousness, he’d been able to assess after a while. Anxiety.

Again, he caught himself wondering why. He’d never been nervous to speak with the man before, and their relationship was monumentally better than it had started. Especially after the CyberLife tower. Something had changed between them. The tension they’d both been harboring seemed to shatter and in its wake was only… friendship? Connor supposed that that was what he could call it.

Of course, it turned out that his anxiety had been for nothing when he’d heard the relief color Hank’s voice as he realized who was calling him. Silly, Connor reaffirmed to himself as he began to make his way towards the entrance of the church. He nodded to the androids he passed, most of which gave him grateful smiles and words of thanks. He tried to push away the pang of guilt that he felt at each one.

“Are you going out alone?” The voice surprised Connor, and he stopped to turn towards it. The familiar blonde PL600 stood leaning against the side of a pew. He’d clearly been conversing with a set of male YK500’s before Connor had slipped by. The look in his eyes was as equally surprising as his question. Concern.

“I have a meeting with Lieutenant Anderson of the Detroit Police Department.” Connor said by way of explanation. “I intend to ask for his assistance in gaining the cooperation of the DPD.” He nodded at the sense in his own statement.

“You shouldn’t go outside by yourself.” Simon frowned. “It’s still dangerous for us. There’s still chaos.”

“Which is why I need to see him.” Connor insisted. He wasn’t afraid. He could take care of himself. He was built to do just that.

Simon let out a humorless laugh. “You seem almost as determined as Markus to needlessly run headlong into danger.”

For what felt like the hundredth time since his deviation, Connor was confused. There was nothing needless about seeing Hank. Even if he hadn’t needed him for his mission. He would want to see the man, anyway. He understood that Simon did not know their relationship, but surely he understood how much they needed the police department’s help in such a time.

None of his calculations could tell him why Simon would care whether he was in danger or not when the safety of their people was in question.

Blue eyes found the floor as Simon shook his head, clearly finding something in Connor’s silence that he himself couldn’t see. “You’re important to Markus, you know. You should be careful.”

More confusion. Deviancy was just so frustrating.

“I assure you I’ll be quite alright.” Was all Connor could think to say. “My specific model has been programmed with impeccable reaction times and numerous techniques on self defense.” He saw Simon eye the shiny ‘RK800’ on the jacket he was still wearing. He should probably remove it at some point, but now was not the time to worry about his clothing choices.

“If you say so.” Simon replied, looking into his eyes for a moment before turning away from Connor and back into the room.

Connor couldn’t shake the oddity of the conversation from his mind as he began his walk. He wasn’t used to anyone worrying about him. Especially not the very people he’d worked so hard to take down only days before.

// CURRENT OBJECTIVE: FIND HANK //

As it turned out, Simon’s concern was pointless. More people had evacuated than Connor had anticipated, leaving the streets mostly empty. As the rising sun found the sky, the android found his destination. He’d asked Hank to meet him at the Chicken Feed. The establishment wasn’t too far from the church, the biggest reason he’d chosen it as their destination.

He saw Hank’s figure as he rounded the corner. The thrum of his nervousness picking back up as he neared. He wondered how long the man had been here, waiting on him. His friend.

As he finally approached, Hank turned to him, one side of his mouth ticked up in a smile. Connor found he couldn’t help mirroring the action as a warmth inside of his artificial body replaced the nervousness.

Quite suddenly, he registered Hank shooting out a hand to grab his shoulder, pulling him in for… a hug. Hank was hugging him. He was so surprised that it took him a moment to remember to reciprocate. Finally, his own arms went up and he clung to the lieutenant a bit more tightly than was necessary. In that moment he found the comfort he’d been pretending so defiantly that he didn’t need.

Too soon, Hank pulled away to look at his companion, the smile still there. Connor thought about scanning him to assess his health and stress levels. Though, in an instant, he realized that might be rude. Besides, he didn’t need to do a scan to notice the signs of sleep deprivation. So, instead he merely studied his face, glad to see the obvious relief that continued to sit in the man’s eyes.

“Glad to see you’re okay, kid.” Hank finally spoke, prompting the warmth Connor felt to intensify.

“I am undamaged.” Connor confirmed. This earned an eyebrow raise, but he ignored it. “I’m equally glad to learn of your safety, Lieutenant.”

“‘Course.” Hank shrugged. “I lived through the age of the Kardashians. An android revolution is nothin’.”

A quick internet search revealed what Hank was referring to, though he wasn’t sure how a family of celebrities related to what could have easily turned into a civil war. He appreciated the attempt at humor, though, as lost on him as it was.

Hank noticed his lack of reaction and chuckled, “Nevermind, kid. Before your time.”

Connor nodded in agreement.

“Well, come on, then.” Hank’s next words surprised the android. He found he was starting to get tired of this emotion already. Why couldn’t everyone just go along with the predetermined paths that his processors would inevitably create in every scenario? He found that constantly being thrown off was starting to grate on him.

“Lieutenant?” Brown eyes showed his confusion, LED cycling yellow. Were they going to the station? Had Hank somehow worked out what Connor intended to ask him? He knew the man was an exceptional detective, but that was quite a feat.

Hank shook his head, “Look, I know it’s not much. Needs to be cleaned up a bit. Should probably at least vacuum the dog hair.” He raised a hand to scratch his neck and Connor realized he was nervous. “But, I got a spare room if… if that’s something you could use. For like… a charging pad or whatever you androids need…”

Connor’s LED returned to its placid blue as he understood what Hank was saying. “You want me to come home with you?” His voice was quiet, all thoughts of his mission pushed to the back of his mind with this new development.

“Well, do you have anywhere else to go?”

Connor thought on this for a moment. He supposed he could go back to the church, though he realized how much he didn’t want to. He didn’t want to see the unjustified looks of awe pointed at him. He couldn’t deal with the ever watchful eyes of Simon, North, Josh, and most importantly Markus. Markus who wanted to believe that Connor was just like them, when he knew just how different he was. Markus, who Connor didn’t think he could ever face again if he were to fail his task. No, he couldn’t go back there. Not now.

His face fell with the thought and he shook his head. “No. I suppose I don’t.” The sadness in his voice was thicker than he’d intended.

“Then, it’s settled.” There was a tone of finality in Hank’s voice that made Connor perk up.

Connor’s thoughts turned dark as he wondered on the uncertainty of Amanda and his own deviancy. It was a risk for Hank to take him in. CyberLife had already cut Connor off from contacting them. They couldn’t be happy with what he’d done. He’d gone against every single thing they’d programmed him for. Surely Hank realized this.

“Are you sure?” Connor asked, voice shaking a bit though he knew there was no damage to his vocal processors.

Hank crossed his arms defiantly at this. “Not just gonna leave you on the cold streets to get attacked by some whackadoodle anti-androids mob. Don’t need that on my conscience. You’re comin’ with me. Got it?”

A smile found its way on Connor’s lips again at that. “Got it.”

Hank let out a low sigh, uncrossing his arms. “Good. Then we’ll be off.” He turned towards his car, parked off to the side.

“Lieutenant.” Connor called after him, making him stop to face the android again. “I have a favor to ask you.”

He grumbled a bit at this, “Well, can it wait until after breakfast? I’m fuckin’ starved.” Guilt hit Connor again as he remembered how early it truly was. He wordlessly nodded, and Hank turned away again. “Great. Let’s go home, then.”

As Connor moved to follow him, a new prompt flashed in his vision that loosened his tension.

// CURRENT OBJECTIVE: GO HOME //