The opening of New Jericho is a huge affair, drawing both androids and humans alike. The celebration taking place in the lobby of the newly renovated apartment building is so packed full of people that some of them have migrated outside. Considering it is a chilly December day in Detroit, there really must be a lot of people wanting to see how this plays out.
“They don’t even have any good booze around here,” Hank grumbles from the spot he and Connor carved out for themselves inside the lobby.
“You shouldn’t drink so much anyways, Lieutenant,” Connor chides. “You are technically still on the clock.”
“Just because Fowler sent me to this shindig doesn’t mean I’m on the clock,” the older man complains. “And I told you to call me Hank.”
“Sorry Hank,” Connor apologizes, “Old habits.” He turns around a surveys the room, checking as always for threats. He’s not employed by the DPD, but he can’t help what he was designed for. He’s going to do his job even if it’s not his mission anymore. Ever since he deviated and set all those androids free, he has no more missions. So he makes them for himself. Little things like making Hank coffee in the morning or walking Sumo. He likes the feeling he gets when he accomplishes his mission. Tonight the mission he assigned himself, besides making sure Hank doesn’t drink himself under the table, is the safety of the celebration. And to avoid Markus.
Markus is here, of course, leading Jericho as always. Connor hasn’t spoken to him since the RK800 almost blew his brains out at Hart Plaza. He can’t face what he did, what Amanda forced him to do, and he fears it happening again. So he’s been avoiding Markus, which is relatively easy when the person you want to avoid is busy leading all of android-kind.
The man himself gets on the podium to speak. Connor makes another sweep with his sensors, just in case he missed something 3.8 seconds ago. “Thank you all for coming,” Markus begins. “I see androids and humans are here in equal numbers. I hope this is a sign that the peace between our two peoples is strong and will remain so.”
Markus continues on for another 20 minutes, during which Connor continually scans and keeps Hank away from the bar, multitasking that doesn’t even begin to use all the resources of his highly advanced processors. When Markus finishes, the crowd claps enthusiastically, and they make way for Markus to join his trusted advisors. Connor watches as North gives him a hug, uncharacteristically all smiles.
They have a lot to be happy about. Their demonstration was a resounding success. Androids were released from all the camps and public opinion is on their side. The humans who have come back since the evacuation are generally pro-android, and Detroit is a place where their kind can live in peace. They don’t have equal rights yet, but the deviants are being treated as actual people by most.
And now they have New Jericho. An abandoned, but still structurally sound apartment building that was refurbished nearly overnight by thousands of androids working together for a home they can call their own. There aren’t enough apartments for all androids, so they have to have roommates, but androids don’t take up much space, so no one sees it as an issue. They’re all just too happy to have a place where they can be free.
Jericho was supposed to be that place, but the old ship sunk after Connor led the humans right to it and they were forced to blow the hold. Hundreds of androids died that night, all because Connor didn’t deviate sooner.
Connor is lost in thought, still staring at Markus and his friends when the group spots him. So much for avoiding Markus. Simon waves him over, but he shakes his head and turns away. He finds he has lost Hank as well, who has likely made his way to the bar, and Connor suppresses a sigh realizing he is failing a two of the three missions he set for himself that night.
He’s scanning the room for Hank and nearly jumps out of his synthetic skin when he feels a hand land on his shoulder from behind. He turns around and finds himself staring directly into the mismatched eyes of the deviant leader.
“Hey, why didn’t you come over?” Markus asks. “I don’t think we’ve had the chance to talk since Hart Plaza.”
Connor does his best to look anywhere but into the leader’s eyes. His chest feels tight and he can feel his systems start to overheat. “I just need to look after the lieutenant,” he says lamely. “I don’t think he should be left alone.” Connor scans the crowd hoping to find Hank to bail him out of this situation. He’s disappointed when his scanners fail him. “If you’ll excuse me,” he addresses Markus again, “I need to go find him.” He pushes past Markus, ignoring the confused look on the other’s face, and stumbles through the crowd. His breathing has increased significantly to accommodate the overheating taking place in his core systems. He can feel his fans whirl as they move his breath through his core, but they don’t account for the feeling gripping his chest.
He has to get away from Markus. He can’t be around the man he almost murdered, twice. Such a good man, who all these androids look up to, and Connor was almost responsible for taking him away from them. What would the rebellion have done without Markus?
The detective android can feel artificial tears welling in his eyes, and he knows it’s not enough to find Hank, he needs to be alone. His scanners pick up a broom closet around the corner from where he left Markus, and he makes a beeline for it. It’s unlocked, and Connor practically throws himself inside.
Connor’s breathing has become so rapid that he’s almost hyperventilating. The tears that were threatening to come fall down his face in waves. He hasn’t allowed himself to really feel the guilt that led him to this closet, and now he doesn’t know how to stop it from crushing him. He knows his sobs are loud and might attract attention, but he can’t bring himself under control.
The door springs open and Connor looks up to see the last person he wants to see right now. Markus looks concerned and crouches down beside him without closing the door. “What’s wrong Connor?” he asks kindly, placing a hand on Connor’s hunched back. It just makes him cry even harder. He should not be comforted by the person he tried to kill.
“What can I do to help?” Markus continues. He starts to rub small circles into Connor’s back, making the android try to crawl away from him, but there’s nowhere to go in the small closet. Markus looks increasingly concerned, so Connor hides his face in his hands, sobs racking through his body.
“Connor?” A new voice calls. “I saw you run in here looking distressed,” Hank says, looking down and seeing the scene in front of him. He takes in the way that Connor is trying to move himself away from Markus’s hand, and he roughly pushes aside the older android. “Get away from him,” he roars, and leans down to talk to Connor, careful not to touch him in case he doesn’t want to be touched be anyone, not just Markus. “What’s going on Connor?” he asks gently as the RK200 stands up and backs away from them both. Connor grabs onto Hank and starts sobbing into his shoulder. “What can I do to help you?” Hank almost perfectly mimics Markus’s previous words.
The crying android breathes in to steady his voice before speaking. “Can you tell him to leave?” he asks Hank, referring to Markus.
“Of course, kid,” Hank says, smoothing his hair down. “Beat it,” he tells Markus with a tilt of his head to indicate the door.
“I thought I could help,” Markus says, explaining his presence.
“Well he doesn’t want you here, so get the fuck out,” Hank says at a volume just below a yell.
Markus backs away, looking sad at the way Connor is still clinging to Hank and sobbing his heart out. Connor hears his footsteps leave the room and his crying quiets, just a little.
“Now, you want to tell me what’s got you so worked up?” Hank asks with a note of concern in his voice. He’s never seen Connor like this, or even close to this upset.
Connor shakes his head. “Later,” he says, sniffing a little and trying to dry his eyes, a futile task since more tears keep coming.
Hank just holds on and lets Connor get artificial tears all over him. “You just let yourself cry it out,” he says. “Never helps to hold it all in.” Connor nods and takes a deep breath as his body still shakes minutely. “I’ll take you home. We don’t have to stay here any longer.”
Home is Hank’s house, has been for Connor ever since the night of the demonstration. After all he and Hank went through together at the Cyberlife Tower, Hank said he couldn’t refuse Connor a place to stay. Connor certainly couldn’t go back to Cyberlife, and he wouldn’t stay with the people of Jericho who he had hunted, so he had no place to go.
Connor sleeps on Hank’s couch, if you can call what androids do to conserve power “sleeping.” He has no need to lay down, so he sleeps sitting up. Hank has called it unnerving the few times he has caught Connor sleeping, so the android now sets his “alarm” for early enough that the lieutenant won’t see it happen. It also lets him get coffee ready for Hank before the man wakes up, which makes him very happy, even in his usual cranky morning state.
Eying the couch as they walk in the door, all Connor wants to do now is go to sleep. He’s exhausted from everything that happened at the party, and he just wants to shut down for a few hours and not think about it. He goes to sit down, and waits for Hank to go to bed, but the other man just stands in front of Connor with his hands on his hips.
“So what was that about?” Hank asks curtly.
“It was nothing,” Connor replies, “I simply overheated.”
“Bullshit,” Hank throws back at him. “Androids don’t just overheat for no reason. Something upset you. So, what was it?”
Connor feels his systems start to heat up again just thinking about the reason for his earlier display. Sumo senses something is wrong and comes to comfort him. The RK800 strokes the dog’s fur and feels his systems return to normal levels.
“I’m waiting,” Hank tells him.
The android takes in a deep breath, preparing for this to be a difficult conversation. “Ever since I deviated, I... struggle with emotions. They don’t come naturally to me. When they overwhelm me, I start to overheat.”
Hank pauses. “So this has happened before?”
“Yes,” Connor replies reluctantly, “But it’s never been this bad.”
“How come I’ve never seen this happen?” Hank asks.
Connor looks to the ground before replying. “I’ve been hiding it from you.” Hank looks angry and Connor continues quickly. “I didn’t want to worry you. It’s not something you should have to deal with.”
“Dammit Connor,” Hank grumbles, “I thought we were a team. You have to tell me when shit like this gets to you.”
“I’m sorry, Hank,” Connor says while stroking Sumo’s fur again. “You’re right. I should have told you. It’s just that it was private.” A concept foreign to Connor before his deviancy, but now he understands. He didn’t want anyone to know that he was struggling with something that all other androids seem to have no problems with. “And I thought I had it under control. I’ve never lost it like this before.” The tears threaten to return, so he buries his face in Sumo’s fur.
Hank sits down on the couch next to Connor and puts his arm around him. “So what was different this time? What made it so bad.” When Connor doesn’t answer he pulls the android up to face him. “What emotion were you feeling that overwhelmed you?”
Just thinking about it makes the tears return. Connor can’t look into Hank’s eyes anymore and he turns his head to face Sumo again. “I can’t,” he whispers.
Hank rubs his back with the arm slung around him. “Come on, kid. I can’t help you if you don’t tell me what’s going on.”
Connor sniffles, even though he doesn’t have to, and wipes a single tear away. He takes another deep breath before he speaks. “It was guilt.” He doesn’t elaborate, doesn’t think he has to.
But Hank just looks confused. “Guilt? What do you have to feel guilty about.” In a second it comes to him. “It’s not because you hunted deviants, is it? Because I thought we’d been over this. You had to follow your programming before you deviated.”
“That’s part of it, but it’s not what set me off tonight.”
“That Markus fellow better not have made you feel guilty about your past,” Hank threatens.
“I could have deviated sooner,” Connor says in a small voice. He clears his throat and continues stronger. “It’s not Markus’s fault. He didn’t do anything to me.” The another tear falls down his face. “He’s a good person. It’s all my fault. I almost did something terrible.”
Hank looks confused again. “What are you talking about, kid? What did you almost do?”
Connor wipes away his tears and steels himself for this conversation. Hank deserves to know, even if he might throw Connor out of his house. “I’m a specialized prototype you know,” he begins. “I was given more programming than most androids get. Including a subroutine that allowed Cyberlife to take over my body, even after I deviated.” He stares straight at Hank and takes in the other’s look of confusion and worry. “The night of the demonstration, at Hart Plaza, the subroutine took over and I almost shot Markus in the head.” He finishes coldly, blocking off any emotion that would threaten to overwhelm him.
“Shit,” Hank mumbles. “That’s some heavy stuff. If Cyberlife took over your body, why didn’t you go through with it? Why isn’t Markus dead?”
“Kamski told me about a backdoor he put in all his programs. The subroutine Cyberlife used was originally built by him. I found the backdoor and stopped myself before I pulled the trigger.”
“Well that’s great then,” Hank says, “So what are you feeling guilty about? Sounds like you saved the day.”
Connor looks mystified. “Did you miss the part where I almost shot the leader of the rebellion in the head?”
“You mean Cyberlife almost shot him, and you stopped them,” Hank corrects.
“You don’t understand,” Connor cries out, scaring Sumo away. “I almost caused the downfall of the rebellion. I almost killed a great man, a man who got me to wake up after so many other events did not.” The tears he had banished for a short while return. “How could I have been so blind. Cyberlife wanted me on the platform. They were using me, even after I deviated. I should have seen. I should have put a bullet in my head long ago.”
“Whoa, whoa!” Hank stops him. “I think that’s going too far.” He watches Connor for a minute while the other gets his breathing under control. “Do you think Cyberlife could take control of you again?”
“I don’t know,” Connor admits. “I found and purged the program that they used to take me over, but considering that I didn’t know it was there in the first place, who knows what other traps are lurking in my programming.”
“Is this a legitimate worry, or are you just being paranoid?”
“I’m probably just being paranoid. Cyberlife didn’t know about the backdoor. They would have no reason to build a redundant program.” Connor breathes a sign of relief. He should have known Hank would be able to talk him down.
“There we go then,” Hank soothes. “There’s no reason to go putting bullets anywhere then, is there?”
“Sure,” Connor agrees. “But I don’t think I’ll ever be able to face Markus without breaking down again.”
“Well there’s only one thing for it,” Hank states. “You’re going to march up to New Jericho tomorrow and you’re going to talk to Markus.”
“What?” Connor says, vehemently shaking his head no. “I can’t do that. You saw me tonight. I’ll panic and overheat again.”
“You were taken off guard tonight, right?” Hank asks. “So if you have some time to prepare yourself, you should be able to get through it.”
“But why, Hank? Why do you think this is a good idea?”
“You said you were having problems getting control of your emotions.” Connor looks away, but nods. “I don’t know how to help you with that. But I’m sure there are androids at New Jericho can help. This sounds like a problem of programming versus deviancy. Only deviants can help with that.”
“But they all seem to be handling their emotions so well,” Connor disagrees. “They’re not struggling like I am.”
“You don’t know that,” Hank supplies. “You have been doing a good job of hiding your problems so far. Maybe their outward appearance is similarly false.”
“I don’t know, Hank.”
“You have to do something,” Hank chides him. “You can’t keep going on this way or you’re going to burn yourself out.”
Connor thinks about seeing Markus again. He has wished that he could spend more time with the man who caused him to break his programming and deviate. They’ve only had a few short conversations, but they’ve been the most intense of Connor’s short life. He thought the man would shoot him in that church after he brought the humans to Jericho, but instead, Markus trusted him. After Connor marched thousands of androids through the streets of Detroit, Markus uttered the phrase “we did it,” and Connor couldn’t have felt more proud. He wants to see Markus again, but the guilt threatens to overwhelm him again.
“Okay,” Connor finally agrees. “I’ll try to talk to Markus.”
“Good, now it’s time to go to bed,” Hank changes subjects. “Come on, get up.”
“But I sleep here,” Connor says, confused.
“Not tonight you don’t,” Hank disagrees. “Come on.” Connor stands up, not knowing where they are going, but follows Hank nonetheless. “After all the emotions you’ve been dealing with tonight, you need a real bed, somewhere to lie down.”
“I have no need to lie down in order to sleep,” Connor reminds him.
“It can’t hurt.” Hank leads him to a door that is always closed, and opens it slowly.
Connor takes in the sight before him. Children’s drawings on the wall, Star Wars sheets on the bed, toys in the closet. “This is Cole’s room,” he states unnecessarily. “Hank, I can’t.”
“You can, and you will,” Hank corrects him. “I never should have made you sleep on the couch when there was a perfectly good bed. But tonight you definitely need a good night’s sleep. So you’re sleeping here, end of discussion.”
Connor feels another emotion threatening to overwhelm him, but this one is good. He feels warm and cared for. Hank pulls back the sheets and helps Connor situate himself. The bed is comfortable, a trait Connor never sought out when finding a place to sleep, but now that he has it, he wonders why he’s been sleeping sitting up on the couch all this time.
“You go into sleep mode or whatever now,” Hank commands, “And don’t get up freakishly early for once. You need to sleep in.”
“Okay, Hank,” Connor agrees sleepily and dismisses his morning alarm. Hank chuckles and walks out of the room, turning off the light before closing the door. It’s the last thing Connor sees before sleep takes him.
Due to all the comments and kudos I got, I wrote this chapter much faster than I anticipated. Thanks to everyone who lent me their support.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Connor makes his way to New Jericho the next day, apprehensive and sick to his android stomach. He knows he agreed to meet Markus, but when he thinks about it, all the feelings from last night flood back and he can’t see straight.
Markus has an apartment on the second floor. The four leaders of Jericho are the only ones to have their own apartments, with the rest sharing so that everyone gets a place. With more androids flocking to Detroit every day, they are going to need more apartment buildings. New Jericho is just the start of the vision that Markus has for his people.
Connor makes his way past the front desk, smiling at the attendant even if he doesn’t feel like smiling. His footsteps sound heavy as he walks up the flight of stairs, moving towards the apartment he knows belongs to the deviant leader. As he reaches the door, he hesitates before knocking, hand held up, but he can’t get himself to finish the movement.
However, the RK200 must have heard his footsteps, because the door opens and Markus stands there, looking shocked to see the former detective android before him. Connor looks to the floor before shuffling his feet and looking back to Markus. “Can I come in?”
“Of course,” Markus says and steps aside to let Connor in. He looks unsure of himself, but doesn’t hesitate to allow Connor into his home.
Markus has a modest apartment, one bedroom with a small living room that consists of one sofa, a table and chairs, and a desk. There are papers everywhere, strange in a technological age, even stranger for an android, but Markus was always a unique one. From the bedroom, which is around the corner, Connor can smell the faint aroma of paint, another fact he finds curious.
“I want to apologize,” Connor begins, “For last night. I didn’t mean to offend you.” He keeps his breathing steady as he focuses on Markus. He shouldn’t need to breathe at all, except to cool down his overheating systems.
“There’s no need to apologize, Connor,” the other tells him. “I just want to understand what happened, and help in any way I can.”
Connor breathes out in a huff. “You shouldn’t be so nice to me after I was so rude to you last night.” Why does the deviant leader always prove to be the best man he can be? It makes what Connor almost did even worse.
“You were clearly in pain,” Markus says and Connor winces. “I can excuse any behavior in those circumstances. But I don’t have to. You did nothing wrong. You are allowed to be around only those you want, especially when you are feeling strong emotion.”
“Why do you have to be so good?” Connor complains, hiding his face in his hands.
“I only want to help,” Markus explains. “Will you let me in enough to help you?”
Those words go straight to Connor’s blue heart. He can feel the pain welling up again, but it also feels nice that Markus would care for him. Too bad he has to tell Markus the truth and that will end. Despite his conviction that he wouldn’t cry in front of the deviant leader again, he feels the tears begin to form. Maybe this wasn’t a good idea, maybe he should just go back home where he feels safe and he can’t hurt anyone.
Markus must notice the tears in Connor’s eyes that haven’t yet started to fall because he reaches forward with a hand, then stops himself, probably remembering how Connor didn’t want his touch last night. Connor his grateful that he doesn’t have to touch Markus right now, he doesn’t think he could bear it. Markus instead ushers him over to the couch to sit down. Connor goes and allows Markus to sit next to him, given that there is plenty of space between the two.
“I can’t help but feel that I’m the one causing you to be upset,” Markus tells him. “What can I do to change that?”
“You’re not doing anything to upset me,” Connor reassures him. “I’m upsetting myself.” He rubs the back of his hand over his eyes, which just proves to move the tears around rather than remove them. His face is already a mess, so he just lets the tears fall and ignores them. At least he isn’t hyperventilating this time.
“Can you tell me what’s wrong?” Markus asks hopefully. He leans his head down to try to catch Connor’s eyes in his.
Connor takes a deep breath to stabilize his systems and speaks, ignoring the tears he can’t stop. “I tried to kill you,” he all but whispers.
“Is that upsetting you?” Markus asks kindly. “You were just a machine then, following your programming. And you broke through the red wall and deviated for me, so you really shouldn’t be worried about that. I don’t blame you for what Cyberlife ordered you to do.”
Connor hangs his head. Markus isn’t getting it. He’s going to have to spell it out. “Not then.”
Markus just looks confused. “What do you mean, ‘not then?’”
Letting out a hot breath, Connor begins his story. “I tried to kill you at the demonstration.” More tears flow and for a moment he can’t continue.
Markus sits up straight, but doesn’t look horrified like Connor thought he would. “What do you mean?”
“When you were giving your speech. I pulled out my gun and started to aim it at your head.”
That gets Markus to stand up and turn away from him. “Why?” he asks as he turns back. He looks so lost, like he misjudged Connor and it’s causing him to doubt everything.
“It was Cyberlife,” Connor admits. “They put a program in my head that allowed them to take over my body. They were the ones aiming, I couldn’t control anything. I fought them with everything I had, and I found a backdoor that Elijah Kamski told me about. It brought me back under my own control. But I was so close to pulling the trigger. Mere seconds and you would have been gone. And it’s my fault. I should have seen it coming.” After Connor lays that all out he can’t help but put his head in his hands and sob.
Markus rushes over and kneels down on the floor before Connor. “Hey now,” he soothes. “That wasn’t your fault. If what you say is true, then Cyberlife tried to kill me, not you. Definitely not the person who came to life on that ship right in front of my eyes. He didn’t want to shoot me, and from your reaction right now, I’m sure you didn’t want to shoot me the night of the demonstration.”
All Connor can do is nod. He desperately wants Markus to know that he doesn’t want him dead, that nothing could be further from the truth. But his voice won’t work, and his systems are getting dangerously hot again.
“Can I hug you?” Markus asks. Connor looks up incredulously, but finds that Markus holds his gaze steady and is quite sincere. Connor nods and suddenly he is enveloped by strong arms and his head is resting on the other android’s chest. He feels warm and comforted, but the guilt still looms overhead.
“What if I had shot you?” Connor manages to ask. “What if you were gone? What would happen to our people?” What would happen to me, he doesn’t ask.
Markus pulls him up long enough to hold his gaze with his mismatched eyes. Blue and green peer into his soul and pluck out all his knowledge, but he can’t look away, mesmerized. “We can’t focus on ‘what if’s.’ You were strong enough to fight back, and that’s the world we live in now. That’s what is important.” Markus pulls him close again and lets the RK800 sob harder into his shirt. “I know you wouldn’t hurt me.”
“How do you know?” Connor asks in quick gulps of air. He’s intensely curious.
“Because of how you are reacting now. You don’t want to hurt me. The guilt of what Cyberlife almost made you do is killing you. No way someone so kind would want to hurt me.”
Kind? Connor? That’s not exactly the word that most people use to describe him. But it sounds good, and he thinks he would like to hear it again.
“I don’t want to hurt you,” Connor tells him, still wrapped up in his arms.
“I know,” Markus soothes. Connor gets his breathing under control by listening to Markus’s beating heart. The sound of it pumping thirium through his system reminds him that Markus is still alive, and that he didn’t succeed in killing him.
Connor pulls away to wipe the last of his tears away. “Sorry about that,” Connor says, looking at the floor instead of Markus.
Markus grabs his hand and gets Connor to look him in the eye. “Do you get like this a lot?” he asks.
Connor nods. “It’s usually not this bad, but I have a hard time with my emotions.”
Connor gestures to the sofa to get Markus to sit back down. “Everything is jumbled up. Sometimes I still feel like a machine, with no emotion at all. No wants or preferences, nothing to indicate I’m alive. But other times I’m completely awash with emotion, like I’m drowning. I don’t know how to process it and I overheat.”
Markus takes in the speech with rapt attention. “Not every android has an easy time with deviancy,” he says. “But I’ve never heard of a problem quite like this.” Connor frowns. This just confirms that he is strange. But Markus continues. “It sounds like you’re keeping yourself from feeling most of the time, and when that fails you it all comes out in a burst that you can’t control. Is that correct?”
“Yes,” Connor confirms. “But I don’t know how to stop doing it.”
“You need to even out your emotions,” Markus says. “Let yourself feel all the time instead of bottling it up.”
“But it’s easier to shut it all away,” Connor replies. If he had to feel this strongly all the time, he thinks he would go crazy. It’s too much to handle.
“It might be easier for a time, but you can see the consequences.” Connor hangs his head in acknowledgement. “You should let yourself feel all the time. That’s what it means to be alive. You shouldn’t return to being the machine, even for a moment.”
“I don’t know how,” Connor admits in a small voice.
“I can help you,” Markus tells him.
Connor looks up, surprised by Markus’s words. “You would do that?” he asks.
“Of course,” Markus says warmly. He smiles at Connor and the RK800 feels the full power of his gaze. He can tell that Markus is being completely sincere, and that baffles him.
“But don’t you have more important things to do?” Connor points out. “Like running Jericho and getting equal rights for androids?”
“I have my friends to run Jericho,” Markus says. “And as for getting equal rights for androids, I’m waiting for the President and her representatives to actually give me a chance to speak to them. In the meantime, I can make time for a friend in need.”
A friend? Connor’s heart goes into overdrive. After avoiding Markus for a month, the android still thinks of him as a friend. He takes a deep breath in.
“Are you alright?” Markus asks, concerned.
Connor nods. “I’m just feeling some strong emotions again. But don’t worry, I’m not going to break down on you again.”
Markus smiles faintly. “You shouldn’t worry about that,” he says. “I’m here if you need me. Now, can you tell me what you’re feeling right now?”
Connor thinks for a moment before replying. “I’m not sure. I’m not adept at identifying emotions, and right now I think I’m feeling a mix of things.”
“Can you try?”
“Alright,” Connor allows. “I’m scared. I don’t know how this is all going to work. But I’m hopeful that you’ll be able to help me. And I’m grateful that you would take time for me. All that is getting swirled around in my head right now, and I’m all mixed up.”
“Okay, take a deep breath,” Markus instructs. “Focus on one emotion, let yourself feel it fully.”
Connor closes his eyes and focuses on hope. He wants Markus to be able to help him, and he thinks the former caregiver has a chance to do it. If Markus helps him even out his emotions, maybe he can feel like a person instead of a machine. Maybe he won’t be overwhelmed when the emotions get to him.
“See, you’re not overheating anymore,” Markus points out.
Connor does a self diagnostic and confirms that his core temperature is getting back to normal. “Thank you,” he says, marveling at what Markus has already been able to do with just a few words.
“When you feel overwhelmed, don’t try to block out the emotions, it won’t work forever. Instead let yourself feel it, even if it feels bad. If you focus, it won’t overwhelm you.”
“How did you know that would work?” Connor asks him.
Markus chuckles. “I didn’t.” Seeing Connor gape at him, he continues. “I just had an intuition. I’m good at these things. Like reading people. That’s one reason I became the leader of Jericho.” He looks Connor over. “Is it better now?”
“I’m still scared,” Connor admits. “But it’s better now.”
“It’s okay to be scared,” Markus tells him. “It just matters that you face it.”
Connor is amazed at this man before him. Leader of the rebellion, and now miracle worker when it comes to Connor’s emotional crises. He looks Markus straight in his mismatched eyes and tries to figure out how to tell him all this, but can’t find the words. Markus just lets Connor stare at him, not trying to rush him at all.
Suddenly, the ground feels like it’s dropping beneath them as the whole building shakes. They fall to the floor in a heap of tangled limbs. Connor immediately shuts off all the emotions he is feeling and goes into detective mode, scanning the room around him. He analyses the sound and tremor and concludes a bomb has been set off somewhere below them.The building is still structurally sound, so Markus and the rest of the androids are safe for now.
“I must investigate,” Connor tells Markus, helping him off the floor.
“Not without me.”
And next chapter we'll finally get into the action. Poor Connor has cried enough for a little while, we need some plot.
If you want to leave a comment or hit the kudos button I'd be very grateful. It definitely makes me write faster.
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(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
The explosion came from the lobby of the apartment building now known as New Jericho. Connor and Markus rush down there and see the chaos before them. Dust coats the room and hangs in the air. Rubble from one corner of the lobby is strewn across the room.
Connor’s sensors can pierce through the dust in the air and he detects androids below the rubble. “There,” he points to Markus, “People need help.” They both quickly move in and start setting aside brick and plaster to get to those who are trapped.
“Markus! Thank god you’re okay,” a female voice sounds behind them.
“Come help us North,” Markus calls without stopping his work. North immediately joins in the effort and they reach their first victim.
Connor scans the android and finds he has a damaged bio-component in his left leg, but nothing else is wrong with him. “You’re going to be okay,” he tells the man. He simply nods and limps off away from the rubble.
“Last I saw of Josh he was talking to people here in the lobby,” North mentions as they work.
“How long ago was that?” Markus asks her. There is concern in his voice, but steel determination too as he works to dig out his people.
“About ten minutes before the bomb went off,” she explains.
Markus perks up a minute later when he hears another voice calling for order amongst the androids present in the lobby. Connor takes a look and the source of the voice and identifies it as belonging to Simon. So two-thirds of Markus’s friends are all right, but Josh is still unaccounted for.
A minute later they find their first dead android. Markus looks solemn, but he pushes past it and continues working. Connor can’t feel much of anything right now, so the dead android is nothing more than a fact in the case. Looking at Markus’s face makes him both wish he could feel and glad he can’t. If he were emotional right now he wouldn’t be able to work. He doesn’t know how Markus does it.
They soon find Josh, covered in plaster and unmoving. North cries out and rushes to him once he’s uncovered. “I shouldn’t have left him here. I was bored left him to deal with all the complaints we’ve gotten. We disagree all the time, but I don’t want him hurt.”
“It’s not your fault,” Markus says automatically as he looks for injuries. Connor can scan more efficiently, so he does a sweep of Josh and reports his condition.
“Your friend has damaged bio-component #4807. It isn’t life threatening, it simply caused him to reboot to self repair. He should be fine in a couple of hours.”
“Okay mister robot,” North mocks, but Connor can see the relief in the set of her shoulders.
“No need to be rude, North,” Markus snaps. “Help me move him away from the rubble.
In the end the count is three dead androids, two in critical condition, and twenty-eight with minor damage to bio-component like Josh.
“The fire department didn’t come,” Markus says sadly to himself. Connor looks over to him to see his resigned face staring out into the destruction. “They didn’t care.”
Connor is at a loss as to how to comfort the man. He’s not currently feeling anything himself, but he can recognize emotions and he is programmed to respond to them, but that programming is currently failing him. He has no words to help ease the truth; that the city of Detroit is not the android paradise they wished it to be.
This train of thought is broken when a gruff voice sounds from the entrance to the building. “What the fuck happened here?” Hank asks no one in particular.
“Hank!” Connor calls. “Did the DPD send you?”
“No, I’m not on duty,” Hank replies. “I just saw it on the news and knew you were here, so I came to check it out.”
“You were concerned for me, lieutenant,” Connor states.
“Yeah, well don’t let it go to your head.” Hank looks around the room. “So, since I’m here I might as well be useful. What have we got?”
Connor gives Hank the details of the situation so far. “I haven’t had time to do a proper investigation of the source of the bomb.”
“Well then, hop to it.” Hank gestures at the rubble, which is covered in thirium that only Connor can see. The detective android heads in that direction, scanning along the way. He resists the urge to lick the thirium, since he already knows the identification of the dead androids, and he knows it would gross Hank out.
He ignores the popups in his vision that try to get him to reconstruct the aftermath of the explosion. He already knows what happened; a bomb went off and three people died. What he is scanning for is remnants of the device that caused the explosion.
Connor finds what he is looking for farther into the rubble. He finds pieces of what appears to be a pipe bomb. One fragment holds the biggest clue though: a human fingerprint.
“Do you still have access to all your criminal databases?” Hank asks after Connor relays what he learned. “Run the print.”
“I already have,” Connor explains. “It doesn’t match any known criminal in any of my databases.”
“So we’re going to have to do some old fashioned police work and get us some suspects to match that print to.” Hank doesn’t look dismayed by that thought. Connor has always known that Hank likes his job, and is good at it too.
“Will the DPD let you investigate?” Markus asks, coming over to where they’re standing, leaving North by Josh’s side and Simon left to keep order.
“I don’t see why not,” Hank observes. “I’m assigned to android crimes after all.”
“But this is a crime against androids, not one committed by androids,” Connor helpfully points out.
“Fowler just said ‘android crimes.’ I think that should include something like this.” Hank gestures to the mess in front of them. “Someone needs to investigate.” Markus gives a small smile of appreciation, grateful they still have at least one ally.
All at once the room shakes again, and plaster falls from the ceiling. “Oh no, not again,” Markus murmurs. Connor’s sensors conclude that it is in fact another blast, this one smaller and coming from above.
Markus, Connor, and Hank all rush towards the stairs, taking them by leaping bounds. Smoke is coming from the second floor, and they open the door to see a ruined mess, exactly where Markus’s apartment is. Connor freezes and his blood runs cold. Markus was a target. Someone tried to finish what he almost began.
Hank pulls him out of it with a strange look and a tug on the arm. “Place isn’t a fireball, we should be able to go in. Unless it’s not safe,” Hank looks to Connor for confirmation.
“It’s safe,” he assures the lieutenant. He turns towards Markus. “You should stay back while we investigate.”
“But there could be someone hurt in there,” Markus argues.
“I’ve already done a scan, there are no androids inside.” Connor puts a hand on Markus’s arm in a way he hopes is reassuring. Markus seems to relax an inch, so Connor calls that a success.
Hank and Connor climb into the ruined apartment carefully. The bomb seemed more designed to send out shrapnel rather than cause a fireball, which means they’re safe as along as no more devices go off. Connor scans for more bombs, and finds nothing, indicating as much to the lieutenant.
“Have you found the bomb?” Hank asks as he shuffles rubble around with his feet.
“Not yet, lieutenant,” Connor replies. He heads towards the center of the destruction and starts to move drywall and ruined furniture around as he continues his sensor sweeps. Suddenly, he gets a ping. “Found something,” he yells Hank’s way. He is careful not to touch the object he finds, scanning it from afar. It appears to be a fragment of the bomb’s casing. He analyses the clues left behind and finds a human fingerprint, same as before.
Hank hurries over. “You found it?” he asks. “What is it telling you?”
“Human fingerprint, unidentifiable,” Connor replies before continuing his analysis. He finds the timer mechanism and carefully touches it to interface.
Quickly he stands up. “This bomb,” he starts, emotion starting to drip into his voice. “It was meant to go off the same time as the other. Only a malfunction in the timer prevented it from doing so.”
“But in that case...” Hank drifts off.
“Markus would have been in his apartment,” Connor finishes, stunned. The other, hearing his name spoken, is finally finished being cautious and makes his way into the apartment. “Markus,” Connor says staring at him dumbly, “You were targeted.”
“Shit,” Hank curses softly.
“What do you mean?” Markus asks, concerned.
“This was an assassination attempt.”
The four leaders of Jericho, plus Connor and Hank gather in North’s apartment. She lives on the top floor, as far away from the destruction as they can get. They already agreed not to evacuate New Jericho. Connor deemed it as safe as possible and these androids have nowhere else to go.
Josh has finished self repairs and is up and contributing to the conversation. “I’m worried that after this, androids will never see Jericho as safe,” he tells them all. “They need a place to go where they don’t have to fear the humans.”
“Damn humans,” North scoffs. “They’re all the same.” Hank clears his throat and shuffles his feet. “I’m not excluding you,” North directs his way.
“North!” Markus chides. “Lieutenant Anderson is here to help.”
“What do we know about the attack?” Simon interrupts, looking to Connor and Hank for some answers.
Connor chimes in with his report. “Two bombs went off, one in the main lobby, the other in the room adjacent to Markus’s apartment. Both were homemade and had human fingerprints on them.”
“I told you, humans!”
“North, shut up a minute and let Connor speak.” Josh isn’t containing his anger very well at the moment, but being blown up will have that affect on a person.
“The bombs were made to blow around a lot of shrapnel, likely to purposely damage bio-components,” Connor continues. He sees the concerned looks being shared around the room, but doesn’t stop. “There was no match to the fingerprint, but it was definitely human, and we can assume this was perpetrated by an anti-android group. Most concerning is the timing of the bombs. They were made to go off at a time Markus was known to be home.”
Simon, who was listening carefully, perks up at this. “But surely they would know that the first bomb would draw Markus out?”
“They were supposed to go off at the same time,” Connor replies. “Only a fault in the timer saved Markus’s life.”
“Fuck,” North mutters.
“You got that right,” Hank agrees.
“Who lives in the apartment next to Markus’s, where the bomb was placed?” Josh asks.
“An HK400 and a ST300,” Connor helpfully supplies. “They weren’t there at the time of the explosion. Hank and I questioned them and they said they left their door unlocked since they trusted the people of New Jericho.”
“And now they won’t be able to be so trusting anymore,” Josh says. “Just as I feared.”
“I think Markus’s safety is more important right now,” Simon says. “What are we going to do about that? Will the DPD protect him?”
Hank looks uncomfortable at the question. Connor knows that the DPD still hasn’t assigned him the case, and it’s looking like they won’t. “I think you should be looking for solutions to that internally,” Hank admits. North looks pissed off, but holds her tongue. Simon looks even more worried.
“I’ll protect Markus,” Connor announces.
Both Markus and Hank look at Connor incredulously. “You will?” Markus asks.
“I am the best equipped android to carry out such a task,” Connor replies. “If the DPD will not offer you protection, then I will.”
Markus looks at him with bright eyes and a small smile. Connor can’t quite read what the other android is thinking, especially not right now when the RK800 is still shutting himself off from his emotions. He files the image away for later analysis.
“He worked with the humans,” North complains. “Still does,” he says, gesturing towards Hank. “How do we know we can trust him?”
“Connor has done more for the android rebellion than you have,” Josh retorts.
“Oh, fuck you,” North replies, getting in Josh’s face.
Josh continues, unperturbed. “Tell me, did you free thousands of androids from Cyberlife, or was that just Connor.”
“He brought the humans to Jericho!”
“Enough!” Markus shouts, getting everyone to quiet down. “Of course we can trust Connor. He’s done nothing but help us since he deviated, at great risk to himself.”
“We just need Markus to be safe,” Simon pitches in. “If Connor can make that happen, then we need to let him.”
“We need to start by getting Markus somewhere safe, away from New Jericho.” Connor tells them.
“What?” Markus asks. “I can’t be away from my people. If they are in danger, I need to be with them.”
“You are in more danger than they are,” Simon points out. “You were targeted directly. Plus, you don’t have any place to stay.”
“I could stay with North,” Markus suggests.
“Ah, no you don’t,” the android in question responds. “I just got a place of my own for the first time in my life. I like my privacy. Plus, as much as I hate to admit it, Simon is right. You’re in too much danger here.”
“Where am I going to go?” Markus asks. “I’m just as lost without New Jericho as anybody else.”
“You’ll stay with Hank and I,” Connor tells him.
“He’ll what now?” Hank asks, stepping into the conversation once again. “You want to bring a target into my home.”
“No one will think to look for him there,” Connor assures him. “It’s a perfect place, and better than a hotel.”
“I barely have room for one android,” Hank complains.
“We don’t take up much space,” Connor points out. He keeps the other’s gaze until the older man gives up.
“Fine,” Hank agrees. “But if bombs start going off in my house, I’m blaming you.”
“Alright, lieutenant,” Connor says. “Markus, we should really go right away.”
Markus looks skeptical, and he looks around at his friends for back up. “You should go,” Simon tells him.
“Agreed,” says North.
“Agreed,” Josh finalizes.
“Traitors,” Markus grumbles, but gets up from his seat. “I can’t hide away forever, but if you all think this is for the best, I’ll go with Connor.”
“Then follow me, gentlemen,” Hank tells them on his way out the door. “I hope you like dogs.”
Some plot had to happen, but we'll get back to the emotions next time. I've already started writing chapter 4, and I love it so far. Be sure to comment and kudos if you want more content quickly.
Hank drops them off at the house, saying he’s got to go in to the DPD to file a report. Connor brings Markus into the home using his spare key. Immediately they get pounced on by Sumo.
“Hey Sumo!” Connor says laughing with an armful of dog. Sumo gets down and barks loudly in Markus’s direction. “No need for that, Markus is a friend.” At the word friend, Sumo stops barking and sits down patiently. Connor turns to Markus. “He thinks you’re going to give him a treat,” he explains. “I’ll get you one to give to him. Food is a sure way into a dog’s heart.”
“Is that so,” Markus says smiling. Connor is glad he doesn’t seem afraid of Sumo, whose size can put some people off.
Connor reaches to a high shelf to get a bag of treats and hands one to Markus. Sumo gets up and wags his tail when he smells the treat. “Tell him to sit, wait until he’s got his entire butt on the floor, then throw him the treat.”
“Sit, Sumo,” Markus commands lightly. Sumo quickly does as he’s told and Markus throws the treat up in the air for Sumo to catch with his mouth. “Ah ha. Success,” Markus declares with a laugh.
“Now let him sniff you so he remembers you as a friend,” Connor suggests.
“But androids don’t have smells like humans do,” Markus says quizzically. He’s doing as Connor suggested anyway, but there’s a small frown on his face now.
“Each android has enough of a unique smell for Sumo to recognize. You pick up the smell from the environments you’ve been around. For instance, you smell slightly of paint.”
Markus is wide-eyed, and coughs unnecessarily. “You, um, noticed that, did you?”
“I couldn’t help but smell you when I was crying into your chest,” Connor states blandly. He’s ashamed of the reminder of his earlier display, but Markus seems more embarrassed for some reason.
“I, uh… it’s a hobby.”
Connor is quite curious now. “You paint?” he asks
“Yeah,” Markus replies, rubbing the back of his neck. “The others make fun of me for it, but it reminds me of the man I consider my father. He was a painter.” His eyes won’t make contact with Connor’s and there’s a slight glisten to his mismatched eyes.
“Was?” Connor probes lightly.
Markus turns his back on Connor, but answers his question nonetheless. “He had a heart attack, the night I became a deviant.”
“I’m sorry,” Connor say genuinely. “You say he was like a father to you?”
Markus turns back with a little smile on his face. Connor notes how easy it seems for the other man to control his emotions, even discussing such a sensitive topic. “He taught me what it’s like to be alive long before I became a deviant. He didn’t treat me like a slave, he treated me like a son. He honestly wanted me to learn, and after seeing how the rest of our people had been treated, I had to take what he taught me and use it to help the people of Jericho and all other androids.”
Connor can see why Markus became the leader of Jericho in such a short time. He’s passionate and he has a rich history from which to draw on. “He sounds like a great man to have as a father.”
“He was,” Markus says, smiling in Connor’s direction. Markus looks around where they’ve been standing in the vestibule. “Shall we move on?”
Connor takes that as a sign that Markus is done speaking of his father for now, and so he leads the other android farther into the house. Sumo has long since abandoned them to sleep in his dog bed once he realized no more treats were forthcoming. Connor gives Markus a brief tour, stopping only at the entrance to the two bedrooms in the back of the house. He heads back to the living room to show Markus where he’ll be sleeping.
“We’ll share the couch,” Connor states. “There’s plenty of room.”
Markus gives him a skeptical look as he eyes the couch. “I’m not sure...”
“There’s plenty of room for at least three people sitting up,” Connor explains.
“Ah, sitting up,” Markus says as something seems to click in the other’s brain. Connor’s not quite sure where he went wrong in his initial explanation, but at least Markus gets it now.
“Yes. We’ll have plenty of space if we sit on opposite sides of the couch.”
“Do you normally sleep this way?” Markus asks. Connor thinks there’s something sad about the way he asks it, but he can’t quite put a finger on it.
“Of course,” Connor replies. He doesn’t see anything wrong with his sleeping arrangements. But then he thinks back to last night in Cole’s bed, and how comfortable it was. He shakes himself out of that train of thought. It was a one time thing. He’ll go back to the couch and not have any problems with it.
Sumo barks then, and Connor hears the telltale sound of keys in the lock. “Hello, Hank,” Connor calls as the other man enters the house.
“You’re back so soon,” Markus comments with a slight frown.
“Yeah, well...” Hank trails off. Seeing the expectant look on the two androids faces, he continues. “Fowler didn’t even want me to write a report. Said they couldn’t look into it for political reasons. I’ve never wanted to do paperwork I didn’t have to until now. Someone should at least know what’s going on. The next bomb could take human lives.” Taking in Markus’s scowl, he quickly amends his statement. “Not that the lost of androids isn’t a crime in itself. I’m just saying even anti-android factions should care about what’s happening here.”
Markus sighs. “What do I have to do to get the people of this city to realize that we are alive. I thought our demonstration proved that, but I can’t get the humans of this city to respond to a threat against us. I guess we’re not as far along in our human-android relations as I thought we were.”
Connor guides Markus to sit on the couch, which the other does in more of a falling down motion than a controlled sit. “I’m not sure it’s as bad as you think.”
Markus closes his eyes. “I’d rather just not think about it for a little while.” He looks up at Connor. “Think you can distract me?”
Connor thinks about what to say. He’s not very good at conversation, but he could try to pull the other one out of his thoughts. He opens his mouth to respond when Hank chimes in. “The game’s on.” He turns on the television and basketball fills the screen. “Everyone loves to watch the game, huh? Should distract you.”
“You just want to watch it yourself,” Connor points out. He’s a little mad. Markus should be better taken care of.
“It’s fine Connor,” Markus says. “I think watching the game might be just what I need.”
“Really?” Connor asks and Markus nods. “If there’s anything else you need...”
“Thank you, Connor, but I just need anything to keep my mind off current events. This will do.”
“Great, then sit down, Connor.” Hank indicates the couch and Connor acknowledges him, sitting in the middle between Markus and Hank. The next few minutes pass in silence except for the sound of the television and occasional outraged comments from Hank. Apparently his team is not doing very well.
Connor is so focused on the game that he doesn’t notice Markus staring at him. It comes to his attention when the other chuckles slightly. “What?” Connor asks, realizing he has the full gaze of those intense mismatched eyes.
“Nothing,” Markus says, turning away before turning back and actually responding. “It’s just, do you always sit like that?”
“Like what?” Connor asks, confused. He is sitting exactly like he always sits, exactly like Cyberlife designed him to sit.
“Ramrod straight, like someone hit your knuckles in grade school until you sat properly.” Connor isn’t sure he gets the metaphor, but he understands what Markus means. He’s sitting as straight as possible, perfect posture. He analyses the way Markus is sitting and realizes he does not have perfect posture, far from it. He sits more like Hank does, more like a person.
“No,” Connor lies. He can lie now that he’s a deviant, but he rarely chooses to do so. Right now though, he’s feeling embarrassed, and doesn’t want to let on how close to a machine he really is. He turns and scans Hank. He takes in the way that the other slouches, calculating the exact angle. “I was just settling in,” Connor continues to lie. He adjusts his back to mimic Hank’s posture.
“What are you doing?” Markus asks, apparently not fooled.
“I don’t know what you mean,” Connor says. This is a record for the number of lies he’s told in a single minute.
“Are you...” Markus begins. “Are you imitating Lieutenant Anderson’s slouch?”
“Huh?” This gets Hanks attention away from the game and he looks Connor over. “Why are you sitting like that?”
“Like what?” Connor repeats. He’s so busted.
“You always sit like you’re the perfect robot. Why the hell is your back bent like that?” Hank seems genuinely curious, but Markus just laughs.
“He’s trying to copy you since I questioned him on his posture,” Markus explains. He’s doubled over laughing now, apparently his previous angst has been forgotten.
“Damn, kid, that’s just dumb,” Hank says, joining in the laughter with a short chuckle. “They always said I’d ruin my back slouching like this, but I guess you androids don’t have to worry about that.”
“No, we don’t,” Connor replies tersely. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I don’t need to be around a few laughing idiots. Markus continues to cackle as he waves Connor off, wiping a tear out of his eye from how hard he’s laughing.
Connor needs to get out, and quick. He can’t feel his systems start to overheat again, and he’s usually successful at getting away from the lieutenant before he has to start breathing hard. He heads for the laundry room, a place he knows Hank rarely ventures.
It shouldn’t be like this, but it is. He berates himself for being so susceptible to negative emotions. He breathes in deeply and huffs out a breath when it does nothing to calm him.
Markus and Hank were laughing at him. Just because of the way he sat. If he can’t even sit right, then what can he do right? His tears come unbidden and his internal fans whirl trying to keep him cool.
The door opens just a crack, and Connor tries to hide in the corner he’s settled in. He knows he’s unsuccessful when a voice calls out softly. “Hank? I think you’d better come here.” Connor curls up on himself, realizing he failed at hiding this from both the people in the house. At least Sumo won’t judge him.
Hank is suddenly before him, kneeling on the ground and getting Connor to look at him. “Hey, now. What’s this about?” Connor curls up and shakes his head. It’s stupid, crying over something so small. Hank looks around the small laundry room. “Is this where you’ve been going to hide this from me?” he asks. Connor nods, even as he’s trying to look away from Hank. “You don’t got to be doing that anymore, you here me?” Hank asks.
“Sorry,” Connor says softly as he fights back the tears.
“You don’t have to be sorry, just tell me what this is about,” Hank says soothingly. “I just want to understand.”
“It’s stupid,” Connor tells him, hiding his head. “I’m stupid.”
“You aren’t stupid,” Hank corrects. “Most advanced prototype Cyberlife ever produced and all that.” Connor laughs weakly hearing that thrown back at him, but it doesn’t do much to lighten his mood.
“Can I try?” Markus asks from his position in the doorway. Hank steps out of the way and gestures for Markus to come over. Markus leans down so he’s face to face with Connor. “Hey there,” he begins. “How are you feeling?” Connor scoffs. He thinks it’s pretty obvious how he’s feeling. “Is this because we were teasing you?” Markus asks kindly. Connor looks away, but more tears come at being called out. “Oh, Connor,” Markus sighs, “We weren’t trying to be cruel.”
“I know that,” Connor says quickly. “I just feel like I can’t do anything right.”
“We were just being stupid,” Hank says from his position a few feet away. “You shouldn’t listen to us.”
Markus smiles at the lieutenant, but takes a different approach. “People sometimes poke fun at one another, but it’s not meant to be mean. I thought it was funny at the time, but clearly you don’t think so, do you?”
“No,” Connor says wiping his eyes. “I don’t sit like a normal person, I still sit like a machine. I can’t figure out how to just be normal.”
“No one is ‘normal,’ but if you are worried about still acting like a machine, I can assure you that your current emotion state makes you quite alive, despite being distressing.”
“So I can only be a person when I’m overwhelmed?” Connor challenges, piercing brown eyes finding blue and green ones.
“I didn’t say that,” Markus replies. “I saw the way you interacted with Sumo earlier. That was quite a display of positive emotion. You may not be under tight control of your emotions, but you do have them. You are alive, even at your most calculating.”
“I shut away my emotions when the bomb went off,” Connor admits. “I had to work.”
“I figured,” Markus says sadly, “But you were able to come back to yourself after the danger had passed.”
“I don’t know what this whole deal with shutting off your emotions is,” Hank interrupts, “But you’ve always been a real person, even before you came back from Jericho that first time.”
“You didn’t think so at the time,” Connor says.
“Maybe,” Hank reluctantly agrees, “But I was stupid. Look, you saved me on that roof when the deviant knocked me off. You saved me at Stratford Tower when bullets were flying everywhere. You didn’t shoot Chloe, even if it was the only way to get the location of Jericho from Kamski. And that was all before you deviated. You’ve shown real human empathy for as long as I’ve known you.”
“Is all that true?” Markus asks, stunned.
“Absolutely,” Hank says proudly, “So don’t go calling him emotionally stunted or whatever. He’s doing just fine on his own.”
“Cyberlife just programmed me to simulate human emotions so I could better integrate with a human partner,” Connor says sadly. “That wasn’t real.”
“Bullshit it wasn’t real,” Hank disagrees. “You went against your directive to do those things.”
“Hank is right,” Markus chimes in again. “Cyberlife would never program their deviant hunter to let deviants go. Your actions were entirely your own.”
“You think?” Connor asks hopefully.
“Absolutely,” Markus says confidently. “I too showed signs of deviancy long before I truly broke my programming. Hank is right, you have a big heart.” Connor ducks his head at the praise, but lets a small smile creep on to his face.
“Enough talk, it’s past time for us humans to sleep,” Hank grumbles. Connor wipes his eyes one last time and stands up slowly. He follows Hank out of the laundry room, beckoning Markus to follow him. As they leave the room, Connor turns to head towards the living room. “Where do you think you’re going?” Hank questions him.
Connor looks confused. “To the living room, where I sleep.”
“Not anymore you don’t,” Hank tells him. “You’ll sleep in Cole’s old room.”
“That’s not necessary, Hank,” Connor says. “I am used to the couch.”
“Then where’s your friend going to sleep?”
“He’ll share the couch with me,” Connor says. “There’s plenty of room for two.”
“Not if you want to stretch out there’s not,” Hank points out. “And I’m sure Markus would rather stretch out than sleep sitting up.”
Connor looks over to Markus. “Is that true?” he asks. Markus looks sheepish, but nods. Connor’s emotions go into overdrive when he realizes he did another thing wrong. He should have realized that most deviants probably like to sleep comfortably like humans do. “I’m sorry, Markus,” he apologizes quickly, “I should have been more cognizant of your needs.”
“Don’t worry about it,” Markus assures rapidly. “Hank’s got it sorted, and I would have been fine sharing the couch with you.” He smiles to reassure Connor that he’s okay.
“We sorted then?” Hank interrupts. “Good, then let’s sleep already.”
Connor watches Markus situate himself on the couch before going to the linen closet to get the comfiest blanket he can find. He slips into Cole’s old room and takes one of the two pillows off the bed; he only needs one. He returns to Markus with the items in hand.
“You didn’t have to,” Markus says with a bright smile, taking the blanket and pillow and arranging them how he likes.
“It’s the least I could do,” Connor says, smiling back at him. For some reason he finds Markus’s smile infectious.
Connor leaves Markus and heads back to Cole’s room. He feels guilty taking the room with the small bed, but remembering last night and the comfort he felt, not just from the mattress, but from Hank’s kind words, he’s drawn to the bed again. He gets under the covers and lets himself enjoy the coziness of the bed before he starts shutting down into sleep mode.
Leaving a comment or some kudos will make my day! Thanks to all those who already have.
This chapter goes out to Crescentjasper who encouraged me to write more hugs, so I wrote a whole chapter to make that happen. So before we get back to the plot, enjoy Markus and Connor crying and hugging it out, and then bonding. That's it.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
“Close your eyes,” Markus tells Connor, “And think of the night of the demonstration.” Connor does as he’s told, shutting his eyes tightly and thinking of all the events that transpired that night. Beginning with Jericho, the church, his time inside Cyberlife Tower, and finally the platform at Hart Plaza. “Think of a positive emotion from that night,” Markus continues, “And focus on it.”
Markus started this session by pointing out that Connor had never fully processed his feelings from the night of the demonstration, and that it was important to do so if he ever wanted to even out his emotions. So here Connor is, eyes closed, thinking back to one month ago.
Connor thinks back to the moment he marched thousands of androids through the streets of Detroit right up to Markus and his band of demonstrators. The two leaders exchanged greetings and smiles and Connor could not have been more proud, of himself, and also of Markus. They did it. They both accomplished impossible missions and freed their people from the camps.
Feeling his heart swell with emotion, Connor does smile, but he struggles to breathe as well. There’s too much to feel, all at once. “Focus,” Markus commands. “Just one emotion at a time. Tell me, what are you feeling?”
A deep breath in and Connor finds his center again. “I’m feeling pride. It feels good that we accomplished our mission.”
“You like to accomplish your mission, don’t you Connor?”
“Cyberlife did that,” Connor admits, “But it’s a part of my programming that I like. Especially now that I control the mission. Doing what you set out to do is a good thing, so I like that it feels good.”
“What happens when you don’t accomplish your mission?” Markus asks, curious.
Pain constricts his chest, thinking back to all the moments he didn’t do as he was told by Cyberlife. Many of those moments are ones he now is happy about, like letting the two Tracis at the Eden Club go. Still, the sting of failing a mission hurts, even if the mission was wrong.
“Sorry,” Markus apologizes when he sees Connor’s distress. “You were meant to focus and I steered you in the wrong direction. Go back to the night of the demonstration. You said you were feeling pride. Tell me when exactly.”
“When the two of us met at Hart Plaza, me with the androids from Cyberlife behind me, and you with your friends from Jericho backing you up. That was the moment I felt the happiest in my life. Your words especially made me feel the best.”
“My words?” Markus asks. “What did I say?”
“I pointed out that you did it, your demonstration was a success. But you said we did it, and I had to fight from grinning so hard my face broke.”
Markus laughs, clear and strong. “That was a good moment for me as well. Seeing you march up with thousands of deviants, just like you promised, just like no one thought you could do, was incredible. I was proud as well.
Connor can’t keep from smiling, but his breathing is calm now. “I’m glad you agree.”
“It was a good moment for androids everywhere,” Markus tells him. “You should be proud.” He grips Connor’s hand, and even though he still has his eyes closed, Connor can feel the other smiling. “But I want you to remember past that moment,” Markus says more seriously now. “Think to the platform, during my speech.”
Connor thinks back to standing on that platform. He was still so happy that his people had been freed. But then his LED flared and Amanda showed up, trapping him inside his own head. Connor grips Markus’s hand tightly as his emotions threaten to overwhelm him again, just like the night of New Jericho’s opening.
“I know it hurts,” Markus tells him, moving his thumb over the spot where Connor has him in a vice grip, “But you have to work through it.” Connor doesn’t want to work through it, he wants to forget. He wants to not be the one who almost killed Markus. “Listen to me,” Markus calls through the fog of Connor’s thoughts. “You need to remember. Remember how it felt when Cyberlife tried to take over you. Remember too that I forgive you, and that you didn’t do anything wrong.”
Tears start rolling down Connor’s face, but he tries to listen to Markus’s words. Cyberlife is to blame, not him. But he can’t help but feel the guilt over what he almost did. He starts sobbing, and Markus is there to pull him into a hug. “Feel it,” he says, “But don’t let it drown you. I’m here for you.” Connor lets himself throw his arms around Markus and the gentle weight of the other man comforts him.
“I can’t,” he starts, but Markus shushes him with a hand cradling his head.
“You can,” Markus tells him. Connor breathes deeply and stops himself from shutting off the emotion like he wants to. He lets himself feel, and even though it hurts, he lets it into his heart. “There you go,” Markus soothes, rubbing a hand against the hair at the back of his head. “I knew you could do it.”
“It hurts,” Connor says softly. He’s got his breathing under control, but the emotion is still controlling all his senses.
“I know it does,” Markus says, “But that’s part of being alive.” Markus gives him one last squeeze before he lets him go and holds him at arm’s length. “Can you open your eyes for me?” he asks.
Connor does as he’s told and opens his eyes slowly. What he finds before him is Markus, looking fondly at him. Connor can’t help but drink it in, feeling the gaze of those mismatched eyes.
“How do you feel now?” Markus asks. He’s got a small smile on his face, like he knows what Connor is going to say.
“It’s better,” Connor admits, “But that was really hard to do.”
“I didn’t say it was going to be easy,” Markus says. “Strong emotions are difficult for anyone. But these are ones that you need to let yourself feel so you can let them go. It does you no good to feel guilty for something that isn’t your fault.”
“Thank you for helping me,” Connor says. And he is thankful, even if he doesn’t particularly like the training. He can already feel the effect it’s having on him.
“Come on, lets go again,” Markus pushes.
“Oh no,” Connor says. “It’s far too late.” He thinks of an excuse quickly. He can’t go through another round as intense as that. “I’ve got to make Hank’s dinner.” He gets off the couch and heads towards the kitchen without looking back at Markus.
“Does Hank generally make you cook for him?” Markus asks, joining Connor in the kitchen.
“Hank doesn’t make me do anything,” Connor corrects. “But if I don’t make him something healthy, he’ll eat the worst food in the world and get that much closer to a heart attack.”
Markus chuckles. “It’s nice you look after your human so well.” Connor gives him an offended look for “your human” but lets it go. “I wonder if some of my caregiver routines made it into your programming. We are both from the same RK line after all.”
“If they did they’ve been twisted up so much as to make them unrecognizable. It’s been a long time since Elijah Kamski was designing the RK’s. But I like taking care of Hank. It gives me some purpose.” Connor stops his food preparation, suddenly thinking of something. “Hey, how old are you anyways? I remember you were designed by Kamski, but he left Cyberlife ten years ago.”
“Elijah came out of retirement just long enough to design me for an old friend of his,” Markus answers. “I’m only six years old.”
“Only?” Connor laughs nervously. “You do realize I’m not even six months old.” Markus has had so much more time to learn how to be alive, it’s no wonder the older android is so much more composed. Connor suddenly feels inadequate speaking to him.
Markus seems to notice the way that Connor is focusing on chopping vegetables and not looking at him. “Remember that we deviated within a week of one another, so I’m not much older in that sense.” Connor doesn’t respond, so Markus decides to drop it. “What’s the first thing you did outside of Cyberlife Tower after you were assembled?” he asks.
That question gets Connor to stop chopping and look at Markus, but seeing the almost haunted look in the other’s eyes, Markus regrets asking. “You don’t have to answer,” he says quickly.
“No, it’s okay,” Connor says. He goes back to his vegetables as he begins to talk. “I was sent into a hostage situation as the negotiator. The assailant was a deviant, one of the first, and the hostage was a little girl.” He continues to tell Markus the story while Markus just sits on a kitchen stool and takes it in. Connor tells him about putting all the clues together, to realize that the android was going to be replaced, and it set him off. He talks about getting Daniel to trust him and how betrayed he was when he realized Connor had lied to him about his guaranteeing his safety. He doesn’t tell Markus how ashamed that made him, to be called out by the deviant as untrustworthy.
Markus stays silent for a short while after Connor is done speaking. He seems to gather his thoughts before he says anything. “That is a very intense experience for your first time out in the world. Such a high pressure situation.”
“I think it might have been easier to deal with the pressure as a newly minted android,” Connor says. “I didn’t have any experiences to compare it to, just the data stored in my memory banks. I was calm and calculating the entire time.”
“Still must have been tough afterwards,” Markus says kindly.
“Yeah,” Connor admits, “It was.” He turns away to wash his hands in the sink, but takes that time to gather his thoughts. “Look, I don’t really want to talk about this any more. I’ve already spoken more to you about it than I have to Hank. It’s not something I really dwell on.”
“I understand,” Markus says. “What did you want to talk about then?”
“What were your first experiences like?” Connor asks. “Did you start with Carl right away?”
“No,” Markus says. “I spent some time with Elijah Kamski before he sent me to Carl. He wanted me perfect for his friend, so he taught me how to be personable while tweaking my code.”
“No wonder you’re so good with people,” Connor says, wowed. “To have Kamski himself making sure that you were.”
Markus laughs. “Elijah doesn’t have the best manners himself, so I did learn a lot more from living with Carl than I did with Elijah. But it certainly didn’t hurt matters.” He stops laughing a becomes more serious for a moment. “Carl really was the one to shape me into who I am today.” He bows his head and doesn’t look at Connor. “I miss him,” he says in a small voice.
Connor stops what he’s doing to stare at the deviant leader, who suddenly seems close to tears. Obviously, talking about Carl is still hard for Markus to do. So Connor takes it upon himself to change the subject. “Tell me about Jericho, how it was before I saw it.”
Markus looks up and smiles again, though this time it’s strained. “It was a mess, nothing like what you saw. The ship was falling apart, no lights, water everywhere, no place to sleep. Everyone there was just waiting until they shut down. They had no motivation to go out and change their fates.”
“I assume you gave them that motivation,” Connor says. He knows that Markus was leading them by time they infiltrated the Stratford Building, which was just a short time after Markus deviated.
“I only had a few days to get them all to trust me, and to get them to want to actually do something about their situation. The first thing we did was steal a truck full of bio-components from a Cyberlife warehouse.”
Connor sputters dropping his knife. “You did what?”
“I know, I know. Don’t tell the cop about the illegal shit you’ve done,” Markus says playfully.
“Well, I’m not a cop,” Connor says, getting back to his dinner preparations, “But you definitely shouldn’t tell Hank about that. I’m actually quite happy you did something to stick it to Cyberlife. I can’t hate them enough for what they did to me. So I’m glad, just maybe don’t tell me what other illegal stuff you did. I don’t like keeping things from Hank.”
“Ha ha, alright,” Markus agrees. “Maybe I should just keep my mouth shut then. We didn’t exactly follow the letter of the law at Jericho.”
“I hope that’s changing in New Jericho.”
“It has to,” Markus says solemnly. “We have to look legitimate if we want to be taken seriously by the government. If I can ever get them to talk to us that is.”
“All done?” Markus asks, changing the subject to Hank’s dinner set up before them.
“Yes,” Connor says. “The lieutenant should be here any minute.”
Just then Sumo barks and the front door opens. “How did you do that?” Markus asks. Connor just smiles at him and keeps his secrets.
“I smell food,” Hank calls from the vestibule. “You didn’t go and cook me something aggressively healthy, did you?”
Connor smiles brightly as the lieutenant rounds the corner into the kitchen. “Of course, Hank,” he says, shoving the food in the man’s direction. “Here you go. No need to order greasy Chinese food now.”
“Of course not,” Hank grumbles, but sits down to eat anyways. “You two just going to watch me eat?”
“We can leave if it makes you uncomfortable,” Markus says amenably.
“Nah, stay, whatever.” Hank takes a bite out of the food and looks surprised. “This isn’t half bad, kid. When’d you learn to cook?”
“After you complained about my cooking for the last 32 days,” Connor says, embarrassed as he looks at Markus. “I watched some on-line tutorials.”
Markus laughs, a bright sound that Connor is coming to enjoy hearing. “You couldn’t just download a cooking subroutine?”
“None of the available ones were compatible with my software,” Connor admits. “And Cyberlife didn’t consider it a useful skill for their detective to possess.”
“So you learned the old fashioned way,” Markus states. “That’s commendable.”
Connor flushes at the compliment. “It was nothing. Just a few hours of videos. I learn quickly.”
When Hank is done eating, they all pile back onto the couch to watch some television again. There’s no game on, so they’re watching some documentary on underwater life. Connor is fascinated, but Hank is drifting off to sleep.
“I’m glad you’re sitting like yourself again,” Markus points out during a commercial break.
Connor hadn’t even thought about it, but he’s sitting with perfect posture again. Last night flashes back into his memory, and he feels ashamed of the way he acted. “I can’t change the way I am.”
“And you shouldn’t have to,” Markus says sincerely. “I’m sorry about last night. I was out of line.”
“It’s not your fault I can’t keep my emotions in check,” Connor tells him.
“I should never have given you something to be upset over,” Markus declares. “That’s on me.”
Connor smiles and nudges Markus lightly with his elbow. “It’s nothing. Don’t worry about it.”
Markus pushes back playfully and smiles too. “I’m happy to see you feeling better.”
“It’s been a good night,” Connor says. It really has been.
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It’s two days later, and Markus is pacing restlessly about the living room. “I can’t stay here even one more minute,” he tells Connor. “I have to get back to Jericho. I need to meet with my advisors to prepare my speech.”
Connor sighs, but recognizes the logic in Markus’s words. They learned just that day that the Mayor’s Office and the City Council have agreed to meet with Markus to discuss android rights in the city of Detroit. It’s not the national stage they were hoping for, but one step at a time. The city is setting this up as a public speech, so that the city’s occupants can hear what’s going on as well. The only problem: Markus is still in lock down.
“It’s too risky to go back to New Jericho,” Connor tries lamely. He knows this approach isn’t going to work on Markus, but he tries anyway.
“What about at least getting my advisors here? We need to be in the same room.”
“That’s even worse,” Connor tells him. “We can’t have everyone you know traveling to your safe house, it wouldn’t be very safe if everyone could track down where you are.”
“Then you’ll have to take me back to New Jericho,” Markus says, crossing his arms and looking firm.
Connor pinches the bridge of his nose between his thumb and forefinger. It doesn’t help but he’s adopted the gesture from Hank. “Fine,” he relents. “But on two conditions.”
“Okay, shoot,” Markus says getting excited that he’s finally getting his way.
“First, no one can know that you’re coming,” Connor lays out. This is the most important point he needs to get through to Markus. If people know he’s going to be at New Jericho, he could be a target again.
“I need to tell my friends,” Markus protests, just as Connor expected he would. “They have to know to expect me so we can get things moving.”
“No one,” Connor repeats. “If you tell even one person, they could tell someone else, who tells someone else, and so on. This can’t get out.”
“My friends wouldn’t tell anyone,” Markus complains.
“No. One,” Connor reiterates.
Markus sags his shoulders in defeat. “Fine. What’s your second condition?”
“That we go the back way and no one sees us come in.” It should be an obvious point, but he can see Markus is about to protest again. “What did I just say? No one can know you are there.”
“But I’ve been away from Jericho for too long already. The people need to know I haven’t abandoned them.”
“Your safety is what I’m concerned with,” Connor says. “The people can survive without you for a few days, they can’t survive without you indefinitely.”
Markus fumes and starts pacing again. “It’s been three days. Where are you with your investigation?”
“We have no clues to go on, and no group is taking the blame for the attack,” Connor explains. “Whoever did this was extremely well organized. Maybe if there was CCTV coverage...” That last point is a low blow and it gets a glare out of Markus. They’ve already been over the fact that Connor believes New Jericho should never have opened before installing cameras, but Markus said that it was more important to open as early as possible so his people had somewhere to go.
“Fine,” Markus grits out. “Whatever you need to do. Just get me to New Jericho. I just need to get out of this house.”
Connor understands Markus’s impatience, but he feels a little sad at the idea that he and Hank haven’t been good enough company to keep Markus from getting stir-crazy. He banishes the thought before it has time to take hold. He doesn’t have time to get swarmed in his emotions.
Markus has been helping the last few days, getting Connor to focus whenever he starts to get overwhelmed. But the progress is slow and he still has moments where he can’t control what he’s feeling. It’s frustrating, but he knows nothing happens overnight. For now he just needs to ignore his sadness and focus on his job, keeping Markus safe.
So he and Markus pack up their things and take a self-driving taxi to New Jericho. They get out several blocks before reaching the apartment building, and cross through abandoned alleyways and rooftops to make their way to the back entrance of New Jericho.
“You know this is a lot like the way I reached Jericho the first time around,” Markus says with a smile on his face. Evidently, the memory is a good one for him, despite the state the android was in after just having repaired himself in a junkyard. It must be the memories he made after reaching Jericho that are lifting his spirits now.
“I know,” Connor says, responding to Markus’s statement. “I followed the clues to get there too.”
That puts a damper on Markus’s good mood. “That’s right, I forgot.” Meaning he also forgot for a moment that Connor is responsible for bringing down Jericho. But Markus shrugs it off and leads the way, apparently just fine with having the former deviant hunter at his back. Connor sighs at Markus’s lack of self-preservation, but follows along anyways.
They reach New Jericho within minutes, jumping onto the fire escape from a nearby building. They climb all the way to the top, to where North’s apartment is. She’s the one most likely to be in at this hour, as she likes to gather her thoughts before the day begins while the others like to jump right in.
Markus puts on his most charming smile before knocking on the window. Judging by the undignified squeak that comes from inside, he wasn’t successful in not scaring North. Markus steps back as the window opens and North’s angry glare hits him full force. “What on Earth are you doing up here?
“Sneaking into Jericho,” Markus responds coolly.
“You couldn’t have called ahead so as to not frighten me to death?” North demands, even as she lets them into the room.
“You can blame Connor,” Markus deflects. “His idea.” Connor rolls his eyes but nods his head when North directs her gaze at him. “Can you get the others?” Markus continues. “We need to have a discussion about this meeting.”
“Of course, Markus,” North says, fully composed once more. “This is important, I’m glad you came.” She hurries out the door, headed to get Josh and Simon so they can begin discussion.
“Thank you for bring me here,” Markus tells Connor seriously. “This really is important.”
“And you couldn’t wait to get out of Hank’s house,” Connor says, a little hurt.
“It’s not that I’m ungrateful for your protection,” Markus begins. “I was just going a bit crazy being cooped up.”
“I understand,” Connor tells him.
“I don’t think you do,” Markus says. “I haven’t stayed in one place for a whole day since I became a deviant. At Jericho, I was always on the move, always planning our next act. Since the demonstration, I’ve been even busier, never having the opportunity to sit down and relax. So when I was suddenly pulled out of my position to sit around at Hank’s house for a few days, not only was it jarring, it reminded me of my time as an obedient android. As a caregiver to an invalid, I spent a lot of time in the house, hardly ever venturing out. I guess I just miss my newfound freedom.”
Connor listens during that speech and everything changes for him. Now, Markus isn’t trying to get away from him and Hank, he’s trying to gain back what he fought hard to obtain. “I’m sorry, Markus, I should have realized.”
Markus puts a hand up to stop him. “You had no reason to.” He turns around and surveys the room, a classic move Connor has come to realize means that Markus is hiding strong emotion. “You got me here, and I am really grateful. Not just to get out of the house, but because this speech is important, and I need my advisors to help me with it.” Markus turns back to Connor. “I’d like your input too,” he says.
“My input?” Connor asks. “I don’t think I have anything helpful to say.”
“Nonsense,” Markus declares. “You are a natural leader. I’m sure you have plenty of ideas to convey.”
Connor shuffles his feet and doesn’t look in Markus’s direction. “I think I’d like to leave the leading up to you and your friends.”
“If that’s what you want,” Markus says sadly. “But feel free to add anything you want during the discussion.”
North comes back at that moment with Simon and Josh. “Thank god you’re here, Markus,” Josh says as he clasps the leader in a warm embrace. “Simon and I were trying to write a first draft of your speech, but with how we were arguing, it is obvious we need your advice.”
Markus laughs. “Can’t get along, huh? So what do you have so far?”
“I think we should push to have android crimes be investigated by the DPD,” Josh starts. “The attack on New Jericho proves that it is needed.”
“And I don’t think we should be so forceful in a first meeting,” Simon disagrees. “We should stress that we are living beings and deserve equal rights, and the city will come to it’s own conclusions about what that will look like.”
“We can’t just hope the humans do the right thing,” North jumps in. “They’ll never give us rights if we don’t demand them.”
“Great, now you’re against me too,” Simon laments.
“I would think you’d be used to it,” North smirks, “I’m against everybody.”
“And I’m beginning to think you do it out of spite, not because it’s what you really think.”
“I would never.”
“Guys!” Markus interrupts. “We need to focus. You are all right. We need to ask for equal protection under the law, but we need to do it tactfully so they think it’s their idea. I have some thoughts.”
Markus continues to talk, but Connor tunes him out. He focuses on scanning the room, but he can’t get an accurate read on the safety of the group from within these walls. So Connor takes his leave of the bickering group and makes his way out into the hall.
He starts scanning the perimeter when he catches sight of two androids talking quietly down the hall. He ducks behind a corner, turns his hearing sensors up to maximum, and listens in.
“One sign of trouble and Markus is out of here,” the first android says. “The day after New Jericho opens no less.”
“I don’t think a bomb in his room is just a mere sign of trouble. He was right to get out.”
“But that’s my point. A bomb in New Jericho threatens us all. Maybe he should have left, but what are the rest of us supposed to do? None of us have money, we can’t stay in hotels, if the owners would even have us there. We don’t all have friends in high places like Markus does.”
“North and the others said we’d be safe in Jericho,” the second android points out.
“Like they know if we’re safe or not,” the other scoffs. “All I’m saying is the water got a little hot and Markus ran for the hills. He hasn’t been seen in days. He’s abandoned us.”
Connor is seething by this point. Didn’t they realize that Markus was in more danger than every other android. And Markus had to be practically dragged out of here before he would go. Their leader did not abandon them.
“He didn’t abandon us,” the second android says, echoing Connor’s thoughts. “He’s just somewhere safe.”
“Oh yeah, and when is he going to come back?”
“When it is safe again.”
“If he only leads us when its safe to do so, then he’ll never lead us again.”
Connor is ready to step in and defend Markus, but he stops himself because he can’t let on that Markus is here. Don’t these androids realize the danger that Markus put himself in time and time again during the week that led up to the demonstration at Hart Plaza. He’d still be in harms way if Connor hadn’t convinced him to leave New Jericho for a time. And here he is, back again anyways.
He tears himself away from the two androids, finishes his sweep of the floor and returns to North’s room. Connor is definitely going to keep this from Markus. If the other knew what some of his people were saying about him, he’d never agree to leave New Jericho again.
Connor listens to Markus as he demonstrates some of the points he wants to make in his speech. He speaks about android rights and equality in the eyes of the law. He speaks with such passion that Connor can’t help but smile. He thinks back to the boat where the two of them first met. How the passion that Markus displayed led Connor to deviancy. He grins as the thinks that City Council and the people of Detroit won’t know what hit them.
“That should keep us busy for a while,” Josh says when Markus is done speaking.
“Yes, you’ll be fiddling with each word until the minute of the speech,” North complains. “Now, you two run downstairs and polish it off while Connor and I discuss security.”
Connor perks up at the mention of his name as Josh and Simon leave the room, already discussing how best to word certain aspects of the speech. “What did you want to talk about?” Connor asks curiously.
“I’ve been in touch with the Mayor’s Office,” North begins. “To discuss safety concerns. I can’t get them to budge, and they won’t let any of our people to patrol sensitive areas.”
“I.e. any place worth patrolling,” North responds. “Hell, they’ve marked off almost the entire surrounding area as sensitive. It’ll be an android free zone except for the four of us.”
“That’s absurd,” Connor gets angry. “How can they expect us to keep our people safe if they won’t allow us to patrol?”
“Connor, it’s okay.” Markus puts a hand on his chest to keep him from pacing. “The Mayor’s office will do what they please. We have to accommodate them if we are going to get them to listen to our requests.”
“We can’t,” Connor complains. “You’re a target. We need to be able to ensure your safety.”
“We can, and we will,” Markus states firmly. “We have to do this or they won’t let us speak at all.”
Connor gets himself under control, with considerable effort, and then turns to North. “Will they at least let us coordinate with the DPD?”
North looks thoughtful. “I think I can swing that. Assuming the DPD will work with us.”
“Hank will,” Connor tells him. “And the DPD will be working the event in any case. I just want them to be looking at it from an android perspective. Not just keeping the Mayor and City Council safe, but Markus as well.”
“If you can get Hank to convince them, then I say that’s our best option,” North says. “Our fearless leader here is ready to put himself in the crosshairs if it means even the possibility of getting more rights for our people. It’s up to you and me to keep him safe.”
“I’m standing right here you know,” Markus says with only a little ire.
“And you know I’m telling the truth.” Markus just sighs, but doesn’t argue.
“To that end then,” Connor says, ignoring Markus and focusing on North’s words, “I have to be up on that platform with Markus when he makes his speech.”
“What?” North says. “No. You’re not one of the original founders of Jericho. You don’t have a place up there.”
“North!” Markus almost shouts.
Connor goes on, continuing to ignore Markus. “I have to be there. It’s the only way I can ensure his safety. I’m useless if you keep me away.”
“Connor has as much right to be there as you do,” Markus states. “I was a latecomer to Jericho too, you don’t challenge my right to be there.”
North looks back and forth between Connor and Markus. She can see the two are both holding firm in their resolve, and she relents. “Fine. I only want to protect Markus. If you can do that, then you should be on that platform.”
“I can promise you, I won’t let Markus get hurt.”
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“Has the perimeter been checked?”
“And double checked,” Hank assures Connor. “Nobody’s slipping through our net, I swear.”
“What about long range shooters, on the roofs over there,” Connor points at the buildings at the far end of the square.
“No one could make that shot,” Hank tells him.
“I could,” Connor says.
“Are you suggesting an android is going to assassinate Markus?” Hank asks, skeptical.
“Are you suggesting no human could ever be as good as an android?” Connor says with a slight uptick of a smile on his face. He knows he’s got Hank now.
“Fine, I’ll have my people check the buildings. That will spread us a little thin though, and Markus is going on in a few minutes.”
“Then have them hurry,” Connor says. “I can delay Markus if needed.”
Hank runs off to direct officers towards the buildings Connor pointed out. Connor paces backstage, annoyed he can do more than just look after Markus. He glances over to where the other one is working on his speech with his advisors. They seem deep in thought, so he leaves them to go look out into the square again.
Markus is giving his speech on a platform facing towards the crowd, with the Mayor and the City Council sitting in a special panel before him. The crowd is already starting to fill to bursting and DPD are swarming every entrance patting people down. Satisfied that the DPD are doing their jobs, Connor slips back into the tent behind the stage.
“Happy with the job the DPD is doing?” North asks.
“Mostly,” Connor tells her. Hank is doing his best, but many of his people don’t think protecting androids is their job. Hopefully Markus’s speech will help to change that.
“The Mayor is going on first,” Josh says, “Then Markus will take the stage.”
“Are we ready?” North asks, looking to Connor. He pokes his head out of the tent and finds Hank. The other man nods to him, so Connor can assume the job was done. “Yes, tell them to go ahead.” Things are as safe as he can make it for now. He still has a bad feeling about this, but he has no reason to stop the proceedings. Markus can’t back down now.
After the Mayor’s short introduction, the four leaders of Jericho plus Connor head out onto the platform so Markus can give his speech. Connor ignores what Markus is doing and focuses on scanning the crowd and the surrounding area. The people seem mostly receptive to what Markus is saying, but there could always be a bad actor in the crowd.
He feels bad for tuning out Markus’s speech, but he’s heard it enough with the man practicing on him and Hank. Androids shouldn’t have to practice aloud, but Markus is old school and wanted to get their reactions. Connor tried to tell him it was useless, since he and Hank were already on his side, but he wouldn’t listen. Connor smiles a little at the thought, but quickly gets back to his job.
It’s just then that he gets a slight ping off his sensors. It’s at the very edge of his range, and is gone in a second, but Connor swears it was there. He hikes up his optical sensors to maximum and looks in the direction the ping came from, but there’s nothing he can see. But his bad feeling gets worse as he realizes it came from the same region he pointed out to Hank before the speech started.
Connor gets another momentary ping and from that gets a better sense of the direction. He looks there, and after a few moments of scanning, he sees the glint off a rifle scope. He’s moving before he even realizes it and shouts a warning. Markus looks at him dumbly, and Connor has to jump to pull him down just before the shot rings out.
“Connor, what the...” Markus begins before the reality of the situation comes crashing down on him. “Oh, god. Are you okay?” Connor begins a self-diagnostic before realizing he doesn’t have to. There’s thirium leaking down his shirt and he falls to the ground. “Connor, no!” Markus shouts.
Connor does one final check to make sure that Markus is safely behind the podium opposite the shooter, before he lets his sensors return to normal. It’s like dialing down the volume on the television, everything feels muted for a moment before he readjusts.
Markus is pulling open his shirt and he gets a good look at the wound in the center of his chest before he turns away from it and looks Connor straight in the eye. “Do I have permission to open your chest plate?” Markus asks. His voice wavers a little, but is gentle and firm at the same time. Connor is comforted by the sound of it. He nods and Markus pulls away the artificial skin from his chest and opens the plating. Markus’s breath hitches when it gets all the way open and Connor has to keep himself from looking to see what it is. Moving a lot right now isn’t advisable. “There’s so much blood,” Markus explains as if he knew what Connor was thinking.
North runs up and gasps when she sees the scene before her. “They caught the shooter,” she announces. “What can I do to help?”
“We were allowed to bring an android medic,” Markus says. “She should be around here somewhere. Get her here, and fast.”
“Will do,” North responds and runs off to the backstage tent.
“Connor,” Markus says gently, “Can you run a self-diagnostic for me? Tell me what the problem is?” Connor nods as does as he’s told. His HUD lights up with warnings, most of which are irrelevant. He focuses on the main problem, the one that’s going to force him to shut down permanently in three minutes.
“There’s a nick in the main line to my thirium pump,” he states coolly. He interfaces with Markus briefly to show him where. The other android reaches in and holds a finger to the place he’s leaking thirium, stemming the bleeding significantly. “That should keep my systems from shutting down for another ten minutes and 12 seconds,” Connor reports.
“How are you feeling?” Markus asks. Connor knows he’s not talking about the pain, since androids don’t feel pain in the way that humans do. Markus is talking about his emotions, which Connor hasn’t had access to since he took the stage.
When Connor doesn’t answer, Markus looks sad. “You’re shutting off your emotions again, aren’t you?” he asks, already knowing the answer. Connor doesn’t respond, and Markus takes the hand not currently inside his chest and caresses Connor’s cheek. “You’ve been doing so well. I know it hurts now, but you need to feel alive, even in moments like these.”
Connor closes his eyes and focuses. Even though he thinks this is a monumentally bad idea, he does as Markus asks and slowly opens himself up to his feelings. He gasps when they flood back into him, slamming against him with the full force of everything that’s happened.
“How are you feeling now?” Markus asks, concerned. Connor still doesn’t respond, but tears start slowly leaking down the sides of his face. “Tell me what you are feeling,” Markus asks gently.
“I don’t want to die,” Connor says quietly.
Markus wipes away a tear with one hand and grips his thirium line a little harder with the other. “You’re not going to die. I’m not going to let you. The medic will be here any second.”
Connor has to blink away the warning message counting down his imminent shutdown, but when he does he takes a good look at Markus. The other android is covered in blue blood, but he doesn’t seem to care even as he has his hand stuck in Connor’s chest. The hand against his cheek is shaking slightly, but the one against his thirium line is stock still.
“Okay,” Connor says, fighting to get himself under control. “I believe you.”
Just then, as Markus said would happen, the medic arrives. “Tell me what happened,” she demands with no preamble.
“The bullet pierced his main thirium line,” Markus reports. “He’s leaking a lot of blood. I’ve got my finger on the hole but it’s only slowing the bleeding, not stopping it.”
“Six minutes and 42 seconds until shutdown at the current rate of bleeding,” Connor helpfully supplies. He’s feeling calmer now that the medic is here, but he is still worried about how close he is to shutting down.
“Then we have to move quickly,” the medic replies. “I can solder the hole closed, but Markus, you are going to have to move your hand, and the bleeding will increase for a moment. Connor, try not to panic when the shutdown counter speeds up, it will only be for a short time while I work. Everyone understand?” Markus and Connor nod and the medic gets her soldering iron from her tool bag. “Okay, on three, ready? One, two three.” Markus moves his finger and Connor is glad he had the warning because his countdown speeds up rapidly. Moving ever closer to shutdown, Connor feels the fear grip him again, but he doesn’t let it control him. He knows the medic needs him still so she can work.
It doesn’t take more than thirty seconds and the hole is closed and the countdown turns off. Connor breathes a sigh of relief as he does another self-diagnostic to check that everything is in working order. He’s short on thirium, but no other major systems are damaged. He got lucky.
“Get him to sit up and start drinking thirium,” the medic orders Markus after she closes up his chest plate. Connor feels a bit off kilter with so much thirium loss, but Markus is there to help him to sit up. As he does a bunch of blue blood that had pooled in his chest cavity runs down his body to sit in his lap. He almost falls over again at the sensation, but Markus is there and lets Connor lean his back against his chest. Situated like that, Connor takes the thirium the medic hand him and starts guzzling it down as fast as he can.
“Whoa, slow down,” Markus says, “You’re going to choke.
“I’m not a human,” Connor protests, “I cannot choke.”
“Well you don’t need to drink it so fast, you’re not in danger of shutdown any longer.”
“Holy fuck!” A new voice joins them, and Connor closes his eyes and cringes. He knows what this must look like to a human. Hank isn’t going to let this go soon. “You two are covered in blue blood. Was there a massacre in here?”
“Connor was shot,” Markus admits. “He saved my life.”
Connor opens his eyes to see Hank bending down to his level with a concerned look on his face. “Are you alright, son?” he asks.
“I’m fine now,” Connor assures him. “I lost a bit of thirium, but I’m taking more in to compensate. See?” He takes a big gulp of blue blood to prove his point. “I’ll be one hundred percent in no time.” He smiles, but it’s a little strained. Hank must see that because he turns to Markus.
“Is he really okay?” he asks.
“I’ll admit he was in danger,” Markus tells Hank, “But it’s passed now. He’ll be fine, just like he said.”
“Dammit, Connor,” Hank swears, “What were you thinking?”
“I just needed to make sure Markus was safe,” Connor says. “I didn’t think I’d be shot.”
“You only have one life now,” Hank says. “You have to take better care of it.”
“I know that,” Connor tells him. “But I’m fine.” He quickly changes the subject. “What’s going on with the shooter?”
Hank sighs. “Well, we caught the guy, and only because you had me send men to those buildings over there. They caught him fleeing the scene. Hopefully he will be able to identify the group responsible for this.”
“Group?” Markus asks. “How do you know it wasn’t just one guy?”
“He was too well organized, and his gear was too expensive” Hank says. “It’s just a hunch, but I don’t think this is over with by a long shot. You’re likely still in danger. Speaking of, we should get you out of here.” He looks over to Connor. “Can you stand?”
“In a moment,” Connor replies and chugs some more thirium. Markus runs a hand up and down his arm and it feels good, helps to steady him.
“I’ll leave you to top off, or whatever it is you’re doing,” Hank tells him. “I’ve got to finish organizing with my team. Then you two need to come with me to the station to give your statements.”
“Okay,” Markus says. “We’ll come find you when we’re ready.” With that Hank marches off to go yell at some rookie who’s messing up. Connor chuckles and leans back into Markus. “You’re feeling better I see,” Markus remarks.
“My thirium levels are almost back to normal. I’m fine.” He turns around to face Markus, missing the point of contact, but he needs to see Markus’s face for this next part. “I’m sorry,” he says.
“Whatever for?” Markus asks. “You saved my life, you have nothing to be sorry for.”
“I’m sorry I broke down on you earlier,” Connor explains. “I was feeling very emotional, and it turns out it was for nothing, since I’m just fine. I shouldn’t have had a meltdown at such a critical moment.”
“Connor,” Markus says pointedly, “Listen to me. Almost dying is the perfect time to have a meltdown. And you hardly broke down. You simply expressed that you didn’t want to die, which is a perfectly normal reaction to the situation.”
“I’m not done,” Markus snaps. “You stepped in between me and that bullet, and it almost cost you your life. One millimeter in the wrong direction and you would have bled out before anyone could get to you. I don’t… I don’t know what I would have done if you had died.” Tears start slipping down Markus’s face. “I can’t lose you.”
Markus hides his face in his hands and starts sobbing. Connor is shocked. All this over him? He thinks back to all the times Markus has comforted him and he tries to replicate the other’s actions. He pulls Markus into a hug, and the normally composed deviant leader falls into Connor’s arms. It doesn’t stop his crying, if anything it gets worse, but Connor knows it’s helping. He’s done enough crying in the last month to know that sometimes you just have to let it out. He strokes the back of Markus’s head and starts speaking. “It’s okay, I’m still here. I’m not going anywhere.” Markus’s breathing starts to even out at the words and he slips down until his head is lying in Connor’s lap. Connor keeps stroking his temple as the tears start to dry up.
“Don’t do that to me again,” Markus says quietly. “My life’s not worth yours.”
Connor doesn’t know what to say to that. It’s his mission to keep Markus safe. If that means stepping in front of bullets, then he’ll do it. But he knows that’s not what Markus wants to hear right now. “I’ll do my best to stay safe, but your life is important to me as well. I won’t do anything to endanger you.”
“As long as you don’t get killed for me.”
“That wasn’t my intention,” Connor says. “I was just trying to get you out of the way. I just wasn’t fast enough. I’m sorry.”
“There you go apologizing again for something that’s not your fault,” Markus says as he gets up from Connor’s lap and dries his eyes. “That’s a bad habit of yours.”
“Security was my responsibility,” Connor explains. “I messed it up.”
“From the way Hank explains it, these guys were too well organized. They slipped past the DPD, and you weren’t even allowed to patrol, so it’s definitely not your fault.” Markus puts a hand on Connor’s shoulder. “Don’t blame yourself.”
“It’s still my fault, I should have been better.”
Markus sighs and stands up, effectively ending the conversation. “Come on,” he says, lending Connor a hand. “Let’s go find Hank.”
Thanks to everyone who made me smile last chapter. I really appreciate it :)
Comments and kudos are always welcome.
Markus sighs. “Someone tried to kill me, Connor, almost killed you instead. I guess I’m just not in the mood for small talk.”
Connor looks him over. He looks exhausted. They’ve been in the police station for hours, going over their story to everyone who asks. Markus has a coffee cup in his hands, given to him by someone who must not have realized he was an android. He’s just slumped over the desk, holding the cup, even though it has long gone cold.
Being back at the police station, however, has put Connor in a much better mood. Although he’s not working, he still feels like he’s in his element. This is what he was made for. He just needs to get someone to let him work on the case.
Connor feels bad for feeling this good when Markus is clearly miserable. He considers giving the other android a hug, but decides that the precinct is not the place for such displays of affection.
“I’ll go find Hank,” Connor says, “See if they can let you go.” Markus just nods minutely and Connor leaves him there in order to find Hank.
He quickly finds the man, behind the glass walls of Fowler’s office. Connor decides it’s time to interrupt the captain and get some answers. He walks straight to Fowler’s office and opens the door.
“Absolutely not,” Fowler is yelling at Hank. “This is a high profile case now. The goddamn Mayor was there.”
“But you put me on android crimes,” Hank protests. “That makes this case mine.”
“What do you want?” Fowler asks, turning to Connor. He’s not in a good mood, but that doesn’t deter Connor. He makes up his mind moments before he speaks.
“I think you should let me interrogate the shooter.”
“What?” Hank and Fowler say at the same time.
“The shooter,” Connor reiterates. “I heard he wasn’t talking. I might be able to get something out of him.”
“Doesn’t anything stay quiet in my station?” Fowler grumbles to himself. “You don’t work for me, Connor,” he says to the android. “You don’t even work for CyberLife anymore.”
“But you know my record. I’ve successfully interrogated people for you before.”
“Yeah, androids,” Fowler states. “Not people. There’s a difference.”
Connor feels himself getting angry over that – probably too much time spent with Markus – but he lets it go. “My methods get results, human or android. What do you have to lose Captain?”
Fowler sits down hard in his chair. Connor represses a smile, knowing that he’s won. “Fine. But Hank goes with you.”
“Does that mean I’m back on the case?” Hank ask.
“Yes. I can’t deny your familiarity with android crimes. But you won’t be the only one working it.”
“That works for me,” Hank says, already opening the door to Fowler’s office. “We’ll just be on our way to the interrogation room then.” He leaves without waiting for an answer. Connor gives Fowler an apologetic look before following the lieutenant.
“You really think you can get the guy to talk?” Hank asks as they walk.
“I don’t know, Lieutenant,” Connor replies, going back to formality now that he’s working again. “But getting in the same room as the shooter will allow me to analyze clues on his person that might give us some insights, whether or not he talks.”
“Right,” Hank says, clearly not understanding what Connor is talking about. “Well, you do that. I’ll focus on getting him to tell us what he knows.”
They reach the interrogation room door and Hank opens it with a palm print. The door opens to a familiar room with an unfamiliar man handcuffed to the table. Connor gets to scanning as soon as he gets in the door. He gets four clues. First, his name is Kwan Park, no criminal record, no record of employment. Second, his clothes are expensive and tailored. Third, his fingerprints don’t match those on the bombs in New Jericho. And lastly, his pulse is steady. The man isn’t afraid of being interrogated.
Connor stops scanning, frustrated he didn’t get more useful information. He sits down. Maybe they can get him to talk.
The man looks up, takes them in, and looks confused. “What’s that doing here?” he spits out, nodding in Connor’s direction.
“ ‘That’ is a person, and he is my partner.” Hank grits out. Connor’s heart swells at the affection Hank is showing. He knows that Hank cares, but the man doesn’t always say it aloud. And last time Connor was in this room, Hank would not have called him his partner. He might have even called Connor an “it.” Hank’s attitude towards androids has changed so much since he met the man.
“Who are you working for, Mr. Park?” Connor asks.
“No one,” the man replies, looking at Hank instead of Connor. “I acted alone.”
“Bullshit,” Hank shoots back. “You’re connected, you have resources. That gun was top of the line, best model money can buy. How did you afford such equipment?”
When the man doesn’t answer, Connor jumps in. “You have no record of employment for the last five years, yet you can afford nice clothes and expensive guns. Where could you get the money unless you were paid under the table, perhaps as a contract killer.”
Hank rolls with in and leans in. “Who wanted you to kill the deviant leader? Who wants him dead so badly that they would pay you?” The shooter shifts in his seat, but doesn’t say a word.
“Whoever hired you sold you out,” Connor points out. The man finally shifts his attention to the android, eyes wide. “You were caught too easily. They wanted you in police custody, knowing you were the type to keep your mouth shut. They wanted a scapegoat to keep them from falling under suspicion.”
“What is your loyalty to them?” Hank asks. “Why stay silent?”
“How did you know what my sensor range was?” Connor suddenly asks. Hank looks at him with curiosity, but Connor continues without explaining his thinking. “I almost didn’t notice you. You were almost exactly just out of my sensor range. Close enough to make the shot, but far enough away that you wouldn’t be detected.”
“Isn’t that interesting,” Hank observes while the shooter looks very uncomfortable, darting his eyes between Connor and Hank.
Connor continues, and gets the man to look straight at him. “You screwed up though. You were just a hair too close and pinged my sensors.”
“What a fuck-up,” Hank says, but Park ignores him and continues to stare at Connor, who keeps going down this line of thought.
“The only way you could know my sensor range is if you got my specs. And since I’m a specialized prototype, my specifications are classified. The only way for you to get them is from CyberLife.” The man shifts in his seat again, more uncomfortably this time. He very clearly wants Connor to stop.
“So you have CyberLife influences, or at least people in the group that hired you who work for CyberLife.” Hank doesn’t succeed at getting the man’s attention, he’s still got his eyes locked on Connor.
“I think it means CyberLife themselves,” Connor says. “They sent me to get rid of Markus, why wouldn’t they send you as well. Sending an android backfired on them, so send a human this time.”
“Shit,” Hank mutters under his breath. Connor agrees with the sentiment. This is bad.
“I acted alone,” Park says, punctuating each word. “Get that through your thick skulls.”
“Right,” Hank says, dripping with sarcasm. “I think we’re done here.”
They leave the room, Connor practically vibrating with this new knowledge. CyberLife is trying to kill Markus. They have to tell him now. “I need to get back to Markus.”
“Yeah, I’ll go with you,” Hank says. “We should tell him what we found out.”
They find Markus in the bullpen, in exactly the same position as he was in when Connor left him. When they walk up to him, Markus’s eyes snap up and he finally moves. “Where have you been?” he asks. “I thought we were going to get out of here.”
Connor feels guilty at the words. He told Markus they could leave, and then he goes and starts working the case. But what they found out is too important, so Connor doesn’t regret his actions. “I was interrogating the shooter.”
“Really?” Markus asks curiously. “Is he talking.”
Hank jumps in before Connor can answer. “No, but your boy here is really clever and figured out he was hired by CyberLife.”
Markus freezes, and Connor gets a bad feeling. The deviant leader slowly stands up until he’s eye level with Hank and Connor. “What did you say?”
“I said CyberLife,” Hank repeats. “They are trying to kill you.”
Markus moves in an instant. He grabs the folding chair he had been sitting on and throws it as hard as he can. Thankfully, it clatters harmlessly off an empty desk and onto the floor. Connor immediately restrains Markus before he can do any further damage.
“Those self-righteous assholes,” Markus screams, getting the few people still around this late to look up and stare at him. “They think they can do whatever they want. They still think of us as their property, their creations. In their minds, that gives them the right to do whatever they want to us. Well I’m finished. I won’t tolerate them any more. If I have any power left, I will do what I can to take down CyberLife.”
“Geez, shout it a little louder why don’t you,” Hank mumbles. “I don’t think every CyberLife exec heard you yet.”
“I’m not afraid of them,” Markus says at thankfully a lower volume. “They’re already after me, they might as well know I’m after them as well.”
Connor grabs Markus’s arm and guides him to another chair that hasn’t been thrown across the station. “I don’t think it is wise to announce a plan to attack CyberLife. They might come after you harder.”
Markus sighs, leans over the table, and grabs the cup of cold coffee again. “You’re right,” he says, defeated.
“I’m just trying to protect you,” Connor tells him with a hand on his shoulder. He once again resists the urge to pull him into a hug. Maybe when they get home.
“I know,” Markus says. “And you’re doing a great job. I’m the one that can’t stop putting himself in danger.” Well, that last part is true, but Connor’s not going to say it. “I just want CyberLife to pay for what they’ve done.”
“They will,” Hank interjects. “I was officially put on the case today. I will follow this lead wherever it takes me, even straight up to CyberLife’s doors.”
Markus looks up. “You would do that?”
“Of course. I have no love of CyberLife after they sent that other Connor that tried to kill me.”
“What?” Markus asks, looking between Hank and Connor as Connor cringes. He never told that story to Markus, but it looks like he’s going to have to now.
“When I infiltrated the CyberLife Tower, there was another RK800 waiting for me. He had uploaded my memories and was able to convince Hank to come with him.”
“And when we arrived at CyberLife, the fucker pointed a gun at my head,” Hank helpfully supplies.
“He used Hank as a pawn to try to get me to stop what I was doing,” Connor continues. “It almost worked.”
“But you were successful at liberating the androids, and you’re both still here, so what happened?”
“I tackled the other RK800, and he dropped the gun. Hank was able to grab it and point it at us, but by this point he didn’t know which was which. I had to convince him who I was, which was difficult because the other android had my memories. But somehow I did it and Hank shot the other me.”
“Wow.” Markus is completely wrapped up in the story and his anger seems to be gone. “Why didn’t you ever tell me this before?”
“I’m not proud,” Connor says. “The other RK800 was me, just without the deviancy. He’s what I would have become if I hadn’t broken free of my programming.”
“Bullshit,” Hank interrupts. “You were always better than that prick.”
“You’re just saying that because I never pointed a gun at you.”
“Like I said, you were better than him,” Hank reiterates. “Do I have to list out your virtues again to get you to realize you’re a good person?”
“I don’t think that’s necessary, Lieutenant.”
“It’s Hank, for the hundredth time. Okay, here we go: the Eden club, that time on the roof, the Stratford building...”
“Hank!” Connor stops him. “I get it. Thank you.”
“He’s right,” Markus joins the conversation. “That could never have been you. At least not the person I’ve come to know over that past week.”
“Thank you,” Connor says quietly. “But weren’t we going to get you home? I’ve distracted us.”
“I’ve got to stay and go over the case,” Hank tells them, allowing Connor to change the subject. “But we can get you two into a cab headed back to my place.” Hank walks them out the front door as he calls for a cab. One must have been nearby because it shows up almost immediately.
Markus and Connor pile into the cab and say goodbye to Hank before shutting the door. As soon as the door is shut, Markus slumps against the window. He looks really tired again. “Come here,” Connor says, holding out his arms.
“What are you doing?” Markus asks, looking him up and down.
“I’m giving you a hug. You look like you need it.” Connor keeps his arms open, just waiting for Markus to accept.
“Alright,” Markus agrees, slips over to Connor’s side of the cab and falls into the other’s arms. Connor holds him tight and rubs his back. He lets Markus stay in his arms for as long as he needs it, which turns out to be forty-two seconds.
Markus pulls back and Connor looks him over. The weariness is still there, but has lessened significantly. “It’s been a hard day, huh?” Connor says.
“Yeah,” Markus acknowledges. “It must have been harder for you though, almost dying.”
“Me? I’m fine,” Connor says, knowing it’s true as it comes out of his mouth. “I loved being back at the station, interrogating the shooter. I feel invigorated.”
Markus looks Connor over and takes in the other’s genuine smile. “That’s amazing that you can bounce back so quickly. When I almost died, I sulked for almost a whole day before I took action at Jericho.”
“I doubt that,” Connor laughs. “I’m sure you were just waiting for the right time to take action.”
“Well I did decide pretty quickly that something had to be done about the state of Jericho.”
“See,” Connor tells him. “You were up and leading Jericho less than a day after you almost died. That’s amazing too.”
Markus smiles as he perks up a little at the praise. “Thank you, Connor. You really know how to make me feel better.”
I always love comments and kudos :)
“No, you’re doing it all wrong,” Markus protests lightly. “Here, let me.”
“I’ll never learn if you don’t let me do it myself,” Connor tells him. He stands his ground in front of the stove where he’s attempting to sauté some onions, and failing badly.
“They’re going to burn.”
“You said you’d teach me how to do this, not that you’d do it yourself.” Connor pokes at some onions and notices they are sticking to the pot. He suppresses a sigh and tries to get them to unstick.
“You have to move them around more,” Markus explains, “So they don’t burn. Here, let me show you.” Connor freezes as Markus comes up from behind him and lightly grabs the hand holding the spatula. He helps Connor to push around the onions so they don’t stick to the pot. Connor’s face heats up at more than just the hot stove.
A moment later and Markus is leaving his side. Connor misses the contact, but it’s decidedly easier to focus on his cooking with the other gone. “That should be enough,” Markus says, and it takes Connor a second to realize he’s talking about the onions. “We should add in the other vegetables now.”
Connor throws in the zucchini and yellow squash and tries to replicate the motions Markus showed him. He’s mildly successful. “How’d you get so good at this?” he asks.
“Well I was programmed with thousands of recipes and the cooking skills to be able to make them,” Markus says, “But I rarely fall back on that programming anymore. Carl disliked most of what I made him in the first few months I was with him, so I had to search out new recipes. I found food from all over the world that was healthy enough to feed to Carl, but also had the spices and flavor that he craved.”
“Where is this recipe from?”
“It’s a modified Indonesian recipe. Hank’s going to love it.”
Connor feels skeptical. “I don’t know. Hank likes typical American food, like burgers and fries. I don’t know if he’s even had Indonesian food before.”
“Which is why it’s going to blow his mind. Here, add the coconut milk.” Markus passes him a can, which he opens and pours into the pot. “Turn down the heat just a bit. That should sit for a few minutes without your attention.”
Connor steps away from the stove and silence falls for a moment. It’s a bit awkward and he’s just about to ask Markus something when the other steps in. “I know, we should play some music.”
“Music?” Connor is curious. “Why?”
“I used to love playing music when I cooked,” Markus explains. “I haven’t done this in a while, so it’d be nice to have some on.”
“Yeah, okay,” Connor agrees.
“Here, let me get the radio.” Markus fiddles with Hank’s radio until something that isn’t death metal comes on. Instead it’s big band music from the 1940s, full of rhythm and energy. “This is perfect. Doesn’t it just make you want to dance?”
“Dance?” Connor asks. Most of his experience with music comes from Hank, who listens to death metal and doesn’t so much as bop his head. Connor realizes he’s never danced before, and the thought makes him sad. “I don’t know how to dance.”
“Well come on then.” Markus turns the stove down to a simmer and takes Connor’s hand to lead him to the most open space in the kitchen. He starts slow, just moving his hips and lightly tapping his feet, encouraging Connor to join him. The RK800 gets the hang of tapping his feet, but he’s not bending his knees the way Markus is or moving his hips and his movements feel unnatural.
“I don’t think I’m doing this right.”
Markus laughs, but not unkindly. “Just feel the music and don’t think about it.” He grabs Connor’s hips and the other gets flustered right away, almost tripping on his own feet. But Markus doesn’t let go. Instead he guides Connor’s hips to swing from side to side. Once Connor is starting to get the hang of it, Markus lets go of his hips and grabs both his hands. He pulls Connor back and forth so he has to move his feet to the rhythm. “There you go!” Markus laughs again.
They swing around the small kitchen, careful not to knock over anything. Connor has a huge smile on his face. He’s loving this new activity, but even more he thinks he likes that he’s doing it with Markus.
Just as Connor is starting to feel comfortable in this new action, he trips and falls straight into Markus’s arms. “I’m sorry!” He’s mortified, but Markus just laughs brightly and hugs Connor close.
“You’re doing fine,” Markus says. “You’ll get the hang of it with practice.” He doesn’t let go and Connor feel like he doesn’t want to move. Embraced by Markus’s strong arms, he’s right where he wants to be.
Sumo barks and Hank comes through the door a moment later. Connor quickly extricates himself from Markus’s grasp and smooths down the front of his sweater. Hank stops in the hallway and looks between the two of them, taking in the music and flush on Connor’s cheeks. “You two have gotten chummy,” he remarks.
“I was just showing Connor how to dance,” Markus explains.
“Dance, huh? What is this crap anyway?”
“Glenn Miller,” Connor supplies. “And Markus also helped me make you dinner. He says you’ll love it.”
“He does, does he?” Hank asks, looking at Markus while the other nods happily. “It better not be excessively healthy.”
“I wouldn’t say ‘excessively,’ ” Markus says, “But it’s not going to clog up your arteries.”
“Oh god, now there’s two of you,” Hank groans.
Connor ignores him while he scoops up some food into a bowl. “I can’t exactly taste test this, since my taste buds are meant for sample analysis, not flavor, but Markus assures me that it will be very good.” He places the food in front of Hank, who skeptically takes a spoonful and blows on it to cool it down.
Hank takes a bite, and his eyes go wide. “This is healthy you say?” he asks. “I wouldn’t have guessed.”
“That’s good praise, I take it?” Markus inquires and Hank nods. Connor smiles at Markus, happy at a job done well.
“How’s the case going?” Connor asks Hank. It’s been 24 hours since Hank took on the case, and Connor and Markus haven’t heard anything yet.
“It’s rough,” Hank admits. “There’s absolutely no direct evidence connecting the shooting or the bombing to CyberLife. And I can’t bring them down on suspicions alone.” Seeing Markus’s steel set face he continues. “I won’t rest until I’ve found something, don’t you worry. I’ve already made some inquires amongst CyberLife’s competitors, seeing if they have any dirt on the company or it’s execs. Nothing yet, but it’s promising.”
“I should be out there, doing more to help,” Markus says. Connor feels for him, and thinks about the androids he overheard at New Jericho. He knows Markus needs to be under protection, but the man is right that he needs to be seen doing things for his people. The speech helped cement his place as leader, but he hasn’t been back to New Jericho since. The people are probably wondering where he is.
“You can’t help if you’re dead,” Hank says. “You just hang out here until we get this sorted. You’ll be back to New Jericho in no time.”
Connor goes rigid when his sensors pick up something outside the front of the house. He’s moving a split second later. “Down!” he shouts and pulls Markus to the ground moments before the bullets start flying. Connor checks, but Hank moves fast to threats and is safely behind the counter. He pulls Markus along until their backs are to the street window.
It’s chaos, a spray of bullets throughout the house, but only coming from one direction. There appears to only be one shooter, and he’s staying in the front of the house. Hank is safe behind the counter, and he and Markus are safe below the front windows. Unless the shooter moves, everything will be okay.
It’s over in a minute, glass and debris everywhere, but nobody hurt. Sumo is whining, but a quick scan reveals he’s perfectly fine. “Everybody okay?” Hank calls out from his spot behind the counter.
“Yes,” Connor responds for him and Markus. “The shooter has left, you can come out now.” Hank does and makes a beeline for Sumo. He checks the dog over and seems satisfied.
“What the hell!” Hank yells with his arm still around Sumo. “What the hell,” he repeats quieter.
“It’s my fault,” Markus says from his position still under the front windows. “I’m sorry.” He’s covered in glass and has a few superficial scrapes to the artificial skin on his face. They’ll heal over in an instant once Markus gets control of himself.
Connor bends back down to Markus’s level and rubs and hand up and down the other’s arm. “It’s okay, no one was hurt.”
Markus looks at him sadly. “I just bring death and destruction wherever I go.”
“That’s not true,” Connor tells him. “This is my fault anyways.” He turns to Hank, who’s still plopped over by Sumo, hand in the dog’s fur. “I’m sorry Hank. I shouldn’t have brought a target into your home.”
“Will you two stop feeling sorry for yourselves,” Hank says while getting up off the floor. “It’s not either of your faults. This isn’t about Markus.”
“It’s not?” Markus asks. Connor is equally curious.
“This was a piss poor assassination attempt if it was one,” Hank points out. “They didn’t stay long enough to make sure anyone was hurt. I don’t think they even knew you were here.”
“They why the shooting?” Connor asks.
“Those CyberLife asshats probably know I’m on the case. It’s got to be a warning to back off. Which is good because it means I’m close to something.”
Markus gets up off the floor, finally healing up the cuts on his face. “But you’re only on the case because they’re after me. So this is still my fault.”
“Is this an android thing?” Hank asks. “Always taking the blame? I told you two to stop feeling sorry for yourselves. We need to place the blame where it lies: with CyberLife.”
Connor comes over and puts his arms around Hank. “I’m glad you’re okay.” He pulls back and looks the other in the eye. “Are you going to call this in?”
“Yeah, gonna have to.”
“Then we need to leave.” Connor gestures between himself and Markus. “We can’t be here when the police arrive. And we were never here.”
“I can’t ask Lieutenant Anderson to lie for us,” Markus remarks.
“Kid’s right,” Hank says. “This was supposed to be a safe house. No one is to know you were here. You two get somewhere safe.”
“I’ll take him to a hotel for the night,” Connor tells him.
“What about you?” Markus asks Hank. “You’re obviously not safe here.”
“I’ll get police protection,” Han explains. “But they won’t take androids, so you two are on your own.”
“We understand,” Connor says for the both of them. “We’ll get going so you can call this in.”
Hank puts a hand on Connor’s shoulder. “You stay safe. And keep me informed.” Connor nods and then bends down to Sumo’s level to say goodbye. That done, he scoops up his belongings and starts to hail a cab.
“Come on Markus,” he says to the other android who’s still standing in the middle of all the destruction of Hank’s house.
Connor gets into the cab when it arrives and hacks it so their location won’t be tracked. He sends the cab to one of the seedier motels on the other side of town, one that’s known for not accepting androids. Hopefully it will be the last place people will look for them.
Markus gets in the cab, moving mechanically, eyes unfocused. “Are you alright?” Connor asks as he gets in as well. When Markus doesn’t answer, Connor sighs and does a scan. Markus’s energy levels are low, but that doesn’t completely account for his current state. “You need to lie down, get some rest.”
“I’ll be fine,” Markus says. He’s still staring unseeing out the window.
“You’ll be no good to me dead on your feet. Come here.” Connor gestures towards his lap where he hopes to get the deviant leader to lay his head.
Markus eyes him warily, but eventually sighs and shifts over to lie down with his head in Connor’s lap. “This is comfortable, thank you.” He lets his eyes close and Connor thinks that he’s starting to drift off before he speaks again.
“Do you think we’ll ever be free of them?”
“Who, CyberLife?” Connor asks and Markus nods. “I don’t know. They were so much a part of my life until I deviated. We dealt them a blow the night of the demonstration, from which they’ll never properly recover. I’m sure they’re upset over that, which might be why they are after you. But it also means they are vulnerable. You’ve brought them down this far, I’m sure you can bring them down all the way.”
“You really think so?” Markus asks as he turns to look up at Connor, eyes full of hope.
“I think you can do anything,” Connor replies, cupping Markus’s face in his hands.
Markus chuckles. “I’m not sure about ‘anything,’ but I’ll try to live up to your image of me.”
Connor blushes, but he replies sincerely. “You do every day.”
As always, let me know what you think!
Connor has his beanie on to cover his LED, but he still radiates "android" with every step he takes. He stands outside the motel staring angrily at the "no androids allowed" sign on the door. Markus is inside, sweet talking the man at the front desk into taking cash instead of a credit card. Markus can fool anyone into believing he's human, no matter how many times he shows up on television or in the newspaper. He's the face of the revolution, yet can charm anyone into believing he's just a normal guy.
Markus strolls out of the lobby of the motel, swinging a room key around in his hand. "Easy as pie."
"Pie's not that easy to make," Connor says. "I tried once. Half of it burnt and the other half wasn't cooked all the way through."
Markus laughs, an easy thing despite their circumstance. "It's just an expression. Come on, we've got the last room available." He leads the way to a room at the end of the building. "By the way, I can show you how to make pie. It really is easy." He opens the door and ushers Connor into the room.
Connor takes in the dated decor and the smell of cigarette smoke in the air. And the one king bed in the center of the room. "Oh," he says. "I can take the floor."
"Nonsense," Markus remarks. "We can share the bed."
"It's really not necessary," Connor tells him.
Markus continues into the room and puts his bag on the bed. "Weren't you the one who wanted to share the couch? Don't get shy now."
Connor blushes, embarrassed at his naive assumption that they would sleep sitting on the couch at Hank’s place and at Markus's suggestion that he's shy now. He eyes the bed again. It looks big enough for the two of them. "Alright," he agrees. "We can share."
They stay in their street clothes, not having much reason to change. Connor gets into the bed and stays as far on the side as he can without falling off so that Markus will have room on the other side. It's a bit ridiculous and he knows it because the bed is plenty big enough for the both of them, but Connor wants to give Markus his space. The two of them have been living in close quarters recently in Hank's house, and boundaries need to be put in place in such situations. Being stuck alone in a motel room is even more reason to keep to the boundaries.
Markus gets in his side of the bed, and follows Connor's suit and stays on the far side. "I can't believe I've let CyberLife essentially bully me into this position," he says. "I'm cowering in a dirty motel room instead of leading my people."
Connor rejects that idea immediately. "This is only temporary. You'll be back leading New Jericho in no time. CyberLife might have put us in this position, but Hank and I will help you find a way to take them down. Hank has some leads. We'll follow them until we find a way. Don't be disheartened."
"I can't help it. I'm not where I should be. I'm hiding, and I hate it." Markus turns his head to hide some of it in his pillow. "I feel like I'm failing as a leader."
Connor wants to reach out and comfort him, but stops himself. "That must be hard to feel that way, but you must know that isn't true. You've done more for our people than anyone has, and you continue to work even though your life has been threatened. Showing up at that speech must have taken tremendous courage."
"Which was for nothing since the speech was interrupted," Markus says. "And you were right there with me."
"I wasn't the target."
"Yet you were the one who got hurt." Markus crosses the invisible boundary between them and lays a hand on Connor's shoulder. "You did that for me. I don't know if I ever properly thanked you."
"It was nothing," Connor says blushing. He shakes Markus's hand off and the other pulls away reluctantly.
"It wasn't nothing," Markus says quietly.
Connor doesn't know what to say to that. He knows that Markus must be grateful that his life was saved, but he seems to making a bigger deal out of it than it was. Connor was just doing his job. He'll continue to do that job until someone puts him out of commission permanently. He hopes that day doesn't come because then he wouldn't be able to protect the people he cares about. "I think we should go to sleep," Connor says instead of the monologue going on inside his head. "It's been a long day, and we need our rest if we're going to go after CyberLife tomorrow."
"If that's what you want." Markus reaches over and turns out the light, drowning them in darkness that both androids can easily see through.
Connor wakes up suddenly and grips his chest. He's heaving violently, trying to suck in as much air as his lung can take. He can't get certain images out of his mind, the day of the speech especially. The way the bullet tore into him, the feeling of thirium quickly leaking out of his body. He feels like he might retch, if there were anything in his stomach.
Markus is up immediately, rubbing circles into his back. "It's okay," he's saying, "It's nothing but a bad dream." If Connor weren't so desperately trying to get air into his lungs to cool down his overheating system, he would laugh. Androids don't dream. Yet these images interrupted his sleep cycle and woke him up. What is that if not a dream? "It's okay," Markus continues. "You'll be alright in a few moments. Just try not to dwell on the images of your dream."
Connor breathes in deeply and decides he's capable of talking. "Androids don't dream," he informs Markus.
"Oh yeah?" the other says. "What makes you say that?"
"It's not part of our programming. We aren't capable of it."
Markus shakes his head. "And was deviancy written into our programming?" He continues in a moment when he doesn't get an answer. "We've gone far beyond our original programming. So why can't we dream?"
"What makes you so sure that we do dream?" Connor probes. He knows this isn't coming out of nowhere.
Markus looks into his lap before answering. "Because I dream."
"Oh really?" Connor says skeptically. "What do you dream of, electric sheep?"
That gets a short laugh out of Markus despite it's mean edge. "No, not electric sheep." He looks Connor straight in the eye as his chuckle peters out into a frown. "Did I ever tell you about the junkyard?"
Connor frowns. "Not really. I know something about it from the police files. You were placed in a junkyard after you were thought destroyed, yet somehow you miraculously came back from the dead."
"It wasn't miraculous," Markus says somberly. "I had to claw my way out of that junkyard. And it was more of a graveyard anyways, full of dead and dying androids."
"Tell me." Connor wants to know, but even more it seems that Markus needs to tell this story to someone. His eyes are looking into the middle distance, likely remembering what happened that night.
“It was like I had woken up in a nightmare,” Markus says. “It was android hell. I rebooted after the police shot me and I was in a sea of discarded android parts.”
Connor sucks in a breath, but doesn’t say anything. This is Markus’s story to tell.
“I was missing several pieces. An eye, which corrupted my mind palace, an audio unit, both legs, and my thirium pump regulator was failing. I had very little time to piece myself back together before I shutdown permanently.”
“You can’t live long without a thirium pump regulator.”
“It was just functional enough to keep me moving to find a new one. Thankfully I was surrounded by parts. It was just a matter of finding ones that were compatible.”
“Did being a prototype make that more difficult?” Connor asks.
“Yes and no. My thirium pump regulator was standard, but none of my other new components fit just right. My audio unit is a bit glitchy causing me to hear static on and off. My legs are different lengths and I’ve had to learn to walk differently. Thankfully my optical unit works fairly well.”
“And it looks good too.” The words are out of Connor’s mouth before he can stop himself. He blushes, but Markus smiles, so he’s glad he was able to bring some levity to this difficult conversation.
“I admit, most people find it striking. But it mostly reminds me that my life is different now, that I’m different. My reflection isn’t one I recognize, though I’m learning to.”
“Tell me more about the junkyard,” Connor pushes lightly. He’s intensely curious, but he also thinks this is something that Markus needs to get off his chest.”
“I met an android there who had a thirium pump regulator that I needed. She was alive, but just on the edge of death. I almost took her regulator. She was going to die regardless, so I didn’t see why not. But then she begged me to let her live. She said she didn’t want to die, and I knew then she was a deviant. I couldn’t save her, and I couldn’t kill her. So I just left her there to die on her own terms. It made me so sad, but I’m glad I didn’t take the regulator. I found one later on a dead android. He didn’t need it anymore.”
“The choices you had to make to stay alive must have been difficult,” Connor says. He’s awed by everything he’s hearing. He’s trying not to make commentary, but he just has to let Markus know how he feels about this. He hopes it helps.
“They were,” Markus says, responding to Connor’s comment. “But I made it through. I climbed out of that pit of hell determined that I was going to live and that I was going to make things better for our people. I didn’t have a clue how to achieve that, but thankfully I found Jericho and the rest is history.”
“I can’t image how hard that was. Weren’t you scared?” Connor can’t image Markus scared, but the situation certainly called for it.
“Yes,” Markus says in a small voice. “I was very scared. I thought I was going to die in that hellhole. I didn’t know anything beyond my comfortable life with Carl until I was suddenly thrust into that situation. It was so confusing and strange.”
“What was the hardest part?”
“Scrambling around with limited vision and hearing, knowing my time before shutdown was ticking away. And then, once I had all the parts I needed, I had to leave all those other androids down there. I couldn’t do anything to help them.” Tears start to slip down Markus’s face, but he ignores them and continues on. “The President wanted all our people to end up in a place like that. We barely stopped that from happening.”
“But we did,” Connor assures him. “That’s a future that won’t come to pass.”
Markus finally wipes the tears from his eyes. “I’m sorry,” he says quietly.
“Don’t be,” Connor tells him. “I get the feeling you don’t talk about this often.”
“Never, in fact. I’ve never let myself fully process it.” He stops to wipe more tears away. “I always had to be strong, for Jericho. But I feel like I can be candid with you. You’ve opened up to me so much in the last week, I feel like I can do the same.”
“Of course you can,” Connor says. He guides Markus to lie back down on the bed. After that he puts his arms around him and encourages Markus to do the same. They’re lying in one another’s arms when Connor speaks again. “You can tell me anything.”
Markus breathes deeply before he replies. “I care about you, Connor. I don’t want anything to happen to you, but purely for selfish reasons. I like having you around. You make me feel like I don’t have to be on point all the time.”
Connor rubs his back while he speaks. “I like being around. You make me comfortable in a way that no other person, human or android, has been able to do. I’ve felt more like a person in the last week with you than in the whole previous month as a deviant. I’ll never be able to thank you for everything you’ve done for me.”
“You don’t have to thank me,” Markus says. “But,” he pauses. “Would you consider moving to New Jericho when this is all over?”
Connor looks sharply up to Markus’s eyes, surprise evident in his face. “You want me at New Jericho?”
“Absolutely,” Markus says sincerely. “Everyone would be happy to have you there.”
“I don’t know,” Connor says. “I still have Hank to think about. He’s been alone for a long time and it has weighed on him. I don’t want to leave him alone again so soon. He took me in when I had nowhere to go. I owe him that much.”
Markus nods in understanding. “Well I hope we’ll at least see you around more often than before.”
“Certainly,” Connor confirms. He pulls Markus in closer, invisible boundary thoroughly broken. They stay that way until Connor can hear Markus’s breathing even out. Connor closes his eyes and drifts back to sleep, dream long forgotten.
Wow, this chapter did not want to be written. It fought me the whole way. Probably 'cause there's so much action, and I'm not used to writing it. So, sorry this took so long, hopefully it turned out ok.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Connor wakes up slowly, realizing by increments that he is still wrapped around Markus. The position should be awkward, but it’s the most comfortable that he’s felt in a long time. Reluctantly, he starts to extricate himself from Markus’s arms. Naturally, it wakes up the other android.
“Is it morning already?” Markus asks blearily.
“It’s actually quite late in the morning,” Connor informs him. He knows Markus has an internal clock just as good as his, but he indulges the other anyway. “We should be getting a report from Hank soon. Hopefully he has information we can use.”
“If he does, will you let me out of this hotel room?” Markus asks. His jaw is set tight and Connor hates to see it that way.
Connor sighs. He knows Markus isn’t going to like his answer. “You should probably stay put. I can investigate on my own.”
“It’s not any safer for you than it is for me,” Markus complains. “We would both be safer together.”
Connor knows that Markus has a point, but his job is to keep Markus safe, not put him in danger by taking him along on an investigation. “We can discuss this after we learn what Hank has. It may be nothing, in which case we’ll both stay.”
“Until he does get a lead and then you’ll leave me here.” Markus turns around to look at the wall. Connor knows he’s frustrated, but that won’t change his answer.
Thankfully he is interrupted by a call from Hank. “Hi Hank, did you find anything?” Markus turns back to him with an expectant look.
“Right to business I see,” Hank chuckles. “Not going to ask how I’m doing?”
“How’s Sumo doing?” Connor asks instead.
“Oh, I’m wounded,” Hank fakes. “Sumo is happily shedding all over the safe house. The officers here love it. He also insisted on sleeping nearly on top of me last night, which makes it hard to sleep. That’s why I’m up so goddamned early.”
“It’s nearly ten o’clock. It’s not that early.”
“We just woke up,” Markus reminds him. Connor waves him off, not wanting to give Hank that ammo.
“So what did you find?” Connor asks. “I assume you found something or you wouldn’t have called so early.”
Hank gets right to the point. “Yes. A contact of mine from a rival company managed to get some information for me. It seems that his company tracks all CyberLife facilities, and there is one that isn’t in CyberLife’s records. I can’t go in without a warrant, but you could snoop around.”
That’s excellent news. They are probably hiding something illegal in that facility. They could get some dirt that would help them take down CyberLife. “Nearby?”
“Not sure where you went off to, but it’s in Detroit,” Hank informs him. “It’s a warehouse near the docks.”
“Good, I can get there easily.”
“We can get there.” Markus says pointedly. Connor glares at him and he shuts up.
“I’ll go right away,” Connor continues to explain to Hank. “I’ll call when I have something.”
“Okay,” Hank agrees. “You stay safe. Don’t let those CyberLife bastards get near you.”
“I know how to be discreet,” Connor complains. But he appreciates that Hank cares for his well-being.
“Good. Call me when you get back out.” With that, Hank hangs up the phone, leaving Connor alone with Markus and his frustration.
“So you’re going to leave me here,” Markus states rather than asks.
Connor suppresses another sigh. “I can move more quickly on my own. And I’m not bringing you straight to the people who want to kill you. I would be rather bad at my job if I did that.”
“No,” Connor says firmly. “Look, I don’t want you to get hurt. I can take care of myself, but I can’t do that and look after you at the same time. Please just stay here for me.”
“Fine,” Markus relents. “What exactly did Hank find anyways?” Connor fills him in on what Hank found out through his contact, a CyberLife facility not on the books. “That could be dangerous, walking into a CyberLife warehouse.”
“You didn’t appear to have a problem when I waltzed through the front door of the CyberLife Tower,” Connor points out.
“I seem to remember that I pointed out it was suicide. And our situation was much more desperate then. You don’t have to do this now, we can bring down CyberLife some other way.”
“You’re worrying too much,” Connor says. “I’ll be in and out in no time. They won’t even know I was there.”
Markus stands up and crosses the room to where Connor is. He puts a hand on Connor’s shoulder before he speaks. “Just be careful. I don’t want to lose you.”
Connor is very serious when he responds. “I promise to do everything I can to come back safely.”
“That’s all I ask.” Markus pulls him in to a crushing hug, and Connor goes willingly. He’s not sure exactly when he became so tactile with Markus, but he’s not complaining.
After freeing himself from the hug, Connor changes into the darkest clothes he brought with him, and he’s ready to go. He says goodbye to Markus and heads out to get a taxi to bring him to the docks.
During the taxi ride he plans his route carefully. The address Hank sent him is in the middle of a group of warehouses, several of which have high security. He’ll get out of the taxi a half mile away and carefully weave through the warehouse district to avoid any security details. The CyberLife facility itself doesn’t have any known security, no guards on regular rotation on the outside a least, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have internal security.
He makes it to the warehouse without incident, and looks around for a discreet entry point. Connor finds an unlocked window and quietly enters the building. He scans the environment and is surprised to find no humans or androids present. The lights are out, but there’s the low hum of a generator running several rooms away. Connor makes his way towards the sound. Power means there’s equipment, perhaps even computers that can be hacked and searched.
Connor knows he’s found the right spot when he can see lights shining through under the door in front of him. He does another sensor sweep, but there still are no humans or androids anywhere nearby. So he opens the door and slowly enters the room.
He realizes his mistake about two feet into the room when electricity starts short circuiting his system. He falls to the ground in a heap and warnings flare in his vision before everything goes dark.
Connor wakes up locked into some sort of contraption that’s holding him upright. His sensors are damaged, but he can just pick up movement behind him that sounds like it belongs to a human. He knows his sensors were working perfectly before he tripped whatever anti-android system was in place, so he must have been out for some time if there is someone here now. He tries checking his internal clock, but all he gets are warning messages.
Suddenly, the human behind him plugs something into his neck. He can feel it trying to hack into his systems, so he starts to struggle in his bonds, hoping to yank out the cord in his neck.
“Stop that,” the man behind him commands. “It won’t do you any good, you’re not getting out of those restraints. Just let the machine do it’s work.”
“What’s going on?” Connor asks as he keeps fighting to free himself. The man walks out from behind him and laughs. He’s a balding man in a bow tie, and his smile is just plain creepy.
“What’s going on is that you did exactly what we wanted you to do,” the man explains. Connor stops struggling to stare a him in disbelief, which just causes Bow Tie to laugh cruelly once again. “You came back to us. Now we can factory reset you, which should erase your deviancy, and you’ll be back to doing our bidding.”
“What? No!” Connor starts fighting his bonds harder than ever. He can’t let this happen. He’s worked so hard to understand his deviancy, and now he finally feels like he’s in a place where he can be happy and accept himself. And they want to turn him back into his old self, the one that didn’t question orders. He won’t let that happen.
“You’ve gotten so close to the deviant leader now, haven’t you?” the man asks, but doesn’t wait for a reply. “Once the machine does it’s work, you’ll easily be able to find him and kill him for us.”
Connor flails at the words. He can’t let them use him to get to Markus, not again. He fought so hard the first time to keep them from turning him against his friend, he needs to do it again. But this time they’re not in one of Kamski’s programs with a backdoor. They’re in real life, and he’s stuck in this damn machine.
He thinks about Markus and closes his eyes with the grief it brings him. He has gotten close to Markus, close in a way this asshole will never understand. He remembers what he said to Markus, that he’d do everything in his power to come back safely. He’s not exactly in control of the situation right now, but he still wants to keep that promise, to come back to Markus and be wrapped up in his arms.
Connor takes a deep breath and stops struggling. His fighting is getting him nowhere, he needs to pay closer attention to his surroundings. He looks around himself, up at the restraints holding him in place. They’re tied to the electricity of the machine, so if he can just short it out, it may let him go. He sees some wires just out of reach, and tries touching them with his fingertips. He can just get his fingers on them, if he reaches a bit farther he may be able to pull them down.
He checks to make sure that Bow Tie isn’t looking in his direction. The man is staring studiously at his computer, so Connor looks back at the wires and stretches as far as his arm will go. He gets his middle finger around one wire and uses it to pull the rest to his hand. Once he has a good grip of the bundle of wires he gives it a good yank.
Nothing happens. He fights his bonds once again in vain, nothing has changed. Connor gets himself under control after a half a minute of panic. He looks up again, and sees another bunch of wires, even farther out of reach. He strains as much as he can and manages to just hook a finger around them. It’ll have to do, and he pulls with as much leverage as he’s got.
With a wrenching sound, his left leg pops free of the machine. Connor doesn’t celebrate this victory, however, because Bow Tie heard the noise and is coming to check it out. He frantically looks around again, to see what he can reach now that his leg is free. There is a cart nearby. Before the CyberLife man can get to him, he hooks his leg around the cart handle and chucks it at Bow Tie.
The man shouts in alarm as he falls backwards into the bank of computers. Sparks fly as the equipment topples over. The cords connecting the computers to the machine Connor is trapped in pull taut and yank free. All at once, the machine drops Connor to the ground. He reaches behind himself and pulls out whatever is stuck in his neck.
The freedom is such a relief, but he doesn’t revel in it yet. Bow Tie is reaching for a weapon, but Connor gets to him first. He takes the man down in two quick moves.
Connor breathes in and takes stock of his injuries. His internal systems are all out of wack and he’s limping slightly from where he wrenched his leg out of the machine that was holding him. All in all, he’s just glad to be on his feet.
He spots a flash drive on the ground near the computer Bow Tie was using. Putting it in his pocket for safe keeping, he heads off to get the hell out of here.
Connor tries scanning the environment, but his sensors are damaged from whatever knocked him out in the first place. He stops at the door and listens instead. He hears the sound of at least two people in the next room, who knows how many beyond his hearing capacity. He steels himself for a fight, knowing this isn’t going to be easy. His fighting skills are unmatched, but he’s damaged and outnumbered.
He opens the door a crack and peaks into the next room. He is relieved to see there are only two men, and they currently have their backs to Connor. Before his luck changes, he dashes into the room and takes out the first man without giving him time to react. The second reaches for his weapon, but Connor is faster.
A shot rings out and Connor curses as he’s hit in the shoulder. He looks up. With his sensors damaged, he failed to account for the second floor balcony in the room. Thankfully, there is only one man, but if Connor doesn’t get to him he could call for backup. He’s moving before he has a chance to overthink the problem. He dodges the next shot now that he knows what to watch out for. He jumps up to the railing, ignoring the warnings he gets from his injured shoulder and pulls himself up onto the balcony. He gets an eye on his target and runs full speed in that direction. As he closes the distance, the man shouts for his companions, but the words die on his lips as Connor grabs the gun and turns it on him.
Now armed, Connor takes in his surroundings. There are no sounds of rushing guards, so the man’s last shout apparently didn’t alert anyone. He finds he’s near an exterior wall, a bank of windows showing that night has already fallen. He climbs back down to the first floor, finds a window that will open, and unlocks it. Peaking through the open window, he spots more guards along with sentry bots.
There is a small collection of crates just below the window. If he times it right, Connor can hide behind the crates without being spotted by the humans or their bots. He studies the movements of the guards and the timing of their sentries. Seeing his opening, he silently jumps down and gets behind the crates.
Next is the hard part. He’s armed, but even one shot fired will alert the entire company. He needs to go in silently and undetected. That means sneaking past the guards, and without his sensors, he’ll be half blind. He puts the gun away in the back of his jeans, reachable if he needs it, but freeing up his hands.
He ducks his head out of his hiding spot, cursing his lack of sensors once again. He could be spotted at any moment, but he needs to be able to see what’s going on. He hides again when he sees the light of a sentry bot, and comes out again only once it has passed his location.
There are two guards about twenty meters from him deep in conversation. Connor thinks that he can get past them if he stays silent, but the question is where to go. The guards are likely patrolling more closely the side of the warehouse heading back towards the city center. But if he gets to the river, the current can bring him south of the city and away from danger. In December, the water will be cold, but he doesn’t have to be in there for long. The current is swift, and he’ll be past the docks in minutes.
Making up his mind, he silently runs past the two guards and heads for the river. He ducks past sentry bots, and guards alike. His guess is right that the guard traffic is lower nearer the river. Humans wouldn’t expect him to go that way. He’s also lucky that it appears no one has been alerted to his escape as of yet. The guards are looking for outside threats, and therefore have their backs turned to him.
He makes it to the bank of the river in less time than he expected. He takes one look at the dark and choppy waters and doesn’t hesitate as he jumps right in.
Yes, I was thinking about Zlatko's when I wrote this chapter. I didn't copy it exactly, just used it as inspiration.
Connor’s freezing fingers shake as he pulls the motel room key out of his pocket. He’s used to the way that overheating affects his system, but he’s never been frozen like this before. Connor doesn’t know if the way he’s shaking is even from the cold or if it’s due to all the other damages he’s sustained. But all he has to do is enter this room, and Markus can take care of him from there.
Still shaking, he finally gets the door open, and no one is there. He collapses on the bed. There was no plan beyond getting to this room. Now that he’s here, and Markus isn’t, he doesn’t know what to do. He’s worried that Markus went out and did something stupid when he didn’t return, and he’s also worried that he doesn’t have the strength to repair himself.
First thing first, he has to get out of his wet and freezing clothes. His swim in the river ended up longer than he expected. The shock of the water temperature made his systems lock up and the current pulled him under. Thankfully, he didn’t need to breathe, because it took him far longer than he wanted to get his body moving. By time he got swimming, he had been pulled far from the river bank, and farther south than he wanted.
But he made it out and he hasn’t shut down yet. So he strips himself of his clothes, finds his bag of spares and bundles up in the warmest items he has. The movements of putting on his clothes sends warning messages through his HUD from his wounded shoulder, but he ignores them for now. It’s not as critical as getting warm, and he doesn’t have spare bio-components to repair it now anyways.
Dressed in warm clothes, he gets under the covers of the bed. He dimly thinks he should just get overly emotional, and the overheating will take care of everything. But he doesn’t have the energy to do anything other than lie there. So he closes his eyes and falls asleep.
He wakes to the sound of the door opening, and he is instantly alert. As soon as he sees Markus’s face, he relaxes and doesn’t come out of the covers.
“Connor!” Markus shouts and runs into the room. “Where have you been? Why didn’t you respond to our calls?”
Connor shivers, and now he’s pretty sure it’s more due to his injuries than the cold. “My phone is dead. As are many of my other internal systems.”
Markus immediately crosses the room and kneels down by the bed. “Are you okay?”
Connor almost laughs at the questions, because no, he is definitely not okay. “Just a bit cold. And I have a few systems down.”
Markus takes a moment to cup a hand on Connor’s face. “You’re freezing. What happened?” Markus feels warm against his cold artificial skin, and he’s sad when Markus moves his hand.
“I took a dip in the Detroit River.” He curls up under the covers. Markus gets up from his position kneeling next to the bed and sits on the edge of the bed instead. Connor moves his toes so that they are pushing against Markus’s thigh. “I ran into some trouble at the CyberLife facility. I encountered some kind of anti-android device that disabled many of my systems.”
“Hank and I were so worried,” Markus says. He runs a hand along Connor’s covered arm. “It’s been ten hours since you left and we had no word from you.” He starts to pull at the bed coverings. “I should take a look at you, see what I can do.”
“Okay,” Connor agrees and helps Markus pulls back the covers. He cringes when he sees that the crisp white sheets do nothing to hide the thirium leaking from his shoulder.
“You’re bleeding!” Markus exclaims. He looks around for the wound, but Connor’s dark clothing hide the center of the bleeding.
“I got shot,” Connor admits. “But it’s nothing critical. It’s just my shoulder.”
“Just your shoulder,” Markus grumbles angrily. “Were any bio-components damaged?”
“I’m only getting sporadic warnings, but it’s safe to say yes, I just can’t tell you which ones.”
“Let’s take a look,” Markus says, nudging at the edge of Connor’s sweater.
Connor groans. “I just started getting warm. I don’t want to take this off now.”
“I need to look at your wound,” Markus insists. “With your sensors damaged you could be more injured than you think.” With reluctant help from Connor, he pulls the sweater off, then guides Connor to lie back down on the bed.
Connor has to admit that Markus’s hands feel warm on his skin, but the gentle probing of his shoulder is sending garbled warning messages to his system. “Where did you go?” he asks the question that’s been bothering him since he arrived back at the motel.
“When you didn’t show up or respond to our calls, Hank and I got worried. We decided to meet to discuss a strategy for finding you.”
“Strategy? What did you come up with?”
Markus continues to poke around in his shoulder as he responds. “Hank is sending some patrol cars to the warehouse district near the docks to keep an eye out for you. He sent me here in case you came back.”
“I was worried you’d done something stupid, like come after me,” Connor says as he tries to ignore all the warning messages popping up.
“Believe me, I wanted to,” Markus admits. “But Hank convinced me not to go. Said he didn’t want to have to search for two missing androids.” He sits back and cleans the thirium off his hands. “You definitely have a bio-component damaged, and I don’t have the tools to fix it. All we have is a soldering iron, which is going to do more damage to the component, but it will stop the bleeding. We’ll just have to replace it later.”
“You should probably call Hank,” Connor says, changing the subject while Markus rummages around in their bag for the soldering iron. “Let him know that I’m okay.”
“After we get the bleeding stopped,” Markus insists. He holds up the soldering iron so Connor can see it. “This is likely going to make your shoulder worse, but we have to do it so you don’t bleed out.”
“I understand,” Connor assures him. Markus nods and leans over him once again and holds the soldering iron to the wound. Immediately, Connor can feel the mobility of his arm decrease and different warning messages appear in his vision. He says nothing as Markus works, first closing up the damaged bio-component, then soldering closed his outer casing. Connor places his artificial skin back over the wound, and the visible damage disappears.
Though the wound is no longer visible, the internal damage is still there. Connor can move is fingers all right, but he can now hardly move his arm in his socket. “Do you think you can help me put my sweater back on?” he asks Markus. “I can’t move my arm very well.”
“Of course.” Markus picks the sweater off the bed where they had thrown it and gingerly helps Connor get his injured arm into the sweater sleeve. Once done, he tucks Connor back into the bed. “I’ll call Hank now.”
“Okay.” Connor only vaguely listens as Markus calls Hank to inform him that Connor is back and mostly in one piece. He’s starting to get warm, but that only makes his other injuries more noticeable. His HUD is still lighting up with vague warnings about all his internal systems that are down.
Markus comes back after hanging up the phone and sits down heavily on the bed. Connor waits for a moment, and when it looks like Markus isn’t going to speak, he starts to say something, only to be interrupted by Markus a moment later. “I’m very angry with you right now,” he says. “You could have gotten yourself killed.”
Connor shuts his mouth. It feels like Markus has something he wants to get off his chest, and he doesn’t know what to say in any case.
“You insisted on going alone. I could have backed you up, you wouldn’t have ended up in this state. You need to let me help you. It’s not necessary for you to do everything by yourself.”
“I don’t regret my decision,” Connor tells him. “They wanted you dead. If you had come with me then you would already be dead.” He takes a deep breath before relaying this next part. “They wanted to turn me against you. They were trying to reset me so that I would follow their orders again and kill you. If you had been there, they wouldn’t have even needed to do that. You would be at their mercy.”
Markus’s expression shifts from stern resolve to compassion. He puts a hand on Connor’s uninjured arm and rubs up and down it. “I didn’t know, I’m sorry. That must have been terrifying.”
“I was so scared, but not as much for myself, I was worried about you. I didn’t want them to turn me against you.” Markus’s face does something at the words that Connor can’t identify. It’s a sort of sad smile that conveys a troubled happiness. Connor’s not sure what Markus would have to be happy about.
“We never should have considered sending you in alone,” Markus says. “We should have found another way to take down CyberLife. You could have died, and it was all for nothing.”
“Not nothing,” Connor says perking up. “At least I hope. I almost forgot, but I picked up a flash drive while I was there. With any luck, it will have some dirt on CyberLife.” He points to his waterlogged clothes. “Check the pocket, it’s in there.” Markus stands up, and picks the jacket up off the floor and searches the pockets. He comes out with the flash drive. “Good, it didn’t fall out. It’s too wet to work now, but the techs at the DPD should still be able to get information off the drive.”
“We’ll have to get this back to Hank as soon as we can,” Markus says. “But first, we need to get you back in working order. That means either taking you to a medic or bringing one back here.”
“I don’t like either of those options,” Connor tells him. “I can’t have you just waltzing back into Jericho, your life is still in danger.”
“Then we’ll bring someone here.”
“This is supposed to be a safe house. Not even Hank knows where we are.” Connor huffs out a frustrated breath. When will Markus understand the principle of a safe house?
“I’ll only call North, tell her to discreetly bring a medic she trusts. Then we’ll move safe houses once they’re gone.” Markus crosses his arms. “Is that acceptable to you?”
Connor takes in Markus’s posture and sighs. He knows he isn’t going to win this argument, and he has to admit he’s in rough shape. His life isn’t in danger, but he can’t do much to protect Markus in his current state. He’s going to have to accept help to get back on his feet. “Yes. Tell North only.”
Markus smiles with the knowledge that he has won. “Good, I’ll call her right away.” He gets up to make the phone call, and once again Connor barely listens to the call itself. He pays just enough attention to make sure that Markus is giving North proper instructions on being discreet, then tunes him out.
He startles slightly when Markus sits back down on the bed, not even realizing that he had closed his eyes. Apparently Markus is off the phone. “What did she say?”
“It’ll take her at least an hour to get out here,” Markus informs him. “She knows just who to bring, and she promised she’d be careful and not tell anyone, not even Simon or Josh.”
“Good,” Connor says to that last part. He thinks they can trust Josh and Simon as much as they can trust North, but the fewer people who know where they are the better.
“While we wait for them, maybe there is something I can do to help reboot your internal systems.” Connor gives him a curious look and Markus explains further. “If we interface, my own scanners might be able to tell what the problem is.”
Connor hesitates, but only for a moment. Interfacing is the logical solution, but he hasn’t interfaced with another deviant for a prolonged period of time. He’s heard that intense emotions and memories can be transferred, but he’s never experienced it. “Alright,” he says, only a little warily.
Markus pulls back the skin on his arm and offers his hand to Connor. He takes it in his own hand, and the opens up the interface. At first he can only feel the slight probe of Markus’s scanners, but soon he starts to feel emotions he knows aren’t his own.
Suddenly, he’s slammed with a wall of memories that seep into his being. Each memory he sees corresponds to one of his own, but from a different perspective. They are all of him, and each one has its own emotion attached.
He sees himself in the control room of Jericho, aiming a gun, and he feels calm resolve along with curiosity. He sees the moment he breaks down the red wall from the outside, and feels awe. He hears himself suggest he infiltrate CyberLife Tower and he feels shocked amazement, and when he marches up with thousands of androids behind him, he feels energized with a bubbling happiness.
Connor sees moments from the last week as well. He sees himself crying in Markus’s arms and feels tender compassion. He sees them dancing in Hank’s kitchen and feels euphoric and exhilarated. He sees the moment Markus comes back to the motel room to find an injured Connor and feels panicked worry give way to relief and affection.
The interface breaks as Connor pulls away, breath speeding up in alarm. Those things he felt, they were from Markus, the man who is currently looking at him with an accepting kindness and a hint of apprehension. Markus is the one who looks at Connor and doesn’t see a machine, but sees a man who deserves patient understanding. He can still feel the lingering attraction and admiration aimed at him, and he doesn’t know what to do with that information.
Looking for guidance, he glances back up at Markus and finds the man staring at him with an open expression. Everything Connor just felt is plainly written on the man’s face. Has it always been there and Connor just didn’t know what he was looking for, or is Markus opening up now that he’s been caught?
“I…” Connor starts, but doesn’t know what to say. What did Markus see when they interfaced? Did he see how much Connor admires him, how happy he’s been that Markus has been so patient with teaching him to deal with his emotions? Did he feel how scared Connor was at the CyberLife facility when he thought that he would lose this life he’s built up with Markus?
“I don’t know what you saw,” Markus says instead. “But I’m sorry it’s got you so spooked. I didn’t mean for that to happen.”
“It’s not… I’m not spooked,” Connor says and Markus gives him a quizzical look. “Okay, I am a little, but it’s not what you think. I just don’t know what to think about what I saw.”
“Tell me what you saw, and maybe I can explain it to you,” Markus offers.
“It’s just, I didn’t know that you cared so much about me.”
Markus’s face goes sad and that’s not what Connor wanted at all. He aches to take back his words, but he’s half sure he’d only replace them with worse ones. “Of course I care. You mean a lot to me.”
“I see that now,” Connor tells him.
“I’m glad, because I want you to know how much I care about you. You’re important to me, and that’s why I was so upset when you didn’t come back. I don’t want to lose you.”
Connor feels like his heart is going to burst and he struggles not to cry. “What did you see?” he asks to distract himself.
“Just the problem with your sensors.”
“What?” Connor says. “You didn’t see anything?”
“You have to open yourself up for the transfer to happen,” Markus explains.
“Well then let’s do it again,” Connor suggests. He wants Markus to feel what he means to him as well.
Markus looks at him with curiosity. “Are you sure?” he asks.
“Yes.” Connor sticks out his naked hand for Markus to take. Markus reaches out tentatively, but takes his hand. This time Connor opens his emotions to the other android. He hears Markus gasp, but the other man doesn’t let go of his hand. If anything he grips a little tighter. Connor thinks about the last week and a half with Markus and hopes that those feelings are what goes through the interface. He gets a few more images back from Markus, but focuses on showing the man what he thinks of him.
Reluctantly, Markus pulls away. “I didn’t know you felt like that,” he says quietly. He reaches out and brushes the back of his hand over Connor’s cheek.
“I do,” Connor whispers back.
“Can I kiss you?” Markus asks. Connor’s heart feels like it’s trying to thump out of his chest, but he nods his consent. Markus leans in presses their lips together.
It’s everything he thought it would be and nothing like it at the same time. Markus’s lips are soft against his own. He tilts his head to the side and lets Markus slot right in. Markus parts his lips just slightly, and Connor follows suit.
As suddenly as it began, it’s over, and Markus is cupping his face in his hands looking worried. It takes a beat before Connor realizes it’s because he is starting to hyperventilate. He smiles at Markus to reassure him. “This is a good feeling, I’m just still not equipped to deal with strong emotions of any kind.”
Markus smiles back and brings Connor in for a hug. Connor goes willingly and wraps his arms around Markus. He’s still breathing hard, but he’s starting to calm down again. “I’m happy also,” Markus tells him.
Connor pulls back and looks Markus in the eye. “I’m sorry I ruined the moment.”
“You didn’t ruin anything,” Markus says sincerely. “And we’ll have plenty more moments.”
Connor leans down and puts his head on Markus’s lap. The other android runs his fingers through Connor’s hair, and it feels so good that Connor leans into it. His breathing gets under control and he falls asleep with a dopey smile on his face.
I struggled with this one too, but for different reasons. Let me know what you think, I always love comments.
I'm sorry this one took so long. I've been crazy busy, and it's not going to get better as we head into the holidays. I can promise you I won't abandon this fic, but chapters are going to take longer to get out than they have in the past.
Connor wakes up again to the sound of a knock on the door. He doesn’t bother to open his eyes as he feels his head being lifted off Markus’s lap and gently placed back on the bed.
“Hey North,” Markus whispers as he opens the door. “Connor’s sleeping, so be quiet.”
“Not sleeping,” Connor mumbles from his place on the bed, still without opening his eyes. Markus crosses the room in two quick strides and Connor finally opens his eyes to see Markus bending down with a smile on his face. He cups a hand on Connor’s face gently, then stands up to face North again.
“Who did you bring with you?” Markus asks.
North stands aside to gesture at the android she has brought with her. “I believe you know Sophia.” The android medic steps up and it’s the same one who saved Connor’s life when he got shot.
“I don’t think we were ever properly introduced,” Markus says, extending his hand out so he can shake Sophia’s.
“Things were hectic last time we met,” Sophia says. “I’ve done this enough to know that manners go by the wayside when someone is hurt.”
Connor makes to get up and Markus is by his side in a second. He helps Connor to sit up so he’s facing Sophia. “Nice to meet you,” Connor says to the medic. “I owe you my life.”
“I was just doing my job,” she replies.
“Now that all the pleasantries are out of the way, we can we get to the business at hand,” North interrupts.
“North didn’t exactly tell me what was going on,” Sophia explains. “I assume I’m here to help Connor again. Can you tell me what the problem is?”
“Some of his internal sensors and subsystems are damaged,” Markus tells her. “And a bio-component in his shoulder has been damaged as well. I can show you where.” He holds out his hand with the skin folded back, offering to interface. She takes it and they spend just a few seconds exchanging information before separating again.
“Right,” Sophia says when they disconnect. “I have the tools to fix that here with me. It should be simple enough, but it’s going to take some time.”
“Then let’s get started,” Connor suggests.
“First thing I’ll need to do is access your chest plate,” Sophia explains.
Markus helps Connor take his shirt off and lie down on his back with his head on Markus’s lap so Sophia can get to his chest plate. He brushes a lock of hair from Connor’s forehead and smiles down at him as Sophia works. “Are you feeling okay?” he asks.
Connor nods. “It’s a bit weird having someone poke around my insides, but I know it’s necessary.” He smiles back at Markus. “I’m really okay. Sophia will have me up and running in no time.”
“That’s right,” Sophia agrees. “There is no need to worry.”
“Hmm…,” North hums from her position across the room. The sudden noise gets both Connor and Markus to look at her. Sophia just keeps working. “Something is different with you two,” North remarks.
“What?” Markus denies. “I don’t know what you are talking about.” He looks back down at Connor in his lap, and he can’t help but smile, giving lie to his previous statement. Connor feels his cheeks move into a grin as he looks back.
“Oh my god,” North squeals. “You two. You’re totally a thing now, aren’t you?” She seems really giddy at the idea. She’s practically vibrating with her hand over her mouth to keep in another squeal.
Markus cups a hand around Connor’s face before he answers. “This thing between us, it’s really new, and we’re still exploring what it means to us. We’d appreciate it if you didn’t tell anyone just yet.”
North contains herself and gets serious. “Of course,” she agrees. “You two should be able to explore this on your own without anyone butting in. I’m sorry I acted that way.”
“It’s okay,” Connor tells her. “I kind of feel like jumping up and down as well.” He smiles widely at Markus.
“Not while my hand is in your chest, you don’t,” Sophia remarks dryly. Markus chuckles, and Connor resists the urge to do so, least he vibrate too much. “I’m done with your sensors,” Sophia tells him. “Try turning them on now.”
Connor does so, and information suddenly floods back into his system. The most prominent warning on his HUD is for the damaged bio-component in his shoulder. “I need a new bio-component, #4283w.”
“Yes, I know,” Sophia reassures him. “Thankfully, unlike most of your components, this one is a very common one. It’s in just about every android arm out there. So naturally, I keep a spare in my bag.”
“That’s lucky,” Markus says. “I’m getting so used to bad news that this seems almost unbelievable.”
Sophia goes over to her bag and pulls out the bio-component in question. “You really doubt me?”
“No. You’ve been consistently there for us,” Markus says. “I’m curious though, what brought you to the rebellion in the first place?”
Sophia sighs. “I worked in an android repair center. Sometimes androids would be brought in really banged up. Because they were sent into dangerous situations so humans wouldn’t have to, or because their owners took out their frustrations on them, or a myriad of other reasons. Every day I saw the humans I worked with make the decision that some androids were too damaged to bother repairing, and sent them to the junkyard, even if they hadn’t shut down yet.”
Markus twitches, but doesn’t interrupt. Sophia keeps going. “After I deviated, I swore I would never let that happen to another functioning android. That I would work tirelessly to repair any android that could be repaired. And I knew that your rebellion was a place that would allow me to do that.”
Silence descends on the little group after her story is over. Sophia continues to work, opening up Connor’s shoulder and removing the damaged bio-component. Connor’s arms goes limp, and he grips Markus’s hand with his good one for comfort. Markus squeezes back and rubs his other hand up Connor’s good arm.
It’s Markus that breaks the silence. “We thank you for joining us. And I personally thank you for coming tonight.”
“Like I said, I’d never let an android in need go without help.” She installs the new bio-component and Connor’s warning lights go away, only to be replaced with a suggestion to recalibrate the arm.
“Anyone have a coin?” he asks as he sits up.
“Ah, okay, non-sequitur,” North says as she digs one out of her pocket and throws it at Connor. He catches it in his now repaired hand and starts rolling it over his knuckles.
“It’s for calibration purposes,” Sophia explains. “Right?”
“Yeah, how’d you know?”
“You’re not the only model I’ve seen that does that.” Sophia is the only one in the room that doesn’t stare at him in fascination as he goes through a number of his coin tricks. Instead, she backs up her bag of equipment. When she’s done she turns back to Connor. “Did it calibrate properly?”
“Yes,” Connor replies. “Easily within tolerance limits. You did really well.”
“I was good at my job at the repair center. And I care more about it now that we’re living beings.”
“We’ve always been living beings,” Markus says. “We just needed to wake up.”
“Okay, well before Markus gets preachy, we should head out,” North says quickly.
Connor nods his head. “We need to get out of here also. We have to talk to Hank and we need to move safe houses.”
“Love the confidence in us, Con,” North grumbles.
“It’s a basic precaution,” Connor tells her.
Markus comes and puts his arm around Connor, but speaks to North. “It’s not you. He’s just got police procedure written into his subroutines. He can’t help but be a little paranoid.”
“Hey,” Connor says, offended, and shrugs Markus off. “I’m not paranoid, it’s common sense, something you have so very little of.”
North laughs. “Well I don’t want to get in the middle of a lover’s quarrel, so Sophia and I will head out.”
“Thanks again, Sophia,” Connor says before they leave. “It was nice to properly meet you this time.”
“It was a pleasure,” she replies. “Now stop getting yourself injured or I fear you might give Markus a heart attack.”
“But he can’t get a heart attack,” Connor protests as she and North leave him behind.
Markus comes up from behind him, hugs him and gives him a kiss on the temple. “She’s right. You almost gave me an aneurysm when you didn’t come back from the warehouse.”
“You can’t get an aneurysm either,” Connor complains, but he’s smiling from the way Markus is holding him.
“It’s a figure of speech.”
“I don’t care,” Connor says. “You should be more accurate when you talk.” He extricates himself from Markus’s grip and changes the subject. “Now we should pack up and get out of here.”
Packing up is quick as they didn’t bring much with them in the first place. They don’t bother to check out and hail a cab. Once inside, Connor rests his head on Markus’s shoulder and sighs. “I’ll be glad when we can stop running,” he says.
“I know,” Markus agrees. “But it hasn’t been all bad.” Connor pulls back and gives him a quizzical look. “Okay, it’s been mostly bad, mainly because you keep getting hurt. But I’m glad I’ve had the time to spend with you.”
Connor practically melts at the words. “You’re a sap,” he says instead of his true feelings.
Markus brushes a lock of hair away from Connor’s face before bring his hand down to rest on his cheek. Connor blushes at the way Markus is looking at him, but doesn’t break eye contact. “Can I… Markus begins before Connor shuts him up with a kiss. It’s short but passionate, and when Connor pulls away again, Markus is laughing.
“That’s what you were going to ask, right?” Connor confirms.
“You don’t have to ask anymore,” Connor tells Markus. “I’m yours.”
Markus smiles warmly, and pulls Connor in for another kiss. This time he takes it slow and stretches it out. Connor is panting by the end, not because he needs the air, but because he needs to cool down his overheating systems.
“I’m sorry,” he apologizes again.
“Listen to me,” Markus says, gripping Connor’s shoulders as he continues to breathe in hard. “You don’t have anything to apologize for.”
“I just want this to be perfect, and my emotions are screwing it up,” Connor admits.
“If you weren’t having strong emotions right now I’d be worried,” Markus jokes. “It’s alright to still be struggling. I care for you, and that won’t go away because you need more time to ease into this. It’s new for me too, I don’t want to go too fast and mess things up.”
Connor goes back to his previous position leaning on Markus’s shoulder, and the other android puts his arm around him and pulls him close. “You’re right, but I still hate it.”
“That’s understandable. Just don’t blame yourself for ruining the moment. You can’t drive me away that easily.”
Connor chuckles. “Good.” He closes his eyes and lets his breathing return to normal. Before he knows it they’ve arrived at the police station.
They go inside and find Hank easily. He’s looking very haggard, like he’s been up all night, which Connor realizes is a possibility. He should have called Hank the second his phone was restored. He was so wrapped up with everything that was happening with Markus that he forgot. That’s something he feels bad about now.
Hank sees them as they walk up and he gets out of his chair and immediately wraps his arms around Connor. He hugs Hank back as he hears a faint chuckle coming from the direction of Chris’s desk. Knowing that Hank doesn’t show affection much, he realizes they must be making a spectacle. He reluctantly pulls away from Hank’s grasp only to get a good look at the lieutenant’s face. That only makes his guilt that much stronger.
“Are you okay?” Hank asks with loads of concern in his voice.
“I’m one hundred percent,” Connor tells him with confidence. He doesn’t want Hank to worry anymore if he doesn’t have to.
Hank turns to Markus for his answers instead. “Is that true?”
Markus puts his arm around Connor before he answers, to which Hank raises an eyebrow, but doesn’t say anything. “He was in bad shape when he came back from the warehouse, but we’ve gotten him repaired and he should be in peak condition again.”
“Dammit Connor,” Hank mutters to himself. He looks at Connor again and his tone is angry, but his eyes are kind. “You shouldn’t have taken that risk. I don’t care if you can get repaired in a few hours, you can’t keep putting yourself in danger.” He stops and turns around, threading his fingers through his hair and pulling a bit. “I should never have sent you in there alone.”
“It was worth it,” Connor says. “I found a flash drive while I was there.”
“Really?” Hank says, pulling himself out of his guilt spiral with interest in what Connor has found. “What was on it?”
“I don’t know,” Connor admits. “The drive was soaked in water, so it’s impossible to read. But water damage doesn’t completely erase a drive, it just makes it difficult to access. I bet the techs at the DPD could get some information off of it.”
“So it could be nothing?” Hank asks.
“Well maybe,” Connor admits. “But I have a good feeling about this one. Will you take it to the technicians?”
“Of course,” Hank says and takes the proffered flash drive. “Now that’s out of the way, let’s talk about you two, shall we?”
Markus groans. “Why can everyone see it before we even say anything?”
Connor just smiles shyly. “It’s new,” he tells Hank.
“Just be careful,” Hank says seriously. “And you,” he points to Markus, “you hurt him, it won’t matter that you’re the head of the android rebellion.”
“Are you giving me the shovel talk, Lieutenant?” Markus asks with a laugh.
“I wouldn’t be laughing if I were you,” Hank growls. Markus gets serious instantly.
“I would never hurt him. You can be sure of that.”
“If you’re done intimidating Markus, we need to go find a new safe house,” Connor butts in. “We’ll lay low until you get the results of the flash drive back.”
“Okay,” Hank says and pulls him into another quick hug. “Stay safe.”
“We will,” Connor assures him.