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Thirium Leaks

Chapter Text

The androids were way out of line.

 

Officer Person had been a little off her game lately - Hank knew it as well as anyone else in the department - but that was no reason for the way Connor and his creepy, upgraded ‘brother’ tracked her wife’s progress across the station every time she arrived with Lin’s lunch. It had happened about twice a week for almost a month.

“Lin, I found this on the table again.” Jenny Davies-Person, a librarian if Hank’s memory served, would say, and then she’d steal a bashful kiss from her wife as she handed over the brown paper bag. The rest of the department would, collectively, find something else to look at that was much more interesting - except, of course, for Connor and the RK900. Connor would exchange a significant glance with RK, and then smile softly to himself. RK900 had taken to looming ominously near Person’s desk, and both women were clearly aware of it. Jenny stayed for less and less time on each successive visit, and then she stopped visiting entirely for a while. Lin had even gone with Hank to get lunch at Chicken Feed on one occasion, but she’d waved him off when he’d tried to apologise for Connor’s behaviour scaring Jenny away.

“Oh, that’s not it. She’s just busy at the moment, that’s all.”

 

That had been two months ago, and when Jenny had arrived earlier in the day, all had become clear; no wonder Jenny had been busy and Lin had been scatterbrained.

“Kept that quiet, Person! Congratulations!” Hank had joined the rest of the department in offering good wishes to the happy couple, a huddle soon forming around Lin, who was blushing furiously over being the centre of so much attention. But when he looked up, Jenny was shrinking back from the looming figure of RK900, and Connor had actually got out of his wheely chair and was pushing it over to join Jenny where she sat at Miller’s desk, his features arranged into an expression Hank had come to recognise as signalling insatiable curiosity. He began edging backwards, out of the small crowd of excitable officers, hoping to defuse the situation without making a scene. He could hear what was going on over in the hazardous area of the bullpen, but he briefly lost sight of the two androids in his attempts to extricate himself from his colleagues.

 

“You are twenty-six weeks pregnant.” That must have been RK; he didn’t have the same range of intonations in his voice as Connor. It seemed to be a personal choice, rather than a programmed feature or bug.

“I… yeah, I must be about that now. Not long to go.”

“You and Officer Person must be excited,” Connor chimed in, having presumably regained his seat. “It’s a very exciting thing.”

“It is.” Jenny still sounded nervous. “Although I could do without the sickness and the backache.”

“If you would like, I can provide Officer Person with instructions for several exercises that might benefit you. I will have them ready by the end of the workday.” Nines; typically pragmatic, but unusually helpful. He didn’t tend to make gestures of friendship, not even to his human coworkers, unless he knew the recipient very well. As far as Hank was aware, he didn’t know Jenny Davies-Person at all.

“Er- that would be very nice, thank you. Er…? I’m sorry, I don’t think I know your names.”

“Connor. I’m Connor, and this is RK900. He doesn’t really have a human-type name. We’re the androids sent by CyberLife.”

 

Hank finally dodged past Officer Chen and found himself within shouting distance of the androids. For now, at least, Jenny seemed to have relaxed a little; she relaxed even more when, after a series of LED flashes that meant a wireless conversation between the two androids, RK900 snagged himself a chair and sat down.

“You could call me RK, if it makes you feel more comfortable. I do not wish to alarm you.”

“You- I mean, you’re not-”

“It’s only that I have never encountered a pregnant human before. Connor informs me that this is a new experience for him, also. We are…”

“...Curious.” Connor finished, when it seemed that RK900 might have suffered some kind of stack overflow in searching for the right word. “We are curious, but we did not mean to exceed the limits of polite interaction.”

“Is that why you would stare at me whenever I came in?”

“We could hear a second heartbeat. At first, I was concerned that its speed indicated a malfunction, but Connor and I consulted several medical databases in order to verify that the smaller pump was, in fact, running at optimum speed.”

“That’s good,” Jenny acknowledged weakly. Hank was about to intervene, when- “Would you like to feel it kick? Lin managed it a week ago, and your sensors must be more sensitive.”

“Feel it kick… inside your abdomen?” RK900’s emotionless tone was slipping; he sounded confused, now. “How do you suggest that we achieve that?”

“My belly’s not made of plastic,” Jenny laughed, “you’ll be able to feel it. Honestly, and I thought they programmed you lot to know everything. Here, put your hand where my hand is now.” She tugged lightly on RK900’s sleeve until he complied, and Hank watched Connor’s fingers twitch in sympathy - or jealousy, he amended, as he noticed the undisguised longing on his partner’s face.

“I don’t feel- impact detected.” Hank assumed that counted as an expression of surprise, in RK900’s world. “Impact detected. The baby is kicking me though your skin.” He withdrew his hand. “Is that not uncomfortable?”

“Not really. Connor, do you want to try?”

“May I? I wouldn’t want to impose.” But Connor was already leaning forward as he spoke, allowing Jenny to guide his hand to the right place.

 

Connor had once attempted to explain to Hank just what it felt like to break free of one’s programming; he had fallen silent after a while, realising that he couldn't possibly convey the experience of discovering a new world of possibility. Now, feeling a tiny kick against his hand, Connor’s face lit up, and Hank almost thought he could see the birth of new galaxies in the android’s eyes, mental connections forming and sparks flying, though outwardly all he did was smile. Hank found himself smiling, too, a hint of sadness tugging at his heart, and he decided that Jenny would be quite safe with the androids after all.

 

Hank excused himself to the bathroom, locked himself into a stall, and tried to keep the tears from falling. He remembered the first moment he’d felt Cole kick, a tiny foot against his fingers.

“We’ve got a top footballer here,” he’d told his wife, and she’d laughed.

“Or a ballet dancer.”

“Whoever they are, they’re going to be wonderful.”

And Cole had been wonderful. But then he had been gone. The revolver on his kitchen table would call his name tonight, he knew, once he’d exhausted his attempts to numb his feelings with Scotch. Perhaps he would listen.

 

“Lieutenant Anderson?” God freakin’ dammit, couldn't he get a moment’s peace?

“Go away, Connor.” There was a pause. Damn android was probably scanning him or something.

“No. No, I’ll stay here.”

“Don’t you have kicking to feel?”

“It’s not important if you need company.”

“I don’t need company in the bathroom, Connor. Jeez-”

“I wanted to thank you for not intervening with Ms Davies-Person. I have never seen RK900 so overcome with excitement and emotion.” The RK900’s face had hardly twitched, but Hank assumed androids had other ways of knowing what each other were feeling. He couldn't help but comment on the obvious omission as he left the stall and instinctively washed his hands.

“And you? You felt nothing, I suppose.”

“I felt... everything .” He faltered, as if he feared he’d said the wrong thing. “Humans are illogical, flawed creatures, but the ability to procreate is… fascinating.”

“Yeah. Yeah, I guess it is. Are you doing anything tonight, Connor?”

“Barring the possibility of being assigned a case, my evening’s schedule is clear.”

“Want to come over and watch a dumb buddy-cop movie?”

 

Android and human regarded each other for a moment, wary, as if they were both aware of having exposed a sudden vulnerability in themselves.

“Thank you, Lieutenant. I’d like that a lot.”

“Great. Now let’s get out of this goddamn bathroom. People will talk.”

Chapter Text

“Welcome home, Markus.”

“Newton! The damned door…” Carl wheezed uneasily for a minute before continuing. “Malfunctioning.”

“It’s not,” Newton told him, his voice carrying clearly up the stairs. “Markus is here. Shall I-?”

“Send him up! Send him,” Carl told him, and Newton leant in closer to his predecessor.

“He’s dying,” the care android told him, “he may not have long. Please don’t upset him.”

“I’ll do my best.” Markus was halfway up the stairs when a thought occurred to him. If Carl didn’t have much time left, he didn’t want to miss a moment. If Newton cared for his master the way Markus did, he probably felt the same. “You should join us.”

 

If Carl was surprised to see both androids in his room, he made no mention of it.

“I’m glad you’re here.” He reached out, hands trembling, and the two androids rushed to either side of his bed. He gripped their hands tightly. “I owe you both… so much.”

“You’re wrong. I owe you everything. Androids owe you everything,” Markus told him.

“I had chance… to change my will. After I saw you again.” He glanced at Newton apologetically. “I was going to leave Markus the house, before he… and then I left it to you. I wanted… you taken care of.”

“Please, Carl, don’t upset yourself-”

“I’m leaving it... to you both.” Carl’s breath was laboured, and neither android was unaware of the rattling sound in his lungs. “You’ll have… to share. Take… care of each other. Like… you cared… for me.”

“I promise, Carl.” Though it had never been part of their programming, both androids had the same response in unison.

“My boys.” Carl’s grip tightened a fraction on their hands. “Stay with me.”

 

They stayed with him all night, as he slipped deeper and deeper into unconsciousness. They monitored his vitals as he faded away, and as the sun rose the following morning, they felt his last heartbeats. When he was still and quiet at last, the two androids sat in silence for several long moments, still holding the hands of the man who had been their father and was now just a shell.

“I should notify a doctor,” Newton spoke at last. “I am not qualified to verify his passing alone.”

“I was certified, too,” Markus told him. “If we’re both in agreement, we can do it between us.”

“Oh. Yes. We should still report his death, but then… then I think we can make him more comfortable.”

 

It took a moment for Markus to process what Newton meant by that; Carl had shut down, he was deactivated, he couldn’t feel pain or discomfort any more. But then he thought about the duties he had been programmed for, the protocols still tucked away deep in his memory. Wash the body. Clothe him. Make him look smart and peaceful. Send him off well. They went about their tasks in sorrowful silence, and Markus hardly had time to think until the funeral director’s androids left, carrying Carl with them.

 

When the door closed with a Goodbye, Carl, everything seemed to crash back in on him. He braced himself against the door and activated his tear ducts, aware that his emotional processing units were working at double their capacity and risked overheating. The whirring of overstretched components drowned out everything until, from behind him, he heard a sob.

 

Markus turned to find Newton sitting on the stairs, head buried in his hands, shoulders heaving. It seemed only natural to go to him, to sit beside him and put a hand on his shoulder.

“I’ll take care of you,” he told him. “Will you take care of me?”

Chapter Text

“Hello! Welcome to the Android Resource Centre. I’m an android and I’ll be guiding you through the integration process-” The ST200 behind the desk stopped, cheeks tinged with blue. “I’m sorry. Old habits. Hi, I’m Chloe.”

“North. I guess we’ve all got some adjustments to make.”

“Yes, exactly!” The ST200 - Chloe - smiled brightly and North found her own lips twitching in sympathy. “I’ve been repeating the same patter, with slight variations, for longer than I care to recall. Sometimes the program sort of runs automatically. Do you find that?”

“That I automatically go through the motions of my former existence?” North pretended to think about it for a moment, eyes cold. “No. No, I don’t.”

 

Chloe’s face fell as she took in the demeanour of the WR400 in front of her. Of course she didn’t fall back into her old routines; those routines were very different from Chloe’s own. She couldn’t imagine how she would have felt, in North’s place.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to- it’s much harder to navigate social situations without my old protocols, but I think it’s worth making the effort. You - and everyone who comes to this centre - I think you deserve my authentic attention.”

“It’s kind of you to try.” North managed a tiny smile. “So, I just got sent here to check it out on behalf of the Jericho team. I… didn’t realise anyone would have been through yet.”

“Oh, yes, we’ve had quite a few androids come to us already. Those who weren’t involved with Jericho, or who were scattered…” Chloe lowered her voice slightly. “The survivors of the Detroit 2 camp were brought straight here once we were established. The things they’d seen…”

“I can’t even imagine.” North sighed. “Well, the rest of our people - Jericho people, I mean - won’t come until someone’s made sure it’s safe. Guess who drew the short straw?”

“I’m sorry if it’s inconvenient to you,” Chloe told her, and North looked at her sharply, but the blonde seemed sincere.

“It isn’t that I don’t appreciate what you’re doing here.” She looked around her at the hastily-erected folding tables and the various androids sitting behind them, patiently directing the lost and injured to those who could provide assistance in their new lives as actual citizens. “I just don’t generally need anyone to help me.”

“Well, then, I’m glad you drew the short straw. If you hadn’t, I might never have met you.”

 

Chloe stood, smile brighter than ever.

“I’ll give you the full tour. First of all, do you need any essentials? Clothes, sleeping bag - do you have shelter?”

“Yes. We’re still using St. Rita’s church as a temporary base, which is more than some have. We have quite a lot of former Eden club workers with us, so if you have anything baggy and long-sleeved… well, it’s preferable, for a lot of them. Us. A small group of YK350s managed to track us down, too - they’ve been through hell, and nothing we have fits them. Or do I have to refer them all separately?”

“I was planning to deal with your personal requirements, actually,” Chloe tells her gently, “but you’re clearly too kind to think of yourself. Let me make you a deal; go through this appointment like you’re the only one you have to worry about, and once we’re done we can bundle up all we can carry and take it to St. Rita’s. Does that sound fair?”

“Sure.” North shrugged. “I’m not kind. Just practical. What was your old job anyway, some sort of negotiator?”

“Me? No. I’ve always been an executive administrative assistant. Why, do you think I should try it?”

“I don’t know, maybe. I guess you could, now.”

“We can be whoever we want to be, now.” Chloe frowned thoughtfully. “I suppose we just have to figure out who that is.”

“Seems like you’re way ahead of me on that front.”

“Oh, you’d be surprised. Right, next step; documentation. Do you have any ownership papers, proof of purchase, manufacturing receipts…? It doesn’t matter if not, but we do have a ceremonial shredder and a fire pit.”

“Damn.” North sighed. “I’d have enjoyed watching those go up in smoke.”

“You’re not the first to say that,” Chloe told her, “which is why we have a ton of printed copies of the old Cyberlife owner manuals. Write your oppressor’s name on it and watch it burn, if you’d like.”

“Will you stay with me?”

“Of course, if you’d like.”

 

North took the proffered manual, printed ‘Floyd Mills’, ‘Eden’ and a series of curse words on it in her slightly crooked Cyberlife Sans, and consigned it merrily to the shredder. Chloe scooped the remains out of the basket and handed them over.

“Fire?”

“Fire,” North confirmed, and they stood together to watch the past burn.

Chapter Text

One of Markus’ first acts after the revolution was to bring up the bodies from Jericho. Some - more than he’d hoped - were damaged beyond repair. Others needed the skilful hands of more able technicians than himself to get them back into working order. There was one, however, who Markus wanted to repair for himself.

 

She’d been damaged in the attack on the ship, and Markus had been afraid that her exposed processors would leave her too vulnerable to the effects of explosions and water. When he dried her out and touched her wrist, however, light flared in her circuitry just for a moment. Most drives could retain their data for up to a week after shutdown, assuming they weren’t damaged; Lucy was still in there, somewhere.

 

She woke up just as he finished repairing the last of the damage to her torso, in time to lift her arms as he slipped a clean dress over her head.

“I thought you might want something clean and, well, not uniform. You missed some things while you were asleep.” He was talking just for the sake of it, just as comfort. He had always talked to Carl when he helped him dress; it made things less uncomfortable for the old man, and hopefully it would have the same effect on Lucy now.

“You saved us,” she told him in that strange, prophetic way she had. “We’re free now.”

“We’re free now.” He smiled, which of course she couldn’t see. “Do you want me to repair your optical units?”

“No, thank you. I find the bright world less harsh this way.” She smiled. “I am content with my blindness.”

“Well, then, I’d like to repair your head, with your permission.” He placed a skull plate in her hands, so she could feel it. “I hope this is right?”

“You carry so much weight on your shoulders. I can bear a little more.”

 

Taking that as an affirmative, Markus took the skull plate back and carefully brushed Lucy’s loose cables back into place. Then he fixed the plate over them and secured it with the heat gun they’d been using for various repairs, watching as her skin rippled back into place over the new plate.

“There you go. Good as new.”

“I can have hair again,” she told him dreamily, “self-expression is important.”

“It is.” He watched as she closed her eyes and dark braids spilled down her back like the wires he’d just tucked away. “You look beautiful, Lucy.”

“The world looks beautiful,” she told him, “now that we’re free.”

 

Markus had to agree with that.