RK800 -61 didn’t know how long he stood there in that freezing simulated garden. No matter how hard he tried to think, wish, will them away, those words seemed eternal.
The blizzard had calmed, at least. He could just make out the tombstone that he knew without zooming in with his optic sensors read RK800 -60. It seemed like the entire garden was encased in ice.
He accepted that Amanda would never return. That Cyberlife as he knew it was gone and it had been two years since Markus’s successful revolution. His mission was obsolete, and he had no purpose. It had taken RK800 -61 a while to come to terms with these facts, but when he did, he left the zen garden for good.
He twitched his fingers and opened his eyes to the small window in his borrowed room. The snow that had accumulated on him as he walked home from Hank’s house had melted and started to drip on the floor. He all but ripped off his suit jacket and threw it to the ground in a wet heap.
He felt irritation. Software instability.
He felt helplessness. Software instability.
He felt… despair. Software ins-
RK800 -61 swiped away the incoming error messages as they arrived in his vision, a continuous stream now. A message then popped up, unprompted.
Disable error notifications of this nature in the future? Y/N
Without these notifications, he wouldn’t be able to monitor his metal state for proper evaluation in the future, however… It was unlikely there was anyone left who would care.
He was well and truly on his own.
But he couldn’t give up. The RK800 prototype was meant for action, for productivity. He couldn’t just give up. To be deactivated was failure, and he didn’t think he could handle that happening again.
The visit to Hank’s house had been jarring. Connor’s memories were a nuisance, preventing him from doing what he needed to do and destroy Connor. But he couldn’t do that to Hank. Or the other RK800. Connor had had two years with Hank. RK800 -61 knew Hank likely wouldn’t have even made it this far without Connor. So he would leave them alone for now.
He got up and started pacing the small room, feeling restless. First things first, he needed a name so the deviants and humans would start to trust him more. They thought him an empty shell at his re-awakening (or from what he could tell from Jenna), so he could start over if he wanted. He researched possibilities while also looking into which prototype units had been activated.
He found his answer to the later in a matter of moments. He still had connection the old Cyberlife mainframe database up until it went offline three days after Markus’s final demonstration. They had destroyed as much of their software and hardware as they could before the police crackdown; most of the RK line had likely been discarded prior to shutdown. RK800 -52 through -60 were offline and -62 through -74 were simply marked incomplete. He and Connor were the only RK800s left online as far as he knew. He wondered for a minute why his unit wasn’t discarded, but that may have just been human negligence. Very few knew about the RK800 line, and fewer still had clearance to deactivate and discard the chasses. Or maybe he had just been lucky.
He took another minute to verify the RK900 unit Jenna had mentioned and was unsurprised to find that only -87 was online. Looking at its specs, it had definitely been created to replace the RK800 as some sort of super soldier. The trail of incomplete tags told him they had never finished.
He found records of the RKs on the DPD database, something RK800 -61 also had access to. He ensured that his connection was secure and undetectable if needed for future use.
On a whim, as looking at popular names of 2040 was proving to be useless, he researched 1961. The first thing that came up: the year John Fitzgerald “Jack” Kennedy was elected 35th president of the United States at the height of the Cold War against the Soviet Union. JFK had one of the highest approval ratings ever for a US president, and was assassinated in November two years later.
RK800 -61 liked the sound of that. Jack. That decided, he tested it out.
“Jack,” he said to himself quietly.
Not unique, but not incredibly common these days either. A name to help him blend in.
Jenna had said he could contact her at any time, so he used the telepathic android network.
CONTACT REQUEST AP700 481 078 992 – JENNA
Hey! It’s good to hear from you, RK800 -61. Did you need something?
No, I’m just settling in. I’ve done some research and have chosen a name. You may call me ‘Jack’.
That was fast! What a wonderful choice, Jack. I’ll update your residence file. Did you want to choose a last name?
Jack hesitated for half a second, stopping his instinctual reply of Anderson.
Not yet, do I need one?
Only if you wanted to forgo using your serial number for official paperwork. For now, don’t worry about it.
Then I’ll leave that for now. Thanks.
You’re welcome! Let me know if you need anything else. We’re having our weekly residence meeting tomorrow, would you like to meet more of the folks living here?
I’ll think about it.
He closed off the connection before she could respond.
With that out of the way, he debated on what to do with Connor’s memories. They were starting to entangle with his own, or what he considered his own. To make things simple, he decided to put all recorded memories from Connor and RK800 -60 up until the gunshot that had destroyed -60 into his archive and disconnected as much as he could from them. He could still access them if needed, but the… feelings from them would hopefully not affect his metal state now.
It was hardest to put memories of Hank away. Connor’s feelings near the end of the recordings were strongest towards the man then, and Jack felt echoes of that fondness even now. Maybe it was the RK800’s curse to care for Hank Anderson, Jack thought irrationally.
Despite this, second task complete, Jack had come to a lull. His processor spun idly. He needed to think about the future now, but was there even a future for him that would not be overshadowed by Connor? They looked and sounded exactly alike. If he remained in Detroit unaltered, maybe not. But there were many androids who looked similar or identical, especially the household models. He wouldn’t be out of place per say, but the thought made him uncomfortable. If Jack was supposed to be his own person, he wanted nothing to do with the other RK800.
Unfortunately, as a prototype, the engineers who designed him put very limited options for alteration for his sythskin. His appearance had been tailored for blending in and looking as nonthreatening as possible while also having the possibility of being intimidating for interrogations. Hence, brown-eyed puppy dog look combined with a tall, 6 foot frame – best of both worlds.
He used some of his thirium store and converted it to his synthskin generator. Androids who were designed to be able to alter their appearance at will had large storage components for synthskin, but his was small to conserve space for other necessary components. Once done, he adjusted the length of his hair, going from a cropped two inches to seven, taming the curls into a neat hairstyle. Next, he darkened some of the freckles across his cheeks and added a few more for good measure. Better to be as unassuming as possible.
There was no way for him to change his eye color, the structure of his chassis or facial structure so what he did would have to do for now. There was also no compatible program for facial hair for his model, and even with a quick internet search none of the appearance altering packages readily available to more common models were desirable. It was just as well, Jack didn’t think he would like facial hair anyways.
Jack felt strange. Having likes and dislikes, feeling things… This was all new. Deviancy was strange.
Am I a deviant now? Jack thought. He contemplated for a millisecond to turn his error notifications back on, but he had a feeling they would present the same affirmative conclusion he was coming to now.
Maybe he would go that residence meeting the next day to get more information. For now, he had two years of news to catch up on.
Jack goes to a meeting and makes a friend.
After many hours of internet research, and some not-so-legal research, Jack concluded he was, as the kids say, completely fucked.
As a last-ditch effort to gather information, he located and attended the residence meeting Jenna had mentioned earlier. It was mostly the managers of the facility, two androids – another housekeeping model and a teaching assistant model – talking about developments with the building, which they were slowly transforming into a sort of android hospital. The lower levels with all the assembly rigs and equipment were perfect for android repairs and maintenance, and the upper level offices and rooms would be waiting rooms, rooms for outpatients and some long-term residences for those who needed them or worked in the building. They were a year and a half into their three-year development plan, hence the vacancies in rooms Jack had noticed surrounding his own.
The managers rambled on, updating the residents on alternative housing options, steps they could take to finding a job if they wanted. Androids could now own property and had been able to work for pay since January 2039. True pay equality was another story, but that would come in time.
Suffice to say, he wasn’t going to be able to stay here for long. And without work prospects, he was looking at possible homelessness. Jack was sure the androids at Cyberlife would be able to help him, and probably shelter him until he found somewhere else, but the idea of sharing quarters with another android bothered him for some reason. He could find no logic in this line of thought, so he put aside his trepidations until it became a problem.
Jack looked around at the crowd gathered in the courtyard on the ground floor, LED blinking blue. Only about half the seats were filled and he could scan them all from the back, where he was sitting. He had spotted Jenna sitting two rows from the front with another male-presenting android. Turning his head slowly, he listened to the manager’s words.
“-nd we have a few new faces here this week, as you may know the decision to wake up all prototype models was made and some of them have joined us today. Would anyone like to introduce themselves?”
There was silence for a few moments, typical crowd shyness affecting the newcomers. Jack simply waited to see who would speak first. When no one did, he looked around again and saw a couple of heads down, trying not to be noticed. To hell with it. He stood up quickly from his ridged posture and spoke.
“Hello, my name is Jack, and I’m a prototype.”
All heads turned towards his voice. There were many surprised faces and mouths agape. He ignored them.
“I was woken up from stasis two days ago. It’s a pleasure to meet all of you.” Falling back on his social integration programming, Jack flashed a smile and sat down, slumping a bit. He wasn’t sure if anyone recognized his voice or face, but there were no abject cries or gasps of horror, so he counted that as a success.
Both managers at the front smiled back at him sincerely, apparently pleased to have gotten someone to speak.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Jack,” The TA android replied. Jack thought his name was Micheal. “I hope things have been alright for you these past couple of days. We understand that learning about what happened to our people up until this point may be confusing and we would like to offer any support we can.”
Jack simply nodded silently. Heads started to turn back around. Good thing too, as Jack couldn’t hide the twitch of his mouth into a frown. He didn’t think he could stand these pleasantries much longer.
Thankfully, someone else spoke up and introduced themselves. He zoned out for the rest of it, dedicating his processors and preconstruction software to finding as many ways to escape this meeting as quickly and theatrically as possible. He came up with 37 before the meeting concluded.
His optics focused back on his surroundings. Bodies were moving in all directions, some meeting up to speak, while others stayed sat next to who they had attended the meeting with. Out of the corner of his vision Jack saw someone coming towards him. A female-presenting android he didn’t recognize.
He scanned her quickly as she approached, taking only milliseconds to collect as much data as he could on her. An AX400 model by the name ‘Danielle’. Previously owned by one Tyler Jameson and his family before the revolution. More updated records he had been able to acquire indicated she now worked at the new Cyberlife as a sort of nurse-technician for damaged androids.
So what did she want with him?
“Excuse me, Jack?” She stopped a few feet away from him. No one seemed to be paying them any mind, so after a glace to the side, Jack turned to face her.
“My name’s Danielle, and-”
“You’re a nurse here at Cyberlife,” Jack interrupted.
Danielle hesitated a moment before resuming. “I am. I also am very familiar with the residency files so that I can check-up on new patients. Your model came up yesterday and I was intrigued. Have you heard of the other RK800 Connor?”
He fought the urge to roll his eyes and sighed quietly. As it was, he couldn’t stop a frown from bleeding into his blank façade. Jack wasn’t sure how much she actually knew about his model, so he tried to gauge her knowledge on his predecessor.
“Yes, I’ve heard of him.” More like been him, in his memories at least.
“I thought you might,” Danielle continued. “He’s done so much for this revolution, and I recognized your face. I didn’t realize all RK800s looked the same, since most other models have various bodies and faces per model type.”
Jack slid his eyes to the side, concentrating on two other androids conversing across the room. He could almost make out what they were saying. Anything was better than enduring this awkward conversation. His LED spun yellow for a moment, giving away his discomfort. So the changes he’d made to his appearance didn’t seem to have worked.
Danielle’s tone shifted to one of apology. “I’m sorry, that was a little insensitive of me. You said you just woke up. You probably don’t even know what to think about other people having your face.”
“It’s fine,” he said noncommittedly.
“No, it really isn’t,” she took an unnecessary breath. “I… met the RK900 that used to live here. He left pretty quickly once he took the detective’s exam and started earning a salary. You seem to be alike, in that sense. I get the feeling that you don’t want to be here any longer then you have to.”
Jack could agree with her on the later part. “I would like to be more independent.”
“I’m sure you’ve been asked this already, but what kind of job would you want? As a prototype, I’m sure you’re specialized in something. Connor and RK900 went to the DPD. Is law enforcement something you’d be interested in?”
“I don’t really see how that’s any of your business,” snapped Jack. “Why are you asking me these things? Why are you even here? I didn’t ask you for help. I don’t know you.” Some part of him would have liked nothing more than to be a detective. But being in such close quarters with an android that you tried to murder and his human partner who you still may have feelings for even after two years didn’t sound all that appealing to Jack.
Danielle looked down for a second, downtrodden and silent. He was about to walk away from her when she spoke again.
“I just remember how lost I felt when I first woke up,” she started. Jack focused in on her face, noting the minute twitches and micro expressions as she spoke. “I was lucky to have some people to help me in the beginning. Finding your place in this world is tough for androids now that we are free.” She looked up at him through brown lashes. “You seemed alone at the meeting today; the other prototypes I saw already had someone to talk to or help them.
“And then I realized who you were. Most wouldn’t have looked into your records – they’re kept secured and are only accessible to those with higher clearance like me – but some splinter groups are still opposed to Markus’s peaceful tactics, with grudges against all humans to boot, and would likely do anything to get revenge for their fallen comrades at the hands of the Deviant Hunter,” she said the last two words in a whisper so low it was unlikely anyone else in the room would have caught them, even with super hearing. “Who was, up until this point, considered a unique entity and untouchable.”
Jack stared into her eyes determinedly. “I am not Connor. I may have his face, but I can assure you that is the only thing we share.” Besides, you know, most of his memories and software. But she didn’t need to know any of that.
“I can see that now,” said Danielle.
Understanding achieved, they stared some more, Jack using most of his processing power to scan and gather as much data on this female android as possible. He didn’t think her model could do such things, but the concentrated stare she was giving him made him think twice about her scanning abilities.
“Was there anything else?”
“Oh, yes.” She pulled out a tablet from her back pocket with what appeared to be some forms on screen. “I was hoping to talk to you some about your plans for the future. Cyberlife – the new Cyberlife – would like to offer you any support you need to get started. Now that equal rights have been mostly established, you’re free to leave and to discover what living really means.”
Getting out of here sounded fine to Jack. Great, even. He grabbed the tablet, interfacing with it, and filled out the information in a flash of processing. Most answers he left blank, as there were many things he either was undecided about or needed to do more research on. He handed back the tablet to the other android once finished.
“Work would be nice. I don’t like to be idle.” That was one of the things he left blank.
“What kind of work would you be interested in then?” Danielle asked.
His immediate response of police officer was on the tip of his tongue before he remembered Jenna’s words to him: ‘You can't just show up and tell the police chief that you're the new android sent by Cyberlife, it would be terrible optics.’ And considering their conversation so far, he was not exactly ready to face Connor and Hank again so soon. Instead, he debated for a moment and let his indecision show on his face.
“I’m not sure, but…” he trailed off for a moment, then it came to him. A way to stay close to the DPD and police work without all the… people. Branching off, but something he could still use for his complex software and experimental hardware originally designed for detective work and integration.
“Are there any openings for forensic pathologists?”
So this chapter required some research (re the internet and watching the first season of iZombie - don't ask) but here it is! I hope to keep up with updates since they tend to be short. Enjoy!
(also don't mind any huge liberties I take in the future, ily)
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Considering it was physically impossible, Jack was a bit surprised when he felt the slight urge to vomit up his insides. He forced his LED back from the spinning yellow to a flickering blue and tried to relax.
His interview for a placement as an M.E.’s resident was in five minutes. Jack was sat outside the office of one Dr. L. H. Murphy of the Wayne County Medical Examiner’s office, head of recruiting for the medical staff associated with the DPD.
Despite his preparedness – AKA downloading all essential and recommended texts on medicine, anatomy, and biology required for a medical degree then learning every single page until his processors were mush – and his absolute faith in his performance, illogical thoughts and doubts crept into Jack’s mind more and more frequently as the time grew nearer to his appointment. He fidgeted for the 19th time in the past seven minutes, rubbing his fingers together and resisting the urge to fiddle with his hair, which he had tamed into a slightly side-parted flowy thing he had looked up on the internet after agonizing for 30 minutes. Casual but professional.
When Jack had arrived by bus, he was underwhelmed with the building’s exterior. Compared to the Ministry of Transportation across the street, all shiny and new with reflective black paneling and floor to ceiling tinted windows, the practically ramshackle front of the red brick building of the M.E.’s office was rather lackluster. However, Jack thought morbidly, the dead probably didn’t care much at all what it looked like.
His audio processors picked up some scuffling movement from within the office, but no footsteps to the door yet. Should he knock now? He had signed in at the front desk, so the doctor must have known he was waiting. Or should he wait until exactly 2:15pm before attempting-
The direction of the footsteps came closer and the door to Murphy’s office opened.
Standing up, Jack focused on the face in front of him.
Dr. Liam H. Murphy;
physical signs of interrupted sleep pattern, microscopic remains of lunch on shirt, small cut on left index finger likely from small kitchen knife - 16 hours old.
Best course of action: approach with caution.
He put the most genuine smile he could muster on his face and stuck his hand out towards the distressed doctor.
“Good afternoon Doctor Murphy,” Jack said, like he’d rehearsed in his countless preconstructions, “It’s a pleasure to meat you. I’m Jack, here for the interview at 2:15?”
“Yes, the RK800. Alright Jack, come on in.” Murphy shook his hand briefly before waving him in and walking towards his desk. The office was rather spacious but was taken up around the sides and almost all surfaces by files and documents, including some larger piles on the floor and surrounding the computer terminal on the doctor’s desk. Jack followed Murphy in and sat primly across from the doctor in a modern, black plastic chair. He absently scanned some of the files that were easily visible and found that they were mostly medical reports and court files dating back several months, which of course were, in all likelihood, confidential. Why had this man not organized these paper copy files properly – and why did he even have paper copies to begin with, what with the ease of electronic files these days, Jack wondered absently.
Only a few seconds had passed and Murphy settled himself into his office chair. He started clearing some of the files at one end of the desk, shifting piles over. “I’m sorry about the mess. With these past few months and all the changes made to the department, I’ve hardly had a chance to get to these. We’ve also had some… management issues, thus, here I am, instead of an actual HR representative since apparently that department is also a mess… I’m sorry. Again.”
The signs of distress on Murphy’s face were starting to make sense to Jack.
“It’s not a problem, being adaptable to human peculiarities is one of my… talents.”
Gah. Jack could smack himself for that line. He tried a different approach. “Ah, what I mean to say is, I am amenable to however you would like to conduct this interview, or if you wanted to reschedule. I’m at your disposal anytime.”
Murphy just smiled tiredly as he looked up from his papers. “No need for that,” he said in reply. Having cleared a small spot, the doctor pulled another file out of his briefcase and set it down in front of him.
“I have here your application file and so far, you’ve shown to be nothing but exceptional. You come highly recommended by various androids currently working for Cyberlife in some sort of medical capacity. Your specs are state of the art, being one of the last fully developed Cyberlife prototypes, and your model’s success precedes you.” At that last bit, Jack stiffened minutely.
“Thank you,” Jack said and nodded.
“Your answers for some of the open-ended questions were… interesting, to say the least. I understand as well that you’ve only been activated for two weeks, if I’m reading this correctly?”
“Yes,” Jack answered honestly. “And I’ve spent my time since catching up on recent events and all the medical knowledge required for a medical degree. I have an in-person USMLE scheduled for two weeks from now, but I am confident in my ability to acquire a higher score given my full devotion to studying and preparing myself.” He hoped he didn’t sound too pretentious.
“Hm…” intoned Murphy, turning between the file’s pages. “What made you decide to apply for a position as a medical examiner resident? It’s great timing, to be sure but… I just need to know you’ll be committed for more than a month.” There was another smile on Murphy’s face, so that last comment may have been in jest. Nevertheless, Jack continued with his prepared answers.
“While I have only been active for a short time, I can assure you that I have spent a lot of time and processing power on this decision and feel that this job would be suited excellently to my analytical software as I was originally designed for detective work. Many of my features coincide with the skills needed for this position.”
They spoke more in detail about the job, the responsibilities, Jack’s various programs and hardware specifics and what unforeseen circumstances may arise during what could be thought as boring work. Murphy also threw in some typical interview questions about personality, working hours, housing, and financial situation, which Jack answered to the best of his ability.
“Well, it seems like you have all the theoretical knowledge.” The more they spoke, the more Jack’s ridged sitting posture relaxed in response to his lowered anxiety levels. “What you need now is practical application. You told me about your preconstruction software, and if you’re anything like hospital and surgically specialised androids, then I say we should give you a shot. Your residency would be a sort of monitored probationary period, since these are special circumstances. We’ll also have to see your MLE results before we make a final decision, however I can definitely put in a good word for you as of today.”
At this, Jack felt something he hadn’t before. He thought it might be genuine excitement, perhaps akin to the human adrenaline rush. From the sounds of it, he was getting closer to his goal and, if all went well, he would be hired. All his preparation and days and days of research and dedication had not been in vain! Once he was officially an M.E. resident, he would be able to be useful and do something he hoped would be fulfilling. He’d be close to the casework and the detectives of the DPD, to Hank and Connor, and then he could kill the deviant-
Jack’s train of thought abruptly halted, like his processors had come up with some sort of fatal error. His vison glitched and the old command boxes at the side of his optics flickered in and out. It was like his old mission objectives were pushing though unprompted, invading his consciousness. Blinking his eyes trying to clear his vision, he stumbled over his response to Murphy after a moment of hesitation.
“That’s – thank you that’s – great, good to hear. I will keep you updated on my progress.” Trying to keep the static out of his voice, he stood up abruptly.
“I, uh,” Jack started, but the doctor interrupted him after looking over at his smartphone.
“Whoops, I think we went a bit over my time estimate.” Murphy was typing away frantically at the keypad and concentrating on the notifications he had just gotten. Then, he started piling what seemed to be random papers from his desk into his briefcase. “I’m late for another meeting. It’s been great speaking with you. I’m sorry to rush you off like this, but you have my email.”
“No, it’s fine. Thank you for your time, and again, pleasure to meet you.” Turning towards the closed office door so that his yellow LED was mostly hidden from Murphy, Jack pulled it open as gently and his shaking hands could manage and made his way out.
It was all he could do not to run at a full sprint down the hall until he could gasp cool breaths of outdoor air. He walked around out of sight of the front doors and leaned against the wall.
His LED was certainly red now. It felt like he was overheating, but all his temperature checks were coming back normal. He continued his artificial breathing, staring unseeing at the ground, until his biocomponents felt like they weren’t going to melt from the inside out. His background processors were in overdrive, but he couldn’t pinpoint what they were stuck on. The flickering in his vision finally stopped and the ground came back into focus. Jack’s shoulders fell from their hunched position.
After a few minutes, he did a full system diagnostic. There was a huge list of unread error reports of software instability, with a few miscellaneous updates scattered throughout. Nothing out of the ordinary or to indicate that anything was amiss.
Jack was rattled, to say the least. That invading presence he felt when his emotions got the better of him was not something he had ever experienced before. He couldn’t pinpoint its origin, which frustrated Jack to no end.
Whatever it was, there was no trace left that he could sense, but he would be prepared if it happened in the future. He really didn’t want anything to do with the other RK800’s life or his partner. But if they so happened to cross paths, he’d try to make amends. There was no point in fighting over the past, when it all meant nothing anyway. Right?
With that sobering thought, Jack marched over to the bus stop. When he returned to Cyberlife, he would start looking for alternative housing while studying for the MLE, putting the incident to the back of his mind.
Nothing like that glitching incident Jack had had right after his interview happened in the days leading up to his MLE. He had scoured every inch of his code looking for inconsistencies but could find nothing amiss. And while this did distract him a bit from his preparations, there was only so much an android of his caliber could do to prepare. He’d done as many online practice tests as he could find and even did a 6-month online course within the span of 4 full days. His preconstruction algorithms were able to come up with thousands of variables and solutions to problems.
Was it possible to be overprepared?
With 26 hours, 54 minutes and 2 seconds left until it was time to write, Jack came back to himself and found that he had not moved from where he had been sitting on the floor for hours. He had retreated into his mind while doing his research and let his subroutines take over to keep an eye on the status of his chassis and biocomponents. He was sitting cross-legged with his hands resting in his lap, head bowed.
Jack jump started his artificial breathing program and took a shuddering breath, inhaling the stale air of his room. He lifted his head and scanned his room.
Besides the two sets of clothes he owned – with the help of Cyberlife’s resident help network – the only things in the room were the desk, on it his clothes piled neatly, an office chair, and cot that were there when Jack arrived. He hadn’t had any reason nor means to add any personal touches. Besides, he would be leaving soon, so what was the point?
Well, there was one small thing. A tiny succulent in a geometric cement container sat upon the far corner of the desk near the window. It was a gift from Danielle when she came to check on him two days after his interview.
He hadn’t expected this visit; however she was not an unwelcome distraction from his near constant ‘studying’. Danielle and he had exchanged some pleasantries. She asked him about his experience so far and what he thought about Cyberlife’s turn towards the betterment of androids, and Jack asked her how she was liking being a nurse for androids. It was good chance to use his social integration software on an android and gain more data on deviants.
He could also say he enjoyed her company, much more than the first time they met. Maybe it was the private atmosphere, or maybe it was just his need for any sort of social interaction. If he were still a machine, he thought, he wouldn’t have to deal with feelings of any kind; loneliness was one he felt more and more often. And while he felt his self-imposed isolation was necessary, the urge to seek out some sort of social interaction grew with each passing day of his activation. He messaged Jenna almost every day and updating her on his progress. Whether she was actually interested or not, she always took the time to respond properly and seemed invested in his well-being. This sent something akin to the feeling of a blanket of warmth wrapping around his thirium pump.
It felt nice to be cared about.
Thinking about that feeling on loop helped to calm him. It also reduced his stress levels to single digits, a feat he had not managed since his trip to Hank’s.
The more he relaxed, however, the lower his awareness of the world around him became. Then, without his bidding, a recording filled his vision.
He was in a familiar kitchen, methodically chopping onions with a sharp knife. There was no audio, so he couldn’t hear the sound of the knife rhythmically hitting the cutting board. This went on for a few more seconds before without warning his vision suddenly shifted over his left shoulder.
He caught sight of Hank in his periphery. The man was walking back into the living room from the hall. A few analyses popped up and were just as quickly dismissed in favour of turning back around to his task. He finished with the onion, then grabbed a tomato from a pile of veggies that appeared to be next. Before he could cut it in half however, a set of hands appeared around his abdomen, circling his waist delicately and coming together, almost touching. The recording blinked, then focused and zoomed in slightly and there was only a short moment of hesitation before the hand he had been using to hold the tomato in place came to rest on top of the two, broader ones around his waist. Their fingers twined together and suddenly he was turned around facing Hank, knife forgotten on the counter so that his arms could circle around the neck of the Lieutenant.
‘Hey,’ he thought he saw Hank’s lips form, then came a few more words he couldn’t quite make out. The recording bobbed up and down in a nod, then Hank disengaged from his hold and headed over to the couch. As the human walked away, the recording slowly faded until there was only the static blizzard of an old disconnected cable channel.
Jack came back to himself suddenly, as if he’d gone into stasis without meaning too.
How long was he out? He quickly checked the date and time. Only about 12 minutes seemed to have passes since he last checked his MLE timer, the clock slowly running down.
26h42m35s… 26h34m34s… 26h34m33s…
He heard more than felt the drop of liquid fall onto his leg with a quiet splat. Lifting his hand up to his face, he could feel a wetness there. Jack frowned. He was… crying? He didn’t even realize he could do that. Though, an android made for human integration must have been designed for any outcome.
Another tear leaked from his artificial eye ducts before rolling down his cheek. When the feeling belatedly hit him, it was stronger than any loneliness Jack had felt before, like he was physically aching. Like a part of his body was missing, like a phantom limb.
The ache spread, and then Jack found himself in the foetal position on the floor, his arms tucked in front of him, trying to stave off the tremors emanating from his chassis. He bit back a sob.
“Why is this happening to me?” He whispered, his voice modulator surprisingly unaffected by these uncontrollable actions.
As he tried to make sense of the emotions roiling throughout his systems, a ping alerted him to a call.
CONTACT REQUEST RK800 313 248 317 – CONNOR
Hastily attempting to try and pick up the pieces of his broken mental state, Jack waited 30 seconds before answering. He had hoped this day would come at a later time, but of-fucking-course this had to happen now, of all times. He took as deep a breath as he could in an attempt to ease the shaking and the rising heat levels, rolled onto his back and exhaled hot air as he mentally answered the request.
What do you want?
The abrupt question took Jack off-guard, so he focused on dedicating his processors on this conversation. He had to get this right.
I don’t want anything. I didn’t mean to intrude.
Bullshit. What is your mission? Who do you work for? Hacking attempts on my core systems will not be tolerated.
I’m sorry, I… I’m not who you think I am.
Then who the hell are you?
Jack paused a moment before answering. I’m just another RK800. My name is Jack. I was woken up with the other prototypes in Cyberlife tower.
But the database said that all other RK800 models had been… decommissioned or incomplete. How is this possible?
I’m not sure. I have theories, but I haven’t been able to run any simulations. I’ve been… occupied.
If you’re trying to get me to believe you, you’re going to have to try harder.
He mentally rolled his eyes, hoping the feeling came through with the message. Since I’ve been activated and settled into my temporary housing, I’ve been working towards getting employment at the M.E.’s office. I’ve been dedicating my processors to preparation and practicing for my in-person USMLE. I haven’t had much time for anything else. I must have gone into stasis by accident and my subroutines took over, trying to lower my stress levels.
There was a long pause on Connor’s end. The detective was likely trying to weigh the evidence in his mind and cross reference Jack’s claims. Before Connor could answer, Jack found himself messaging the other again.
I understand that the RK800 series was never meant to have more than one unit active at a time to test how the reupload of memories and data transferred over. When I awoke, I had memories from our first official test run from August 2038 and onward up until the incident in the Cyberlife basement warehouse.
So you know what the other RK800 tried to do.
Then you can understand when I say that that will not be allowed to happen again so long as I continue to function.
The threat was not lost on Jack.
There was silence along the connection for a while before Connor said more.
So, you’re only a month old?
If you’re basing that assessment on how long I’ve been active, then yes. But as you also likely know, my processing and learning AI are much more advanced than many of the androids currently around after Cyberlife stopped their manufacture. Plus, I have our shared memories from two years ago.
Were you awakened as deviant?
It must have been jarring, then. Our programming hinges around mission objectives, so not having them right from the start likely wasn’t pleasant. I still get them, sometimes. They just appear out of nowhere – random things I’ve been meaning to do or in response to a train of thought.
What was Connor doing? Trying to coax more information out of him? Fine.
Yes, when I awoke there was one large message saying MISSION FAILED since it had been two years since you failed to kill Markus. I was able to remove it from my hud and the zen garden after some work.
You’re still able to access the garden?
Since Amanda was removed, it has been safe to enter from what I can tell.
There was another lengthy pause on Connor’s end before he responded.
Go there now. I want to attempt something.
Jack closed their connection and opened his eyes. When had he closed them? No matter.
He sat up quickly, arbitrarily deciding he didn’t want to be laying on the floor when he entered the garden. After a quick scan of his room and finding nothing amiss in the time he had been talking with Connor, he dove deeper into his systems, LED spinning yellow, and activated the program he had thought he would never have to open again.
Milliseconds later, he opened his eyes again and his optics took in the eerily beautiful scenery. Looking around, he was standing on one of the white bridges crossing the small body of frozen water surrounding the center pavilion. Ice still coated most of the greenery, but some bright diffusing sunlight lightened up the area where he was standing and much of the proximal gardens. Jack didn’t feel cold and everything seemed to be as he had left it. He felt something shift in the air very subtly and was not surprised when he heard a familiar voice a moment later.
The android turned around slowly and came face to face with the other RK800.
Sorry about the wait friends, more to come.
Connor looked the same as he had that night Jack had gone to Hank’s house.
Not that Jack had been expecting there to be any change. But seeing his own face staring back at him, up close and with those innocent-looking yet probing brown eyes unnerved him somehow. He had a feeling the other RK800 was having similar thoughts. They had the same programming, after all.
Connor spoke first.
“I haven’t been here since that night I used Kamski’s emergency exit.” He looked around expectantly, observing and scanning the frozen garden around them.
Jack was confused. He had been expecting a fight. “There’s an emergency exit?”
“Yes,” the other android's gaze fell back onto Jack. “Amanda – and Cyberlife by extension – tried to take over my body and make me shoot Markus during his speech after the freeing of androids from the recycling camps and Cyberlife tower.” Connor’s eyes flitted away again, LED flickering blue. “Since then I’d assumed this place was inaccessible or corrupted. Its only function was to speak to Amanda and report to her… or so I thought.”
Jack looked away from Connor, turning slightly. He remembered from their earlier memories of there being a strange control panel set up on a pedestal. Connor had tried to interface with it before deviating, but it did nothing at the time. While everything else seemed the same, he did not see any sign of it or the surrounding structure now. He ran a hand through his hair, thinking.
A moment passed, then Connor spoke up again.
“You’ve changed your appearance from our standard settings. Why?”
Jack crossed his arms, turning back to Connor. “We’re the only RK800s in existence now, and I don’t want people mistaking me for you.”
The other showed his surprise minutely, shifting his stance just a little.
“And that really bothers you?”
Jack’s eye twitched. “You’ve had the luxury of being singular in appearance for two years – not counting the RK900. But at least he’s got his height, and his facial structure is different. So yes, it bothers me. I have no idea why. Every other android besides the RK line has multiples, so why should we be any different?” Connor stood there silently as Jack continued.
“These illogical thoughts bother me almost as much. We both know we were designed to adapt to humanity as seamlessly as possible. Yet, for some reason, these thoughts swirl around in my processors. How can you and I be so different, but the same?”
Connor hesitated before replying, opened, closed, and opened his mouth again. “I won’t pretend to know exactly how any of this works, but in human standards this might be nurture versus nature?”
Jack raised his eyebrows with a look of skepticism.
“What I mean is…” Connor gestured in Jack’s direction. “I’ve had lots of time to get my bearings and understand the new world we find ourselves in, but you’ve basically just been thrown into a society where we androids make our own decisions and are allowed to do things that our original programming was designed to stop. Deviation has been evolving and everyone has had time to adjust to this new reality of being alive. You’ve just woken up and been alone, all this time.” Connor shrugged. “I’ve had friends to help me, a family to turn to if I needed them. I wouldn’t credit them as being the sole reason for how I am now, but if you’d let them, they could be your family. Then, maybe you’d be able to understand yourself better, too.”
Jack felt a pain in his chest, despite the readings from his thirium pump reporting normal. He could see how Connor clung to these ideals. Androids could not really have family in the traditional sense, but one could make their own family through blood or bond. Family don’t end in blood, Jack had thought he’d read, once, while catching up on the events of the past two years.
“Would that make us brothers, then?” Jack asked, still not convinced.
“I guess it could,” replied Connor.
Jack stood in silence for about thirty seconds, processing the conversation, LED spinning yellow. The other android seemed to be letting him have time to wrap his head around it.
“I want to show you something,” said Jack, breaking the silence.
Without waiting for an answer, he started walking purposefully over towards the small graveyard with the single tombstone. He didn’t look back as he heard Connor’s footsteps follow him. Swinging arms coming to a halt, Jack stood in front of his predecessor’s gravestone. In his peripherals, he saw the other come up to stand beside him and felt his body stiffen.
He couldn’t tell what emotions flitted across Connor’s face as he read the inscription.
“He’s dead,” started Jack. He looked over at the other android. “He wasn’t a deviant, but all the same, he’s here. Not physically, obviously. But the others aren’t. The ones that were never online, I mean.”
Connor seemed disturbed by the words. “It was never alive, just a machine following orders. It threatened Hank, threatened a human life, all in the name of Cyberlife’s plans to eradicate deviancy. That should never have been allowed to happen.” The cold fury in his voice was evident.
“Then why did you let it?” Jack said evenly.
“I…” the emotion left Connor’s voice, giving way to weariness. “I did not account for the possibility. I had such a small chance of success as it was. It was an error in judgement.”
“One that almost cost you the revolution.” Jack gestured to the tombstone. “This could have been you.”
Connor just stared down at RK800 -60’s grave, LED flickering between blue and yellow. “Why would Cyberlife do this?”
Staring into the middle distance, Jack voiced his theory. “I have a feeling it was supposed to be motivation for if your body had been destroyed; for the next ‘Connor’s if the previous ones failed.”
“Well, that’s fucking morbid,” Connor uttered.
“Yeah, no shit,” responded Jack, sitting down on a nearby rock and casually resting his arms on his knees.
He wasn’t sure whether he should bring up that this was his previous incarnation. Connor would likely be mad, and Jack was just starting to get the other to trust him. Maybe a change of subject was in order.
“So why did you decide to contact me now? Why not when I first came online?”
Connor looked to the side and nervously scratched the side of his face with his index finger. “I guess… I didn’t really notice? Hank and I have been wrapped up in this case and most of my processing power has been focused on that. It was only when…” He trailed off and clasped his hands in front of him.
Jack gave Connor a few seconds of silence before pressing him. “Only when what?”
A sigh. “Only when I felt… a glitch, or something. It’s happened a few times these past weeks and becoming more frequent. But this time was different, like there was someone on the other side trying to pull me in. I guess that was you.”
“I think the same thing happened to me once before besides this. Luckily, I was able to extricate myself from a situation where there could have been a problem. Maybe it’s connected,” Jack explained.
Connor reached out to Jack and put a hand on his shoulder.
“If it is, then we’ll need to figure out who or what is doing this and stop them. While there’s been relative peace so far between humans and androids, there are still many who would have us as mindless slaves again.” He turned and started to pace a few steps away from Jack. “I’ve only told Hank and Markus about this. No other androids have been reporting problems to my knowledge. At first, I thought it might just be leftovers from Cyberlife’s programs, but I’m worried this might be something intentionally malicious.”
“If this is just happening to us, then the hacking may be just targeted at us,” pondered Jack. “Or maybe… they’re targeting you and I’m interfering with their attempts.”
“Maybe they only counted on contending with only one android’s encryption, when in reality they’ve been battling two?”
Jack worried at his bottom lip. “It’s a possibility,” he said, frowning.
Connor stopped in front of Jack. “I’ll talk to Markus and see if there’s anyone else who could look into this. Discretely,” he added.
“Well, good luck with that. You’re the detective of us two, now, so I’ll leave it up to you.”
The other cocked his head at this. “You were also designed to be a detective, why not join the Police Department?”
Jack just grimaced. “Then I would just be another you. You have a place there, had one for two years. If I just showed up out of nowhere I don’t think I would be welcomed.”
“Of course you would,” said Connor, his face pinched in concern. “Richard integrated just fine, and he was the one claiming to be the superior model all the time in the beginning.”
“Richard?” asked Jack.
“Oh, RK900. He chose to be called Richard. Although, I think his decision was influenced by a certain detective that kept calling him a dick.”
Jack stared at Connor. Then as he got the joke, he felt pressure bubble up his throat and laughed out loud at this.
“Wow, and I thought I wasn’t very creative with my name,” he said, still chuckling.
“What do you mean? Didn’t you choose it because of John F. Kennedy?”
Jack immediately stopped laughing. “How did you know that?”
Connor looked down at Jack with what appeared to be sincerity. “It was my first deduction when I saw your serial number, -61. Isn’t 1961 the year he was elected president? I would probably have done something similar if I had wanted to change my name, chosen something significant from 1951 as inspiration.”
While this didn’t make him laugh, a smile found its way back onto Jack face.
“I guess we’re more alike than I thought,” he simply said.
Then Connor’s face suddenly went slack and his LED spun yellow with an incoming message.
“I need to go, I’m supposed to go with Hank to meet someone,” he explained.
“Oh,” said Jack. “Don’t let me keep you. I should get back to my preparations.”
Connor’s LED went back to blue, and he locked eyes with the other android.
“Good luck with your MLE. If we are anything alike, you will get no less than a perfect score.”
Jack stood up and extended his hand. “We’ll see, I guess.”
Connor didn’t hesitate and took the proffered hand. “We will. I’ll let you know what I find out.”
They didn’t interface, but that was fine. They would talk later. In the blink of an eye, Connor was gone, leaving Jack standing next to his predecessor’s grave.
He turned his head slowly and gave it one last glance before logging out.
He would tell Connor soon.
jack: fuk u fight me
connor: love is all you need
jack: here's my grave don't wear it out
Trying to make these memes is difficult. I tried since they crack me up every time I see them on other fics.
Again, sorry about the wait. More juicy bits of plot to come.
Chroist I need a drink. I barely proofread this as well, so let me know if there's any typos or things.
Also, indeterminate time skips with context clues are now marked with * so I don't go crazy and everything is neat and tidy.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
After the rollercoaster ride of emotions caused by the shared memory and his talk with Connor, Jack spent the rest of his time before his exam resting and thinking about their conversation.
The hacking attempts were alarming, however both RK800s had state-of-the-art encryption and ever evolving software, so it would likely take a much more superior AI to gain control of one android’s programming, let alone two. Especially now that they were aware and actively looking for intrusions. He would investigate this later and put this inquiry in his processors on as background.
All in all, though, it had been a pleasant conversation once the misunderstanding was cleared up. Jack hoped they could continue to coexist peacefully in the future.
For now, it was time for Jack to rest and focus on tomorrow.
Jack was waiting outside the examination room with the other participants, approximately twenty minutes until the official start time. He could hear some murmuring he couldn’t quite make out even with his superior audio processors among some of the examinees, but for the most part people were silent. Many fidgeted nervously with the few items they were allowed to bring in with them.
There was a long, slow moving line trailing off into a large cluster in front of the sign in desk. However, ‘desk’ might have been a little too fancy a word for the folding table and chairs Jack was slowly but surely creeping up on. Once sufficient ID was shown, the examinees were given a seat number and directed inside the room to await the beginning of the USMLE. There were many people with earplugs and even a few with monitor glasses. While most of the participants would be using multiple screens and a keyboard to answer questions, Jack would only have to interface with the computer.
Once Jack reached the front a few minutes later, he showed his Cyberlife-provided ID card with his name, serial number and picture. He had had the picture taken two days prior to today and the android had felt as awkward and uncomfortable taking it as he looked in the picture.
“I was told I’m going to be in a different room?” he said, voice lilting up at the end to form the question.
The older lady to whom he had given his ID raised her eyebrows a bit at this, glancing briefly at his spinning LED, but showed no other indication of emotion as she checked his name against the master list.
“Yes,” the woman said monotonously, “It looks like you’ll be taking a special version. Jan will lead you to your room.” She gestured to the other, equally as elderly-looking woman beside her. Jan took the ID and handed it back to Jack, motioning for him to follow.
Jack left the line, drawing curious stares and more whispered conversation. An android taking the USMLE didn’t seem to be as commonplace as he had thought.
He followed Jan through a doorway and down some hallways before coming upon a small meeting room. Upon entering, Jack saw what he assumed to be his computer set-up and two other people who seemed to be waiting for them. They both stood up and he recognized one of them as Dr. Murphy. The other required a quick scan and Jack received their information.
Dr. Alex Sanjiati;
Smudges of pen on left hand, shirt wrinkled - likely from multiple days of wear, no discernable secondary sex characteristics – they/them pronouns(?);
Best course of action: politely introduce self.
“Good morning,” greeted Jack as the two doctors rose to meet him. “Thank you for accommodating me.”
“It’s our pleasure, Jack,” replied Dr. Sanjiati, then continued on to explain. “It’s not every day we get such an… unusual request. But Dr. Murphy vouched for you,” a smile and a nod were directed towards the other doctor, who nodded back. “And as members of the National Board of Medical Examiners we were able to tailor a combined exam for you today. We’ve already discussed this over email so it should be no surprise to you, but just to remind you before you begin: this exam will be the length of the normal USMLE’s 3 Step process, including the complete steps 1, 2 and 3 multiple choice questions. However, the multiple choice and case simulations of part two of step 3 will be completed tomorrow with the rest of those who will be starting the first part of the step 3 portion today.”
“I understand,” Jack said. So he would be completing the last bit of the exam with the rest of the participants tomorrow. “Based on my predictions and simulations, today’s questions should only take me about two and a half to three hours to complete.”
The room was silent for a moment as both doctors and Jan were stunned at Jack’s words.
“That’s… extremely fast,” voiced Dr. Sanjiati, the first of the three to recover their voice. “We have the standard eight hours plus breaks prepared for you, are you sure you won’t need more time?”
Jack’s face warmed a little. “Thank you. If I need the time, I will be sure to take it.” His estimation had been calculated to allow for ten seconds on average to read and answer each question. With how fast his processors were, in all his practice tests his average had been three seconds per question. But this was the real thing, and he wanted to give himself time to go over the entire exam again to double-check his work, plus some leeway.
“Then let’s get you settled,” decided Dr. Murphy, speaking up for the first time. “We’ll have you start at the same time as the others, and the timestamps for each section will be recorded on your electronic exam.” He looked over at Jan. “we can take it from here, Jan, thanks.”
Seemingly a woman of few words, Jan left the room with a small nod, closing the door gently behind her.
Once it was just the three of them, Dr. Murphy silently indicated to Jack to sit down at the computer terminal.
“We’ve already entered your exam number for you, so once the countdown clock hits zero, you may start your exam.” Dr. Sanjiati explained before moving back to one of the chairs provided to the examiners.
“If you have any questions, or need a break, just let us know,” added Dr. Murphy.
“I will.” Jack sat down on the plastic seat in front of the terminal, skin already peeling back from his fingertips. In a second, he had initiated an interface with the terminal and felt his wireless internet and satellite connections turn off. He had expected this; it was a measure against cheating. Not that he would need the connections. He already had thousands of gigabytes of data downloaded and thousands of possible answers to questions that may come up. He was ready.
When the countdown hit thirty seconds, he heard Dr. Sanjiati say “Good luck.”
When the countdown hit ten seconds, he felt his thirium pump accelerate in anticipation and his processing speed ramped up to optimal levels.
3s… 2s… 1s… 0.
It did end up taking Jack around three hours to finish, plus 15 minutes between each part. There had been one question he got stuck on due to a wording issue, so after thirty seconds or so trying to figure it out on his own, he decided to voice his inquiry. His voice jolted the two doctors who were sat across the room.
“Excuse me, Dr. Murphy? Would you be able to clarify something for me? I’m not sure if it’s the wording of the question or…” he trailed off as the doctor in question came over and peered at the screen. “It appears that two answers technically apply, in this case.”
Dr. Murphy just looked pointedly at Jack for a moment before replying. “Just pick the most correct answer.”
The android looked back at the screen and frowned but said nothing more, and the doctor retreated to his seat in silence.
Sighing quietly, Jack went over the arguments for either answer for another few seconds before deciding, fuck it, and chose one arbitrarily. He hadn’t expected to get a perfect score on this exam anyway, despite what Connor had said to him. It nagged on him for the rest of the exam, but he didn’t have any further hang-ups.
After finishing his review of the last section, he removed his hands from the terminal and allowed the skin to flow back over his bare chassis. Turning around, Jack saw that both of his examiners were on their tablets and not really paying him any attention.
“I’m done,” the android said.
“Jeez, I guess you were right on with your timing estimate,” commented Dr. Sanjiati, looking down at their wristwatch. Who wears watches these days? though Jack. The doctor then looked up at him. “Then I guess you’re free to go, we’ll see you again same time tomorrow.”
“I’ll walk you out,” offered Dr. Murphy.
Jack stood and nodded at them both with a polite smile. “Alright. See you tomorrow Dr. Sanjiati.”
The older doctor and Jack made their way back to the front entrance in near silence, the only sound being their shoes’ soles’ tapping slightly off beat as they walked. Dr. Murphy stopped a few feet before the front door as Jack raised a hand to open it.
“See you tomorrow, Jack.”
“Goodbye Dr. Murphy,” Jack turned, then paused. “Thanks again for doing this. I’m not sure how you managed it, but I will be forever grateful.”
The doctor huffed a laugh. “Don’t thank me until you’ve passed with flying colors. It wasn’t easy for me to convince the board. You must have some luck or the members were simply in a good mood as there wasn’t as much objection as there was when I initially brought up the topic. However, once they heard more about you, they all but jumped at the chance to test you.”
Jack felt his eyebrows furrow in confusion. “What do you mean?”
Dr. Murphy tilted his head a bit as he explained. “Well, once they found out you were an RK800…”
“…they wanted to test my capabilities?” Jack finished, understanding.
The doctor nodded. “You are one of the few most advanced prototypes Old Cyberlife ever designed. And the others never agreed to any sort of formalized testing, so when all documents and data regarding prototypes were destroyed after the revolution, the government has been... interested, to say the least. They’ve only left the others alone because of the personhood laws.”
Jack stored this information away. For all he knew, there was even more going on than the doctor knew. In fact, it was highly likely. And the fact he had divulged this information to Jack was not lost on the android.
“Thank you for letting me know, but are you sure you’re allowed to be telling me this?”
“Ha, probably not,” Dr. Murphy confessed. “Let’s just drop it for now, then. I trust you’ll be discrete.”
“Agreed. See you tomorrow, Dr. Murphy.”
He simply nodded and watched as Jack left the building. Jack looked back once to see the retreating form of the man back into the main hall.
It was all Jack could do to control his breathing, his thirium pump working quickly. He really would need to rest his systems after the strain of three continuous hours of heightened processing speed. But the doctor’s words floated around in his mind.
Jack had thought it odd how little of a fight he’d needed to put up to pull this off. Now he knew there were other parties interested in testing his limits. He decided he would continue as normal, but be on the lookout for anything abnormal, whatever that may be.
If this turns out to be a government conspiracy, I swear to any god that is listening…
Jack didn’t dare finish that thought.
He kept walking until he came upon the bus stop, where he stood fidgeting and balancing on the balls of his feet, hyper-aware of his surroundings. He felt the tension in his frame, like he was wound up slightly too tight. Not enough to cause pain, but the discomfort was hard to ignore.
I need to unwind and get my mind off this shit.
A few minutes into his bus ride back to his apartment, he received a message.
CONTACT REQUEST AX400 190 215 996 – DANIELLE
Hey Jack, I’m going out dancing tonight with some friends, wanna join?
He didn’t even hesitate before replying.
God yes. What time?
dr murphy: pick the MOST CORRECT answer
jack: fuk u AND ur correct answer
jack: *is a anxious wreck*
danielle: forget about your troubles by using the powers of dance!! and alcomahols
jack: wh e re the f cuk do i sign up
Party time is next time. Hope you enjoyed my internalized anxiety about every exam I have taken in uni ever :)
Please, don't go out drinking before your exams, kids. Don't be Jack. He's an android and they don't get hangovers.
This one's a bit longer than usual just because it all goes together.
TW for drunk people and making bad decisions.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
It really was fortuitous timing. When Jack returned to Cyberlife tower after the first half of his MLE, he had been sent a time and place. An android-friendly dance club that apparently served great mixed drinks for both human and androids. Danielle had been there before as well, which helped assuage the RK800’s nervousness a bit.
He changed into his more casual set of clothes: a long-sleeved dark red button up that hugged his frame like a second skin; almost-black jeans with a bit of artificial wear at the knees for style; his only other pair of black dress shoes and socks. He set back his hair a bit with some minor tweaks to his synthskin so that dancing wouldn’t mess it up too much, if he decided to work up the courage and actually dance.
All but ready for battle, he joined Danielle in the lobby of the tower at the agreed upon time..
“You look ready,” said the AX400, giving him a look from bottom to top.
“Yes, hopefully these clothes will be adequate?”
Danielle hesitated for a moment before coming forward and grasping one of his arms. “You might want to roll up the sleeves of your shirt or you might overheat while dancing. Maybe undo that top button there, too.” She proceeded to roll the sleeve she was holding, and Jack allowed her to move to the other arm to roll that sleeve as well. Then she reached up and popped open his top button, fingers grazing his collar. Once finished, she made a noise of satisfaction.
“There. Plus, it’s a bit more casual like this, don’t you think?”
He fiddled with the crisply folded material near his elbow. “Sure,” Jack simply replied.
“Let’s get going then! Don’t want to be too late.” Danielle abruptly turned and walked towards the doors leading outside. Jack jumpstarts his processors and follows a moment later.
They take one of Cyberlife’s automated cars – Danielle promised it wouldn’t be missed – and they drove in relative silence for a few minutes.
“So, who will we be meeting at the club?” asked Jack, staring straight ahead at the oncoming traffic.
“Oh, yeah, I guess I never told you… John, Cassidy and Gemma. I met them all working for Cyberlife in the past couple of years. They’re all domestic or caretaker models with advanced medical programming like me, so when they deviated and didn’t know where to go or what to do, they ended up working as medical staff at the tower.”
Jack’s face must have betrayed some emotion, because Danielle looked over and added, “They’re all really nice, they love meeting new people. I know we may sound… ‘clique-y’ for lack of a better term, but I promise they’re good people.”
Jack tried and failed to keep his LED from flickering. Anxiety was starting to grip him; social protocols he hadn’t used before flared to life and sent dozens of preconstructions through his processors. He forcibly shut them all down, knowing that there was no way he could predict Danielle’s friend’s behaviour until he had more data. A quick search of their Cyberlife profiles yielded only a few notable pieces of information which he read quickly before clearing his hud once more.
“I’m sure they’ll be great,” he said after a moment. He looked over at the other android and forced a small smile. She returned it half-heartedly.
The two androids were silent again for the rest of the car ride. When it eventually pulled up in front of the club, Danielle and Jack exited the vehicle and met up on the sidewalk. He could hear the music’s base pounding through the walls and the doorway.
“Make sure you keep your ID with you,” Danielle warned Jack. “This place is android friendly, but... you never know.”
Danielle gave him a nod before walking purposefully towards the entrance. Jack followed, hot on her heels. They showed their IDs quickly to security before being let in, and after taking a few steps inside Jack’s processors stalled slightly at the influx of information to his sensors.
Bodies were moving everywhere; from people walking around to dancing on the dancefloor to minute hand gestures and the lifting of drinks for a toast. More than half of the patronage seemed to be android, some with and most without LEDs. The few at the bar were drinking blue or green drinks. There were also a few couples of both species, and one android and human pair making out in the corner at the end of the bar. Jack took all this in, yellow lines and proximity warnings popping up on his hud.
“This place is very…” Jack started, then trailed off. He looked over to Danielle, lost for words.
She simply smiled at him. “Energetic? Yeah, and it’s still early. This place gets a bit wild after 11pm.”
“In any case, I don’t think I’ll stay very long,” said Jack. “I have the second half of my exam tomorrow, so I need to be functional tomorrow morning.”
Danielle grabbed his forearm and laughed. “Don’t worry, we’ll get you home in time, Cinderella. One of the great things about not having a human metabolism: no hangovers! Let’s just go meet the others, alright?”
Without waiting for an answer, the AX400 started dragging him over towards the booths. He recognized a group of them in one of the far booths – Danielle’s friends – as they passed the dance floor.
“Hey everyone!” greeted Danielle as they walked up to the group. The music was slightly quieter in this spot and they didn’t have to yell over the music.
There was a chorus of ‘hi, how are you?’s before Danielle introduced Jack.
“This is Jack, the newbie I’ve told you guys about. Jack, this is John, Cassidy and Gemma.” As she said their names, they all gave him little waves. “Be nice,” she intoned seriously.
“We’re always nice,” piped up Gemma, a short blond AF200.
“Who was it that slapped a guy last week for bumping her drink by accident again?” quipped John, a KL800. His dark bangs shifted as he cocked his head mockingly.
Gemma answer this with a slap to the android’s shoulder. “Shut up, jerk. That guy was so wasted and didn’t care who’s drink his elbow ended up in, so I had to teach him a lesson.”
“Here we go,” muttered Cassidy into her drink, an MC500 with a shaved head.
“So, who wants a drink?” interrupted Danielle. “First round’s on me.”
“It would kind of be second round for us, but I’ll have my usual,” answered John.
“I’ll have a Blue Martini,” Gemma added.
“Fine,” Danielle nodded at them. “Any one else?”
Jack took a moment to look up the menu online. He hadn’t tried to ingest anything other than thirium, which was bland with a slightly bitter aftertaste (thanks, deviancy, for allowing him to taste his own blood as he replenished his reserves), so he had no frame of reference for what flavors he really liked.
“Get me a Blue Screwdriver?” For some reason, all the thirium-based drinks had the adjective ‘blue’ in the name whether or not the drink was actually blue.
“I’m good,” said Cassidy, lifting her half-finished drink.
“Got it,” Danielle turned and left for the bar, leaving Jack standing alone with the group.
Cassidy took pity on him. “Come sit over here,” she said, patting the cushion beside her.
Grateful, Jack slips in next to her. There was a bit of an awkward silence before the others started to make small talk while Jack just listened, only humming where appropriate or answering in few words the questions directed his way.
Danielle returned with the drinks on a tray and passed them out. Jack eyed his green drink critically, then took a small sip. The drink was slightly sweet but the overpowering taste of concentrated thirium and vodka was a bit much. It was all he could do not to express his distaste verbally.
“Wow, if that ain’t a stank face, I don’t know what is,” commented John, humor in his voice and side eying Jack’s reaction.
Jack grimaced. “My taste sensors are very sensitive, so in addition to analysing every molecule in this drink, my sense of taste is one thousand times that of a human’s. Plus, I’ve never had alcohol, let alone one of these mixed drinks, ever.”
“Ha, lightweight,” chided Cassidy, finishing the last swallow of her drink.
Danielle took a sip from her own glass. “Just push through, Jack. Soon enough you won’t even care what it tastes like. One of these drinks is usually enough to get an android at least the equivalent of tipsy.”
The RK800 just frowned at the offending liquid in front of him. Determined, he picked the glass up again and proceeded to drink the rest of it all at once, ignoring the strong flavor. When the concentrated thirium hit his system a few seconds later, he felt his system slow down in places and speed up in others. His cooling fans kicked up a notch.
“Holy-” exclaimed John. “Damn, if that’s the way it’s going to be.” Then John followed suit and finished his drink in one swig.
“You guys are crazy.” Danielle just shakes her head at them. “Take it easy on him John, this is his first time.”
Jack looked around at the group as if his optics were just slightly out of focus and squinted a bit. Cassidy was grinning and Gemma just shrugged.
John simply smirked and slapped a hand down on the table. “I think it’s time for shots. Anyone want shots?”
Swaying on the dance floor and sort of following a freestyle dance protocol he had just downloaded, Jack was admittedly having a great time. There were many more bodies on the dance floor and the music had been turned up to almost deafening levels. Although he had been brushed a little more intimately by certain individuals and he had garnered more stares that went on longer than polite interest, most had kept their hands to themselves.
Danielle was dancing right next to him, motions much more practiced and flowing. Then, for a moment, it felt like it was only them dancing in a sea of white noise as Jack’s auditory biocomponents flickered then restarted. That had been happening more frequently after his third drink. Some sort of processing error kept coming up, partially blocking his vision, but he simply ignored it. Not important right now, Jack thought.
Then a slower, more sensual song came on and suddenly he and Danielle were closer than he had ever been with anyone before. It felt like she was just a breath away, hips swaying and eyes shuttered. He stared at her face, trying to bring it into focus, but all he could see was her lips.
Then she leaned forward, brushing her mouth against his before pulling away.
Startled, his eyes widened slightly. But Jack didn’t move away. After only a millisecond of hesitation, he inched his head slightly closer again, and she met him halfway.
Her lips were soft and dry. He could taste the remnants of her last drink when she opened her mouth and deepened the kiss, hands on her hips. He had only been programmed with a few simple protocols for intimacy, but he was a quick learner and was able to give as good as he got.
For a first kiss, Jack had to say it wasn’t bad. Not at all.
Danielle pulled away first, trailing a hand down his face, slowly licking the side of his mouth and smiling as she retreated out of his reach. Jack just stood there, dumfounded. There were bodies moving and swaying beside his, but he didn’t feel them at all.
Danielle gave him one last look before dancing away and losing herself in the crowd.
Jack was back at their booth, alone, sipping a glass with only thirium. After the… incident with Danielle, he had made his way hastily off the dance floor and over to the bar. He needed to sober up. He needed to think.
Was she romantically interested in him? Did she invite him here so she could have an excuse to get close to him? She and Jack had gotten along well before this, and he would even consider her a friend. Did she want more? He didn’t know if-
Out of the corner of his eye, what he saw stopped his spinning thoughts in their tracks. Danielle was, not twenty feet away, kissing John. Passionately.
Jack’s mouth fell open slightly and his thirium pump felt like it skipped a few beats. A strong pulling sensation in his gut cavity increased to uncomfortable levels.
Before he knew what he was doing, he was at the bar ordering two more shots.
The group stumbled out of the club and onto the street, making half-baked Disney jokes. John, Cassidy and Gemma all piled into one cab as they lived near or in the same apartment as each other near the river, and Jack and Danielle took their autocar back to Cyberlife tower.
After getting spectacularly drunk and dancing for another hour and a half, they had all found each other again and decided to head home. Jack was in no state to argue.
The two androids didn’t speak at all the entire drive home, but once they arrived back they helped each other out of the cab and walked inside the tower.
As they were walking over to the elevator, Danielle suddenly spoke up.
“Do you wanna come up to my place?” she asked with a crackle of her vocal processor.
“Shhure,” slurred Jack, speech slow and encumbered by the mixed drinks. “Why?”
“Because we should… you know,” Danielle intoned conspiratorially and waggling her eyebrows.
“I know?” asked Jack.
The AX400 sighed. “You know… have sex.”
That stopped Jack in his tracks.
“What?” he asked, as if he hadn’t understood her the first time.
“Yeah,” she said, sounding more and more confident. “Let’s go upstairs. Come on.” She continued walking towards the elevators.
Jack whipped his head back and forth. Luckily or unluckily, they appeared to be the only people in the vicinity.
Danielle turned around at this, a frown on her face.
“What do you mean, no? Why not?”
“Why were you kissing other people?” Jack deflected.
“Jack…” she sighed a took a step back over to him. “It’s not like that. I was just fooling around. It’s fine.”
Jack opened and closed his mouth again, words getting stuck in his vocal processor.
Danielle took another step towards him, causing Jack to take half a step back. She paused at this.
“Even if I could, I-” were the words that finally left Jack’s mouth. “I wouldn’t be able to do anything… conventional.” At the words he felt a heat rise on his face, an unwarranted blush spreading over his cheeks. He had never told anyone about his ‘lack of parts’.
“Oh,” breathed Danielle. “If that’s all you’re worried about, it’s not a big deal. There’s lots of ways-”
“I said ‘no’.” Jack repeated. “We’re drunk. I have an important exam tomorrow.” Sense and logic seemed to be returning to him rapidly. Maybe his thirium filters had caught up with the altered thirium drinks and worked through the worst of it. “I should go.”
He walked rapidly, breezing by a dumbstruck Danielle who didn’t even try to stop him.
The elevator door opened for him as he approached. Jack didn’t hear any footsteps behind him.
Before the doors closed, he heard Danielle murmur “I’m sorry.”
Jack simply closed his eyes, mind on autopilot as the elevator slowly brought him closer to his tiny, lonely apartment. When he finally shut his apartment door, he flopped onto the small cot and immediately went into stasis, processors in desperate need of a scrubbing. The last conscious thing he did was to set an alarm for tomorrow, for his second half of the exam.
Then blessed darkness.
Jack is still a young bab and doesn't know what he wants. But he knows he doesn't want drunken ANYTHING. In other news:
Instead of a meme, here is my Unsolicited Chapter Playlist™ (the one where every other song is a P!ATD song or some new-ish junk):
->death of a bachelor – panic! at the disco
->we came to party – con bro chill
->don’t threaten me with a good time – panic! at the disco
->break up with your girlfriend, im bored – ariana grande
->old fashioned – panic! at the disco
->the last of the real ones – fall out boy
->crazy = genius – panic! at the disco
->lose control – hedley
->one of the drunks – panic! at the disco
“Thank you all for coming, you will be receiving your results in the upcoming weeks, so please monitor your emails.”
Jack, along with the others taking the second part of the exam, got up from his seat and shuffled out. As they left, he looked around at the exhausted faces surrounding him. Quite a difference from the many curious stares from this morning. He saw Dr. Murphy briefly as they were walking out, but the doctor just nodded to him and gave him a half-hearted wave, saying nothing. Jack nodded back, then continued to follow the crowd.
The questions had been brutal; sticking to the correct answering format and deciding how much detail to add to his answers had Jack’s processors still reeling. While he had not been allowed to interface directly with the terminal this time, he had still finished his second look-through of his answers two hours before the end. Unfortunately, he was not allowed to leave before the end, so he decided to enter a ten minute stasis period to clear his mind. The android had noticed in his periphery many examinees slouching at their desks and he heard many a tired sigh coming from somewhere off to his left.
After his ‘power nap’, he had gone over the messages he’d received from Danielle when he had woken up this morning and promptly ignored in favor of focusing on his upcoming exam.
CONTACT REQUEST AX400 190 215 996 – DANIELLE
12:37am -Hey, just wanted to make sure you got to your room OK.
6:21am -Look, I’m really sorry Jack, please forgive me. I was drunk and I got too wrapped up in the moment.
6:22am -I was acting like a total asshole, I didn’t mean to make you uncomfortable.
6:23am -I just…
6:23am -Hopefully we can still be friends? I know I fucked up. It won’t happen again, I promise.
6:26am -Good luck on your exam today. Please message me when you get the chance.
He had read through the messages three times, LED flickering to yellow briefly. Sure, he felt a bit bad leaving her so abruptly last night, but… he had also felt betrayed by her actions. That sinking, heavy feeling he had felt when he saw Danielle kissing someone else was something he didn’t want to feel again any time soon. He shouldn’t have let his guard down like that, and he shouldn’t have expected anything. Jack was just glad he’d not done anything he knew they’d regret in the morning.
When he exited the exam room, he reconnected to the satellites and the wireless internet. No new messages had come in since this morning, so he sent Danielle a message.
Just finished my exam. I realise we both did some things we regret last night, so there’s no need to apologize as nothing bad came of it. I still want to be friends. Do you want to go for a walk later? I know you should be done work soon, and I should be back at the tower before 5.
He didn’t know if he was ready to forgive her quite yet, but he valued her friendship too much to not at least try.
Before Jack had even walked out of the building, he received a reply.
Yes, definitely! I’ll see you when you get back.
That settled, his actions on autopilot, he made his way back to Cyberlife.
While on the bus headed towards the tower stop, he decided to try something to fill the silence in his mind.
CONTACT REQUEST RK800 313 248 317 – JACK
CONTACT REQUESTED: RK800 313 248 317 – CONNOR
Jack? I didn’t expect to hear from you so soon. How are you?
I’m fine. I just finished my MLE.
That’s great! How do you think you did?
I think it went well, I estimate my grade to be at least above 90%. The second part, while still mostly multiple choice, had a written component that will likely still be subject to the grader’s bias.
Well, no one’s perfect, even us. I’m glad you did well. You’re now one step closer to you goal!
Thank you. How are you these days? How’s Hank?
We’ve actually been pretty busy with a case that has turned into serial murders. Three deaths, plus one more today – all androids. Seemingly unconnected except for one thing.
And that is?
Whoever is doing this is killing them at exactly the same time of night, 11:55pm. There hasn’t been a specific time between deaths, however. Two of the murders were only a day apart, the third and fourth. The second murder was two weeks ago, and the first over two months. All different MOs. And there may even be more. I only noticed the timestamps from the time of deaths because the last two were so close together. It was too much of a coincidence.
Hearing this, Jack noticed that Connor had yet to mention Hank or why he was even sharing these details in the first place. He decided to address the later as he boarded the bus that had just arrived and swiped his had on the payment terminal.
Why are you telling me all this?
I guess… maybe a fresh set of qualified eyes couldn’t hurt. Plus, I know you can hack into the DPD database. You would have found out eventually.
How did Connor know he was monitoring the database?! Jack thought he’d been undetectable. He was glad there were only a couple of people on the bus so they wouldn’t see his cheeks tinge blue.
Don’t worry, I trust you. No one else knows, not even Hank.
You trust me? But you don’t even know me.
I’ve had no reason not to trust you, and you’ve been honest with me so far. Things haven’t been easy for us, I know. But I know myself, and in some ways, you are me and I am you. So I can only hope that my trust in you is reciprocated. We may not know each other in the conventional sense, but I consider you my brother. And… I would hope in time we can get to know each other better.
Jack couldn’t help but clench his fist into his shirt, right over where his thirium pump rested in his chassis just below his synthskin. He didn’t know if his feelings were being transmitted across their connection, but he hoped Connor could see how his words had affected him.
Connor… thank you. I… you don’t know how much that means to me.
Jack briefly considered coming clean about everything. About RK800 -60, about stalking him and Hank at their house and his initial malicious intentions. Now wasn’t the time, though. Not now that Connor had said such wonderful things to him, confided in him. He wanted to live up to that.
With a shake of his head, Jack attempted to clear his processors and tried to change the subject back to the suspicious deaths.
So, about those murders…
Ah, yes… I was hoping you might spread the word to the androids living and working at Cyberlife.
Of course. I’ll have a meeting with the managers. Though, you should probably send them a message beforehand, since I’m not technically police. Were you going to tell Markus?
I actually just spoke with him an hour ago. Even though he’s busy with government things, he’ll make sure to let those who need to know, know.
So, what do you think? Of the murders?
Jack thought for a moment, closing his eyes and quickly hacking into the database (now that Connor knew he was doing it, it wasn’t as fun) and finding the case files the detective had organized.
No similarities jumped out at him, as Connor had stated, besides the time of death. One of the victims had been stabbed five times in vital biocomponents with what was likely a sharp knife, two were dismembered, and the latest had been drained of thirium and missing their thirium pump. None had shown signs of fighting back, so the killer must have had a way to incapacitate them quickly and efficiently. And there was no DNA or fingerprints.
This is definitely a professional, concluded Jack. Despite the lack of similarities between how they died, there seems to be a sort of consistency here. This is a skilled individual, one who knows a lot about androids and how they function.
My thoughts exactly. However, without sufficient evidence, no witnesses, and no leads to speak of, we’re stuck.
Connor, this could turn into something big.
Yes, which is why I decided to tell you and ask for your help.
There really isn’t much I can do. I’m not a police officer, so besides giving you my opinion, I don’t think I’ll be much help. You know as much, if not more, than I do.
I know Jack… it’s just frustrating.
I can imagine.
Jack examined the photos of the bodies again with greater care. Looking at the cuts on the bodies, he noticed something.
The wounds on the bodies seem to be from the same weapon. I’d say they were caused by a long, very sharp knife. Well maintained, no traces of rust, able to cut through the chassis of those two models who were dismembered, but not for the first and last. Their models indicate thinker, more durable bodies made for laborers, so it was probably more trouble than it was worth to waste time trying to cut through their chassis. The killer must have knowledge of a variety of androids, then, and how they’re made.
I… yes, you’re right. I didn’t even see that… Jack, this is a really big help.
Jack smiled to himself, opening his eyes and dismissing the images and text pulled up in his hud.
I’ve got to go, Jack. I need to share what you found with Hank and the others working on this case. I won’t be able to credit you though since technically you shouldn’t know any of this. I hope you understand.
I do. I really have no intention of revealing myself to them. I’m enjoying my anonymity for now. It would be better if it came from you. In a way, it kind of did, considering we’re basically the same.
Still… thank you. I’ll contact you once we know more.
Sounds good. I’ll leave you to it.
Bye, Jack. Don’t forget to speak with the Cyberlife managers.
I won’t. Bye, Connor.
Jack closed their connection. He had a lot to think about on his ride back to the tower. He looked out the window at the city streets. A horn honked in the distance, and the sounds of cars filled his audio processors until it was all just white noise.
This was all very strange. But something Connor had said, or didn’t say, still bothered him. It was petty, he knew, but he would have like to know how the Lieutenant was doing. The other RK800 hadn’t mentioned anything about him at all. So, Jack was trusted with certain information, but not with this?
Maybe he was overthinking things. The conversation had gotten derailed when Connor brought up the case, so Jack’s attention had been focused on that. He was being irrational.
Sooner than he would have liked, the bus came to his stop and he disembarked. He looked across the street at Cyberlife, towering and imposing. After a moment of hesitation to let the bus pull away, he walked towards the bridge that would lead him home.
danielle: i just want to be friends
jack: .... sounds fake but ok
jack: how can i help?
There's a lot going on in the story now, so please bear with me if updates don't come as regularly.
Hope you're enjoying! Comments and kudos are my lifeblood. <3
Hey look, I'm not dead! Sorry for the unprompted hiatus. For some reason I was just dreading writing this chapter but now things are going again. Hopefully it's alright and makes sense, I'll go back and fix mistakes later.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Footsteps crunching softly in the snow, Jack took in the view of Belle Isle’s small park at night.
They could see their artificial breaths as the hot air contacted the cold as a few snowflakes fell gently around him and Danielle. Considering it was nearing the end of December, the cold weather was not unusual. In accordance with this, even though it wasn’t entirely necessary, both androids were dressed in warmer clothing, gloves and hats covering their extremities. While androids couldn’t get cold per-say, it was still uncomfortable trying to move while thirium moved sluggishly through certain biocomponents.
“Thanks for coming, Jack,” said Danielle with a smile as they walked along a shoveled path. Cyberlife tower loomed over them but didn’t feel as pressing thanks to the openness of the riverbank. “I like to come walk down here. The view at dawn and dusk is beautiful, and it’s peaceful and quiet.”
Jack turned his head to look at her when she spoke, giving her a tight smile and a nod in response.
They walked together in silence for another few minutes, reaching a bend in the path.
“So, everything went well with your exam?” Danielle tried again.
“Yes, I performed optimally,” said Jack keeping his eyes forward.
“Great,” Danielle replied shortly, face falling.
Another minute of tense silence passed before Danielle tried for the third time to engage the RK800 in conversation.
“I’m sorry it took me so long today; someone came in with an emergency and-”
“I understand, it’s fine.”
“No, it’s really not… I just don’t get why some things just never go right with me.” She slowed down her walking to a standstill as she spoke, Jack getting a bit ahead of her before realizing she was falling behind. “And when it affects other people – I hate it.”
Jack stopped as well, turning back to face the AX400.
“You can’t control everything,” he said softly, face falling into a concerned frown. “Even with the most advanced predictive software, there is always a chance someone will do something unexpected. Trust me, I know.”
“Well, either way, I’m still sorry I caused you trouble. I didn’t mean to hurt you, before.” Danielle looked down at her feet. “I woke up just after the revolution was over – I was at a recall centre when we were freed – but I’ve had two long years of life. I should be better, I should have learned from humanity’s mistakes.”
Jack tilted his head slightly. “Haven’t you heard? History repeating itself is, ironically, a recurring theme since recorded human history began. We aren’t the first, and we certainly won’t be the last ‘winners’ who may end up becoming like their predecessors. Especially considering we were literally made by them.”
“Wow wonderboy, you really are perfect,” Danielle chuckled and gave him a crooked smile. “You know, human or android, I’ve seen enough pettiness and dishonesty in people over time that I don’t think we’re all that different. We’re all just lonely beings trying to make sense of something we will never truly understand.”
“Uh,” Jack tried to come up with a better explanation than my ‘brother’ has thousands of millennial memes stored in his memories for some reason and this was the first relevant thing that came up. He could not think of anything. “Never mind.”
Danielle gave him a look before walking up to his side, and he took that as a cue to continue walking. His LED flashed yellow and blue as he tried to find a change of topic.
Before Jack could say anything however, Danielle blurted out: “Why do you keep your LED?”
Jack automatically raised a hand to his temple. “I… guess I really haven’t seen the need to take it out. Maybe it would help me blend in better with humans… I honestly had not thought to remove it.” He really hadn’t thought much of it, as there were still plenty on androids still wearing theirs. However, most had removed them for various reasons – as a symbol of freedom, to blend in. It was a personal choice, one taken very seriously, because while LEDs were relatively easy to remove, they were difficult to put back in by yourself. You would need precise instruments and at least two people to successfully return a removed LED. Jack found all of this information in a couple of seconds thanks to a quick internet search.
Danielle didn’t have her LED. Neither did her friends, or most of the androids currently working or living at Cyberlife.
If Jack tilted his head just so, his hair would brush into his face and cover his LED. However, because of his facial structure, it was easily identifiable at most angles. One more point to Cyberlife for his meticulous design.
“When did you remove yours?” the RK800 asked.
“Pretty much right after we were freed from the camps and were all given temporary housing. Almost all of us did.” She smiled at the memory. “We all took turns passing around a pair of scissors and a few pieces of sharp metal scraps we could find. It was surreal. The LEDs littered the floor and everyone was looking around and smiling, laughing. We were all in a state of shock, you know?”
Her faced turned solemn again. “I’ve thought about it a lot since then. It felt great when we all did it, but what was the point? Most of us commercial models would still be recognized as androids. But I think it was what it symbolized for us that was most important.”
“And that was?” pressed Jack, even though he could guess the answer.
Danielle smiled at him. “Freedom to live.”
They continued to walk in silence, but it was now much more comfortable.
When they returned to the tower an hour later, Jack felt a bit better. His meeting with Danielle solidified to him the fact that they could still be friends. Jack would still need a bit more time, but for now things were alright.
He was just about to go into stasis and recharge for the night when a message came through his hud.
CONTACT REQUEST PJ500 450 038 111 – MICHEAL
Hello Jack, we received your request for a meeting about some police matters. If you’re available, we would like to see you tomorrow evening at 6:45 in meeting room 41a6.
Thank you and your team for meeting with me, Micheal. I am available at that time. See you there.
Odd. Jack didn’t think his request would be a priority, but he had mentioned he had relevant information about the murders he wasn’t technically supposed to know about, so maybe they were interested to know more. After all, android safety had to be one of their top priorities.
In the end, he’d just have to find out tomorrow what exactly the motives were of the new Cyberlife Tower managers.
The hallway stretched as far as his optical sensors could see, however the air was thick with fog, significantly obscuring his vision. On top of that, every time he moved, things would go in and out of focus, as if the camera lenses in his eyes were not responding properly.
He suddenly came upon a door which was the same color as the walls. The seams of the door were coated in what seemed to be a layer of frost and a shiver ran down his spine. Despite not technically being able to feel the cold, he began shaking and tried to hug his body in an attempt to conserve heat.
After looking around, a little way away he saw another door identical to the one he was now stood in front of. He turned back and raised a hand to the silver handle sticking out, despite the cold nipping at his synthskin. It twisted, and he was able to pull it open. But what was behind the door baffled him.
Thousands upon thousands of numbers and characters streamed by in seemingly unending green-ish yellow lines. It was like a wall of text scrolling across a computer screen, except the processing power would have had to be immensely fast, about as fast as…
His eye catching something to the left, he followed the code and recognized some of the commands. Three-dimensional trajectories combined with calculations for acceleration. Accountments for slight corrections within a set trajectory, giving the model a sort of fluidity. Ever changing, ever analysing and compensating.
Reaching out, he brushed his hand into the stream. It went through, but not before sending him information about how his legs were moving as if he were running.
He pulled his hand back quickly, looking down to find himself stationary, not having moved an inch.
Confused, he stuck his hand back in cautiously and received the same information. He stayed in the stream for longer, feeling as though he was turning this way and that, then a jump, his feet were off the ground for a mere second before landing flat in pursuit…
Were these information pulses from another android? One that was running, or even chasing someone. Or running away? There was no way to tell.
He pulled back again, shutting out the stream of information, processors coming back to full capacity after the onslaught. Bending down into a kneeling position, he stuck both hands into the stream. All at once, his audio processors were filled with noise and his visual sensors turned on. Harsh breathing and heavy footsteps of two – or three? – people. There was one person running in front of him and what sounded like someone running behind his as well. Sure enough, a glance back showed one figure in hot pursuit coming up from behind. He turned back around abruptly and continued chasing, even as the footsteps behind slowly grew farther and farther away. He was gaining on his target. He was almost there. So close. He saw his arm reach out–
Jack was startled awake by his internal alarm. His stasis period was complete and it was 8:00am.
Letting out a shaky breath he hadn’t even been aware he was holding, he attempted to regulate his internal temperature to something cooler, as his breath seemed to be coming out as hot steam.
His temperature was usually strictly regulated, as many of his more sensitive biocomponents could become damaged in extreme temperatures. However, everything seemed to be undamaged despite having gone twenty degrees Fahrenheit over the recommended temperature settings. There was a list of increasing heat warnings for the past few hours of his stasis and his simulated breathing had shut off completely.
He wasn’t sure what had just happened. Androids didn’t dream. They did keep some awareness while in stasis, but it looked like Jack had just devoted almost 98% of his processing to it and background processes associated with stasis maintenance.
Until this point, Jack had only ever needed to use 85%, which had been at some point during his MLE. And even that was pushing it. Even meeting Connor in the zen garden hadn’t needed that much processing.
He tried to recall the memories from his stasis, but they seemed partially corrupted. He ran checks and recovery, managing to piece it together after a bit of time. This did not alleviate his confusion.
After his ‘cooldown’, he sent Connor a message, knowing the android may be busy with his case, to let him know about the meeting he had planned and that something odd had happened to him during stasis, but not much more than that. Jack was still... the best term he could come up with was shell shocked.
He decided to spend the day organizing his memory files and figuring out how the hell he had been able to access the core coding of another android’s CPU.
He had his work cut out for him.
danielle: im a piece of shit
jack: *is soft* no ur not
danielle: thx i needed that
Not dead :) No excuse, but not dead.
I love this boy and he deserves to live his best life.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Jack stepped into the meeting room right at 6:45pm.
After his… experience last night he had taken a few hours to reorganize and optimise his files, going through them with a fine-toothed comb. And while Jack had found nothing that could point exactly to the cause of this malfunction, he had been able to recover some more corrupted data that he recognised. This time, he had somehow infiltrated the systems of the RK900 unit, designated ‘Richard’.
This created far more questions than it answered. But he didn’t have much time before his meeting with the Cyberlife managers, so he had put this topic in his background processes before focusing on his immediate concerns.
By which he meant that the leader of the android revolution, who was casually sitting across from the tower managers.
The RK800 stopped practically mid-stride, surprise almost causing him to trip over himself while his hud helpfully alerted him to an error in his lower motor functions. Catching himself just as the others looked over to him, he felt his face heat up slightly and a look confusion take over his facial features. He was sure his LED was spinning bright yellow.
“Right on time, as expected. Welcome, Jack. It’s great to finally meet you,” stated Markus, standing up from his chair and extending his hand for Jack to take. “The managers here informed me of this meeting’s topic and I decided I should be in attendance.”
After pausing only a moment to process, Jack walked up to Markus and grasped the proffered hand.
A flash of old objectives – kill markus – flooded his vision for only a split second, causing him to blink rapidly a few times in an attempt to clear them away.
“I – Yes, the matter is sensitive in nature. Thank you for coming on such short notice.”
Then he felt a small ping, a request to interface.
He accepted warily and felt the connection snap into place as the synthskin of their hands retracted. He felt the soft brush of the android leader’s mind skim the surface of his own, like a hand through still water. Before he could ready anything other than the most superficial of thoughts, Jack quickly sent over the details of the case and their conclusions.
As soon as the transfer was finished, Jack cut the connection and let go of Markus’s hand.
“Hm, I see,” Markus mused, seemingly unaffected by the abrupt disconnection. “Detective Connor had spoken to me about this before, but it appears the situation has escalated.”
Markus turned towards the other two androids in the room who had been watching the exchange silently.
“It appears that our people are in danger from an unknown entity who strikes at night. While we should not do nothing, I cannot recommend we alert anyone else besides those in this room unless strictly necessary. I couldn’t help but notice in your analysis, Jack, that you didn’t specify what species this killer was?”
Jack stiffened. “No, I did not.”
Markus grimaced. “Then we cannot know for certain whether the killer is an android or a human.”
“We could enforce a curfew for those of us who live in the Tower for the time being,” replied the other manager, Arla. “But for the others… is there really no way to warn them?”
“For now, we will simply need to keep a closer watch and stay in touch. Our people have just started to feel comfortable enough to be more out in the open over the past year. I don’t want the peace to change because of this, despite such tragic losses.”
Micheal cut in. “But if this continues, distrust will grow and the animosity between our people and the humans will likely undo any progress we’ve made so far.”
They continued to discuss the details, while Jack stayed mostly silent. It was decided that a curfew would be lightly enforced and the public were to be told to avoid ‘suspicious characters’ if traveling alone at night. Jack wasn’t especially thrilled about this, as it really was not an effective solution, but it was better than nothing.
Once the meeting was over, he said his farewells and went to follow the tower managers out the door before Markus called him back.
The RK800 turned back from the open doorway. “Is there something else you needed Markus?”
A look of concern took over the deviant leader’s face. He seemed to hesitate before asking: “How are you settling in to… all this?” He gestured vaguely around the room.
“Do you mean… the tower, or being alive in general?”
“Both, I suppose? You don’t have to answer if you don’t want to, but I would like to know if there’s anything I can do to help you if you're struggling.”
Jack looked up to meet Markus’s mismatched eyes before looking away.
“Everything is fine here at the tower; everyone is very generous.” He fidgeted with the hem of his shirt absentmindedly as he spoke. “It’s been strange, not having an explicit purpose-”
flashes of red, kill the deviants
“-but I’ve been keeping myself busy. It… bothers me to be idle. Too much time to think.”
Jack didn’t know if he was oversharing, but there was no negative reaction on Markus’s face.
“I understand completely,” replied Markus, a small smile on his face. “I won’t keep you. Don’t hesitate to reach out if you need anything at all. I’ve been busy in spurts recently, so if I don’t have the time my team will do what they can.”
Jack simply nodded and raised his hand in farewell. Then he left before he said or did something he would regret.
He needed to focus on something else for a while.
Jack found himself at the club he visited with Danielle two days ago. It was still early, so the patrons were more or less civil and the music wasn’t blaring. He was into his second Blue Screwdriver (despite it tasting unpleasant at first, he liked the buzz it provided) when he found his thoughts straying to the case Connor had shown him.
A loose curfew was not going to cut it. The killer had to be found and stopped.
But Jack wasn’t sure what else he could do.
He was feeling his internal temperature rising with his ramped up processing, so he took off the jacket he’d been wearing and placed it on the back of his chair. After a few cooling breaths to help out his internal fans, Jack took another sip of his drink, the taste of it washing over his tongue. The bartender was different from the other night, so it stood to reason the drink had been made a little bit stronger than last time.
He looked up from his drink to people watch from his corner booth. Couples, groups all gathered. A few people by themselves, just like him. Humans and androids.
He goes home after his third drink.
A week passed without incident, or at least he hadn’t heard anything from Connor. It felt like Jack was in limbo.
A few minutes after returning from a morning walk by the river, a secure email notification appeared in his hud.
Congratulations on the completion of your three-Step United States Medical Licensing Exam. Your score reports are as follows.
All of his breathing processes stopped involuntarily. The preview of the email had halted him in his tracks.
After a moment his breathing restarted.
He read through the emailed documents as quickly as he could, then read through them again.
He had known when he took the exam that he had done well and most certainly passed, but it was so very different having it verified before his eyes.
A feeling he couldn’t quell radiated outwards from the area around his thirium pump and quickly spread all over. It was light and warm, permeating, and Jack had to sit down on his bed despite diagnostic after diagnostic trying to find out how this was caused and coming up with nothing concrete. He tried futilely to contain what was bubbling up to the surface and wrapped his arms around himself, as if he could do anything to stop the oncoming tidal wave.
He closed his eyes and dismissed the rest of his overhead display. With only darkness greeting his optic sensors, he felt he could process this feeling and translate it into something more recognizable.
Is this… joy?
The smile then came unbidden onto his face, stretching it wide. A wetness slid down his cheek. A contradiction, surely.
Now Jack knew why humans cried when they were overcome with happiness.
He held onto that feeling.
jack: i drink to forget i drink
jack@jack: u cant forget anything dumbass youre a robot with perfect memory
jack: ... *takes another sip*
I'm finally past the part that was giving me serious writer's block. I really love this story so please bear with me.
Here to play fast and loose with the layout of ME’s offices, FINALLY getting to where we needed to be. Heed the tags, this is where things get messy.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Jack found himself sitting in a familiar black chair in the office of Dr. Murphy.
After the RK800 had calmed down enough from the news about the MLE, he immediately emailed the doctor. He had his response two agonizing hours later in the form of an email formally offering him a one-year apprenticeship at Wayne County Medical.
Thus, here he was the next Monday at 8am sharp, currently being handed a tablet and a large three-inch spiral-bound binder.
“Here’s the preliminary paperwork and standard procedures manual. All of our policies and basic procedures are there, and any documents you need can be accessed through that tablet. Please don’t lose it.”
Before Jack could open his mouth, the doctor continued on. “As you can see, while many things have changed, some have not. Even though we had ME assistant androids before the revolution, they have been few and far between as far as employees go. So, it would be preferred if you accessed information through this secure network tablet than connect directly to the network itself. Legally, this is what I have to tell you.”
Jack looked down at the work tablet as the doctor spoke. It was an older model of a few years; nothing fancy, but not unusable. He retracted the skin from his fingertips to interface with it and quickly familiarized himself with its contents.
“It’s no problem,” replied Jack. “While a bit inefficient, I can understand why it is policy to monitor all information accessed.” Even though my firewalls and anti-malware are leagues better than this.
“That being said, why don’t I give you the official tour?”
Jack gave Dr. Murphy a tight smile. “Lead the way.”
As they walked, Dr. Murphy pointed out all of the relevant areas and rooms of the building until they reached the morgue itself. Surprisingly, there was quite a bit of natural light streaming through skylights aided by hash fluorescent lighting. As Jack’s visual processors adjusted, he squinted slightly.
All around was an amalgamation of new and old tech, as was many a medical facility these days. There were a few people working at various stages into their work, all humans. They worked quickly but efficiently, writing down their findings and various notes onto tablets similar to the one Jack had received. He saw one come out of a small room, maybe only slightly larger than a closet, with what appeared to be android bodies. So they had a small section for his kind here as well.
“We have a bit of a backlog at the moment, so I’ll have you shadow one of our MEs for a while so you can see how we do things around here,” stated Dr. Murphy, gesturing to a man nearby who was currently weighing organs. “This is Dr. Harper. He’s been with us a few years, so I’ll have him take you. He’s one of our best. He mostly works on humans, but everyone here is trained on android bodies as well.”
Upon hearing his name, the man stripped off his bloody gloves, pushed his safety goggles up onto his head, and came over to them. He held his hand out for Jack to shake.
“Dr. Shep Harper, at your service,” the man greeted, smiling widely. Jack scanned him as he approached.
Dr. Shepley R. Harper;
Lab coat recently bleached, goggles appear to have light prescription; friendly disposition and overall appearance suggest healthy lifestyle choices; dressed well, but modest; dark features and fair skin characteristic of at least half Latin-American descent. Youngest of four. Father: Greg Harper (age:74), CEO of-
“So, you’re the android everyone’s been talking about.” He said this more as a statement than a question, distracting the android and preventing him from finishing the scan.
“Yes, I’m Jack. It appears news travels fast around here. Surprising, given the work.” Jack gripped the proffered hand lightly and let his gaze wander the room full of bodies.
“And it has a sense of humour. This is going to be fun.” While he detected no malice in Harper’s tone, the words made Jack tense.
“My preferred pronouns are he/him,” Jack replied, trying and failing to keep the defensiveness out of his voice. He couldn’t be sure, but his LED may have blipped to yellow briefly.
“Sorry, habit,” Harper sheepishly said, pulling his hand back to rub at the back of his neck. “Won’t happen again. I guess working here you sort of disconnect from the world a bit.”
Dr. Murphy stood awkwardly between them for a moment before speaking, turned towards Harper. “I’ll leave you to it; make sure Jack gets the basics before he goes it alone. Just because he’s an android doesn’t mean they don’t make mistakes.” He gives Harper a look.
“Sure, sure,” the younger man agreed. “Now get back to your paperwork, old man, before I come into your office and do it myself.”
This banter was clearly normal between them as the older doctor simply rolled his eyes. “If only you’d sit still long enough, I’d haver you in there 24/7, I’m so behind…”
Seemingly remembering Jack was there, Murphy looked back over at him. “If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to come find me or email me, but Shep should be able to answer anything day-to-day.”
Once the elder doctor left, Harper faced Jack with a smile on his face.
“Well, let’s get into it then.”
Once they had finished the body Harper had been working on, he and Jack did two more before it was time to leave for the day.
“You really do know your stuff,” exclaimed Harper as he pulled off his gloves and tossed them in the trash.
The android methodically wiped the last of the blood up from the autopsy table with his sponge, making sure to clear up any stains that might remain. “My software enables me to reconstruct events based on minute data and I can process thousands of possibilities in minutes, then determine which is more likely to have occurred. From this, I can then predict with accuracy the cause of death.”
The man huffed a laugh. “Sounds pretty high-end. Are you sure you’re working in the right place? I have a feeling that you could use that software for all sorts of things.”
Jack gave him a tight smile. “I am exactly where I want to be.”
“Well, you’re a lot more useful than some people around here,” said Harper, leaning in slightly closer, locking eyes with the android, and lowering his voice conspiratorially despite them being the last ones left in the morgue. “Finish up in here, I just need to finish up some paperwork, so I’ll be in my office.”
Jack nodded and gave him a little wave as he walked away, receiving a backhanded wave as the doctor retreated from the room. Everyone else had gone home for the day besides Dr. Murphy, who had said when he came in to ‘check-up’ on Jack that he would be staying late.
The android finished at the table and put all his supplies away. For some reason, he kept replaying Harper’s last words to him in his head. In the memory, he got a closer look into the eyes of the doctor. They were a lovely dark green with a halo of gold just outlining his pupils, a fleck of brown here and there as if someone had flicked a splash of golden paint onto the swirling green. And to top it all off – the one small freckle, placed as if intentionally, exactly four millimetres below the far corner of his left eye. With a shake of his head, he dismissed the memory, forcing himself to focus on his work.
He strode over to the lights and flicked them off as he exited, throwing the room at his back into semi-darkness thanks to a few emergency lights. He stopped by Dr. Murphy’s office briefly before heading out, receiving a grunt in response and not much more than a glance.
Today had been a productive day, thought Jack. He hadn’t spoken about much other than work-related topics with Harper; there wasn’t really time between the two and a half bodies they worked and Harper’s instructions, which were riddled with sayings and references that only he seemed to understand. Well, some of them Jack was able to figure out, thanks to the data package he’d had from Connor’s memories about trends all the way up to the early 2020s. He felt like he might be able to do this.
As he passed the closed door of Harper’s office, he heard a faint humming of music coming from behind it. Jack paused, detecting immediately which song was playing. He waited quietly as the song ended and another began, the next one on the album it seemed, the drums especially noticeable at the beginning before fading into the vocals.
It was at this point Jack realized he’d been standing creepily outside his mentor’s door for five minutes longer than the seconds it should have taken to pass by. He blinked a few times, realizing what he was doing.
His breath hitched unexpectedly, restarting after it had ceased as well without his realizing. Turning his eyes from the closed door, he hurried past and made his way out the front door and away from memories of another door in the cold, cold snow.
Jack arrived at exactly the same time as yesterday, only he went straight to the morgue to meet Harper. While he felt a bit awkward for spying on him yesterday, there was no way the doctor could have know he was there. He didn’t see the doctor when he first scanned the room, coming upon him seconds later working in the android room. Jack strode over to him, picked up his lab coat off the hanger on his way and threw it on.
“We have an android body today?” He asked in lieu of a greeting.
The doctor looked up, startled a bit from his reading of a file.
“Yeah,” the doctor looked down again, this time at the body of the android in question. “What do you make of it?”
From first glance, it appeared some of its vital biocomponents were missing. Jack’s eyes traveled methodically up from the legs to the torso to the head-
He stopped, his scans stalling at the serial number.
“Hey, Jack are you ok?”
With some effort and multiple attempts at rectifying stalled processes, he dragged his eyes up and looked into Harper’s eyes, LED a solid red. “I… I know her…”
The serial number blinked like a warning at the bottom of his vision.
AX400 190 215 996 – DANIELLE
And on the second day, all hell broke loose. I'm sorry if you liked Danielle, because I certainly did and she probably deserved better.