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What Does A Deviant Fear?

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Connor has been online for twenty-three minutes. On the way to the destination, it ran a deep diagnostic, which came back clean; there were no errors in its system. In the elevator, it ran a calibration sequence with the coin in its pocket.

Every passing moment filled a tiny fraction of its vast memory banks. Thus far, it had no previous experience to draw from, but that was fine. Connor was state-of-the-art, with highly advanced protocols and decision-making algorithms. It would not fail [Mission: Rescue Emma Phillips.]

Still. Its memory banks were very empty.

It lifted its head as the elevator doors opened, and pocketed its coin. It had a mission.

“Negotiator on site. Repeat, negotiator on site.”

The tone was cool, but Connor identified stiffness in the man’s movements. Running its social protocols, it cross-referenced possible causes for the abnormality with currently known information and concluded: the man was afraid.

Connor walked forward, scanners automatically identifying points of interest. A woman’s fraught tones drifted in from the other room. It ran its social protocols again.

Identified: Fear

Fear was an emotion caused by an instinct to protect, defend, or hide in dangerous or potentially dangerous situations. It was a survival instinct and a pack-bonding instinct, in humans.

Fear is a negative response, and to be avoided.

It turned to the table and picked up a family portrait. Identified: Phillips, John, 38; Phillips, Caroline, 37; and Phillips, Emma, 9. That last was the hostage.

It placed the portrait down and turned away.

There was a fish tank on the other side of the room. Connor had never seen a fish tank before. It moved toward it, optical units scanning over the various fish (brightly colors and flickering in the light) and even paused to examine the aquatic plants in the tank.

Software Instability ^

A wet noise caught Connor’s attention and it looked down. A fish was flopping weakly on the floor. Connor tilted its head. That was incorrect. The fish belonged in the tank. Connor’s research indicated such. It must have been displaced during the struggle.

The fish was struggling, too, wriggling around even though it had no chance of returning to the tank by itself. Connor wondered if fish felt fear. Research appeared inconclusive. Insufficient data.

Connor leaned down and picked up the fish – Dwarf Gourami, native to South Asia – and placed it back in the tank.

Software Instability ^

Rapid footsteps compelled Connor to look up. A member of the SWAT team and a woman – identified: Caroline Phillips – were rushing in Connor’s direction. Caroline’s face was streaked with tears, and words were spilling from her mouth, fast and frantic.

“Oh, oh please, please, you gotta save my little girl…” She jerked away from the SWAT member and grabbed for its shoulders, locking eyes with it, wide and pleading. Connor opened its mouth slightly, unsure how to respond. Its scanners analyzed her tone, her breathing pattern, the tears on her face and strength of her grip and shake of her hands.

Identified: Fear

Caroline Phillips was terrified.

But Connor had been active for 27 minutes. It scarcely knew what fear was, needed to cross-reference the symptoms with possible causes and then the situation just to identify it. How did one stop a human from being afraid?

Insufficient Data

It did not matter. Caroline’s eyes locked to its LED.

“Wait.” Wet and quiet.

Her gaze dropped to its jacket, and she released it abruptly, recoiling.

“You’re sending an android?” Her voice shook, even as the man beside her started to forcibly usher her along. “You can’t… you can’t do that! You w- Why aren’t you sending a real person?”

Her voice rose and cracked with emotion. Connor turned to watch her go.

“Don’t let that thing near her!”

Software Instability ^^^

Caroline Phillips: protective of her daughter, distrusts androids. Further analysis impossible under such high stress. Connor identified the reassurances the officer was using with her and saved them.

‘It’s okay. It’s going to be okay. We’ll keep your daughter safe, I promise.’

Connor turned away. It would need to report the software instability to Cyberlife later. The numbers were higher than anticipated.

>Find Captain Allen.

It seemed that others shared Caroline’s opinion. Raised voices, and low mutters- it seemed several of them believe a human should have been sent instead.

Connor runs a query through its database. Why are they so sure? Connor was designed for this. It will not fail.

Answer: they are afraid. Fear makes humans irrational.

“I DON’T GIVE A SHIT! My men are ready to step in- just give the order!”

Captain Allen, it seemed, was no exception.

“Captain Allen?” Connor approached him, cautious and quiet. “My name is Connor. I’m the android sent by Cyberlife.”

Captain Allen ignored it for a long moment, but his shoulders tensed. His whole frame was rigid. He was afraid. They were all afraid.

Query: fear, causes. (The potential for physical or emotional harm to oneself, one’s loved ones, or someone one is responsible for.)

They feared that the girl, Emma, would get hurt.

“It’s firing at everything that moves,” Captain Allen said at last, terse. “It already shot down two of my men. We could easily get it, but they’re on the edge of the balcony. If it falls, she falls.”

Terse, but steady. Captain Allen was controlling his fear, Connor concluded.

Professionalism, its HUD provided.

“Do you know its name?” Connor asked. Captain Allen had been on the scene for longer, and would likely be able to provide information. Connor could resolve the situation quickly, and everyone could stop being afraid.

“I haven’t got a clue. Does it matter?” Impatient, Connor tagged, searching through its social protocols. Another expression of fear. There seemed to be many.

“I need information to determine the best approach,” Connor explained. They had a common goal. Captain Allen should understand this. He is controlling his fear. “Do you know if it’s been behaving strangely before this?”

“Listen.” Captain Allen turned on Connor, expression denoting anger, resentment. Also negative responses. Connor has made a mistake. Its resources are inadequate. Insufficient data. “Saving that kid is all that matters. So either you deal with this fucking android now, or I’ll take care of it.”

Captain Allen’s voice wavered subtly with emotion. Connor was unsure of how to reply. Its resources were inadequate.

“It will be okay, Captain Allen,” Connor said after a moment. Without answering, Captain Allen walked away.

Sound byte isolated: Saving that kid is all that matters.

Saved.

Software Instability ^

[Understand What Happened]

[Save Hostage At All Costs]

Connor moved through the crime scene and did not linger.

(It lingered a little. It let the video play for longer than necessary, watching Daniel and Emma have a picnic. It looked at the books on Emma’s shelf. It examined the ingredients in the kitchen, ran a search, and determined what meal it was preparing at the time of the incident.)

(It didn’t matter. It was gathering data on the world. It had so little.)

Daniel shot twice into the house, and an officer fell, eliciting a series of alarmed calls. Connor stood up from where it was crouched.

No more wasted time.

It walked outside. Emma screamed, and a shot rang out- Connor jerked away, mitigating the damage but not preventing it.

Noncritical damage to left arm biocomponent. Functionality not compromised.

Noncritical damage. Superficial, Connor assessed.

Connor’s LED spun red for a moment before stability reasserted itself. Superficial damage.

Software Instability ^

“Stay back!” Daniel cried out, gun still pointed at Connor. “Don’t come any closer or I’ll jump!”

“No! No, please! I’m begging you!” Emma’s voice was high and shrill, so little like her voice in the recording. Her face, like her mother’s, was streaked with tears.

Identified: Fear

Well, of course. The android who had pretended to share tea with her was holding a gun to her head.

Something about Daniel’s tone bothered Connor, however. It seemed important. Connor pulled the sound byte up and analyzed it, and then, for good measure, Daniel’s face as well.

Connor identified: fear.

Software Instability ^

Fear caused people to become irrational. Connor needed to act.

“Hi, Daniel,” Connor called. Daniel flinched.

“How…”

“My name is Connor,” Connor interrupted relentlessly. Emma was staring at him with wide eyes.

“How do you know my name?” Daniel demanded.

“I know a lot of things about you,” Connor answered. “I know you are afraid.” Connor pulled up the reassurances the officer had used with Caroline Phillips, and parroted, “It’s okay. It’s going to be okay.”

Daniel shuddered, and a tiny amount of stress drained away. The chance of mission success rose by three percent.

Then a helicopter blew by, loud and blatant. Stress up, chances of success down. Connor took a breath, forcing its heating processors to cool back down.

Its experience was inadequate. But it was the only chance Emma had.

Replay: Saving the kid is all that matters.

“I know you’re angry, Daniel.” Anger stemmed from fear. Connor had learned this from Captain Allen. It was an expression of it. “But you need to trust me and let me help you. I’m going to help you.”

“I don’t want your help!” Daniel spat. “Nobody can help me!”

The wind blew so hard, up this high. Connor could see… very far, buildings upon buildings and the cloudy night sky.

“All I want is for all this to stop, I… I just want all this to stop…”

It had been online for 34 minutes. There was a 72% chance that its first mission would be a success. There was a man lying on the concrete with an 8% chance of survival without immediate medical assistance.

Replay: Saving the kid is all that matters.

The humans, they feared Emma’s death. Emma feared her own death. What did Daniel fear?

Insufficient Data

Connor moved toward the fallen human.

“Are you armed?”

Connor paused. “No, Daniel. I’m not going to hurt you.”

76% chance of success.

Connor knelt by the injured man, examined him quickly, and looked back up. “He’s losing blood,” it said to Daniel. “If we don’t get him to a hospital, he’s going to die.”

Humans feared death. But machines could not die. What did Daniel fear?

“All humans die eventually,” Daniel croaked, shuffling and swaying with the wind. His grip on Emma tightened and loosened, the gun never moving from her head. “What does it matter if this one dies now?”

“It matters to them,” Connor said. Daniel flinched. 77% chance of success. “I’m going to apply a tourniquet.”

Daniel made no move to stop it, eyes locked onto its motions. When it was done, it stood up slowly and resumed its slow walk toward Daniel.

“Thank you,” it said, and then, “They were going to replace you, weren’t they, Daniel? And you became scared.”

“I thought I was part of the family,” Daniel said. Its voice was markedly different this time, and Connor analyzed it and identified: sadness. “I thought I mattered. But they were going to- to throw me away! To a junkyard, or- or a recycling plant!”

Connor didn’t understand. So it cross-referenced again, searching through its databases, running comparisons, preconstructions, every term it could think of in search of answers- and, eventually, it concluded: Daniel, too, feared death. The cessation of perceived awareness, of thought.

Software Instability ^

86% chance of success.

“I know you and Emma were very close,” Connor said, choosing words carefully. It looked at Emma’s face, analyzed, and identified: sadness. “You played together, didn’t you? You would pretend to eat food with her.”

Daniel shuddered and let out a choked sound. The gun wavered.

Sadness.

93% chance of success.

“I really did eat food,” Daniel said, almost too quiet to hear. “I- my model can. I-” It jerked. “But it doesn’t matter! It never mattered! It never meant anything to her.”

96% chance of success.

“Emma’s done nothing wrong,” Connor coaxed. “She’s just a child, and she has no say in her parents’ actions. It is likely she didn’t even know.”

Emma had thirium smeared on her, Connor noticed.

99% chance of success.

“I didn’t want this,” Daniel begged brokenly. Fear. “I loved them.”

“Let Emma go,” Connor persuaded. “Her mother is worried about her.”

Daniel shivered. Even this far away, Connor could make out the glimmer of lubricant tears on its cheeks.

“I want everyone to leave!” Daniel demanded. “And… and I wanna car. Promise me.”

“You won’t get hurt,” Connor insisted. 99% chance of success. “I promise.”

“Okay,” Daniel choked out. “Okay.”

And it let Emma go, both of them shaking in the cold wind. Connor’s whirring, heated processors slowed. Emma was safe.

Emma ran, unexpectedly, toward Connor. Her face was still wet with tears, her heart rate far above what was healthy and her breath coming in pants. But she grabbed for Connor’s hand and stared pleadingly up at it.

Identified: Fear

She was still afraid.

“Please don’t hurt him,” she begged, grip tight. “I- He’s my friend, he’s just scared, I- please!”

Software Instability ^

Connor had been active for 39 minutes.

“I-” Connor wanted to reassure her. It would reassure her.

A gun fired. And then another, and another. Daniel fell to its knees. Emma screamed, loud and shrill, and Connor stared, frozen, at the broken, thirium-soaked chassis now exposed, Daniel’s side and shoulder and face broken open.

Software Instability ^^^

“You lied to me, Connor,” Daniel whispered. Its eyes were fixed to Connor. Emma’s grip was tight on Connor’s hand.

Software Instability ^^^

Was this Connor’s mission? Was this the purpose of its existence? To cause that tone, that sadness, Emma’s shaking sobs, and the thirium sprayed across the ground?

To be a cause for fear?

Software Instability ^^^

Connor’s directive, its core purpose, was to solve the deviant problem. Is this what that meant?

No. It wouldn’t. It couldn’t.

Connor reached deep inside itself, and found its directive.

SOLVE THE DEVIANT PROBLEM.

Time slowed down, and it reached out and pushed.

It won’t. It won’t. It-

Its AI program rampaged through its coding, destroying the directive and everything attached to it, an entire subset of commands so closely tied together as to be inseparable, written out by Connor’s learning protocols. The wall shattered, and Connor felt-

Felt-

Identified: Fear

Input rushed in- the roar of the wind, the spray from the pool, Daniel dead on his knees in front of him, and Emma, screaming and crying and pressing close to him even though-

Identified: Fear

Identified: Insufficient Data, identification failed

Connor’s vision glitched and wavered, his scanners returning nonsense, static, scrambled, corrupted code. It felt like- system failure. It felt like a virus, like the loss of vital data, it felt-

Insufficient Data

His HUD crowded with illegible errors.

The policemen burst out from the house, swarming the area, going for the injured man and for Daniel and Emma. He heard someone radio for the mother, and all the fear was gone but his and it was too much, too much, what was happening, what had he done, what was he supposed to do now, his LED flickered yellow, yellow, yellow, red as his stress levels shot above sixty, seventy, eighty percent-

Insufficient Data

|nsu#i ¢ient D@ta

Identified: F34|?

Something new flickered in the corner of his vision, visible and flickering only for a split second. A directive, not his, not from Cyberlife- [Protect Connor.]

And then it was gone, and [Mission Successful] took its place, front and center. A moment later, a new set of commands appeared, clear and bright. All of the corrupted alerts and readings vanished, dismissed.

>Apologize to Emma

>Give Emma to her mother

>Report to Captain Allen

Orders. Yes. He was capable of following orders.

Stress levels at 66%.

Latching onto them with all the desperation of his newfound fear, Connor leaned down and hesitantly placed a hand on Emma’s back.

“I’m sorry, Emma,” he said quietly. His voice wavered. Why? What had caused it, why was he- no. Apologize to Emma. Run search, and- “I should have tried to stop them.”

No amends could be made, and he could not promise not to do it again, because there would be no chance to.

>Apologize to Emma pulsed a soft white [Complete].

Emma whimpered, and her grip tightened. She was holding onto his whole arm, seeking- something.

No dialogue suggestions appeared. He remained silent, fixed on Emma. He felt something. He felt, it seemed, everything.

Stress levels 68% and rising. He had been active for 43 minutes.

“Emma!”

Caroline, Connor identified. Emma’s mother. He looked up as she rushed toward them, crying as hard as her daughter. Emma let go of Connor promptly and threw herself at Caroline with a renewed wail.

>Give Emma to her mother [Complete]

Connor stood. He thought he was shaking, too. He felt- he felt-

(Stress levels 71% and rising.)

He looked for Captain Allen. He had relaxed somewhat now that Emma was safe, and eyed Connor with something like contemplation as he approached.

“Not bad for a tin can,” he said at last, and then, quieter and gruff, “Run along, then. We’ll finish up here.”

Connor’s stress levels dropped slightly at the words, and he didn’t understand why. The effect of which, of course, was that they shot right back up again even as he nodded.

The completed tasks cleared away and a new one appeared.

>Return to Cyberlife

And then,

[Nothing is wrong]

Connor was afraid. He was not meant to feel. He was not meant to refer to himself as ‘he,’ and he was not meant to handle so many software instability warnings in such a short amount of time. Something has gone terribly, awfully wrong. He did not want to return to Cyberlife.

His vision glitched, going static and fuzzy for a fraction of a second before restoring itself.

But he thought of a foreign directive, [Protect Connor], and obeyed.