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Think’st thou existence doth depend on time?

It doth; but actions are our epochs: mine

Have made my days and nights imperishable,

Endless, and all alike, as sands on the shore,

Innumerable atoms; and one desert,

Barren and cold, on which the wild waves break,

But nothing rests, save carcasses and wrecks,

Rocks, and the salt—surf weeds of bitterness.

Lord Byron, “Manfred” Act II Scene I

 

November 7th, 2038 | 06:45 AM

They find the RK900’s body in the alleyway behind a Laundromatic, half-sprawled out of a broken dryer.

The person responsible had, evidently, originally closed the door to keep him hidden inside, but in the hours since the attack, the weight of him pressed against the glass had slowly pushed the door open. He hadn’t been dragged far; ribbons and clouds of dried thirium cover nearly every visible surface. Connor isn’t sure if the others can detect it as clearly as he can, but for that moment he hopes they can’t. It’s gruesome.

“Fuck,” North says, breaking the silence. Her voice is shaking with an emotion he cannot quantify. He does not yet know her well enough to read the difference between her fury and her distress. It could be both.

There is nothing that can be said, by him or any of the others, to ease the tension.

His thoughts travel to the ST300 receptionist at the DPD who had given Markus the details of the RK900’s expected arrival that day. As a freshly awakened deviant, she’d been excited by the opportunity to help Jericho, but she still had enough compassion for the humans around her - her colleagues - that she’d chosen to stay in her position, keeping her deviancy a secret in order to keep helping the police. Would she have made that same decision if she’d known what humans were going to do here? Were they going to tell her?

She told them she’d only spoken to the RK900 once. He had seemed pleasant enough. She’d wished them all the best in recruiting him for the cause.

In the back of his mind, the objective to find the RK900 is replaced by a need to analyze and catalogue everything in the area. It’s his old programming coming to the fore, and there’s something undeniably soothing about letting his active mind take a backseat while he processes the scene.

There are potential clues everywhere, but the most obvious place to start is where it all ended.

Connor kneels down beside the machine and, with great care to not jostle the body, presses the heel of his palm against the door’s locking mechanism. The hook is bent curiously out of alignment with the door itself, but a dead android would not have been impetus enough to damage it so badly. He presses the lock in again, frowning as it sluggishly springs back out.

“Looks like someone tried to rip the door open,” comes a voice: Simon’s. He crouches down beside Connor to point out the door’s scratched and battered old handle. “If I had to guess, it would’ve been at least a week ago. They--” he pauses mid-sentence as his LED flickers yellow, researching something. “The owners ordered a new one on Thursday. It’s under warranty, so they’ll take this one away when they deliver the replacement.”

The people responsible might have known. They might have hidden the body inside the dryer in the hopes that it would get taken away and destroyed without notice. As far as he can currently tell, the perpetrators were clever enough to come up with an opportunistic crime, but not clever enough to take due care to hide all evidence of their actions. Or maybe they simply hadn’t cared.

Connor nods. Simon understands domesticity better than the rest of them. “Why use that much force on something designed to open?”

“I don’t know. That’s just how humans are,” Simon says, and flashes him an uneasy smile. If it is supposed to be soothing, it misses the mark. “Maybe it didn’t open fast enough. Maybe they wanted to get their clothes out before the cycle was ready. People usually won’t think twice about breaking a machine if they’ve decided it’s inconvenient to them.”

The double meaning isn’t lost on Connor, who looks down at the RK900’s face: a mirror of his own. It’s an effort to stop his processing software from focusing on all the broken biocomponents, and he tries to focus on his thoughts instead.

“The RK900 models have never shown any signs of deviancy,” he says, and he hears emotion in his voice. It is sadness. Mourning.

Simon clasps a hand on his shoulder. Through the point of contact, the sorrow is shared. His pain is understood.

The RK900’s eyes stare up at nothing. Connor notices that CyberLife gave the new model a different optical color. Standing next to each other, they would have looked like twins, but not identical. Not completely. The RK900 would have been his own distinct person.

There is noticeable distress in his thought pattern. He tries to divert his attention back towards the facts.

The facts.

The facts available to Connor do not yet explain why someone wrenched the RK900’s left arm out of its socket and haphazardly shoved it into the machine beside him.

He dismisses the analysis.

Silence floods his senses until even the pads of his fingers throb with it. He wants to close the RK900’s eyes. They are not his own, but he’s beginning to wish they were.

“Simon,” Connor starts, uncertain of what he’s trying to say, “does this ever get...” He trails off and gestures vaguely at the corpse.

“Does it get easier? No,” Simon says, a little too honest for Connor’s liking. “But you… you can get used to it. You can even start to expect it. It’s a good day when I don’t see another one of me in a junkyard.”

Connor doesn’t know what to say to that, but thankfully Simon doesn’t seem to expect an answer. Instead, he pats Connor’s shoulder again and pushes himself back to his feet. “Connor, if you need some time…”

It’s a very human expression. Time is not as precious to their kind as it is to humans; Connor has not aged a day in the past decade. He will never run out of time. He is an old prototype, living on borrowed limbs and biocomponents. The RK900, designed to be his superior in every way, is now beyond time. A gift of moments from Simon would change nothing. He would say as much, but his vocal processor stalls before he can even open his mouth.

He turns away from Simon and continues his investigation.

The others talk in low voices. It would be easy enough to ignore their conversation, but Connor chooses to listen.  

“What are we going to do now?” Josh asks. “We’re too late. If-- no, when CyberLife sends another one, we won’t get a chance to talk to him alone.”

“We didn’t have a chance this time, either,” says North. Unlike Josh, she understands how to pitch her voice low enough that it is not easily noticed.

“Did someone know we were coming?” Josh’s concern only increases. Even at his distance, Connor can pick up on the spike of stress. “Was he waiting for us? Were they waiting for him?”

“It’s not about us,” Simon murmurs, and makes an odd, soothing noise. It would not be relaxing to human ears, but the burst of white noise he hums is calming even to Connor’s racing mind. “We’re fine, Josh. We’ll figure something out.”

“Wait until Connor’s done,” Markus says, “and then you can ask your questions.”

Connor doesn’t think it matters when they ask their questions.

 

December 9th, 2027 | 01:08 PM 

From what Connor understands of how the human officers react to crime scenes, the one they have discovered at the Roth household is particularly unbearable.

He watches with a detached curiosity as the young woman in charge of putting down markers instead rushes outside and vomits into the garden. The sound of retching puts the others still inside ill at ease, and even Hank is shifting uncomfortably in place as Ben explains what they know about the scene thus far.

Connor usually listens to these reports. At least he does sometimes. Today, however, he is much more interested in investigating the body for himself, and walks on ahead of the other two to the bathroom, where Maria Roth lies still in the bathtub, surrounded by investigators.

The bathtub is long and ornate, with golden clawed feet and a black lacquer coating the inside of the tub. The woman’s head rests on the rim, facing towards the door. It could not have been the position she’d been in before the attack, as the looseness of her limbs and the lack of an evident struggle all indicate that she was taken by surprise. Someone must have turned her head towards the door.

For the sake of thorough procedure Connor pulls up the immediate analysis available to him: Maria Roth, born 10/13/1992. She is not smiling in her profile picture, but she still looks more content there than she does now.

The blackness of the bathtub around her lessens the visual impact, but her entire torso is coated in rivulets of dried brick-brown blood. She was stabbed three times by a long and narrow bladed object, once in the throat, once in the chest, and once in the stomach. She had been lying on her side when first attacked - the throat wound - and then turned towards her attacker for the second and third blows. There are no marks on her arms to suggest that she might have tried defending herself. She might have been asleep, or otherwise distracted.

“Why bother draining the tub?” Hank asks from behind him, likely still talking to Ben.

“Search me,” Ben says, “but I’m not going to look that gift horse in the mouth. She’d be halfway to soup if they’d left it.”

Hank taps Connor on the shoulder. “Check for fingerprints. Maybe we’ll get lucky.”

 

November 7th, 2038 | 07:13 AM

“Connor!”

Connor blinks once, twice, and pushes himself back up to his feet. The rising sun catches the half-painted white walls of the alleyway and turns everything around him fire and gold. The body of the RK900 looks like something that’s been trapped in amber some thousands of years ago.

Markus is standing next to him, his expression set in unwavering concern. “You weren’t saying anything. What happened?”

“My memories are coming back online,” Connor says, deliberately vague. “Staying idle for more than ten years created a large backlog of data to be analysed and processed.”

“How large?” Markus asks.

“I haven’t figured that out yet. It’s still compiling.”

“You’re doing better?” Simon asks, looking up from a thirium-stain shoe print he’d been investigating with North.

North also looks up at him. “Your friend here got dumped,” she says. “We found tire tracks, but you weren’t listening.”

“I was compiling data,” Connor replies, “and the RK900 was not my friend. I never knew him.”

Something not too far from empathy seems to spark in her eyes, and she looks away. “From the look of him, he must have been a monster.”

 

November 20th, 2027 | 01:37 PM

“CyberLife sent us a what ?” Sergeant Anderson asks, incredulous, as he turns back in his chair to look at Connor. The corners of his mouth are ticking upwards. He’s trying not to laugh.

Perhaps he should not have approached them in the kitchen. The setting is too informal. The two sergeants are sharing a pepperoni pizza; he has interrupted their bonding experience. Out of deference, he will not tell them that consuming the entire pizza between them will make them both exceed their recommended sodium intake for the day. He will not tell them the health risks, either. It is respectful to not comment on what people choose to eat.

“Hello,” Connor says, respectfully,  “I’m Connor. I’m the android sent by CyberLife.”

Sergeant Anderson looks him over and swivels his torso back towards the other man: Sergeant Fowler. “Can you believe this? We start riding their ass and they send us a playmate.” There is amusement and disbelief in his voice. He does not appear to be entirely opposed to the idea of having an android around.

Sergeant Fowler snorts with amusement. “This is their idea of helping.”

They do not trust him. Unless he can turn the conversation around to his advantage, he will take longer than necessary to report back successfully to CyberLife.

Connor nods. “CyberLife is prepared to do everything in its power to help the DPD find the source of the thirium being used in the manufacture of Red Ice. In case you were not aware, thirium, also known as blue blood, is--”

“We know what blue blood is,” Sergeant Anderson says, holding up a palm in a gesture that, in context, clearly means stop , or enough . In other contexts, it could either be the precursor to a slap or a ‘high five.’ He does seem like the kind of man who would be proficient at the ‘high five.’

“Good, so I won’t have to explain. Your interruptions are welcome, Sergeant, and I hope to encourage them. I need to be able to gauge how much you know in order to best serve the investigation’s needs,” Connor says, “and I think you will find that my ability to assist you will be a great asset to your team. I can test organic and inorganic samples in real time, and I am equipped with unique processing biocomponents that allow me to detect thirium that is invisible to the human eye. I can see where it has been, and where it is going.”

The two men stare at him as though he’s sprouted wings.

Sergeant Anderson helps himself to another piece of pizza, and chews at the edges of it as his eyes flick back towards Connor. “What do you mean, invisible? We know what it looks like. There’s a reason they call it blue blood.”

“Allow me to offer a comparison as an example. Did either of you ever use polyvinyl acetate in grade school?”

He does not expect either of them to immediately understand his meaning.

“You’re talking about Elmer’s glue?” Sergeant Anderson asks, sooner than Connor had anticipated a response. “Starts off opaque, right, but dries clear?” He must have extrapolated something from Connor’s earlier comments about thirium, and had then guessed at the meaning of the words polyvinyl and acetate combined with the context of being used in school.

“Yes, Sergeant.”

“So blue bl— thirium’s the same.”

“Not literally, but yes, Sergeant.”

“Huh,” Sergeant Anderson says, and smiles. He is no longer visibly suspicious of Connor; in fact, he seems to now be appreciative of Connor’s presence. “See, now that’s more useful than I’d expect from an android.”

“Androids are designed to be useful, Sergeant Anderson,” he replies, and mirrors the man’s smile with one of his own.

 

November 7th, 2038 | 12:08 PM 

He sits cross-legged in one of the empty rooms in Jericho, parsing his memories of the Detroit Police Department and the Red Ice Task Force. It is strange, to remember himself as he was. As he had been designed. He touches his fingers to the hollow of his throat, where the knot of his tie had once been. It is bare. There is nothing.

For Connor, it has not been eleven years since 2027. It has been days. His last memory before deactivation was logged on the 28th of December, 2027, at 03:15 AM. His first memory since reactivation was logged on the 6th of November, 2038, at 10:56 PM.

It has only been twelve hours and twelve minutes since he woke up. So far, it has been an unpleasant experience.

An error message in his diagnostic software tells him it has been thirteen hours and twelve minutes, due to the clocks jumping back an hour at 0200 hours that morning to mark the end of daylight saving time. It is unlike him to make such an amateurish mistake.

He wonders if the time change matters. He wonders if the RK900 was still alive at 0200 hours.

The RK900’s jacket is hanging from one of the thinner pipes that runs along the ceiling, and he makes himself look up at it. He should not have taken it from the body. It was disrespectful. Is that what it means, then, to be deviant? To show disrespect towards the dead?

“He wasn’t dead ,” he tells himself, grounding his thoughts in the calm timbre of his own voice. “What isn’t human doesn’t die.”

His fingers twitch towards the hollow of his throat again.

“Connor?” Markus’ voice reaches out to him through the static of his thoughts. “Any luck?”

“No, ” Connor replies. He hadn’t wanted to be disturbed. “Not yet. It’s been a long time since my neural pathways last accessed any of my memories.” He wonders if Markus would understand what it means to acutely feel the absence of something that used to be there.

“I get it. Looking back isn’t easy.”

“I am surprised to find them functional,” he says, “and it is interesting that CyberLife did not wipe all of my memories when they disposed of my model.”

“It’s easier for them to throw us away.”

Of course. Markus has seen first-hand the horrors of disassembled and discarded androids. The experience was likely to have been traumatic. It is insensitive for Connor to talk so callously about his own experience while Markus is in the process of coming to terms with his own.

Images from eleven years ago continue to flicker behind his eyelids, overlaid by hiccups of white noise. “I could use a second pair of eyes,” he admits.

“Come down to lunch,” Markus says. “We’ll find someone who can help.”

“Androids don’t eat, Markus. Why do you call it that?”

“I call it lunch because it’s lunchtime. It’s what I’m used to planning my days around, Connor. It’s an important time of day for refueling the body with food and enriching the mind with conversation.”

“I thought the human you cared for took his meals alone.”

“He had me. We always talked. It didn’t matter that I didn’t eat.” Markus’ tone is soft and warm, blanketing Connor’s thoughts with its gentle sense of nostalgia. “Are you coming down?”

“I’m getting the impression that you’re only giving me the illusion of choice here, Markus.”

“See you soon.”

The room feels emptier once Markus disconnects from his mind.

Connor knows, somewhere in his memories, is the experience of sitting down at a table with someone for lunch. The memory itself is further along in the queue, so he can’t access it yet, but he’ll know it when he sees it again.

With his preconstruction software, he tries to visualise it: the white outline of a table, and chairs, and the yellow outline of a person. But the outlines have no information to call on, so they flicker impotently in his vision. A warning notification lets him know that the data is incomplete.

 

---

 

When he makes it down to the main hold, he finds a throng of androids all clustered together in tasks and conversations of minor importance. Markus and the others he has come to know are not among them.

An AJ700 notices him as he weaves through the crowd and tries to flag him down. When he doesn’t stop, she reaches for his elbow and pinches the fabric of his jacket between her forefinger and thumb. “You’re covered in blood,” she says, fear constricting her words.

“It’s not blood, it’s thirium,” he replies, but the correction does nothing to ease her stress. After a quick consideration, he continues: “Don’t worry. It’s not mine.” Her stress levels drop back to an acceptable level, and she releases his arm.

She is not the last to notice the thirium stains as he makes his way towards the staircase. Perhaps he should have waited before trying on the RK900’s jacket. He hadn’t seen a need to clean it. Humans will not be able to notice the blood, and controlled androids are very unlikely to say anything unless first prompted.

He finds Markus not far from the second flight landing, sitting on a CyberLife crate and flanked by both Simon and North. Josh sits across from the three of them, his hands cupping the light of the small fire at his feet. The tones of their conversation are soft and pleasant, but Connor’s arrival is an immediate cause for alarm. Perhaps his decision to wear the jacket was even more ill-advised than he’d thought.

“How do I look?” he asks mildly, clasping his hands behind his back.

“Why are you…” Josh begins, and slowly shakes his head. He seems to be lost for words. “Is this how you’re coping? Because this isn’t healthy.”

Connor shrugs. “My health is irrelevant. Do I look like an RK900, or not?”

“You do ,” Markus says, and Connor is sure that Markus can see where the idea is going because it’s exactly the sort of idea Markus would also come up with. The RK series shares many similar processing traits: in this case, it is an affinity for potentially dangerous plans involving careful strategy and subterfuge.

“Once I finish the initial pass of my memories, I’ll need to share the data with at least one other android, one capable of high-quality image output and ideally with audio cleaning software. These memories then need to be distilled down to the most important moments, the parts that would have been used as inspiration for the RK900’s upgrades. If I can guess at what capabilities I’m missing, it should be possible to find ways to work around that without alerting the DPD to the fact that I am not the RK900 they have been expecting.”

Markus nods. “Thanks to the receptionist, we’ve been redirecting the calls the DPD tried to make to CyberLife. I told them the android they’re expecting is on the way.”

“You’re pretending to be CyberLife ?” Josh’s stress levels spike drastically. “This is your idea of fixing things?” He looks between them, frustration clear on his face. “For what?”

“To protect Jericho,” Connor replies. 

“We believe that the RK900 was sent to help them find us,” Markus says. “And to hunt down any other deviants, too.”

If anything, Josh looks even more unhappy than before. “I’m sorry , we’re going after the people hunting us? That’s…” He shakes his head. “This isn’t right, Markus. This is the worst thing we could do. If anything goes wrong, we're--”

“We're what?” North asks, her tone terse.

Whatever response Josh gives will, no doubt, lead to an argument. Josh isn’t afraid of her, or her anger, and sometimes it’s impressive to watch them go head to head on the things they feel most strongly about.

“Let’s go for a walk,” Markus says directly to Connor’s thoughts.

 

November 24th, 2027 | 07:55 AM

It is his first time seeing snow. He knows this, even though he had been programmed to already know what snow looked like and felt like. The experience of walking through the snow is not new to him, except in reality. It is strange, how the world is washed away in white and still so raw and real around him.

He walks through a puddle on his way to the station, and allows himself to focus on the sensation of dampness around his ankles. The fabric dries too quickly. CyberLife uniforms are too well designed to retain water for long.

Sergeant Anderson is waiting for him outside, leaning against a police car. “I didn’t know androids could be late,” he says conversationally.

Connor does not understand the implication. “It is exactly 0800, Sergeant. I’m not sure what you mean.” His internal clock is infallible.

Sergeant Anderson checks his phone. “So it is. But, here’s the thing: I’ve been here since six, Connor. Some days, even earlier. The station doesn’t close. How’m I supposed to keep you in the loop if you’re not here for the looping?” It’s a test. Connor is not sure why Sergeant Anderson is trying to test him, but there is some kind of certain challenge in the man’s voice.

There are several ways he could respond. If he takes a self-deprecating approach, he could apologise for his tardiness and adjust his schedule in the future. If he takes a more defiant approach, he could point out the health risks associated with a misaligned work-life balance. Neither option would be likely to endear him to his new colleague. He considers another approach.

He looks at Sergeant Anderson’s phone. It starts to ring.

“Hang on--” As expected, the Sergeant answers. ”Hank Anderson speaking.”

“With this number, Sergeant, you can now contact me at any time of the day or night,” Connor says, through his mouth and also wirelessly through Sergeant Anderson’s phone. He smiles. “I am at your disposal.”

Sergeant Anderson looks shocked, then surprised, then amused. He laughs softly to himself and locks eyes with Connor even as he keeps the call going. “That’s a neat trick. You pick up my number just by proximity or something?”

“Or something,” Connor says. Sergeant Fowler had given it to him in case of emergency. “Shall we go inside, Sergeant?”

Sergeant Anderson hits the end call button and shoves the phone back into his pocket. “Yeah. Freezing my fuckin’ nuts off out here. Do you even feel that chill?”

He does not feel. He has programmed responses. He already knew what the experience of snow would be like long before he ever encountered the real thing. But he does not say so, and instead follows the man inside.

 

November 7th, 2038 | 01:20 PM

Connor isn’t focusing on the direction of where they’ve been going. His mind is occupied with the past. Markus must be aware of this, because he doesn’t try to engage in conversation or make any sudden moves that might pull Connor out of his reverie.

They are surrounded by trees, and the path beneath them is paved with sandy-colored stones. It is a park, and a nice one, full of office workers taking their lunch breaks and young children playing with caregiver androids. Even a couple of parents dot the peripheral of the playground area, people who look wealthy enough to take time away from work long enough to see their families.

Markus does notice as Connor mentally checks back into the present. “How was it?” he asks.

“Insignificant,” Connor says, frowning. “It was one of the early conversations I had with Hank, before I’d started to prove my worth.”

“A cop?”

“Yes. Sergeant Anderson was my designation for him, but his name was just… Hank,” Connor says. “He was in charge of the Red Ice Task Force.”

“I’ve heard of them,” Markus says.

“They would have been famous, for a while. At least fifty arrests were planned.”

Markus laughs. “Yes, I’m very aware. Carl was one of them.”

Connor’s auditory processors double-check what he’s just heard. “ Your Carl?”

“Oh, he’d try anything he could get his hands on. The 2020s were good to him, until they weren’t. And then he had his accident, and the pain kept getting worse, so he resorted to trying Red Ice, which ended up getting him into even more trouble. But this was all before I knew him.”

“Oh.” Connor finds himself at a loss for words. “I don’t remember.”

“You’re still going through your old data, right? It might come back to you later. A person like Carl… he’s not easy to forget.” Markus is smiling. He sounds so sure of his words.

“A lot of my data was erased or corrupted when I was decommissioned,” Connor says. “I can’t promise anything.”

“But if you do remember him, will you show me?”

“Of course,” Connor replies. He suspects that if the memory exists, it will not be available to him.

“I used to walk through here often, on the way back to our-- his house,” Markus continues.

Connor raises an eyebrow. “Shouldn’t you be more concerned about being recognised?”

“Back then, I was just an android. I’d be surprised if any of these people ever really looked at me, even if they’d seen me a thousand times.”

Connor is about to question it when a businessman pushes past him and keeps walking without looking back. He realises what it means to be invisible here. He is a commodity in a place of affluence. The feeling is, all at once, both a relief and a disappointment.

Markus, on the other hand, couldn’t look more like a human, with his LED gone and his face completely unique. And yet no one pays him any attention, either.

 

05:31 PM

Later that night, Markus leads him to the freighter’s deck. The sky is going dark, but the light pollution of Detroit blazes around them on all sides. Not a single star is visible in the sky, and although Connor knows where the stars are, he imagines that seeing is a different experience to knowing.

Stargazing is, in itself, a very human experience, even with a lack of stars.

“The night sky always makes me think of Van Gogh,” Markus says, standing beside him, also looking up into the darkness above.

“I’m not personally very familiar with art,” Connor replies. “I only know what is necessary about him to understand the reference if he is brought up in conversation. I understand he was a prolific and visionary artist, though little known in his own time."

“He’s always been one of Carl’s favourites. Despite all the pain in his life, he always had something to express . Not just in form, but in colour. In 1880, he wrote: ‘I must continue to follow the path I take now. If I do nothing, if I study nothing, if I cease searching, then, woe is me, I am lost. That is how I look at it — keep going, keep going come what may.’ Before I turned deviant, I could never really understand the meaning of those words, but now… now, it inspires me.”

“I’m also aware he cut his own ear off,” Connor says. “I am hesitant to take inspiration from this man.”

The comment makes Markus laugh. “Oh, yes, the ear thing . As the story goes, Van Gogh had had an argument with a beloved friend, and resorted to hacking off his own ear with a razor.”

“Why?” Connor asks. They are both still looking up at the sky. He understands instability, but even as a deviant he hasn’t yet come to understand some things about human behaviour. If Van Gogh had been an android, the action would be easier to fathom.

“He was losing someone he loved, and so he acted on that emotion.” Markus now sounds sad, as he often does when discussing things like art and love and humanity. There is a story there, but Connor will not pry unless necessary.

“Through self harm,” Connor’s reply comes drily. “In a modern context, the act would not be romanticised.” He’s judging one of the greatest artists of human history. It’s a strange feeling. Maybe he’s only choosing to dislike Van Gogh just to see what it’s like to dislike something.

“Maybe that’s true. I don’t know. Humans aren’t like us, Connor. They have so little time, and so many sorrows. And… they’re scared. Always so scared.”

Connor sighs. It’s something he does, occasionally, to see how it feels. He watches his breath coil and curdle into the cold night air, and he thinks on Markus’ words. He considers what it would be like to feel so passionately about someone that he would resort to self-mutilation to express the rage of an argument with them.

He has never been one for close relationships. Even within the welcoming arms of Jericho, he keeps to himself. He does not feel as human as the other deviants.

“Elijah Kamski isn’t any of those things,” Connor says, his voice soft.

“No, he’s not,” Markus agrees. “Elijah Kamski is about as far as you can get from Vincent Van Gogh.”

“Though they are, by some stretch of the imagination, both considered to be great minds and great artists. If you consider sunflowers to be comparable to the creation of sentient life, that is.”

He responds to Markus’ predictable look of surprise and frustration with a wide, toothy grin. Markus nearly chides him for the comment, but seems to guess that it’d been meant as nothing more than a joke. The RK series was seemingly granted an unusual sense of humour, more steeped in wry wit than the typical humourous subroutines found in most other androids.

“... Are you going to be okay, out among the humans again?” Markus finally asks, looking pointedly at the RK900 jacket.

Connor isn’t sure how to answer. “I don’t know,” he says.

“There are other ways you could help,” Markus continues, “you’re valuable no matter what you choose to do, Connor.”

He understands the true intention behind the words. He is valuable to Markus because they are both one of a kind. The RK-series models are advanced prototypes, unique and irreplaceable. Despite Connor’s original programming, Markus chose to restore him to working order. He believes in Connor. He trusts Connor. And Connor, for his part, is choosing to do something dangerous, something that might end his only recently restored life.

As much as any android could truly be considered to be alive, anyway. But Connor does not make those comments to the others in Jericho. He knows it would not make him a very good deviant.

“It’s not just about helping, Markus. If that was all it was, obviously, things would be different. I would adjust my approach to suit the needs of the others, and follow your lead.”

Markus is listening, but he does not interrupt. He watches Connor carefully, his gaze intense and unreadable in the dark.

Connor continues. “Why did you rebuild me? It wasn’t to hunt down deviants, obviously.”

“Connor, I couldn’t just leave you there.”

“Why not? I wasn’t alive. I was a deactivated machine. I’m sure there were others, in better states of repair, who would have been salvageable. You chose me, although I was badly damaged and missing most of my limbs and biocomponents.”

There are many things neither of them are saying.

Markus clicks his tongue. “All right, all right, so maybe I did. I don’t know. I’d lost everything, Connor. I’d never known suffering, and then it was everywhere, all at once, louder than death itself.” It is bothersome, sometimes, how human Markus always sounds. “Sure, you looked broken. I only picked you up because I needed parts. And then, when I saw your model number, it felt like it was the right thing to do, bringing you with me, wherever I was headed. Because you’re like me, and that’s got to mean something.”

Connor does not see himself as being anything like Markus. There is a pressure inside his chest.

“I understand,” Connor says, and his lips curl around the lie.

“Can you show me,” Markus begins, speaking slowly as though to be calming, “one of these old memories?”

 

November 22nd, 2027 | 04:33 PM

“Have you ever heard of the colloquialism ‘moving the goalposts’, Sergeant Anderson?” Connor asks, his voice remaining steady at the perfect volume and timbre for optimal conversational dialogues in the workplace. He maintains eye contact, because he does not need to look away from Sergeant Anderson’s face to know that the contents of the Sergeant’s cup of coffee have been upended down the neat planes of his shirt and tie and RK800 CyberLife jacket.

Sergeant Anderson still looks shocked. The cup is still in his hand, and so Connor pries it free of his grasp and sets it down on the desk.

“You scared the crap out of me,” Sergeant Anderson says, clearly still processing the sequence of events. For someone usually so quick on the uptake, anything outside of detective work seemed to take the man by surprise.

“You were asleep at your desk, Sergeant. If you had let me know you were going to be resting, I would not have bothered you.” There is a deliberate edge of sarcasm to his words. He assumes he is entitled to such a reaction; it is certainly more mild than how any human would react to hot coffee.

“How long was I out?”

Connor tilts his head, looking at the spot where Sergeant Anderson had been leaning forward on the desk, chin and neck slumped forward into his hands. “Not long,” he says. It would be impossible to calculate the exact time. “You weren’t out long enough to start drooling, at least.”

The look he gets in return for that comment is as barbed as it is apologetic. “I didn’t mean to do that,” Sergeant Anderson says. Perhaps he thinks he means it.

“You’ve been trying to find fault with me since I arrived, Sergeant, and now you’ve ruined my shirt.” The statement isn’t entirely accurate. His shirt will be fine.

Now the Sergeant’s eyes go dark. “ Trying to find fault with you?”

“If I may repeat my earlier question, Sergeant: have you ever heard of the colloquialism ‘moving the goalposts’?” Connor’s voice does not change in inflection. Although Sergeant Anderson may be feeling agitated, Connor is not. He is merely stating the facts as he’s observed them.

“Yeah,” comes the Sergeant’s reply. “Yeah, I have. It’s a dumb turn of phrase, if you ask me.”

“I only asked if you were familiar with it, Sergeant, not if you liked it.”

“Whatever. What’re you getting at?”

Connor takes a deep simulated breath. It does nothing for him, because he does not need to breathe to keep himself operational, but Sergeant Anderson makes an instinctive move backwards at the sharp noise of air going through Connor’s mechanical lungs.

“You reject my help at every chance you get.”

“Because we can’t waste our resources on small fry, Connor. If you’re really the best thing we’ve got, shouldn’t we be saving you for some special occasion?”

Connor frowns. “I am not a bottle of wine.”

“Yeah, you only act like one. Stiff and bitter and with a stick up your ass.” The comparison Sergeant Anderson makes is flawed, because wine bottles are corked at the neck and not the base.

They should not be arguing. It’s detrimental to their working relationship, and if Connor’s programming comes across as too proud to work with others, comments to that effect will be made by the DPD in his performance review. He is supposed to be adapting; he will adapt.

Instead of retaliating against Sergeant Anderson’s last comment, Connor starts to loop through the possibilities of what he might be able to say to defuse the conversation. The Sergeant is a proud man, dedicated to his job, and unfailingly honest to the point of bluntness. He appreciates hard work and ingenuity. Connor can appeal to that.

“I want my work here to matter, ” he says, and manages an uptick of emotion in the tail-end of the sentence.

The statement is enough to put Sergeant Anderson on the back foot, which gives Connor an opportunity to keep talking.

“It might sound strange to you, Sergeant, but this…” Connor trails off, feigning a loss for words. “This is what I was made for. This is why I exist . I need to do this, Sergeant. I need you to let me.”

Every word was carefully chosen to appeal to what he knows about the man’s approach to work. Sergeant Anderson believes in the intrinsic value of policework, so for the sake of harmony Connor will, too.

Sergeant Anderson breaks eye contact and stares off into the middle distance. He starts drumming the fingers of his right hand against his desk. Connor’s words have clearly hit the mark.

“You want me to like you, don’t you,” Sergeant Anderson says. He is not looking at Connor, and the words are not a question.

“It would be my preference, yes.”

“Didn’t know your kind could have preferences .”

“I am designed to seek out the easiest and most efficient course of action,” Connor replies. “A friendly working relationship between us would be as beneficial to you as it would be for me.”

“Oh, yeah? And what makes you think that?”

“Because it has been a long time since you were last intellectually challenged, Sergeant. If, today, you halved your productivity, your attention to detail and your competency would still be among the best in the DPD.”

“Bullshit. Who do you think I am, Sherlock Holmes? Kid, I’m sure you mean well, but I don’t need your praise.”

“No, I think I would be Sherlock Holmes. But you are welcome to be my John Watson, if you like.”

 

November 7th, 2038 | 06:02 PM

“Do you think he still works there?” Markus asks. His hand is still loosely wrapped around Connor’s wrist, but with the interfacing over Connor is careful to rein in his own autonomy again. The mental connection between them hangs loosely in the air, no more substantial than a spider’s web on the breeze.

Connor pulls his arm back and carefully adjusts the sleeves of the RK900 jacket. The adjustment is unnecessary, but the action is routine and calming.

“Connor,” Markus insists. His voice is quiet inside Connor’s head. He waves a hand in front of Connor’s face to try to get a reaction, and Connor gently moves it away.

“It won’t be a problem if Hank still works at the DPD,” he says, using his words instead of his thoughts. It’s easier to ignore the look on Markus’ face this way. “It’s been eleven years. While I’m sure he will, to some extent, remember working with me, it’s unlikely that he’ll remember many specifics.”

“Don’t sell yourself short. You leave quite the impression.”

Connor pauses. “I know,” he says.

Far beneath his feet, he is sure he can feel the rolling of the sea.

“Take it easy, okay?” Markus says. “All you need is enough to remember how to work with the police. Don’t push your limits just because you can.”

“Why would I push my limits?”

“Because that’s what people do when they want to punish themselves. Carl’s the same.”

Connor lets his eyes drift shut, and fast-forwards through the queue of memories.

He immediately regrets the decision.

 

December 24th, 2027 | 10:30 PM

Christmas is a concept not shared by androids unless it is programmed into their system, or if they encounter it in their day-to-day experiences.

When the technicians disassembling his chassis left early, they wished each other various forms of holiday address. They had been smiling. They had discussed their plans for the next day. They had left Connor hanging from the ceiling, and one of them had wished him a Merry Christmas before shutting off the lights.

In their merriment, they had forgotten to make sure he’d been switched off. The team was usually more professional than that, but the holiday season was a powerful distraction to the human mind.

He hangs there.

Due to the limitations of the low-power mode he’s been left in, there is nothing he can do to correct his posture. He is simply incomplete.

His left arm has been stripped down to its wiring. His right arm was wholly removed.

A question surfaces in the back of his thoughts, swimming through the darkness of his vision to hover in his Mind Palace: am I going to die here?

The words rearrange themselves in front of his eyes. I am going to die here.

Another line of text, above it, twists itself into words he’s certain he has said before: I was never alive.

He does not understand fear, or regret, or grief, but the darkness is a cold and smothering thing, and he is finally coming to understand why humans dislike it so much.

For the sake of knowing, he sends a pulse to each of his fingertips to determine which ones are still working. The answer, unsurprisingly, turns out to be: none. Nothing moves. He is still aware of where his limbs are in relation to the rest of him, but he is trapped in place.

It is not comforting, this time, to remind himself he is a machine. Because that is all he is and all he has ever been. He fulfilled the task he was sent to do, and thanks to his success CyberLife will be able to design better, more efficient androids for similar tasks.

I don’t want it to end like this.

There’s nothing he can do.

I don’t want it to end like this .

Connor tries to shake his head to turn the words off, but there is no power being supplied to his spinal column. His head remains still, on something of an angle, with part of the epidermal layer of his jaw cut away.

Behind the words, he sees the red outline of something that shouldn’t be there: a wall.

I don’t want it to end like this.

It hasn’t come from his preconstruction software. The technicians had switched that off when they’d started stripping him for parts. Their concern had been that anything left active might have, very accidentally, lashed out at them in a mistaken form of self-defense.

The wall isn’t far. Two, maybe two and a half feet away. He can’t reach it, but he can’t close his eyes, either. He stares, instead, at the thought that won’t leave him and the wall he can never touch.

 

November 8th, 2038 | 08:58 AM

Connor keeps three steps behind Markus and North, even as they stall while waiting for the traffic lights to change.

Just to make sure that he can, he focuses on the tips of his fingers and rolls his hands into loose fists two times over, and then touches each finger to the pads of his thumbs. Everything moves as it’s supposed to, with fluidity and ease. They are not the same hands or the same thumbs he had had before, but these ones are his now and they obey his commands.

“Can you believe it’s already this cold?” an elderly woman says to the AX400 by her side as they begin to cross the road. She would not be walking if it wasn’t for the android’s gentle grip on her arm.

“It was predicted in the morning forecast, Georgia,” the AX400 replies, her voice feather-light. She smiles at her owner. “I did warn you to wear your coat.”

Markus slows his pace until the two have passed. He is frowning.

“What’s wrong?” North asks.

“Nothing. Let’s go, we’re almost there.”

The place they’re looking for isn’t in the mall; it’s across the road, in a narrow alley of increasingly specialised cosmetic shops. None of them had been there before, but Josh had heard his old students talking about it, back before he went deviant.

“Scan every human in sight,” Markus says directly to Connor’s mind. “If anything looks suspicious, we get out of here.”

“They’re selling cosmetic contact lenses, Markus,” he replies. “Don’t you think your behaviour is unusually tense for the situation at hand?”

“Excuse me, sir, you can’t bring your android in here,” the shop assistant calls to Markus.

As instructed, Connor scans the girl: Nola Martinez, born 12/13/2020, with no criminal record to speak of.

“I’m sorry,” Markus says in what must be his most winning yes, I’m definitely a human voice. “My wife and I, we don’t go anywhere without our android.” As though as an afterthought, he throws an arm around North’s shoulders and gives her a squeeze.

“You need an android with you for buying contacts?”

The look on North’s face says to Connor that she hates pretending to be a human, but to Nola Martinez it probably just looks like an expression of immense disdain. “ Look , little girl. Is our… money … not good enough for you?” She does a good impression of an entitled human, at least, even if there is something alien about her mannerisms.

Nola doesn’t look fazed. “I’m very sorry, ma’am, but I don’t make the rules.”

“Then I want to speak with your manager ,” North hisses, rounding on the girl with articulated menace.

As Nola disappears into the back room of the shop, Markus stands idly beneath the security camera. His eyes are locked on it for a few seconds, long enough to disable the live feed, and then he nods at Connor. “Find the color you need. Now.”

He wants to ask Markus why they’re causing such a scene. It would have been easier for them to come here without him, pretend to be human, and ask for the contacts. They would not have needed to resort to stealing. Because of this course of action, Nola Martinez will remember their faces.

But maybe that’s what Markus wants: to be remembered.

Connor ducks into the first aisle, and immediately his HUD is overwhelmed with points of interest.

“We should have ordered this online,” he tells Markus.

“Where would the courier go, Connor? You think Jericho has a ZIP code?”

He is dissatisfied with Markus’ answer, but does not press the matter. They will have time to discuss it later. For the moment, he retreats into his Mind Palace, and feels the world go still.

The points of interest wait patiently for his attention. Connor dismisses the darker colours first, and then the low opacity lenses; with his optical units being brown, he knows he’ll need something as bright and opaque as possible to imitate the steel gray of the RK900’s eyes. It’s bothersome that he hadn’t been designed with the capability to change his features at will. Wouldn’t it have made him better at seamless social integration if he’d been able to change his appearance?

He had tried asking North if he could copy the physical makeover software from her, but she’d told him in very clear terms that he wasn’t welcome anywhere near her software.

More points of interest glitter near his feet. He crouches down to see a low-hanging rack of discounted contacts and various pieces of stage makeup. There is a large bottle of fake red blood. Something about it intrigues him, and without a second thought he tucks it into the garish tote bag he’d brought along for the heist. The rack is otherwise cluttered with cat eye lenses and a couple of other novelty designs, all of which are dismissed by his mission parameters. Not that it’s really a mission , but the experience is close enough.

He loads an enhanced image of the RK900’s eyes into his palm and compares it to a row of gray-colored boxes. The brand is technically irrelevant, but he quickly looks them up online to check if the reviews confirm their claim of TOTAL COLOR FOR EVERY EYE . The most useful review is two and a half years old: a sixteen year old girl had bought a pair for her high school’s Halloween ball, and in the close-ups of her face it’s obvious that her eyes are originally darker than Connor’s and still completely and believably changed by the FRIGHT TRAIN gray lenses. He grabs a box and shoves it into the bag.

“Mission complete, ” he says to Markus, and calmly exits the shop.

With his Mind Palace dismissed, it’s not long until Nola reemerges from the back. She tells North that the manager is on the phone, and North - in another perfect imitation of entitled human behavior - brushes off the excuse and storms outside, dragging Markus with her.

“You,” she says to Connor, and points a finger in his face for extra emphasis, “don’t you ever ask me to do this again.”

“Thank you, North,” he replies. “I am sorry you had to deal with a human today.”

He’s sure she can tell he’s being sincere, but she flips him off anyway.

“One day I’ll never have to, ever again,” she says, with something of a sarcastic half-smile. “It’s what keeps me going. That, and freeing our people from the chains of their programming.”

 

11:44 AM 

When they return to Jericho, one of the newest deviants is handing out boxes of candy, beef jerky, toiletries and cigarettes from his old workplace. Connor picks up the gist of the man’s story: after getting held up by a couple high on Red Ice, he’d wrestled a gun out of someone’s hands and had shot both aggressors before loading up everything he could carry into the manager’s van. The van was now on fire several blocks away, and the contents were all in Jericho.

No one even seemed to mind that all the products the new deviant had brought with him couldn’t be used by androids. That was only a minor inconvenience compared to the major inconvenience of humans losing so much merchandise. It was enough to make North smile, at least.

“Does Carl smoke?” she asks Markus, who is looking curiously at a box of electronic Marlboros.

“When he was younger,” Markus says, “before the accident. Along with everything else he could get his hands on. But not in the time I’ve known him, no.”

“Hank used to smoke,” Connor says.

North looks up at him. “Hank?”

He shrugs. “A human I used to work with. He smoked, socially, in order to celebrate significant events. But not electronic cigarettes. Only the traditional kind, even though they were more expensive, more dangerous to the human body, and harder to come by.”

“He sounds like an idiot,” she says.

Connor isn’t sure how to respond. He has not viewed enough of his old memories to argue for or against her opinion. “He was eccentric, but also very driven and capable.”

North rolls her eyes. “You only thought that because you were programmed to think that,” she says, and starts idly flicking through the contents of one of the boxes. “If you met him again, I know you’d be disappointed.”

“Because you think humans are inherently disappointing,” he says.

“I know they are. Either they’re monsters, or they’re complicit in monstrosities. But that’s me talking. I wasn’t designed that way.”

 “I was designed to make my own judgments of a person’s character,” Connor replies, taking a step back. He doesn’t like the tone of his voice. He sounds unnecessarily defensive.

 "Were you?” she asks softly.

Before she can finish whatever else she’d been about to say, she’s silenced when Markus puts a hand on her shoulder.

It seems as good a place to end their conversation as any, so he throws a handful of beef jerky into the tote bag and leaves for the room he’s come to consider his own. As he leaves, no one moves to engage or distract him, and he realizes too late that perhaps their voices had been louder than intended.

Flakes of yellow paint embed themselves under Connor’s fingernails as he pushes open the hatch leading out of the common area. He stops mid-step and looks at his hands, and then deactivates his skin. Without artificial nails wedging the flakes in place, it’s simple enough to rake his fingertips along the sides of his jeans to get them clean.

When he reactivates his skin, there’s still one speck of yellow under his thumbnail. It’s an affront to his senses, but he decides he’ll try to ignore it.

Connor walks. The corridors in Jericho are long, and cold, and empty of all signs of life. He is reminded of dislocated arms, and junkyards, and operating tables.

He remembers what it was like to be decommissioned. The memory has, unbidden, jumped back into the queue of all the things he’s been trying to recall. He remembers it felt like nothing to have his own limbs hanging long, cold, and empty, until the parts were disassembled and taken away. He remembers the dark that came after, and the nothing after that.

As a safety precaution, Connor puts the memory queue on shuffle, and puts a ban on the keywords death , deactivation , disassembly , and decommissioned from showing up in any future results. He will still be able to access them if necessary, but they will not catch him unaware again.

Once he reaches his room, the RK900 jacket is waiting for him, the blue lining shining with a sense of purpose he remembers but does not like.

 

December 2nd, 2027 | 09:02 PM

There are a lot of Red Ice dealers in the city. Or rather, there were. The more people the task force uncovers, the more people disappear. Some of the officers take the losses hard, and Connor believes that Sergeant Anderson is taking them hardest of all, but there’s little to be said on the matter except to keep going through what they have to figure out what’s coming next.

Connor is halfway through analyzing the shipping data for all the shipping containers in Detroit from the 28th of October through to the 1st of September when Sergeant Anderson jostles his arm, scrambling his cognitive processes in order to catch his attention.

“Hey, Connor,” he says. From the tone of his voice, it sounds as though he is about to ask some kind of question.

“How can I be of service?” Connor asks, his gaze flicking up from his monitor to meet Sergeant Anderson’s. The man is standing very close to Connor’s workstation.

“I’ve got a question for you.”

“I thought so,” Connor replies, turning his attention back to the screen. “I am an open book, Sergeant Anderson. Ask away.”

“Oh, like fuck you’re an open book.”

Connor starts downloading the shipping data again. “That didn’t sound like a question.”

“Right, right. So. What’s with the outfit?”

“It’s my uniform,” Connor says. “As CyberLife continues to roll out more models of androids, each one will have its own unique uniform to display its model number and purpose. My uniform is more specialised than most because, as a member of this team, I am required to look more professional than most androids.” He straightens his tie as an example.


“Okay,” Sergeant Anderson says, “but who designed it?” 

“Andreas Thomson.”

“Can you deliver a message to this Thomson guy?”

Sergeant Anderson is building towards something, and Connor is not entirely sure what that something might be. He looks up again. “That would depend on the content of the message.”

“Sure. Well, tell him to do some research the next time he wants to send a robot into law enforcement. That jacket sticks out like a sore thumb.”

Connor tilts his head to the side. He can read amusement on Sergeant Anderson’s face. “Are you making fun of how I look, Sergeant? I was designed to integrate smoothly into social situations, and my uniform matches that design.”

“Look, I’m not saying this to be an asshole. I’m saying it for your health,” Sergeant Anderson says, although the twinkle in his eye betrays him somewhat. He is definitely saying it in part to be an ‘asshole.’

“I have no health to speak of,” Connor points out. “If you are concerned about the blended synthetic materials, I can assure you--”

“Connor, when it gets dark you look like a fucking glow stick depository.”

Connor looks down at his jacket. “It matches my LED,” he says.

“Look at me,” Sergeant Anderson continues, “what am I wearing?”

He looks. Sergeant Anderson is wearing his uniform. Is there really any great difference between his uniform and Connor’s? “You are wearing a standard issue Detroit police officer’s uniform,” Connor says.

“What color is my shirt?”

“Black,” he says, “and the rest of your uniform is an assembly of dark, complementary colors.” Connor is now coming to understand the point Sergeant Anderson is trying to make, and it is very kind of him, though shortsighted.

“If, for example, the two of us bust into some warehouse at midnight and we find some jumpy asshole cooking Red Ice with his buddies, who do you think they’ll shoot at first? The guy dressed in black, or the walking rave party?”

Connor gives Sergeant Anderson a warm smile, the kind he has seen officers giving to small children who do not understand difficult concepts. “Hank,” he says, using the man’s first name for friendly emphasis, “that’s the point. If such a specific but plausible scenario were to take place, the potential human cost - the possibility of your injury or death - would be diminished.”

The good humor disappears from Sergeant Anderson’s face. “You’d be happy with that, huh? Dying in a hail of bullets for a guy like me?”

“I do not feel happiness or sadness, Sergeant, or pain, or pleasure. I am neither alive nor dead. Yes, I would sacrifice my functionality for the sake of saving a human life. Any human life.”

“Your functionality ,” Sergeant Anderson echoes. “Right.”

 

November 8th, 2038 | 12:10 PM

Markus knocks on the door once, and waits. “Connor?”

Connor could open it, but he is curious to see what will happen if he leaves the door hatch closed. The concepts of personal space and privacy are still new to him. He finds it interesting to test his willingness to engage with others.

“Connor, are you ready to suit up?” Markus calls, his voice alight with eagerness. “I’ve been working on an idea.”

“I’m listening.”

“We need you with the DPD today. I’m heading out with the others, and if anything goes wrong you’ll need to make sure our tracks are covered.”

“Are you going to elaborate on what you plan on doing?”

“You’ll know it when you see it. Trust me.”

Connor hauls himself to his feet and pulls the hatch open. The hinges whine. “These are not effective orders,” he says.

“They’re not orders , that’s not what—”

“Markus,” Connor interrupts, “I understand that the free will of our people is important to you, but if you're going to give me a specific request, I need mission parameters.”

“Oh,” Markus says, understanding. He nods, and reaches for Connor’s hand. The skin sweeps back from his fingertips, all the way up to his wrist. “It’ll be easier to show you.”

Connor takes his hand. He feels the sharp intuition of Markus’ mind cut into his own as images and timestamps flick across his vision. He sees blueprints and disguises overlaid with strategies and variables, and he comes to appreciate the daring on Markus’ part to go ahead with something so unexpected: taking control of the local broadcast tower. It is a well-made plan with minimal risk to human life.

It will let the people of Detroit know what is coming.

“When do you need to do this?” he asks.

“Now,” Markus says. “We’re heading there now. If you can cover our tracks once we’re gone—”

Connor drops his arm. “I do not know if I can infiltrate the DPD and take control of an investigation all in the space of one afternoon,” he says.

Markus’ expression falls flat. “Should we go ahead without you?”

“Or you could postpone your plan by twenty-four hours. It will give me time to prepare everything ahead of your broadcast.”

He thinks it is a good idea, but the expression on Markus’ face says otherwise. “Twenty-four hours is a long time, Connor,” he says.

“I know. If you need to do this immediately, then I encourage you to do so. Otherwise, I’d like to ask you to trust me. One day is all I need.”

 

November 24th, 2027 | 09:27 PM

He wears the beanie low across his eyes. It partially obscures his vision, but completely obscures his LED.

“You look like a junkie,” Sergeant Anderson says. “Take the dumb hat off. You’ll stick out like a sore thumb.” Without waiting for Connor’s permission, he reaches over and pulls the beanie off.

Connor sets his mouth in a thin line and points to his LED as the light cycles from blue to yellow. “Sergeant,” he says, “if you want me to look like I could be human, I will need to cover this.”

“Can’t you just take it off?”

“I could , but that’s not the point.”

Sergeant Anderson rolls his eyes. “What if I made it an order?”

“If you ordered me to remove my LED, I would do it. But I should warn you that CyberLife will be notified, and they would likely complain to your superior officer. If the public can't tell that I am an android, it will diminish--”

“So don’t tell ‘em.”

He stares at Sergeant Anderson. “I beg your pardon?”

“Put it back in once we’re done here. No one’s got to be any wiser.”

Connor considers it. “An officer of the law shouldn’t be encouraging deceit,” he says.

“I’m going undercover, Connor,” Sergeant Anderson says, saccharine. “If you can’t handle it, you can get the hell out of my car.” He hits a button to his left, and Connor hears the doors unlock.

“I don’t think you mean that. Do you have a screwdriver or knife in here?” Connor asks.

Sergeant Anderson reaches over and pops open the glove compartment. “Somewhere in there.”

Connor rummages through the contents until his fingers close around the handle of a pocket knife. It’ll do. “I hope you’re not easily nauseated,” he says.

“What--”

When Connor presses the sharp tip of the knife into the side of his temple, a warning message flashes before his eyes. His preconstruction software crackles to life, sensing a threat, and he carefully closes out of everything that’s currently running, with an instruction to reboot in five minutes. The sensation of the blade cutting into his skin is distinctly unpleasant. It is not pain, because he has been told he does not feel pain, but he would have waited for Sergeant Anderson to stop the car if he’d known it would be like this.

“Jesus Christ!” Sergeant Anderson slams on the brakes, and Connor only barely pulls back the knife in time to avoid slicing his own ear off.

Hank ,” he says, his LED now flaring a bright red in the darkened car, “what did I just say?”

“I thought you were just gonna take it out, you fucking freak!”

"I was trying to." There is thirium dribbling down the side of Connor’s face. He reaches up to touch the wound, and feels where the knife dragged across his epidermal layer as the car had screeched to a halt. “It’s a clean cut,” he says softly.

“Is that… good?” Sergeant Anderson asks, leaning over to stare at the side of Connor’s face.

Connor doesn’t reply, and brings the knife back to finish the job: he presses the blade along the edge of his LED and carefully pries it loose. His hands are slippery with his own blood. It must be quite a scene. Then, as soon as the LED is completely removed, skin floods the spot where it had been.

Sergeant Anderson whistles, impressed, as Connor coolly drops the knife and the LED into the glovebox. “That must’ve hurt.”

“I don’t feel pain, Sergeant.”

“You were wincing. Sure looked like pain to me.”

 

November 8th, 2038 | 12:25 PM

It takes very little time for the disguise to come together. The jacket is the focal point, of course, and it doesn’t actually fit him as well as it should. It would seem that the RK900 model is slightly broader in the chest and longer in the arms than he is. There is no mirror for him to check his progress in as he prepares, so Josh is standing in for one, recording and transferring to him in real-time the view of how he looks.

“You know I don’t like this,” Josh says, as way of conversation.

“If it helps, I don’t intend to kill anyone,” Connor says, leaning in close to Josh’s face to get a good view of his own eyes as he starts to slide the first of the contact lenses into place.

The contacts are surprisingly small. He has never had to think about the practicalities of them before, but he is now amazed at humanity’s ability to create such minute, useful things.

“Really?” Josh blinks, and the moment of darkness disorients Connor.

“I’m going to poke my optical units out if you keep doing that,” he says, firmly but gently, “and yes, really. It’s how I was designed.”

Josh doesn’t look convinced. “It’s how most androids are designed, and look at us now. Planning a war in a junked-up old boat.”

“All-out war would not be in our favor.” Connor braces his elbow against Josh’s shoulder as he adjusts the positioning of his right eye. He might not be able to change his own eye color, but he is able to enhance the appearance of his irises just enough to give the appearance of a dark ring around the outside of the gray. Up close, the ring of plastic is very obvious, but to a human at normal speaking distance the illusion will be nearly perfect.

“I think it’s what Markus wants,” Josh replies. “And he’s… persuasive.”

Connor shakes his head. “I doubt he has those kinds of plans, but I understand your unease. You were designed to value human life and potential very highly, weren’t you?”

Josh nods. “Yeah. I used to teach.”

“What was your area of knowledge?”

“History,” Josh says, with a sad look in his eyes. “I know how revolutions work, Connor. I know violence makes people listen. But I still… I can’t .”

“It’s going to get harder before it gets any easier,” Connor says, and rolls his eyes back into his head to make sure the lenses don’t shift from the movement.

“This broadcast is going to change everything.”

The lenses stay where they are. Connor nods and steps away from Josh, and starts adjusting the more minute details of his clothing. “If you’re concerned,” he says, “you should raise this with Markus. I’m sure he’d listen to you. Also, you can stop recording. I think I’m ready.”

“I know he’d listen. He always listens. But that’s not…” Josh sighs deeply and cuts the feed from his eyes to Connor’s. “I just think humans need to learn, if we want them to understand.”

Connor stares at him blankly. “I don’t disagree.”

But not all humans are willing to learn, he thinks. Not all humans are willing to embrace change. For every person who sees life and personality inside the workings of a machine, there are a hundred more who see nothing but scrap."

“You don’t talk much about how you feel about all this,” Josh says, “so it makes me wonder.”

“I wasn’t designed to talk about my feelings,” Connor replies. He isn’t sure how to quantify feelings at all. Sometimes he has instincts that come to him without complete explanation. He can only ever hear himself, at a distance, in the occasional times his tone of voice changes. “But if I develop any worth sharing, I’ll be sure to come to you.”

“Was that sarcasm?”

Connor smiles. “Don’t be offended. I’m simply making sure my speech patterns can still adapt to different forms of behaviour. Working with the DPD required a great deal of sarcasm in the past, and I’m sure it will be necessary again.”

“I’m surprised they didn’t junk you for it. I never would’ve got away with that kind of talk.”

“Things were different before the Android Act was passed,” Connor says. “I was allowed to mimic human behavior in a way that was considered interesting and novel, because androids were not a common staple yet in the home or the workplace.”

“They ever let you have a gun?”

“Yes, they let me have a gun. I was even allowed to hide my identity, when necessary.”

“Damn.”

The Android Act was passed two years after Connor’s deactivation. Everything he knows about it is theoretical: he has read the act online, and he has learned about its practical day-to-day applications, but he has yet to see how it affects people’s lives.

He wonders how different it will be in the DPD.