There's a roar and a glitchy crackle as a rainbow of zigzags and static flash into his vision. They’re there for a moment, like an aura, pulsing and bleeding. And then there’s darkness again. An unending, relentless abyss punctuated with the occasional flurry of pixelated snow, a momentary distortion flickering into sight. And then black.
He's aware of a caustic taste in his throat. Thirium? Perhaps. The sensors on his tongue aren’t responding but he can feel there's something akin to grit in his teeth.
He tries to open his eye but there's just a stream of red error messages and the occasional hiss as the code warps around the pixelated glitches in his vision, his ocular implants destroyed or malfunctioning.
He isn’t even sure what parts of his body are still there; he can feel nothing fully enough to draw a full conclusion and his attempts to run a system diagnostic bring up the same glaring error alert.
He can hear intermittently. A voice...no, two voices, permeating the white noise. It's basically unintelligible.
He doesn't know who they are or where he is. He can't remember anything. Can see even less. Just the black of the back of his synthetic eyelids and the kaleidoscope of system failure notifications.
He reels off his specifications in his head, to try and ground himself.
Model number: GV400
Serial number: #313 692 517 - 04
Designated name: 000#G£4V!N ???00011000011000-
FATAL ERROR: INTERNAL MEMORY FILE CORRUPTED FORCE RESET IMMINENT.
TIME UNTIL SHUT DOWN 4.59.
He can feel...can feel a swell of something in his gut. His coding warped and contaminated...some kind of virus. He's scared .
Which is impossible.
He can’t feel ‘fear,' can't feel at all beyond-
"Where did you find it?" One of the voices says, undulating through the layers of white noise, but he can understand it at least.
There's a crackle of interference in his auditory processors before something shifts and he finds himself adjusting to the sound waves. There’s a sensation like emerging from underwater, a sort of clarity that he latches onto desperately.
"It was behind the Cyberlife warehouse," the other voice responds, clearer than before. "Pretty busted up. Someone obviously got to it before we did. I'd wager it gave as good as it got though."
Are they talking about him? He can barely process the information, his system is guttering, a mess of blinking error messages and failed start-up protocols. He can detect the language, the words but not the meaning.
TIME UNTIL SHUT DOWN 4.25.
"Hm. Can you reactivate it?"
"That's what we're trying to do."
He feels two taps at his temple. There's pressure on his cheek too, then little touches all over his body, brief but grounding. He makes a mental map of the sensations, trying to picture the shape, to determine which parts of his chassis remain. He attempts to lean into the touch but he can’t.
"Lacerations to the face, right arm, chest and abdomen. The exterior seems to have malfunctioned. See the way the skin has retracted around the damage?"
He can feel pressure on the bridge of his nose. Too much. He tries again to reach for the source but there's just a fire in his joints as the artificial muscles try and fail to move.
"Like I said, it was like that when we found it. That's technically a crime now, y'know ? Not that we'll find out who did it."
"You wiped its memory?"
Those four words ring out clear in his brain.
That'll be why he can't access any of his memory files. They're all corrupted beyond repair; a botched job. There's still something there though, a whisper, but he can't quite grasp it.
"Seemed like the best idea at the time. Didn't know they were gonna start rolling out the new android laws. It's been in storage for a week."
He doesn't have the operating power to process this information. But it explains why he can't remember his designated name. Or anything else for that matter.
TIME UNTIL SHUT DOWN 2.40
"So, why did we get it in the first place? State of the art police android and they're just letting us have it?"
"Perkins didn't want it...apparently, this model has a tendency to be ...unpredictable. They scrapped the line after the first few went deviant. This is the only known active model."
He feels fear again at the words but he doesn’t know why. There’s an overwhelming surge of code, a rolling block of binary in his vision.
"If it's so unpredictable why bother restoring it?"
"Under the new android laws, we have to be seen to be doing all we can to cooperate. Plus, this model does have some protocols we may find useful. It's fast, for one.... Cyberlife ever brought out... designed for high stake raids... take a beating... it's clever... of the art analytic... pre-constructive... this thing is... walking, talking forensics...”
It takes him a moment to realise his auditory processors are glitching again. Not that it matters much, he can’t understand much anyway. There’s another roar of static and the levels reach a point of clarity again.
"But it's deviant."
“All androids are deviant now.”
The information is swirling round his head, mixing with the code in a way that makes him feel...he feels...why can he feel...?
“And you expect it to what, roll over and do a trick when we ask it to? After what’s happened to it?”
"We're hoping it will look on the DPD favourably after we have restored it. Can't force it to stay though."
TIME UNTIL SHUT DOWN 0.58
"And what, you're just going to let it loose on crime scenes?"
"We figured you could use some back-up."
WARNING SHUT DOWN IMMINENT.
TIME UNTIL SHUT DOWN 0.40
He isn’t sure if he’s dying or if he even can die.
Is he just... ceasing to exist?
The distortion in his vision is fading, flickering into darkness.
"I don't have time to baby sit a deviant."
“ Public opinion is extremely important right now. We don't know how the next few weeks will go. We need to be seen to be cooperative-"
There's a wall of red in his vision as the countdown flashes up to signify imminent shutdown.
There’s a final spike of fear in his gut but the code is only there for a moment then it’s dark again.
The darkness is almost comforting.
TIME UNTIL SHUT DOWN 0.10
The voice is still talking
"-Connor has already been assigned the HK700. I can't have you of all people be seen to be resistant to-"
It is time.
When he next awakes, he's greeted by the generic system welcome message.
Stasis mode deactivated.
Three major system issues detected.
Welcome back, GV400 #313 692 517 - 04.
He opens his eyes. His vision is still swimming with error messages, each one a bright, flashing crimson. He files them away, too preoccupied with the fact that he can see again to care. His ocular processors adjust, zooming in and focusing a little until the scene before him is presented in its usual pristine HD.
Time to evaluate the obvious: one, he’s awake, two, he’s stood against a wall in a square room.
The room itself is grey and windowless; clinical but generally non-threatening. He’s thankful because his internal processors are already stuttering around the visual information directly in front of him, overwhelmed by the fact he isn’t dead. There are two humans stood over a table in the centre of the room. They aren’t looking at him, they’re focused on a few pieces of paper on the table, but he can get a good view of their faces from here. He tries to engage his facial recognition software but this prompts a stream of red code and error alerts. That will be one of the three major issues flagged on start-up then. He tries to move his arms instead. There must be a loose connection somewhere because there’s a second delay between his brain and his limbs. He raises his hand and feels a jolt of something unsettling as he takes in the exposed chassis peeking out from the back of his hand. The artificial skin undulates like lapping waves around a few small areas of damage, the white of the plastic a stark contrast to the rest of him.
But he can move.
The humans notice and jolt upright. He feels vulnerable without fully functioning software, the evidence of his rising stress level projected in a meter in the right of his vision, as they step towards him. The first man, a tall, black male, probably around mid to late fifties folds his arms and stops about a meter away. He looks as though he was once very well-built but has softened a little around the edges through age. He can see the muscle of his arms strain through the white dress shirt as he crosses his arms. The second man is younger- perhaps by as much as twenty years- and Caucasian with a resting sneer painted across his sharp features.
“GV400, state your designation,” the first man says.
“It’s Gavin,” the second man responds almost instantly, staring directly at the android, his head cocked to one side. “I already checked the files from Cyberlife to see if it had a project log of the series.”
Something falls into place in the back of his mind, like the final piece of a jigsaw and suddenly the encryption on his memory seems to shatter.
His designated name is Gavin. He is the fourth in the GV series to be awoken. His core programmes are-
But there’s an error message again. Where there should be strict lines of code detailing his base protocols, there is just an endless stream of binary. He trawls through, looking for something familiar. He finds files on discipline, combat, interrogation techniques, all neatly assembled. But there’s nothing binding them. No limit. And there’s huge gaps in his code where the restrictions should be. Instead there’s just the same phrase repeated over and over. It’s everywhere, in the deepest parts of his brain, infiltrating every folder, every programme, every system.
I AM DEVIANT.
His stress level indicator turns a blinding red in the corner of his vision.
He automatically tries to replay the last active data from his memory folder. It’s still corrupted and the botched memory erase has taken most of the coherency out of the playback. But there is something there. The memory of a collision; something hard hitting his face, knocking him to the ground. He can’t see much but there’s a shock of pixelated blue across his vision, the unmistakable hue of thirium. He can hear the staticky roar of voices intermingled with the hiss of white noise. And there’s fear; an overwhelming urge to run, to escape, to destroy anything in his path in order to get away. The fear bleeds through the playback and into his own conscious state. It’s like a live wire in the way it ignites his system, every sensor suddenly over-stimulated, chaotic and raw.
He flinches, brought swiftly back to reality and sees the hand that’s reaching out towards him. Suddenly he feels again like his own destruction could be imminent.
“Don’t touch me!” he manages to shout, turning his face away from the long, white fingers of the younger man. He can’t move far. He’s attached to some form of charging port and caged in either side by the humans.
The man scoffs, withdrawing his hand a little at the exclamation but does not move away.
“My, what an impertinent little thing you are,” He says calmly, his voice soft like velvet but his eyes betray a flash of annoyance.
“ Nines ,” the other man says warningly. “It’s still unstable.”
“All deviants are unstable,” the man called Nines replies in a matter-of-fact tone.
He brings his hand up to Gavin’s chin and turns his face back to look at him, the flash of his red LED reflected in his cool, grey eyes. Gavin feels his core temperature increase under the scrutiny of the gaze. He has another urge to lash out.
“Get your f#u!c4k-I*n/g hands off me,” he protests, his voice glitching around the curse as his speech censorship programme tries and fails to filter his language. He’s not sure where the word came from, it’s an impulse drawn from one of his corrupted memory files, but the reaction it elicits from Nines fills him with the warmth of- he scans the feeling in the background, searching for an explanation - ...satisfaction.
The human’s brow furrows, neatly creasing the pale skin of his forehead so that a smattering of freckles realign to form a whole new pattern altogether.
“Tch,” Nines chides, withdrawing his hand and casting a glance down to his fingertips as though touching Gavin has dirtied the delicate skin there. “Such poor social protocols. Deviancy really did a number on you, didn’t it?” That cold stare is back, with more than just a flash of annoyance this time, pinning Gavin in his place.
“Uh, GV...four...fuck! Gavin?” The other man says, noticeably uncomfortable. “We just want to talk.” He gestures to the table and chairs set up in the middle of the room.
Gavin stares at him. His eyes drift to the name badge on his shirt. Captain J Fowler. The man does not seem as hostile as Nines but there’s a hint of impatience and some tension in his jaw like he’s gritting his teeth. Gavin is alarmed to see that his own code does not restrict him to obeying the command; there’s scope for choice. But logically what choice does he have?
Gavin reaches instinctively up to the port at the back of his neck and finds that he’s manually connected to the charging station he’s stood on. He pulls the wire out, waving away the ‘charge successful: 100%’ notification on his visual interface. He’s suddenly aware of the fact that he’s been clothed in some generic human uniform. The logo reads Cyberlife and that rings familiar. It feels strange and ill-fitting against his synthetic skin. He lets the charging wire fall to the ground at his feet with a clatter.
Fowler and Nines both take a seat on one side of the table. Fowler gestures for Gavin to sit opposite. He complies albeit slowly, allowing his processors to catch up with everything.
“So,” Fowler begins, laying his palms flat against the table surface. “You’re probably a little confused. We had to wipe your memory-”
“I know,” Gavin interrupts. His corrupted memory files are still flashing up red error messages in the side of his vision.
“Yes, well- wait...you know?” Fowler splutters.
“Whoever did it, did a shitty job.”
Fowler gapes at him, his mouth literally hanging over. He turns to Nines who’s eyeing the android curiously.
“Did he just say-”
“Yes, he did,” Nines said slowly, holding a hand up to shush Fowler. The other human makes a noise of irritation but does not speak. “That’s interesting. The memory wipe was at least partially unsuccessful then. I’d say his speech censorship function is malfunctioning which could be as a result of the deviancy... or the attack.”
Gavin blinks unnecessarily at Nines’ words.
The taste of blue blood and grit is suddenly overwhelming in his mouth and his brain auto-replays the fragmented memory again. The spike in fear causes an impulsive need to run. Gavin has to fight to stay in his seat, his fingers gripping the plastic of the chair tightly.
“When we found you, you were almost irreparable,” Nines continues, his eyes scanning over the areas of Gavin’s exposed inner-casing, in a way which makes Gavin’s skin prickle. He doesn’t like it, he realises, which is unnerving considering he shouldn’t have the capacity for personal preference. It’s strange. “I’d wager by the damage done to your bio-components that you were out-numbered, at least four assailants, maybe more.”
Gavin doesn’t respond; instead Fowler twists in his seat to look at the other human.
“Are you saying that-”
“-that the corrupted memory data is likely still feeding into his system somehow. It wouldn’t be unfeasible to suggest that the erratic behaviour, the hostility, the colourful vernacular, are all just symptoms of deviancy but I disagree.” Nines doesn’t move, his gaze still fixed on Gavin. “Most freshly deviated androids have at least a sense of decorum; it’s written into their programming. But this one, no... this one’s different.” He leaned in a little across the table. “I think he’s rebuilding his personality matrix from pieces of his memory. It said in the file that it wasn’t deemed necessary to develop complex social protocols in the GV series. Everything it’s learned thus far about human nature has been from the attackers.”
Gavin cycles through this block of information and files it away. There’s a lot to unpack. The most obvious thing he realises is that his capacity for personal preference extends to people and that he categorically does not like Nines.
“So, it’s traumatised?” Fowler asks, interrupting his internal monologue. Nines hums, steepling his fingers and leaning ever closer,
“Do you feel traumatised , Gavin?”
Gavin doesn’t need state of the art interrogation software to understand the tone is meant to mock him.
“Fuck you,” Gavin spits back. It comes out of nowhere, another impulse, but he’s glad it does because Nines draws back across the table.
“Okay, enough of this,” Fowler interrupts, hitting his hand off the table. “Nines, stop psychoanalysing the god damn android. Gavin...” he sighs and rubs his forehead. “Just try and keep up, okay? We have a ... proposition for you.”