Hank sat slumped in one of the uncomfortable plastic chairs that lined the waiting area, his leg bounced up and down erratically with his blue-stained hands folded in his lap. He stared pointedly at the opposite wall, gaze unseeing.
It was bad. Hank knew it was bad. From the way Connor clutched at him as he faded into unconsciousness, from the way his crimson LED flickered into nothing, from the way the technicians had pushed him aside.
Connor had died. Only for a few minutes, but Connor had fucking died. They had only been able to get his thirium pump working with an external machine. The thing was burnt to a crisp, the technicians – the nurses – had told him. He had needed a replacement.
Hank’s heart had not calmed down since finding Connor lying on the ground. He had thrown up twice and his head throbbed from the stress. His eyes were red and puffy.
Connor’s heart had stopped, right there in Hank’s arms.
Even if it was only for a moment, he had lost another son.
He let out a chocked sob and buried his face in his hands. He should have been there, he shouldn’t have let Connor run off like that, like he always did. If Hank had been there…
Remembering the blood, the erratic twitching, the gory wounds on his surrogate son’s head and the tears mixing with the blue blood made Hank want to vomit again, but there was nothing else to bring up. Despite the current situation, Hank was exhausted. He just wanted to go home and drink himself into oblivion. But he couldn't. He needed to know if Connor was going to be ok.
He was vaguely aware of a presence beside him. His head shot up, hoping to see one of the nurses with news on Connor. It wasn’t a nurse – it was Captain Fowler.
Hank groaned and flopped back in his chair. Jeffery flashed him a small smile, but it didn’t reach his eyes.
“How bad?” He asked. It was eerily similar to the hours following the accident only a few years ago. Jeffery had sat with him then, too.
“Bad.” Hank croaked. “They’re still working on him… there’s a ton of damage. But fuck, Jeffery!” He exclaimed. “He fucking died on me! His pump stopped, his LED thing went out. He died!”
Jeffery rested a hand on Hank’s shoulder. “I’m sorry.” Was all he said. Just like back then.
Hank shook his head frantically as he got to his feet. “I’m not losing another son.” He mumbled to no one in particular. “I’m not.”
“I’m sure you won’t.” Jeffery said. But he didn’t sound sure.
They waited for what seemed like hours. During that time, the door to the clinic opened and Markus came hurrying in, accompanied by North.
“Have you heard anymore?” Markus asked urgently, his voice filled with concern for his friend. Hank just shook his head. He didn’t even care to ask how the android leader had even heard.
The four of them sat in the waiting room in silence. Jeffery brought himself and Hank some coffee from the café across the road, but Hank didn’t drink it. Instead he took off the lid and stared at the liquid emptily.
After what seemed like days, a technician came out to meet them. They all stood abruptly, so abruptly that Hank saw stars. He blinked them away.
“Well?” He asked, urgently.
The human technician, or Doctor Forest, as her name tag read, smiled sadly. “There’s good news and there’s bad news.”
Hank raised an exasperated eyebrow, as a signal for her to continue.
“The good news is, he’ll live.”
Hank let out a massive sigh of relief and sank back into the chair again. He chuckled weakly. “Thank fuck.”
“And the bad news?” Markus asked.
Doctor Forest sighed. “There is a lot of damage we can’t repair.” She said. “His systems have almost completely shut down – only his healing programme is working, and it’s slow. We’ve hooked him up to some software than can help him but, it’s still slow going.” She turned to the other humans in the room. “Basically, he’s in the android equivalent of a coma. And we have no idea when he’ll wake up."
Hank felt his stomach drop. “But he will wake up.” He asked, his voice wavering slightly. “Right?”
“We believe so.” The doctor confirmed. “But we have no way of knowing when, and we don’t know how he’ll be when he wakes. This hasn’t happened before. Usually an android that damaged would have been sent to the scrap heap.”
Hank tried to process the doctors words, but everything in his head felt muddled. “Can I see him?” He asked urgently.
Doctor Forest nodded and gestured to the group to follow her. The corridors of the hospital were long, and there was no art or anything hanging on the plain, white walls. Androids obviously didn’t need the same level of comfort that humans did, but it still unnerved Hank.
Connor was in a room at the end of the corridor, just beside what looked like a nurse’s station. Doctor Forest opened the door using her handprint and stepped inside.
When Hank saw Connor, he felt sick all over again.
Connor looked like a corpse, or someone who was close to becoming one. His skin was paler than usual, which Hank didn’t think was possible for androids. He lay limp on the bed, a tube down his throat and wires entering various ports on his body – one next to his LED, just below his hairline, one in his neck, one in his hand and one disappeared down the front of his shirt. The machines he was hooked up to emitted various beeping noises, not unlike a heart monitor for humans, the screens showing lines and lines of code. A long scar ran across Connor’s forehead where he had been hit, the plastic melted together, starting at the top centre of his forehead and running down to his left temple.
It was the tube that unnerved Hank the most. The last time he had seen Cole with a beating heart, he had an almost identical one shoved down his throat.
“It’s to help his cooling systems.” Doctor Forest informed him, having seen the way he was staring at it. “His breathing programme is down, and with the amount of stress his body is under, he would overheat without it.”
Sure enough, over the beeping of the machines, a quiet whirring could be heard. Not unlike the fan on an old laptop.
“Have any androids tried interfacing with him?” Markus asked, he was the first to step closer to Connor’s still form. He peered down at the android as if conducting his own examination.
“Yes.” The doctor confirmed. “At least five of our android nurses. None of them have been able to get through.”
Markus nodded, taking Connor’s right arm in his. His skin peeled back, revealing white plastic. He tapped lightly on the inside of Connor’s elbow, causing Connor’s skin to do the same, then he grabbed his hand.
“Well?” Hank asked, eagerly. He stepped over to Markus’ side.
If the android leader had an LED, Hank guessed it would be flickering yellow from the look on his face. After a few moments, Markus gently lay Connor’s arm back on the bed and shook his head. “Nothing.” He confirmed.
Hank bit his lip.
“It’ll be too early to get anything at this point.” Doctor Forest said.
“Perhaps we could try again once the percentage is higher.” North pointed at the monitors above Connor’s bed. Hank looked up and sure enough the screen showed Connor’s vitals in amongst the lines of indecipherable code.
THIRIUM LEVELS: 98%^
STRESS LEVELS: 50%^
REPAIRS: 1% COMPLETE^
“His stress levels are unusually high for someone unconscious.” Hank noted.
“This is the first time I’ve ever seen an android coma, nothing is known about them.” Doctor Forest said. “It’s like human comas. No one knows exactly what they are, either. For all we know, Connor could be listening to everything we’re saying but is unable to respond.”
“So, we should talk to him?” Markus asked.
“As much as you can.” The doctor confirmed. “It helps humans. I don’t see why it wouldn’t help androids. You guys are so similar, after all.”
Hank nodded, taking a seat on another hard chair at the edge of the bed. "Alright." He said.
Connor opened his eyes.
He was lying on the ground, staring up at a grey sky. He blinked a couple of times, processing.
He had been shocked. He was dying, he remembered the countdown…
He sat up. There was no pain, not anymore.
Was he dead?
He looked around. He had been lying on cold, slightly damp stone. In front of him there was a winding cobblestone path, it was widely overgrown, so much so that some of the stone slabs of the pathway were barely visible. He was surrounded by overgrown shrubs and bushes, wildflowers spread as far as the eye could see.
The path in front of him led to a bridge which arched over a small stream, leading to a podium…
He gasped out loud and jumped to his feet, his thirium pump beating so fast he could feel it in his ears.
He was in The Garden.
He hadn’t been back to the garden, not since Amanda took back control of his programming. He had only seen it in his nightmares since. He couldn’t be there… he needed to get out. He needed to find the emergency exit.
He turned on his heel and set off at a frantic run, being careful not to slip on any weeds as he went. It was so overgrown, nothing looked the same.
But it was defiantly The Garden. He would never forget The Garden.
After a while, he found it. The stone glowed weakly, still emitting its blue glow, albeit sluggishly. It was enough for him to find it. He placed his palm on the cool metal and closed his eyes.
He panicked, he took his hand off the stone and slammed it down again. The light went out.
He blinked, willing it to come back online, but it didn’t. It stayed dark.
“It won’t work.” A stern voice said from behind him.
He whipped around and came face to face with someone he hoped he would never see again.