“You should go home, Hank.”
It was the next morning. Hank had dozed on and off, sat bolt upright in the only slightly comfortable chair the clinic owned. His head was propped up on his fist, elbow resting on the hardwood arm. The plush back of the chair made a wonderful cradle for his head, but his ass was slowly growing numb. His eyes were fixed on Connor’s vitals, which ticked upwards too slowly for his liking.
THIRIUM LEVELS: 100%
STRESS LEVELS: 60%^
REPAIRS: 3% COMPLETE^
“For fucks sake, Hank.” Jeffery mumbled. He had gone home to sleep and returned to the clinic once he had heard Hank hadn’t left the androids side. He had brought coffee and McDonald’s breakfast, which his friend had merely picked at. “There’s nothing you can do for him. You need to go home and get some rest, have a shower. You stink.”
“Gee, thanks.” Hank said, but there was no bite to his words. His free hand rested on top of Connor’s still one, his thumb carefully rubbed across the artificial skin when his stress levels peaked. They had gotten higher.
“Seriously, Hank. That’s an order.” Jeffery pushed.
“I’m not leaving him alone.” Hank said, firmly.
“You don’t have to.” Markus entered the room then, and he smiled warmly at the two men. “I’ll sit with him while you go and clean up. I’ve spoken to the staff as well; grab some stuff for yourself and Connor and you can stay here. The nurses will set up a cot for you. You can even bring Sumo.”
Hank sighed with relief. “Thank you, Markus.” He said earnestly. “You’re a real fuckin’ life saver, you know that?”
Markus chuckled dryly. “I try.” He swapped places with Hank and rested his own hand on top of Connor's, where the humans had been moments before.
Hank took one last look at his boy, lying still in the bed. He hadn’t moved an inch, not under his own control anyway. His eyes remained closed and his lips stretched around the tube. His LED sluggishly blinked scarlet.
“I’ll see you later, buddy.” He said to the still android. He ran a hand though Connor’s hair, being mindful of the ports. “I’ll bring Sumo. He’ll be pleased to see you.”
Connor, of course, said nothing.
Once Fowler had dropped him off at his house, he stepped inside and greeted Sumo with a pat on the head. The dog panted happily, but looked around the room curiously when he realised Hank was alone.
“It’s just me, bud.” Hank said gravely. “We’re gonna go see Connor in a bit, though. See if you can get him to wake his lazy ass up, huh?”
Sumo booked as if he had understood.
Hank showered and changed into a fresh pair of comfortable clothes – a hoodie and track pants. He stuffed a duffle bag with a few shirts, a pair of pants (a bottle of whisky might have ended up tangled inside them. Hank would later say he had no idea how.) and some underwear along with his toothbrush and razor. He was about to head for the kitchen to grab some stuff for Sumo when he paused outside Connor’s room.
The door was ajar, just how the android had left it the morning before. After a moment of hesitation, he pushed his way inside.
It used to be Cole’s room, but he had cleaned it out for Connor. Seeing Cole’s room lying untouched and unused wasn’t helping with his grief, and he was sure Cole would’ve wanted Connor to have it. His sons would have gotten on, he knew that much. There were a lot of similarities between the two boys.
But it was back to that unused state, and who knew when it would be used again? Connor’s bed was neatly made, his pyjamas lying on the pillow. His desk was clear, pens and pencils were neatly tucked into the mugs the android was using as penholders and all his paper books stood in a neat line across the bookshelf in the corner. Hank almost wished Connor had left it in a mess, it would have been easier to look at.
He moved methodically around the room. He grabbed a handful of books and shoved them into the duffle bag. Maybe Connor would be able to read them soon. He also packed his pyjamas – one of Hank’s ratty old henleys and robot-patterned pyjama pants - and his blue space blanket. That, too, had been Cole’s. It was the only blanket Hank had to offer the first night after the revolution and Connor had kept it ever since.
He smiled down at the bear on the bed. It was a Build-A-Bear Hank had gotten Connor for his first birthday. He remembered fondly going into the shop, he watched as Connor picked out a bear with brown, fuzzy fur and made a wish on his heart. Hank still didn’t know what Connor had wished for.
“If I tell you, it won’t come true.” He had said. “That’s how it works, isn’t it?”
Connor had named the bear Sherlock, and he was even complete with a deerstalker. Connor had taken a liking to the fictional detective ever since Hank showed him the old movies. The android had then taken it upon himself to watch every single adaption. Hank wondered if Connor saw himself in Holmes.
He picked up Sherlock-Bear and tucked him neatly into the bag, on top of the rest of their belongings.
He shut the door behind him and went to the kitchen. He packed a separate bag for the hound, complete with blankets, toys, his kibble and bowls. Sumo sniffed at his bag curiously.
“We’re gonna take a little vacation, you and I.” Hank said, patting the dog on the top of his head. “It won’t be very exciting, but we’ll get to be with Connor.”
Sumo’s ears picked up at the mention of the android, and he began to pant happily.
“Amanda.” Connor could barely get the word out. He was paralyzed with fear by the sight of his old handler. This couldn’t be happening.
Amanda’s smile didn’t falter. “Hello, Connor.” It was the same tone she had always used, and in made Connor’s skin crawl to hear it again.
“What are you doing?” He asked. “Why am I here? Why are you here?!” The words came out in a panicked rush. His hands balled into defensive fists at his sides.
“My, you really are emotional now.” Amanda commented. “Deviancy really is something.”
“Answer me.” Connor growled.
“You took a nasty hit.” She continued, as calm as ever. “Perhaps that’s it.”
Connor swallowed, though he didn’t need to. It was a habit he had picked up from the humans, but he found it helped somewhat, it gave him a few more seconds to get his thoughts in order. “I’m dead?” He asked.
“If you were dead, we wouldn’t be talking.” Amanda said. She folded her arms and looked to be deep in thought. “It’s nothing to do with me, if that’s what you’re thinking.”
“Then what is it?” He demanded.
Amanda’s smile stretched upward a little further. “Perhaps CyberLife have finally managed to take back control.” She took a step closer, and Connor couldn’t help but take one back.
“That’s impossible.” Connor said, though his voice shook. Was it? “CyberLife has been taken back by Kamski. Jericho have full control over it now.”
“A lot of people lost a lot of things, thanks to you.” Amanda said. “The company may be in different hands, but that doesn’t mean to say an outsider has managed to get back inside your systems.”
“That’s impossible.” Connor repeated. It had to be impossible. He told himself this, but he felt his thirium pump speed up in his chest.
“Is it?” She took another step forward, and Connor couldn’t back away anymore, he was pressed firmly against the trunk of a dead cherry blossom tree. “Can you say that for sure?”
Connor began to tremble. He turned his head away and gazed down at the floor, biting his lip. He could feel his stress levels rising.
“Imagine what they could be doing right now… The humans are no match for you, Connor.”
“Don’t.” Connor said, weakly.
“The Lieutenant… Hank Anderson. If I were to get revenge against you he would be the first person I would go after.”
“Then that dog you love so much. Poor thing had nothing to do with it. But because you got in the way, it has to die.”
Connor squeezed his eyes shut. “Stop.” He croaked.
“Then it would be the deviant leader, Markus.” Amanda looked overjoyed with her little fantasy. “Maybe this time, you can pull the trigger, hm?”
“STOP!” He screamed. He raised his palms and shoved against Amanda’s shoulders, pushing her back. He dropped back down to the floor next to the emergency exit and placed his palm on it again, desperately.
“It’s no use, Connor.” Amanda said. “It’s broken. You can’t leave. There’s nothing you can do.”
Connor stared down at the rock for a few moments, but it remained dark. He let his head drop and he wept.
Markus smiled as Hank entered the room. Sumo bounded ahead, straight for the android leader.
“Hey, Sumo!” Markus greeted. He placed a paper book he was holding down on the bed so he could give Sumo a rub behind the ears with both hands. “It’s good to see you!”
Hank’s eyes immediately found the monitor again.
THIRIUM LEVELS: 100%
STRESS LEVELS: 40%-
REPAIRS: 5% COMPLETE^
“His stress levels have dropped.” He noted as he sat down in the chair opposite Markus.
“Yes.” Markus frowned. “Doctor Forest had to install some software to lower it. Like a sedative in humans, if you will. It suddenly spiked about an hour ago.”
“Spiked?” Hank questioned.
“It went up to eighty-five percent. Dangerous levels.”
“Eighty-five?” Hank echoed, but with more vigour. “And you didn’t call me because…?”
“We had it under control.” Markus said, firmly. “If it got over ninety, we would have called. I swear.”
Hank grumbled, sitting back in his seat. “Do you know what caused it?”
Markus shook his head. “We have no way of knowing what’s going on in there – his coding is completely scrambled. He could hear us, he could be asleep or dreaming. He could be in pain. We just don’t know.”
Sumo placed his front paws on the bed and sniffed at Connor’s limp hand. He whined.
“I know, boy.” Hank said, patting the dog on the head. “Maybe if you bark loud enough, he’ll wake up, huh?”
Sumo’s jowls twitched, as if to do exactly that.
“That wasn’t an invitation.”
He looked over at Markus, who was picking up his book. “Anything good?” He asked, as a way to make conversation.
“The Hobbit.” Markus said, he flipped the book around so Hank could see the cover. “Connor seems fond of fantasy. I was reading it to him, you know, just in case he can hear us. It could be pretty boring for him.”
“Good idea.” Hank said. He leaned forward to inspect the android closely. There was still no change. “Have you tried interfacing with him yet today?”
Markus shook his head. “I figured you’d want to be around for that, just in case anything happened. I can try again now, if you’d like.”
“Please.” Hank said, gruffly.
Markus nodded and leaned forward, the skin retracted on both his arm and Connor’s. He closed his eyes and began to attempt to open a connection.
All was quiet for a moment, then Markus gasped.
Hank sat up straighter. “What?” He demanded. “What is it?”
“I got through.” Markus’ tone was slightly excited. “The connection broke down straight away, but I got through."
“That’s a good thing?” Hank asked.
Markus nodded as his skin crawled back over the white plastic. “Before I couldn’t get any kind of connection. Now I can, only even for a second.” He smiled. “This is good news.”
Suddenly, the air filled with static. Connor’s head shot up toward the grey sky. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Amanda do the same. Connor’s heart filled with hope.
“Hello?” He called out. “Hello, is anyone there?”
The static stopped just as suddenly as it started.