THIRIUM LEVELS: 100%
STRESS LEVELS: 0%-
REPAIRS: 43% COMPLETE^
After Markus had left, Hank sat by Connor’s bedside well into the night.
“You’re doing so great, kid.” He muttered, sleepily. He nursed his glass of whisky, swirling the deep, dark liquid around in his glass rhythmically. It was his first drink since the incident, and he allowed himself to feel proud. He knew Connor would be proud, too, considering the amount of stress he had been under. But time was wearing on, and Hank found he needed the comforting warm burn of liquor.
Sumo’s head rested on Connor’s chest as he gazed up at the android, wistfully.
“I know, buddy.” Hank said, giving the great hound a scratch behind the ears. “I know.”
Hank woke early the next morning. So early, in fact, that the sun had barely risen outside. He glanced over at Sumo, who still lay on Connor’s legs, his head rested on the footboard of the bed. He gazed up at his owner with sad eyes.
“What do you say, boy?” He asked the dog, “How about we go be cheesy and watch the sunrise? It’ll give us something to talk to Connor about.”
Sumo ‘boofed’ his approval.
They stood outside the clinic, in the small back garden. Sumo sniffed around at his feet. He stuck his nose in one of the only flowers growing in a sad looking plant box. It was a small, red rose. It's petals littered the soil beneath it, a reminder that autumn was coming fast.
Hank grimaced as he took a long swig of water, his throat dry after last night’s drink, as little as it was. The sunrise wasn’t that great. It was cloudy, and they were still in inner-city Detroit. Skyscrapers almost completely blocked out his view. Maybe he’d just tell Connor about the rose…
He sighed, tension dripped from his shoulders that he didn’t realise he had been holding. The fresh air helped, and it felt good on his skin and in his lungs as he inhaled deeply. Sumo gazed up at him, curiously.
It seemed Connor was coming back to him. And he was glad, really, he was. He was just so goddamn tired. He hadn’t really realised just how much the situation had hit him until that moment, standing in the crisp morning air. He felt his entire fifty-four years on his shoulders.
He had come so close to losing yet another son.
It was hard to wrap his head around. Connor almost died – had died. It felt odd to think about. He didn’t want to think about it. Perhaps he needed another drink.
But he couldn’t leave his boy.
He let his head drop, and all the emotion from the past week suddenly crashed over him like a tsunami. He let the tears fall.
And ever still, he drifted.
THIRIUM LEVELS: 100%
STRESS LEVELS: 0%-
REPAIRS: 45% COMPLETE^
It was official: Hank was bored.
He had worked though all of the paperwork the precinct had sent him and he had exhausted everything (or everything good, anyway) Netflix had to offer. He loved Connor to death, but the boredom was beginning to eat at him.
“How ‘bout we read something, huh?” He said to the sleeping android. He dug through the duffle bag he had packed all those days ago and ran his palm over the books he had hastily thrown in.
His hand paused over a book smaller and thinner than the rest. He pulled it out and smiled down at the cover fondly.
It was ‘The Rainbow Fish’. It had been Cole’s favourite story, and Hank had so many memories involving the little book. Cole had made him read it for bedtime countless times, and the little boy had even learnt to read using the book.
It was one of the many items Hank couldn’t bear to throw away after the his boy had passed. He left it sitting on a shelf in his living room, where Connor had subsequently come across it while cleaning. He had stood at the shelf for a while, admiring the cover. Hank had caught him flipping through it, and the android had hastily put it back.
“It’s OK.” Hank had said. “You can read it. Just put it back when you’re done.”
Connor’s face had lit up.
That night, when Hank had got up to use the bathroom, he had heard a quiet sniffling as he past the living room. He peered around the corner, curiously.
Connor was sitting up on the sofa as tears ran down his face.
“Connor?” Hank asked, urgently. He rushed over to the androids’ side, trying not to trip over Sumo in his haste. “Are you alright?” Faintly, he noticed the androids LED was still it's regular blue.
“Yes.” Connor said as he hurriedly wiped his eyes. “Yes, sorry. I was…”
Hank glanced down and eyed the book open in his lap.
“You’re crying at ‘The Rainbow Fish’?” He asked, amused.
“It’s such a touching story!” Connor exclaimed defensively as he palmed at his eyes again, which were still releasing tears against his will. “He gives away his scales, learns to share and is happier for it. He has friends!”
Hank was slightly taken aback. ‘The Rainbow Fish’ was a good story, touching yes, but not tear-jerking.
It was so soon after the revolution, and at that point it was the most emotional Hank had seen Connor. Hank had put the tears down to Connor’s new-found deviancy and the stress the revolution had put him under. Still, there were worse things to break down about. Hank considered himself lucky that this was all he was dealing with.
The emotion was short lived, however, and the very next morning Connor was questioning the logistics of the book.
“Fish can’t remove their own scales, though.” Connor said thoughtfully. He sat opposite Hank at the kitchen table as the lieutenant munched sluggishly on his plain, bland cornflakes. “How could the Rainbow Fish even grip one? Fins can’t grip. They don’t work that way. Fish don’t have thumbs. And surely it would hurt.”
“For fucks sake, Connor!” Hank snapped, subsequently spraying cornflakes everywhere. “It’s just a kid’s book, you’re not supposed to read into it!”
Hank chuckled fondly at the memory.
He sat up and cracked open the book. “How does ‘The Rainbow Fish’ sound, huh?” He asked. Connor didn’t say or do anything, but Hank went ahead anyway.
Something had started to beep. He wasn’t sure what it was, and he didn’t have the energy to question it. He just assumed it was a part of his programming. Something coming back online perhaps, or maybe it was his thirium pump. He wasn’t sure, and he didn’t really have the energy to care.
He lay in limbo, feeling the nothingness around him.
“… ‘Shocked, the little blue fish swam away. He was so upset, he told all his friends what had happened.’”
Connor suddenly snapped to attention at the sound of the voice, which grew steadily by the second.
“’From then on, no one would have anything to do with the Rainbow Fish. They turned away when he swam by.’”
Hank. That was Hank’s voice.
Connor wanted to open his mouth to call for his father-figure, but he couldn’t. He tried desperately, but wasn’t sure what he was trying to do, if he was even doing anything. There was nothing but the oppressive darkness and Hank’s voice, so far away. He wanted to yell in frustration.
“ “I can’t…” the Rainbow Fish started to say, but the octopus had already disappeared into a dark cloud of ink.’” Hank’s voice carried on in the distance, oblivious to the fact Connor could hear him.
Hank! He wanted to yell. He wanted to tell him he could hear him, at long last he could hear him, but he didn’t know where is mouth was, where is vocal chords rested. Did he even still have a body?
“’Suddenly he felt the light touch of a fin. The little blue fish was back!
“Rainbow Fish, please, don’t be angry. I just want one little scale.”’”
He wanted to relax and listen to Hank read, let the lieutenants comforting voice sooth him. But he couldn’t.
“’Carefully, the Rainbow Fish pulled out the smallest scale and gave it to the little fish…’”
Sumo whined from up on the bed and began to paw gently at Connor’s stomach.
Hank glanced up to look for the source of the dogs’ distress. His eyes landed on Connor’s lax face. He was crying.
“Oh, Connor.” Hank chuckled. “Crying at ‘The Rainbow Fish’ again? Seriously?”
He turned back to the book when he froze as the realization hit him straight in the gut.
“Shit!” He exclaimed, shoving the book aside. He lifted himself to the bed, sitting on the edge by Connor’s knees. He grasped the side of the androids’ face.
“Connor?” He asked urgently as he shook the boys shoulder with more force than was possibly necessary. “Connor, can you hear me?!”
He shot a glance at the monitors beside the bed.
THIRIUM LEVELS: 100%
STRESS LEVELS: 30%-
REPAIRS: 44% COMPLETE^
His stress levels were elevated, which had happened before. But the crying was new.
“Connor? Connor, buddy, can you hear me?” He asked desperately. Connor’s expression didn’t change, but the tears kept coming.
With shaky hands, Hank fumbled for his phone.
“Markus?” He blurted as soon as the line connected. “Get here, now!”
“What’s wrong?” Markus asked, urgently, startled by Hank’s harsh tone. “Is everything alright?!"
“I think Connor can hear me.” Hank said.
Connor listened as Hank talked to him, or rather, at him. He could feel himself relaxing slowly, letting the darkness cradle him as he listened to Hank’s soothing words.
Hank was talking about nothing in particular. He described Connor’s room, the way the sunlight poured through the window, the way it made Sumo’s fur shine. He even got the dog to bark for him.
Everything still sounded like it was underwater, slightly muffled, but he found he didn’t care. He could hear; that was the important thing.
Distantly, he heard the sound of a door opening.
“Markus!” He heard Hank greet, eagerly.
“Hank.” Markus said. “Connor.” There was a smile in his voice.
Shuffling, and then Markus’ voice was closer.
“You know, there are technicians you can call if things change. They’ll get here a lot quicker.”
“I know.” Hank said in a tone that suggested he had completely forgotten about the technicians. It made Connor want to smile fondly. “I just… Yeah… Sorry.”
Markus chuckled. “It’s fine.” He said, “I like to visit.”
“Can you interface with him?” Hank asked. “And ask him, you know, if he’s there?”
The was a pause, and Connor could feel a connection opening.
/Markus!/ He cried, before the android leader had the chance to say anything.
/Connor! Can you hear us?/
“He can!” Markus relayed to Hank.
Hank laughed, the sound full of relief. “Thank fuck! Hey Con!”
“He says hello.” Markus told him.
“Jeez, it’s so good to hear from you, son.” Hank sounded slightly giddy. “How is everything in there?”
/Dark, boring. But it’s peaceful./
Markus relayed the message.
“Sorry to hear that. How are you feeling?”
/I’m not feeling much of anything at all./ Connor answered, honestly. /Although I’m quite… sleepy. Do I still have a body?/
“Do you still… Of course, you still have a body.” Hank spluttered. “Why wouldn’t you have a body?”
/I can’t feel it./
“You’ll be able to feel it soon enough.” Markus reassured him. “You’re making great progress, Connor.”
Connor would have nodded if he could. /Anyway, how are you, Hank?/ He asked.
“Me? I’m fine. Just missing you, kiddo.”
/I miss you too./ Connor said, he felt as if his batteries were draining rapidly. Interfacing took up a lot of energy at the best of times, but right then it was even worse.
Suddenly, Markus laughed.
“What is it?” Hank and Connor asked in unison.
“He yawned. You yawned, Connor.” Markus said.
/Oh. Well, I am quite tired./
“You should rest, son.” Hank said. “We can talk again another time."
/But I want to keep talking./ Connor complained.
“You need rest.” Markus said. “The more rest you get, the quicker you’ll be able to talk to us properly.”
Connor wanted to scowl, but he couldn’t. Instead, he sent his emotions through the connection. He heard Markus huff a laugh. /I suppose./ He grumbled.
“I’ll be here.” Hank reassured him. “You rest. Goodnight, kid.”
/Night, dad./ Connor said, as Markus ended the connection.
He fell asleep before he could hear Markus pass on his final message.