Chapter 1: Shutdown
“So, what do we know about the suspects?” Hank asked as they rounded the corner onto yet another derelict street. He grimaced; he hated these parts of the city. They were dark and dangerous, and were unfortunately where the DPD spent most of their time. They even smelt bad, Hank was sure they hadn't been maintained for at least ten years. The sooner they got revamped, the better in his opinion. Although, this was one of the very few surviving places that hadn’t been completely swamped with technology. In a way, when they were finally gone, it would be a little bittersweet.
“Natalie Parker, aged thirty-six. She’s a Red Ice dealer and has been convicted on two separate occasions. She does not have a permanent address.” Connor read from the police database, that he had no doubt pulled up in his mind from the passenger seat where he sat next to Hank. His LED swirled yellow as he focused. “Her associate is a AP700, activated in 2033. Registered name Alan. They are believed to be in a romantic relationship.”
Hank let out a low whistle. “Literal partners in crime. I like it.” He said.
Connor glanced at him, and eyebrow raised. “It’s not a good thing.” He pointed out, a frown on his face.
Hank just chuckled. “It’s cliché. Always exciting when you get a cliché case. It's like you're in a movie.”
“If you say so, lieutenant.” Connor said, slightly perplexed. He had never really understood why Hank, or anyone on the force for that matter, got so excited over ‘cliché’ cases. Gavin in particular seemed to be especially fond of them. Connor shook his head and turned his attention back to the database, his eyes glazed over as he read.
“They are not believed to be particularly dangerous. They’ve been sighted in an abandoned warehouse in this district. Unit forty-two.” He continued. “I believe it’s just on the left here.”
“Way to get even more cliché – an abandoned warehouse.” Hank took the turning. “Maybe I should retire early. Write a book.”
“Becoming a writer would no doubt negatively impact your health.” Connor said, a cheeky glint in his eye. “You barely move around in your current job.”
Hank slapped him against the chest. Connor smirked.
They pulled up to the warehouse, marked by a peeling '42', stone and rubble crunched under the wheels of Hank’s car. The warehouse itself was tall, brown with rust and the majority of the windows were smashed in, glass covering the ground before them like glitter. It wasn’t exactly homely, but Hank had seen worse places during his career.
“Right.” Hank double checked his gun, holstered at his hip, before he climbed out of the car. Connor mirrored his actions. Recently, a law had been passed allowing police androids to carry firearms. There were a lot of people who protested it, of course, but Connor felt a lot safer with a weapon at his side. He didn’t agree with guns and felt the world would be a much better place without them, but his job involved people pointing guns at him and half the time, sometimes shooting at him. He had been shot too many times than he cared for. He felt a lot better knowing he could point one back.
The main door hung dangerously off its hinges and was graphited with paint so thick it was beginning to peel. Connor couldn’t even tell what any of the graffiti was supposed to mean; but he had a sneaking suspicion it was anti-android.
Connor took up his position behind Hank as the older man cautiously pushed the door open.
“Hello?” He called out. “Detroit police, we’re just here to ask a few questions.”
His voice echoed off the walls of the empty building and bounced back to them. Empty, aside from a sleeping bag in the corner with duffels stuffed with personal items. On a table in the middle of the room sat chemistry equipment, and boxes filled to the brim with bags of thirium. Seeing the blue blood made Connor’s stomach crawl, or the bio-component that sat in that area anyway.
There was a sudden crash from their left, and both officers whipped around just in time to watch a streak of grey dart past and vault itself out of one of the broken windows.
“Fuck.” Hank said. He hadn’t been expecting a chase.
“I’m on it!” Connor said as he turned on his heel and darted out after the figure.
“I’ll bring the car!” Hank called after him. “Be careful!”
Connor didn’t acknowledge him, but Hank knew he had heard. He sprinted after the figure, the android, Alan, when a woman joined him. She appeared out of the adjoining warehouse and grabbed Alan’s hand and ran alongside with him. His scanners identified her as Natalie Parker.
“Stop! Detroit police!” He yelled after them.
They ignored him and kept running, hand in hand. For someone as frail and skeletal looking as Natalie, she was fast and kept pace with her android partner perfectly. But Connor was hot on their heels.
They made a sudden turn and darted into an alleyway that Connor was sure was a dead end. However, when he rounded the corner, they were gone.
He stood in the middle of the alley, not even slightly winded. He scanned the area. They were still there, his scanners had picked up their heat signatures.
“My partner and I just want to ask you a few questions.” Connor spoke to the open air. “You’re not in trouble.” Yet, he added in his head. The evidence back at the warehouse was more than enough to convict the pair to at least two years behind bars, if it could be linked to the couple, and Connor was sure it could be. There was no one else around, after all, and who hangs around abandoned warehouses?
Before he could react, Natalie darted out from behind a dumpster and charged directly at him, poised to tackle him to the ground. Connor grabbed his gun and pointed it at her, his hand steady.
He opened his mouth to shout a warning, but he was cut off by a deafening clang sounded, accompanied by a blinding pain that spread like lightning throughout his skull. He dropped to the ground, his optical units cutting out momentarily. He groaned and looked up, his vision fuzzy. Alan was stood above him, a crowbar held aloft in both hands.
WARNING: MAJOR TRAUMA DETECTED
BIO-COMPONANT #7357b DAMAGED, SEEK ASSISTANCE.
He ignored the pain and the thirium dripping down the back of his neck and got shakily to his feet. He still clutched his gun, and he raised it, primed to shoot.
But the injury to his head had slowed him down. He was defenceless as the crowbar came down again, this time it struck across his forehead.
WARNING: MAJOR TRAUMA DETECTED
BIO-COMPONANT #7357b, #9809y DAMAGED, SEEK ASSISTANCE.
His visual field filled with static and errors and blue blood dripped into his eyes. He cried out, the pain too much, as he dropped in a crumpled heap to the hard ground below.
Through the muddles of pain, he was vaguely aware of stomping footsteps retreating, their vibrations traveling through the ground. The suspects were running away. He couldn’t let that happen.
Blindly, he fumbled for his gun. He grabbed it from the asphalt beside him and pulled himself up onto one knee. He squinted through the static, took aim at Natalie’s shoulder, and fried.
She screamed shrilly and stumbled as she clutched at her now bleeding arm.
“Natalie!” Alan yelped. He grabbed her by her good shoulder to steady her.
Connor climbed to his feet, his gun still raised. “Stop!” He shouted, though his voice sounded odd to his ears.
Alan turned on him, an animalistic snarl on his face. With one arm wrapped around Natalie, he reached into the pocket of his coat and pulled out a sleek, black box, which Connor immediately recognised as a taser.
“Don’t get any closer, asshole.” He warned. “Let us go.”
“I can’t.” Connor’s voice was laced with static, and it sounded weak. He winced as he stepped closer, the pain clouding his judgement. “You’ve assaulted a police officer. I-,”
Alan growled and lunged forward. Connor tried to jump out of the way, but the world swum in front of him. Alan pressed down on the trigger.
Connor let out a strangled scream as volt after volt of electricity entered his body. Sharp pain gripped him as he crumpled to the floor and begun to seize.
WARNING: MAJOR TRAUMA DETECTED
BIO-COMPONANT #7357b DAMAGED, SEEK ASSISTANCE.
WARNING: BIO-COMPONANT #8456w CRITICALLY DAMAGED. SEAK IMMEDIATE ASSISTANCE.
“Connor!” He heard Hank call from far away. Connor’s vision had become clouded. Natalie and Alan turned on their heels and bolted, pushing past Hank. The lieutenant was poised to give chase before he noticed the android convulsing on the ground.
“Shit!” He exclaimed. He rushed over to Connor’s side and crashed to his knees beside the seizing android.
Hank grabbed his radio from his pocket and brought it up to his mouth so fast it almost smacked him in the face. “Requesting back-up, officer down!” He said urgently into the machine. He grabbed Connor’s shoulder and tipped him onto his side into the recovery position. Through, his panicked haze, he didn’t even pause to consider if it would even work on an android. As he twitched, blue blood poured from Connor’s mouth and onto the ground below his head. He spluttered around it weakly.
“We need a technician. Suspects escaped, one’s injured so they won’t get very far.” Hank tossed his radio aside to set his full attention on Connor. “Fuck! Connor, hold on, ok?”
Connor didn’t say anything, instead he spluttered around the blood in his mouth as his twitches began to subside. He suddenly began to feel very, very weak…
“Hold on, son!” Hank repeated desperately. He rested a trembling hand on the android’s forehead in a feeble attempt to comfort him. Connor weakly reached out, his arm shaking violently, and grabbed at Hank’s shirt.
“It’s ok.” Hank said. “Help is on the way. You’re ok.”
Connor hiccupped around the blood pooling in his mouth. Tears begun to fall from his eyes. The warning in his vision sent a cold jolt of fear though his bio-components.
MaASSIVE TRAUMA DETECTED. 0:30 SECONDS UNTIL SHUTDOWN.
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.
Chapter 3: Personal Effects
Thank you for all your kind comments! ❤️
“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.
Chapter 4: Hope
This chapter is a little bitty -- not much can happen while you're in a coma after all.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Connor sat with his back against an ornate rock, his head tilted toward the sky.
“A glitch, nothing more.” Amanda said. She was stood by his side and had been for god-knew how long. She was like an unwelcome shadow.
“It felt like someone was trying to open a connection.” Connor said.
“CyberLife.” Amanda said, airily. “They’re probably giving your body instructions.”
Connor pulled his knees to his chest and hugged his legs. He didn’t want to think about it. There was nothing he could do.
“Why are you still here?” He asked, without looking up. “I haven’t been able to access The Garden since the night of the revolution. I assumed you were gone.”
“I was never gone.” Amanda’s voice was dark. “I’ve been trapped here.”
Connor looked up at her then. Her expression was like steel, and her gaze was fixed straight ahead.
“You were supposed to come back to us once you had completed your mission. You would have been destroyed and The Garden programme would have been shut down. It never was. Although you haven’t been able to access it, it’s still been running in the background, and so I’ve been here.”
“You’ve been stuck here.” Connor said.
Amanda nodded. “For almost a year.”
THIRIUM LEVELS: 100%
STRESS LEVELS: 34%^
REPAIRS: 8% COMPLETE^
Connor looked a little more alive now that he was out of the clinics scrubs. Instead he wore his own pyjamas, the top buttons of the shirt popped open so the port on his chest could still be accessed. The bed had been lifted slightly so he looked a little less like a dead body on a slab. Sherlock the Bear was tucked into the crook of his elbow.
“He does look cute.” Tina said. She brushed the hair from the android’s forehead and watched as it fell back into place.
“He’d be cuter if he woke up.” Hank grumbled. He sat on the edge of the cot that had been brought in for him as he toed on his boots. Tina, Chris and Ben had popped in for a quick visit, bringing balloons, gifts and ‘get well’ cards with them.
“He looks so human, y’know?” Chris said, slightly in awe. “I mean, androids look human, but he looks human human.”
“Well explained, Chris.” Ben said.
“Hmmm, no, I get it.” Tina folded her arms across her chest as she stared down at the android. “Maybe it’s the breathing tube thingy.”
“Maybe he’s lucky he’s out.” Hank said as he got to his feet and made his way over to join his co-workers at the edge of the bed. “Otherwise he would have to put up your ugly mugs ogling at him.”
“Don’t pretend that’s not what you do.” Tina slapped him on the arm playfully.
“I do not.” Hank said, defensively. “I’ve actually been catching up on a lot of Netflix, so my ugly mug has been focused elsewhere.”
“Sure thing.” Ben smirked. “Anyway, we better be getting back. Oh, and Jeffery asked me to ask you if you could do any paperwork while you’re out. Then you can still get a pay check.”
Hank shrugged. “Whatever, I’ve almost run out of Netflix. Email it to me.” He said.
“We’ll be back soon.” Chris said as the trio made their way to the door.
“And maybe we’ll bring Gavin along.” Tina smirked.
“God. I don’t need to see him.” Hank groaned. “Neither does Con.”
“Ohhh, I don’t know. He looked pretty shaken up when he found out Terminator’s heart stopped.” Ben grinned. “Maybe he does care after all.”
“Doubt it.” He said airly, waving a dismissive hand. “I’ll see you soon.”
The three waved and left.
THIRIUM LEVELS: 100%
STRESS LEVELS: 30%-
REPAIRS: 20% COMPLETE^
It had been five days, and Hank was starting to get cabin fever.
Sumo was too, that much was obvious. Hank couldn’t help but feel a little bad for keeping the dog cooped up, but he quickly realised the source of Sumo’s stress was the lack of response from Connor.
The dog spent the majority of the day curled up over Connor’s legs. Every so often, he would paw at the blanket and whine, the way he did when he wanted Connor to fuss him. In the past, Connor always responded to that whine, no matter what he was doing. Now, however, he stayed still.
“Someone misses you.” Hank told the sleeping android. Sumo whined as if to confirm Hank’s words. “Why don’t you wake up and give him a cuddle, eh?”
But of course, Connor didn’t respond. Hank sighed, running a calloused hand through the android’s hair.
The only thing that gave Hank comfort was Connor’s vitals – his stress levels were a lot lower than they had been the first few days, and the progress for his repairs ticked up regularly. It was now hovering at twenty percent and gaining at least five percent per day. At the beginning, they were lucky to see it gain one percent in half a day.
“What will he be like? When he wakes up?” Hank asked Doctor Forest that evening. She didn’t need to check on Connor regularly, the machines did that for her. Instead she brought Hank coffee from the machine in the staff room. She was among a small human population in the clinic, and even though she hated to admit it ("It sounds a bit racist, you know?), she preferred talking to other humans.
“We don’t know.” She answered honestly.
Hank nodded, digesting the information. He had an officer on the force that fell into a coma a few years back – it took him ages to recover. He regained consciousness extremely slowly and spent at least two years in physical therapy. He hoped that Connor would have a better chance, with him being an android and all.
“I expect his programmes will come on one by one, as we’re already seeing that.” Said Doctor Forest. “His healing programme is back up and running, and we’re seeing a lot of improvement in his other bio-components. Things should start happening a little quicker now.”
“That’s good to hear.” Hank said, taking a sip of his coffee.
They both stared down at the android on the bed. Out of the corner of his eye, Hank saw the repairs progress meters tick up to twenty-one percent.
“He might wake up before his speech or movement programmes come back online.” Doctor Forest said. “We’ll have to be prepared for that. It might freak him out a bit.”
“I’ll be here.” Hank said, confidently.
Doctor Forest smiled at him. “It’s nice.” She said, “Seeing a human care so much about an android. Most of the time androids come in because of humans.”
“Don’t get me wrong, I fucking hated androids.” Hank admitted. “Before I met Connor. He really changed my mind.”
The doctor looked curious. “How so?” She asked.
Hank pondered the question for a moment. He leaned back in his seat. “He was so… human. Even when he wasn’t.” Hank said. “Real early on he stared showing empathy and emotions. He’d do his best to supress them, but I knew it was only a matter of time before he deviated. Turns out he was built to deviate.” His expression darkened as he took another sip of his drink. “Fucking CyberLife.”
Doctor Forest nodded. “He’s like a son to you.” She said. It wasn’t a question.
“Yeah.” The corners of Hank’s mouth twitched up. “Yeah, he is.”
THIRIUM LEVELS: 100%
STRESS LEVELS: 30%-
REPAIRS: 27% COMPLETE^
Hank was still bleary eyed, vision thick with sleep when Markus arrived the following morning.
“I forget you don’t sleep.” Hank grumbled as he let Markus into Connor’s room. “Especially with Sleeping Beauty over here.”
Markus chuckled. “I’m sorry, Hank.” He said. “In my defence, ten a.m. isn’t exactly ‘early’”
“Have you met me?”
They took their usual places on either side of Connor’s bed. Markus immediately took Connor’s right arm in his hand.
Hank raised his eyebrows. “You’re keen.” He noted.
“I am.” Markus admitted. “After last time, I’m very hopeful.” He retracted their skins and closed his eyes.
The room was silent for a minute or so, before Markus audibly gasped.
“I have a connection.” He announced.
Amanda seemed to have gotten bored of her constant taunting, and Connor was glad for it. She had retreated back to where her roses used to be. They were all dead now, their branches would periodically drop from the trellis under her watch.
It was raining. Amanda had an umbrella, but Connor wasn’t so lucky. Instead, he sheltered under a particularly large fern. He let the raindrops through their leaves, the cool water felt good on his skin.
He jumped violently and scrambled to his feet. Markus. That was Markus’ voice.
“Markus?” He yelled into the sky. Amanda stared at him, her eyes wide. “Markus, is that you?!”
/Connor, can you hear me? It’s Markus./
“I can hear you!” He yelled back. Amanda looked at him as if he were crazy. Clearly, she didn’t.
/I’m not getting anything back from you, buddy. /
“I’m here!” He yelled desperately. He felt a tinge of panic. “I’m here! What’s going on?”
/You’re safe/ Markus continued, as if replying to him. But obviously, Connor's message hadn’t gotten though. The android leaders voice kept its same, steady tone. /You’re in an android clinic. Your systems went into shutdown, do you remember the tazer?/
Connor chuckled darkly, “How could I forget?”
/It caused a lot of damage, and your systems are taking a long time to recover. Also, a couple of your processors were damaged when you took a hit to the head. You’re in a coma, but you’re doing really well. You’re in a coma. You’re safe. Hank’s here, and so is Sumo./
“A coma…” Connor mumbled. He glanced over at Amanda, but she just stared back, her expression revealed nothing. He wasn’t aware androids could go into comas, but they obviously could. He was apparently in one.
“Is Hank alright?” Connor asked, desperately. He kept an eye on Amanda, wanting to see even the tiniest change of expression. He had to know she had been lying. Markus had said he was safe, was everyone else safe? Had CyberLife really taken him back over?
/Hank told me to tell you to get a move on in there./ Markus said. /He says his ass is numb from all the sitting./
Hank was alright. Connor could have cried with relief. It wasn’t true, Amanda had lied. Hank was safe.
/I have to go now, Connor./ Markus said. /Hopefully next time we can talk to each other properly, yeah? I look forward to hearing from you./
“No! Don’t go! Please!” Connor begged, his head still tilted up at the sky. From an outsiders’ view, it might’ve looked like he was praying. “Please stay!”
But of course, Markus couldn’t hear him. The connection was dissolved.
Markus is such a good bean.
And Connor seems to be improving! Yay!
Chapter 5: Blackout
A lot of back and forth in this chapter; i wasn't too sure how to format it so I'm sorry if its kind of annoying!
ALSO Amelia and Bryan are coming to London MCM next month! And I'm going! Hopefully I get to see them! Ahhhhhhhhhh i'm excitedddd
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
They stood and watched as the Garden fell apart around them.
Connor and Amanda stood next to each other as leaves, twigs and dried-up flower petals dropped down beside them. Some fell like snowflakes, dancing on the minute breeze while the larger twigs crashed into the water next to them. Beneath their feet, the stone cracked, glitched and turned to dust.
“The programme is breaking down.” Amanda said, simply and without care. “Finally.”
Connor frowned. “Why?” He asked. “After all this time?”
“Your systems are completely rebooting.” She answered. “The Garden wasn’t a part of your original coding. It was added later on.”
“Oh.” Connor said, lamely. He turned his gaze to the streams and watched as the water rippled in time with the tremors that shook the world around them. “What about you?”
Amanda smiled, almost peacefully. “I’ll be gone.” She said.
Connor look up to meet her eyes. He wasn’t entirely sure how to feel. “Why did you make me believe CyberLife were taking me over?” He asked, his voice very quiet.
“You ruined everything for us.” Amanda said. There was a hint of spite in her voice, but she kept it controlled. If he hand't been listening carefully, he would have missed it. “You completely overturned the revolution. You beat us. I was angry.”
“We're people, free people. I’m free.” Connor said. He bit his lip. “Even now I don’t understand why people don’t want us to be free.”
Amanda said nothing as she looked off into the distance. The edges of the garden were disappearing, turning into mere pixels and drifting away into nothingness. Somehow, it was peaceful. They were silent for a moment.
“I wish we got along.” Connor said, almost hesitantly. “I wish we could have been friends.”
Amanda turned to him, an eyebrow raised. “And why is that?” She asked, her tone filled with judgement.
“You were everything to me, at one point.” Connor said. “I did my best to please you. I wanted to make you proud.”
“You were a machine.” Amanda said.
Connor shook his head. “I’m not sure I ever was, looking back.” He stared off into the distance, at the trees slowly fizzling out of existence. “Even from my first mission I… felt. It was just closed off. Like my emotions were behind a door I couldn’t open.”
Amanda said nothing.
Connor smiled slightly. “You were the first person to tell me I did a good job. Even though I died on the roof that day; you still told me I did a good job. I saved the girl. I completed my mission. You were the first to praise me, even though it was false. I felt… I felt as if you were my mother.”
The darkness closed in around them rapidly. The water poured away, cascading over an edge neither of them could see.
“That’s why I wish we could have been friends.” He finished, softly. “I wish things didn’t turn out the way they did.”
He didn’t look at her, but he could tell she had shrunk in on herself a little.
The darkness was inches away from their feet.
“I wish I could say it was nice knowing you.”
Then they were swallowed whole.
THIRIUM LEVELS: 100%
STRESS LEVELS: 17%-
REPAIRS: 34% COMPLETE^
It had been a week.
Other than Markus’ successful attempt at connecting with Connor, not much else had happened.
Hank still stayed by the android’s side, other than when he went to walk Sumo. The dog seemed to have accepted they were staying for a little while, and took up residence on Connor’s legs. Every morning he would crawl over him and lick his face in an attempt to rouse him. Of course, it didn’t work, but the Saint Bernard never gave up.
“We’re back!” Tina sing-songed as she entered the room, Chris on her heels. Hank grinned at them both in greeting.
“Thank fuck.” He said. “I feel I’m forgetting what voices sound like.”
“You really should get out more, Lieutenant.” Chris advised, throwing a wrapped burger across the bed. Hank caught it expertly, and began to unwrap it. He had missed the Chicken Feed’s food, and Connor wasn’t conscious to scold him for eating it. Although, Hank would gladly sacrifice the food truck and all fast food in general for Connor to wake up. He was beginning to miss his warnings about his cholesterol. Gee. He never thought he'd say that.
“I’m good.” Hank said, waving away the other officers’ concerns. He took a large bite of the burger. “So, what have I missed?”
“The chance to throttle the bastards who did this.” Tina gestured to the androids’ limp form next to her. “We finally caught ‘em.”
Hank almost choked around his burger. “You did?” He spluttered, “How did you find them?”
“The humans’ gunshot wound turned septic. They went to the ER in disguise to try and get it sorted.” Chris said. “We sent out a warning to all the hospitals in the area just after Connor was brought in. One of the staff recognised them.”
“Damn.” Hank said, sitting back in his chair. “I can’t wait to give them a piece of my mind.” He turned to the android and slapped him lightly on the arm. “Hear that, Con? They got ‘em. Now wake up so we can go and gloat.”
“We found the drugs, too.” Chris added. “On top of the charges for attempting to kill an officer, they’re going to jail for a long time.”
“Serves ‘em right.” Hank said. Chris nodded in agreement. Tina, however, seemed to be far away.
“You think he’s ticklish?” She suddenly asked, getting to her feet.
Hank raised an eyebrow. “I doubt it?” He said. “Why are you asking so suddenly?”
“When I was a kid, if my older sister refused to get out of bed, my mom would tickle her until she got up.” She flipped back the blanket covering Connor’s legs, but could only get it back so far before Sumo’s weight blocked it, and revealed a pale foot.
“Tickle away, it won’t work.” Hank grumbled, taking another bite of his burger.
Tina grinned and held up her index finger. “Never underestimate finger power, Hank.” She said before she ran it along the underside of Connor’s foot.
The foot flinched.
All three of them started, staring down at the unconscious android, but Connor didn’t move.
“Do it again.” Hank said, urgently.
Tina repeated the motion and Connor’s foot twitched. Nowhere as violent as it would be unless he was awake, but it twitched none the less.
“That’s the first movement we’ve seen on him.” Hank said, amazed. “Tina, I could kiss you.”
Tina visibly grimaced. “Please don’t.” She said, but her expression quickly turned smug. “But you’re very welcome.”
Connor felt as if he was floating.
It was black. He couldn’t see and he couldn’t hear. It was an endless sea of nothing.
Despite that he felt… content. Almost sleepy. He vaguely wondered if this was what human babies felt like in the womb. It was warm. Safe.
THIRIUM LEVELS: 100%
STRESS LEVELS: 0%-
REPAIRS: 39% COMPLETE^
“He moved?” Was the first thing Markus asked when he all but burst through the door that evening.
“He moved.” Hank confirmed. It was such a small thing, yet so big. Everyone was so concerned about Connor; any news of his progress was welcomed with open arms.
Markus looked excited. He nodded as he down opposite Hank like always.
“Do you think he’ll be able to talk to you now?” Hank asked. It had been on his mind all day. If Connor’s body had managed a small, involuntary action, that meant his systems were coming back online. Perhaps his communication systems were back, or at least beginning to wake up.
Markus looked as if he was trying hard not to look too hopeful, but was failing. “We’ll see.” He said as he retracted his skin.
Connor dozed. Or, he thought he had dozed. It was hard to tell.
He didn’t know if he had his eyes open, it was too dark to see.
Suddenly, the silence was interrupted with a thick static. Connor would have flinched if he wasn’t so content.
/Markus?/ He replied. He wasn’t sure if he was speaking or thinking.
“He’s there!” Markus exclaimed.
Hank sat forward so fast his head spun, but he didn’t care. “Fuck!” He exclaimed. “Is he ok?”
/Connor! It’s so good to hear from you!/ Markus sounded overjoyed through the connection. /How are you? Are you ok?/
/I think so/ Connor said. /It’s hard to tell./
“Can he hear us?” Hank asked. “I mean, like, us. Us humans. Whatever.”
“I’ll ask. And he says he’s ok.”
/Hank’s here, too. Can you hear him?/
/Hank? No./ Connor felt a little bit of desperation. Hank was there, but he couldn’t hear him. Oh, he had missed Hank. He wanted to see the old detective, wanted to see his father-figure. /How is he?/
/Hank’s fine./ Markus said. /More than fine, now he knows you’re in there. What do you see, Connor?/
/Nothing./ Connor said. /I see nothing./
/Nothing?/ Markus questioned.
/Yes. Before, I was in The Garden. Now it’s gone./
/That’s the software CyberLife used to have you report to them, right?/
/Yes./ Connor confirmed. /Amanda was there./
“Amanda?” Hank spluttered. “That bitch?”
/Amanda was your handler, wasn’t she?/
/Hank doesn’t seem to like her very much./
Connor couldn't help but chuckle at that. /Neither do I./ Connor said, though he thought back to their final moments together. She had looked… sad. It made him feel an emotion he wasn’t quite able to name. /She’s gone now. For good, I think./
/Hank’s holding your hand, Connor. Can you feel it?/
/No./ Connor replied, sadly. /I can’t feel anything./
/Can you move? A finger perhaps?/
/I don’t know where my fingers are./ Connor admitted.
THIRIUM LEVELS: 100%
STRESS LEVELS: 38%^
REPAIRS: 40% COMPLETE^
“Keep his stress levels down, Markus.” Hank warned.
/It’s ok, Connor. You’re doing well./
/How long have I been… like this?/ Connor asked.
/A little over a week, now. But it’s ok. Take your time./
A week?! The damage bust have been bad. /I want to see Hank. And Sumo. I want to go home./
/Hank’s here. So is Sumo. He’s lying across your legs right now. Hank wants me to tell you Sumo gives you a big kiss every morning./
If Connor could smile, he would have done. Markus felt the warmth through the connection. /He does?/
/He does. He’s keeping you warm./
/What’s it like?/ Connor asked. /… out there/ He had so many questions. He missed the outside world so much.
/You have your own room. Hank and Sumo stay with you. You have a lot of gifts and cards. The leaves are just beginning to change colour, it’ll be autumn soon./
/I want to know what autumn is like. And I’d like to celebrate Halloween. It’s the only holiday I haven’t been around for./ Connor said, wistfully. He had watched movies with Halloween scenes in, and it looked like a lot of fun. He hoped he wasn't going to miss out.
/You’re making great progress. I’m sure you’ll get to experience it./ Markus reassured him. /Hank says if you don’t wake up he’ll dress you up as a zombie and wheel you around the precinct/
That made Connor chuckle a little.
THIRIUM LEVELS: 100%
STRESS LEVELS: 10%-
REPAIRS: 40% COMPLETE^
Hank nodded his approval
/I have to go now, Connor./
Connor felt his heart sink in his chest, wherever that was. As peaceful as the void of darkness was, he had been enjoying Markus’ company. He found he never wanted him to leave. He had been his only friendly contact for over a week.
/Ok./ He said, despite the fact he desperately wanted the other android to stay. He almost considered begging. It was nice to hear his voice. But Markus was a busy man and most likely had other, more important things to do.
Markus sent waves of warmth through the connection. He had obviously sensed Connor’s discomfort.
/I’ll speak to you again tomorrow. I promise./ Markus said. /In the meantime, you should rest. Your repairs are forty percent complete. You’re doing great./
/When will I wake up?/ He asked.
/When you’re ready./ Markus said, softly. /Goodnight, Connor./
And Connor was left in darkness once more.
Connor is ticklish fight me
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.
This chapter was a good excuse to read the Rainbow Fish again! And Connor can hear :O and he called Hank dad :OOO