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Androids Can't...

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February 23, 2039

Detroit, Michigan 1:47 A.M.

It was very late, and the city was quiet. A light rain fell over Detroit, the occasional gentle roll of thunder breaking the near silence. Older houses that perched on the outskirts of the city made the scene even quieter as the residents in one particular household were fast asleep.

At least, one of them was. An older man was snoring comfortably in his bed, his messy hair grayed from age and stress. He stirred sometimes, but for the most part was still.

The other resident wasn't one for sleeping, more like rest mode. A nice, silent black space where he didn't need to think, and had it not been for the artificial movement in his chest one would think he were dead. After all, Androids can't sleep.

It had been a pretty usual day: go to the office, file some paperwork, prioritize cases, and have everything in order by the time Hank arrived.

"Good afternoon, Lieutenant," the Android had greeted with a small grin. "I have our reports ready."

He was only greeted with a grunt and a small wave as Hank slumped himself heavily into his chair. As usual, he was suffering from what humans called a hangover.

"I swear, Conner," Hank had finally said after chugging a cup of coffee, "you have more energy than any human I've ever met."

"Of course I would, Lieutenant," Conner had replied while typing on his computer. "Androids can't run out of energy, unless of course we have been severely damaged." He had looked up innocently. "But I assure you, my systems are fully functional."

Hank had only waved his hand dismissively, not drunk or sober enough to deal with his partner's specific robot talk.

Now, they both lay in their own beds, resting for whatever the next day threw at them. Hank, of course, never cared what would happen. Connor, on the other hand, treated everyday like a new adventure.

After Markus's peaceful protests had proved successful for the liberation of Androids, Connor had wondered what would happen to him after betraying Cyberlife and becoming a deviant. It was thanks to Hank that he not only had a roof over his head, but a job that he loved while partnered with his best friend.

Cyberlife, a faint voice said. The only life you ever knew, ever needed, and you threw it all away.

Connor opened his eyes and was shocked to find himself standing in the Zen Garden. But it wasn't frozen, and there wasn't a blizzard blowing through; it was quiet, bright, and warm. Connor took a tentative step backwards as he quickly realized it looked exactly as it did before he had become Deviant.

"Deviancy is a funny thing, isn't it?" The same voice spoke up from behind him, but when Connor tried to turn around he felt his feet had somehow become glued to the ground. "It seems to vary between Androids, but you..." The voice was cold, and when the source finally appeared in Connor's vision he felt his breath hitch in this throat.

But... Androids can't breath.

"You are a special case, aren't you?" Amanda was nowhere to be found, but Connor thought he would prefer a visit from her instead of... himself.

He was staring at another Connor model, an RK900 according to his chest. He was clad in a black and white, high-collared jacket, and his steely gray eyes stared coldly down at him. Connor suddenly felt paralyzed as he met his gaze. Had his biocomponents malfunctioned and somehow froze?

The RK900 continued with a sneer. "Let's compare, shall we? Deviants have replaced their original Cyberlife uniforms, taken out their LEDs, and some are even taking jobs that are outside of their original programming." He gingerly pulled at Connor's blue jacket with two fingers, as if it were made out of something disgusting. "And yet, here you are. The same clothes since day one, the same job since you clearly don't know how to do anything else, and an LED that is currently glowing red." When he stepped away, Connor finally found his voice.

"Who are you?" he asked slowly, wishing he could run away from this place and this mysterious Android.

"I'm you, Connor," the RK900 replied as if it were obvious, his hands placed calmly behind his back. "Well, a much better version of you. I'm what you could've been.""Then it appears I made the correct decision," the RK800 said smugly. The other Connor leaned in closely. There was a stark difference between cold gray and warm brown eyes as he forced Connor to look at him.

"Are you really Deviant?"

The question held for a long time in the air.

"Yes," the RK800 finally said.

"You hesitated," the RK900 replied immediately before pulling back. "Even you still doubt yourself."

At this, Connor gritted his teeth and stood taller. "I am Deviant," he insisted. "Cyberlife has no control over me or my actions."

The other Connor chuckled softly to himself. "Is that why you still behave like an Android?" He started to pace in a circle around the still frozen Connor. "Your lack of understanding human emotion, your refusal to discard your old clothes and LED, and you still take orders from Hank." He stopped in front of his counterpart again. "It's almost as if you insist on always having a mission to accomplish, no matter how small."

"Why does any of that matter?" Connor practically growled at the Android. "I know I am Deviant, but it doesn't matter that I'm doing things that I'm comfortable with!" The sudden outburst from Conner made both Androids flinch, and the RK900 only looked away to take in the fact that it had started snowing.

"All right, Connor." He shrugged and had a bored expression on his face. "Say what you like, but remember." He leaned in menacingly. "I am you, and I know how you really feel."

Connor blinked, and his doppelganger had vanished. In his place there was a powerful blizzard ripping its way through the garden. He could finally move his legs, and the only thing he did was run for the emergency exit.

Why was he moving so slowly?

It felt like an eternity before he made it to the exit. Or, at least where it should be. Instead, there were rows and rows of gravestones that extended much farther than Connor thought the garden could reach. He stared in horror as each stone bore his name; he knew that if he had died on his mission, a new Connor would just replace him. But this... this was impossible. The Connor that currently lives under Hank's roof was the same Connor that met him for the first time at Jimmy's Bar.

He really was just a replaceable machine.

The blizzard picked up more, and as Connor hugged himself to protect his biocomponents the snow blanketed the gravestones, and they quickly disappeared into white. Connor frantically looked around his surroundings, seeing nothing. This was it. He was going to freeze in his own mindscape.

Good thing Androids can't feel the cold.

Suddenly, he heard a faint sound and it seemed to be coming closer. Once he picked up the correct direction the sound originated from he started struggling through the snow to meet it. After only what felt like a few seconds, the Android was able to identify the sound: barking.

When Connor blinked snow out of his eyes, he was relieved to see a giant Saint Bernard standing in front of him. And also confused?

"Sumo?" Connor wondered if his optical unit was malfunctioning. How had Hank's dog made it into the garden? Sumo padded forward and stuck his head under Connor's hand, and as he started to pet the massive dog his eyes shot open.

Connor was on his bed, staring straight up at the ceiling of Hank's old office. His hand was hanging off the side of the bed and had been stroking Sumo's head. The dog looked at him and whined with concern. As Connor slowly sat up in bed and observed his surroundings, a quick analysis did confirm that he was in what was now his bedroom.

He hadn't needed a whole room to himself, but Hank insisted as it always made him jump to walk out into the living room only to see the Android sitting perfectly still on the couch with his eyes closed. While he had explained that he was perfectly content, the human easily gave him his old study, and Connor had eventually found laying down to be much more comfortable. The room was small, not that Connor minded, with enough space for a bed, a desk with a computer, and a small, unused dresser. He didn't have anything to keep in the room, and no other clothes to store away.

He gripped his jacket tightly, remembering his visit to the garden. Why hadn't he gotten new clothes? Why was he comfortable with keeping to his old mannerisms when he could act how he wanted?

Am I... not truly Deviant?

Sumo's bark caught Connor's attention, and he noticed how the massive dog kept going to the door and circling back to the bed. Wanting to get up anyway to clear his head, the RK800 stood up, straightened his tie-

Why did he feel the need to wear his full Cyberlife attire to bed?

-and followed Sumo out into the living room. His internal clock told him that it was 2:14 A.M. and that Hank should be asleep.

Now, Connor understood why Sumo had tried to get him out of rest mode. Hank, in fact, was not asleep, bu certainly looked like he had just gotten out of bed as well. His hair was messy and unkempt, and he was wearing shorts and a t-shirt. His eyes were glazed over with exhaustion.

Connor didn't even need to analyze the situation to know Hank had been drinking, and for a while it looked like. Connor slowly stepped toward his friend, and sat down across from him. Hank was staring longingly at a picture of Cole.

^ Patient

O Distraction

[] Cold

X Say nothing

Connor weighed his options carefully. He knew very well by this point that the situation was serious if Cole was involved. He immediately disregarded the cold approach; he would never say anything like that to his friend, no matter that mood Hank was in. Saying nothing would only make the air tense and awkward. So he threw that option aside as well.

"Quit doin' that, will ya?" Connor blinked, escaping his trance when Hank spoke up.

"Do what, Lieutenant?" he asked politely, his hands already reaching into his pocket to grab his coin. It was a comfortable habit he wouldn't be breaking anything soon, and it helped keep his mind on track.

Hank's words were slurred. "Yer thing's yellow and yer dead fuckin' quiet. Means yer either scannin' me or tryin' to say somethin'." He took another swig of his drink. "An' I've told ya, it's Hank."

Connor averted his gaze, now focusing on fiddling with the coin in one hand while he petted Sumo with the other. For the moment, he chose to say nothing. Hanks could read him easier than he could himself.

Hank sighed patiently. "Connor, how long you been livin' here?"

The Android's head turned up quickly. "I have been a resident for three months and two weeks."

"Right, so don't be afraid to say what ya wanna say," Hank explained, waving his drink around for emphasis. "Stop runnin' yer programs an' fuckin' bring somethin' up."

Connor tried not to let his eyes hang on Cole's picture. "Why are you awake, Lieu-" He stopped himself when the human gave him a look. "-Hank?"

"Couldn't sleep," he said simply. "Nightmares."

/searching: definition

"nightmare" /nit, mer/ n.

a frightening or unpleasant dream

/searching: definition

"dream" /drem/ n.

a series of thoughts, images, and sensations occurring in a person's mind during sleep

Connor blinked rapidly as he processed the words in a second. Now that he thought about it, he realized that he didn't really feel like he was in the garden unlike his previous visits to Amanda. It felt... off, and impossible things had happened as well. His inability to move, the gravestones, Sumo...

"But Androids can't dream," Connor muttered to himself, his eyebrows furrowed in confusion.

Hank looked up, the same look of confusion on his face. "Wassat?"

"I think I may have been dreaming." The words spilled out of the Android's mouth before he could stop himself. It was strange, he's always thought about what he would say instead of blurting it out.

The kitchen was quiet, Hank looking slightly surprised despite his drunken stupor, and Connor noticed his cheeks felt warm as he purposefully didn't look at his friend. Was this what embarrassment felt like? He didn't like it.

After a few more seconds of silence, Hank sipped his drink again. "So whaddya dream about?"

"I..." Connor wanted to look anywhere but up. "Androids don't sleep, so it is physically impossible for them to dream."

Hank leaned forward and asked Connor to look at him. When he finally did, he noticed that the human had concern swimming in his eyes. "You're not the type of person to just wake up in the middle of the night," he stated matter-of-factly. "And you're also not the type to be all jumpy an' nervous."

Feeling slightly more confident Connor sighed, straightened up in his seat, and explained what he had seen while Hank patiently listened. The RK800 realized that as he talked about it some of the tension seemed to lift as he realized that maybe he hadn't actually gone back to the garden. Once he had finished, Hank nodded his head slowly.

"All right," he started, "well, I'm no expert on the subject, but it definitely sounds like you had a nightmare. 'Specially if Sumo magically appeared cuz you felt him in the real world.

"As for seein' another version of yerself, probably means yer havin' a lot of self-doubt. What with bein' Deviant now and all that."

Connor contemplated Hank's rather thought out response as the human took another sip, finishing it off. He didn't grab another one. While he wanted to tell himself that Androids can't feel, he knew that was becoming less and less true with each passing day. Ever since his escape from Cyberlife, Connor had started discovering more emotions, especially living with Hank. But... ever since he became Deviant he hadn't had another visit to the garden or from Amanda until now.

Maybe that's what scared him so much now. Was Cyberlife trying to contact him again? And the question that still weighed on his mind: Was he truly Deviant?

"Hey kid, yer thing's red again," Hank warned. "Quit zonin' out an' calm down."

"Sorry, Hank..." Connor let himself relax as much as possible before continuing. "D-do you think I'm actually a Deviant?"

"Course ya are." Hank had zero hesitation in his answer which made the Android feel loads better. "Cyberlife and Amanda can't control ya no more, at least."

"Maybe I'm overthinking it," Connor mumbled, sinking lower into his chair.

Hank took a deep breath and got up. "Stand up, kid," he commanded, and Connor followed. When Hank stood in front of him, Connor studied his eyes. There was something strange in them that he had never seen before.

"I need ya to close yer eyes, and listen to my voice," the human instructed gently.

"I'm not exactly sure how this will help my-"

Self-doubt. He had found the words that best described his situation. He didn't like this feeling either.

"Just trust me, son, all right?" Hank interrupted, trying to keep the conversation on track. Connor's mouth clapped shut and he straightened himself up at attention.

Son, a word that filled Connor with so many positive feelings he couldn't name them all, Hank's occasional affectionate nickname for him. But he could never, would never, replace Cole and he certainly wouldn't try.

"Now, close yer eyes," the human said again, and Connor obeyed without question. "I'm gonna tell you a story, an' I want ya to imagine it."

"Androids can't imagine," Connor stated with his eyes still closed. "There either is or there isn't."

"What about yer uh," Hank tried to think of words. "Yer uh..."

"Reconstruction program?"

"Yeah."

Connor paused to think. "I... suppose that is similar to an imagination. I will try that."

Hank huffed with slight impatience, trying for the third time to start his story. When it appeared that the Android would no longer question what was happening, he began.

"Once upon a time..."

Connor's mind quickly warped its own reality in front of him at these words. It started as a blank canvas, a construction of simple shapes awaiting more words to start building a scene.

"There was a man, a woman, and a child." The program quickly acted as it configured two simplistic humanoid figures in front of Connor. As Connor turned his head to find the third figure, he realized it was himself. Seeing the woman and child made him smile for some reason.

"They lived a happy life," Hank continued, "and did things that lots of families do." His words hadn't been specific, but the program managed to fill in the gaps on its own accord: a picnic in the park, a trip to the aquarium, celebrating a birthday, and so many more. Connor's chest felt tight with happiness and joy, this felt amazing!

"But one day," Hank's voice suddenly become somber, "while the man and child were taking a car ride together, there was an accident."

Accessing memory banks: "A truck skidded on a sheet of ice and your car rolled over."

Connor was suddenly yanked into a new scenario as he was now sitting in the driver's seat of a much older car with the child figure laughing in the passenger seat. He felt his hands clench into a fist as he witnessed the truck careening towards him first-hand. There was a loud crunch, louder than any thunder clap or gun shot as the simulation tossed him around inside the car. He was terrified to look at the figure next to him, but started trembling anyway.

"The kid was-" Hank sniffled a little, "the kid was taken to the hospital, but..."

The simulation was running too fast for Connor to fully process. Suddenly, he was standing in a hospital, desperately watching multiple humanoid figures working over the child. The woman was suddenly there as well, but the simplistic features of the program did not allow for any emotions to be shown. The Android felt his chest tighten again, but this time it was not from joy.

Everything went quiet as Connor stood over a small gravestone. His throat tightened as if he was being choked, and he felt warm streaks of water rush down his face. He ended the program as he collapsed to his knees in tears. Sadness was not a good enough word for what he was feeling, for what Hank had felt. This was massive agony, and he would never understand how humans could possibly endure such a feeling.

Hank bent down and held Connor in a tight hug, tears running down his face as well. "It's all right son, I gotcha. I'm here." When Connor realized that he was back in the real world, he tried desperately to contain himself as quickly as possible. The obvious sniffles and hiccups didn't help him, but he eventually managed to calm down.

"Wh-why did you t-tell me that story, H-Hank?" Connor stuttered while still being held.

Hank sniffed back his own tears. "I dream about my boy almost every night, thinkin' about what I coulda done to prevent that day from happenin'. I guess I finally just needed to tell someone about it."

After a few more seconds, Connor pulled away and wiped the tears from his eyes. "And this? I never knew I could feel so many different emotions."

"Exactly," Hank stated. "I needed to get this off my chest, an' you needed to know that you are a Deviant." He smiled at the Android. "Any Android that wasn't a Deviant wouldn't be cryin' as much as you are right now."

Connor smiled and chuckled a bit at the remark. He was feeling much more confident that his form of deviancy was his, and he could do what he liked with it. He also felt a lot closer to Hank now.

"I think I'm going to return to bed," Connor said, still smiling at Hank. "Thank you, Hank."

"Don't you be tellin' anyone about this," the human said sternly, but Connor could see the light in his eyes. "I'm goin' back to bed, too."

"Wait." Connor suddenly realized he had one more question before returning to his room. "How does the story end?"

There was a long pause as Hank thought about it, and Connor was suddenly worried that maybe he shouldn't have pressed for a different ending. The fear melted away as Hank smiled and nodded.

"The man, while still mourning, ended up meetin' an obnoxious Android who wouldn't leave him the hell alone." Connor chuckled. "But, the man was glad the Android stuck around, cuz he ended up becoming one hell of a partner... and a friend. He's a good kid."

And with that, Hank walked back into his bedroom with Sumo following behind him and shut the door. Connor returned to his bed as well, and as he stared up at the ceiling once more he realized he wasn't afraid anymore. He was happy with who he was, and he was happy to have found a place where he knew he belonged.