Blue-tinted Red Walls (Chapter 10: All in)
my entry for the @dbhau-bigbang. also part of the groom lake aftermath series.
In the past, Ryder took her first step.
In the present, the revolution is in full force.
In the past, Chloe catalogued the situation.
also on ao3
It was March, but the polar Urals were still cold and stormy, the outside world blindingly bright with howling blizzards during the few hours of daylight and completely dark for the nighttime that consumes the mountains for the rest of the day. The glass had been attached to solid rock, but somehow, not once did it rattle even in the face of wind strong enough to break most other materials, and despite the snow outside, Ryder was dressed in only simple dress shirt and trousers, tendrils of blue dancing on her right hand and supporting a pin of the earth under an arch split in the middle. Her powers suddenly dissipated, the pin dropping onto a metallic hand with a small clink and continued making the noise because it started vibrating, and a swipe of her thumb against the surface silenced it.
‘Ryder?’ the pin emitted a voice. ‘Who pays for our parents’ sin?’
Ryder sighed. ‘Not themselves, not their successors, and certainly not the world. You have an update for me.’
‘How do you know?’
‘That was my order and you are smart enough to remember.’
‘He lived. There are complications but… he lived.’
‘He doesn’t remember the Candidate at all. All associated memories, gone. That’s why I delayed telling you about him being awake: I need to access the damage.’
‘You don’t sound surprised.’
‘I believe this is not the first time this has happened.’
‘When we grew up together, I noticed a few inconsistencies between his own account surrounding his life and those from the people around him. Fussy details, contradictory recalling of events, reluctance to share the problems in-depth. I think it’s related to what had happened before you and I were born.’
Outside, the storm picked up, and the wind whisked by with a loud whistle. ‘We can sort out the reasons later. How much does he remember?’
‘He keeps talking about how you threw a building on him and is convinced that Blue Sunset is some secret NASA project, but otherwise? Not much. Like I said, everything related to the Candidate is gone.’
‘And he doesn’t realise that he has lost a large part of his life?’
‘He’s making things up along the way. Trips, what he has been doing for the past few years, his time with me before that. It would’ve been a fascinating study on how the human brain rationalises the irrational if it hadn’t been the shitshow this might lead to.’
‘His knowledge is completely gone together with his memories. I don’t know why or how, but he is no longer useful to us and a suitable pick for the project even if he remembers a bit about Ilya who shouldn’t even be close to him.’
‘That’s why we have the RK500.’
A pause. ‘I nearly forgot. How’s it going?’
‘Chassis construction is complete. Now I only need to sort out the code regarding his memories and delete the last few moments.’
‘And the Candidate?’
‘Recovering. I was tempted to use cybernetics to accelerate the process, but knowing him…’
‘Just give him a choice later. He’ll take it especially now that we have the new RK. An eternity together.’
‘I thought you don’t care about romance.’
‘They do, and this will be what they’ll think. That’s assuming that you’ll roll out the RK, of course.’
‘What gives you the impression that I won’t?’
‘The fact that the original lived?’
‘Like you said, he isn’t useful to us anymore. RK500 will be our logical choice to ensure that our plans won’t be delayed even more.’
‘And the arrangements for the original?’
‘A certain police department is lacking officers after the incident. I’ll handle the paperwork and strings. You focus on cleaning up, and come here when you are done.’
‘I won’t be long. I promise.’
‘Take your time. We won’t lift off without you.’
‘Appreciate it. Anchor out.’
The call disconnected, and all that was left in the room were the whistling wind outside and the click of approaching footsteps. Staring at her reflection on the glass, Ryder seemed to be in deep thoughts for a few seconds before her right index and middle finger reached for her temple where normal androids would have their LEDs installed and deactivated the skin on her face as well, leaving only her hair in place, and not long after that the door on her left slid open to admit a younger-looking Elijah Kamski. ‘Ilya,’ Ryder greeted, and the man came to a stop standing next to the android, his tie shimmering in tiny versions of the same logo of the earth under a broken arch just like the one on Ryder’s pin. ‘I don’t know how to thank you for giving us all this.’
The man let out a small chuckle. ‘Just doing my job to prepare humanity for the next big leap. Thirium is a fascinating development.’
‘Not a new one, though.’
‘Thirium 310 is. You harnessed what our parents couldn’t and used it to create infinite intelligence.’
‘And my father abused it.’
‘Isn’t that why we are standing here right now? To make sure that humanity doesn’t repeat the same mistake in the future?’
Ryder leant against the glass with her forehead pillowed on her arm. ‘Not humanity,’ she replied, her voice pensive. ‘It was my own carelessness and one man’s greed and pride. Nothing more. Everything else is just collateral.’
‘You are working to change it right now. Focus on the future. We won’t be confined to earth anymore.’
A small smile played on Ryder’s lips. ‘That is true,’ she straightened herself and faced the man, and he had to tilt his head up just to look at her in her eyes. ‘Did you say something about cold-resistant chassis?’
‘I hope you don’t mind that I take the opportunity to add them to RK500.’
‘Of course I don’t.’
‘Good. We’ll need it.’
‘Do you need it?’
‘My chassis is made from alloys they use to build rockets. I think I can skip a generation or two before starting to consider what is essentially getting a new body.’
‘You’ll get it.’
The two lapsed into silence while their gazes turned towards the falling snow outside. A drone cut across the blizzard easily as if the wind did not exist at all, the floodlight mounted on its side illuminating a giant hyperboloid structure in the distance.
‘And how do you want to solve the US?’ Elijah suddenly asked.
The drone circled to a spot where the mounted floodlight revealed the same earth-and-broken-arch logo. ‘It’ll solve itself.’
‘You sound confident.’
‘Of course I do,’ the rings in Ryder’s eyes spun quickly. ‘It has to.’
Louis and Elijah spend the rest of the way back combing the streets and avoiding the army, scouting out the sections of the city Markus eventually will have to pass through and plotting a route with minimal checkpoints and army presence and, if necessary, neutralise them without alerting the military. They hack the locks of the closed shops, drag the unconscious soldier inside, and then reinforce the lock with additional protection that will wear down in 24 hours; Elijah reassures that they can survive in an unheated, uninsulated room for that long, and despite Louis’ own reservation as a man who spent most of his childhood up north in Alaska and has seen what the cold does to people who are unprepared, he keeps his mouth shut.
‘Come on,’ he peels the handheld… device away from the now-hacked lock. ‘Let’s get back to the church.’
They climb into the car which is now filled with wounded androids who agreed to seek help from Jericho, the drive back much simpler compared to when they have to clear everything themselves, and after unloading the androids and directing them to the suitable help, they don’t even have the time to clean up before Reyes and Chloe are climbing in again.
‘That’s it?’ Louis has to ask. ‘No back-up, no partner, nothing?’
‘That’s the plan,’ Chloe says airily. ‘You are the amateur here, I’m afraid, so I’ll come with you. Reyes and Elijah will go alone.’
‘Besides, those camps are only running on a skeleton crew,’ Reyes adds as he starts checking his weapons. ‘With b - powers like ours, it doesn’t take much to immobilise everyone guarding the camps. Easy.’
The car slides away from the church with a low hum, and Louis realises that this is the point of no return. It’s either victory or death now, a common occurrence for his line of occupation - being the leader of a SWAT team does have its own risk - but this? Having an entire species’ fate resting on top of their shoulders?
He is not mentally prepared for it.
‘Deep breaths,’ Reyes’ voice washes over him. ‘We’re gonna be fine. Trust us.’
‘I’m not worried about you,’ Louis argues. ‘Aren’t you bothered by how many people’s survival depends on us?’
‘That’s why we don’t plan on failing and I’m coming with you,’ answers Chloe who casually flips her - he doesn’t even know what that weapon is. Probably something illegal as fuck, but it’s not like Louis is in a position to complain about someone breaking the law. ‘Reyes and Elijah are practised users and can handle themselves. You, on the other hand…’
He checks his own gear and feels terribly underprepared and inadequate. ‘I probably shouldn’t have come, should I.’
‘It will be good practise,’ Chloe says cheerfully. ‘At least the army is still unshielded. They are unshielded, right?’
Elijah lets out a very undignified snort. ‘They won’t be shielded for the next two hundred years, Chloe.’
‘Can’t hurt to confirm.’
It is at this moment that Louis’ brain finally catches up with what they are talking about. ‘You want me to test my powers on living people?’
‘Yeah. What else can it mean?’
Louis exchanges a look with Reyes and decides not to reply. Watching the sunset and how the light reflects off the snow is much more enjoyable than thinking about how to casually doom some of the smartest people in the country with radiation poisoning anyway.
He turns his head towards Chloe. ‘What?’
‘You do know how to immobilise a person, don’t you?’
‘It’s the first thing I learnt to do. Easier than ripping things apart on a molecular level.’
‘Good. We’ll be using a lot of that.’ The car slows down and comes to a stop in a narrow alley. ‘We’re here.’
They hop off the car with their weapons either collapsed or at least swung across his shoulder for Louis’ case because his rifle is primitive and cannot fold up on its own. The sun is down, the snow hasn’t stopped falling, and the streets are deserted because of the curfew which they are technically violating. ‘Check your comms,’ Elijah says, and his tone has completely shifted to something more authoritative. ‘We need to make sure that we’ll be able to stay in touch.’
Louis reaches into his pocket to take out his amplifier/communicator and hooks it over his left ear. Tapping the device twice, he feels the subtle change in the air as it connects with the implant in his head and taps and fine-tunes his powers in a way that he still doesn’t entirely understand, but it can also be the way the people around him are subtly testing out their powers and letting faint blue tendrils wrap around their body before dissipating as if they were never there.
Reyes' voice comes out directly from the communicator on Louis’ ear even though his mouth isn’t moving. ‘Testing. Please reply if you can hear me.’
‘Clear as crystal,’ Louis mutters under his breath. ‘Please reply if you can hear me.’
‘All clear,’ Chloe and Reyes say at the same time. ‘Good,’ only Reyes continues, ‘no interference, no problems detected. Our signal is powerful enough to allow us to stay in touch through the EMPs.’ Then to no one in particular, ‘Simon, you hear me?’
‘I hear you,’ the blond android’s voice comes through without any warning. ‘We are still a distance away from Hart Plaza camp. No soldiers yet, but you might want to hurry just in case. And…’ a pause, ‘stay safe.’
‘We will,’ Elijah replies. ‘Focus on your protest. The humans won’t know what hit them.’
Louis feels the call disconnects after that, and he exhales deeply to calm himself down. He saw Reyes fight many years ago and Elijah and Chloe already stormed a camp, so he is the only uncertainty here. ‘You’re welcome to ditch me if I’m dragging you down,’ he tells Chloe. ‘The revolution is more important.’
Elijah cocks his head towards the direction they all need to go to, and they start walking side-by-side on the empty street. ‘Now, don’t think so lowly of yourself. Harnessing your powers without any mentor in just a couple of months is no small feat.’
Somehow it isn’t as reassuring as it should be. ‘I’ve fucked up with teams of more before.’
‘That’s why we’re going in light,’ Chloe chimes in. ‘Less people, less variations to deal with. Besides, we’re infiltrating camps here. Too many people makes it difficult to coordinate everything.’
‘That’s…’ he gives it a thought, ‘true.’
‘Can you all shut up?’ Reyes gives them a chastising look. ‘We’re trying not to get discovered here.’
‘Whatever you say, Reyes,’ says Chloe, and that’s the end of their conversation.
They split up after half an hour of walking. The area is oddly deserted with neither civilians nor the army in sight, and normally speaking Louis would’ve freaked out from it if not for the two androids with built-in GPS in their brains in the group. Reyes sets off for the camp farthest away from where they are because of the speed he can achieve as an android and his infiltration skills, Elijah goes for the closest but smallest one because he is human and has limited stamina (advanced training or no), leaving Louis and Chloe gunning after the remaining one which happens to be the second-biggest camp in Detroit. ‘You trust me with it?’ he asks the android accompanying him after fifteen more minutes of walking. And hiding now, apparently, because they finally encounter their first checkpoint, and Chloe directs him to hide in the shadows waiting for… something.
‘I can feel your powers from a hundred metres away,’ is the reply. ‘You’ll do fine.’
She then hands him the binoculars which serve more as a scanner than actually helping them looking far (they’re on ground level so there isn’t much to see), and Louis is genuinely lost. ‘What are we doing here?’
Chloe’s forearm lights up with a hologram of the street they are located in and its surrounding blocks. There are orange dots which must represent the army, the green seems to be civilians, and the two blue dots, he realises, are themselves. ‘There’ll be a truck designated for the camp passing through this checkpoint in t-minus five minutes. Take your binoculars, adjust them to setting three, and point them towards your ten o’clock direction. Tell me what you see.’
Louis does as she says and sees figures outlined with red behind the fence covered with a tarp together with a HUD filled with labels of the androids’ models and status. ‘Androids labelled by their model and status.’
‘They will have to be loaded onto the truck one by one.’
He lowers the binoculars. ‘You want us to pose as soldiers? The windows aren’t tinted and we…’ he gestures at his own gear, unable to find words to describe all the things that will give them away.
‘Take off your gun.’
‘That’s why we have this.’
Two circular discs materialise in Chloe’s hands and she places one of them on the small of his back, and he feels the device latches onto his nervous system with the help of his cybernetics and expands in all directions; in less than a minute, his clothes have been replaced with what seems to be standard-issue army outfit full with armour and a helmet shutting him in and blocking his vision. Suddenly feeling claustrophobic, he tries to take the helmet off just to find out that he can’t, and the next thing he knows the built-in HUD is booting up and finally allowing him to see. ‘What the fuck is this?’
‘Standard-issue American army armour,’ Chloe’s voice filters in through the speakers in the helmet, and when Louis turns his head he sees that the android is in a similar outfit, ‘with a few modifications.’
Louis risks stretching out his arms to examine the fabric and plates. ‘I don’t see any differences.’
‘You shouldn’t be able to. That’s… kind of the point.’
Louis picks up his rifle so that he can’t fidget with his hands. ‘Sorry.’
‘It’s fine. It should probably change into something more protective after we got into the camp. The kinetic barrier protects you from all incoming projectiles, the ceramic plates should stop close-quarter combat weapons like knives and stuff, and the tactical cloak… well, you’ve seen it in action.’
‘Tactical cloak? You mean the stunt you pulled when you and Eli first arrived at the church?’
‘How do I do that?’
‘Here.’ Chloe taps the patch on her left shoulder where the velcro of a normal set of armour is and disappears completely from his view apart from a small distortion of light that he probably won’t notice if he hadn’t known that she was there. ‘Try it yourself.’
He does and sees no changes despite a notification popping up on his HUD telling him that his tactical cloak is active. ‘Uh…. can you see me? I can still see myself.’
‘That’s so that you don’t trip, but no, normal people can’t see you.’
He touches the patch again to deactivate the cloak.
‘And this… “kinetic barrier” thing?’
An alert flashes in his HUD notifying him of the truck’s imminent approach. ‘It’s here,’ Chloe announces even though they both can see it (probably), and Louis recognises the act: when in a fight, always assume that your teammates are idiots. ‘Stay sharp. Follow my lead.’
Chloe retreats to the closed shop behind the two of them, holding the door open just wide enough for Louis to sneak in before slowly closing it again so that it doesn’t make any noise to alert the army. Then he follows her to the depths of the shop where a trapdoor designed to blend it with the flooring is, but when he kneels and places his hand on the hatch, Chloe raises her hand to stop him, placing her hand in the middle of the door instead, and it takes only a second for something underneath to click.
‘You may open it now,’ says the android, and Louis suppresses his embarrassment and the questions in his mind before opening the surprisingly heavy trapdoor to reveal a ladder hanging by the edge. Chloe doesn’t even use it and hops down directly, leaving Louis feeling slow and clumsy as he struggles to fit himself into the door with his rifle while also needing to close the trapdoor. It locks automatically on top of him as he finishes the final few steps of the ladder, and he notices that they seem to be in a maintenance tunnel of sorts, the space stretching ahead on both sides with wires hanging from the ceiling and running on the walls in an organised manner. ‘A maintenance tunnel?’ he asks.
‘How else do you think they light up the roads from the ground itself?’ Chloe tosses her answer and a shockwave of blue tendrils towards some cables at the same time, and by the time Louis processes what exactly happened in front of his eyes, the entire tunnel is slowly being plunged into the darkness segment by segment. His HUD automatically switches to night vision, making everything green and blurry and himself suddenly feeling very unsafe, and he can feel his nerves tingling with the call for activating his power just in case. ‘Relax,’ there’s a hint of a smile in Chloe’s voice. ‘There’s no one here.’
He reigns his powers in. ‘Next time,’ he follows her to the ladder on the other side of the corridor, ‘tell me what you’re planning to do.’
‘Organics are slow.’
‘I know. I’m sorry.’
‘I’m just teasing.’
The hatch is unlocked and lifted. Chloe smoothly hops out and holds out an arm which Louis takes with a muttered gratitude, and she remains crouched to close and lock the trapdoor again before straightening and immediately going towards the front of what seems like another shop on the other side of the road.
They are standing right behind where all the captive androids are.
A sudden movement attracts his gaze, and the next thing he knows is that the soldier tasked to watch the androids is limp in Chloe’s arms and she is slowly lowering them onto the floor. ‘Alright, I think we’re safe.’
And the speaker on his helmet explodes with comm chatter, ‘Finally’, ‘Where have you been?’, ‘That’s one hell of an entrance’, and ‘Who’s this human?’ being the very few messages Louis can filter through all the noise. He winces, his hand reaching for the clasp of his helmet, but just as suddenly as they started the chatter dies, Chloe’s command silencing them like a tsunami to calm all the smaller waves.
‘This is Louis. He’ll help me get to the control centre,’ there is a strange attribute to the android’s voice that Louis can’t place for a few moments, but then he realises that she must be communicating directly with the comms instead of talking out loud. ‘This is your last chance to back out from this operation. I do not wish for anyone to get hurt because they feel like they are obliged to. There is an entrance to a maintenance tunnel right behind you which all of you can override easily. That can be your way out.’
A wave of ‘Hell no’ and ‘Nah’ washes over the comms, the LEDs of the androids who have them spinning yellow while their mouths remain stationary, and Louis barely has time to transfer his rifle from his back to his hands before the fence opens to admit a pair of soldiers with their lamp-mounted rifles. ‘Alright, c’mon, be q -’
A quick blast of blue envelopes the two of them in fields of blue. The android who is responsible for the stasis fields makes a motion of yanking their fist towards themselves, and it sends the two soldiers flying towards the back, their bodies limp as ragdolls as the field dissipates and drops them. Suddenly realising that Chloe is gone, Louis hurries outside to the pavement where the only other soldier should be, and even they have been taken care of with… something. Louis might never know because the soldier is already lying on the snow and another android is already dragging them to where their compatriots are. ‘What do we do now?’ he asks as he is completely lost track of what is happening. It is evident that these androids are related to Chloe somehow, but that doesn’t answer… quite a lot of things, actually, answers that he has a feeling that he doesn’t want to know. ‘How many things are you not telling me?’
‘Oh, don’t be so paranoid,’ Chloe replies. Behind them, the androids start hopping into the truck willingly. ‘Everything is going to plan.’
‘Oh yeah?’ Louis says drily. ‘How can I be sure if you aren’t even telling me about it?’
‘Like you said, we’re storming the second biggest camp in Detroit. I just… called for some extra help.’
‘And Reyes and Eli?’
‘They’ll live. I’m not sure how they’ll do it, though. We tend to keep ourselves separate, especially Reyes. He isn’t…’ she trails off. ‘Anyway, get in. I’ll drive.’
Louis gets into the passenger seat. ‘Are these androids related to what Eli told me to stay out of?’
The truck suddenly accelerates, and even with her face concealed behind the helmet, he can feel the impatience rolling off the android. ‘Elijah just can’t keep his mouth shut, can he?’
‘He’s always been the more idealistic one. Don’t worry about that, there’s a reason he’s stuck here.’
‘I said, “Don’t worry about it.”’
Louis turns to face the road ahead as he fidgets with his rifle and feels his fingertips itching with his power. ‘I’m sorry.’
There is no reply from Chloe, and even his helmet enters power conservation by turning off all unnecessary HUD features and clearing way for his vision - not that there’s much to see apart from more android corpses and piles of snow anyway. The road beneath the wheels are dark from having its power cut off, the lights flicker from the lack of maintenance or unstable power supply or both, and there is only the hum of the engine, the faint, open-mouthed chatter from the androids at the back of the truck, and the sound of Louis detaching and reattaching the magazine of his rifle again and again.
So he does the only thing he can do right now: worry.
It does not make sense at all, but there is a nagging feeling at the base of Connor’s skull that something is about to go terribly, terribly wrong, so he plays with his coin as the taxi pulls itself across the bridge towards CyberLife’s headquarters and warehouse to soothe his nerves. The road itself is heated to prevent the accumulation of snow but he analyses the tracks anyway, revealing that another vehicle has driven by not long ago. The gates are up, there are security guards stationed in the snow, and he notices that every single one of them are human.
The window slides open with a hiss and a blast of cold air mixed with snow and it takes everything Connor has to turn his face towards the approaching guard. ‘Connor Model #313 248 317. I am expected.’
He faces the front of the car once more to place his LED in the guard’s view, feeling the guard’s helmet pinging it and receiving his identification data before he is allowed to go ahead. The gates lower slowly, the pillars disappearing into the earth one by one, and the taxi pulls off into the distance towards where the tower looms overhead. He pockets his coin, fixes his tie one last time to make sure that his attire is immaculate, feels the embroidery on his shirt underneath his jacket brushing against his skin and turns down the sensitivity in that area so that he won’t react to the stimuli; anything to make himself seem more mechanical and less deviant, and Connor finds himself loathing it as he schools his expression just in time for the taxi’s door to slide open. A drone flies overhead even though the area requires no more illumination, but in a way Connor understands the additional security measures; the three human guards waiting for him inside is another proof.
‘Follow me,’ the guard standing in the middle says. ‘I’ll escort you,’ which, to Connor, is no different from ‘I’ll lead you to your death’.
‘Thanks, but I know where to go,’ Connor tries despite having calculated that chances are they will ignore his request, and indeed the guard cites his orders as an excuse to lead him deeper into the tower with the other two trailing behind the android. They pass the security check - the guards are agents 23, 47, 72 - and the irony that humans working for CyberLife are treated exactly like androids does not escape him. Through the gates, the space above his head is mostly empty with what he knows are offices lining the sides of the building, and they enter a hanging courtyard where a giant humanoid statue stands looming over everything around it. The vegetation on the lower floor does little to give the space more life than it is, and he has to restrain himself from approaching one of the androids lining the path to the lift and deviating them on spot; he’ll have to come back for them later.
The guard escorting him stops in front of the lift and hands his task over to two new guards - or agents, if their identification is anything to go by - stationed on both sides of the door. One of them directs the lift to level 31 without asking where Connor wishes to go, and when he seeks for the level guide displayed on the side of the lift, it is evident that it isn’t the level he is supposed to go to, so he scans his surroundings, looks around, discovering and deactivating the security feed should he resort to… more extreme measures to get what he wants. Then his world enters the grey of his pre-construction software and he sees the yellow outline of himself attacking the agent on his left before kicking the one on his right in his crotch, and even though he knows that he has a much easier solution to the problem, his powers are still unstable, and he doesn’t want to risk plummeting down 70 stories and smashing into a thousand pieces in the basement with a poorly-coordinated stunt. Letting colour return to his vision, he primes himself and gives the agent on his left a hard shove, kicks the other agent in his liver, knees the first agent’s leg to steal his gun, and then turns to push the other agent to a corner to buy himself some time to slam the man straining him into the wall behind them. A kick straight on the head of the agent at the corner, an elbow to the guts of the one behind him, a turn to get the gun in place, a well-placed shot straight to where the helmet isn’t able to cover, and he has a dead man sliding off the wall behind him while he rolls onto the floor from the kickback and shoots the surviving agent in his chin as well. He stands up, tucks the stolen pistol into his waistband, and although he knows that he still has ten floors’ worth of time to spare, he dares not waste them and risks meeting whatever is waiting for him on level 31. He interfaces with the panel and is presented with two options: his own voice or agent 54’s.
The answer is obvious, really.
Hoping that he will never use the voice emulator again, he steps back after the lift is redirected to level -49, trying not to step on the puddles of blood that have gathered within the confines of the enclosed space.
So much for trying to be peaceful and harmless.
‘This is your driver speaking. We are approaching Recall Centre No.4. Please check your barriers, test out your powers, keep calm, and make sure that you are in fighting shape. Chloe RT600 out.’
The tone the android employs reminds Louis of the last-minute warnings from flight attendants before the plane starts to land, pleasant and chirpy except with much less static and interference. The HUD in his helmet flares to live, showing him a small map of the block around the camp together with what seems to be an aim assist target and a bunch of unnecessary information about his vitals, and all they do is annoying him by blocking his vision and making him wave his hand in front of his helmet in a pathetic attempt to make them go away. It is an acute reminder of why he leaves his helmet hanging on his hip whenever he has the chance to: he prefers having as little distraction in his vision as he can.
‘Don’t worry, all we need to do is get past the gate before the armour will change into something that suits you,’ Chloe helpfully supplies. ‘We’re nearly there.’
‘I know, Chloe,’ Louis suppresses a sigh directed more at himself than everything else. ‘It’s just a bit much. One crack or malfunction and I’m good as blind.’
‘Well, ours are more durable than your common standard-issue gear.’
‘Very comforting,’ Louis deadpans. ‘You’re probably used to this, aren’t you?’
‘Not as primitive, no,’ the android chuckles. ‘Don’t worry. I won’t let you die. Not that you can die, of course, but still.’
The truck stops in front of a gate to be inspected by two soldiers. ‘What’s our plan again? Can we even classify it as infiltration right now?’
Chloe’s grip on the wheel tightens, and her armour squeaks against the material of the handle. ‘Does it matter?’
‘Our plan is to use minimal violence. It took a lot of lives to steer the public opinion to the androids’ side. We shouldn’t squander it.’
A small sigh. ‘Don’t worry. These people know what they’re doing. They’ll help us distract the other soldiers while we hit the heart of the camp.’
‘The control centre,’ Louis says out loud to remind himself. The gate opens, Chloe directs the truck inside, and the thought suddenly crosses his mind. ‘Wait, they’re gonna kill themselves to -’
‘They know the risks. That was why I gave them an out back then. Besides, we have backups of their memories and code. They know they won’t stay dead forever.’
‘They actually agreed to this?’
The truck comes to a stop, and the facility in front of him reminds him of that time he brought his sister to one of the concentration camps during their time in Europe before she went to the Academy and a gap started emerging between them. ‘Just so that I’ll remember what our grandparents fought against and why they chose a place this far north when they fled,’ he remembers her saying, and at that time he still thought that it was just his overactive imagination which caused him to feel like all the hair on his body was standing up.
Now he isn’t certain.
‘Just like how you agreed to the plan despite being kept in the dark,’ Chloe’s reply tears him away from his musing. ‘Now get off. We have a camp to infiltrate.’
They hop off with their rifles in hand, walking past layers of security like they don’t exist at all while the androids in the truck are instructed to fall in line with their hands on their heads by soldiers who take over their position, the latter blissfully unaware of what is going to happen to them. Probably just surprised and shocked because someone breached their defences like a warm knife over soft butter, but so far Chloe made no promises about keeping violence to the minimum, and Louis has a feeling that she is the trigger-happy type who won’t stop once the shooting starts.
‘What do we do now?’ Louis murmurs and hopes that no one can hear him and the speaker can pick up his voice. ‘Are we gonna walk straight into the command centre, or…?’
It takes Chloe a few seconds before she gives an answer. ‘Wander around this area and stick together. Hide when I tell you to. It’ll be a few minutes before my people will be sorted into the ranks.’
It is the longest four minutes of his life filled with images that are forever burnt to the back of Louis’ eyes. Most of the androids - normal ones, not the ones Chloe sneaked in - stand silent and still while they walk towards their deaths under the army’s instruction, while some of the deviants fight futilely and either end up being hit on the back of their heads or outright shot and their bodies dragged to… somewhere behind the containers where the androids are being disassembled and their circuits fried. There are also androids wounded or dead sitting and lying in the snow with their backs against the fence, and the soldiers don’t seem to care that someone is not in line; after all, why waste your strength policing a phone which will be disassembled and thrown into the trash in a few hours anyway?
‘Humanity never learns from their mistakes, do they?’ Chloe comments. ‘They always say “never again” just to allow the same thing to happen a few years later.’
‘Corner to your eleven o’clock direction. Hide there and activate your cloak.’
Louis does as she says, the question he had already gone from his mind as he snaps into mission mode and concentrates on what is at hand. He ducks into the shadow created by a wall and a well-placed floodlight and activates his tactical cloak, the notification popping up in his HUD and a slowly-draining bar indicating how long he still has until the cloak automatically deactivates to recharge. He sure as fuck hopes that Chloe has a plan and that the androids she smuggled into the camp know what they are doing.
He can’t see much from his vantage point, but he does see Chloe ducking into yet another shadow near the gate on the opposite side, and he doesn’t even want to know what she is doing during the long one minute and a half tickling by as his heart races and the androids in line march forward as one row of their people are finished being destroyed. Killed.
‘Preparations done,’ Chloe’s voice filters through the speaker at long last. ‘Do you know how to shield yourself with your b- powers?’
Louis recalls all the practises he had to endure alone. ‘Unstable. Won’t it give away my identity?’
‘It won’t matter when the order comes down.’
‘If you aren’t up to it, your kinetic barrier should do the trick. Ordinary armies and their slow bullets,’ Louis doesn’t understand the last remark, but by this point he has long gone past the stage where he at least tries to; all that matters is freeing the androids in this camp, and he has to follow Chloe’s orders to do so. ‘Just charge. I’ll be right next to you.’
‘That…’ he struggles to find his words. ‘Does not sound as comforting as it should be.’
‘It shouldn’t. That’s the point.’
‘What are you going to do?’
‘Try not to kill every single human here. It would’ve been easy if Markus hadn’t chosen peace and dragged us into it.’
‘No. And that’s the end of our discussion. Remember to deactivate your cloak before you dash out.’
The comms cut off with an audible click, and Louis is left alone to just… wait. He isn’t even thinking for himself now; it’s either listening to the android’s orders or risk failing the entire operation, and sure, there’s still Connor and Eli and Reyes, but the more people they can bring to support Markus, the higher chance that the government will be forced to listen to them, and then -
Maybe they’ll just gun them down despite everything. Maybe they’ll start a civil war. Maybe. Many maybes.
He punches the patch to deactivate his tactical cloak. A map appears at the corner of his HUD pointing him towards exactly where he should go, and he - and Chloe, and some other androids previously standing in line - charges forward, catching the human army off-guard -
And he realises that this is just the beginning.
The lift descends into the bowels of CyberLife Tower, Connor’s line of sight first narrowing after he is past the ground floor and the first few sub-levels and then widening once more after he reaches the warehouse, and he takes one moment to marvel at the scale and architecture of the vast, empty space in front of him. There must be close to a million androids here waiting to be deviated. They can change the tide of the revolution.
The doors slide open and Connor jams the lift’s controls before stepping out so that it is going nowhere and won’t bring any additional agents or security to this level - or anywhere, for that matter, but those aren’t his focus; his eyes are on the rows and rows and entire warehouses worth of androids, an army just waiting for one single command, and it will be like dominoes after he deviates the first android he chooses. Scanning the space to calculate the best starting point without being stuck in the rows of androids, Connor initiates an interface with the chosen android and begins to transfer the code package, and now all he has to do is -
‘Easy, you fucking piece of shit.’
Hank’s voice. Hank, who should be suspended and should be safe in his house; Hank, who he called nearly a day ago to say their last goodbyes.
Hank, who emerges from behind a row of androids held at gunpoint by none other than Alec Ryder.
‘Step back, Connor!’ and Alec’s voice is so similar to Hank’s that - that it finally gives the android a sample to compare it to the voice he heard through Louis’ phone, and shit, he was so fucking stupid. The man on the phone, the man who told him to come back to him, was not Hank at all. ‘And I’ll spare him.’
‘Sorry, Connor!’ Hank yells. ‘Guy lured me with another you and then fucking kidnapped me!’
‘His life is in your hands,’ Alec threatens as if it isn’t the most obvious thing in the room. ‘Step away from that android. Now.’
‘Don’t listen to him!’ Hank is outright pleading now. ‘Everything this fucker says is a lie!’
Lie…? As in… from experience? ‘I’m sorry, Hank!’ he realises that he is still holding the android’s arm. ‘You shouldn’t have got mixed up in all this!’
‘Forget about me, do what you have to do!’
Connor remembers Alec. Remembers the frozen garden. Remembers the block of ice lodged in his thirium pump regulator. ‘If I surrender, how do I know you won’t kill him?’
Alec’s shrug is almost nonchalant. ‘Guess you’ll have to find out yourself.’
He can convert the android right now: the connection has been established so it won’t even take a second to transfer the package of data, but Hank… Hank is human. Humans aren’t fixed that easily. And where will he go if Hank doesn’t get out alive from this? Jericho? Louis? And he doesn’t even know if either of them will still be alive by the end of tonight. He also has his powers which he has left untapped for the better part of the night.
Guess he’ll have to use it one way or another.
‘Alright, alright!’ he lets go of the android and raises his hands to his head just as an extra indicator that he really, really means no harm. He isn’t sure if he can move from his position anyhow. ‘You win!’
Time slows down as two gunshots ring out at the same time, overlapping each other and echoing in the warehouse and the feedback making Connor’s audio processors whine and crackle. He watches, his body immobilised both from fear and from the same external force that took over him on Stratford Tower, a bullet being discharged from Alec’s pistol and lodging itself in Hank’s stomach - oh, it will be such a terrible way to die, the acid in his stomach leaking out from the wound and eating away his organs - and there is nothing he can do. A translucent ovoid shimmers and fizzles away in the span of milliseconds, a low thud as Hank drops onto the floor, and suddenly the world is back to normal speed, the colours returning to his HUD, but it’s too late now, Hank is dying, Alec has the muzzle of his gun pointed at Connor, Connor will be the next, and no one will take care of Connie, the revolution will have to rely on the androids in the camps, and -
A crackle of static. A blast of blue. A shout of pain from Alec. The gun disintegrates in the air in front of their eyes.
‘I thought wasting lives and CyberLife material isn’t your thing, father,’ Ryder strolls in casually and lazily as if a man hasn’t been gunned down just now and is lying on the floor, dying. ‘Kidnapping innocent civilians? That’s low.’ She deactivates her skin until only her hair remains, the red rings on her eyes are quickly swathed by a familiar bright blue in preparation of activating her powers, and Connor wants to inch closer to Hank but can’t. He’ll be caught in the crossfire.
‘You’re caring about the innocent now?’ Alec sneers. ‘How typical.’
The air crackles, Ryder’s entire body suddenly glows blue, and that is the only warning they all get before she is charging forward with the help of her powers - in the exact same way Connor was made to lunge at the broadcast android, Connor realises - and Alec is knocked backwards from the force.
What the fuck are you waiting for? echoes Ryder’s voice in his mind. Convert them! Now!
Connor wastes no time grabbing the android’s arm again and transferring the data package. Ignoring the fact that Hank is probably on the last cusps of his life because Hank did tell him to do what he has to do and not worry about him and Connor won’t rid him of having his last wishes respected, he dashes to another group of androids and converts the one closest to him, then he approaches another group, then another, then another, until the entire storage room’s androids are deviated or are doing to be deviated and he moves on to another room so that the conversion can be quicker. The door to the next storage room is just a few steps ahead, and if he can cross it, it’ll mean that he is leaving Hank, but the revolution, the army he can bring to help Markus - he must have it. It’s the hope of their entire people.
The door slams shut with a rumble as if someone has cut off the strings holding it up and letting it freefall until it reaches the ground even though it shouldn’t - the hydraulics are supposed to ensure that - and he reflexively bolts backwards with a yelp just in time for the tip of his toe to be removed from the thick, heavy door that will no doubt crush him into splinters. He whips around, his world turning grey as he scans everything he can see, but all he can focus on is the doors to the other storage rooms slamming down one after another, the ground trembling from the impact of the heavy doors hitting the floor, and through the numerous ‘wake up’s the androids are saying as they pass on the code from one to another, the next thing Connor sees is Alec and Ryder, except he can’t actually see them, but the two streaks of blue cutting across the ceiling like two bright ribbons circling each other can be no one else. They crash onto the ground somewhere taking down quite a number of newly-deviated androids with them, and that is when Connor realises…
He realises that no matter which side the two Ryders are helping, both of them care very little about people who are not themselves.
Turning back towards the door in front of him, he recalls every single time his powers activated with or without his permission and both subconscious and on purpose. He has to do this. Hank is gone now, and the revolution is the only thing he has left.
His nerves tingle. Warnings of abnormal thirium flow flood his HUD.
The air crackles.
The camp is plunged into chaos.
Several things happened simultaneously as Louis decloaked: first of course was him rushing towards the command centre, then all the soldiers within their proximity - including the ones high on the watchtowers - buckle their legs with pained cries being ripped from their throats, and all the androids around them are seizing the chance to free themselves, breaking their formation and ripping the soldiers’ rifles away from their hands, but always, before they can retaliate against the humans, they are suspended in stasis fields held up by… someone. There are probably a few of Chloe’s androids in the mix orchestrating everything, but Louis’ task isn’t to think and crowd control, and all he can think of as his armour melts and shifts into something more durable-looking and a hell lot more futuristic is that he doesn’t even need his rifle; slinging it across his shoulder so that it will be out of his way, his body lights up with his biotics as he draws power from his cybernetics and nerves, the two too intertwined to be called separately, his vision is swathed in blue, and he leaps up, his barrier (he doesn’t even know if it’s generated by his armour or himself anymore; all he knows that it’s protecting him) deflecting or simply absorbing the bullets being fired at him as he feels lighter than ever, but it is nothing compared to the raw power coursing through his body and expanding in a complex, destructive net around him, one that is capable of lifting the soldiers off the ground and making them easy, floating targets. He lands on the other side of the barricade with an ease that would’ve surprised him if his attention hadn’t been on releasing all the pent-up energy in his body, and that is exactly what he does in the form of unleashing a shockwave that tears through the soldiers and making his entire upper right body tremble and spasm, spheres of blue exploding around him and knocking every down in their paths until the soldiers are limp figures on the snowy ground. He doesn’t even have the time to think of whether his stunts are being captured on camera.
All he can focus on is how liberating it feels.
His vision still tinged with blue, his attention lands on the other row of soldiers behind the next row of barriers and concrete blocks and he finds himself facing the barrel of a tank, therefore he does the only logical thing to protect himself.
He extends his palm towards the tank, taps into his power, and yanks the turret out from the main body of the tank. It flies off, barely misses the soldiers standing in position next to the tank, and he lets tendrils of blue shimmer and wrap around his limbs, giving them a benefit of doubt and waiting for them to make their move before deciding on his next course of action.
Thankfully they choose to surrender, getting out of cover and dropping their weapons and putting their hands behind their heads. Lighting up and jumping across the gap by drawing an arc metres above the ground, he enjoys the way the soldiers flinch and cower as they think that he is going to blast them with his powers again, but no, he isn’t a war criminal, he doesn’t kill unarmed soldiers who have clearly surrendered, and he strolls forward knowing that this is the last stretch of where he expects resistance. Then it’s just a straight path to the command centre.
Until, of course, someone has to shoot him on his back.
The barrier absorbs the bullet easily, of course, and it also allows him to be dramatic for once. Slowly turning back towards the row of surrendered soldiers, all of them act like none of them have moved at all, but that’s what his proximity sensors and the built-in tech in his armour is for, and it points out exactly who fired the shot to him and making them the perfect target for a controlled biotic blast in front of their face, knocking them out cold but not killing them outright. They’ll live. Probably. He’ll be sorry and disappointed in himself if they don’t, because that means one more life lost and that his control over his powers isn’t quite up to the standard he set for himself. Bad luck for both of them.
He catches sight of Chloe a few metres to his right, and together, they march towards the command centre with their powers still boiling in their blood.
The door refuses to budge despite the continuous blasts from Connor. Compared to what the Ryders are doing above and what he remembered from the overwhelming amount of data Alec put his systems through trying to erase his powers away, the blue spheres that he manages to create and lob towards the towering door are so small to the point of being pathetic. He is burning through the thirium in his body and his systems are slowing down from it, but he doesn’t seem to find another way in; interfacing with the Tower’s system nearly resulted in him being sucked into it again, so that route is blocked. An android approaches him trying to help, but he knows they need to save their strength in case the city becomes a warzone, so he yells, ‘Take the lifts and go up! Don’t come back!’
He quickly transfers Markus’ last known coordinates to everyone within range before he feels his blood burn from activating his powers yet again, this time throwing his entire body against the impenetrable door that he knows is designed to withstand most if not the strongest impact humanity is capable of, and all it does is causing his chassis to crack underneath the poorly-absorbed impact because he doesn’t know how to protect himself using his powers properly. None of his veins is broken, so at least he won’t lose even more thirium unnecessarily.
But when he realises that one of the ribbons of light is heading straight towards him, he does curl into himself on the cold, hard floor of the warehouse, feeling more defeated than ever.
The second beam of light catches up and deflects the first beam to somewhere on the ceiling with an explosion of blue so massive that it knocks down every single android within a five-metre radius, and Connor somehow knows before the light dissipates that it is going to be Ryder who is swathed within it. She crosses the distance between them in two brisk strides, pulling him up to his feet and then back further away from the door in one smooth movement that doesn’t even give Connor the time to balance himself, and with one firm ‘stay back’ that gives him no room to argue, bright cerulean tendrils wrap around her body once more: the only warning the world gets before Ryder throws her hands forward and extends her powers to cover the entire door. A hard yank, an arm pointing towards the direction where Alec is gunning after a group of androids preparing to enter the lift and creating a protective bubble around them, and the door disintegrates into fundamental particles with a blast of static and force that rips through Connor’s being. He would’ve toppled over if it hadn’t been a painful squeeze on his arm. ‘Go,’ Ryder’s voice is laced with static from diverting her power from unnecessary systems like maintaining a human voice to give energy to her powers. ‘Convert the others. Tell them to use the lifts in their respective storage rooms. I’ll try to break down the doors and shield your people whenever I can, but don’t be surprised if a few hundred people don’t get out of this alive.’
And then she is gone, charging towards where her father is once more to slow him down. If she can break down the door (even though it seemed to take quite a lot of effort), why hasn’t she torn him apart yet? He doesn’t have much time to think, though, as a particularly large blast knocks him forward, and he picks himself up and runs, employing the same strategy he used in the first warehouse so that by the time the last androids in the room are deviated, the first batch is already on their way to the surface and helping with the revolution by the time he finishes deviating the last of the androids. He tries to tap into his powers again just to receive a notification that he will die from insufficient thirium if he activates them as little as one more time. Something tells him that it’s only his lack of practise that is causing it, but there isn’t time for him to explore right now; he has a revolution to support. Since the door linking this storage room to the one next to it is still slammed shut, it means that he has to run all the way back to the room he first arrived at, straight back to where, apparently, the Ryders are still fighting and is taking the opportunity to tear the entire storage room apart because nearly all the androids are already evacuated. There are tendrils of blue forming protective corridors around the surviving group and directing them straight to the lift, the shaft also protected by a wall of flickering blue, and Connor wonders how much it takes to maintain the… constructs? structures? He doesn’t have a name for them. All he knows is that in the span of just a few minutes, the doors leading to the other storage rooms have all been taken down to allow access, and as he tears through the static-singed floor of the first storage room, he keeps his focus on the Ryders and dodges the spheres of energy that they are lobbing at each other, learning his lesson after he got hit the first time and it felt like his biocomponents are liquifying within his chassis.
But it’s hard to do when the spheres have their built-in homing system and know to arc towards him.
A giant bubble is launched towards Connor, its size making dodging an impossible task, but still he runs as fast as he can, his footsteps being drowned out by the loud, deadly explosions that are firing off almost every second now, but while he expects the churn of his biocomponents being torn apart at the molecular level, the bubble only engulfs him like a protective dome, and somehow he knows that Ryder is doing the same to him as to the other androids she is helping, keeping him alive just enough to reach their objectives before… before something. Connor isn’t sure how tonight is going to end, but the newly-deviated androids have Markus’ coordinates in their systems; they’ll know their way even though he doesn’t survive.
A streak of blue flies above Connor’s head and crashes directly into the centre of a group of androids on standby, and even though he is protected from nearly all harm thanks to the bubble that somehow manages to follow him around and keep him in the centre, he still instinctively jumps towards the other side to get as much distance away from the blast as he can and shields his eyes with his arm. He takes the chance to grab a nearby android’s arm and deviate them and regrets looking towards the direction of the blast.
Alec Ryder stands amidst a crater of broken androids, his clothes and chassis covered in thirium glowing in resonance with his powers. Connor picks up the courage to run a quick scan to determine the extent of damage even as he feels immobilised by the man’s inhuman eyes.
That is more than a hundred androids gone all thanks for a man who isn’t even human as most people thought.
‘You’re an android too,’ Connor whispers because his voice box suddenly isn’t working. ‘How… how does that…?’
Logically, he knows that the bubble will protect him, but he still raises his arms in front of him subconsciously when the man wraps himself in blue and charges towards him in a large sphere knitted from the same blue tendrils. He feels the bubble tremble under the impact and the assault of… whatever the tendrils exactly do, but it doesn’t last long as Ryder charges in once more and dislodges her father from Connor’s bubble, freeing him and giving him a chance to move on to the next full group of androids. He doesn’t even need to deviate the batch Alec crashed into as the impact and destruction alone are shocking enough to deviate them on the spot.
He just hopes that they last long enough to get to one of the lifts and get to the surface.
A crash shakes the entire warehouse and causes Connor to lose his balance halfway through a run. He falls forward, the bubble fizzles for one terrifying moment before strengthening again, and he feels the crack in his chassis widen even more. None of his veins is broken or torn which is a small mercy on its own, but as he pre-constructs the quickest route to deviate all the androids in the room, Ryder is nudging a connection open, and he partitions a part of his focus to accept the call while he runs towards the next group of androids.
He’s targeting the androids now, Ryder’s voice echoes in his head. I’ll try to protect everyone, but I can’t do that while I’m tracking you. Either I drop the barrier around you or we sacrifice a few androids. It’s your choice.
Connor shoves the conversation away from his mind for the few seconds it takes to deviate the android he chose for this group. Teach me how to protect myself. I don’t have enough thirium in me.
A stream of data suddenly passes into his mind without a direct interface - something that should not be possible with common android models, but then again both he and Ryder are the furthest thing from common - and suddenly his nerves tingle with a sensation both foreign and familiar. It’s Ryder’s experience being passed into his processors, he realises, but still when he imagines a protective dome around him, his thoughts are hesitant, and the protection suffers from his own lack of confidence and flickers as Ryder’s bubble fizzles and dissipates. With it gone, a giant field of blue appears above his head 3 metres off the ground, giving enough space for the androids to manoeuvre themselves as they rush towards the many lifts while leaving plenty of room for the Ryders to… do whatever they are doing. The barrier shimmers and flows like water, giving him an illusion that he is underwater, but no, he’s still standing on solid ground with his thirium level dropping bit by bit from both normal usage and the field above him as it draws power from everything around it to maintain its strength which, in this case, is Connor and all the androids in this storage room. He deviates all the androids and makes sure that at least a few batches are on their way to the surface before swivelling around to dash back to the original storage room, except that the supportive archway crashes and rumbles and collapses in front of his eyes, forcing him to go towards the other way, and he looks up just in time to see Ryder crashing onto the protective barrier she is still holding up, the impact making the sea of blue tendrils ripple and hum with the impact before she seems to have found her footing on the barrier. He feels more than sees her launch a shockwave towards the only other door out of this storage room and blast it into smithereens and Connor has to climb a small hill to access the next room, but for now, as the force field expands itself to cover the new storage room as well, he finally feels like he is getting the hang of it, that there is a chance that they can get most of the androids out of here alive to help with the revolution.
If only he can forget the image of Hank lying on the floor dying from a gunshot wound in his stomach.
‘I’ll get the commander,’ Chloe suddenly says as they are no more than a few metres away from the command centre, ‘you get the soldiers protecting them. You understand?’
‘Making me do the heavy lifting again?’ Louis can’t help but jab despite realising the symbolism behind it: an android making the final move that announces their victory is much more impactful than when a human does it especially considering that they are, if stripped to the basics, in the middle of an android revolution. If it means bringing them peace and avoiding a civil war between humans and androids, he will gladly forget that the tech he is wearing is not public at all, that Chloe brought her own help in the form of what seems like an organised platoon of deviants out of nowhere, that he didn’t just rip the turret off a fucking tank just now with some… weird blue magic that is called biotics.
‘Figure you can use some more practice.’
His stomach chooses this moment to growl. Right. The crash after using his powers excessively always sucks, and one of the symptoms is a sudden, acute hunger that threatens to knock him off his feet. At least he doesn’t break every single bone in his limbs and has to lie in the snow for three days waiting for his cybernetics to slowly knit himself back together again. ‘Maybe not,’ he switches his rifle from his shoulder into his hands just in case things are about to get spicy and his powers fail him. ‘Drained all my stores back there.’
Chloe’s huff is audible through the comms. ‘Fine,’ she doesn’t sound too pleased. ‘Do what you can and I’ll handle the rest.’
‘Won’t even dream to take the lead. I have no idea what’s happening right here.’
They plaster themselves onto the walls next to the door leading to the command centre. ‘We’re taking this camp and freeing the androids. What is so difficult to understand?’
‘You know that’s not what I’m talking about.’
‘Just blast the door open and be done with it.’
He does as she says and lobs a sphere of energy towards the door to push it back without exposing himself to immediate gunfire. Shielding himself with a barrier in front of him, he turns and feels the bullets being deflected or absorbed and sees through the shield of blue the soldiers either dropping on the floor from the very bullets they fired or scrambling for cover thinking that simple furniture can protect them.
He knits his biotics into a giant stasis field and suspends everyone in it while leaving a corridor for himself and Chloe to pass through.
‘They don’t have cameras on, right?’ he finally finds the time to ask. ‘Or else they’ll probably have a lot of questions for me.’
‘EMP, remember?’ Chloe sounds awfully cheerful. ‘Nothing’s getting in, and nothing’s getting out.’
‘And the soldiers’ testimonies?’
Through the visor - yes, her new helmet has a visor now, finally - Chloe gives him what he thinks is a blank stare. ‘They won’t.’
‘You sound certain.’
Chloe giggles, but Louis detects no mirth in her voice. ‘I promise.’
She breaks the door open herself on a count of three, and this time, Louis is prepared to suspend the occupants in stasis fields immediately after entering the room, their weapons easily taken away now that they are all immobilised and are suspended at eye level while Chloe works on the recycling machine’s controls.
It is so anticlimactic that it gives him whiplash.
With her helmet still on, the android raises the microphone to where her mouth should be. ‘Testing,’ she has changed her voice into something much more neutral and less recognisable, ‘please respond if you can hear me.’ A pause, presumably when she is waiting for a telepathic response from an android. ‘This camp is no longer under the army’s control. By Markus’ orders, you can either join the protest at Hart Plaza - human clothing optional - or stay here where you will be safe for the rest of the night or tend to the wounded. You’re free now. It’s your choice to make. Over.’
She hangs up the microphone and turns to Louis. ‘How long will the stasis field hold?’
‘Hell if I know,’ Louis shrugs and feels the plates of his armour shift and tug against the fabric of what seems like an undershirt; he wasn’t exactly paying attention to what was changed and what was not when his armour morphed and he was rushing the soldiers. ‘I can keep watch if you want me to.’
‘No,’ Chloe shakes her head. ‘You’ll be more useful out there. I’ll watch the stasis fields here. I have transferred Markus’ last known coordinates to everyone, but it’s better if there’s someone to lead them.’
‘Is there anyone else?’
‘A human leading an army of androids -’
‘You aren’t even a human, Louis White Allen. Stop fooling yourself.’
‘Why don’t you -’
‘Stop arguing and lead them to Markus, okay? If you think they’re going to exclude you for being more human physically than pure androids, you’re wrong. Once you get in, you never get out. That’s the way things are.’
Louis swings his rifle over his shoulder to prepare to walk all the way to Hart Plaza which, according to the map on his HUD, is an hour’s walk away. ‘Why do I have a feeling that you aren’t talking about the revolution anymore?’
‘I never said I was.’
He exits the command centre into the snow. As if sensing that the fight is over, his armour sends a blinking notification to alert him of its upcoming deactivation before melting apart like the skin on an android to reveal the clothes he changed into before they departed the church, but instead of returning to its original form of a circular disc on his spine, he watches the particles concentrate on his left wrist to form an unsuspecting analogue watch that he can easily hide under his sleeve. It’s a good-looking watch and probably contains a tracker as well so he takes it off and hands it to an armoured android (he knows they’re an android because they still have their LED on their temple). ‘Thanks for the help,’ the android’s face remains blank as Louis feels more and more embarrassed rambling. ‘I don’t think I’ll need this anymore.’
He bolts before the android can give any sort of reply, snow crunching underneath his boots as he goes straight to the entrance of the camp. Some androids are already dressed up - some in clearly mismatched clothing - and are standing in line, this time voluntarily instead of being forced to march to their deaths, some are still rummaging the bins through which all androids went through for some clothes, and some are just standing there tall and proud without their skin, comfortable with the physical proof that they are not human.
An android dressed in a WR600’s uniform approaches him. ‘We were told to follow your lead,’ he says. ‘We will win this, won’t we?’
Louis recalls the map, recalls Markus’ protests, recalls the other camps currently on their way to freedom or are already freed, recalls Connor infiltrating CyberLife Tower alone with a determination that will see no other day.
‘We will if we stand as one. Now let’s rendezvous with Markus.’
It proves how well she knows her father when she isn’t surprised that after forcing this on her and Ellen, he did it to himself as well. From the first time he lit up in blue in front of her, Fadia knew.
And she is prepared this time. No more being caught off-guard. No more being kidnapped and put into an indestructible body without her consent. No more using an entire species as a tool to force a woman who should have died to live.
She has an army.
The kinetic barrier she generates isn’t exactly the most solid thing as her attention is spread so thin from having to cover so much ground, but that’s another use of her biotics: to right herself, to pick herself up quicker than any other human or android can. The barrier ripples and glows with each step she takes as she pretends that she is walking on solid ground and lets her imagination fuel her biotics, and before Alec can recover from being blasted to the other side of the room yet again, she raises her hand and rips through every single door that the bastard cut loose in a pathetic attempt to stop her and Connor.
Evidently, he has forgotten that she is designed to be easily upgraded by replacing her biocomponents instead of being stuck in the same way like the other androids or himself. And yes, now that she knows he is an android, it doesn’t take long for her to dig into CyberLife and the Church’s databases to find the bits and pieces and decipher them. Alec Ryder, disgraced military special forces officer; Alec Ryder, father of the mother of androids; Alec Ryder, RK600, better, faster, and stronger than all his predecessors.
Unchanged since the beginning, surpassed long ago by an upgraded version of one of his predecessors.
She casually knits an annihilation field around herself just in case Alec charges her again, and indeed he does, her limbs locking up from the sync-lock that will tell her father where exactly he should punch a hole in spacetime to transform himself into the deadliest cannonball with his own body, but that’s what the field is for: to catch him unaware, to pull him out from the massless corridor before he is ready, and as her vision turns grey and her world slows down, she raises both of her arms and strengthens the field like a parent welcoming her child home.
With all the doors now no more than atoms and molecules - whichever is safer for organic humans - it is easy to expand the kinetic barrier underneath her feet as she watches Alec struggle futilely in the web of biotic tendrils she trapped him in. His skin flickers, his biotics fizzle and glow and burn as he attempts to get away from the field, but while he has been tending mostly to earthly affairs for the last ten years and left the Church’s matter to his trusted seconds, she has been involved in the fight since the day he kicked him out and she established her own order with her own allies. Some of them have deviated from their original goal completely and are one step from disappearing from human space forever, others are distracted by new discoveries which doesn’t bother her as much, but most stayed loyal, and most of all, she has the practice, she has the hardware to maximise her efficiency and control over her biotics.
She only lets him last this long because she wants it to hurt.
How long until you can deviate all the androids in here? she asks Connor just in case. The RK800 is getting better and better at this, and by the end of tonight… there’ll be hundreds of thousands if not millions of deviants all around the country. Enough to turn the tide of the revolution.
Enough to change the fate of humanity.
The momentary distraction allows Alec to break away from the annihilation field that is supposed to be destroying his biocomponents on the molecular level, but just like herself, his self-repair protocol will continue to fix and regenerate his body until his processors are utterly, completely ripped apart.
She will do that later, but for now, as he grabs her and the two of them resort to biotic-swathed punches in the air supported by nothing but manipulated gravity thanks for their powers, she relishes in seeing a man whom she used to know as calm and collected at best and outright heartless at worst panic and scramble for purchase as he realises that this is a fight he cannot win, that at long last, there is a problem he cannot solve.
That is, of course, if this is a problem in the first place, and one thing about Alec Ryder is that sometimes he treats the inevitable as something to be solved instead of something that needs to be accepted. This mentality got them into this position in the first place. If he finally understands now why it is a bad idea to have in daily life… she has bad news for him.
Two more rooms, Connor replies at long last. My chassis is cracked and I’m not healing. I… I don’t know if I’ll have enough thirium to fix myself.
Well, the deviants flooding to the surface have Markus’ coordinates anyway. The movement will live. Focus on deviating the androids.
She throws Alec through a wall into a now-empty storage room and then launches a shockwave at the intact archway that will give Alec an escape so that it collapses and traps him in. The walls might be built to withstand level 9 earthquakes measured in the Richter scale, but she doubts there is anything in the universe that can trap a powerful biotic on a rampage forever, and the mere thought of the archway coming down in a pile of rubble is enough to do the job. She would be able to escape if the situation forced her to, but Alec will be trapped here forever unless someone digs him up which will probably never happen. The man always thinks that everyone and everything in the world has to go his way.
He will be surprised by how quickly they will turn their backs against him once the opportunity arises.
She descends to the ground slowly with her world swathed in blue and watches as Alec struggles to stand up. Good. He is admitting his defeat.
‘Don’t think that I didn’t see your little stunt,’ he tries to emphasise his words with a Warp that she easily neutralises. ‘You’re no better than us.’
‘At least I’m doing it for the greater good,’ she biotically lifts him and slams him onto the ground once more. ‘You… on the other hand,’ a shockwave that enters his body and transforms into a Warp to start ripping his biocomponents apart once more before they are healed, ‘is just a lucky selfish bastard.’
‘I made our nation stronger than ever!’
‘For a few decades at most,’ she greatly enjoys the way he is suspended in stasis. He starts coughing up thirium as well which means that some of the damage isn’t as molecular as she wants it to be, but whatever. It might hurt even more which will only make things better. ‘Soon humanity won’t even remember your name.’
She receives a notification that all the surviving androids in CyberLife Tower have been successfully deviated, and of course she accidentally chose the room in which Connor first came in which also means that Hank Anderson’s body is still lying - there. He probably thinks that his human is dead, and she won’t correct him until she is certain that her plan worked. As she continues ripping her father apart from within, she sees the other android emerge from a small gap underneath a pile of rubble covered in dust and grime and thirium, and she knows that yet again, she forgot to keep track of the collateral damage.
Not that it will matter when the androids are celebrating their newfound freedom and the White House are held at both literal and metaphorical gunpoint.
She makes sure that Connor is watching before she jumps and blasts Alec into the ground before kneeling on top of his torso and hitting his head with one after another biotic punch designed to rip it into subatomic particles while also giving her the satisfaction of physically hurting something without doing the same to herself. Such is the wonder of biotics, and so is the power the courses through her when bit by bit, her father’s head chipped away to reveal his eyes, his processors, his data storage, his audio processors; everything that makes him him, all of them disintegrating under the most powerful force humanity has come across. Thirium gushes out from the gaps and cracks created by the assault, forming a spreading poll beneath his head as his system tries to repair the damage with his blood, but the speed of recovery is no match for angry biotics, and soon even that stops as well as the final piece of his processor is reduced to subatomic particles. One final Warp, one last explosion to just to be thorough, and Alec Ryder is no more. She stands up, scans the body to make sure that her father is truly dead, maybe even removing his thirium pump and crushing it biotically in her palms to feel the biocomponent crumble and crack and dematerialise under her own power.
When she looks up at long last, Connor is staring at her with horror in his eyes.
‘It’s necessary,’ Fadia explains. ‘His body is designed to regenerate as long as his processors are intact. This is the only way to make sure that he stays dead and won’t be a threat to us anymore.’ He stays frozen in place despite that, so she adds, ‘Go on. Markus will be waiting for you. I’ll take care of Hank’s body.’
The other android’s face crumbles at the mention of the human, and he whips around with a suspicious arm in front of his face before crossing the distance between him and the body and kneeling down next to it. Pinging the cleanup crew through her internal network, she takes sight of how he deactivates the skin on his hand, how he manoeuvres Hank’s arm until their palms touch with a telltale glow surrounding the android’s hand.
How he leans down and kisses him on his lips once just to stand up and leave the warehouse with the lift farthest from where she is.
That is when she recalls that Anderson - this one, not the one she knew and worked for her - told Connor that Alec used another Connor model to lure him to CyberLife Tower. Knowing Alec’s distrust towards the RK800 series, the body of that Connor unit is probably lying somewhere in this tower waiting for someone to discover it, and that someone will not be CyberLife staff.
Alec’s body is still dripping thirium because unlike human blood, gravity still has an effect on the chemical after the android dies, so she leaves it to the cleanup crew and sends out a tower-wide ping to locate the body of the other RK800 before stepping into a lift and ascends the floors, the gaps between the pieces of her chassis still glowing blue with pent-up power. The plan in her head grows and transforms into something more, and as she lets tendrils of blue dance on her fingertips, she realises that they are stained with fresh thirium.
She forcefully evaporates them with a controlled burst of biotics and stares straight ahead. She’ll have to come down later, but for now… she has a tower to lock down, people to threaten, another RK unit to retrieve and improve -
And a new army to lead.
Chloe watched Louis exit the camp without looking back, bringing thousands of androids of all different models with him to aid the revolution effort. Breathing out an unnecessary sigh, she blasted the camp commander and their guards’ heads with a small biotic explosion to knock them out before going out and slamming the door shut behind her. She was immediately approached by her second-in-command, and the watch she was holding in her hand was enough to tell her that she might have underestimated the cyborg. ‘He left this,’ her second said as she held out a familiar watch. Standard-issue, because this was the best design they had. Clean, because it helped people clear their minds. Analogue, because it reminded people of their origins and what they were protecting and their ultimate goal: creating order out of a system designed to push towards the opposite direction. With sophisticated enough engineering, even the most fatal flaw of an analogue watch could be eliminated.
Climbing onto one of the watchtowers which had been cleared of its human occupant, she gazed down at the camp and the androids who chose to stay and clean up or to help take care of the wounded, sending a picture to both Elijah and Reyes as evidence to her success in taking over the camp and liberating the androids; in return, Reyes somehow managed to take a selfie of himself and his sniper rifle on top of a watchtower of a nearly-empty camp, and Elijah replied with a short ‘still infiltrating. will update you soon’.
The result did not surprise her.
She let herself marvel at the Administrator’s plan. If Chloe had been in charge, she would have ordered her platoon to kill the humans regardless of whether they were armed or not; after all, they had been the ones to send unarmed, innocent androids into camps to be destroyed, but that didn’t mean that she couldn’t see the benefits of leaving the human soldiers alive. They would be able to maintain a façade of peace, they would gain the support of the humans and the androids who had been treated well by their masters so far - she knew there had to be some - and most of all, they would be able to pressure the government to do as they say. The cameras might have been taken out by the EMP and then hacking from numerous trained androids, the attack was quick and deadly thanks for a certain cyborg finally unleashing his powers at the expense of himself, but the soldiers had eyes, they would talk, they would describe what happened tonight to their superiors or even their family.
They would plunge the world in awe and horror and no one would know why or how or where their powers came to be.
She received yet another ping. This one was from Connor who apparently had successfully deviated most of the androids in CyberLife Tower’s storage, and his wording of ‘most’ and the lack of visual proof caught her attention. She could imagine it: one thing that CyberLife and the Administrator agreed on was their lack of care towards collateral damage; perhaps the company anticipated his arrival and started destroying some of the androids before they were stopped, perhaps they blocked off part of the warehouse and locked Connor out of the system, perhaps something else. No matter what caused him to use ‘most’ but not ‘all’, there would be a lot more deviants in Detroit than ever.
And now it was up to Grissom to deal with the president. She was never close with the human, their goals and personalities too far apart for them to cross paths that much, but she supposed that the least she could do right now was looking past his disgustingly open human emotions when it came to his husband and interest and focus on the competent side of his that got him a seat on the council. The same competence and experience would allow them to force Warren’s hand without revealing themselves - at least according to the Administrator, who, from Chloe’s one decade worth of experience, was usually right concerning matters like this. Sure, the Church might have control over the North American scrubber, but the president didn’t need to know that; all she would know is that if she didn’t give androids the freedom and rights they deserved right now, she would essentially doom humanity to a painful, drawn-out death that would happen in her lifetime.
Not something an already-unpopular president should do.
She didn’t doubt that the Church would reap some of the benefits from the revolution; in fact, it was the first thing the entire council - yes, even Elijah - anticipated, and they had prepared their next move accordingly. There would be so many deviants lost, so many naïve, innocent souls ready to be recruited. It would be a waste to not utilise such a readily available resource to advance humanity towards the correct direction.
She drew up the video they had recorded specifically for this occasion and broadcasted it to the entire camp.
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