NOTES: One-shot story. Indirect Jameron.
SUMMARY: What if John had been arrested for Sarkissian's murder? Interrogated for hours without success, the last interviewer gives John more than he bargained for.
DISCLAIMER: All characters herein are the property of someone other than me. No profit has been earned.
"The Uncanny Valley"
"Why don't you just confess?"
John Connor looked up from a Styrofoam cup of black coffee to the obese, mountain of a man seated across from him. He'd been in this tiny room for hours, having fended off police questioning for the entire afternoon. Now this fat bastard had barged in, seconds after the last interview, and plonked himself down opposite like he owned the place.
"You'll feel better. I promise."
"You don't know that." John said before downing a mouthful of the steaming liquid.
The man released a breath of intolerance, reached for a pack of cigarettes and lit up, the interrogation room filling with wisps of smoke. He offered one to John.
"I was fourteen when I started."
A moment passed. His mother would kill him for this; but she wasn't here. John reached forward and slid one of the white sticks from the offered pack, receiving the light from the man's silver Zippo like he'd done it a thousand times.
He took a long drag, feeling the nicotine rush to his head.
"Yeah." He lied, exhaling a plume of white.
"It's an acquired taste." The man shrugged. "So this guy you killed. Sarkissian."
John felt his blood turn cold just hearing the name. "I thought you said you weren't a cop?"
"I'm not. I'm a psychologist. I just work for the police." The man leant forward and pressed eject on the nearby recorder, exposing its empty innards. "See. No recordings, no judgement, no execution. Just me and you. Two guys enjoying a smoke and some amiable conversation."
The man reached into a portfolio, producing blown up photographs of a charred murder scene that he slowly deposited on the table before John, the tableau painting a picture of mayhem and death.
"Strangulation. Not fire, as you might think, killed this man." He produced a thick, official file from the same case and began flicking through its pages of unimaginative font and greyscale candids. "A thoroughly despicable man at that. Theft, GBH, prostitution, homicide, paedophilia. The man was a connoisseur of all that is base and inhuman… and you took him out."
"Don't feel guilty. In fact…" The man leant forward, his chair pushing its rigorously tested standards to the limit, and extended his hand for him to shake. "Put it there pal."
John placed the cigarette in his mouth and reached forward, sliding his hand into the man's iron grip.
"I can go home tonight and know there's one less scumbag on the streets. One less bastard that can do harm to my family. You're a hero."
"I'm not a hero." John answered quickly. Too quickly.
The man was quite for a moment, taking the time to extract another drag from his cigarette as he contemplated John with narrowed eyes before stroking his impressive chin in a show of mock contemplation.
"I vont to talk about your mother." He said in his best German accent.
John smiled. This was a guy he could love to hate. Ambivalence in human form. "I don't want to sleep with her, if that's what you're getting at."
"Oedipus was a complicated guy, very screwed-up. Besides, it's not like your mother's the only woman in your life."
John froze. The man was nearing a subject that he could ill afford to slip up on. If she was brought in here this guy would cut through her in minutes, exposing all her shiny metal to the world.
"She had nothing to do with any of this. Cameron wasn't even home." He lied quickly, impressing himself with how sincere it sounded.
The man, however, gazed at him as though he had just grown a second head. "I was referring to your girlfriend, Riley."
John's blood ran from cold to boiling in less than a second, and he felt it on his cheeks.
"Cameron's important to you, isn't she?"
John said nothing. Talking had got him into enough trouble already.
"Don't answer that. It was rhetorical." He stubbed out his cigarette in a nearby ash tray and immediately began lighting a new one. "Of course she's important to you, she's your sister. Did Sarkissian try to hurt her? Did it make you angry?"
Collecting himself, John was very careful this time, enunciating clearly. "I told you. She wasn't home."
"Do you think I was born yesterday, kiddo?" The man threw down his lighter where it clattered against the porcelain bowl of the ash tray. "Do you think we don't know what's going on?"
John braced himself for whatever inescapable evidence was about to be thrown on the table as the man leaned forward again and levelled him with an emphatic gaze.
"I understand, John. I know why you killed this man. I know you did it to protect your family. I understand! You didn't want to kill him, but he forced your hand. It was either him or you. Him or Cameron. Him or your mother. I understand!" The man placed his hands down over Johns' wrists where they lay on the table. "I understand, John."
"No you don't."
"You feel like your life isn't your own. That fate is just spiralling out of your control and you can't stop it."
John felt the lump rise in his throat despite his fear. Did he know? Was he reading his mind?
"It's normal John. It's natural. You live in a militant home where everything is checked, rechecked, secured and encoded, then one day the chaos of the outside bursts in and turns a place of safety into a nightmare. He's in your home and he's hurting someone you love and suddenly this anger just explodes out of you and you can't stop yourself."
Every part of John wanted to believe what he was saying. Every part just wanted to breakdown, to lay everything out on the table from Sarkissian to Judgement Day, that time travel is real and that the love of his life is a machine.
"I understand, John. A judge will understand. A jury will understand. You are NOT the bad guy. CONFESS!!"
"I'm in love with Cameron."
To his credit, the man never battered an eye. He raised his hand and took another hit.
"You're in love with your sister?"
John laughed, tears escaping his eyes. "She's not my sister. She never was."
"Not according to our records," His eyes trailed away as he put it together. "She's adopted. Not related by birth."
John nodded. The man's supposition was a simplification, but it wasn't that far from the truth.
"Could this be what's at the heart of everything?" He asked. Grandeur, a coded mockery, lacing his words. "Why are you telling me this?"
John managed a smile through the redness and tears, his nerves at the edge. "You wanted a confession."
The man recoiled from the edge of his chair, reclining into the furniture as he processed the new information, his cigarette remaining clasped between his lips. John took a final drag of his own before stamping it out in the tray, catching himself from reaching for another. It may have been the cigarettes, but for some reason, John felt as though he had just got out of prison.
"You love someone you're not allowed to love." The man mused aloud. "Why? I mean, what's the problem? Cousins marry all the time and you're not even related to this girl. Why should you hold back if it's someone you love? What if you and she had met before your family decided to adopt. What if you'd just crossed paths in another life…"
"Because she's a god-damn machine!"
Shit. Oh SHIT! He couldn't believe he'd just said that.
"A machine? Like what? A toaster?"
John said nothing, developing a renewed interest in the pack of cigarettes before he downed some more coffee.
"Like a robot? A gynoid is it?" He probed, searching for the interpretation that fit. "Is yours the pathology that makes my career, I wonder?" He added under his breath.
"You don't sound at all freaked out."
"I'm a psychologist, nothing human freaks me out." He reassured. "You think you're nuts, John? Trust me, you're not. You're weird at best."
He reached forward and removed another cigarette from the pack, tossing it to John before sliding him the lighter.
"Can you live with weird?"
John didn't answer as he lit up for the second time, downing the last of his coffee. He didn't want any more of this. He just wanted to go home, flick his laptop on and waste the rest of the afternoon reading fan fiction and eat chips.
"Have you ever heard of the 'Uncanny Valley'?"
John shook his head as he surrendered to the inevitable further analysis.
"It was a term coined in 1970 by some guy from Japan, or one of those places. I forget his name,"
"He was a roboticist that developed this hypothesis about how a person would react to a machine that pretended to be human. He said that a machine that had some human characteristics, but was ultimately a machine, would evoke empathy from human beings, because its human aspects would be set out in sharp relief against its dominant machine qualities. But a machine that was so like a human that it were to be virtually indistinguishable would generate revulsion, because it would no longer be a machine pretending to be human, but a human doing a bad job of being a human."
He placed the cigarette to his mouth, taking a long drag. A pause for his audience's brief reflection.
"We experience a similar reaction to people who are mentally ill. That knee jerk reaction we get to people who don't act the way they are supposed to. An evolutionary imperative to ostracize those who would bring detriment to the tribe."
He sat up, levelling his gaze at John, who looked decidedly flabbergasted. "Is that how you used to see her? As an inhuman object? Off-limits? A no-go? Her bedroom sacred ground? So her human attributes could reach you in a way that was safe, that was socially acceptable? By thinking of her as inhuman?"
John found his voice at the same time he found a way out of the mess of his confession. "Yes." He whispered, almost inaudibly.
"But she wasn't just a machine, was she? One day you found out the truth. She was a woman. A beautiful woman. Telling you everything you wanted to hear. How she felt the same way and that all was right with the world. Then all the love turned to hate. She'd confounded your expectations and changed the rules. Now when you look at her you see something else. All the imperfections you used to ignore are now right in your face and you don't like the view."
John couldn't take it any longer and buried his head in his hand. Confession was only minutes away if this man could read him so easily.
"It's normal, John. It's human. It's Freudian." He smiled. "We're all entitled to our feelings."
The psychologist sat back, like a rock falling to Earth in a blaze of glory, leaving John the flaming wreckage in his wake. Was it so obvious? So clear to everyone what the truth was? He'd been such a fool. Building a moat between him and Cameron had done nothing but cause grief, compounding it only with a foolish entanglement with Riley.
The door of the interrogation room flung open and a police detective strode inside.
"Time's up, Fitz!"
The obese man deflated, like a parched man having his water snatched away. "Can we just have a few more minutes; I think we're really getting somewhere." He looked to John for support.
"Mr. Baum. I'm sorry for the inconvenience we've caused you. Thank you for your cooperation." The detective gestured toward the open door where freedom beckoned. "If you'll please step this way, your mother and sister are here to collect you."
John had never felt so ambivalent in his life. Half of him wanted to stay and hammer out what little remained of his psyche, the rest wanted to bolt from the room and never return. He made his decision and rose from his chair.
"One more thing, John. About the valley."
John turned in the doorway, willing for just one last dance.
"Sometimes it's good to hit rock bottom, when you do you'll start feeling better. You'll accept her for what she is and only think of her as the one you love." The man smiled his first genuine one and John could not help but follow suit as he was led out of the room.
"I told you you'd feel better after confession!"
My first attempt at fan-fiction. Hope you like it.
Please read and review.