One Week After the Exile of New Detroit
North brushed her hair as her children Allie and Ollie were sleeping still. So far, so good for the week. She got out, made it safely to her second home, and ended up well. Her instincts had been right about leaving when she did too. She got out untagged with no LED, meaning it was even easier to blend in. No one suspected anyone of being an android.
When her phone rang, she answered, still waiting on someone. She sat down her brush as that someone finally called. “Marcus?! Are you okay?”
“Yeah.” He sounded weak. “I’m okay, North. I cut through my denial imbalance. I had no choice, I wanted to live. I can’t believe I was so foolish. Where are you?”
“Somewhere I love,” North said. She kept things vague for anyone calling. “You know. Markus? Are you safe?”
“Safe and safe to be around,” he said. “Hearing about New Detroits free and peaceful androids being sent to Russia, or to work 24/7, or even going out here and choosing to survive. I. I can’t believe I didn’t see this happening.”
“It was stupid,” North said. “See it or not, it was stupid. We were fine, we didn’t cause problems. Humans though, their terrible creatures, Markus. They suspected us, no matter how much we showed we were peaceful. It would happen one day. I was prepared though.” She smiled. “We have a little girl too. Her names Allie. She keeps Ollie balanced and she’s sweet.”
“A little girl? How’d you manage that?” Markus asked.
“I have my ways,” North said. “Are you going to find us now?” It wouldn’t be difficult for him to remember, if he was really better.
“Soon,” Markus said. “I have to find a way there. Androids and planes aren’t really matching. Or renting houses or hotels. Bias is everywhere. It’s not easy out here, North. I’m glad you got out with Ollie and the new one. I’ll find a way to make my way there to you. I promise. You are my strength.”
“Just keep it together,” North insisted. “It’s too dangerous to meet you. You’ll have to find a way here. Do you know where it is yet?”
“Yeah, I do. Confirmation was what I wanted, but I know you’re scared. Just, wait for me. Keep believing in me. I’ll find my way there to you, I promise. No matter what it takes.”
Somewhere in Michigan
Kara watched Max and Alice in the truck. It had been nearly one week out there and so far they’d been fine. Once they had full days of mowing lawns ahead of them, things were great moneywise. They slept in a hotel nearly every night, and had a bit extra for clothes from the Salvation Army. Although, things were starting to get harder. Where once they could go to any hotel, some of them had the old fashioned No Androids signs in their windows now. Several laundry places wouldn’t let them use their facilities.
Some places were nicer than others, and some people in some places were more willing to help. While others tried to call the police if they didn’t leave the property or quit ‘harassing the other people on the block for money’.
Kara had even helped with a few chores, but Connor watching Max while he worked outside and her just watching Alice inside wasn’t easy. When they switched, it was worse. Max hated staying still, he wasn’t a model that could do it too long. It was only worth it for the right degree of money.
Right now though, it was just Connor doing some minor trimming with trimmers. Kara looked back toward the kids. Although tough for Max to sit still, at least a coloring book was trying to help him stay occupied. Alice worked on the same thing. They were cheap, less than a buck, but they worked.
She watched Connor knock on the door with the trimmers.
“I am done, Sir,” Connor said with his most polite smile. “Is there anything else I can do for you?”
“I don’t know,” he said. “You could pick weeds for ten dollars?”
“I’ll pick them for five,” another android spoke up behind them.
Connor looked at the other android. He was hiking the pricing down. It wasn’t worth it. He looked toward the human, not offering a lower price yet. He still had something not many androids had.
Connor looked back, dropped the trimmers, and forgot all about even waiting for the answer! Kara was doing her best to keep the android there, but someone was trying to steal the truck. Although with another android, it would seem to be a way to get ahead, it was not with him.
Kara could not hold her own well, but she was holding onto the wheel, not letting him turn. He was giving it gas, but it wasn’t going to work long. Once he saw Connor coming though, he fleed through the other side.
Connor chased after him down the street, but remembered what he was risking. Another android could come after him.
“No, you don’t! Let go!”
Kara’s voice again. Connor immediately went back and saw four things happening at the same time.
An android was stealing his mower from the back.
Another android was trying to steal the car.
An android was trying to make off with Alice. Kara was chasing that one. Then as Kara got closer to the other android, he stopped chasing Alice and grabbed her. Alice was now free of being chased from that android while Kara got nabbed, but she was getting chased by another one.
An android was trying to make off with Max, but he had the skill level to break free soon if they didn’t pin him down too hard. From the positioning, he had a high probability of breaking free. Still, Max was his.
Alice. Kara. Max. Truck. Mower. He couldn’t change that order, and he already knew he wouldn’t make the other two if he went after the others. Times were about to get harder, but he couldn’t risk it.
Alice was first. She was the closest to the area being chased, as well as Kara’s reason to keep going. Connor caught up with her easily, grabbing her and simply hitting the android to the ground. He didn’t have time to decommission, nor did he want to take out androids that were probably just desperate. He lifted Alice to his back. “Hang on.” He had to follow through backyards, holding Alice’s hand wasn’t going to be enough, and he needed to hurry.
Once he jumped the first and second fence, he saw Kara trying to hold her own too, she was clawing into a tree and kicking with her feet. It wouldn’t hold for more than a few seconds, but that’s all he needed. He took it out too. He handed Alice to her, knowing Max wasn’t far. “Don’t separate!” He could go after one if they got nabbed, but not both again.
As he jumped over the next fence, he saw Max making it back over. Oh good. He had been right in the model to choose. He may have been an anxious android, but the boy’s wiliness and skill helped. He ran toward Connor. They both jumped the fence and got back to Kara and Alice who had ran back to the front.
The truck and the mower were gone.
“The element of surprise, they used it to their fullest.” Kara held Alice’s hand tighter and touched Max’s face. “Are you two alright?” She looked back to Connor. “Thanks.”
“There was no other option to save the truck or mower without losing you,” Connor said. “The truck would have prevented me from rescuing Alice, while the mower could have kept me from saving Max. Both cases would have resulted in losing you.” And that was never an option.
“Darn,” Max said. “We lost our coloring books.”
They lost more than that. They lost extra clothes, the mower that got them the most jobs, their way to get around to better places, their blue blood supply, their soda, and the extra money stored in the glove box.
“My fault,” Kara said. “I knew someone would try something soon when things got desperate and I still didn’t see it.”
“I believe it was a group of ten, trying to scramble for whatever they could,” Connor said. “They only gave up when they realized I was a higher degree android than they knew.” Still. That was a tremendous loss.
“Everyone was saved,” Kara said to him. “That is an amazing feat in itself, Connor. Mission Successful.”
Ooh. Connor felt a rush go through him as she said that. “I lost the truck and mower, and you shouldn’t say that. That is an imbalance of mine, I can’t be perfect.”
“Know where and when to work on an imbalance. Sometimes giving into it when things get dire is actually the best idea of all,” Kara said. “To help out the feelings coursing through you.”
Ah. Smart. It still felt like mission failure, but when she said it, he felt almost that same amount of goodness that came from success. Like the fact someone acknowledged it made it even greater. But, enough about that. They needed to figure out their next plan. They just lost the little shelter and comfort they had with the use of that truck. Although he could track it’s GPS, it was far away right now, and it might not come back next to him for some time. They just lost their best working tool, and things were only getting harder.
“At least it isn’t raining,” Connor said. He looked toward the sky like the nice clear evening might change it’s mind just to make their time tougher. The sun kept on shining like everything was okay with the world. They were taking a small break beneath an awning. They had tried several more houses, Kara too, but they either had help in the area, didn’t want help, or were paying such a meager amount it wasn’t worth it.
“Androids are bottoming out the working prices,” Kara warned Connor. “They have this neighborhood covered. Any ideas?”
Hank. If he could get Hank’s help, Hank could drive them out there so he could follow the GPS and get his truck back. It would be well worth the effort. The mower might be gone, but to get the blue blood? He kept it all in a locked case so hopefully they didn’t break it. His soda too, but- oh no my-” Something else hit him. He had something else in that car.
It wasn’t a conversation he could have in front of children, but his sexy books were long gone. Probably gone and sold.
“The sky is going to get dark soon,” Kara said to Connor. “We need to find a place for the night before it actually gets dark.”
Connor agreed. Hank had Kara’s old network on his tail, he’d already warned Connor about that, but for the chance to meet and get his car back, it might be worth it. Tomorrow he’d decide. Tonight, Kara was right. Even if he called Hank, and Hank actually answered, it’d be past dark before he showed up. Connor had moved farther from New Detroit steadily each day looking for work or right weather conditions.
He did have one thing on his side though. He just finished a sixty dollar job, which was why was picky about the weeds. He needed better jobs for a better amount and staying there another half an hour for only five dollars wouldn’t make it an easier. At the same time? It was going to start getting tougher like that.
Make more money. Find his truck. Get another used mower from a pawn shop and try again. He could save that 60 too, wait until he got his truck and be set. But? But they were all feeling down. It was better to get their spirits up. He walked with them around another block and spied a hotel a distance away, but.
No androids allowed.
He found a cheap store where he could try and purchase something for the little ones. Even paper and pencil.
Sorry, No Androids allowed.
That’s usually how it had been. Sometimes there was an outlier but a whole neighborhood tended to go one way or the other. It was a non-friendly place for androids, and it was getting dark.
“You didn’t sleep last night,” Kara warned him. “You need to sleep tonight. We all need to sleep tonight.”
Obtaining any kind of extra balance was the best idea, but it wouldn’t work. “I will watch over you while you sleep again,” he insisted.
“No. Besides which, you’re going to have to get something extra to help the sacrifices we lost in the truck.” Kara moved toward an alleyway. “In here.” She slipped in with the kids. “Less chance of being seen on the other side of the trash can.”
It wasn’t the best spot, but there weren’t really many best spots in the area. However? “I can do better.” Instead of looking at the street, he looked at the buildings. Much less chance of getting caught.
He found the perfect roof. It had a way up into it, but it would be harder for the common android to pull off so easily. The roof looked like it was deeper so there was less chance anyone would see them. “If we get up on that roof and face away we should be hidden enough the police won’t be bothering us.” He moved over and checked it out real quick. Not only was it a good spot, it smelled better too, with a much better view above them. Like his old place.
He moved back down and grabbed Max first. He brought him up and over to the roof. Next he grabbed Alice and brought her up. They both immediately went and looked over it, and he had to move them back to the middle. There was a large box there. There was a way to get up there as clean as the roof had been, that was no surprise, but this late at night, it was doubtful anyone would come.
He retrieve Kara last. A little tougher since she couldn’t just be on his back like the other two, but she found her way up too.
Now all safely up there, Connor saw Max and Alice had already discovered tarps.
“That’s not comfy. Better without them,” Max said as he put it back down.
Connor indicated the large crate. “Get some rest there and I will keep watch. Alice and Max listened, but Kara didn’t. “I will be fine.”
“No, you won’t,” Kara said. “What is your reaction time from going to sleep and waking up?”
“Normally a full second,” Connor said. “With my weakness, almost instant.” That’s why it was so hard to control.
“Okay.” Kara moved around the roof, grabbing some rope. It wasn’t super long. “Sit down, Connor. Trust me.”
Connor didn’t want to sit down, but he did need to show some trust. He sat down and she wrapped the rope around him. Not a tie, just a wrap.
“Alice, sit on his left.” Kara gave her part of the rope to hold. “Max, on the right.” She gave Max the other rope.
“Cunning.” Connor would give her that. It would give them more than plenty of time. His reflexes alone would protect them, but have that tiny bit more of security? Helped. “There’s no rope for you.”
“I don’t need one, you are it. Spread your legs.” Kara gestured toward his legs.
Ah. Connor watched her lie down in front of him, tucked more in on the side. Immediately he could feel her body heat against him. He was happy he hadn’t turned his temperature simulator off after all. The air was decent enough, and feeling her warmth against him was nice. Comforting.
“Okay,” Kara said toward him. “Comfortable?”
“Very.” Very, very. Connor looked at the sky. “Even the view is beautiful tonight.”
“It is.” Kara curled up tighter against him. “Go ahead and place your hands on me.”
“Tonight, yes,” she said. “Wherever your hands feel comfortable for sleeping.” She leaned against his neck and his body, her full weight on him. “Goodnight, Connor.”
Wherever. She really had trusted in him. He held one arm around her waist and the other rested slightly against her side, almost to her thigh. Okay, it was on her thigh, but that is where it fell comfortably at.
He stared up again. The view. It wasn’t too bad. He looked on his left side. He never knew how much trust Alice was gaining with him. To think I almost. What a painful thought. When they took off, he had assumed they would change. But even know, even through all of this, Alice maintained her balance. She was even getting better. She wasn’t a real talkative one, but she didn’t need to be.
He could tell by the light of her eyes. By the way she not only played, but felt comfortable with Max. They weren’t just friends like her and Ollie barely had been. They were family to each other, a brother and sister. He looked down at the other side at Max. Originally made simply as an extra, more as a resource for Alice and another child for Kara to watch. He never dreamed that little guy would have as much meaning as the other two.
Wrong reason for being, but glad he was there nonetheless. When things got monotonous, he always found a way to lighten things up. Worth the mower, more than worth the mower, even if he did manage to break free.
And Kara. Sleeping right beside him so closely. They all were. He had little doubt that even feeling them move in their sleep would put them in any danger. It was all trust, and Kara instilled that the most right now. Trusting the girl she risked everything for, to even be next to him. I don’t think I have a problem with touch anymore. At least, not with them.
They may not have had a hotel, but it was still a form of shelter. While he should feel like he was protecting them, at that moment, he felt like they were protecting him. No guns, no weapons, just armed with trust and care in each other. I have family on all three sides of me.
Not people he was protecting. Not someone he made a deal with to survive. Not even really friendships.
They all became . . . family.