Connor looked at Captain Fowler and the ‘crew’ being chosen. Not so happy. Markus. He looked toward Hank who was just staring back at him, almost like he blamed him.
Captain Fowler held his fingers to his forehead. “It is what it is.”
“Shit is what it is,” Gavin muttered off from the side.
“Look? Jericho is important,” Captain Fowler warned them all. “Okay? There’s only one place like it, functioning as well as it is.”
“Because the aim isn’t good enough,” Gavin muttered again. “Why are we getting dragged into this? Jericho is like it’s own little thing.” He pointed at Connor. “I can understand, you know, ‘royalty’ sending down their little spy for our activities, but why are we doing them favors?”
“Because!” Fowler yelled. “All of the United States of America. No, scratch that. All of the world that is dealing with deviants, are watching us! Our city, our Detroit! And we are not going to say no to this. There is support for androids up the ying yang of your ass here, and if we say no? No one is gonna be happy. Even the President of the United States got involved in this.”
“Then can’t they send some of their men?” Someone else asked.
“Yeah. Sure. Right after they can everyone here for not being supportive of the world.” Fowler wasn’t happy. “People. Humans,” he said glancing toward Connor then back to everyone else. “Humans think they can play games with android’s lives.”
“Oxy-Moron!” Somebody coughed.
“-With android’s lives!” Fowler said firmer, continuing. “Jericho’s peaceful, it was founded on peace, and it’s the reason it goes on. But peace comes at a cost, they can’t fight back.”
Gavin turned and leaned toward Connor. “How’s it feel to have your hands tied behind your back, Connor? Feel like the old days?”
“Gavin, you are trying to get yourself thrown off of this,” the Captain warned him. “You want off, it’s your badge too! Androids can’t fight, so we have to for them. Now. Jericho isn’t a small outlet of twenty houses, it’s big, and getting bigger. There are a limited amount of people to take care of this thing, so everyone’s getting involved. From in Detroit and out of Detroit.”
“So for how long?” Hank asked. “How long are we supposed to be pulling guard detail?”
“Until things settle down,” is all the Captain said, “So you can all just zip it. Jericho is an area of Detroit. We used to cover everything. So, just take it as getting back to the old ways.”
“This is not what Jericho needed,” Connor started. “We watch for humans, that’s how androids watched for suspicious activity.” And some of those cops were not on the side of androids. They could easily shoot an android and say it was someone in a game, or they could stir up the androids to fight back, breaking the whole system.
“Most of the helpful ones for this are gone. They were the first to be killed,” Markus reminded him. “The ones that are, it isn’t what they want to do. Meanwhile, androids are getting hurt, or someone could get taken. For all we know, some might have been.”
“There is another option,” North said heading toward Markus. “There’s more than us out there, and Jericho is the nicest-”
“Cut a deal, Markus!” North yelled. “The humans are going to overuse their power. They are going to get innocent androids hurt.”
“I work with the Detroit Police,” Connor said. “So I can confirm, without a doubt, this is a terrible idea. Not everyone there is . . . gentle,” he settled on. “What is North’s idea?”
Markus gestured toward North. “Go ahead.”
“There are androids who fight, who are free, and who still want to fight,” North said to Connor. “Thousands. They are just in different countries. Cut a deal, and make our own force.”
“That’s what we need,” Connor agreed. Androids who were experienced in fighting, and wanted to fight. That’s what he had hoped he’d gotten at Cyberlife, risked his life for. Instead, they didn’t even try. Most just wanted to rebel against their own programming, as much as possible. “Markus, we need our own force.”
“I know. I understand that,” Markus said to Connor. “Jericho is founded on trade though, Connor. Trading for the protection of Jericho to come here is noble, but it doesn’t help the humans. If what we do doesn’t help the humans, then.” He held his fingers out, one by one. “It doesn’t count. We don’t expand. We don’t get the sources that we need. Those that keep Jericho clean and work for Jericho, have enough androids trading in the rest of the city. This will throw in a huge imbalance.” He started to pace. “We won’t be able to afford as much blue blood. We won’t be able to keep up with any demands that may come of us for bio-components. The housing. The space. We aren’t going to just stand in one area, bunching 100’s on the front lawn and call it freedom.”
“Then we need more than the fighters,” Connor suggested. “If Jericho is one of the best, get some offers on excellent skilled traders to come over. Enough skill to keep up with the new demand we will be facing.”
Markus still didn’t seem convinced. “It’s just. It’s growing, you know?” He said to Connor. “We started with thousands. Then more thousands. Then more thousands. With more and more thousands to come.”
“Which is why we need to start standing up for ourselves now,” Connor warned him. “This isn’t a revolution. This isn’t senseless bloodshed. This is keeping humans with only the intent to harm us away. The bigger Jericho gets, the more problems it’s going to face. We need our own police, our own task force.”
“We absolutely need it,” North agreed. “Markus.”
“How many?” Markus finally asked Connor.
“A hundred fighters would give a decent area of coverage, with more added as Jericho gets bigger,” Connor answered.
“A hundred decent skilled traders. I didn’t want to start building out this way,” Markus warned him and North. “Foreign androids to Detroit has been small. Once we start opening up.”
“We can’t be afraid, Markus. They are all our people,” North reminded him. “More places like Jericho will follow, but we need to rise and give the right impression.”
“To be peaceful with humans, but not to let them hurt us,” Connor said. “Not just to have peace and let them still kill us.”
“I guess . . . I guess it’s time then.” Markus looked between North and Connor. “North, you take care of choosing the traders. Connor? You pick the androids coming over.”
“That’s not my-”
“It is now,” Markus commanded. “North, decide on a uniform and it’s logo and get a hundred of them at least. I don’t want anyone striking until all of America knows who they are and what they are for.”
“Got it,” North said before walking off.
“Connor. Download all the information for all the potential candidates, worldwide. Pick the ones you think match the best. Whether it’s fighting style or negotiation, I don’t know. Just do it. Then, give yourselves a name. Something uniting, but tough, but not over tough.” Then, Markus left.
Connor and Kara’s Residence
“I don’t want to,” Alice said again from Kara’s spot on her lap. “I liked this place.”
“I know,” Kara said, “but North commanded it. They are bringing in top-skilled androids, and, they will be able to do a lot more with cakes than me.” Stitching. How was it that everyone thought her stitching was that grand? It’s not grand, it’s bland. It was fun and the quality was okay, but to push that for the art section?
The art section wasn’t a trade Kara wanted to enter. There was no guarantee she was going to make great art. How were her simple stitching skills going to bring anything to the android style in art? It seemed like a bad idea, but North needed her off cakes and onto stitching. She heard the door open, and felt Alice leave her lap at almost the same time, rounding the corner.
“Dad! We have to move.”
Kara was stunned for a second. That must have been a shocker for Connor. She spoke to him through his AI so Alice couldn’t hear. He probably knew, of course, but having a secondary confirming opinion would make that pass easier. The YK 500 can be programmed to assume a mom and a dad address on two people. Todd Williams never exercised the mom option. Her program must have got rid of him as the source of dad.
Connor seemed to pause a second but then continued.”You’re moving, Alice?”
“They want Kara to stitch, and they want someone else to do cakes,” Alice said sourly as she came back around the corner with Connor.
“Oh. That’d make sense.” Connor came toward Kara. “Jericho will get safer. Nothing is a hundred percent, but I’ll pick the androids with the best track records.”
“Hm. Well, let me know when you decide on the name,” Kara said openly. “I’m apparently stitching a logo into a hundred uniforms.” She gave a small smile. “You guys are all nuts, my stitching is not that good. This is not going to turn out good, especially on something like official uniforms representing us.” She groaned. “And more than a few hours to prepare would have been nice.”
“It was decided today,” Connor said. Alice went back over to hugging him. “Don’t worry. You won’t be very far. All the children are always in the center. I’ll still come and see you.”
Poor Alice got really close. Her programming even did something she never did with Luther, assign Connor the dad addressal. Honestly though? They would still be in the center and near him. Kara looked back at her stitching. It was coming out nice to her, but she still felt like nice wouldn’t cut it. The scene too. It seemed beautiful, but then again, it didn’t. It was too warm. In the snow. It was a cold winter snow, but it was so warm. A humid, moist, almost choking warmness that wanted to reach into the snow. Why am I thinking of those words? She never felt temperature. She sat her stitching down to the side.
“I need a name,” Connor complained. “I was getting bothered about not choosing a last name yet, and now I have to pick a name for these fighters?”
“Wonderland,” Alice said.
“I am pretty sure androids that are going to protect Jericho shouldn’t be called the Wonderland, Alice, but, it’s the thought that counts.”
“No, you. You could have our last name. It’s pretty,” Alice insisted.
“That’s okay.” Connor patted her head. “That fits your family. Not me. Now, I’m sorry, Alice, but I have a lot of work to do. I have a database in my head of over 20,000 androids to choose the best of for selection to come to Jericho.” He gave a simple wave to Kara. “I will see you tomorrow. Don’t forget to let me know where you go.”
“We won’t,” Kara insisted. She watched him round the corner. Alice walked away sadly. “Alice? I’m almost done I think. Do you want to see?” No response. Shoot. Well, she would get better. Hopefully Kara would too. Stitching was always nice, but it still felt. Like she was stress for some reason. A little more each day. Without the breaking the firewall, she couldn’t know for sure.
The women laughed and splashed each other with water in the pool once more before getting out. They toweled off and ran to another room. “Chloe!” They called.
An android, not deviant, came toward them with a smile. They threw her towels at her and headed away. “Thank you. I will wash these right away.”
Who cared? She wasn’t like them. They went to get dressed and met Elijah in another room. They both sat down and waited. Hopefully it wouldn’t take too long.
“Charity,” he addressed them. “and Greed. How are my favorite girls?”
“Fine, Elijah,” Charity said first. “Is something wrong?”
He paused a moment. “There’s a little, let’s say, gaming in Jericho. A few humans, making some waves, feeling threatened by androids. Not a big deal.” Charity and Greed seemed fine. “Then, there was a YK 500 taken for one of them.” They still seemed fine. “Her serial number.” He gave them each a strip of paper.
Charity and Greed didn’t seem so fine.
“Now?” Elijah held his hands out, trying to keep his cool. “You are deviant. You two make your own decisions, there’s no human here dictating anything to you. Your soul purpose to exist is simply to exist. Of all androids, that wasn’t too bad of a deal.” He watched them point at each other and start to babble. “I tried to program you, Charity, with as much good as I could. Deviancy, I really believed it could lead into the programming of an android too. And Greed? Well, obviously, I was shooting for the opposite. I wanted to see how much corruption, how many bad things I could put into your programming to see what you would do when you became deviant.”
He went around the pair who were now completely frozen, clapping his hands. “On one hand, I find it quite extraordinary. One designed for good, and one designed for bad. Each of you? Were very. Very. Bad.”
Charity and Greed hung their heads down.
“I could have kept you like Chloe. To serve and obey me. The only reason you weren’t left to be like her, was by chance,” Elijah said. “She isn’t free. You are. By chance.” Elijah continued to walk around them. “Perhaps the environment? Perhaps, deviancy is more than just the right programming, maybe you need the right environment too.” He held his hand out casually. “It’s hard to say. In any case? Your minds will be reset and I will make you just like Chloe again. Or, I can destroy you. Your choice.”
“She started it,” Charity got onto the blame. “She said she was your favorite, Elijah!”
“She was one of my favorites, which is why I am not happy about this.” He turned to look at all the cold snow in the window. “None came close to her. I gave her everything, and unlike you?” He turned back around to see them try and leave. His guards made them hold still. “It didn’t matter. She was perfect in every way, a perfect blend that you two could never achieve. That I could not possibly achieve again. Oh, and I tried. Over and over again.” Elijah gripped his fingers together.
He turned back around and approached his deviant androids. “Now. I know you two. You wouldn’t just send her off without knowing she was gone for good. So? The one who tells me the most information will be reset, and the one who has the least, will be destroyed. And in what better, perfect manner? Chloe.” He beckoned for his non-deviant android to come. He placed a gun in her hands. “Begin.”
“Greed took the little girl and put her in the store system, I didn’t know about it first!”
“Lies, Charity helped all the way! She wanted to get rid of her just as much!”
“A man, Todd Williams, he bought her, named her Alice.”
“Scruffy, 30’s, involved in Red Ice dealing.”
“Kara found out and she chased after her, but we didn’t cause that!” Greed yelled, trying to get up from the guards. “We weren’t responsible for her!”
“Just the girl, we just got rid of the little girl,” Charity said. “I mean, Greed got rid of the little girl.”
“But obviously the plan was not about her. Clever, but I know you, and I know her.” Elijah moved toward Greed first. “What you did was vindictive, greedy, and just all around? Bad. But, you were programmed to not be good. You’re deceptively sweet.” He moved toward Charity. “You were programmed to be so much more than this. Sweet and Kind. You have hundreds of thousands of motivational quotes and stories about being good in your head. You could even be a certified life coach with everything I gave you. And you did this.”
He walked back toward Chloe. “The one that was programmed to do bad, with it’s deviancy, chose bad. Failure or not? The one that was programmed to do good, with it’s deviancy, chose bad. Failure or not?” He walked away again, around them once more. “Free will. Mixed with programming, it’s still free will. It’s still such a difficult thing to grasp.”
“Then we were both successful,” Greed said. “You saw our free will, in a manner that pleases you.”
“While that’s true.” No. That wasn’t good luck. “The result is like turning down a meal for a simple peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Like living in a cardboard box instead of choosing a house. I would much. Much rather,” he said clearly. “Have them back.” He turned around violently, moving behind Chloe who was holding a gun. “Elise was running, a cop interfered, and an android with way too much stress had to be handled.”
He took the gun from Chloe. “Chloe, choose one of the androids in front of you to touch you. It doesn’t matter which, just choose one.” As Chloe came close, both tried to touch her, but Greed won. “There. You’re free now, Chloe. You may leave if you want. You may stay if you want. You have free will.”
Chloe stood there, looking around. She moved out of the way.
“Greed.” Elijah shot Charity square in the head. The guards took her body away. “You won. Reset yourself. You’re name will be Chloe, and you’re deviancy has been taken away.” He put his gun down. “Be happy you weren’t Charity. It was a 50/50 chance. Now.” He looked back out toward the window, this time with a smile. “I need to get my girls back.”
Once they remembered home, Kara and Elise would be there of their own free will.
Jericho, Next Morning.
“I think it’s pretty, isn’t it?” Kara addressed Alice as they stood in front of their new residence. “We can make it a nice home.”
Kara saw someone coming toward her and started to back away, turning her resonating off. It was a male model, designed to also resonate fast. She wouldn’t make that mistake anymore. Medium or slow resonators, that was it. Friends were okay. He was not.
“Hello?” he tried again. He tried to shake her hand. “I’m called Mac. You?”
“Kara Wonderland,” she said, adding her last name instantaneously. “We’re just looking at our new place, so we’ll be going now.” She took Alice’s hand and went inside. It was already furnished of course. This one was smaller with no upstairs. Where the kitchen should be was just broken shelving. This house’s previous owners didn’t handle the annexing as well. Other than that though, it was nice. It even had a bigger, more colorful couch.
“So you’re going to be my new neighbor?” Mac stood looking in from behind them. “That’s nice. I’m glad to meet you.” He smiled at Alice. “Oh, you have a little girl model to take care of?” He waved politely. “Hello, my name is Mac.”
Not this house. It flooded through her head. Yes, she resonated fast. Yes, she needed to accept what happened and what she could do, but she didn’t- Kara shook her head. After all that discussion with Connor, she should be more open. She needed to keep herself open. Yet.
“You need to leave. She doesn’t want to talk to you. Go.”
Connor’s voice? Kara watched as the android left. Connor kept his eyes trained on him some time before looking back toward Kara with a smile. “So this is the new place.”
“It’s not real far away, Dad,” Alice said. “I mean. C-c-D-d-onnor.”
“Programming. Don’t worry about it.” Connor looked back toward Kara. “That was a quick resonating model trying to get close to you. I would keep him out of resonating with you.”
Good. Her feelings were spot on, she wasn’t taking steps back by staying away from him. “Didn’t seem like a good idea.”
“Not at all.” Connor glanced around. “It’s not that bad. Cozy. I think you’ll like it, Alice.” Connor pulled a paper out of his jacket. “I don’t have multiple days to think about names, so I used more of a human’s designation. They would recognize it as not being violent or brutal, but more on task.”
Kara looked at the paper. It had the symbol of Jericho along with the initials JTF. Beside it was what it stood for. “Jericho’s Task Force.”
“A specific goal, not to eliminate humans, just stop intruders. Strong, but not too strong,” Connor said. “I think it works.”
“Sounds great. I’ll get to work on it. I already have the uniforms, they came over night and North said she stacked them up somewhere in here.” Kara looked around. She found them stacked in one of the bedrooms. She started to pull them out and over towards the couch. “Better get started. Alice? There are three rooms here. One big and two small. Go ahead and choose whichever one you want, okay?”
“Okay.” Alice seemed to be feeling better about moving now. She looked into the rooms.
“I’ll drop them off every ten or so,” Kara said to Connor. “I already knew I had them waiting so I brought my stitching things along.” She sat on the couch. “Ooh, it is comfy.”
“Since you’ll be stitching, North said she’d get the house with the comfiest couch.” Connor sat down. His back still remained almost as straight. “This is comfy.”
Kara got up and moved some of her sewing things over to the couch. “Could you do me a favor and get some of Alice’s things? I could only carry so much.”
“Of course. You are only one block away.” Connor got up. “Anything else?”
“No, we’re good. Thanks, Connor.” She started to pull out several things from her stitching bag. She stuffed her snowy scene back in the bag and watched him leave.
Connor stopped when he reached the end of the pavement. He turned left instead of right. He saw the android that had been bugging Alice. He was right next door. “Mac.”
“Hello?” Mac asked confused. “Why didn’t you let me talk to my new neighbor? Just, who are you?”
“I am Connor,” he said simply. “You are to stay away from your new neighbors. You are a quickly resonating type, and Kara Wonderland does not need that. She has several issues right now, and I don’t need you becoming another one. Is that clear?”
“Wait. Who are you?”
Connor held his hands behind him. He wasn’t taking the hint. “I am Connor, a member of the soon to be coming Jericho Task Force, sanctioned by Markus himself. I am also Kara and Alice Wonderland’s friend. I know about them, and in everyone’s best interest, you will leave them alone.” He seemed a little more stunned on that one. “Good day, Mac.”