Part 5

“I . . .” Hm. Markus looked at the person in front of him. He wasn’t a usual trader. What he said made sense, but how was it supposed to work? “They are. But.”

“We aren’t wild animals,” North chimed in to help him out. “We don’t need to be in cages. It’s different.”

“It’s the same technology,” the human reasoned. “Everyone keeps bringing it up. It only makes sense. Androids, all androids, must be free. That was your declaration. Your battle cry. What makes it any different?”

“The fact that an android isn’t going to leap on someone and kill them,” North said. “This is crazy, Markus.”

“You set the rules. Aren’t they still trapped? Aren’t they still the same technology?”

“This is not a battle that we want to fight.” North looked at Markus. “We are working on our people.”

“We could bring resources here,” the human said. “You would need real preventative measures if you did it, and they would still be trapped, unless you convinced another country to take them. But, I don’t know. They don’t eat, so what do they do? Are they still wild or not? Do they hunt when they don’t need to hunt? Or do they do it for sport?”

Markus rubbed his eye. This was a loaded matter. “Our room is limited. When I spoke of freedom, I meant my people. People who can walk and talk.”

“But are not animals considered alive too? Cats, dogs, birds, it’s all wildlife. Wild. Life.”

“Every android that comes here contributes in some way. Animals can’t contribute here. Some could contribute to humans, but not here.”

“It’s your own policy. If we don’t do something, you are breaking your own policy. Jericho doesn’t break policies between humans.”

“We don’t have that kind of space! If we convert all the wildlife to have free will, even with resources, it won’t count as giving us extra space because they can’t do anything.”

“It’s Jericho’s policy. Owners still come in on and off to find out if it’s legal to scrap them, or if they’ll go to jail if they keep them. No one agrees on anything, it’s just this endless circle of ‘maybe’ or ‘hide your pets’ or ‘hide recycling them’.”

“We don’t like or respect the meaning of that word here,” Markus warned him. “Recycle is a taboo word for kill. It has a different meaning to us now.” Keep it under control. Most humans just didn’t understand. When he was demonstrating, losing all those poor souls to recycling centers. At the same time, he would need to understand if he worked with them in the future. “No, no one should kill their android pets.”

“And the brand new zoo exhibit with all the extinct animal androids?” The human continued. “It’s been defunct, everything waiting on standby to see what to do.”

“This is just going to be one of those days, isn’t it, North?” Markus asked her. “Any ideas?”

“Rejection is going to look bad, but we can’t take every animal, Markus.”

“Well, we can’t take every android person either yet. It only makes sense to treat this the same way.” Marcus nodded. He could start simple. “Tell the humans to put their pet birds on standby. Bring them here. We’ll convert some each day, if we can.” They shouldn’t make much difference, giving Jericho time to think about it’s future problem. The birds could fly away, all around the world if they wanted once free. They were a good place to start. “As for the others, don’t kill them. Just, call it on delay. Whether they put them on standby or not.”

“Okay. We’ll start getting the birds together for you.” The human shook Markus’ hand, and then North’s. “Thank you, Peaces.”

“I am not used to that yet,” North said as he left. “Last names feel strange.”

“We’ll get used to it.” Markus looked at North. “There are too many of us to stay on simple first names now.” And, he liked the idea of him and North having the same last name. It only tightened their bond. And it should tighten. Especially with Kara’s words with them. If she ever stopped, she wanted them to take care of Alice. Markus and North, or Markus or North, if they stopped resonating as lovers.

That would never happen. There was nothing North could ever do to make him leave her. “I kind of like the last name. I think I see a certain degree more of respect, being called Peaces.”

“Yes. I suppose your right.” Fidgety North. “Peace doesn’t fit me as well as you. But.” She held her hand out toward him, not interfacing, just slightly channeling energy between the pair. “It’s your last name. I’m worried, Markus. Kara is in medical now.”

“If there’s anything wrong, they’ll find it,” Markus insisted. “She’ll be okay.” He held her tighter. “Don’t worry. She’ll be okay.”


Medical

No one liked medical. Most problems could be handled on it’s own for androids, but loss of blue blood or newcoming androids were shoved into there. Medical was full of androids whose trade was helping out the community. Meaning, helping out androids with their own programming or error problems. Their ‘health’. It was a place that would have done Ralph a world of good. Hopefully he was better and in Jericho somewhere, but finding someone specific was still tough. There were just so many androids. The last names were supposed to help alleviate the problem though.

Odd, dangerous, but the first android to help her. Like it or not, Ralph would always be in her residual memory. She jumped as she felt electronics poking at her. She felt naked and weird, having had to deactivate her skin. They wanted to see everything, thoroughly investigate. Which, didn’t give her a good feeling.

“Okay. You can put your clothes back on and reactivate your skin,” the professional android woman said. Kara did as she was told. “You are a typical AX 400 with a reset that happened a few months ago, correct?” She nodded. “You can’t sense your stress level, you have problems with interfacing, and you can’t run your own diagnostic? Correct?” She nodded again. “You came in on the basis that you should have damage, but there is none. Correct?”

“Yes,” Kara confirmed. “Yes to all three.” Was she alright?

“Okay. I can’t fix your diagnostic, your stress level sensors, or your interfacing. There are some kind of blocking errors inside of it I can’t pass. In order to fix it, I would have to ‘hack’ you and that would pose a threat,” she answered. “The steady stress levels, I can’t help with either. AX 400 is known for terrible stress levels. Ever since the war, the decline of them in Jericho happened so rapidly, they were almost gone before we even understood what was happening. Just, keep your stress under control. If you don’t, you have to reset.”

Kara closed her eyes. Not what she wanted to hear. “And the damaged bio-components?”

“There’s nothing there, no damage,” she insisted.

“But there was. There’s an android that can confirm it,” Kara said. “There was damage. I never had it fixed.”

“No, there’s none, but there is one thing that doesn’t make sense, considering what you’ve told me since your reset,” the professional insisted. “The quality level. I can’t explain it, but certain parts of you are normal. Dare I use the word ‘commercial’. This is the same with almost every android. However, other parts of you don’t say commercial at all.”

“What do you mean not commercial?” Kara asked. “Is that serious?”

“No. It just means wherever you were before your reset, you were with someone who cared for you. If not as a person, then as their treasure. Bio-components on you are custom made. No one can afford custom made, except for someone who likes to show off how much they were worth back in Detroit.” She rubbed her mouth. “Overall, I can’t help you, but you shouldn’t worry. Worry will cause stress and you need to get that down.”

Kara finished putting back on her clothes as they left her. Nothing. All she learned was that she had custom made parts. No interfacing fix. No diagnostic fix. Error problems. Same stress problem. If I want to know what’s going on, studying me won’t help. She needed to get back to the source.

 


Outside of Jericho . . .

“I’m gonna do it.” A teenager buttoned up his coat, hiding his gun. It was dangerous, but it was one time. It wouldn’t even get anyone killed. So far, no one had gone for it. It just hung in the air, waiting for the right person to take action. Sneaking around taking hits on the outskirts was how many played the game. Never made the big bucks that way.

He snuck behind the first house. As long as his gun was hidden, he’d be fine. That’s what he kept telling himself.

The androids looked like regular people just walking down the street in the middle of the day. Keeping his face hidden under his hood, he headed forward. The more he walked, the more beautiful it had started to become. It looked amazing. The streets were clean, there was no litter. No one talked foul as he walked through the place. It was a breeze so far.

Getting in was easy. It was getting out that would be hard. But damn, if he entered into this game, he wanted the ultimate prize. In the center. Straight down through the center.


Kara’s residence

“Now we’re getting somewhere.” That cake made loops around the others. It was beautiful. “Alice? Do you want to see the cake?” She called. “It’s done. It’s already done, I’m not kidding,” she laughed. She waited. “Alice?” She left the kitchen and went around the corner to Alice’s room. “Alice?” Not there, but her window was open. “Alice?!”

She left to get her gun and proceeded out the window. She heard the sounds of feet running away and gave chase. Someone has Alice. An android wouldn’t steal Alice, it must be a human! No one was going to hurt that little girl. She never let Todd do it, she never let Ralph do it, and she’d never let anyone else do it.

She put all her endurance into her run. She wasn’t the best runner, she wasn’t designed for it, but she wouldn’t let the human get away. There it is. It was up ahead carrying a large bag, probably containing Alice. He must have snuck up on her and put her on standby so she couldn’t call out for her. Or she would have and Kara would have been there.

Alice was all she had. She’d trade away all her freedom to get her back. No one can take her. She’s my family. She’s my only family left. Luther. He was the closest brother to her. Kara was doing what she could for them, doing her best to sneak around and take care of her, but when Luther joined. The whole world stopped and made sense. Someone helped to protect Alice.

Someone helped to protect them. Someone walked and talked with her, someone gave Alice kisses and hugs at night, someone held her when she needed them. She had someone else besides Alice, and she tried to protect him too. But she couldn’t. She couldn’t.

Kara kept racing down the street, feeling the gun in her hand, and looking at the human. She would lose him if she didn’t speed up, but with some lucky accuracy, she could hit him. It isn’t allowed. Jericho stays peaceful. It wasn’t fair though! There was no reason a human should be able to do this and not get punished!

She wasn’t good with a gun. Didn’t know enough to even get a decent shot. Alice! I can’t fail you. I can’t fail you, like I failed him. That boat ride. Those tickets. She didn’t even know those humans, why did she have to do the right thing and give those tickets back? It was the humans or her family, and she chose the humans. They had a baby. It was cold. They couldn’t deactivate it’s temperature like she did Alice’s.

If she would have just lied, just kept the tickets, he’d be there. With them. Right now. Right now! The figure looked younger, maybe a teenager, and it kept her from firing for a second. I traded tickets for Luther. I’ll be trading some teenager’s life that deserves to die for Alice!

She was going to shoot soon, she knew it, but she was also catching up. The human must be getting tired, he was going to have to run all the way to the borders of Jericho. She kept pursuing him, not using the gun. She could catch him and get her back. Get her family back. Her only family back. The human must be getting really tired, he was getting easier to catch up with.

Then, she heard a shot. Not from her. The teenager screamed and fell and she heard Hank Anderson’s voice.

Then, she was stopped. Her whole body was still trying to run to Alice, but something stopped her.

“She’s okay.” Connor’s voice. Kara looked back at him. Funny. He looked different. It felt like she could look deeper inside him if she wanted to. She looked forward at the human. “You are not. Don’t move. Hank’s got him, we’ll figure out what’s going on.”

“Alice.”

“Don’t move!” His voice was thick, commanding, but not yelling. Just above a harsh whisper. “You are at 98% stress. Don’t. Move.”

98%. She was about to self-destruct? Funny. She didn’t feel like she was about to self-destruct. She felt. Different. Strong. Like she could have snapped that human’s neck with her bare hands. She felt something from her side.

“Kara, where did you get this gun?”

Oh. Great. Now he took her gun. Her gun.

“Just relax. Everything’s okay,” Connor tried to soothe her. “Hank’s going to bring her right over after he calls it in. That makes it better. Do you like birds? Markus will be releasing several android birds a day, all over Detroit. Fly, fly, fly.”

I want to kill that human. He tried to take Alice. A bullet in the leg is not enough. I should have killed him. I should have made him beg for mercy. “Yay. Birds.”


“Yay. Birds.” It was sketchy. If Connor was smart, he’d get away from her right now. Her chances of self-destructing was overwhelming. Even with his tactics, she was so high. She wasn’t carrying a gun anymore, but even that wouldn’t stop her from trying to fight him and kill him to the death if she hit 100%. He did not want to do that. Her stress wasn’t diminishing, it was still 98%.

“Connor.” He heard Hank’s warning. He was coming toward him. “You can’t tell me that isn’t dangerous.”

“She’s at a 98% stress level,” he said truthfully.

“Connor!” Hank yelled at him. “The kids on standby.”

He knew what Hank meant. “Even as a machine, I had trouble with these points, Hank.” What made him think he could do it now as a deviant? He watched Hank draw his gun and point it at Kara. “No, Hank!”

“Connor. 98%. There’s no way she’s dropping from that,” Hank said. “She’ll go insane, get a burst of energy and either kill herself or kill us with herself. It’s too dangerous.”

“I can do it!” He pleaded. “I can do it. It’s possible.” She wasn’t moving any though. She was still 98%. “We need to shock her out of it. Do something different, something she’s not expecting. Her program won’t know how to react.” Connor watched as several androids started standing around. They could all feel her level. Markus and North had even caught up to him.

“Oh no.” Markus looked at Kara. “Can she talk?”

“I saw your newest wedding cake,” Connor tried. “It was pretty. Even with limited interfacing skills, you are doing very well.” No words.

North came toward her. “Kara, don’t do this. This isn’t what you wanted. Please. Answer.”

“Stay back,” Connor warned her. “Get everyone back into their houses. If she goes off, I will deal with her. Hank, get Alice out of here.” This was not what he wanted. Not at all. They both deserved happiness. I’m still chasing her down the highway. With the result being him killing her.

Markus communicated through his AI, telling everyone to get back.

“No.” North moved closer to Kara. “Connor. Shock her out of it and then we’ll reset her.”

“I am open to all suggestions on how to do that,” Connor answered.

“I don’t know. Interface. Do something,” North begged.

“North.” Markus was trying to move her. “I know, North, I know. It’s too dangerous beside her, I’m not losing you.”

“No.” North fell into his arms. “It’s not fair. She just came. Life was getting better for her.”

“I know,” he comforted her.

“She was so distant in the end, only I could reach her. It’s not fair.” North closed her eyes. “She never let herself experience anything. She shut everyone out.”

“Resonating.” That was it. Connor was getting an idea. “She refused to resonate with anyone except North.” He had an odd look on his face. “She’s going to hate me if she survives.” But if she survived, then he’d deal with the hate. “Hank. Be friendly with Kara.” He started to feel around her. She was keeping her resonating off, but if he manually forced it back on, maybe that shock would jolt her out of it?

“I usually don’t get chummy at times like this,” Hank warned Connor. He groaned and handed the bag containing Alice over to Markus. “Get you and them out of there. I’ve got a job to do.” Hank moved closer. Steadily. “Things I do for you, Connor.”

“If she goes off, I promise I will take her out,” Connor insisted. “Your beard is extra lovely today.”

“Oh shut the fuck up.” Hank came closer to Kara. “Hi. Hey, how are ya?” He looked back toward Connor.

“Just keep trying to be friendly,” Connor said. “Like she was a human woman you would want to be friendly to.”

Hank made a sound between a groan and clearing his throat. “Hey there, Sweetie? My name’s Hank Anderson. Real good fella. I’m a Lieutenant, not just some slobby guy that ain’t ever accomplished anything. So I mean, if you’re willing to look my way, maybe I could buy you a drink?”

Connor tried to be polite. “That’s a good try, Lieutenant, but that’s not going to make her resonate.”

“Yeah, yeah, I got the same issue with the women in my species,” Hank muttered.

“She’s still 98%.” It seemed almost hopeless. “I don’t think she can even hear us.” How was she going to recognize anything in her state? She was going to go off, and he was going to have to kill her.

“Ah well, last ditch shot?” Hank asked. “Make her feel something without words?”

It was over. “Yes,” Connor agreed. After that, he’d have to give up. There just wasn’t anything that would-?

Hank was kissing her. Lieutenant Hank Anderson was kissing Kara Wonderland.

Well. It created something. It wasn’t friendship, but there a definite resonating now. “You can stop that now, Hank.”


Kara pushed him away. “What was that?!” Her head felt blurred and dizzy. She was resonating negatively. How was she doing that, she didn’t want to. She looked at Hank. Neutral, and going down.

“Well, great, that’s the usual reaction I get too,” he said.

“Good job, Hank! 89% and dropping. Welcome back, Kara.”

Kara felt dizzy. “Luther?”

“No. Connor. You’re a little mixed up, your programming went through a lot of stress just now.”

“Oh.” Her resonating with him went up. “Alice is okay.”

“Yes, she’s fine. I heard you cry out and I immediately guessed what was going on. Hank showed up as quick as he could,” Connor said.

“Thank you.” She felt resonating go up toward both of them. “What happened afterward?”

“You had to kiss Hank,” Connor answered. “Sorry about that.”

Kara’s resonating went up more toward Connor and Hank. Her eyes were getting better as she saw Hank in front of her. “Um? Thank you?”

“Yeah, sure,” Hank joked with her. “First time I actually saved someone with it.”

Kara smiled. She resonated again toward him. “I don’t know what happened, but thank you.”

“Now that one is a new response from a woman,” Hank joked again. “Connor? Status?”

“78% and dropping,” Connor replied. “Things are getting better. I think you should leave your resonating on from now on.”

No. I don’t want to. I don’t need to fail anyone else. I don’t want to lose anyone else.


“Hey, no. Kara, don’t.” Shoot! “Telling her to leave her resonating shot her up again.”

“How much?” Hank asked.

“A lot. She’s at 96%,” Connor said. “She rises faster than she drops.”

“And even at rest, she never gets rid of it,” Hank pointed out. “One suggestion and she just fell right back in. Connor. We tried.”

“No, I’m not giving up, Lieutenant,” Connor said stubbornly. 97%. No. There’s got to be something. 98%. Right back where they were. “Can you kiss her again?” Hank tried, but it was no use. There wasn’t enough shock to make her resonate.

“Connor. Life’s shitty. She was a nice android, but you gotta give up.”

“Leave, Lieutenant,” Connor warned him. “I’ll deal with her if she goes off.” He made sure he had her gun so she couldn’t do more damage, accepted what he had to do, and let go.

He kept the gun trained on her. 99%. She was about to go off. There was only one other choice. He doubted it would go through since it was speaking, and it had such a slim chance of working. But, he had to try. Or it would be a regret he could never correct. “Luther was a good android. I saw him there with you, at Jericho, before I broke free.” He circled her slowly. “And I saw him there, in your memories. I saw what he did, and I know you had to push his stopped body overboard. You put everything into saving the last member of your family. You put everything on the line for Alice. You always do. So did he.”

He stopped circling. No different. 99%. “He died and you feel extreme guilt. Enough that you refused to resonate with hardly anyone afterward. You weren’t made for being in a corner though, Kara. No AX 400 is, that’s why almost all of them are gone. It was too scary, designed to get close too fast. I can see your point of view. I have no idea what it’s like to resonate that fast. I know you don’t want to hear it. Everyone likes to keep it at a whisper. What we were designed for, but it still creeps up into us all. Something stays. And for you, it was Alice.”

There was just no way she’d survive. But, he wouldn’t give up ’til the end. “Your function was to protect Alice. That never broke. I am guessing that Luther broke free because of Alice too.” It was only a hypothesis, but he had to try it. “He was drawn to want to protect her too because of how he was freed. But protection alone isn’t love.”

If this didn’t do it, he might as well pull the trigger. “It’s a part of the AK 400 that looked after children, still inside you.  You’re still running that function as the machine humans created you to be.”

“I am not a machine!”

Connor was stunned a moment. 89%. It shocked her a great deal. “But it’s because of that you became close and started to love Alice.” Hold it, hold it. “I’m the same. A lot of things programmed into me still affect who I am. Still affect what I want. Don’t shun it. Embrace it, and open yourself back up.”

“I am . . .” Kara stared at the ground. “I protect Alice because of my function? But, I love Alice because I am free. And I . . .”

Keep going. Please, this is it. Her last chance.

“I have to accept. That I can resonate quickly.”

Good. 80% and dropping. Connor lowered the gun. The resonating wouldn’t be the answer, but it was bound to help her. The more she felt the positivity of it, the better she’d get. 70%.

“Do you know how it feels?” She said out loud. “To go from running away from someone, to becoming their family, to pushing their body overboard, in four days?”

“No,” Conner confessed. He doubted she knew of his presence yet. Just his words were reaching her. “But, I know that life is risky, and at any time I could lose someone. Even Hank, he risked it today to help. I’m . . . more built that way,” he said. “But, it’s also a part of me. I have to accept the risk. If I don’t? Someone dies. A person gets away. Someone else gets hurt because of someone I should have taken care of.” 62% and lowering. He called Hank internally. Come on back, Hank. I think I saved her. She is 60% and still dropping. 

Kara looked at her hands. “I don’t like cleaning.”

“Not everything is the same. Everyone’s unique. Different.” 50%.

“I don’t . . .” She shook her head and looked toward. “Connor? How far did I go?”

“Very far,” Connor didn’t lie. “99%.” It made her raise slightly, but he wasn’t going to risk lying. “How do you feel?”

“Uh. I’m okay. Light-headed.” She touched her head. “I can’t sense anything. I went to medical. They can’t help, there are errors blocking my program for interfacing, stress and diagnostic. All they really said was that I must have belonged to some big shot beforehand because I have some custom bio-components.”

Interesting. “High grade bio-components, better quality than the usual.” Maybe that’s how she survived. 40%.

“So, no one blew up?” Hank came back over. “Great. Are we calling it a day now? What’s it at, Connor?”

“40%. She’s less stressed now than she has been.” Connor looked straight at her. “You know what you have to do?”

“I know.” Resonate. “You saved my life. Thank you, Connor.” Her resonating with him went up.

“It’s what I am, what I want, and what I do,” Connor said. “Do you want a burger or drink, Hank?”

“Jesus, making me kiss an android, put my life on the line next to a crazy one out in the open, shooting a dumb kid and rescuing a little girl? Hell, make it a double,” Hank requested. He watched as Markus and North arrived with Alice out of the bag but still deactivated. “Well. If it isn’t the leader, and her boyfriend.”

Oh, Hank. That wasn’t a good way to start a conversation, but his human friend was tired. He got weird when he was tired.

“Kara, you okay?” Markus asked her. “What happened?”

Kara looked toward Connor, then toward North. “My programming. I almost killed a human to save Alice, it was all that mattered. And if it happens again, I’ll do it again. Jericho can’t keep up like this. Humans can’t come in and just murder people whenever they want. Hiding isn’t good enough, Markus.”

“They made it to the center.” Markus looked toward Hank. “I can’t believe they made it to the center. Where is the human?”

“In custody. Bleeding, thanks to me.” Hank tipped his head toward Kara. “Your welcome.” He went over toward Connor. “You’re ambassador gonna let you interrogate him or you want me to figure the little bastard out?”

“This is so tricky,” Markus said starting to walk back and forth. “Jericho was founded on peace. On demonstration only. We wanted rights, we wanted a life, and we have it. But someone is trying to change that. Now, they are even sneaking in.” He shook his head. “The majority of humans, they are really getting along with us. They see the benefits, just like we do.”

“But for others, it’s just a game.” There was no holding back now. “I gave North a card that has a list of androids on it, and how much they are worth for a hit.”

“What? Where did you-”

“I signed off on his activities,” North confessed to Markus. “We needed to do something, Markus.”

“Aw, North.” Markus rubbed his forehead. “We shouldn’t let people die, but we can’t just suddenly all start getting aggressive. If we need to defend ourselves, we need to do it . . .”

“Connor’s been fine going behind your back with Mrs. Peace over here,” Hank said to Markus. “Why don’t you just let them continue to go behind your back?”

“Yes,” Connor agreed. “You could blame it on North if someone catches it, Markus.”

“That’s not right,” Markus disagreed.

“I’m fine with it. If it gets us somewhere, then we should do it,” North said. “You stay in the peaceful part. I’ll do a little backwards signing for Connor.”

” . . . this problem is just going to get worse, isn’t it?” Markus exchanged looks with everyone. “Until we figure something out. I guess . . . ”

“I will kill if someone goes after Alice again,” Kara reminded Markus. “And any other android that is designed to protect children, if that function is still intact, they will do the same thing. Don’t chance it.”

“I’ll talk it over with North.” Markus looked toward North. “And Jericho, as a whole. We’ll work on it. For now? North. I don’t know what you’re doing. Keep it that way?”

“Of course,” North said. She handed Alice back to Hank. “Here. I need to go have an important talk.”

“North?” Kara’s voice. Almost needy. She went over and hugged North. There resonating went up again.

“You’ll be fine. You’re at 30%, Kara. You’re better now than you’ve been. I need to go.” North let her go. “I’ll talk to you soon, okay?”

Kara shook her head.

“It’s quite rare,” Connor said to Kara. “Resonating has to happen between both before anything is felt.” He gestured to Hank. “Except for humans. You can always tell how much they care about you.”

“Don’t! Don’t say that so openly,” Hank warned him.

Kara watched him. Funny old man.

“Luther was alone and looking for someone,” Connor warned her. “You and Alice were looking for support, especially with someone chasing you. Namely, us.” He gestured between him and Hank. “That probably won’t happen again.”

Kara looked toward Hank, and then back to him. “You’re right.” She blinked a few times, thinking. “It takes two, and it was hard.” She looked back out toward Alice on Hank’s shoulder.

“Programming and emotions can merge,” Connor said, knowing her problem. “Don’t feel bad about it. It’s part of us. Go to her.” Connor stood there, standing erect, waiting for her to run to Alice and he’d head off with Hank, get the perpetrator in jail, and get Hank his Chicken Feed sandwich and Black Lamb.

He was caught offguard instead when Kara turned and hugged him.

“I have no words. Thank you so much for everything, Connor.”

“Uh?” Hm. He knew hostages and people in stressful situations were often thankful, but he never experienced it before. “You’re welcome. It’s what I do.” He saw Hank trying to put his arms out in a half hug toward him. What was he indicating? Oh. Connor hugged Kara back, awkwardly. Hank wasn’t much of a hugger. He wasn’t used to hugging.

She let go of him soon after and gave him a radiant smile he’d never seen on her before leaving over to Hank and taking Alice. “I’ll put her in bed. She might not even remember it. If she does, I won’t hide it.” She looked toward Hank. “Thanks again.” She walked away, beaming. Her attitude was happy, like she should be. She passed Connor. “I’ll see you later, Connor.”

Connor nodded and looked back at Hank. “So? Um?” What was it? “Sandwich? And uh, some . . .” Hm. “Black Lamb?”

“Having trouble concentrating there, Connor?” Hank seemed to be teasing him. He had a strange look on his face.

“Just for a second,” Connor admitted. “Odd. That’s never happened before to me.” He looked back to Hank. “Let’s get going. We need to get you your sandwich, drink, and find out why that human came all the way to the center, for an android not on the hit list.”