Kara relaxed in her chair. With the cake done and approved, she took some time for herself. She hardly had time for herself. When she did, she enjoyed one of her skills. Stitching. It was still something a human could do, and it wasn’t anything special, but it was enjoyable.

“Kara?” She watched Alice come in the room. “What are you doing? Are you done with the cakes?”

She’d never be done with cakes. North put her on a slower android’s output for cakes. She wouldn’t be building them custom to specifications, just making them using her skills now. They would go out to human bakeries ‘as is’ instead. Less stress. Everyone was doing their best now to lower her stress since the incident. “I’m just stitching.”

Alice came over toward her, and oddly climbed up behind the stitching. Like she’d done that before. Kara didn’t know how to respond that. “Is there something you need?”

“No.” Alice didn’t do anything. Then, she suddenly looked at Kara. “Sorry.” She started to leave her lap.

“You can stay,” Kara said to her. She didn’t want Alice to think she meant anything by that.

“No. That’s okay,” Alice said.

Oh. She must have done this at some point before her reset. Something Alice knew. “Do you want to learn?” Alice nodded and approached her again. “Do you want to try?” She nodded too. If she were a human girl, it would be more dangerous to hold the needle, but Alice had no problem with it. Kara gave it to her and was about to direct her, but Alice started to stitch. Like she’d done it before. She did a simple square stitch and gave it back.

Kara looked back at the stitching. A part of her wanted to ask Alice about it, but she never bothered her about life before the reset. Their lives were different, and now even so much better. Would she know anything? She kept stitching. “Alice? I need to ask you something.”

“What is it, Kara?”

“Before the reset,” she said gently. “Do you know if I was somewhere else before being hired?” Alice went quiet. “If I was, I’d really like to know about it.”

“What are we making?” Alice asked instead.

“Nothing fancy,” Kara said. “Just some pillow cases.” It would take time since she wasn’t going to dedicate a ton of time. “I thought it’d be nice to make some.” She would still be in Canada, working overtime and into an earlier stopping grave if it weren’t for them all.

“For who?” Alice asked.

“Well, North first.” She thought about making one for her first, so she chose some black and navy pillowcases. After setting out her first cake, she didn’t get much, but a few general trade options. There wasn’t anything she desperately needed, Jericho took care of all her and Alice’s needs. So, she went with something she could do for North. She thought could make a nice floral for North, knowing her, blood red roses. “North would like one.” Pillowcases came in pairs though and she was with Markus. She could make one for Markus too. “What would fit Markus?” He was the leader of Jericho. Roses weren’t in order. “The symbol for Jericho.” Perfect. “I could have them done maybe in a week.”

“What about Hank and Connor?” Alice asked her. “They are friends.”

Well, not quite, but? They were very important to her life. She doubted either of them really wanted pillowcases. Then again? At least they’d know how thankful she’d been. She had no idea what they would want though. Hank was a tough human, with questionable hobbies. He did believe in justice though, and he was there for them. And Connor. Without him, I’d be dead. Dead, and maybe even innocent casualties taken with her. The coin. Perfect.


Alice watched her mother. She went from a regular stitcher to a hologram specific one. Her hands had gone from a casual, slow style to a focused almost machine like quality. Did she know how fast she’d been at it? Was she even aware of it? Her mom never seemed to think she had any extra skills from a human, but she was wrong. She was so wrong.

It was nice to sit in her lap and watch her go at it again. It had been a long time. “Kara? When are you going to give it to North?” It hadn’t even been fifteen minutes and North’s was already done. Her mom would chalk it up to being an easier design than she thought, or something else. It wasn’t though. No one stitched like her mom.

The word North had a light swirl on the N, with some of the wording having thorns. The roses were at the four corners. Even on the side of her pillow edge, her mom had gone ahead and embellished it with an extra rose complete with thorns on the side.

“I was planning a week. The design must have been easier than I thought,” her mom answered. Kara moved to pillowcase two. Markus. She used a bright blue floss for it, giving it the holographic pattern that hung around their area for Jericho. She wrote his name in big stencil writing with the Jericho logos on each corner, and one on the very edge, enlarged.

Mom was up thirty minutes in. Alice smiled. She hadn’t watched her do this in so long. Her mom was faster than a machine, yet flexible and articulate, caring for every detail.

“That’s done too?” Her mom looked toward Kara. “You don’t think these look rushed, do you?”

“No, Kara, they’re pretty,” Alice insisted.

“They seem pretty but they are getting done quicker than I expected.” Her mom shrugged it off though. Of course she did. She was supposed to. Alice watched her put Markus’ pillow up. “The coin will be tricky. I might not be able to get in enough detail to look like more than a sun.”

Alice knew better. It was one of her favorites by far. The head, the letters, the different colors inside of the coin. It looked like the actual things up on all four corners. For his name, she used some calligraphy, hoping it ‘didn’t look too rushed’ like the others. On the edge, she put four coins down the center.

Mom was up an hour and a half. “What are you going to do for Hank, Kara?”

“I don’t know much about him. He likes chicken sandwiches. I don’t think it’d work,” Kara said. “I don’t want to stitch in the hobbies I know,” she added carefully. “Maybe a badge? It could be really tricky, but I did fine with a coin. A gold badge?”

“You could do it, Kara,” Alice said.

“Maybe I could put one on and change where I put the name?” her mom said, working it out.

Her mom was doubting her skill. “You can do it like the others, Kara. Just try.” Her mom shrugged and set to work. She used a fat, hard font for Hank and she placed small badges on each of the four corners, with one on the side edge. Just like the others. Alice just leaned against her mother’s chest as she finished up the last stitches.

“I can’t believe I did four pillow cases. I was on a roll I guess,” her mother said. “I better get back to trying to focus on those cakes.” She looked down at Alice. “Did you have fun?”

“Yeah, Kara,” Alice said looking up toward her. “Can we do it again later?”

“Well. I need to concentrate on our trade,” Kara said to her. “It’s fun though. Maybe one day again, but I don’t know what I’d do.”

Alice jumped down from her lap. “Can we go take it to them?”

“I really don’t want it to look like this is all I did all day.” Kara got up and moved the four masterpiece pillowcases like they were simple fun doodles. “I need to get back on it I think. At least a couple of hours. Walking might make me look frivolous.”

“Call North here then?” Alice suggested. “If she isn’t busy?”


 

Markus stared at a corner. He’d talked with North, but the fact that if they got caught he’d blame her? It didn’t sit right with him. It would give Jericho a second chance, but he didn’t want to pretend to be against North.

“Pillowcases. Kara made us some.”

Oh. “Nice.” What was he going to do? They needed more protection, but he couldn’t force the few androids they still had that knew that kind of thing to go back into that profession.

“Markus. Look at yours.”

Markus looked toward her, and then down to the pillowcase. “How’d she order anything? Did she leave Jericho and have money?”

“Those aren’t machine,” North said, pushing hers next to his pillowcase. “She made them for us because we’re friends.”

Markus pulled North’s closer. “She did that?” She was a general android. Her skills for sewing might, maybe, extend to clothing making. But this? “This is her trade, not wedding cakes. What’s she doing making cakes when she could do this?”

“I don’t know,” North said. “Maybe she thinks there’s no room? I mean, I don’t know what it would fit into, but it is definitely a mastery skill.”

“I’ve got to say, that’s interesting,” Markus admitted. “You should discuss possible options for her tomorrow. Find out how she knows this so well.” In the meantime? Well, he’d make a decision depending on what Connor find out.


Detroit

Dumb young kid. “So, you can make this real easy on yourself,” Hank said to him. “If you don’t talk to me, then you’re going to find yourself face to face with an android questioning you. That’s not gonna be near as much fun considering what you were doing.”

“I was shot. Why do I have to be here?” they asked.

“Wha? You think ’cause you got shot you get a free escape card?” Hank asked him. “No. You went into Jericho, and attempted to abduct a little girl. You got shot because you were kidnapping a little girl.”

“A little android,” he said. “Just a little android.”

“Yeah? Well that ‘little android’ had one angry momma ready to shoot you dead.”

“That was illegal, they couldn’t do that.”

“You think a mom cares? You think when someone takes your kid you think ‘what are the consequences’?” He slammed the table in front of him. “No! You think ‘how close do I have to get to kill this guy dead.’ If it wasn’t for me, you’d be dead right now. Be thankful for that bullet in your leg.” Hank sat back down. “Now? You want to talk to a human, or you want to meet our deviant, Connor? ‘Cause, I gotta say. He wants to meet you.”

He was shaken but he still wasn’t talking.

“It doesn’t get easier,” Hank warned him. He wasn’t listening though. Hank watched as Connor walked in. Usually he had some regular clothes on these days, but that day? He was wearing his old uniform without his glowing numbers on it. But, still damn apparent who he had been. “Hey, Connor.”

“Lieutenant.” Connor looked toward the kid and smiled. “Remember me? My name is Connor. I would like to talk with you again.” He came over to Hank’s chair and sat. Rigid. “Thank you for letting us know about the game. We would like to know why you would pick a YK 500 when it’s worth nothing.”

Now the kid was starting to move. “I didn’t say anything about the game?”

Connor blinked. “Of course you did. We would just like to know why you would pick a YK 500 when it’s worth nothing.”

“Hey, what is this?” He started to move around a little in his chair. Still stuck in one position from his injury. “I didn’t say anything about any game!” He started to look around. “This is like a setup or something. You’re just trying to get me to talk.”

“We already talked,” Connor said. “About the game. We would just like to know why you would pick a YK 500 when it’s worth nothing.”

“Look, I’m not involved in that.” He looked to the cameras again. “I’m not part of that one.”

“That one?” Connor questioned. “There are multiple games?”

“No. I didn’t say that.” He was eyeing the cameras again.

“You are nervous.” Connor still seemed so rigid. So. Emotionless. “There is no reason to be nervous. It is just you, me, and the Lieutenant. No one else is here.”

“Actually, I’m gonna have to head out.” Hank stood up. “I’ve got stuff to do, and this thing is taking too long.” He nodded toward Connor. “You go ahead and work with him okay? You gonna be done by supper?”

“I probably won’t be done by the time you need to put food in your stomach,” Connor answered him.

“Ah. Okay.” Hank dropped him a pair of keys. “But, hey?” he muttered. “Easier on this one, okay?”

“Sorry, Hank,” he said. “Humans are so fragile. Didn’t mean it last time.”

“Yeah well, it kept you out of here for a month. Just remember. Bones are tender. He’s already injured too,” Hank pointed out. “Another write up and you’re out of here.”

“Got it.” Connor turned his head to look at the boy, then looked back at Hank. “I forget. Where is the garbage receptacle on this floor?”

“Not this game, I wasn’t hurting anyone.” The kid was already starting to buckle. “I was . . . I was playing Live Prey. I wasn’t playing Plastic Prey. I needed the money though.”

“So, this Live Prey, involves catching an android alive and bringing it back?” Hank made him clarify.

“Yeah. It’s trickier. Targets are tougher, and when you sign to play you . . . y-you sign your life away if you kill ’em accidentally.” The kid stayed still. “It was good money. I thought a kid would be easy. No one got hurt. You know? It’s just current owners wanting the kind of android they had before.”

” . . . just? It’s just?”

One game where the androids were shot and killed, and another where they were retrieved and taken? Connor and Hank worked the kid over with words as much as they could, commanding, demanding, and laying out everything they could.

The kid was just a kid, looking for a payday. The person he signed up to was ‘tall’ and not from around there. He left as soon as he signed him on. He couldn’t even contact them when he was successful, their feelers for everyone who signed up would be sent out to see who bagged what.


Hank just checked back with Connor after leaving the interrogation room. “Two games. Have there been any missing deviants, Connor?”

“We don’t exactly have a real good system,” Connor said. “We’re just now getting last names. It used to be more manageable. Everyone knew each other.” Then more androids came, and more androids came. “It started out from wanting freedom, to getting our freedom, and then . . . figuring out what to do with the freedom. I don’t know if any slipped through the cracks.”

“Yeah, well, I’m sure we’ll see. Meanwhile, I’m sure I’m gonna be-”

“Hank!”

“-hearing about shooting that teenage brat over in Jericho’s territory.”


Jericho: Connor and Kara’s Residence

Kara heard Connor and Hank walk in. She couldn’t mistake it. Whenever Hank came into the house his phrases turned ridiculous, afraid Alice might overhear him. It was actually quite sweet. Maybe he’d been a father and it stuck with him. She didn’t know. They were earlier than she planned though, she forgot to set out her gift. She didn’t need Connor bringing a pillowcase accidentally to Hank at the police department. Because, he might. He was. Well?

He was a good guy. Connor saved her life, but he was, different. Yet, that different? It was okay. He accepted who he’d been, and he helped her see her own self too. No one was perfectly functioning like a human, there were qualities they would forever carry around with them. And, that was alright. He was alright, and she couldn’t believe she forgot to set them out.

She scrawled a quick thank you. Well, it was supposed to be quick.

Thank you for saving my life. Here’s some pillowcases.

I made my friends pillows. I hope you like them.

Pillowcases for you!

Thank you.

An old fashioned thank you seemed best. It still seemed so trivial. It was one thing for North, they were friends and she wanted to make something. She figured North might like it. Then Markus, well he lived with North. It only made sense. But pillowcases for them? Kara had second thoughts. They saved my life, and they saved Alice. Is that only worth a pillowcase? There was really nothing worth that. Maybe it was a bad idea.

“Did you give them their pillowcases yet?” Alice was right behind her.

Kara smiled. Alice always seemed to know when to interrupt her second thought decisions sometimes. “I.” She looked at them. “I thought maybe I should . . .” Oh, Alice wasn’t letting her go. She looked toward the banister, and put the pillowcases there. “Should leave them there so I don’t interrupt.” She placed the quick thank you paper.

“That’s a good idea. Do you want to help me with my puzzle for a little while?” Alice asked. “I’m getting better at separating pieces.”

“For a few minutes, but then I should really get back to that cake.” She took Alice’s hand as they went to her room.


Connor walked downstairs first before Hank. After what happened last night, Hank agreed to spend a little more time in Jericho for now around evening to see if they could find anyone else playing Live Prey, but he stopped as he saw something on the banister. It was a thank you on top of some folded up sheets. He looked in the kitchen and noticed Kara in the background trying to work on another cake. Hank moved past him heading down the stairs.  Connor picked up what was on the banister as they headed out.

“Hey.” Hank motioned to him. Usually he politely said goodnight beside the car to him before he left. “You freeze or something?”

“No, I’m coming.” Connor moved closer to the car. “I think Kara gave us a thank you present.”

“Oh yeah?” Hank looked at the folded pillowcases. “Yeah, well. It’s the thought that count- whoa, how the fuck’d she -?”

Connor scanned the details that he saw himself. That wasn’t regular quality at all. The intricacy was too exact, it would have to be machine made to be that detailed. Yet, the floss was identified as a single strand of standard commercial floss for hand stitching.

Connor opened his up.

“How the fu-? How the-? She didn’t order pillowcases, not overnight, not like this.” Hank was confused looking all over on it.

Connor stared at the coins on it with his name. He looked on the side that had the line of coins. He scanned it with the same kind of results. The thread was not machine thread, it was used for home style threading.

“Those look like coins.” Hank pulled on Conner’s, looking at it closer. “How’d she do all those colors? Had to be ordered.”

“She has a mastery skill after all,” Connor noted. “A thank you gift.” Well. “Are thank you gifts common?”

Hank shrugged. He took out his badge and put it up to the pillow. “Damn. Does she have photographic memory? Hang on, she’s an android. Probably. Still.” He put his badge back away. “I can see why ‘android style’ costs so much. Why’s she bothering with cakes then?”

“I don’t know.” Connor smiled at his pillowcase again. “This is nice. I like this.” A present.


“Little more, just a little more . . .” Kara looked like she was having difficulty with the icing still. “Yes.” She did it.

Seeing his chance to talk, Connor came up to her with Hank. “Thank you for the pillowcases.”

Kara turned and saw them. She gave that same kind of smile from last night. “Your welcome. I know it’s not nearly enough for what you did for me, but it’s what I could do.”

“Gesture of thanks was plenty.” Connor looked back at his pillowcase. “This is fine quality.”

Kara modestly shrugged. “Only a couple of hours.”

“Shittin’ me?” Hank asked. Then he looked around more. “I mean, sorry, you did two pillowcases this nice in two hours?”

“Oh, I made a couple for Markus and North too,” Kara said. “Anyway, I hope you like them.”

“It’s my badge. You stitched my freakin’ badge into a pillowcase.” Hank was still astonished. “Crazy.”

“Should I not have picked that?” Kara asked. “I thought it’d fit. I didn’t think you’d like a sandwich, and I didn’t know what else to put.”

“The heck you mean? It’s great,” Hank corrected her. “Why are you wasting time with cakes, when you’ve got this kind of skill?”

“I agree,” Connor informed her. “This is your skill.”

“Stitching?” Kara looked at the pillowcases. “It’s just general stitching.”

“The thread is general,” Connor corrected her, “but the quality is not general at all. You’re even using your fingers to subtly change the coloring of the threads from lights to darks to make them look real.” He pulled out his real coin and put it next to one of the coin embellishments. “That is not general skill.” He put his coin back. “Thank you. It’s the thought that counts.”

“No, no,” Hank corrected him. “No, Connor. You say that when somebody gives you a crappy gift. Not to something you can sell on the street right now for five grand.”

“Oh.” The subtleties of humanity. “Well, just, thank you.”

“No, thank you,” Kara said back. “It’s . . . not nearly enough.”

“Nah, nah. It’s our job,” Hank said to her. “Don’t worry about it. This is plenty, thanks.” He was heading to the door. “Oh, and, I didn’t mean I was going to sell for five grand. I just meant I could. Thanks, Kara.”

Connor watched him leave and looked back at the pillowcase. It wasn’t just a nice gift, she thought about what she’d use for it too. He looked back toward her. From the way she acted, it was obvious there was some kind of blocking filter on her. She could tell she did decent quality, but she couldn’t see the truth. That it was a master skill. That she should have picked something to do with stitching instead of wedding cakes. And we can’t touch it because it’s probably behind a firewall. 

He looked toward the cake. Even if was a thank you, it felt like he should do something back. Something. “Did you need me to sample your cake. See if you got it right?”

“I don’t know how you do it,” she said back. “It’s touched my mouth a couple of times. So much.” She stuck her tongue out slightly. “I don’t know.”

“An AX 400 would be used for tasting the cleaning chemicals to make sure they didn’t counteract each other and kill the human in the process.” Oh. Aw. I used AX 400. Markus is trying to curb numbers for last names in polite company. “You’re tasting what humans call ‘sweet’, and it’s more of the . . . error tasting. In your field, that’s sweet. Opposite effect.”

That was terrible. Connor didn’t feel focused or on target with his conversation at all. He threw in the faux pas of polite conversation numbering, referred to killing humans, and took four sentences that he should have easily combined into one. It was disheveled. It was disorganized. “I think I had better go upstairs before I do something else wrong. I think I need recharging.” He waved his pillowcase. “I will use this.”

“Good. Goodnight.” Kara glanced at her cake, but waited to see him move.

Connor glanced to the staircase, but waited to see if she would move away first.

“Goodnight,” Kara said again, glancing back at her table, then back at him.

“Yes. I will see you tomorrow.” That was better. He backed away, but still felt some resonating with her. He stopped. Even though he’d been far from perfect right then? “Don’t stay up too late on those cakes. I think there’s something better waiting for you. Goodnight, Kara.” He gave her a quick wink and then swung around the banister to jog up his staircase.

He didn’t know how he would settle down to recharge now. He just made Kara his friend.

“Connor?”

Without thinking, he jumped right down on the other side, skipping the stairs. He watched Kara turn and see him, a little startled. Yeah, maybe he shouldn’t have come down that way. “Yes?”

“Hi? Uh.” He thought he’d scared her, but she seemed to be in a half laugh. “Just. Pillowcase. When you get your last name, I can put it on your pillowcase for you if you want.”

“I would like that a lot. Thank you.” Now, he really needed to start thinking of a suitable last name.

“Okay. Goodnight.” Kara patted his arm and went around him.

He watched her head back past the corner. It looked like she was going to take his advice. He jumped over the lower staircase and then headed up.


The next morning, Kara was disturbed by North’s presence. She got up hearing her AI that she was coming to see her about the pillowcase. She got dressed in some casual wear, a white shirt and some jeans with a light grey jacket before answering the door. “Hello, North. Did you like your gift?”

“If pillowcases could be considered badass? It would be badass.” North came in. “Why are you wasting time with cakes when you can stitch like that?”

“You too?” Kara asked confused. “Connor and Hank said that last night. They were just something nice. Nothing special.” She gestured toward the cake she was working on. “See? I’m getting better. Sort of. I rushed a little on the top obviously.”

“Kara, that’s a mastery skill. I’m sure we can use that somewhere,” North said. “Don’t you see it?”

“My stitching? It’s just regular stitching.” Kara just didn’t get it. “I got lucky with some easier patterns than I thought, and I think I just found the right sources of lighting on the thread to make it appear nicer than it had been.”

“No, that’s definitely a skill.” North kept staring at Kara all over. “Maybe that’s what you did before. Maybe you’ve been blocked from seeing it,” she said slowly. “Kara, have you asked Alice if she ever watched you stitch?”

Kara rubbed her eyebrow slightly. “I think she has. She crawled into my lap like it was perfectly natural. When I gave the floss to her, she made a perfect square stitch. But.” She looked toward the corner where there rooms were on the other side. “She changed the subject. I couldn’t bother her with it anymore.”

“I see. Do you want to take a day off and hang out with me?” North asked. “It’s a tough day, but the decision’s made, and I just want to walk it off for a bit.”

“That’d be nice,” Kara said, “but what about Alice?”

“I’ll watch Alice!”

Kara looked above her. Connor waved at her from above the stairs. “Are you sure?”

“I owe her a puzzle,” he said confidently. “Go have fun.”


 

Tell me when you get her, I have no idea what to do, Connor.

Conner could hear North’s AI in his head and answered back. Give me five minutes, North Peace. He headed toward Alice’s room and waved at her. “Guess who gets to help with a puzzle?” This time, Alice didn’t look as thrilled.

“You have reasons to help again? She asked.

“Yes and no.” Honesty with her would be best. “Yes, I have something I need to ask you, but no, I don’t have to put a puzzle together to do it.” Seeing she understood, she moved toward her closet where her puzzle was stored. She brought out the huge back and a flat board that had some of the puzzle.

“Kara’s been helping too,” Alice said as she put it down. Connor sat beside her.

“Kara is wonderful. I just made friends with her last night.” He grabbed a piece. The background was connecting to the fur, but that would start throwing her vision off track of where she’d been working. Then again, if she got stuck, it got her secondary place to start. He decided to place it down.

“You’re going to ask about her stitching,” Alice said, beating him to it as she tried to fit a piece in. It didn’t fit.

“Yes,” Connor admitted looking at another piece. “When did you find out she could stitch like that?”

“Before,” Alice said. “It was something she liked to do before the reset.” She placed the piece down again. It didn’t fit. She tried it on another side. It didn’t fit. “I climbed on her lap, and she’d show me how to stitch a little, or, she’d just stitch. I’d just watch her.” She shrugged. “It always felt nice. Like. Like?” She stopped trying to fit the puzzle piece. “Like it was kind of supposed to be that way? But, even then.” She grabbed another puzzle piece.

Connor held his piece, turning it around in his head. “Even then what?”

“She never told me where we were from.” Alice tried to put the puzzle piece in. No fit. “Just that. If anything ever happened. If she were ever reset.”

Connor put the piece down in his hands where it belonged. Alice was really deciding on her trusting from last time. He had done well with her, but he still needed to earn her trust back. All three times they worked on a puzzle, he had a motive. The first time, to get her to interface. The second time, to give an apology, and this time? “I’m not here just for this,” he answered. “Kara went out with North. I’m just watching you for her.”

Alice tried her piece again. It didn’t fit. “Kara lost her memory once, but she got it back. It was scary.” She held her piece away and closer to herself now. “He was supposed to help us.”

“Who?” Connor asked.

“Zlatko,” Alice said. “Kara heard he helped other androids. That’s where we met Luther. He was a bad man. They both were. She came back though. Certain things, it clicked her back, sort of?”

“It doesn’t sound like a complete reset,” Connor said to Alice. “That happens, but it’s rare.”

“But. Kara can still stitch like that?” Alice seemed almost hopeful.

Oh. “That was a skill. Whoever created her, they gave her a custom mastery skill. It had nothing to do with memories.” He hated to say that. “If Kara never remembered so far, it most likely won’t come back.” He placed another piece into the board, but his truth seemed to get to her. She wasn’t attempting the puzzle anymore. “You haven’t even talked about the past with her.”

“She said not to,” Alice said quickly. “If she comes back, she comes back. If she doesn’t, then she doesn’t.” Still, she wiped her eye. “She can’t come back unless she remembers. I can’t do anything about that.”

“Is that what she said to you?” Connor asked curiously. More and more. Kara was an older model, used to be very common, had bio-components that were custom made, had firewalls built around her that couldn’t be broken without risk, and a mastery skill that she shouldn’t have. More than just a little wasn’t making sense.

Did she have someone wealthy who cared for her? Someone elite who wanted a companion? Then, where did Alice come into this? In her memories. That night. “Kara knew you beforehand, but you didn’t remember. She reset, and now all of that is lost. It must be hard. Knowing she used to have some kind of answers.” Alice still wasn’t speaking anymore. “But, Kara loves you very much. It’s more than just a function.” He took one of the pieces near her she had tried to fit into the puzzle, and placed them where they belonged. “You are her family.”

When he said that, he watched Alice back away even more. He was trying to make her feel better, resonate positive, and he was only making her more distant. “I’m sorry if I said something you didn’t like Alice.”

“She’s mom. Kara, she wanted me to call her mom. Ever since he brought her home,” Alice spilled. “I’m not supposed to call her that. Not when she reset. She’s Kara. She’s always Kara.”

Connor stopped paying attention to the puzzle. He heard her call her mother in her memories, when things went bad on her scariest day. “I think Kara would accept that designation again.”

“But I can’t!” Alice broke. “But I can’t, Connor! She said I can’t. I can’t do anything once she reset.” She rubbed at her eyes. “I didn’t know what to do. I just follow Kara.”

Don’t. A part of him wanted to know more. That part of him that used to chase after every secret. He tried to keep it down, but it kept bubbling up. Alice was not the way. He needed to find a different way. No android should have firewalls around their programs. Torn. If Kara knew the information Alice hid, would it trigger anything? Yet, she didn’t want to be triggered. She needed to fully remember.

Someone cared for Alice and Kara, and then somehow they ended up in . . .

“Can I tell you about her?” Alice asked him. “You won’t tell her?”

Secrets. “I am very trustworthy,” Connor said back.

“We can taste,” Alice started. “Salty, sour, sweet and bland. And icky, definitely icky.” She wrinkled her nose. “Someone tried to make me eat a dead rodent. If Kara hadn’t pulled the gun.” She looked back to Connor. “Yeah. You met him. Right after we did.”

Ah. Yes, he remembered questioning an android. But? Taste. Taste for those? That didn’t make sense. Why limit the palate to that? She seemed repulsed by the cake taste. Maybe it was the vinegar?  Still, Connor just nodded. He couldn’t risk Alice feeling like he was leading her. He was strictly in friend mode. He grabbed another piece and placed it down.

“Dad used to go out nearly every night,” Alice continued. “Kara did whatever he wanted, but when he left, she always came to my room. She’d take me downstairs where she’d stitch a little. She couldn’t do as much because she didn’t want him finding out she wasn’t normal.”

Hiding her deviancy. “The puzzle is coming together nicely,” Connor noted, trying to make Alice feel better because he was going to say something that wouldn’t. “You still call him dad.”

“Uh?” Yeah, she didn’t notice right away. “I. I was designed to . . . be the perfect daughter,” Alice said. “I can’t.”

She couldn’t go against her ‘dad’, even now. Built into her. Connor picked up another piece.

“She liked to tell me about it, where she originally came from,” Alice continued, not touching her built on programming. “She’d had more than one home, before dad.”

Now that was starting to make sense. She couldn’t risk triggering a memory if finding out about her past led her to someone dangerous. Yet, there was someone good in that path too. “She had a good home, and a bad home, didn’t she?” Alice stopped talking again and fit in a couple of puzzle pieces. Curiosity. Friendly. Curiosity. Friendly. Friendly curiosity? “I would love to know about her good home.”

“She didn’t call it good,” Alice corrected him. “Can you do that . . . interfacing again?” she asked.

Oh no. “Kara doesn’t like that,” Connor told her.

“Kara didn’t know beforehand,” Alice told him. “I didn’t understand. That’s what she was mad about. Please? I’m not half as good as you at picking out what’s important. And. I know Kara isn’t good right now. She went to medical. She hides things. Her stress level is weird.”

“She’s getting better.” Although her stress level. Friends. Resonating. 42%. Still. “I won’t betray my friend like that, Alice. You’ll have to decide what you can and cannot see.” He put in another piece. Hopefully, it didn’t end her sharing, but he couldn’t go in that direction.

“She said she wasn’t what she appeared to be,” Alice said slowly. “I already knew she was hiding from dad. So, I don’t know why she always said that.”

“You could talk about the people she knew, or the places she’d been,” he suggested.

“She wouldn’t call them by name.” Alice held another piece of puzzle. “She said. She said she was riding the edge. That dad wasn’t good for me, but it was dangerous to know the other place too.”

“Back then, it would be dangerous. If she was somewhere that wasn’t so nice.” Connor put another piece in. “But, things have changed. No one can enslave androids anymore. So, you never have to worry about that.” He grabbed another piece and this time, let it slide on the ground close to where it went in. “And if anyone did try to enslave an android again, it would be pointless.” Connor moved the piece just so to make it click in. “All anyone would have to do is touch her to free her again.”

That made Alice smile. “Jericho always feels so safe.”

“It is.” To a point. “Not everything is perfect though. Make sure you don’t turn your back on your window. Keep it closed and locked.”

“Kara locked it last night,” Alice said. She looked at the puzzle. “Look how far we’ve come.”

“Yes. You can probably finish it tonight.” Connor smiled. He heard the sound of the door. “I think your mom is back.”

“Kara,” Alice warned him.

“There is no need to be frightened of triggering anything, Alice.” Connor was more concerned about not finding the answers. They needed to get past the firewall inside of her.

“A promise is a promise,” Alice reminded him.

“That is true.” Connor got up off the floor. “Well. I am off to another fun-filled day with Hank. I’ll see you around, Alice.” He came out of her room towards Kara and North. North was already hitting his AI for answers. “She might finish that puzzle tonight.”

“A little bit of a hump, but she’s getting there day by day.” Kara smiled. “I’m sure you helped with that little ‘hump’ she was on,” she chuckled. “Thanks, Connor. North? I’ll think about what you said.”


Connor and North both exited. “Well, what did you find out?” she demanded.

“I can’t tell you,” Connor answered back, leaning slightly toward her. “It’s a secret.” That did not make her happy at all. “But, it wasn’t anything that was going to help. There’s only one real choice. I need to track down Todd William’s with Hank’s help.”

“Oh,” North said. “I could help?”

“No. You might kill him before we get answers,” Connor said to her. She was Kara’s friend too, she would probably know about her and Alice’s past.

“Well, what do you need the old human for then?” North asked.

“Because.” He didn’t have to think long about that. “I might accidentally kill him before I get answers too.”