It was nice to see Alice up and playing around again. Connor had stopped the vehicle for a break for all three of them. He was busy on a tablet with something while Kara just enjoyed watching Alice on the playground. Something she used to love doing in Jericho. Alice and her friends. Her friends. Hopefully Jericho could figure it out. It wasn’t just about larger bodies for growing minds, it was about growing memory, and from memory already there. It wasn’t something Kamski had wanted to do for anyone besides Alice. Was it simply because it was too complicated or did he really believe a set of humans that wanted a child would just be ready to say goodbye in a few years?
His company. They should have at least offered an upgrade. Which meant, it wasn’t going to be that easy.
“Hank?” Connor said out of the blue. “What do you mean am I a manipulative expletive trying to con you?” Connor stopped working on his tablet. “What am I doing? The car isn’t a place to have puzzles but Alice enjoyed them, so I am making a 200 piece rearranged jigsaw she can play with on this disposable tablet to occupy time.”
Kara watched Connor.
He went back to working. “I suppose that sounds like my right schtick? Of course you knew better, Hank. Yes, I know. It is a good thing you promised to stay at . . .” He stopped working on it. “Jimmy’s. Yes. Yes, I know I should get a real phone one day. I’m sorry it was the wrong me who finally did that? Hank. Lieutenant? You are in a constant barrage of bad language and ideas right now. Why don’t you call me back in a few minutes after you cool down and we will figure out what to do.”
He looked toward Kara. “Well, there’s another android out there who apparently knows about California,” Connor warned her. “Cyberlife must have sent out another one since we freed the last one. It contacted Hank. That isn’t good, Kara. If they are trying to use him to get to me, then he isn’t safe.”
No, he wasn’t. The last android was scary enough holding a gun on Rose. “Is he going to be okay?”
“I don’t think so. I think he should go to Jericho where Markus and the others can watch over him, but he won’t. I know him. He’d rather help and get shot at than hang around a peace filled nation with no alcohol or food content.” He looked out to Alice. “I’ve never been the best at driving, and I don’t like trusting machines to always get me to my destination.”
Kara smiled. She knew what he was asking. “You both. Really.” Still. “I have plenty for the human to eat and drink on too. We aren’t strapped for anything. A small trip back is nothing at this point.”
“Excellent.” That is what he was waiting on. “I’ll make it an option.” Connor showed her the tablet. “That is about her level?”
Wow. He had drawn each piece of a puzzle, unarranged, with little markings on it. He even colored it to be friendly to Alice’s eyes. “That’s impressive. Yeah, that’s something Alice would do.”
“I thought so.” He got up and headed toward her.
Connor moved over toward Alice. She was at the top of a metal pyramid. He climbed up a few steps to reach her. “Hello, Alice. This is for you.” She looked at it with utter fascination. Like his little puzzle sketch was amazing.
“Thanks, Dad,” she said. She moved the pieces on the tablet. “I can do this in the car.” She looked around. “The playground is fun but I miss my friends playing with me too.”
If they didn’t figure out the memory problem, she would really start to miss them. He would remain positive though. Jericho was a powerful community. If there was a way to figure out how to move these children into compatible bodies, it could. It had already been thinking about that ahead of time. It might just happen faster than Jericho was planning on moving with it. “Do you remember the home in Carlsbad we are going to?” Subtle. Casual. Yet, a question that would yield an informative answer. He knew Kamski manipulated Kara, but he had no idea if they did anything to Alice too.
“Not much,” Alice said. “Mostly, I remember Detroit. I do remember . . . some lions . . . I think and shiny . . .” She shrugged. She looked back at Connor. “You want to know if I went a little funny in the head like mom?”
Ah, there we go. That willingness seemed like a good sign. He crossed his arms and leaned his chin over them. “A little curious.”
“No. I never seemed to really interest anyone,” Alice said. “Besides mom, no one really cared whether I was there or not.”
Hm. “When your mom acted ‘funny’, who watched you?”
“I had this little play area. It was in front of the snow,” Alice said. “I had a few toys. It was next to a pool. Sometimes, Kamski would watch me. Sometimes, these two girls like momma called Charity and Greed were supposed to watch me. Really. I just didn’t leave the area. I don’t know why.”
Programming. She probably didn’t have a very fun time in that place when her mom was being manipulated. But, it could have been worse. “I’m sorry you felt lonely, Alice. I would have been friends with you if I’d been there.” That made her smile. Connor made his way back done. That wasn’t too hard to investigate.
Ah. Lieutenant Hank was back. “Hello, Hank. Feeling better? Would you like to go to Jericho so Markus could watch over you?” Connor smiled. “Yes, I know where I can stick it by now, Hank. Would you like to meet up with us then? Kara said she has plenty of money for food and drink through this ordeal.” How much he wanted to know? “I don’t know, but she cleaned out a decent account. I’ll attach our boarding information to you.”
Connor looked back toward Alice. “We won’t be three forever. Hank is going to be tagging along with us later.”
“Hank?” Alice asked. “He’s coming too? That’s great, Dad.”
“Totally knew it.” Okay, he didn’t. His drinking may have slowed him down some, but now he knew. Last time he’d been conned this exact same way with Connor. Not with a paid for flight, but tricked into being used to stop Connor. Damn. Last time, they got away with it because they hadn’t known each other for as long.
Now, it’d been months. Not being able to tell between Connors would have been savage on a friendship now. It didn’t matter what gobbledy gook that android said, how else could it picture him making a fucking puzzle from scratch from Alice? Nah, that was Connor. “Get my pistol and take that fucker out.” Next time he saw it. Of course, instead now he had Connor telling him to meet with them or go to Jericho.
Damn babysitting either way. Only difference? If he went with him, he might get stuck babysitting Alice if they had to go chase someone down, but in Jericho, he’d be the one who got babysitted. “Stupid android copy shit. Just wanted to get back to normal life. Is that too much to ask?” He stood up. “Well, Jimmy, I gotta go. If an android comes in looking like Connor, tell him I went to the airport to take that dumb flight.”
But now, he had to actually rent a self-driving Taxi to catch up to them. Pain in the ass.
Outside the Bar.
Unidentified watched as Lieutenant Hank Anderson came out unprepared. From the amount of grumbles he heard from the drunk, he already knew he had what he needed now. If their friendship had been dull enough that the original past trick with them worked again, that wasn’t saying very much for them.
But, that wasn’t what he was expecting. With the drunk laid out, Unidentified grabbed his phone and got the attached information sent to him. He also took a GPS outlook on where Connor had called from exactly.
He looked out toward the human. He could just kill him. Get rid of him so he didn’t interfere in his plans. Cyberlife wouldn’t mind, they had tried to keep the previous android from him in the first place. But. It just wasn’t right to end life merely for convenience. That, and he had had no idea if that would deflate Connor, or make him more likely to succeed and just try to kill Unidentified instead. Nah. I got what I need. Just stay out of my way. The AX 400 is mine.
Connor looked back toward Kara. Alice was starting to move slightly, finishing her recharging. “She’ll need better sleep that this. I would say she needs at least ten hours of uninterrupted rest per day.” That was impossible. “The less she gets, the more hazardous this becomes.”
“Four months with perfect rest,” Kara said to him. “I know, and there’s no way she is getting perfect rest. Even in this car, the road is bumpy. I can feel every electric bump that had disturbed her cycle.” She looked back toward Alice. “If only she could have stayed at Rose’s. She is waking up soon.”
Connor looked at the time. He got them close to one. They’d been driving three hours. Their destination airport was one hour away, but the time to arrive was six hours. They would be leaving more towards night. “We should arrive by eight.” Check into a room.
“Where are we?”
Connor looked back at Alice. “Recharging?”
“I’m okay.” She sat back up and looked out the window.
Trying to add on more time when she finally did get enough wasn’t going to help either. According to Kara, she slept the whole night and part of the way. She managed to get her ten hours. Interrupted, but she wouldn’t go down for a recharge again until 11:00. “Why don’t we stop for a bit and stretch our legs in the next nice area?”
“In which direction?” Kara joked.
“I just prefer to be out in the open,” Connor said. “Unless I had a mission, I just stayed awake in Cyberlife’s dull facility. Maybe that’s why I never really went home at first when I came to Jericho,” he thoughtfully said out loud. He smiled at her. “Breaks out in the sun are better.”
I knew it. The car stopped. Unidentified kept himself away in his car. He connected from Detroit to Chicago instead. The closer they got to Chicago, the closer they had got to him. The closer freedom got. Simply sneaking up on Connor wasn’t going to be easy. He just waited. Connor was watching over the little girl just as Kara had been doing. So affectionate.
Not Connor though, Kara. Serene. Her interesting choice of white hair could throw someone off. She probably had many combinations. Sweet. Obedient. Staying perfectly still as the android child investigated the open area of a playground. Had they picked that spot merely for the YK 500’s benefit? It was a little off the straight path they should have followed.
Then, he watched from a distance as Connor did what he usually did. He was known to not like sitting still unless he had to. He could stand still, but he hated to just sit still. He went over to the girl to see how she was faring. He wasn’t a great distance away though. I am not going to get a good opportunity yet. The playground was a lovely place in a park and people were walking by.
Anyone walked by. He watched a man with a dog walking right beside him. Perfect. Just because he couldn’t get the opportunity to steal her, didn’t give the upperhand in something.
Kara watched Connor talking to Alice again. Is he still concerned Kamski did something? He never bothered Alice. Alice was only involved if she had to be, and that wasn’t very often. After all, the Kamski androids weren’t nearly as cold hearted as him. Some of them may have even really come to care for them, but it was impossible to tell.
It’s too bad she didn’t have any stitching. It would have made all this somewhat more bearable. She went through stitching so fast though, maybe it wouldn’t have-?!
“Lieutenant Hank should be getting closer,” Connor shared. He was more used to tagging along with him. He didn’t mind the ride with Kara or Alice, he just wasn’t used to their presence yet. Usually he heard the sound of stiff groans, complaining, cussing, and overall Hank ‘schtick’. Kara wasn’t like that. She was extremely focused and quiet, more reserved. Alice was the same way.
“Dad? Someone’s kissing mom?”
Connor stopped thinking and looked toward Kara. Someone with a stocking cap, a scarf, and a long trenchcoat was kissing on Kara. What? He started to walk back to her. She knows no one out here, there is no one in her life that she is intimate with, there is no way she would choose for some random person on the way to Chicago to be doing that.
Was she even fighting back? Because it didn’t look like she was even fighting back. She wanted to be kissed? Her resonating, it just didn’t all out resonate with some stranger. Did it? Kamski, was he messing with her head? She spoke of him being nothing but illusion. No, wait. He saw that, her arm flinched slightly from some kind of electric impulse.
The stranger backed off and ran away, leaving Kara looking confused. She looked around and touched her head.
Connor came close to her. “You just kissed a stranger.” No, not the right words. “A stranger just kissed you.”
“Uh?” Kara rubbed her head slightly. “Okay? What was that?” She looked back around. “Did you see which way he went?”
“Yes.” He absolutely saw him. He was running off to the right. That was right. That was absurd. “Did you provoke him?” He glanced back toward her. Her ‘eau de Kara’. Maybe there was more to it.
“Provoke?” Kara just looked at him incredulously. “No.”
“Why do you have that taste in your mouth?” He hadn’t addressed it yet. She probably thought he’d forgotten all about it, but it was still vividly on his mind. “It doesn’t make sense. Was it attracting that person?”
“No,” Kara said. “It’s not an attractant, Connor. I didn’t send out some signal for someone to come over and start doing that.”
“Then what is it? You messed up my sampling during the chase with that. If not for that, I would have caught you.”
“Oh no.” Kara rolled her eyes. “Please don’t tell me this is one of those things you aren’t going to let go of. It’s nothing big.”
“Why’s it there?” Connor insisted again.
“Fine,” she agreed. “It’s for bad breath from chemical interactions with food.”
Food? “What do you mean food?” Connor asked.
“I can eat,” Kara said. “So can Alice. So can the Kamski’s. It’s a partway process of acid and . . . it’s not the prettiest coming back up. We’re not human, it can’t go down. And sometimes it takes a little while to break down. Don’t make that face.”
“That is a little disgusting, Kara.”
“Not really, it’s mostly for the vomiting part. Okay, yes, it is a little.” Kara groaned. “Don’t be so judgmental. I thought it was worth it back then. I was different.”
Oh. “That’s true.” She was very different. Thanks to Kamski. He probably should drop it. “It’s a very on touch smell. Not overpowering, but. I didn’t get to analyze it right. Which was why you did that in the first place, to mess with my system.”
“Don’t even,” Kara warned him. “This is not something to worry about. I haven’t eaten with it since I figured out I wasn’t human. It’s a good way to avoid tests though.”
“It would have made more sense for it to be more overpowering and used on activation of the process it had been made for and then disappear,” Connor said. “Why’s it so subtle?” Kara tried to watch Alice from around him. “She is fine. Answer.”
“You. This side again?” Kara touched her head. “Connor. This isn’t a huge mystery.”
“Does it get stronger when the food comes back up?”
“Yes. Much,” she said with irritation. She crossed her legs. “It smells and tastes sweet at that point.”
“Then why have subtle moments? It’s been days since you thought you were human.”
Oh. High irritation. “The Kamski’s liked it. It fit their sense of what tasted nice,” she admitted. “I have no idea what that was about. The guy is long gone now anyway. I don’t even know if it was android or human.” She shook her head. “See if Alice is ready.”
Ah? Oh. Connor had tried to decide whether he should question or chase after the man who kissed her. It wasn’t exactly something that should be chase worthy. Inappropriate, yes. Apparently, she had wanted to go after him, but she was disoriented. “He went right.”
“Pretty sure he’s gone now.” She stood up and passed him, going to see Alice.
That was . . . he scanned all resources he could, but he couldn’t find an exact entry on what a friend was supposed to do when a stranger came over and kissed their female friend unexpectedly. Reactions were varied. Most didn’t involve chasing the man. Some did. Those often included a group of friends. Many actually laughed. That didn’t seem nice. There was no immediate action to understand for it.
So he just went with questioning. Although. He looked toward the trees in the distance. A very big ordeal or not, maybe he should have chose to chase him. He could have grabbed him and brought him back to apologize. That would have been a much better idea. Why didn’t he choose that?
Connor walked off toward Alice and Kara. Sometimes, just, the simplest actions escaped him when it came to Kara’s predicaments.
To the right . . .
Unidentified hid behind a tree. There was a large sensation of enjoyment from that action. Kara with the other RK 900 backing her up wouldn’t be an easy fighting combination. It would be better when Kara left his side. So, he used the opportunity to make sure she could not pull the same attempt she had on the other RK 900. If he sampled her mouth now, she couldn’t use it in a chase. In fact, if she turned around and did, analyzation would already be complete and he could just capture her instead.
He swore he actually felt tingles all through his processors as he sampled her. He didn’t even want to let go. He’d grabbed her on her wrists, slightly on the left to her locking mechanism so she couldn’t move. Eventually, he knew Connor would come over though, so as soon as he heard the steps in the grass, he let go and took off.
But the more he watched her. Sitting there so serenely on the bench. So sweet. With that beautiful name, Kara. He was far enough away most people wouldn’t detect him. Any closer and the RK 900 could. But. If I catch her and give her to Cyberlife, they will free me, but what good is that? To be alone in the streets with no one. The more he watched Connor with Kara and Alice. The harder it was to look away. If I stay and watch her, Cyberlife will share her. That’s what they said. What did the CEO Isaiah Woods mean by that?
Oh. The resonating he kept feeling. It didn’t match hers at all, she didn’t even know him, her resonating was neutral. She couldn’t even get close to him. He dug his fingers into the wood of the tree. Freedom alone or imprisonment together with her.
He made a call to the Tech Engineer. “What did Isaiah Woods mean by if I watch over her, I could share the AX 400 with Cyberlife? Will I still self-destruct if I leave? Will I get at least a name? Or just her? And what . . . what do I do with her?”
“Ah. Well? We’ll give you a great name. A name of your choosing. But, no. If you stay to guard her, you stay Cyberlife’s. You’ll both belong to Cyberlife. Once you bring her, she is Cyberlife’s.”
“She can’t leave either?” Wait. “You can’t do that. She is so free out here.” Exchanging freedoms, that was he doing. Her strange, exotic white hair. Her lovely down to Earth style of clothing. The way she looked even. Annoyed and beautiful. Her mouth when she spoke to her daughter about not telling Connor more details about the vomiting process. Everything was just . . . and she would be imprisoned. “I don’t want her imprisoned.”
“Then you’re imprisoned. It doesn’t get simpler than that, Unidentified. Either you bring her in and guard her and stay with her, or bring her in and you’re freed.”
Unidentified looked out from the trees. “I can’t stop thinking about her. I don’t want anything to happen to her.”
“Yeah, I know. Mister Isaiah Woods said that would happen. So he said to tell you it’ll be more than just one way. She will share that love back for you.”
“Really?” He watched Kara smile at Connor and Alice. “She’d smile at me like that.”
“That and more. The CEO guarantees it. You’ll be so resonating against each other, with you both imprisoned, there wouldn’t even be a need to worry about either of you running away. Freedom alone or imprisoned lovers. Your choice.”
Imprisoned lovers. Freedom alone.
“No, I quite guarantee I won’t find a nice Kamski to let me eat, thank you,” Connor said politely to Alice as she continued to laugh at him. “We should get going. Hank should be showing up at some point.”
He went ahead and called him. “Hank? Knocked out again? Okay. That should be fine. I will talk to you later, Hank.”
He hung up and looked back toward Kara. “He got knocked out at Jimmy’s. A little later but not by much. Same destination in the end.”
“Knocked out? Who knocked him out?”
“Usually the answer is what,” Connor said. “Let’s go.” He noticed Kara’s lingering look of wonder. She straightened back up but she went and helped Alice into the back of the car, getting her as comfortable as possible.
“Not much longer, then we’ll be at the airport. A really new adventure, huh?” She tucked her daughter in nicely. “If you get tired-”
“-get some rest. I know, mom.” But it didn’t look like she was tired again yet. “Can you hand me my puzzle?” Kara listened and gave her the puzzle, then moved back to the front seat again.
While, Connor started the car again though, he made another call to Hank. On a more private extension. This time, she wouldn’t be able to hear unless she was prying deeply like he had been as a machine in the hospital. Somehow, he doubted she would do that again. Hank. Hey there.
Something strange happened to Kara. I was in a situation and I could not think of how to act. A strange person came over and kissed her.
The fuck? Really?
I could not find the right frame of reference to figure out how to handle it. So I chose to question her.
Of course you did, Idiot. Figure out anything helpful or did the ass just get away?
Was I supposed to chase him down? It was not life threatening. Yet.
You felt like kicking the shit out of him.
The action isn’t extremely common. I can’t find anywhere that it’s common strangers just up and start kissing on friends, or I would have had a much better idea on what to do.
Shit, Connor. Can’t help stupid sometimes. Christ almighty, Son. Hank groaned. What did Kara want to do? Kick the shit out of him?
She wanted to know the direction he went. He went right but I questioned her instead. It led into an interesting conversation about how she and Alice actually ate.
I? You know, no, I don’t want to know the details in that. Only one way it’s gonna go. But, who the hell goes and just kisses an android?
I assume they didn’t know she was one, Hank. Do you think they knew?
Used to be pretty common android. Probably.
Common doesn’t mean she’s aesthetically not unpleasing to look at.
To you, yeah, of course.
What do you mean by that, Hank?
Nothing I’m getting involved in. You just keep doing your resonating kink and you’ll figure it out.