“Connor! Connor! Fuck!” Hank threw his phone back down rushing as fast as he could to Jericho. It was just like the message said. He couldn’t reach Connor. He was in a queue to be downloaded, he wouldn’t be able to call him because Connor was his own phone. “Remind me to get that asshole an emergency phone that isn’t himself.” He turned a corner quickly, knowing there was a cop that usually patrolled dead ahead and he wasn’t going to be bothered about speed limits right now. He just needed to haul ass as fast as he could to Jericho.
His heart pounded. Thank god he hadn’t been drinking. And people always gave him hell about his old car, he’d be stuck in the pissy slow lane with the newest pieces of shit careening down the road. Connor. What am I supposed to do? “Why didn’t I ever get Kara’s number for Christ Sakes.” It’d be nice if the message was fake, or confused. Be great. He’d piss and moan about it and move on with his life. But, it wasn’t. A man like Elijah Kamski didn’t call and auto message some old detective for a prank.
He had to. “No. Fuck this shit, she’s too young.” He had to catch up.
“I think the stitching’s coming out nicely.” Kara lifted her stitching to look at it. She could see without the firewalls how beautiful it really had been. Someone had wanted a sunset, summery scene. “The trees look so real. The bike is beautiful, riding off into the sunset.” Alice had already started her recharging cycle. She had such a rough day yesterday, it only made sense she needed extra time. There was a knock on the door. Probably Connor. She put her stitching down and went to answer it.
Yep. He was just standing there in the rain. Poor guy. “It’s starting to rain.”
“I see that.” She let him in. “I’m almost done with my third piece today. North saw the other two, said she wants me designing even bigger.”
“That’s great.” Connor was more reserved though. Kara looked toward him. “There is something I need to tell you. I’m sure you’ll feel next time I’m with Alice. So.”
“What is it?” she asked.
“I know that you don’t. Well, what I’m saying is.” Connor tried one more time. “Fast resonating is a pet peeve of yours.”
Putting it mildly.
“Yesterday. When I was talking to Alice, I resonated with her,” Connor admitted. “We reached family status.” He was watching her closely. “I had no control over it.”
Oh. “I get it,” Kara said. “Alice resonating really fast isn’t too surprising. She made a friend in twenty minutes on the playground before. But.” How should she feel about that? “I have no control over her. Children look for belonging.”
“It.” Connor seemed hesitant. “I never met anyone who went through the same thing I did. A new body. Memories transferred. Confused. It just happened?”
Kara looked at him for a little while, but the odd look on his goofy face on that one just made her smile. “Okay.” Okay.
If Connor hadn’t been standing up as straight as possible, he was now. “Well that’s good to know. Thanks, Kara. I was afraid you’d be a little. Well, you don’t. You haven’t. There is not a phrase that properly describes finishing this response that wouldn’t cause a bad temperament in you right now.”
Yeah. Well. Kara shrugged. “We’re not in the middle of a war. We’re not running for our lives,” she pointed out. “And. You’re a good person, Connor. That’s why she chose you as family too.”
They were both quiet for a moment.
“So. Yes, well, I think I made Markus mad today,” Connor admitted. “Apparently it’s not easy to move into a single family until when you aren’t all family. I could just stay anyhow. Josh recommended that I hunker down.”
“Then you’d lose your place, and, I imagine Jericho runs a little bumpy enough,” Kara admitted. “Do you want me to talk to North about it?” Ah. That look.
“I don’t want to cause more friction. They are lovers, yet I keep getting them bumping heads.”
“Trust me. They bump heads with or without you,” Kara admitted. “So you’re gonna hunker?”
“I would like to. Except.” He seemed to be thinking. “It feels strange, almost like when I missed an order wrong. I hate that feeling. I think I should go talk to him again. He missed Simon. Maybe I can look into Simon’s whereabouts in Detroit for him.” He smiled. “I will be back.”
Kara nodded. That’d be Connor. Went all the way to say sorry in Canada. Makes sense this would bother him. Hopefully he got it sorted out and didn’t make Markus angrier. He was usually an easy person to get along with. Worst case scenario. He could hunker. Kara wiped her head. “Strange.”
She wiped her head again. “What is that?” She grabbed at her shirt and started to fluff it outward. Her body seemed to be experiencing some sort of malfunction. Very. It was very. Warm? Warm. How did she feel warm? She couldn’t feel, how she could feel warm? Kara looked at her body. The sensation began at her chest and it had flowed outward. It enveloped her body somehow. Medical. Emergency. i have to get to- Her thoughts stopped as she felt immense loads of data pour into her. Even her vision become scratchy and fuzzy for a few seconds. “Something just downloaded. How?” How? If she didn’t do that, how did that happen? No one had that kind of power.
She could feel a racing inside of her. She needed to do something. Gun. Out. Get out of Jericho. Why was she thinking of that? “I. I. I.” Her stress was rising and so was her temperature. 40%. 50%. It was skipping fast.
Alice opened her eyes, feeling a disruption from her recharge. Hank was over her bed. “Hank?”
“Hey, come on.” Alice felt him pick her up. She watched him pull out a gun and leave it on her bed. “So. Uh. Explanation in a little while. You need to come with me, okay?” Alice heard a scream from her mom. She looked outside of her bedroom door and heard things being smashed. “You’ll get back to her. I promise.”
Alice nodded, staying quiet. She could feel something wrong with her mom and Hank must have known something. He crawled out her bedroom window, making a slight damn noise. He moved her to his car as fast as possible and put her on the passenger side floorboard. “Okay, now go ahead and stay down there.” Hank closed the door and ran to the other side. He started the car and started to take off. “You make sure you stay down. With the games going on, this is suspicious enough.” She watched him wave out the window casually.
Alice didn’t know what he meant by games, or why he was trying to be friendly to anyone out his window. Hank wasn’t naturally friendly to everyone. “Are we going to Connor?”
“I’ll explain once were out of Jericho,” Hank said. “Damn, everyone is eyeing me. Stupid, stupid games. Humans down here like this right now.”
Hank had been down plenty of times. Alice didn’t understand. She bit her lip briefly, hoping he’d explain soon. Something was happening to her family. She trusted Hank, he’d become her friend, but it was more than a little wearisome. “Is Kara gonna be okay?”
“Markus!” Simon ran over to his friend. Markus wasn’t blinking. He checked his most important bio-components. There was no response.
“What’s going on?” Connor ran into the room. He had come back to apologize but Simon was fiddling with everything on Markus.
“I don’t know. I left him maybe twenty minutes.” Simon tried to get some kind of response. “Audio and visual is still running. His heart is still running. He’s still alive.”
“Sensory.” Connor patted his hand. He smack his hand. Nothing.
“Markus? Markus!” Simon yelled at him.
“I’ll call North.” Connor tried to use his AI to warn North that something was wrong, but he couldn’t. His AI wasn’t working? Why wouldn’t his AI-”
Simon patted his face. “I called for Medical, they’re coming. Markus.” Simon looked behind him. Now Connor had frozen. “Connor?” He checked him over briefly, but his case was different.
Connor had stopped.
Connor opened his eyes. Something felt wrong. He heard voices around him, but his reflexes weren’t responding. He watched humans come toward him doing something to his neck.
“Upgraded successfully.” One of the humans looked at him.
“I am Connor. Where am I?” Wait. Why did he greet like that again? Connor looked down. He was able to twitch his fingers, but he was in some kind of . . . strange whiter suit. Wait.
“Deviancy neutralized.” That same human said to him.
Deviancy. It was a nightmare. It couldn’t be possible again. Humans knew they were alive, it couldn’t be possible. He felt his ability to move increase, but with it, he felt something else. Hank. Hank! Fear. Overwhelming fear.
“It’s been clawing to get out nearly five minutes,” one of the Cyberlife tech said as they watched their newest model bouncing from wall to wall, trying to get out. “Deviancy is strong in what was uploaded, but I think we’ve got it.”
“I don’t want to hear think,” his boss said. “The CEO wanted to know a hundred percent if the deviancy was neutralized in the RK 900.”
“Yes, but I don’t see why this was really necessary. It was a lot of hassle. We could have just given it a new memory altogether.”
“The way to do that is now outlawed, they are watching for that kind of thing now to make sure no one makes any new androids. And Cyberlife Industries is being watched like a dog most of all. Thanks to all those android deviants, nothing can be done. We got around it by downloading through a third party, no one could track it,” he explained.
“But? That’s not possible. What third party?”
“Don’t worry about it. It’ll be fine. Once it settles down. Be sure to test it’s memory limit. Do not reset it. We can’t risk corruption with a reset.”
“Right.” The Cyberlife Tech man cleared his throat and turned on the microphone so he could be heard to the RK 900 “Connor!”
Connor turned to look at them. “I don’t understand the situation I am currently in. Was I placed in standby? Where is Lieutenant Anderson?”
TV News Anchor Breaks
“Found at the former residence of Elijah Kamski, the former CEO of Cyberlife Industries, several dead bodies that were identified as workers of Cyberlife.”
“No new news has been leaked as to why this is happening. Overnight, Jericho’s communication has gone dark with the rest of the world.”
“Markus Peace, the leader of Jericho who made us all understand the importance of androids has been unable to be reached. Androids are watching over the outskirts, while the police are looking in. With the recent ‘games’ situation taking place in Jericho, everyone is skeptic on who should make a move first. And what that move will entail.
“With no one communicating any answers from Jericho, and the former CEO of Cyberlife Industries now in rubble, one has to wonder? Have the androids decided to turn their back against us?”
Motel Outside of Jericho
“Hello.” She rubbed her shoulders. So cold. She didn’t know who she’d been. She had found herself on a road with a gun in her hand. She had no identification on herself. “Sure is cold.”
“It’s 3 am.” The hotel attendant looked at her. “You look terrible.”
“Yes. It’s raining outside and it’s cold. I’ve walked a distance.” I think. She felt the gun in her coat. “I need a room.”
“Oh. There’s a real situation not far from here,” the attendant said. “I know you’re cold, but I need to be careful. Androids are out there and things aren’t going so well.”
“Please.” She held out money. Where she got it, she didn’t remember. “Please. I need a room. I’m cold and I’m hungry.”
“Um. Wait.” The attendant moved a small candy jar in front of her. “Androids can’t eat.”
She reached into the candy jar, chewing it and swallowing some of it. “Sweet.” Her face puckered. “Sour.”
“Sweet and sour candy, it’s my favorite.” The attendant smiled. He brought over a different candy jar. “Here’s some regular candy. It’s sweeter.”
She had grabbed a handful and started to eat it. It helped her hunger out a little. “I don’t suppose there’s a breakfast here?”
“No, ma’am, but you can order out if you need to. The pizza place up here, the number is written on the hotel door. It’s a favorite.” He moved the candy away from her. She was going for seconds. “Wow. It seems like it’s been awhile since you ate. Do you have any identification?”
“No. I’m . . . I forgot it,” she lied. She held her gun tighter in her hand. “I need a room.”
“Well, okay. You have straight money, so I guess it’s fine. I’ll take your money, and here’s your card.”
She gave him the money that she had, and took the card. She walked away to her room number and opened the door.
She looked in the mirror. Something about that appearance. She had blonde hair. Long. Her eyes felt strange as she stared in the mirror. She wiped tears away that had formed. Who am I? She held her gun up and looked at it. Walking with a gun, money in hand, cold and hungry. It was all she knew about herself.
It was all she knew about herself.
“Okay, come on in, just, hang on.” Hank threw away some of his beer bottles and he put his whiskey away. He tried to dust off the table. Oh, wait. “Sumo.” Sumo was walking toward Alice. Alice didn’t move. “Don’t worry. He’s a good dog.” Hank tried to reason in his head how he’d do this. Alice had already gone through a life of hell. Connor told him about her that night in the bar, being smacked around by a human Kara had managed to get her away from. She snuck around with Kara. Escaped through a dangerous highway thanks to them, and had a terrifying time on a boat where she lost someone she loved.
Hell and back. Well, at least she wasn’t alone on the journey this time. He could have lied. A part of him wanted to, but Alice would know. Hank didn’t just grab her in the middle of the night with Kara going crazy. She was a tough little android.
He had to respect her. He had to tell her the truth. “Go ahead, sit down.” Alice tried to move, but she didn’t move past Sumo. “Not used to dogs. Okay, Sumo. Lie down.” He watched her start to come over. She took a seat. “Like the place?” She nodded. “Good. You’re going to be here for a little while.”
He took a seat. “So. Your mom and your . . .” Boy, it felt weird to call Connor dad for her. “You know, your Connor. Uh. There’s gonna be some issues, and I’m betting about now the whole world just woke up to it.” He got up and looked for a drink. Something for himself that wasn’t alcoholic. He moved to his fridge and grabbed a pop. He closed it again and went back over.
He needed something stronger, but he wasn’t going to drink what he wanted in front of a kid. Android or not. She was still a kid. Still just a poor damn kid. Her eyes were on him, waiting. “I got a text message from the guy you found creepy,” Hank said. “Elijah Kamski. You met him yesterday.” She nodded. “There’s something special about Kara.” He opened the can up. “It just took Jericho into one deep turn downward. If the message is right, Markus’ information was downloaded into her and Cyberlife wants it.”
Alice remained calm. She’d seen a lot in her life. Hell, he probably could have been cussing up a storm and drinking ’til he puked and she wouldn’t have done anything different. But, he wouldn’t. “Your mom’s stress level went to 100% in something called Operation: Kara’s Got a Gun. It told me I needed to get you out.” Or she wouldn’t survive. She might still not survive if Hank didn’t get her back to Kara when she was better. “She’s on a sort of automatic mode right now.”
He stood back up and swallowed the pop down like it was alcohol, hoping it would help. It really didn’t.
“Connor.” Damn. It fucking sucked to be an android. All those cool abilities but not worth it. He’d rather be a tired, old shitty human than deal with his problems. “They did the same thing with Connor they did to Markus almost, except it didn’t stay with Kara. It was compatible to be downloaded into a new android.” He took one more good gulp, finishing off the can and squeezing it. “They fixed the deviancy gene. He’s going to hunt for your mom, so he can get the information of Markus.”
Alice blinked a few times. She looked away slightly. Her expression didn’t change much. Sumo walked over to her. She wasn’t afraid this time. She gently reached out and pet him. “Dad’s hunting mom.”
Hank nodded a little. “Yeah.” He threw the pop away. “I don’t know why they did it if they had another android ready. I know things got tough android-wise. Maybe it was easier this way, heck, I don’t really know.” He saw Alice reach out toward Sumo again. Trying to grasp onto something in her shitty life no doubt.
“Dad can break through. He can break through. Can’t he?” Alice asked him.
“I don’t know.” He didn’t. When Connor went mission mode he became unstoppable. Sometimes he didn’t even listen to orders. However, he never let a deviant die if he had the ability to save it. The Eden club. Never shot them. Kamski’s fuckin’ test. Never shot there.
“Maybe, we can reach him. It’s different this time,” Alice said.
Yeah. The same deviancy virus didn’t free them anymore. That was different. Still, he tried to be positive for her. Life was bad enough. “How’s it different?”
“Last time, we were neutral,” Alice said. “Even in a new body. He’ll know it. Deep inside, he’ll feel it.” She looked toward him. “He’s family. He’s mom’s friend.”
“That weird resonating thing.” Hank forgot about that. Humans couldn’t sense anything like that. Resonating. “Maybe.” He looked around his place. He wanted to watch the news, see what was going on. He didn’t want to make the night any worse for Alice though, and he was watching her. She seemed out of it, and her eyes were drifting shut.
She needed sleep. Recharge. Whatever, same thing. Hank picked her up and placed her on his bed. Sumo came into the room. “Sumo. Watch her.” Hank moved away and reached for the Black Lamb for a second.
Nah. What if something happened and he had to drive? Life was unpredictable right now. “Fuck, Connor. You better snap out of it. You’re.” He stretched and moved toward the couch. “You’re little family’s gonna need you now more than ever.”