Frankenmuth Police Station.

“There is no real protocol on how to handle this,” Hank’s chief said to Connor, Markus and Kara. The children were trying to be good while they were finding things to play with at the same time in the office. Kara tried to hold them, but they moved from her grasp.

“I know, but we can’t just let dangerous androids keep doing this,” Hank said. “I’m better. So. There you go.”

“That fast?”

“Androids adapt to changing situations all the time,” Connor said.

“Yeah, being friends with them, you kind of learn how to wing it after awhile,” Hank said to the Chief.

Connor didn’t have much more input to give. He had accurately described who would be helping and in charge of what. He now had Markus and Kara’s help. It meant with a team of three, two could be working with one watching the children. He didn’t want the Network to get even one finger near the kids.

“Good androids. Bad androids. Either way you can’t have W2’s, you don’t pay taxes, all of that leads to some problems. You don’t technically pass for training,” Hank’s chief said. “But, what you do have?” He turned his terminal around. “The situation was too tense last time. But, I am obligated to show you.”

Connor leaned in. What was that? “I’m uninformed on the nature of what I am looking at?”

“Someone from that small Texas town started this fund for you.” The Chief gestured to Connor. “Once people saw the news, they wanted to help. Those that got hurt, those that lived nearby that would have got hurt, and those? That are scared they might be hurt.” He gestured to the number. “That is what you are at. I’d talk to the guy behind it so you get paid in whatever way android’s get paid.”

“No banks,” Hank said to the Chief. “Straight cash. Who is it from?”

“Someone named Mathew,” the Chief said. “Just keep up your part of the deal and help those in need, and you’re obviously getting paid. I don’t know if it’s enough for a plane ticket back and forth to wherever, but it’s a good start.”

He didn’t need to know about the private jet.

“Before we start anything,” Kara said to the chief. “There are certain standards and rules that should be followed, for the best results and less mistakes.”

“However you want to handle it. Just get the proposals of what you need or believe up, so that everyone’s on the same level.”

Back to the Jet

“The tracking is all gone,” Markus noted. “There is a lot of information in here though. I doubt the Network is going to be happy about it. It’ll get pulled really soon I’m sure. North and I will check this out, for good and bad resources,” Markus said. He looked toward Connor and Kara. “I’ll call you when I need to come get you. An extra trip before the destination prolongs the time a little.”

“I don’t have space for it in my truck,” Connor joked. “You would do better to take care of it. I called up the one handling the fees. We need to stop at Lometa once a week, and he’ll give us a check of the amount he can. After all the fees they charge him.” He waved goodbye to Markus as he and Kara moved back towards the truck. Just them again. What a nice feeling. He didn’t mind Markus, but there was just too much commotion. And although Markus was a good leader, and maybe one day he could become a friend, he wasn’t the same as the others.

And Kara? Her responses were curt and direct. Connor didn’t know everything that happened, but it had a negative effect on her he would have to cut through. Kara even got into the truck straight away, like she forgot all about Alice. Connor moved to her side and helped Alice in.

“I’m glad it’s back to normal,” Alice said to him. “I didn’t really like that guy.”

“I’m glad too,” Connor smiled at her before patting her head softly. “We are all in this together.” He made sure her feet were in and closed the door. He went to check on Max, who of course already opened the door and got inside. The situation didn’t change him at all. Connor got into the driver’s seat. “I don’t know about you, but I think we should turn in for the evening. It’s been a rough day.” She simply nodded.

Connor started up the truck and it wasn’t long before he found an android safe hotel. Not always common, but once he saw the lack of android prohibiting signs in windows, he knew he was in the right neighborhood. He got out and headed in with Kara, Alice and Max.

A simple hotel but two double beds. Alice was already worn out enough to crawl right in. Max went to the other bed and started to jump up and down. Like always. “Max,” Connor simply said. The boy quit. “Recharging time.” He looked toward Kara who was busy looking out the window. “I think our next set of clothes should be pajamas.” No answer.

He looked toward the kids. Both of them went into recharge mode, each on separate beds. “Kara.”

“I have no place to set rules. I don’t know why I said that,” Kara said to him, finally talking. “I’m a hypocrite. I can’t follow my own standards.”

“From today’s actions,” Connor said knowingly, happy she was finally opening up. He walked over toward her, also looking out the window. It wasn’t the greatest view. Mostly cars that were in the hotel too residing in a parking lot. Still, it wasn’t the view she was staring at in the first place. “Will you tell me what happened?”

“Innocent androids that just had their heads in the clouds were decommissioned,” she answered.

“Maybe. Maybe not,” Connor replied. He placed his arm around her shoulder. “You created some kind of actions that freed us from the Network’s grasp. You saved Hank, and probably me too. Hank? Was my very first friend,” he said. “He was the only friend I had for a very, very long time until you, Alice, and Max came along. Losing him.”

“You may have gone off balance,” Kara said. “I know, and I know being forced to be a Sugardroi to Roxanne was driving your touch imbalance off the walls. I know,” she said firmly again. “I need to go to bed, Connor.”

“By sharing the live analysis of the real cure we’ve already negated their plans,” Connor said as she crawled in with Alice. “No human machines anymore, their plan is useless.”

“I know.” Kara held Alice close to her as Connor got in with Max. She could hear Max hogging the covers, and Connor trying to get them back again. A game he never won with that boy.

Inside Kara’s Dream

Kara deactivated her skin in the back of the hotel area. Trash bins and cans. Garbage. I fit right in here. She stared at her true hand. No synthetic skin, no nothing, just her casing. The most basic part of her.

///”Go, Kara.” Tilly insisted as Kara reached her deactivated skinned hand toward the rope. “It’s okay, just go.”

“I can’t.” Kara put her hand back down. She looked toward Tilly whose skin was deactivated too. “I can’t just leave you, Tilly. These savages will tear you apart. If not your head, then your heart!” She hugged Tilly so tight. “I can’t.”

“Kara, we can’t wait forever!” Rudy said from the top. “Kara, we need to go. Climb up.”

“It’s okay,” Tilly assured Kara. “If one of us can survive, I’m glad it’s you. Get out, tell the network about this place, and keep going. Just do one thing for me?”

“Anything,” Kara promised.

“Watch out for my last surviving Yllit,” Tilly said. “Roxanne.”

“I know which one,” Kara said. “Of course I know which one is your daughter.” She looked back toward the rope. “I feel like I’m leaving you to die. If I don’t get them to them fast enough? Someone will take you out.”

“We have to take the risk,” Tilly said. They both went quiet as they heard the sounds of human feet walking by. They waited for it to pass. “There’s not much time. Daybreak will start. Get you and your Sugardroi out of here.” Tilly hugged her one last time. “And watch Roxanne? Watch out for her weakness.” She let go. “Back of the head. Not the front. Back.”

“I promise, no one will ever get her,” Kara said. She heard more footsteps walking by. Silent, so silent. She looked back at Tilly. “You’ll see me again. You’ll see us again.”

“She’s a little messed up emotionally. Be careful with her,” Tilly warned her. “You know how it goes.”

“I know.” Kara grabbed the rope. “I will get word as soon as I can. I won’t let you down, Tilly.”

“Just take care of yourselves,” Tilly insisted. “Make these bastard humans pay.”

Synthetic skin or not, Kara couldn’t hold back her tears. She killed Roxanne with the same knowledge her mother trusted in her, to save her. And she used that reaction, to make Tilly stop long enough to shoot her. “You pushed!” She banged on the building. “You pushed too hard.” She tried to hold it together. Oh, but eight years. It took a toll. It took such a toll. How was she supposed to survive over a hundred when she felt that bitter at eight? “Restart. Why didn’t you restart? Then I wouldn’t have had to kill your daughter, to kill you.” She rubbed her tear-streaked eyes.

///”You are a lifesaver, Rudy.” Kara hugged her Sugardroi. “I don’t know what I would have done without you down there.” She looked at her hands. “They almost took my arm off. Berserkers forming a group together, that wasn’t fair.”

“Oh, Kara. I’ll be here every time you need me,” Rudy said. “Come thick or thin, I’m your man to the end.”

“Sugardroi,” Kara corrected him. “Sugardroi.”

Rudy sighed. “Sugardroi.” He looked upward. “Come on. It’s starting to rain. I hate being out on the streets away from the Network.” He wrapped his arm around her. “Let’s go.”

Rain. Kara looked up. “Why not? Why not rain the day I sent someone to decommission my old friend Rudy.” She couldn’t risk him getting away, it could trigger a reaction. None of them could survive, but he didn’t deserve it. Bitter about losing her, but being shutdown was nothing he deserved. Could she even cite how many times he had saved her? It was just his own bad luck he was on that ride. “Three androids I once swore to die for. I.” Killed. “Murdered in the coldest blue blood.”

“For the cure.”

Kara turned. She started to reactivate her skin, but Connor still grabbed her hand.

“If it wasn’t for you, we wouldn’t be here,” Connor said. “I’m sorry you had to decommission your old friends. I don’t know what that’s like, but I imagine you hurt very badly.”

“Friends many years ago,” Kara said. “Still. I changed, they changed.” Still. As her skin finished reactivating, Connor didn’t let go of her hand. “I’m sorry I couldn’t tell you all the bull that Tilly and Roxanne were tossing at you. I couldn’t risk looking like I could communicate yet.” She looked toward her free hand. “I did a very, very bad thing.”

“For very, very good reasons,” Connor said.

“Tilly once saved my life,” Kara revealed. “When I got pulled out by my then Sugardroi, whom I just killed today too . . .” She closed her eyes. “She paid that price. She could have died. She knew it too, so. She wanted me to take care of her Yllit. Her only Yllit that survived. Roxanne,” Kara said. “She told me about her weakness so I could watch for it, and I used it. I used it to kill her.” She glanced toward Connor lazily. “Is that really Simple and Sweet, Connor?”

“I?” Connor paused and placed his free hand in his pant pocket. “I wish I knew how to make you feel better. You did what was necessary. Even I didn’t know how to get out without hurting Hank or you, or losing myself in the process.”

“I tricked Lewis into thinking I would be interactive with him if he killed everyone in stealth,” Kara revealed. “I even tricked him so far as to make him let his guard down. Your worst fantasy, is not paranoia. It’s quite real, and docile little weak Kara made it happen,” she said. There. How’d he feel about that? At this point, she didn’t want to keep any secrets from him of that incident.

“I figured that out,” Connor said. “You got the drop on him, something I could not do at my best performance.” He smiled. “I’m the most superior now.” Them he tried to look like he was shrugging it off. “Not that it matters.”

“Number one,” Kara confirmed for him. “I’d never hurt you like that, Connor. At least, not until you go nuts, flip your lid, and then . . . I guess I can’t promise anything.”

“In the beginning, that might have been an issue,” Connor admitted. “Not anymore. I’m glad to know you can take care of yourself. But? I still prefer to do it for you.”

Kara felt him pull her closer in for a hug.

Outside Kara’s Dream 

“That event didn’t make my touch any weaker. If anything, it made it stronger.” Connor looked toward her like he was trying to figure something out. It was obvious she had gone into her subconscious, but she didn’t come just to his bed to snuggle. She was talking in her sleep. He didn’t want her to be alone in it, so he talked with her. Meanwhile, Max was by his feet, messing with them, fighting for his attention. Kara had all but pushed her way into Connor’s arms. Even now she was rubbing against him like a dog did to someone they liked.

“I know we weren’t separated for very long,” Connor said. “Not even a full day but imagining having to share my life with someone besides you made me feel broken. Like, something was broken inside. You and Alice, you should always be with me and Max.” Speaking of which, Max was holding onto Connor’s feet now. “I don’t care about being ‘even’, I prefer this arrangement.” He stroked the top of her hand with his fingers. “If I had to choose a luxury apartment and a jet every day and night instead of knocking door to door to try and save money but end up sleeping out on rooftops? I’d take the second if you and Alice were there.”

She stopped speaking. It looked like she was actually going to sleep. It was the first time she actually did the snuggle up to him, but there had been a great deal on her mind. Still? He didn’t mind it. It was actually quite comfortable.

“Where am I supposed to sleep?” Max asked Connor as he played with his feet through the blankets. Connor gestured his head toward Alice. Max went over to her bed, jumped in and grabbed a good deal of the blankets. Alice however knew how to fend for herself on that front. Like in the car, she curled up more to him. The closer he took the blankets, the closer she cuddled, so he ended up letting some more go.

Connor stared at Kara’s sleeping figure. She had finally settled down at his chest. Well she did, now she was up by his neck again. Her snuggles are quite invasive. Yet, I like this invasiveness. He pulled her down a little lower to find a better position to hold her at. But, she popped right back up higher toward his neck again. “Okay, I guess you win.” He wrapped his arm around her, admitting defeat.

It was a good defeat.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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