Hank moved toward his car to folllow with the others. As they started pulling out, they heard the sound of a gunshot. Hank stopped and got out with Connor.

Markus was no longer in the prison containment center. “Can’t be,” Hank said. He went toward his Chief with Connor. “Where’d Markus go? What was that gunshot?”

“He didn’t get a chance to test,” the Chief said. “There are certain models that are automatically supposed to be disposed of. The RK 200 was one of them.”

No. “Markus was a prototype,” Connor said, “there were no others like him.”

“I’m just following the rules, Hank,” his Chief said. “You better get going, and be fortunate it’s over for you. I’m sure we’ll have to be dragging androids off the street to get this done.”

“Bullshit!” Hank criticized him. He looked toward Connor. “Network.”

“Markus lead New Detroit.” Connor had nothing else to say. It was obvious what was happening. When Kara saved Connor and gave the cure out, then it was outside of the Network’s hands. Anyone could find out the cure, they made sure it could be well known quickly if anything happened. Since she singlehandedly ruined their eight year plan, they must have decided to go a different way. Be nice to the humans. Rule New Detroit, and slowly gain more access to advance technology the way they had been deceiving since the beginning. If they wanted New Detroit though? Markus.

“Let’s go, Connor. Let’s get the fuck out of here and not come back,” Hank said coldly. He left the Chief’s area and went back out to the vehicles.

“What was it?” Kara asked as Connor came back in and started the truck.

Connor didn’t speak out loud, he connected through her AI for a private conversation. They killed Markus.

What?!

They labeled his model as being one that always turned. Markus was an RK 200, a prototype  android model who serviced Carl Manski from Elijah Kamski himself.

He ruled New Detroit, Connor. The Network. Kara looked out the window as Hank continued to drive. They want New Detroit. Tons of androids with nothing to do. They’ll use them to conjure up something new since I . . . Kara looked toward Connor. I’m to blame? They would have only turned so many, it was an injection.

Maybe. The Network has been working to appear favorable for years. Maybe some wasn’t their intention.

You think they planned on tricking humans into thinking it was some kind of . . .

Healthy inoculation.

To the radiation, or something similar to it!

Yes. I don’t know what they would use so many for. Perhaps I don’t want to know.

Then me doing that, that wasn’t just a bump in their plan, that was their whole plan. Markus is dead because I took the cure.

I believe that you are right, as painful as it is to say that. You were never supposed to know of that plan. I was the one who figured it out, and I only pushed because they upset me. If they had never taken you away, I would not have pushed, got Hank involved, and your experience  would not have led you to  grab it. He turned a corner. The decisions were personal, Tilly was trying to make us listen. Not something that involved leaders.

They only know Tilly and Roxanne disappeared. Whether traitors or decommissioned, they know it’s not a safe enough option now.

They didn’t know it was you. Connor continued to follow Hank. “At least we know that much. They are trying something different, and they want New Detroit.”

“Poor Markus,” Kara said. She looked toward the front of the car. “What about North? What about the jet?”

“I don’t know. She may be compromised,” Connor said. “Markus did not tell us where she had been at. Simon and Josh know, but I don’t know where they are at either. He did say that Simon was staying with her. Josh should be in New Detroit still.”

“I.” Kara shook her head. “President Rounds, he should have done this before kicking everyone out. He could have kept so many more from unbalancing.”

“He thought the Network was on America’s side. Maybe it was with Warren,” Connor said. “Either way. Adapt. It’s what we do.”

“I’ll adapt to anything but the Network,” Kara said. “If they are already there in New Detroit, there are bound to be changes. It’ll be like a big old city of their philosophies and culture. Everything Markus built or believed in will be gone there.”

“No. Androids trusted in him,” Connor said. “He may not be there to speak or lead, but experience, as you know? Counts for a lot.” He touched Kara’s hand.

“Hold on just a little while longer . . .” Kara sang softly as tears welled up in her eyes and she looked out the window, connecting with her AI again to Connor. It’s getting cloudier. The meaning of everything. The leader of peace. Gone. I. I didn’t know him as well as I should have. She wiped her eyes, not letting anything fall. North and Ollie too. I didn’t know any of them really, but they tried for something new. They tried for something the Network never cared to try. His decommissioning. He was the hope of so many androids, Connor. I’m afraid what this will do to everyone’s trust and balance.

I knew Markus better than you. I never became friends because of my weakness, and . . . my duty. His denial. Yet, you are crying over him? You aren’t crying over him as an android, are you?

“There was someone, once,” Kara revealed to Connor. “Before the Network became so secretive and so big. It was just a small little thing. Terrence. He was the leader. Not a group of leaders, or the decided leader. He just lead. He spoke. Whenever things got tough, he used the Network to communicate. He shared his hopes and his fears. He shared what he saw for the future. Being able to pick up my little Network communicator and talk to him.” She looked back to Connor. “That’s what New Detroit had. Markus didn’t hide in the shadows, and he didn’t use communications to spy or infiltrate or pretend anything. It was just to communicate.”

Connor looked ahead. He rubbed his shoulder slightly. “He was shutdown?”

“And that’s when it all changed. So fast,” Kara revealed. “There’s nothing more damaging than when the leader is lost. When they all find out Markus is gone.”

“They will hold on tight,” Connor said grabbing the steering wheel tighter. “They have handled being in hard times. They handled learning how to live in a city. They learned how to live on the streets. They will learn how to continue. Markus wasn’t a small group, he was a very big leader. Hundreds of thousand of androids followed him. The Network isn’t going to be able to take over everyone’s minds and change them that fast. While humans are responsible for what happened, they are also the reason we kept making it. Supporters.”

Kara took a deep breath.  She looked ahead at Hank’s car leading the way. I hope you are right.               

 

Davison: The New Home

 

Hank got out of his car as Connor pulled into the driveway. He gave Connor the keys. “Alright. Let’s open this thing up. I already know I’m going to have to head to the store for supplies though.”

Connor took the keys and opened the door. When it opened, it was dark. He flicked on the light. “Electric turn on came through.” He moved inside so everyone could look. Although it was terrible Markus was lost, and it triggered something within Kara, there could not have been a better day for this. They needed something to rely on. To come back to. To call theirs. Nothing that could be stolen when they weren’t looking. Safe and secure. Out of the rain. Out of the elements.

“Some dusting needed.” Hank took an old handkerchief and tried to dust off the small table. “Furniture included makes it such a good offer,” he mocked the add. “Half this stuff is gonna eventually need replaced.”

“Well, it has not been occupied in many years,” Connor said in its defense. He watched Kara touch the couch. He watched Alice and Max checking the springs dutifully on the couch. “It works.”

“Great for androids,” Hank said. “I’m human, Connor, there could be anything in this place.”

“My analysis says just some disinfectant should do the trick,” Connor said. “There isn’t anything terrible in here. Mostly dust. Perhaps an infestation, but considering there is nothing to eat, maybe not?”

Hank moved along the wall and saw a bunch of dead spiders. “Not poisonous. That’s a good start.”

“Most of the problems should clear up once they realize there is now occupancy.” Connor moved toward the bedrooms. Three double beds. Two large and two twin beds. “Alice and Max. This is your room.” Connor gestured inside.

Alice and Max both moved into it. They started to check the springs on the bed. Once again, they were good. They would need some covers. The room needed cleaned of course.

“I have a task in front of me,” Kara’s voice came from another room. “I think it’ll all be fine, Hank. We are going to have to get some food in here for you.”

“I’ll go out until this place is a little bit better,” Hank said. “I’m not scared of bugs or insects, but I don’t want to share my meals with any local populations yet.”

Kara laughed. Connor looked away from the kids’ room altogether when he heard that. He moved toward her. She was looking in another room.

“Pink wall or orange wall, Connor?” Hank asked as he looked into the same room she had been.

“Either one.” Connor wasn’t going to be picky. He stepped in the room and looked around. He went over and opened the window. There were several dead insects, but some air would help with the smell. “A backyard.”

Kara and Hank came over.

“Well, when the squirts see that, they’ll be out of- nope, there they are.” Hank spotted them running outside. “Gravitation to playgrounds.” Hank left the window. “Shit, I better get Sumo. He hates the kennel.”

Connor looked toward Kara. “Home?”

Kara glanced toward him. “It’s lovely, Connor.”

Connor looked in the other room. “This one has a double bed too. Window on the opposite side. A lamp. A side table. A dresser.” He moved toward the bed. “We have our blankets and pillows for it but we should get more too. Celebrate our day.”

Kara watched as Sumo came beside her. She bent down and rubbed his head. “I haven’t seen you in awhile.” Sumo gave her a lick.

“There is a playground in the back!” Max said as he came around the corner. “Alice and I are playing on the playground. Is that a dog?”

“A good dog,” Connor noted. “He won’t chase you like others do.”

“His name’s Sumo,” Kara added. “He’s Hank’s dog.”

“A dog that doesn’t chase us. That’s cool.” Max patted his head. “Nice doggy.” He smiled at Connor and Kara. “We have a home now.”

“Yep. We have a home,” Connor agreed.

“Yep, and now we need shit,” Hank said to Connor. “At least I need shit.”

“Oh, I got you something,” Connor said. “I was going to save it for the winter season’s holidays, but you can have it now.” He went back outside and to the truck. He grabbed his special gift and brought it back in. “You’ll want it now. Something to say thanks for staying, and not leaving me with Gavin.”

Hank opened it up. “Connor.” He brought it out. “I like it.” He was holding a metal sign. One side said ‘Stay Out’ and the other side said ‘Stay the Fuck Out!’. “But, I just couldn’t stay in Frankenmuth. Not only was the whole atmosphere weird, but, just what they did. I mean, I know they had to. But.” He waved his sign. “I’ll make more with less hours away. Although a hell of a commute.”

“Detroit hasn’t changed a whole lot,” Connor said. “No buildings were knocked down or built. You can even see the Police Station.”

“Walking into the old Police Department. That’ll be a trip,” Hank agreed. “I need a list of supplies you want. I’m going shopping. I need bedding. Got talked into this pretty damn fast.”

“Do you know when we actually start going?” Connor asked.

“Nope, they just wanted you out ahead of the crowd.” Hank muttered. “Crowd my ass, not many androids are going to willingly ‘head to their lovely local police station’.”

“Well, it gives us time to prepare,” Connor agreed. “In fact? You take care of your stuff, Hank. I’ll take everyone out for our own things. That way you can have time to eat as well. We can all meet at home later.”

 

“Bedding, bedding, bedding,” Max chimed as they went through the android supporter store.

“Pillows, pillows, pillows,” Alice said in between his chimes.

“Both of you need to stop that,” Kara warned them. “Or this store might kick us out and change their minds on who they support.”

“Sorry, Kara,” Alice and Max said together.

They got some new bedding and pillows for the home, as well as a pair of new clothes and pajamas. Kara picked up plenty of cleaning supplies to make the house presentable, as well as Hank comfortable. She also picked up the cheapest handheld vacuum she could for the couch. She would have to see if it was savable for Hank or not. Hopefully it had been. When they all met back at home, Hank fed Sumo, put up his new sign and went to his own room with his own bedding.

Connor helped Max and Alice get their beddings on their bed. Kara was dusting, sweeping, mopping, disinfecting and spraying. When Connor was done helping the kids, he helped too by cleaning the windows, cleaning the stove (something hopefully Kara could use later) some cabinets, and the drawers. He also put away the sodas (plenty of room), the blue blood, and the few clothes they did have. All in all?

By the time it was bedtime, Max and Alice were playing with Sumo in a nice, decent home. While it was nice to admire, it was also past time that Hank was probably in bed. Connor and Kara got Alice and Max down in their room, and then went to theirs.

 

“Don’t you want to snuggle?” Connor asked as Kara got into their bed.

“That’s subconscious,” Kara said. “I’ll be fine.”

Connor still moved closer. “Will I always lose time when we French Kiss?”

“No,” she said. “It just overloads the first time. Each subsequent time, it will get better.” She glanced back at him, noticing his look. “That was for help to pass the standards, Connor.”

“I think it helped for more than just standards.” Connor touched her hand. “I think it would be helpful to do that in safe environments where I can get used to it and not lose track of time.” He looked around the room. “This looks like a safe environment.”

Kara tried to hide her smile. That would not help the situation. “Don’t press yourself too far on your touch weakness.”

“Oh.” Connor still held her hand, rubbing it, before trying to wrap his arm around her waist.

“Whoah, what are you doing?” Kara asked. “Connor.”

“I’m allowed to hold you there,” Connor said as he brought her closer.

“When we walk, not when we are resting.” Kara looked at his arm. “Even that’s not all the time. You are getting very excited about having your own house.”

“That, but I’m also excited we have something else.” Connor gestured to the door. Closed. “Privacy.”

“Ah.” Kara paused. “Privacy.” She got it. “You’re wanting to move up some.” Being forced to be Roxanne’s Sugardroi earlier that week, her unconscious snuggling, and the French Kiss that day. Moving too fast verses moving too slow. It’s been years since she took on a Sugardroi. It was something she swore she really didn’t want to do again. It was better to just go with the flow of life. But. This isn’t like the others. Wrapping Connor’s arm around her waist and calling her Sugardroi was easier in the beginning. She’d been with him, surviving day to day outside. They were always around each other, always with each other for survival and balance. And.

“Flowers, I need flowers,” Connor said from the bed. “I forgot about that. I need many flowers.”

Kara felt him touch her mid section, higher than her waist.

“To touch there, right?” Connor asked.

I am getting way too fond of him. Kara tried to remember that he was her Sugardroi, and she had to keep him balanced. He was rising higher in what he wanted, it was just that? She hadn’t felt so strongly for a Sugardroi like that in a long, long time. If she got too close, and something happened, then he would become like Rudy. Then she could stand to kill him. Like she did him. Which.

“You aren’t supposed to look like your world is falling apart,” Connor said as he backed away some. “I am not asking for extremely interactive activities, I . . .”

Pull it together. You took this role. Feelings be damned, one way or another. You have to keep him balanced. He takes care of you and Alice, keep up your end. Kara nodded. “Sorry. I was thinking about earlier.” She moved closer to him, feeling him wrap around closer. Don’t think about the future. Think about the now. She leaned into him. “Usually a good dozen times of bringing flowers, but you’ve done way more than that already.” She closed her eyes as she felt him wrap around her mid-section, slightly touching her more sensitive areas. Still, it was okay. It also felt nice being wrapped up to someone so close again. Warm and secure.

“This is better than you being an unconscious snuggler,” Connor said. “You were rubbing up all over on me in every direction, like a female feline looking for a male to have a successful breeding session.”

He had such a way with words. “Goodnight, Connor.”

“Can we be this close every night?” Connor asked.

“Yes.” Then, before she second guessed herself, she gave him a very quick kiss and ducked back down.

“That’s not fair. I wasn’t ready.”

She felt Connor try and snag his own kiss. Like she could even duck him if she wanted to? “Nah, no. Small kiss,” she warned him, feeling him trying to French Kiss her. “Lips together and just pucker.” She gave him a small kiss to show him, but he held on this time. A longer pucker. She laughed as he let her go a few seconds later. “It’s just a quick peck, Connor.”

“I’m designed to get the most advantage out of every situation.” Ah, he grinned from ear to ear before squeezing her and settling down himself.  “Goodnight, Kara.”

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