The air is so cold and stinging that Kara pauses for a moment behind an abandoned SUV to make sure Alice's jacket is properly zipped up. Alice may not be human but she's still quivering and Kara is still a mother, no matter what genetics has to say.
She's a mother where it counts, if not in blood.
Alice's tiny hands curl around her wrist and Luther looms out of the dark behind the child, head turning to and fro as he tries to keep track of those they are hiding from. There's too many hostile humans around to stop for long. Kara had pulled too daring a stunt with that brick to free Luther to pause now.
But Alice is too cold.
Kara swallows frigid air and shivers even as her thirium pump regulates her internal temperature. She's not going to be freezing any time soon, at least.
They're almost at the border; pretty soon they'll have to traverse the last few streets in the open and with any luck pass themselves off as a desperate family late for the last transport out of the country. It's not too far off from the truth.
Kara almost wants to stay crouched here in the snow behind the SUV though; it's terrifying to think of just stepping out into the open like that. Hiding is safe and familiar. The humans are too worked up now, too split over the fate of the androids to trust that whoever they meet will be understanding of strangers wandering in the night. She wouldn't be all that surprised if they didn't turn on each other next, their fear of the unknown overpowering their basic humanity.
But she has to have hope. If not for myself, then at least for Alice.
Alice is so small, like a fragile bird shivering where she is pressed against Kara's ribcage.
It's now or never.
"Let's go," Kara whispers, barely audible, as the last agent sweeps back around the corner. Without a sound, Luther takes point, darting quickly out from behind the car and checking that the coast is clear. Hands on Alice's thin shoulders, Kara follows.
Luther's precautions are for naught; Kara's paranoia (and a bit of indecision) have paid off, and the street is empty. But it may not stay that way for long.
There is yet another choice to make, and Kara is running out of time; which way to go? Going around the city's border control would be easier, safer; but in the end, it would take too long. Kara estimates that it'll be at least eleven minutes to detour. The bus leaves in nine minutes, and they don't even have tickets yet. They need to get there, get confirmation to go aboard and disappear in nine minutes.
No, they will have to run one more gauntlet. Detroit's border control may not even be so bad; the humans have been streaming out of the city for days now, security could have a tendency to go lax with fatigue after so many have passed through. Probably.
No other way out now.
They have to catch that bus. Kara has to get them to safety.
"I don't like this, Kara," Luther says in her mind. "Being out in the open is asking for trouble."
They crunch silently along, the floodlights leading to border control washing over them. The lamps have begun to melt the top layer of snow on the ground with their heat, making the terrain slick and the family's tread is ungainly. The heat off of so many machines running in one place paired with the simulated adrenaline in her mechanical veins should be making Kara feel warmer, but she's never felt so cold. Terror is flooding her gut more so now than when she was running through Zlatko's halls. What if they don't make it in time?
"I know," she replies as the gates to freedom get tantalizingly closer. She could veritably cry with stress. "But there's no other way. Keep calm. Keep an eye on Alice."
They should be close enough now that any stray agents could conceivably be convinced that they are a late family struggling to get to the bus terminal.
Alice's hand in hers trembles with shivers; in her bulky coat, she looks even tinier than she is already.
She's just thinking it's too quiet when sudden footsteps announce their arrival before the soldiers step out of an alley to Kara's right. Kara is suddenly very glad she doesn't actually sweat when the agents turn their featureless helmets towards her.
The street had seemed interminably long before, but now it's as if the shops on all sides are collapsing in on them and the space around is shrinking rapidly. If the icy air was hard to suck down before, there's nothing in Kara's airways now.
It's a good thing I don't really need oxygen, she thinks slightly hysterically as the agents propel themselves forward. They're already starting to shout, and Luther has swung Alice into his arms protectively. She knows he means well, but having Alice's hand ripped almost violently from hers brings back unpleasant memories.
"Stop right there! Hold it!"
"Hands where we can see them!"
"Wait, wait, please," Kara exclaims imploringly. Her thirium pump must be in overdrive. She hopes Luther has had the sense to hide Alice's face from this. The last thing she needs is to see her faux mother take a bullet for her if this goes badly. "Please, we're just trying to go home."
Compassion is a deeply ingrained human trait; it's why they first applied human faces to machines, gave them human voices to talk with. Humans want to connect with their surroundings, to find others to be at home with. They are pack animals, but they are kind too. Kara has seen how kind humans can be.
Kara just has to make them connect with her.
"What are you doing out here at this time of night? There's a curfew," The first soldier snaps. His voice is rough like gravel. Kara finds herself wishing for the safety of the SUV.
"I know, we know," Kara assures him, at the same time as Luther says in her head, "I could take them Kara. You could grab Alice and run."
"No! We're getting out of this city together. Just stay calm; we've handled worse than this."
"I'm sorry, but my daughter is sick," Kara says, gesturing to the bundle that is Alice where she huddles into Luther's shoulder. "All the doctors have left the city and she just won't stop shivering, she has a fever- we though if we could get to Canada…"
"Why didn't you take her earlier?" The second asks suspiciously. His voice is higher and cracks slightly; Kara wonders faintly how old he could be. He sounds fresh from high school. The FBI do like them young, don't they.
"Yeah, some state-of-the-art mothering there, lady," adds the first man.
Kara's scrambling here, and she knows it. Luther and Alice know it. Still, she has done this before, couldn't she possibly get away with it?
But these men aren't in the mood for explanations. One raises his gun from hip height to point the muzzle around the vicinity of her ribs and the sight of the other's gun perilously close to Alice's unprotected back is doing funny things to Kara's mind.
"We just- we didn't think-"
Luther is getting antsy, shifting from foot to foot. She wishes she could snap at him to sit still, but it wouldn't look very good and in her head she's rushing so fast to think of an excuse, something, anything, to make these men with guns go away-
"You didn't think? Oh, that'll go over well in the child endangerment case you'll have on your hands," The first man sneers, "taking your kid out in the middle of the night in the snow while the city falls apart and deviants are on the loose? I should call child services myself."
"Do not speak to her that way." Luther rumbles, and Kara can feel this situation slipping further from her than it already has.
"Shut up, Luther!"
"Please, we have to get her inside." Thankfully, she sounds less desperate aloud than she does in her own head, but her worry is still clearly leaking into her tone. Alice is shivering violently now, but Luther is keeping one broad palm to the back of her skull. She shouldn't have to see what might happen here.
"Y'all better watch your mouths, lady," the gruff one warns dangerously. He hefts his gun in sure palms and Kara's mind almost whites out with fear. "Or we may have to check you for deviants. In fact, why don't you get on your kn-"
"Kiddo, there you are!" Another voice rings out behind them. Kara tries not to bolt. Beside her, Luther straightens to his full height, but does not dare look away from the firearms pointing at his child. Kara can see Alice peeping over his shoulder at whoever called out.
Footsteps approach rapidly: two pairs, at least. Not the military tread of the agents. These people do not walk uniformly, and she can already hear one of them huffing with exertion.
The newcomers do not put the soldiers at ease; the older one takes his sights off of Luther and Alice to train them on the strangers, though, and Kara finds she can breathe a little again.
"Hey now, what's the bright idea?" The same voice says, and good God if Kara thought the agent's voice had been gravelly, this man has apparently been gargling rocks. Big ones. "You go around pointing guns at people's daughters very often, pal?"
The strangers round Kara's left side then, and despite their dramatic timing, leave much to be desired. If this pair were her heroes, Kara wouldn't buy a ticket to her own movie.
The new pair, both men, are similar to the soldiers in that one is young and the other older. The young one looks vaguely familiar, brown hair and smooth skin. His clothing is threadbare and a little thin for the weather. His eyes look lost, Kara notes. He's standing a little behind his older counterpart, and she assumes this is the one who called out.
He's tall, overweight and haggard, with long grey hair and at least three days' worth of five o'clock shadow hanging around his jaw. His clothes are dirty and frumpy; there's a general air of unkemptness about him. But again, he draws the guns off of herself and her child, so Kara can't complain much.
"Who the hell are you?" The leader snaps. "What the hell are you people doing out here? Don't you know there's a curfew-"
"Yeah, I would know," the stranger interrupts tersely, "seeing as I'm helping enforce it." From an inside jacket pocket (and moving slowly, as the agents track his every move), the man pulls out a wallet. He flips it open, and the police badge inside catches the glare off the flood lamps.
"Detroit Police," the young agent says with a touch of respect. But his partner scoffs.
"You guys are off the case; seems like even with that fancy new detective robot Cyberlife sent you, you couldn't pull your heads out of your asses long enough to get these deviants under control."
There's something hard in the man's gaze as he stuffs his wallet away haphazardly. Kara wonders if both pairs have entire forgotten she and her family are here. "Because you're doing such a bang-up job now?"
Without waiting for what would surely be a caustic answer, the strange police officer turns to Kara. She feels her artificial stomach drop, but he smiles. It looks a little strange on his face, as if his muscles are having trouble remembering how to move in such a way, but the warmth in his eyes actually serves to put Kara a little more at ease. At least he's not pointing another gun at her chest.
"Hey, kiddo, no love for your old dad now?" He says easily, and steps forward to wrap her in his arms.
"Go with it and I can get you out of the city," he whispers harshly in her ear. His breath smells faintly of alcohol but Kara is willing to overlook it. It has been a hard few days for everyone in Detroit, after all. And at this point she really can't afford to turn her nose up at any help she can get.
"He's helping." She sends immediately to Luther. "Don't interfere."
"I thought we'd lost you guys back there," the man is saying. He places his hand on his own chest, rubbing it as if trying to get his breath back after a jog. He probably is. "And I told you to stick with your brother!" At this, he gestures vaguely to the man with him.
The younger stranger blinks and nods to her. It's only after Kara hears a voice in her head that she puts it together where she's seen him before.
"He's one of the good humans. He'll get us out of this," the android, identical to one that she has seen in countless Cyberlife storefronts before, projects to both Kara and Luther. "He's working with another android; they're friends, I think."
"Jeremy," Kara cuts in (hopefully) smoothly. "I'm so sorry, we were just so worried about Alice-"
"Right, of course you are," the android in disguise says. "Well, it's understandable. I'm just glad we caught up to you. I'd hate to have to get to Canada on my own."
He turns to the soldiers, who despite being blank featured due to the helmets, now carry an air of bewilderment, and adds, "Thank you so much for protecting them, agents. I wouldn't know what to do with myself if my sister or niece got hurt by some crazy deviant."
"Speaking of," Kara's new father figure takes the reigns of the conversation, "are we done spinning our wheels in the mud here? My granddaughter is sick and I promised to see them off to the edge of the city. Besides, you guys do have a deviant problem on your hands; aren't you supposed to be doing something about that? You know, right about now?"
"But how-" the second soldier starts, a little more timid in the face of a family reunion now, "how do we know that, um, that you, sir, are not-"
"You think Cyberlife would make an android look like a middle aged-man, son?"
The older agent harrumphs, but lowers his gun. After a second, his partner does the same. Kara supposes that in the face of not only a child but a grandfather as well, the idea of deviancy in their group seems a little far-fetched.
"And do you need to see my badge again?" The man turns to the older agent, scowling. "Trust me, if I'd met any deviants before now, they'd all have a hole in their heads. No one threatens my kids."
The protective stance works to break down the last of their defenses.
Everybody likes a family man.
"Well get going then," the first agent grunts out. "And for God's sake hurry up. We don't need any civilians running around getting in the way."
"Watch who you're calling a civilian, buddy," Kara's savior mutters. She could scream at him; the last thing they need right now is to engage these gunmen in more conversation.
"Good luck," the second agent offers, before they part to let Kara's newly grown family pass by.
They're only a few yards away when the older man stretches his arms above his head (his spine cracks a bit ominously and the caretaker in Kara winces) and says, loud enough for the agents to still register his voice, "Ugh, these old bones. I'm glad I'll not be on that transport with you kids. You have a long trip ahead of you; you've got your tickets?"
Kara sighs. Her limbs are trembling with nerves and she knows that their time is now down to three or four minutes if the bus isn't delayed. Please let it be delayed.
"I'm afraid not," she replied. To her faint surprise and genuine disgust, she can feel her eyes prick with tears. "We thought we'd be able to get there in time to buy them, remember?"
"Oh yeah," the man nods sagely, rubbing at his scruff. "Hm. Price will be up. Here."
He leans closer, fishing his wallet back out. Luther is stiff at Kara's back, still obviously distrustful of a stranger. I'm so glad he's here with me.
But their savior has one last act of kindness to bestow. Flipping open his wallet (that police badge is real, Kara realizes. Will wonders never cease; a Detroit police officer on the side of the deviants.), he produces a wad of cash. There's at least two hundred dollars in there. He stuffs it all gently into her palms.
"You'll need it," he presses when she looks up at him, startled.
"Thank you," Kara whispers, hushed. And then, as an afterthought for any listening agents nosy enough to follow them (there's too much at stake to risk giving up the ruse now), "Thanks, Dad. This is really generous."
His face does something complicated and painful looking at the familial name, but he nods. "Of course. You just keep an eye on your brother and my favorite granddaughter for me, yeah?"
Kara nods, not trusting her voice.
But this strange peace can't last forever. And Kara has a bus to catch.
"We'd better be going," the new android speaks up.
"Yes, of course. Don't worry about the bus too much," he winks, "I have it on good police authority that they're all a bit behind schedule."
Relief is like a drug. Kara nearly collapses as her knees go weak.
The stranger takes a few steps away, and then looks at Luther for the first time, as if sizing him up. "You take care of the girls, you hear? No one should leave his family in a warzone."
Luther nods solemnly. His grip on Alice seems to relax. "Thank you, sir."
"Please," the man waves them off, already turning to leave, "call me Hank."
As he disappears around a corner, the new android falls into step and they hurry onward.
"Who was that?" Kara asks as Detroit's border control finally comes into view.
"His name is Hank Anderson," he supplies. "He's a good man. He's friends with one of the revolutionary deviants- Connor, his name was. They woke us all up."
"All of us?" Luther sounds surprised. "Every android is awake now?"
The new android nods almost imperceptibly. "Connor said we needed to wake up to have a fighting chance."
Up ahead, there is another family passing through the gates; good, they will seem like just another set of latecomers.
Kara spares one more thought to it all: the revolutionaries following Markus out onto the streets, the newly deviant Connor waking all her brethren from their enforced sleep, Rose and Hank and all the other humans who decided to side with machines rather than their own species, the freedom so close at hand on both sides of the Canadian border.
And then she shakes herself out of her reverie, steps up to the agent waiting to greet her, and gets ready to save her family once again.