"Don't eat that! Noah, stop- step away from the strawberries, I repeat, step away from the strawberries! Good, now- Noah! That's my mother's chocolate! Oooh, she's gonna kill me! Where are James and Ethan? They should be here by now- Noah, stop! How many times do I have to tell you not to eat that? Gosh, you're worse than the Peterson triplets. Harper, a little help?"
Harper rolled her eyes and headed to the kitchen.
"NOAH!" she shouted, making Sophie jump. Noah hardly reacted, only stopping for a second before continuing to stuff his face with cheese.
"You better stop eating before I toss you in the back with the rest of the metal scraps, do you hear me?!"
Noah stopped chewing. "But it's so good!" he exclaimed, stuffing another strawberry into his mouth. Harper snatched the package of strawberries and the block of cheese out of Noah's hands. Noah paused, his android hologram flickering with emotion, exposing the human-shaped android hidden underneath. Strawberries were his favorite, and he always got emotional when they were taken away.
"He can have the strawberries," said Sophie. "it's just the other stuff he needs to leave alone."
"This robot needs to learn to control himself," said Harper.
"Android," Noah corrected, a frown on his flickering human face.
The doorbell rang, and Sophie rushed to answer it.
"There you are!" shouted Sophie. "Where have you guys been?"
"We stopped for some food," said James, holding up a couple boxes of pizza.
"I told him we should've gotten some cheese sticks," said Ethan, "but he said no! What good is pizza without cheese sticks?!"
Sophie rolled her eyes as James and Ethan entered the house.
"Ooo, pizza!" exclaimed Noah, chewing some strawberries. Sophie went into the kitchen and grabbed some disposable plates.
While everyone was eating their pizza, they started discussing normal things, like school and parents. Ethan and Noah got into a pizza eating contest in which Ethan had to tap out after going into the double digits.
"Beaten by an robot," Ethan said, bowing. "I am now your humble servant, oh king of the pizzas."
"Android," Noah corrected, celebrating his victory by topping off his last slice with a strawberry.
"Ok, let's talk gameplan," said James, setting down his half-eaten pizza. "It's fall, Noah, you need to start school. As soon as they find out you aren't going to school, the government is going to hunt you down and try and talk with your parents. That's a lot of unwanted attention that we don't need, especially when they find out you don't even have parents."
They all nodded.
"So I simply have to go to this school, and all will be well." Noah said.
"It's... not exactly that easy, Noah," Sophie said. "You still don't quite know how to be human yet."
"He knows how to eat like one, that's for sure," joked Ethan.
"Do you remember everything we told you yesterday?" asked James.
"Of course I do," said Noah, looking offended. "I have the entire conversation stored in my memory. I do not easily forget like you humans often do."
"Ok, then we are going to practice," said Jake, nodding at Harper.
She rolled her eyes, but pretended to walk up to Noah and say, "Hey, what's your name?"
"My name is Noah, and I am an android."
"No no no no," said Jake. "We told you already, you are supposed to be human now."
"But I am an android."
"But they don't know that, and we'd like to keep it that way. Start over."
"Hey, what's your name?" asked Harper in an overly-cheery voice.
"My name is Noah, and I am a human."
"No, Noah, you don't say that you are a human, everyone already knows that."
"But I'm not a human."
They all groaned. This was going to be a long night.
"Come on, Noah, hurry up!" shouted Ethan.
"But there is a very peculiar creature over here," said Noah, bending down next to the grass. "Is seems to have several body segments and is carrying a leaf. I wonder if-"
"Noah!" shouted Harper.
"Fine," said Noah, taking one last look before walking towards us.
A black car was speeding down the street towards the crosswalk, right towards Noah.
"Noah!" shouted Sophie. "Watch out!"
Noah turned towards the black car, paralyzed with fear, his android hologram flickering once again. A nearby police officer ran, hearing the shouting, and dived towards Noah. The black car narrowly missed them as they tumbled across the crosswalk.
Sophie, Harper, Ethan, and James held their breath as Noah and the police officer got up and made their way to them.
"Noah, are you ok?" asked Sophie, pulling Noah into a hug.
"You're flickering, Noah," whispered Sophie into Noah's ear. "You need to get a hold of yourself, ok?"
Noah nodded slightly, trying not to make it seems too obvious. His flickering slowed down as Sophie let go.
"You need to watch where you're going, kid," said the officer. "You're not hurt, are you?"
"No, sir," said Noah. "Why would I be hurt? It's not like I'm a h-"
James quickly clasped his hand over Noah's mouth.
"A.... hero, like you!" stammered Ethan. "Sorry about my friend here. The fall might've caused him to bump his head or something, heh heh."
"Do you need me to escort you all to the hospital to get your friend che-"
"NO!" they shouted, except for Noah, who had bitten James hand.
"Well, ok I guess not. Did any of you kids manage to catch the license plate of that car? I'll need to file a report."
"7-J-9-S-0-J-2," said Noah.
They all gaped as the officer wrote it down on his notebook.
"Ok, thanks kids. And be careful next time, alright? The street is not the place to mess around in."
He began to walk away. They sighed with relief.
"Hey, real quick."
They turned around.
"Let me know if you see any... suspicious behavior, ok? We have a government prototype on the loose that we are trying to find and contain before it causes any damage. It could be disguised as anyone. Your parents, your friends... it could even be one of you."
"Calm down, Noah, they aren't going to take you," said Sophie as she sat down on the couch next to him.
His outer human hologram looked only slightly upset, but you could tell by the amount of flickering that the inner android is completely panicked.
"He needs to control that flickering of his if he is going to blend in," commented Harper.
"Harper! Can't you see that he's upset?"
"Yeah, that's the point. He can't be doing this while we are out in public. That police officer is proof of that. The government is expanding their search team to the local police. If one of them catches you, they'll know who you are and take you. Then they'll go after everyone you hang out with - and I mean us. They'll reprogram you to do what you were meant to do in the first place and punish us. For all we know, they could make us into android-cyborgs or something. Then they'll go after our parents, our friends, mind wipe them of all memory of us, erase us from existence-"
"Harper," snapped James. "That's enough."
Harper scowled but shut her mouth.
Noah whimpered, but it wasn't his human hologram doing it- it was the low whimper of his true android form, the original language of the android. After that was a series of whines, whistles, and beeps.
"Noah," said James. "Your voice adapters aren't working. You need to calm down."
Noah paused, his hologram showing more android than anything human.
"Do you want some strawberries?" asked Sophie. "I think I have a couple left." She walked to the kitchen, then returned with a small box half full of strawberries.
"You need to calm down enough to stabilize your hologram before you can eat them," said Sophie as she handed over the strawberries.
Noah stood still for a moment as his hologram stopped flickering, or at least slowed down. He took a bite out of the strawberry, the red juice dribbling down his chin.
"I can't go back," whispered Noah, setting down the strawberries. "I can't let them take me. I barely escaped the first time. I refuse to be used as a weapon, a killing machine. I can't..."
Sophie placed her hand on his shoulder. Her fingertips buzzed as his hologram flickered once again.
"We won't let them take you," said James. "They may have made you to fight their wars for them, but they made one mistake: they made you self aware. They made you realize right from wrong, good from bad. But that was their mistake, and they're paying the price for it. Now you have a choice, a free will. You will NOT be used as a weapon on their side, not on my watch."