“Two-three-one, report,” demanded Coordinator Marx’s voice in 231’s ear.
The Goliath and the girl had walked in silence across half of downtown New Barcelona. Several times, she had cast glances up at him, squinted, and kept walking. 231 had scanned the thin crowds for danger, and found none. A few scattered professionals and youth wandered the streets.
“Milord, we are en route to the destination. No threats,” 231 said. Hopefully, there wouldn’t be. The colony was well inside the Radius, and therefore generally safe from separatist attacks.
Sophia looked up as he spoke.
“Very good. Carry on,” Marx said.
Marx had contacted Sophia through her palmtop as soon as they had reached the telepad terminal. They were supposed to go to an address in midtown, she had told him. An orphanage. He had wondered what the word meant, but hadn’t asked. Sophia, sensitive to his thoughts, had explained.
231 had been teased since he’d been hatched about not having parents. Yet, here he was, bodyguarding a human who had no parents.
“Thanks for watching me, Goliath,” Sophia said.
She kept thanking him, and he felt vaguely uncomfortable every time she did. “Milady, there is no need to thank me. I am your servant.”
The dark-haired girl slowed her pace, squinting up at him. “Did I say something wrong? Should I call you 231, instead?”
She must have picked up on his discomfort. He took a subtle breath and answered her. “Milady,you have said nothing wrong. Feel free to call me whatever you like.”
Now, she stopped walking and cocked her head at him. He stopped, his head tilted nearly to his chest to look at her.
“So, why do you get all weird whenever I say ‘thank you?'”
For a moment, 231 was at a loss. He took his eyes off her, searching for an answer. “Milady, I… cannot remember ever being thanked before by a human for anything less than saving their life.”
He paused as the surprise began to register on her face. One dark eyebrow lifted slowly. “Seriously?”
Sophia looked scandalized. “How rude.”
231 wasn’t certain what he had done wrong. He bowed. “Milady, my apologies.”
“What? No, not you, Goliath! The other people!”
The clone soldier didn’t understand, so he kept his mouth shut. At least she wasn’t mad at him.
Sophia looked up at him, and squinted once again. After a moment, she cocked her head to the other side. “You don’t get why that’s rude.”
That was right. “Milady, I do not.”
“Well, you’ve helped people before, right?”
“Milady, I have.”
“You can call me Sophia, Goliath.” She smiled. “But not Sophie.” The smile twisted into a grimace, then quickly returned. “Okay, if you help people all the time, they should say ‘thank you.’ You shouldn’t have to save their lives!”
231 was grateful every time he heard the phrase directed at him. He thought of it as unusual, special, a blessing of sorts. It was normal for humans to say it to one another, but….
Ah. That was it.
“Milady,” he began, “it is not necessary to treat me as you would a person.”
Her jaw opened, and her head leaned forward. She said nothing for several seconds. Again, 231 was confused. What had he said?
“You really do,” Sophia mumbled. “You really think you’re not a person.”
“Yes, Milady,” 231 said, without hesitation.
The girl closed her mouth into a frown and began walking again. “Wow.”
231 blinked to himself for a moment, and fell into step just behind her.