And we’re back on track with Lovelace 1/2. You may notice, if you’ve an interest in such things, that we’ve taken the “Story Day” off the post name. After a while, it seems a bit ridiculous to leave it on. Obviously, today’s a ‘story day.’ We’re telling stories over here.
Last time out, we had a pretty good amount of interest in Andi’s parents. I expect today will up the ante on that a good deal.
“Are you gonna tell Luke about all this?”
Andi looked over at Jennie. She’d just pulled on jeans and a tee shirt, similarly to Andi herself. “Why would I do that?”
“I dunno. He likes you, and the whole guitar thing yesterday…..”
Andi considered. She didn’t deny Luke’s interest — it was clear now Jennie was right on that front. At the same time, Andi wasn’t really the same person today as she had been 24 hours before. Now, she was the kind of person who remembered everything and had strange visitations by Texas Dream Nobility….
If that had even been real. How could she know? After all, it had been a dream, and by definition dreams were surreal, your critical judgement impaired in lieu of your subconsciousness processing junk for your brain to sort out. Maybe ‘Tatum’ was just a manifestation of that, and it only felt real because… well, because sometimes dreams felt real. Andi remembered dreaming about flying, two weeks back. She’d been in her Lacrosse uniform, just soaring over the school grounds, only the school had been the Junior King’s School back in Canterbury, as if she were still 7 years old. She’d figured out the rules of flying — she remembered that clearly. It was like swimming underwater — you could bob ten or fifteen feet off the ground with minimal effort, but if you wanted to go high you had to work at it, and if you wanted to fly fast the only real way was to get up high and then swoop down, letting gravity do the work. It had been real. It had made logical sense. The only strangeness was that Andi hadn’t realized it before then.
Almost reflexively, Andi tried to bob up into the air. Naturally it didn’t work. It had just been a dream.
What if Tatum were like that?
Still, Jennie was waiting for an answer. “I don’t know if I’m going to tell Luke,” she said. “I don’t know how many people I want to know this. I mean, you and Bell aren’t going to spread it around, right?”
“Not likely. It’s too weird.”
“Oh, and weird is never a good topic of conversation, right?” She shrugged, almost laughing. “You know what? Never mind. Tell anyone you want. If they believe you, so much the better. But good luck with that.”
“Really? You sure?”
Andi shrugged. “It seems like something will get out no matter what I do. That’s what happens at schools like this. Maybe we can be preemptive. Besides, what does it matter? I don’t even know if I’m going to be here past tomorrow. Want breakfast?”
“Sure thing. Why won’t you be here past tomorrow?”
“I don’t know. It’s something… I only barely spoke to Mum last night, but… why would they fly all the way out here if they weren’t going to just bring me home?”
“Well, why wouldn’t they fly out here? I mean, given everything that’s happened, they’re probably freaked right out!”
“Not my parents. Especially not my Mum. She wasn’t scared or nervous. She was like ice.” In other words, she was just like her mother always was. The only time she seemed warm or congenial was when someone outside the family was watching. And this time….
“You were told a different number right when you were awakened on each of your fourth, fifth and sixth birthdays. What is the product of those three numbers being multiplied together?”
Andi paused, frowning.
“Hey — s’up?”
“It’s… when my mother called, she was her usual cold self, but that’s not the weird thing.”
“No. She asked me… she asked me to multiply three numbers together — just… out of nowhere. To test my abilities.”
“Wow. That is pretty cold.”
“Jennie — she didn’t tell me the numbers. She asked me to remember three numbers I was told in my past. On my birthdays. And then multiply them.” She looked at Jennie intently. “That was planned, Jennie. She expected this to happen, and she had a plan in place for testing me when it did.”
Jennie stared back. “How’s that even possible?”
“I don’t know. I honestly don’t know.”
“Well, you have the super memory, right? What do you remember?”
Andi considered. Flashes and moment — questions being asked. Math. Memory retention. Her father coolly asking her to compute square roots when she was nine, and then shrugging it off when she had no answer. And then–
“Do you remember that story your nan told you? About the train?”
Andi paused to think about it. She was eight years old, and at her first break home in months. The train story dated back to when she was… she didn’t remember. Four? Still, she remembered the train engineer had a cap. “I guess?”
“Huh?” She looked up at her Mum and Dad. “What?”
“Tell us the story.”
“Oh… well, there was this train, and the engineer had cold ears when he–“
They’d looked cross, then. Angry, but reserved. “Never mind. Good night, Andi.”
“G-good night, Dad….”
“They’ve been testing me for years,” Andi said, softly.
“For your whole life?”
“Seems like it. I–”
“Hey — do you remember being born?”
Andi made a face. “Jennie — gross.”
“Well, sure — but do you?”
Andi considered, then shook her head. “No. No birth stuff. I don’t think… there’s….”
“What’s your earliest memory?”
“Ooh, good question — growing up it was always a sledding holiday. I barely remember it even now.” She chuckled. “I guess I’m glad there’s still something I barely remember. The light was weird, I remember — it was heavy overcast and snowing maybe. And I remember snow on my mittens…”
“Okay — so what’s the earliest thing you remember as a superbrain?”
Andi rolled her eyes. “Going back sequentially in time–”
Floating in agony, screaming lungs out into a mask on her face, a hose rubbing against skin that felt like it was on fire, the gel all around her burning with–
Andi rocked, dropping to one knee and putting her hand onto the hallway wall to steady herself. “Jesus,” she swore.
“What? What is it? Do you need a doctor?” Jennie was kneeling next to her. “Hon, I didn’t mean to–”
“No — no, I’m fine. I’m just remembering. I was in some kind of vat, with a thick liquid, like Jell-o all around me, and I had a mask on my face so I could breathe, and it hurt. My whole body hurt — it’s… it was small, too. If… by inference if my sense of time’s as accurate as it seems, I must have been just over three years old. Wait — counting backwards from my fourth birthday — three years, two months, seventeen days, nine hours, thirty-three minutes if my time of birth on my birth certificate was accurate–”
“Forget time of birth — what happened?”
Andi took several deep breaths. “I was in this vat, suspended. Like you see on cartoons like Dexter’s Laboratory, only the goo wasn’t green. I think it was purple. And then I was yanked out. There were a lot of men — only men — in white suits with cloth helmets — hazmat suits, you know? And then they washed me off with a spray from a hose like you’d use to rinse dishes, and the spray was too hot, and they were all talking at once — asking me questions but I was crying and I didn’t understand them. I was three for God’s sake — how could I know eighteen from thirty-four?” Sixteen.
“Good God — where were your parents in all this?”
“I — I don’t know. I don’t remember getting there. The memory literally starts in the middle of this goo-pain thing, and then… wait….”
Andi remembered. Remembered tests, electrodes being goo-cemented to her head and body, as they checked things. At fifteen, she knew what the machines were, what they were reading. Pulse. They took blood pressure too. Blood-oxygen level. Temperature.
And brainwaves. An EEG. They pulsed light at her. Asked her questions, all while looking at an EEG. And were disappointed at the results. She remembered the men being frustrated. Remembered them speaking — speaking with American accents. “–the third treatment. At this rate, doing anything more’s probably just hurting the kid.”
“We could try again in six or seven years. Give her a chance to grow a little. The original process was meant for a full grown adult–“
“Maybe. I doubt the boss wants to wait.”
“Are we going to try again in another ten months?”
“I dunno. I dunno, man. Are the guardians coming?”
“Turn her over.”
She remembered. Remembered being carried, and dressed in a onesie. She remembered being strapped into a car seat, her parents looking down at her — not saying anything. Just being handed off to them. Remembered being loaded into a car. Remembered crying — she still hurt, it all still hurt, and she didn’t understand why it hurt and wanted someone to do something about it. Remembered being brought inside by her father, who handed her to the Au Pair. “Jill — Andi’s not feeling her best,” she said. “Give her some children’s aspirin and look after her, would you?”
“What? Oh dear — of course, Mister Gannett. Andi — c’mere Andi…” and she remembered Jill unstrapping her. Carrying her out to the living room — to a couch. Settling her in. Giving her a foul tasting liquid that was meant to be ‘cherry,’ and talking and singing to her… feeling honest love and compassion coming from this woman that Andi knew rationally was just making sixty pounds a week at best–
“They did this to me…” Andi said, quietly.
“What?” Jennie’s eyes were wider, now.
“My parents. They did this to me, Jennie. They brought me to some place and I was put inside of a tank full of goo and wired up and electrocuted, and they must have done more — I remember itching along the back of my head…” she reached behind herself, feeling along the top of her spine, where it met the neck — the fleshy bits where the muscles were tight–
There. She felt the exact point that had itched when she was just over thirty-nine and a half months old. And she felt bumps. Ridges.
“You’re saying your parents — your parents — wired you up and turned you super smart?”
“I’m… I’m saying they let it be done. Or… no, they didn’t ask questions when they picked me up. They were following orders.”
“Orders? From who?”
“I don’t know. Not yet. I won’t until I ask them. Tomorrow.”
“Yeah,” Jennie said, looking dubious.
“What? What is it?”
“It’s just… you make them sound… I dunno. Like bad guys. I mean, you’ve got good memories of them too, right? They did some cool stuff?”
Andi thought about it. Memories of Christmas — of au pairs and then Nan, of singing and presents, and giving Mum a vase and Dad a tie — their curt nods, their smiles and thank-yous. Swift kisses….
And then holidays spent more with the staff than her parents. Being left at Junior King’s from Grade One on. Summers away at camps or schools.
“Not really,” Andi said, quietly.
“Well. Damn. All right. C’mon back to the room with me.” Jennie stood, offering Andi a hand.
“Back to the room? Why?”
“‘Cause they’re gonna be here tomorrow, so we should be ready in case they’re garbage.”
Andi pulled up to her feet with Jennie’s help. “Ready how?”
“Lemme show you. And for the record, let’s keep this between the two of us, since it’s never fun to get expelled.”
Andi looked around. “Careful,” she said. “Y’never know who’s listening.”
“Right now? People are either at breakfast or unconscious. C’mon.”
Jennie half-ran to her desk as they walked in. “Shut the door.”
Andi shut the door. “All right. We’re sealed in. You can activate the omega protocol and set for full armor sequence.”
“Crazy girl.” Jennie opened her bottom drawer and pulled out a red and yellow fanny back. “You see me wear this before?”
“On twenty six occasions, yes. Usually when we’re going out for mall crawls or the like.”
“Damn straight. My Aunt Janice put this together for me, and I promised her I’d wear it when we went off campus.” She unzipped, and pulled out a folded multi-tool. “Starting with this.”
“A Leatherman. Your Aunt Janice wanted you to be ready to field strip a chainsaw.”
“Noooo.” She unfolded the tool, extending a knife blade. “We’re not allowed to have actual weapons on campus, but then this isn’t a weapon, is it?”
Andi stared. “Your Aunt wanted you to be able to stab people? Why?”
“We’re in the Godless North.”
“We’re six miles from Brunswick, Maine. How much crime is she expecting, even from damnable Yankees?”
“That’s just ‘damn Yankees.’ She unzipped an inner pouch. “Smaller pen knife. Steel pen — just a pen, but you can stab with it pretty hard… and my personal favorite….” She pulled a small canister — it was thin, with a flower pattern.
Andi stared at the canister. “I’ve seen this episode of Bunheads. It ends with a bunch of ballerinas getting their eyes flushed.”
“Good. Ballet sucks.”
“Jennie — all the rest of this might get you a talking-to, but you’re right. That’s a weapon. That’s instant expulsion. Why are you showing me this?”
“Because you’re scaring the Hell out of me and I like you, Andi. If your parents really are part of some… I don’t know — hidden conspiracy to make you a superbrain for some nefarious purpose, you’re going to need some kinda protection. And now you know where my fanny pack of bringing the pain is, so you can use it if you need to.”
Andi looked at Jennie. “This is crazy,” she said. “People don’t need this kind of… weapon in the real world.”
“People also don’t stick their babies in the goo and make them into calculators in the real world, but there you are.”
Andi considered. Jennie was right, of course. It was insane. And if Tatum Parrish was real, and really visited her in her dreams, and was telling the truth….
“Look — there was a war, a bunch of years back. Different factions jockeying for power. Stuff like that. But it’s okay — the bad guys lost, you know? No evil overlords or anything. Look, I really shouldn’t be talking about this.”
Andi nodded again. “Yeah, okay. Pepper spray. Thank you. Just… thank you.”
Jennie shrugged. “No prob. It’s part of the roommates code, right? Now let’s get to breakfast. I’m starved.”