Lovelace½ #14

This entry is part 14 of 15 in the series Lovelace½

And now, the return of Lovelace½. Years of bicycling finally pays off. Andi must have the best toned legs of any 15 year old in the State by now.

Part Two picks up right where Part One left off, with Andi biking away from Brooks-Carillon Academy and essentially everyone she knows in America… as well as biking away from some pretty horrible things.

The questions are, respectively… what is she bicycling towards… and what is she possibly going to do?

I hope you enjoy where we go from here.

Part Two

Brunswick was a nice town, and a friendly town, but in many ways wasn’t a pretty town. There were too many roads coming in, too much buildup in places, and too little in others. It looked uneven much of the time, and its downtown was confusing.

And right this moment, there was no place Andi wanted to be more.

Andi’s legs pumped hard, then coasted down the hills, building speed. She was using the physicality of the moment to distract herself from the murder of Dean Forrester, Mister Charlton, and Mister Stone—

You’re my student, Andi. You’re our student. I know kids love to think their teachers hate them or that a private school like ours just sees you as dollar signs, but we’re not here for the paycheck and teaching’s too much work to do if we hate our kids. It’s not just me. It’s all of us — or most who matter.”

Andi took another deep breath. She’d been really good at taking horrifying or terrible things, absorbing the shock, and integrating them into her worldview ever since these bloody abilities manifested themselves, but now… she couldn’t do that. Not with any of them, and especially not Seth Stone. But she didn’t have time for that. She had to get away. Properly get away.

All right. Five things she would need. One, money. Two, to ditch her smartphone. Three, to confuse her trail. Four, to change her appearance. And five, to get someplace where she could easily make another move without it being predictable. Right now, she was in trouble — she couldn’t legally drive a car and she’d never even tried. Maybe she could figure it out as quickly as she did guitar, but she wouldn’t bet her life on it. So she’d need to leave town by way of Brunswick Station, which served both as the bus and train stations. Which meant a bit of logic on her pursuers’ part would lead them right to her. She thought about biking overland, but no — if they had any amount of manpower more than the androids they’d be able to find her too quickly.

Okay — she knew she had a few hundred dollars in her bank account. Obviously using an ATM would be trackable — as was the phone in her pocket, which she hadn’t shut off yet. She kept pumping her legs, fighting the urge to stop and do so right then, or just throw the thing in the bushes. She needed some kind of defense if she were going to get away. Some way to influence whoever or whatever would be pursuing her.

So she had to ditch her Double-L 7, but until she did… they already expected her to go this way, so she may as well play into their expectations and with a little luck make her underestimate her, right?

Assuming there weren’t people waiting at the station, of course. Would there be people waiting at the station? She had no idea. They had no reason to think she wouldn’t be going with the androids, right? Maybe they figured there was no way she could get away – how could she possibly escape?

Mister Stone threatened to break through to the front of her thoughts again. She didn’t let it happen. She couldn’t let it happen…

What about the androids? Were they coming after her? Were they following? It seemed unlikely — she’d damaged one in a way that would be hard to conceal, and even without that it would quickly spread throughout campus and then the media that ‘Dale Gannett’ and ‘Georgina Moore’ had shown up on campus and then people started dying. Maybe even students. The chances no one saw them running through the halls was minuscule, and all the teachers in her grade level knew them on sight. No, they’d be pulled back. Probably an APB put out for them.

And for her. Maybe for ‘protective custody’ but honestly? Andi wasn’t seeing it that way.

So what was she going to do if she got away? Where could she go from there? Who’d be able to help her.

“Don’t be daft,” she muttered. “The Parrishes.” She’d only had the one conversation with Tatum Parrish, ‘Queen of Adlucinatia,’ but she’d seemed like a good person — and right now that was the only thing she had to go on. She had to get back in contact — tell her what was happening. Her parents had fought a war, if Tatum could be believed. They’d know what to do.

Assuming, of course, that the Parrish family wasn’t part of the problem.

Andi took a deep breath. She had to go somewhere. She knew the Parrishes knew more about this world she lived in and the forces behind its scenes than Andi did, so Hobson’s Choice said they were the good guys until Andi learned otherwise. Besides, Tatum seemed a bit too… not evil to be evil.

Still, all this meant not getting caught. And that meant finding another way out of Brunswick while making them think she was using Brunswick Station.

What if they were  live tracking her phone? She kept pumping her legs as she thought, trying to build speed. She had a lead on them but a car would catch up just fine, assuming they didn’t cut her off. Even if they weren’t live tracking her, they’d undoubtedly check the GPS records. She’d seen it done; Bell had a habit of going through her old routes after the fact on her laptop and tagging things she’d liked. Andi didn’t do that but she hadn’t opted out of the mapping function, either — and she doubted an opt-out would even have worked in this case.

If she made it unimpeded to Brunswick Station, she could turn that to her advantage…

Hills and trees gave way to houses and then buildings, flat roads became streets with street lights. Andi didn’t stop for lights, but instead turned off — sticking vaguely within the law but not stopping moving. It added time but also made it harder to predict her. If the androids were tracking her directly, their poor grasp of intuitive logic would make it harder for them to predict her destination. As for humans? She couldn’t do much about that right now, but if they were following at least this would make it harder.

Roundabout or not, she pulled into Brunswick Station and skidded to a stop, leaving the bike deposited on the side of the parking lot. No one yelled at her and no one intercepted her, so she had to be at least a few steps ahead.

There was a bus idling near the bus terminal. It was loading passengers, its cargo hold open for luggage. The far side of the bus was next to a retaining wall. Andi slowed to a walk, passing by the bus next to the retaining wall. It was going to Camden, then Lincolnville, and then Brewer. Perfect. Let them think she was making her way to Bangor or even Canada.

She glanced around herself, and closed her eyes for a second. That fast glance played back in her head in excruciating detail. No cameras she could see, no one in a position to watch her.

Andi dropped to the ground and slid under the bus. She moved slowly and carefully, watching the movements of peoples’ feet on the other side of the bus. People were being loaded on one by one, their luggage lined up along the side. A perfect little hedge to hide behind. Andi fished her phone out of her pocket, sliding up to the edge of the bus, the asphalt rough on her hands.

Sloooowly she reached up around the lip of the cargo hold, phone in her hand. She didn’t want to attract attention. There. She felt it. The opening. She set the phone down on the floor of the hold, then pushed. She felt it skitter — she had no idea how far, but she’d tried to angle it so it couldn’t be seen as things were loaded into the hold.

Slipping her hand back down, Andi took a few deep breaths. Which was unpleasant — the air reeked of diesel exhaust — but her heart was pounding and she needed a second. All right. She moved slowly back in the other direction, peeking out to see if there was any sign of people—

Clear, or so it seemed. Good enough. She slid back out, pushed herself up, and began tying her hair back as she walked around the bus and towards the Station. Forcing herself to be casual – to not attract attention if she could help it. She knew she’d be caught by a security camera or three, but if she pulled this off that’d be a good thing.

Unless she was wrong about all this, of course. Part of her wanted to scream and hide in a corner. She kept that part down deep.

Brunswick Station was actually several buildings, most of which were commercial or residential. In particular there were little boutiques and shops meant to appeal to tourists who got off the train or bus — Andi had no idea how many people visited Brunswick as a tourist destination, but right now it was useful. She stepped into the first of the buildings, looking around for an ATM. She had four hundred and seventeen dollars and sixty-two cents in her account. The androids had given her reasonably decent allowances, probably to keep her from contacting them overly much as she got older. Since Andi didn’t spend very much, it built up.

There — one in the corner of the Hall. A standalone which no doubt had to dial out. Not a major bank ATM. So much the better. With luck, grabbing it from here would delay the tracking of the expense for a few extra minutes. She wanted it to count her, of course, but wanted a little bit of buffer between the transaction and her pursuers finding her.

She shook her head slightly. She’d gone completely over to paranoia now. Which admittedly seemed like the safest attitude. On the one hand, the likelihood was her pursuers would extensive and powerful. On the other hand, they wouldn’t be omnipotent or omniscient.

On the third hand… they built bloody androids and turned a toddler into a proto-genius via gelatin product. Underestimating them seemed fatal.

She slid her debit card in. When prompted, she tapped in her PIN. She followed the directions. She knew the thing was filming her — bloody. She should have left her hair down! No — calm. She was known to put her hair up during athletics. It was in character. That was fine.

She keyed for four hundred, and tried to act nervous and anxious. Which honestly? Wasn’t the hardest thing she had ever done. She had to look like a terrified Freshman on the run from killer robots, so naturally she’d lost all sense of proportion and didn’t think about things like cameras in ATMs or the GPS in her phone.

There was a long pause while the system called out. They were designed to be a bit stupid, really. It was supposed to call into a central dispatch, which then would send a query for her balance, and if she had enough money then it would send back an okay. After it dispensed, it was supposed to send a notice to the bank telling it to reduce her total and flag where the transaction had taken place. She wondered how she knew that — oh, right. BBC2 four years, three months, and eight days back. Her house’s house mother had watched a special on debit cards changing the face of Britain.

It warned her of a five dollar surcharge for using the ATM. Which to be honest was straight up larceny but right now she couldn’t care.

There was a chugging sound, and twenties began depositing themselves in the tray. Andi realized she’d been holding her breath. She grabbed out the receipt, glancing at it, even as she scooped up the cash. Unzipping Jennie’s bum bag she slipped the wad of cash inside and zipped it closed.

She then blinked as her glance at the receipt registered in her mind. It had had the usual drivel surrounding the very small amount of money left in her account, and just below that—

DONT REACT CALL 617-555-0185

Andi felt a chill run down her back. They’d made her already?

But… why do this? What good would it do? They had to know she wouldn’t call. How did they even send that message?

Could this actually be some other faction? That was almost scarier — how long had they been watching her?

Still, there was one piece of good advice. She didn’t react — she’d absorbed the shock in almost no time and hadn’t shifted her face. All right. So maybe she was being tracked to this point. She couldn’t let that spook her off the plan. They didn’t have someone in here trying to grab her, at least not right now. Instead she walked outside and around the corner, stepping into a Brunswick Chamber of Commerce gift shop. It was painted up in green and white, with lots of plush moose and mugs and the like with ‘BRUNSWICK’ written on them — the most basic form of tourist duff you could have.

“Well, hello there!” an old woman said, causing Andi to jump. “Oh! Did I scare you, dear?” She was wearing an apron in the same color green.

Andi forced herself to ignore her pounding heart. She was flushed, she imagined, but there was nothing she could do about it. She didn’t want to be too identifiable in here but…

Andi thought about Bell for a moment. Her way of looking a bit dubious. Her grin. Her kindness and her temper. The way she held her face and shaped her letters and voice… she’d done this already once—

“Oh that’s okay,” Andi said, her voice bright like Bell’s, with more than a hint of Upper West Side Manhattan in it and absolutely no London to be found. “No, I’m just lookin’ around, really. Hey — do you think this color would look good on me?” She picked up a subdued mustard long sleeved shirt, with ‘BRUNSWICK’ written in green on the front in a kind of thin college campus style. It would look absolutely hideous on her, overwhelming her skin tone at best.

“Oh, absolutely,” she said. “You’ve got such pretty skin.”

“Aww — you’re sweet! Thank you.” Andi grinned, head cocking to the side like Bell’s. “All right — I think this and that ball cap and we’ll call it good!” The ball cap in question was green with yellow text, but neither matched the shirt.

“That will be lovely on you,” the woman said with a smile. She stepped around to the cash register.

“You’re sweet,” she said again, paying. The woman didn’t seem to be lying so much as devoid of color sense, but that was hardly a crime.

She made one side trip over to the automated ticketing system kiosks in the next building, holding the bag with her new clothes wrapped up like a tube. She could see the Bangor bus hadn’t closed its door yet. Good enough. She pulled out her ‘emergency’ credit card and grabbed a ticket on that bus. Another record, but another one she wanted them to have. She then stepped out and around to a convenience store not far from the bus, and made her way back to the bathroom.

It was cramped and a little dirty, but it had a door lock. Andi pushed that door shut, locking it, and looked at herself in the mirror. A little dingy from crawling on the ground but otherwise none the worse for—

Forrester’s body convulsing as the android’s hand slammed into her. Charlton ignoring his broken arm as he tackled the android Andi had called her father for over a decade. Seth Stone looking at her from his own door just before slamming it, practically setting off a flare for the androids to come get him—

Andi fell to her knees, breath coming in sharply and raggedly, her eyes flooding over with tears. Every second — every instant of her escape from Brooks-Carillon slammed through her mind’s eye, refusing to be ignored. She tried desperately to not cry audibly as she leaned forward, wrapping her arms around herself. She couldn’t be overheard! She couldn’t be noticeable! Not now! She was ‘getting on a bus’ right now!

…they’d killed them, just because they cared about Andi enough to consider her well being first….

“I’m so sorry,” she mouthed inaudibly, rocking slightly. “I’m so sorry.” She couldn’t stop remembering how proud she’d been while macing the android, proving they weren’t human, foiling them! The adults would take it from there. They always had! She just had to prove–

She’d gotten them killed. She’d gotten them killed!

She breathed in, shuddering, closing her eyes tightly and letting memory and reaction flood her. Recriminations and trauma fought it out in her brain interposed with dozens of moments where each of them had been kind to the stupid Brit who didn’t even try in Maths….

Slowly her breath evened out. Slowly she stood back up, and opened her eyes, looking in the mirror. Her face was calm. Her eyes clear.

She had just wanted all this over. She had just wanted to be a normal girl again. She had just wanted to go back to how things were.

She didn’t want that any more. She wanted to know everything she could do. She wanted to know who these bastards were. She was Andrea Gannett-Moore, the smartest bloody nutter anyone had ever met, and she wanted to see them burn.

And then she took a few deep breaths, and let the reactions fade. It didn’t take long for her to process anything any more – even grief and revenge – if she had a few minutes to actually do that processing.

“Step one,” she murmured. “Look like a gormless prat.”

Her original shirt went in the bottom of the paper trash. She’d bought large, so that the new shirt would drape over the bum bag. She redid her hair and pulled the cap over it. She nodded slightly, then got out her bifold and the Leatherman from her bum bag.

She cut up the cards. She cut up her identification and everything else, cutting them into tiny pieces she then flushed. She even cut up the receipt with the strange phone number, even though it was going right into the water. Finally she threw the bifold in the trash as well. No identification, no plastic.

No nothing.

She then flushed the toilet a final time, tossed additional paper over the shirt and bifold, and washed her hands before going back out front. She made a beeline to a rack of cheap sunglasses, grabbing a reddish clear framed circular pair. She paid for them and for a small seltzer, then went out and around the corner, glasses on. Her movements were slightly exaggerated — ‘embracing her inner chav,’ as they’d have said back at the Rugby School… Well, minus the fake Burberry. But then, Andi had her limits.

She strode through the parking lot to the street. Cabs came through here to park at a taxi stand. She walked up a bit from that and then hailed one directly from the street.

It pulled up, and she slid into the taxi. “Where you going?” the woman driving it asked.

“How much to L.L. Beans?” Andi asked, sticking to Bell’s dialect for the moment — though it occurred to her Bell wouldn’t be caught dead looking this ridiculous.

“Usually twenty bucks or less,” she said. “S’not that far.”

“Let’s do this, then,” she said, smiling.

The cabbie nodded, hitting a button on her meter, which started counting. They pulled out and accelerated — that kind of sudden ‘shock’ of acceleration cabbies got so good at — heading for Route 1 and points south.

All right. Five things she’d needed. Money. Ditch her smartphone. Confuse her trail. Change her appearance. Get someplace where she could make an unpredictable move. One through four? Accomplished. Five was underway. And when she got to Freeport?

Then she’d reset her needs. Money she had – not a lot but some – and she had no phone and wasn’t going to be getting one at least right away. She was down to three for phase two. Confuse her trail more, change her appearance with something more than sunglasses and bad fashion sense, and get someplace she could make the next move.

She took a deep breath, then looked out the window.

They were passing by a series of billboards. One caught her eye as they drove. Black with soft focus – a locomotive’s wheels on a track, a diamond-cut bottle of Steam brand perfume, and Rachelle Gilmore’s blue eyes looking out from the top. Discover the secret, it said along the bottom, with Lovelace just below that.

Andi looked away, closing her eyes again.

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