During the next two weeks the three of us toured The British Isles. We saw the white cliffs of Dover from a boat tour. We saw the coal mining towns of Wales from pedal bikes. After a day on the pedal bike, I was in pain again. Fortunately I had plenty of pain killers and they were all legal.
The third week of our tour we were off to Ireland. The tour was filling Lucy’s computer with first hand experiences. Not even her builders knew her capacity for learning, so the tour was laid out to just throw things at her. After Ireland the team came over to evaluate Lucy’s performance and her state of mind, if there were such a thing, at that time.
The two day evaluation gave me time to rest and catch up on my TV shows on the computer. After Ireland we were back in the London hotel operated as a CIA front. The scientists had taken over the ballroom downstairs as well as most of the top floor. Lucy came in to sleep with me at night, otherwise I saw very little of her over those two days.
“Maxine we need to talk,” Priest said to me on the third day.
“You have my attention,” I said it over breakfast in the hotel’s dining room.
“I think you will agree that Lucy has made tremendous progress in her assimilation abilities. She might be considered a quirky academic, if dropped into a social setting.” Priest said.
“I can see that. She would be the nerd nest door kind of thing, but anyone who had a good knowledge of how things work, would know she was different.” I suggested.
“Yes she still has a ways to go, but I am very pleased with her progress. You two seem to be a good fit,” he suggested.
“Don’t get any ideas, when my contract time is up, I’m out of here,” I said.
“I hope you change your mind, but if you don’t, we will still part friends. You have given the project a huge lift. Lucy might have learned from anyone, but she has learned from you and it seem to be the perfect environment for her.” Priest said.
“I have no idea what her mission is, but she can be a great resource. I’m not sure how much creative thinking she can do, but she is still a huge asset,” I said.
“Actually, you just cut right to the heart of it. We would like for you to begin teaching her how to problem solve on her own. Give her the perimeters, and the outcome you want, then see what she comes up with. If it isn’t too far off the wall, try it and see what she learns from it.”
“You know this could get messy?” I asked.
“I trust you will keep it manageable. Lucy listens to you and gives your advice and opinions more weight than anyone else. We didn’t program that into her. She has made her own value judgment, which is also a huge step forward.” Priest said. “She has also played a million video games and is proficient at them all, which should help her with her creative thinking.
Yes, but they are structured, real life isn’t,” I suggested.
“That is also true, Once you learn one game, it is easier to play the next.” Priest said.
“The same is somewhat true of life’s real situations.” I agreed..
We left England the next day unexpectedly. But only Lucy and I traveled together. Lamar shadowed us on a different train to dover then a different ferry to France. In Calais we were on our own. Since we started in the middle of the night. we arrive in Calais early in the morning.
“So Lucy I just know you plugged into the Internet last night when you found out where we were headed.” I said.
“Yes I did,” she admitted.
“So here we are in Calais, where do we go from here it’s up to you. I will not make this decision.” I said forcefully.
“I don’t really have a preference,” she said.
“Then we will sit on this dock till hell freezes over,” I replied with a smile.
“Alright then Paris,” she said.
“No too easy anywhere else in France and we will go there. Not Paris it’s too obvious. Lamar could find us there. We are going to drop off the radar for a week at least. No big brother watching over us.” I said.
“But I have a tracking device,” she informed me.
“I expected that to be the case. For this exercise the tracking device had been disabled. So where to my little runaway?” I asked. Not only did she have a working tracking device, but I was sure that our conversations were being monitored as well.
She didn’t have to think long, but she did it out loud. “So they have tracked us this far, but from here we plan to leave no trail. We need cash.” she informed me.
“Well they know we are here, lets go to a bank and convert some plastic to cash. How much cash do you think we need.”
“Maybe a thousand US dollars?’ she asked.
“Don’t ask me tell me. How many euros is that?” I asked.
“700 more or less at the current rate,” she said.
“Then that’s our budget for this escape,” I said. “We will have to be frugal. The ball is still in your court. Where do we go? You think about it while I get the cash.”
The CIA had given me a credit card with a unlimited draw. I’m sure there was a limit, but they didn’t expect me to reach it. I went into a bank presented it along with my passport and left with 700 euros. When I turned from the teller window, there was Lucy and she wore her first spontaneous smile.
She rattled off a name I could never pronounce or even come close to spelling. It sounded a little like Marie Stew so that’s how I thought of it. “So how far to Marie Stew?” I asked. She smiled again, because she remembered my habit of renaming places for my own convenience.
“85 Kilometers,” she said.
“And how do you propose we get there?” I asked.
“The railway station is about a mile from here. Do you think you can walk that far carrying your bag?” she asked. “If not I can carry it, or we can get a taxi.”
“We can’t afford a taxi and I will not have you carry my bag. We will make it, even if I have to crawl.” I almost had to do just that. My leg was giving me a fit again. Way too much tourist shit, I thought.
“The fair is 22 euros each to Marie Stew,” Lucy informed me from here data banks. Since there was a wait of half hour for the next train headed that direction, we went to the pastry shop across the way. Two coffees and one creme filled pastry ate up what would be the balance of a fifty euro note.
We found a young man who was willing to go into the station to buy our tickets for us. I explained to him that I was injured and could not wait in line. Also that Lucy had to stay with me, since I sometimes had seizures. He was more than willing to do the small chore for us. In exchange Lucy tried to flirt with him. She was terrible at it, but he was young and didn’t notice.
We by passed the inside of the station and walked around the outside, so as not to be seen. We also avoided walking through the parking lot together. She went first with a Muslim headdress kind of thing. Then from the other side of the parking lot I went through with a floppy fisherman type hat that covered my hair and face.
In the train I said to Lucy, “Our goal is to stay hidden for one week, then we will resurface. Agreed?”
“Agreed, this must be how a school girl playing hooky feels,” she said.
“So you do feel something?” I asked.
“Yes, but I don’t know what it is,” she informed me.
“Hell it’s your emotion, you get to decide what to call it. Hell, you can call it Bob if you want,” I informed her.
Since it was a local train, and it stopped at every cross roads, it took us four hours to cover the 85 kilometers to Marie Stew. We avoided the inside of the station there as well. From the street in front of the train station I spotted a small street stall selling some kind of sandwich looking thing. I directed Lucy to it.
“You do eat often,” my traveling companion said.
“Yes, well I have to keep my strength up. Also we need a place to stay. So do you know any cheap hotels here? Something off the radar,” I asked.
“I guess all the ones from the Internet would be too easy to check,” she suggested.
“True, but I bet a vendor outside the train station gets a kickback for recommending hotels. He probably knowss everyone in the area,” I said.
“You are probably right. I would never have thought of that,” she admitted.
“I bet you will next time,” I suggested. “Since I can’t speak French I need for you to make the arrangements. We need a cover story so how about this? You left your husband and we are running away together for a long weekend. You are afraid he is going to come looking for us. Is there a small inexpensive out of the way hotel.” I said it and waited to see her reaction. She smiled again.
Lucy ordered me a French bread sandwich with some kind of cold meat, various green things on top, and a vinegar dressing. “What the fuck is this?” I asked.
“Something healthy for a change,” she said. “Since you don’t speak French, you will have to eat what I think you should,” She said.
I opened the sandwich and threw over half the vegetables into the trash. “You can order it but I don’t have to eat it.
The hotel he recommended was too far for me to walk. The vendor noticed my limp and said something to Lucy which of course I did not understand.
“He said we can avoid the taxi, if we let his cousin drive us to the hotel. The price will be 10 euros.”
“Tell him to make the call,” I said in agreement.
The hotel was a joke, but it was what we wanted. The building was most likely a middle ages hospital where people had gone to die frp, the plague. It was three stories with the top two stories having six rooms on each floor. The room we shared cost us 35 euros a night. I knew we were being ripped off, but there was nothing to do but pay it.
The room was small with a double bed against one wall. There was a rack in the room instead of a closet. It was a rolling thing with a hanging bar, with a few wire hangers, over a couple of drawers. It looked a lot like one of those racks a bellboy uses to roll your luggage into the hotel. I was exhausted at five in the afternoon. So I lay down for a nap. I left Lucy to her own devices. I neither encouraged her to go exploring nor did I tell her not to leave.
When I awoke at 7PM, Lucy was sitting in a chair with her eyes rolled back in here head. I had seen the look before, when she was exploring the Internet. I quietly pickup up a clean pair of panties and a clean tee shirt.
There was a bathroom on each end of the hall and they were shared by the entire floor. Two bathroom on the floor was a big deal, I was told by the desk clerk when we checked in. There was no tub in the bath and the whole thing shower and all was no bigger than a walk in closet. Nonetheless I managed to take care of all my needs. I did it quickly since I expected an irritated knock on the door any minute. One never came but that wasn’t the point.