Chapter 24

Leo put the car in park and shit down the engine. Ray was in the seat next to her, scratching at his new style and color. 

“Having a reaction to the dye? 

“No.” Ray shook his head. “There's just still little hair chunks. Just a little itchy.”

“Good.” She looked relieved. “We can't go to a hospital at this point and if any of us have an allergic reaction, we are screwed. All we can get is the over the counter stuff.”

“I'll avoid shell-fish, then.”

“Oh no!” Leo gasped. “Okay. I didn't know. I'll make sure nothing has shell fish.”

“It's not a full allergy.” Ray tried to put her at ease. “More of an irritation. I get a rash down my throats and chest, it's not anaphylactic.”

“Okay.” Leo nodded. “So I'll go to the lockers and you head to the food court. Do you have everyone’s orders?” Ray waved a sticky note in response. Leo nodded and got out of the car, they split, and she took the stairs while he took the elevator. He walked carefully, his shoulders squared. Looking suspicious would tip anyone off, so wall with confidence. 

It took almost an hour to order everyone's food, because almost everyone wanted something for a different stand. When he was finally done, Leo was sitting at a table with her own food and a large duffel bag over one shoulder. She nodded to him and set off. 

This was just another misdirect, he thought as he followed her down the escalator. She would go into a store while he went to the car. She would wait ten minutes and then come meet him. There were no cameras in the garage, so they would never be seen together in the new car. It was genius and he didn't even have to contribute. 

When they met up in the car, Leo was waiting for him with a high five. 

“Good job.” She said. “But don't relax, yet. We still need to get to the safe house.” She drove them home without incident, smiling and obeying every traffic law to the letter. Ray was impressed, the car was incognito enough, but the extent of her caution was going to make them invisible. Or maybe it would make them too visible.

“So,” he tried to start up a conversation to get her mind off safety. “How do you know so much about subterfuge? I know that it’s pretty necessary for someone in your line of work. But where do you learn it?”

“You pick it up.” She shrugged. “Some of it is just common sense, other stuff you have to learn from making mistakes and talking to other people.”

“That makes sense. You guys are pretty ready for this to happen.”

“We were expecting it at some point.” Leo pulled into the driveway of the safe house. “No necessarily like this, but getting caught and having to run. Someone showing up at our house with a badge.”

Ray followed her into the house, divvying out food as he was mobbed. Alex had brightened up quite a bit with the hope that she would get answers to things she couldn’t remember.

Leo immediately took over the table, pulling all sorts of goodies out of the duffel bag. There was three bullet proof vests, a few handguns, a case with a disassembled rifle, a couple SMG’s, three lock pick sets, a large cash box with a crazy amount of cash. Leo also pulled two sets of car keys out of the bag, along with several other sets of keys.

“We have two backup vehicles stashed in a junkyard on south-side, not that far from here. The guy there knows us and owes us a few favors. He stashes them and makes sure they’re never sold or stolen or crushed.” Sam said as he checked the ammo in the bag and checked the barrels of the weapons. 

“That was forward thinking.” Alex nodded. “You guys are scary prepared. You also seem to have a lot of money you can throw at this. How much do you make from selling weapons illegally?”

“More than others because no taxes.” Maya grinned, pulling a small makeup case from the duffel, chomping on her sushi. Leo pulled the last item out of the bag; an overstuffed briefcase. 

“Everyone,” Leo said, snapping the latches open. “This is Herman the Great.” She began to unfold accordion arms with stands, snapping iPad after iPad into the frames. In both sides of the briefcase Leo had shoved as much equipment as possible. Ray saw every flaw, saw every place the power could feed back and fry her circuits, saw where she could shorten cords to make more room for more powerful components. He rebuilt Herman in his mind, knowing he could rebuild it.

“What’s so great about Herman?” Ray sneered, trying to goad Leo into a rage.

“Herman is the first ever portable super-computer.” Leo beamed, pressing several power buttons and starting up thirty displays.

“There’s not enough room in there for the processors for him to be a super-computer.” Ray face palmed. “You need almost three-hundred processor cores. You can’t get that into a breif-case! You need a room as big as this!”

“Who says I don’t have three-hundred cores.” Leo was still grinning, typing in a series of complicated passwords into the jelly-roll keyboard.

“But you can’t…”

“They’re just not here, Ray.” Maya sighed. 

“Maya!” Leo whined. “I was gonna torture him for a bit!”

“Herman is just a portable access point for the actual Herman the Great.” Maya ignored her sister. “Leo build the actual computer in a warehouse much like this one. Underneath an Underground establishment that likes us.”

“You ruin all my fun.” Leo pouted, typing an access command into her terminal. The system booted and it was obvious Leo had built her own OS for Herman as well. Herman’s name was displayed as the desktop back ground, no periods in between the letters.

“So ‘Herman’ isn’t even an initialism for anything?” Ray was just having fun, now. “It’s just named ‘Herman’?”

“Yes.” Leo growled. “He’s just named ‘Herman’ so that I can yell that when I need to.”

“And it’s fun for me to yell, too!” Sam said, mouth full of taco.

“Leo.” Ray finally let up. “Herman is cool, but you have several flaws in your design. Can you give me a few hours and I’ll draw up some new designs for him? Ones that will make sure he doesn’t feed back and fry himself?”

“That would…”

“Leo,” Alex jumped in. “Trust me, you want Ray to do this for you.”

Leo nodded and kept typing.

Zoe FleischerComment