“So,” Maya felt exponentially better after drinkning some coffee. Three hours of sleep was not going to look good on her in the morning.
“So what you are telling us is: Piwitti wants us in New York so that she can take us in and turn us into guinea pigs and she’s used us from the beginning to show the world that her program works? Even though the two of us who have been in her program are failures?”
“That’s why she still has David, though.” Ray hadn’t taken any coffee, he was pacing back and forth, so be probably didn’t need any. “He’s the example of the complete program. He’s going to be her golden boy.”
“So then she gets her hands back on everyone who was taken out of the program and she gets her full funding back without having to find new recruits. Everyone will rat out their friends and family because they are scared they’re going to turn out like us.” Leo’s head was in her hands as she monotoned the realization. “I can’t beleive that it took us this long to figure this out.”
“We got there evenutally.” Maya shook her head.
“But what about Sam?” Leo said. “Was him leaving part of her plan?”
“I don’t think so.” Ray said. “I think she was counting on his recklessness to keep him in the game.”
“But she didn’t count on him getting frustrated at literally everything and leaving.” Maya said with a smile. “Maybe she doesn’t know us as well as she thinks.”
“Well, that’s the risk that she played.” Alex hugged her coffee mug close to her chest. “People aren’t computer programs and we don’t follow that kind of explict protocol. As much as psychologists like to break it all down into alogorithms and syndroms, there will always be a wild card.”
“And in this case it was Sam.” Leo stood up and went to her bag. She pulled out her laptop and her phone. She didn’t bring it to the table, however, she sat down in the middle of the cabin, pulled out a knife, and started cutting the rug.
“What the FUCK are you doing?” Maya stood, starting to run toward her sister. Yeah, genius, what are you gonna do then? Approach the crazy lady cutting up the carpet with a knife?
“I need to get to the communications. If I can get to the radio, I can send a message to Sam. Tell him to stay put. If he’s our wildcard, then he needs to stay that way. He just turned himself into an Ace in the hole.”
“Welp,” Ray said with a grin. “If we continue the playing cards analogy, then that’s his function as a wildcard.”
“Oh my GOD.” Maya’s stomach had dropped into her pelvis, she sat down on the floor next to her sister. “We was fucking RIGHT again?”
“Yep.” Leo had pulled up an access panel in the floor and was digging around in a mass of wires and sheathed cables. “And now it’s time to pay the piper.”
“Awe.” Ray said, plunking his tool box on the floor. “You broke the poker analogy.”
“I don’t think there are wild cards in poker.” Maya smiled. Alex sat down on the floor next to them.
“Hey guys,” Leo said, her arm in the floor up to her armpit. “I love the comradery and everything, but I need some room to work.”
“Whoops!” Alex and Maya said in unsion and hopped up onto the couch together while Ray dug in his bag of tricks to help Leo.
“I can actually help with this project.” Ray said. “So I figure I can stay.”
“Yes.” Leo said. “Yes you can. But can you make a signal switcher to turn a radio signal into a ping to hit the nearest cellphone tower?”
“I have the next best thing.” Ray said, pullinga weird box out of his bag. “I have a cellphone tower spoofer.”
“What the FUCK?” Leo said. She sat back up and took the blue box from Rays hands. “This spoofs a signal? What am I doing HERE then?!” she slammed the access panel shut.
“Well.” Ray said, gently lifting the panel open again. “We do need a ton of power to get it running, and I don’t have the software.”
“Oh,” Leo said, sititng back down. “I have that.”
“Wait…” Alex said from beside Maya. “He has the device and you have the software and neither of you realized that all you had to do was talk and you’d have a perfect cellphone tower for fugitives?”
“I guess.” Ray said, digging for a power cord to splice while Leo began typing at her keyboard. She never seemed to use a mouse.
“Nerds,” Alex shook her head. “If they had better communication skills, the world would be so much more productive.”
“How would that conversation go exactly?” Leo asked, stopping her typing for a minute. “ ‘I made this cool shit, what you been doin’ lately?’ It’d sound like dick measuring.”
“There are nerds who do that.” Ray said, pulling a group of wires from a sheath, picking very specific wires from the bundles, seemingly at random. “I just dont’ hang out with those nerds.”
“Same,” Leo grinned, and kept typing.
Maya looked back at Alex, who was still sipping her coffee, watching their friends dig in wires and talk shop.
“Do you have a plan?” Maya put her hand on Alex’s shoulder, letting her fingers tingle.
“I’m getting there.” Alex nodded.
“Not with incomplete information.” She laughed.
“Come on,” Maya tried shmoozing. She hadn’t done it in weeks. “I’m the one who came up with our busniness plan for the weapons. I’m the one who reached out to buyers and figured out a system to communicate with out I.J.S. Finding out.”
“That was me.” Alex said, her head in the access panel, for some reason.
“Fine,” Maya said, “But I made the market for the system to exist.”
“You didn’t make the market,” Ray said, passing Leo a soldering iron. “There’s been an illegal market for guns for years. You just filled a need in the market.”
“Whatever!” Maya said. “I filled the need. I can help you spit-ball ideas so that we don’t die.”
“Are we still goiing to New York?” Ray said, four wires in his mouth as he tried to splice them.
“I think we have to.” Alex said.
“WHY?” Leo and Ray said, temporarily stopping work.
“Because we need her to talk more.” Alex said with a smile. “But this time, we are going to be in control of who listens.”
“Do we still need to tell Sam to stay put?” Leo said, looking a little dissapointed she didn’t get to play with the cell phone tower.
“Yes.” Alex said. “That’s factoring into the plan.”
“PLEASE,” Maya said, desperation seeping through her voice. “Tell me what your plan is so I can help!”
“All right!” Alex laughed. “I’ll tell you what’s going on.”
Sam was still on the boat, shivvering and waiting for the man to stop. There was land to his right, but it was a long way off.
He’d sat out here for hours, he needed to go inside and warm up.
He stood, swinging his duffel onto his back and squeezing his way into the smallest boat cabin ever. There was the captain, sitting in a chair, with a piping hot cup of coffee.
“Any chanc there’s more coffee?” Sam asked. There was just a nod and a pointed finger toward a coffee maker. He hadn’t seen a coffee maker in what seemed like an age. Leo didn’t allow them in the house.
He poured a cup and clutched it to his chest, trying to warm up again. It felt like he’d never be warm again.
“I know that I didn’t ask when I boarded, but where are you headed?”
“Not far.” The man said in a heavily accented english. Was he from Greece or Italy? “We are headed for a Marina di Torre del Lago Puccini.” Italian then.
“That’s in Italy?”
“Great. That works for me. Which city is that in?”
“Great. I can do a little sight seeing.”
“Is Italy your final destination?” the man was just being polite.
“No. I’m headed elsewhere.”
“Where are you…”
“I’d rather not say.” Sam didn’t want to talk to this man.
“No problem.” The man held up a hand in surrender. “Many people don’t want to talk. I won’t fill the silence with small talk.”
“Thanks.” He didn’t want to be rude. He didn’t want to put the man off, especially after just a reasonable fair without having to register as a passenger.
The coffee managed to fill up his freezing body with warmth and he felt a little bit at home.
And just a little bit homesick. The coffee wasn’t like what Leo would make in the morning. Piping hot and filled with flavor and love. Poured from a beat up metal french press that had travelled twice around the world with them. She’d even grind the beans by hand, the little crank of her grinder whirling with expectant flavor.
As if the thought of her lovely coffee summoned her, his pocked buzzed, the signature vibration of this girl went off on his phone.
His hand flew to his pocket before he knew what he was doing and he stared at the screen with aprehension making his heart hammer in his chest.
Why did he want to answer her? Why did he want to look at his phone? His read receipts were on and she would see that he’d seen it as soon as he opened the messages app on his phone.
But she’d shown him how to turn that off. So he could read it without sending that little notification.
He turned off the setting, fumbling around with the settings for a full five minutes before he finally found the damn thing.
The switch turned off, he opened his messages and read what Leo had sent to him. It was pratically a novel! He scrolle to the top of the new message string and started to read.
I’m sorry that we didn’t listen to you. I’m sorry that you saw what we couldn’t and we left when you were telling us what was happening right in front of our faces. I will never doubt you again.
She laid out the whole of what they had figoured out with Piwitti. That they were trapped on a plane and headed toward New York. That they were still going after David, but they weren’t going to do it in the usual way. That they knew every step of Piwitti’s plan. They’d finally figured it out.
He took the time to face-palm and do a little happy dance. He didn’t worry about the captain, there was no way that he could see Sam anyway.
He continued to read, Alex had a plan and it wasn’t half bad. All he had to do was one simple thing: be a diversion to the IJS to keep them off his trail.
That was a thing that he could do. He could take them off the trail for a little bit.
How far was it to Greece from Italy?