Escape Bod Town
Ahead was the neighborhood behind Raj’s. Unlike the heart of Bod Town with its dream castles, this area had smaller, older shops. Places where she could duck into, elude compstate should the need arise. And Tim was hundreds of times more stealthy than she because his mimic coat could look like anything, including the pile of metarm junk she saw to her left. Vaulting over the scrap pile, she headed down an alley.
“Hey! Slow down!” A voice bellowed ahead. A mechflesh roider filled most of the alley with his broad shoulders and exoskeleton designed for mining. Grace needed to blend in anyways, so she complied. At the end of the alley was Raj’s street, and a few blocks away was Delight.
“In position.” Tim’s voice in her dermal dot.
Good, she thought. With Tim in place, I need to take one last look at the map.
At the end of the alley was a bench with two mechflesh huddled on one end. Grace sat down. The two women were swapping fingers. The one going on duty was borrowing the gleaming metarm fingers from the other, trading a more modern model for the pitted and scarred gray digits on her right hand.
Grace turned away and concentrated on her ptenda. As a child, she’d had a reasonably good idea where Thermopolis was in relation to Port Casper. But before she and Tim left the city, she needed to understand the terrain, the details.
The women left and Grace sat alone. Fingering her ptenda, she brought up perimeter maps of Bod Town. In the northwest corner was a border crossing. It was the best way to Thermopolis, but what she needed was a way to exit without an ID scan.
“What are we waiting for,” Tim’s voice pulsed in her dot.
“Trying to come up with a plan,” she subvocalized.
“To get out?”
“Already got one,” he ended the sentence with a triumphal growl.
Grace rose from the bench, stretched and smiled. She walked forward, melting into the pedestrian traffic in Bod Town. The sidewalks were far more crowded than general Port Casper, but Grace knew the mechflesh were only allowed in the city proper during specific times of the day. Anything not related to work had to be crammed into the few hours not under curfew.
Delight dazzled two blocks ahead. Even though it wouldn’t open until later this afternoon, its pink, glowing sign competing against the orange sunrise. To the right of the entrance flickered a dark form: a Labrador. Tim.
Grace gestured for him to lope beside her. The crowd pushed against them, the sound rising and falling at the heart of the mechflesh district.
“Tell me your plan,” she subvocalized. She didn’t think it was necessary to use dermal dot with this amount of background noise, but she wasn’t taking any chances.
“First, we go to the northwest crossing,” Tim said.
“Two like minds, clever pooch.”
“You hold back while I distract,” he continued, his voice calm in her dot like he was reading off a grocery list.
“Then you move through and I’ll see you two kilometers outside the perimeter,” he concluded.
“But I don’t want them to scan my ptenda.”
“Distraction. It’s a surprise,” he raised his head and flashed a canine smile.
Grace shrugged. “It’s not my birthday.”
Tim wriggled beside her. She had seen his manic excitement before, when his entire blue gel matrix was working out a problem, running through billions of possibilities to arrive at just the right strategy. But he also liked showing off, and she couldn’t really fault him for such a human trait: she liked showing off herself. She’d wait for the surprise.
Grace saw the border now. What had once been an arch similar to the other end of Bod Town now sported tall mesh fences with razor wire. Above this hovered three loafers. There was a small gate at the base of the arch. The gate was closed and flanked by two border guards. Yawn. They weren’t expecting to allow anyone to pass. Another yawn. The empty desert beyond meant they weren’t expecting anyone to come in.
“Stay here,” Tim said.
She nodded, moving off the street to a fruit stand. Grace began inspecting juicy goodness while watching the PodPooch slink toward the border crossing.
“Gonna buy something or just bruise my pears?” The old man grumbled from behind the stand.
“Half a moment!” Grace huffed, her fingers moving to another crate, touching one apple after another.
From above, a sizzle erupted. A woman pointed. Grace saw one loafer lurch to the right and smash into another. Both spun in midair, armatures interlocking as weapons met forceps. Sparks arced from one torso to the other and the bulky cylinders crashed to the ground.
The two border guards raced to the wreckage. The third loafer descended, hovering just above its two destroyed cousins. A flash from the loafer and both guards fell over. The loafer pivoted its torso, then careened through the small border gate, tearing its mesh away. Finally, the loafer exploded on the other side.
The PodPooch nearly vanished as its mimic coat went camouflage. It raced forward and through the gate.
“Sorry, I’ve lost my appetite,” Grace said as she sprinted forward. She didn’t look back. The vendor had lost a sale and hopefully compstate had lost track of a citizen. As she ducked under some torn mesh, her feet hit the hard soil on the other side and after a minute she was on the far side of a hillock and beyond view of Bod Town. She couldn’t see Tim, but kept to his plan. He would find her.
Grace ran hard, following a line of scrub up and over another hill, the dry prairie stretching before her. Over two hundred kilometers to Thermopolis.
“I can see you doing the mental calculation,” Tim barked as he appeared from behind a boulder. “A little over five days. I know how fast you can hike.”
She crunched to a stop, panting. “We’ll head northwest to Natrona, then Arminto and finally Lost Cabin. After that...” Grace trailed off. Lost Cabin was close enough to Thermopolis that they’d probably see the devastation from the accident, close enough that she’d need to wear radiation gear.
“Let’s go,” he said.
“We got out too easy,” she whispered.