The lights were bright. Very bright. The insides of her eyelids looked orange with the glare, and the back of her neck felt sore. It seemed to her that it was very likely she wasn't in her own bed, and insistent recollections of the sensation of being wheeled around seemed to make this even more likely. She tried opening her eyes, which hurt, but seemed to concentrate her memory a bit. Went to school, came out, ran into the Teen Queens... bloody hell. It was all there. Damn it, she was in big trouble this time. Well. Nothing she could do about it right here and now.
Gordon blinked. Blinking was almost inevitable, with bright white lights shining straight down into his eyes. He hadn't been prodded or kicked awake, which was good, and there hadn't been any sort of siren. He'd just sort of fallen awake. He'd been dreaming about that girl again, and as ever, found himself wishing that she actually existed. He wasn't entirely sure what the Fandango was, but he knew he wanted to dance it with her. He blinked. Why was he there?
A visitor watched the cell on a wall of screens, in the hospital security HQ. The room was small enough that most of his entourage had to be left outside. A full length grey overcoat lay folded over the back of an empty chair, its owner preferring to stand. He'd had the girl chipped as a matter of course, but she was of little consequence to him. He waited, patiently, for the boy to wake up.
She sat bolt upright, and saw that she wasn't alone. There was a rather messed-up looking Zone Boy opposite her. For a moment she wondered if she looked as bad.
He sat up, looked at who was sitting opposite and nearly jumped a mile. It was her, more or less. He'd never really seen her face clearly in his dreams, but if anyone embodied Scaramouche, this was her.
Jesus, I thought she was real for a second. He blinked and looked again. Man, I knew they could read your thoughts, but get out 3d images? Was this girl a hologram or what? She didn't really look quite perfect enough to be computer generated. Maybe they'd scanned the local population for a face match. It wouldn't surprise him.
“Hey!” He plucked up the courage to demand, “G-g-ga ga girl! Who are you?”
She was insulted. Ga Ga Girl? Why couldn't anyone get their brain around the fact that she wasn't, and didn't want to be considered as, trying to be a Ga Ga Girl? How obvious did she have to be? Did she really have to spell it out to every single person she met? Aside from anything else, no Ga Ga Girl would be seen dead looking like her. And who the hell did he think he was, to be asking her who she was, anyway?
“I ain't no G-g-g-g-g-g-g-g-ga ga Girl,” She mimicked, then spluttered awkwardly, “-and I don't answer questions!” An equally awkward silence threatened to settle, so she demanded “Who are you?”
“Me?” Gordon was surprised. Hadn't she been briefed? “I - I don't know who I am.”
“Oh. Great.” He had been prepared for a few responses, but not that. Wheedling, sympathy, that Hey mate, we all go through that phase at some point! crap his CG teacher had tried on him a few times, but apathy? Maybe this girl really didn't know who he was. After all, he didn't. All he knew was what he could glean from his dreams, which he offered-
“But my name is Galileo Figaro.” He didn't feel like he was Gordon Jones any more, if he ever had. He was always Galileo in his dreams, and it felt more right than his official name ever had. He watched, with a feeling of some satisfaction, as her eyes widened in awe.
“Cool name.” She smirked inside, knowing that he wouldn't pick up on the fact that she was taking the piss.
“Thank you!” He replied warmly. Hey, at last - someone who doesn't just think it's weird!
This did make her feel slightly guilty. After all, he hadn't really sounded serious when he'd said it, but apparently he was. She felt that maybe she should drop it, but she did have an appearance to maintain to people like, er, like him, except that he didn't really seem to be one of “them”... Damn. Well, if it insulted him, it was his own fault for confusing her. And it was hardly like it was any big thing.
“I wasn't being serious.” She said coldly. Gordon's face dropped a mile. “Mind if I shorten it?” She asked, shunting conversation forwards.
“Well, I suppose 'Galileo' would-”
“So, Gazza.” She decided for him, twisting round so she was lying on her front, facing him. “Why were you arrested?”
“Because I hear sounds in my head.” Gordon, or Galileo, explained eagerly. This girl - who had actually said she wasn't Ga Ga - might listen to him, maybe understand the dreams. Well, it was worth a shot, anyway. “Words and sounds.” He glanced at her, smiling awkwardly, hoping for a good reaction. She was waiting for him to continue. “Well, I, um, I'm mad, you see.”
“I was arrested because they-” She indicated towards the door of the ward with a sharp head gesture “-don't like the way I DRESS!”' Galileo jumped as she yelled the last word, glaring malevolently at the door. Obviously this touched her quite deeply.
“I- I think you dress beautifully.” She turned back to him, in disbelief. He seemed to mean it.
“S'nice.” She conceded. “’Cept coming from a self-confessed nutter.” They sat awkwardly for a moment, trying to think of things to say.
“So what sounds do you hear?” She tried her best to sound disinterested, but really, she was intrigued. Dreams were taboo, so they fascinated her. Globalsoft's society didn't like dreamers. They tended to ask awkward questions. Galileo grinned, then froze. It all seemed so clear to him, but suddenly he found that he couldn't put them into words.
“I - I don't know.” She wriggled round so that she was kneeling, at direct eye-level with him.
“Do - you - know - anything?” She asked slowly, deliberately. He was obviously either mad or a moron. She wasn't entirely willing to rule out the possibility that he might be both.
“Yes!” He answered indignantly, trying to pull himself up to his full height whilst remaining crouched on the gurney. “I know that - I'm different!” He said triumphantly, “Which is why the clones from the Boy Zone hate me.”
“The - the Ga Ga Girls hate me.” She admitted awkwardly. They had common ground. This wasn't something she was entirely sure how to deal with.
“Do you know why they hate you?”' Galileo asked, ready to let rip with his theory, but she beat him to it.
“Yeah, they think I'm a lesbian cos I don't wear pastels.” It seemed pretty bloody obvious to her. It hadn't occurred to him.
“They hate you because they're scared of you.” He suggested. His theory was a good one! It made perfect sense to him. Just because she had a reason that was probably accurate didn't mean that he was wrong. “Because you're different. You're - well -” Habit made him glance around before uttering the taboo word, “-an individual.”
“Well...” She found she couldn't argue with that. So she changed the subject instead. “What do you think they did to us?”
She gingerly felt around the base of her scalp with both hands, running around a bandage that had been put there while she was unconscious. Nothing felt particularly wrong, but around the nape of her neck the skin felt sore.
“I don't know.” Galileo answered truthfully, again. She considered a few smart remarks to the tune of his not knowing anything, but decided not to use any of them. He seemed quite nice, in a funny sort of way. He was one of very few. Not like most of the world. She wasn't paranoid, she knew that. They just really were all out to get her.
“Do you think they'll ever give up?” She asked Galileo. “And just leave us alone?”
“Don't you see?” He asked quietly. “We're a threat. A-” He found an metaphor he'd often used quietly to and about himself, “-a virus, on their hard drive. And they won't give up until they've pointed their little arrow at us-” She caught the analogy with ease, continuing with horror
“And dragged us to trash!”
They stared at each other, as the seriousness of the situation slowly filtered into them. She broke the silence.
“We have to get out of here.”
He stared at her, she stared around the room. It was a basic, uniform medical cell. There was a large observation window of one-way mirror which gleamed blackly, showing them nothing but their reflections. A blank monitor was fitted flush to one one wall and some devices lurked in the corners between the walls and ceiling that were probably surveillance equipment of some sort. The door was far more complicated-looking than it needed to be, probably to deter prisoners - for surely that was what they were - from attempting to escape. Looking down and around herself, she confirmed that she was under no physical restraints of any sort, and tentatively tested the air for force fields by standing up. Seeing her, and deciding that she looked like she knew what she was doing, Galileo did the same. Shakily, as his gurney hadn't been braked(by a forgetful medic), he waved his arms around a bit, and established that there wasn't any sort of laser cage around him. She reckoned that if there was any sort of shield around them, it would probably hurt on contact, and decided that he could go ahead - she would watch.
“Nothing?” She asked, as his arms whirled precariously around his head.
"Think the floor's alarmed?"
“I don't know.” She shot a look at him, and he was looking at said floor from as many different angles as he could manage from where he was, which made him look willing, but completely useless.
“How can we tell?” He asked, slightly frustrated. She shrugged, unwrapped the bandage from around her head, and dropped it.
Galileo breathed in sharply, expecting a loud clash of sirens or some other indication that the movement had been detected.
She jumped down onto the floor, and stamped on it a few times. She picked up her bandage. With a shrug, she said
“Guess it's safe, then.” Galileo joined her on the floor, and started to pace up and down the room.
“How on earth are we gonna get out of this? I know! If I can find the air vent, I can unscrew the grille with my... uh... do you have a hair pin?”
“No.” She was slowly inspecting the window, cupping her hands on either side of her face to look through. It didn't help much, but she could just about make out the shape of some sort of room, or corridor. Either way, there was no-one in it.
“Because then we could crawl through the ducts, and then-”
“Gaz, do you know this place very well?”
“No, I've never been here before in my life.”
“Do you have a map?”
“Well, no, but if-”
“So where would you go?” Galileo opened his mouth, thought, then shut it again.
“Bright girl.” The man in the grey suit thought out loud. “He wouldn't have a hope of escaping if she wasn't there.”
“Sir, are these prisoners high risk?” A low-ranking officer squeezed back to the door asked.
“Curiosity.” He tutted in reply. “Whatever are they teaching in schools these days? That is my concern, not yours.”
“So, uh, I didn't catch your name.”
“No. I didn't throw it.”
“Oh. Um.” She had moved onto the door. It had several keypads with displays, a card swipe, and what appeared to be an iris scanner set within a round recess. Galileo came over and, unintentionally, pushed her to the side.
“Oh, great. How are we supposed to guess the code? Wait - I bet it's something really obvious, like really obvious, like the Killer Queen's birthday, or the number of countries she owns, or-”
“I don't think we're actually supposed to work it out, you know.” She murmured, running a finger down the door frame.
“Cause, you know, it could just all be a trick, you know? Designed to keep us guessing...”
She studied the door more acutely. There seemed to be something fundamentally wrong with it, something about the way it sat in the frame... she smiled grimly. Ignoring Galileo, she slid the fingernails of one hand down the crack where the door met the frame, and pulled.
He gawped as the door swung open.
“Oh my god. How did you do that? That was amazing!”
“Nono, Gaz, I just pulled it open.”
“It wasn't locked. Maybe they... didn't think we'd dare try to escape.”
“Yeah. They think they're so smart.”
A small light blipped into life to indicate that a security point had been breached.
“What a simple, easy mistake that must have been to make. Leaving the door ajar like that.”
“For the record, sir, I will personally find out who did it and have them sacked, sir.” The security controller promised, possibly a bit louder than was strictly necessary. Leaving a door ajar was one thing, but how a door that was supposed to have been double locked had ended up that way he couldn't imagine. Why, he'd even gone past it earlier when he'd been showing the visitor the facilities. They'd watched these prisoners being wheeled in together.
“Is that corridor manned?” The authoritative figure continued.
“No, but I can have the team there right away -” The man's hand was already reaching for the microphone.
“No, I don't think we need to bother with that.”
“Are you sure? Com-”
“Yes.” He snapped, straightening one glove. “Let's see just how far they get.”
Cautiously, she looked out into the corridor beyond the door. Her heart thumped in her throat, she was almost certain that they - whoever they were - would be alerted to the door opening, and upon them in seconds. The corridor turned a corner to the right, and continued by at least a hundred metres to the left. It was also deserted. Galileo pushed past her, saying
“Wait! I have to check it's safe.” Before dropping to a half-crouch and sidling out into the blank, staring, antiseptic tinged corridor. Looking furtively to either side, he sidled along the wall to the right, stopped, and beckoned her to follow. She walked out into the middle of the hallway and strode past him. He gawped in terror as she turned the corner, scuttling after her whilst staying stuck to the wall and hissing -
“Wait - wait! it might be a trap!” She rolled her eyes a little, stopped and waited for him to catch up. He held one finger to his lips, and gestured for her to stay put while he went ahead to check the next corners. The walls followed the contours of the room they had just got out of, then opened into a T junction.
If she had been the type to laugh out loud, she would have been suppressing a laugh right now. Galileo was sliding along the wall, crablike, and - probably unaware - holding an imaginary gun up against his face in both hands. He peered around the corner, skittered out to the middle of the corridor and looked both ways, then frantically beckoned her forwards. She walked with a steady gait that was about the average of his demented scouts-pace.
“Hey, I had an idea!” He stage whispered. Any person, microphone or android in the vicinity would have heard him loud and clear. “If we can find a laundry chute, we can slide down it, hide in a washing hamper and make our escape right under their noses!”
“Fine. You find a laundry chute that doesn't lead straight to a disintegrator. They don't wash clothes any more, remember?”
“It worked in Mission Incredibly Difficult 26.”
She didn't reply to that.
“It seems to me,” The iron haired figure standing behind the control panel theorised out loud, “-that our Dreamer would be lost without his bad-assed babe.” He allowed the ghost of a smile to visit the thin line of his lips. “Or possibly, too easily found.”
No-one in the room responded to his joke. None of them understood it.
He's living in a dream-world. It's all one big computer game to him. The two figures on the screens continued in their funny, stilted way.
“Send out the first obstacle.”
“And Mission Not All that Difficult 13. And they used it in Mission Quite Easy Really num-” There were footsteps. Galileo shut up and plastered himself and the girl against the nearest wall, despite the fact that the nearest corner was at least 20 meters away and there were no shadows anywhere, so they remained fully visible, but visible in a very we don't want to be seen manner. She calculated that the steps, of which there were only one set, were light enough to belong to someone fairly small. So if it should come to a fight, if she could get in before they reached the panic button, she'd be okay - assuming it was human. Android would be even easier. She knew where they kept the on/off switch on the medical models, she'd seen enough of them as she'd been packed off to brain scan after brain scan and unnecessary Personality Defragmentation. It had been so boring she'd turned one of them off once, and been amazed at how easily she got away with it.
With growing apprehension they listened to the steps get closer. Galileo's grip got ever tighter on the wrist he'd used to drag her back with him. They shrank back as an edgeless shadow appeared around the next corner, seconds before a figure. It was human. It was also weedy, thin and absorbed in something on a clipboard.
Slowly, not wishing to alert the unfortunate medic, she stepped forward and started positioning herself where she could get him in a headlock, then she'd be able to use her free hand to-
“Hi-yah!!!” She grimaced. Galileo leapt out in front of the man, pulling poses he'd seen and played in many a computer game. The medic blinked and started reaching slowly for a button on his shoulder. Eyes rolling, she walked round, punched him on the back of the head and tried to throw him into a wall. He complied, and with a small Uh! shut his eyes and flopped. Galileo was on him in a second.
“He's out cold!”
“From that?” She asked in surprise. She knew a little about how much force it took to knock someone out, and unless this man had a pressure point on the side of his skull... she let it be. The evidence of her own eyes said the man was unconscious, so unconscious he must be.
“Did you see that? I beat that guy! Wow! That was so cool! I am so totally awesome!”
“Either that, or a self-obsessed computer game playing nerd.”
“Uh, what are you doing?” She was, unashamedly, stripping the fallen medic of his tunic. His clipboard was already the bottom of a pile with belt and gloves on it, with wellies about to join. She looked critically from his feet to Galileos, and smiled.
“I have an idea.”
And so a medic escorted a patient, with purple hair, along the corridors. Strangely he had the exact dimensions as the boy who technically should have been locked in a cell with her. There were a few wisps of black hair messily sticking out from under the hood of his gown. She had a thin sling around one arm, which didn't actually look like there was anything wrong with it. The sling didn't even really look like a sling. More like a misused bandage, really.
“Why did you have to leave yours in there?” She hissed, trying not to be obvious.
“How was I supposed to know you'd need it?” He spoke out of one side of his mouth.
“Common sense?” She whispered fiercely back.
“Look miss, uh, look - what is your name?”
She couldn't stop and stare him down, because they were being watched by a group of three other medics who'd just come into view, but muttered
He didn't have a chance to grill her any more, as they came to a pass-controlled door. Galileo looked with dismay - there was a card swipe and an iris scanner.
“What now?” He whispered in a panic. He couldn't just stand there forever, the medics were still in the corridor, and they were starting to look suspicious.
“Leave it to me.” She took the card from it's holder, swiped it, then held up the reverse side to the scanner. He gaped a bit, but as the door hissed open she explained
“They keep a reference copy on the backs. Pretty stupid. They don't expect you to see it.”
“How did you see it?”
“I'm not as blind as most people.” They walked on, through the restricted area.
“That girl is far too intelligent for her own good.” The visitor in the dim control centre mused. He pushed his sunglasses further up the bridge of his nose. “Yet, see how she is impressionable to his suggestion.” The security controller exchanged a glance with the security supervisor. The man was talking to himself, not to them. Genius showed itself in strange ways.
“He treats it like a game, and, whether she intends to or not, she plays.”
Unseen, his eyes flitted from monitor to monitor, his mind plotting how he would move his pieces in the game ahead.
At least now we look normal, she mused, not like extras from some stupid action film. They didn't run into anyone and only once or twice even passed cleaning droids. In fact, they hardly came across any obstacles at all. Maybe she just had a suspicious mind, but this troubled the girl. This was what ought to be the most secure part of the hospital, yet they were just walking straight through it. It just didn't seem right. She pursed her lips but said nothing. She didn't exactly believe in luck or anything like that, but she still didn't want to jinx anything. There was another security point coming up and before going through, it she suggested to Galileo that he remove the uniform. He did, but kept hold of the card. They went through, again with no fuss and were in the public part of the building. The walls suddenly had colour and minispeakers spouted pointless muzak. There were directions picked out in lights on the walls that informed them where the psychology department, reproduction lab, bone repair and most importantly, exit were. The corridors were still empty, though.
He grabbed her by the hand and pulled her flat against a wall with him, gesturing with one finger to stay quiet. She let a few seconds pass, watching him listening to the distance.
“Thought I heard something.” He unpeeled himself from to wall and pulled her forwards. They walked on in silence.
“Gaz?” she said a minute or two later.
“You can let go of my hand now.”
“Oh, sorry.” He apologised sheepishly. They walked in silence a few moments more.
“My hand.” He looked down to the hand gripped firmly in his, and dropped it like a hot potato. He picked up his pace, and an embarrassed silence settled.
“He would appear to be developing feelings for her, Commander.”
“Yes.” Dark lenses hid whether or not there was a perturbed expression in his eyes. “He would.” A slightly brittle smile appeared. “That will not interfere with the plan.”
“Gaz,” She asked, “Does this seem a little too easy to you?” He stopped, eyes going vaguely distant. “You know, getting out and all that.”
“Easy, like a sunday morning.”
He blinked, and shook his head sheepishly.
“Nothing. I don't know where that came from.”
“I know. Stone cold crazy, you know.” She stared at him for a second, then shook her head. He had said he was mad.
They walked in a strangely relaxed silence, along labelled corridors that assured them they were heading in the right direction. A map even told them that all they had to do to reach the exit was to continue along that corridor, turn right, take a lift down a floor and exit through to foyer. She counted the seconds to freedom.
The supervisor pressed a button at the command. A prepared audio file kicked into action.
“Let's see how they deal with this announcement, hmm?”
“Doctor Jones, calling Doctor Jones, Doctor Jones required in fracture clinic.”
They both flinched in surprise at hearing the tannoy. The Globalsoft(c) voice was the same one they heard every day at school. Her shoulders slowly melted back down to their normal position, though, as she walked on.
“Gaz, did you-” But he wasn't there. Looking back, she saw that he was still standing where he'd been when the announcement had gone out over the PA system.
“Gaz?” She hurried back to him.
“Yes, that's what it said, now come on.”
“Wake up now...”
“Doctor Jones, Jones... calling Doctor Jones...”
“Gaz, we can't waste time.” She took him by the arm and tried to drag him. He didn't budge. “Gaz?”
He now hadn't blinked for 20 seconds.
“Gazza, if you don't snap out of this now and bloody well shift your arse, I'm going without you.”
The man was silent, but smiling. It was a strange and scary sight. Just as I thought. He watched the girl grow impatient, trying to make his prodigy come round. The slightest suggestion of the ancient texts and he's gone.
“Well, we don't need her to escape. Lock down the area.”
On the edge of her hearing, the girl thought she detected the whirr of small motors. She couldn't see any cameras, but she guessed that they were probably there. Still, she told herself that they were trained on her simply because she was moving. The next door seemed unwilling to open. It sulkily slid apart once she was right up by it and flashed it the ID card she'd taken from Galileo.
“Why wasn't that overridden?”
“We didn't anticipate that she'd be able to get hold of a pass...” The man standing pinched the bridge of his nose and suppressed a sigh. The idiots he had to work with.
“Just get her at the next stage.”
She broke into a run to catch the lift, in which a young woman - she couldn't have been much older than herself - was proudly displaying her newly collected baby, as if it was a handbag. Again the doors were indecisive, taking unnecessarily long to shut so that the lift could descend.
“Damned civilians, why do they always have to be in the wrong place at the wrong time? No-” He put out a hand to stop the supervisor deactivating the lift. “-let them go down. We'll catch her at the bottom. That is set up, I hope?”
“Erm... well, we didn't anticipate that we'd need to have anyone on standby...”
“Idiot.” He breathed. Audibly, he said “Well you'd better hope that they can get there in time, then. I don't want her getting out.”
The foyer seemed oddly empty, for what appeared to be a public hospital. Apart from the security guards in the corners, of course. She reminded herself that the public part of the hospital was a charade, she had after all escaped from what was most definitely a government institution. That would explain why there were four - six, two more were headed that way, she could see them down the corridor immediately to her right - robots guarding the entrance. Don't panic. She told herself. They think you're locked up.
“Well? Why aren't they even turned on?”
“They respond automatically to anyone without ID, so when you said that you needed the boy to 'accidentally' escape, we arranged a little unscheduled downtime. Otherwise they'd stun him on sight.” The supervisor gabbled.
“Technology.” The visitor said drily. “I love technology.”
She remained resolutely even-paced, crossing the floor that would bring her to the outside. Those two armoured androids that had started to move were not after her.
A group of giggling teenagers caused the main doors to swoosh grandly apart, and squeezing past them she stepped out into the summer sunshine. She didn't have time to wonder what they were there for.
The six security guards were joined by four Secret Police officers. En masse they followed the messy sketch of a girl with a sling, armed with orders to restrain her. She wasn't to be allowed to get away if they could possibly help it. They had to let the gaggle of Teen Queens go past at the door, but once out surrounded her, lasers powered up, ready to shoot-
“Security breach on second floor, sir.”
“It looks like Jones has found his way into the admin office.”
They all looked to the monitors, and open-mouthed, watched the boy square his shoulders and start to run.
“He cannot seriously expect that to work.”
“No? You'd better make it work.”
“Geronimo!” Galileo flew spectacularly out of a second storey window, surrounded by a cloud of smashed glass which, until recently, had considered itself unsmashable. Miraculously he landed unscathed on the artificial grass. “Wow! That was so totally cool!”
If the man in the grey suit watching the proceedings was at all unruffled by how they were turning out, he didn't show it. Some dust seemed to be bothering him, in the cleanly sterile room. He sneezed and as he did so, leant forwards on the hand that wasn't covering his mouth, directly on the master switch for the entire security network's power supply. The monitors blacked out. A few artistic sparks flew from the control board, on which not a single LED was lit. Everything, it seemed, shut down.
The guards froze. The Secret Police suffered a moment of confusion, as their guns whirred gently and fell dead at their sides. Looking around, they saw the guards and followed suit.
“How very unfortunate.” The head of Secret Police apologised to his minions. “I seem to have accidentally allowed those two young people to escape.” His hand didn't leave the button.
“That was close.” She whispered. She cleared her throat awkwardly. “Um, thanks, Gaz.”
“Did you see me jump out that window? That was fantastic!” He crowed.
She was still stunned.
“We got out.”
“We got out of a top secret military establishment, without being challenged once.”
“Wow. I guess we must be pretty lucky.”
“Lucky.” She said without conviction. “Yeah, lucky.”
The sky was blue, the sun was bright. Happy Ga Ga people wandered around, going through happy plastic Ga Ga lives. A few fake birds sang prettily in some fake trees. It all seemed serene, but there was no way they could re-integrate themselves to it, even if they'd wanted to. They were outlaws now.
“So,” She asked “Where do we go?”
“Out into the night.” He gambolled eagerly, puppylike. “Down into the streets! Ah, we're rebels now -” He flicked his quiff and turned an endearing grin on her. “-because baby, we were born to run.”