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In the end, it was nearly three weeks before Lucy was able to take her journey and it was a challenging time for Moira keeping her occupied. She hit the jackpot one day when Lucy was being particularly restless. “Why don’t you just do some of your Maths? It’s what you’re supposed to be good at!” This worked a treat. Lucy decided she would write about hyper-real numbers. A recent interest of hers, she felt it was something mathematicians should take seriously and she remembered enough about their construction and properties to be able to write without additional materials. While she recognised that she might never get to publish the paper, it felt like a productive thing to do. From that point onwards she spent large parts of each day sitting at the kitchen table scribbling on sheets of paper. Moira would have to pull the paper away from her at meal times to get her attention.

A few days before departure Tom arrived with paperwork. “This is a permit to relocate. The name I’ve given you is Olivia Weaver. It means you can call yourself Olly and claim to be a distant relation of Martin Weaver’s. This is a ticket for the public road train to Taunton with a bicycle permit that has been stamped with the date of travel as if you had taken that train.”

“So why can’t she just take the train anyway?”

“Because, Moira, nearly every Acquis guard is looking for Lucy and carrying a picture of her. Even with her disguise she stands out as a young woman travelling alone and leaving New London. With her glasses removed an alert Acquis officer might begin to see the resemblance and take her in for questioning or even shoot her on the spot. The chances are too high to risk taking the public train.”

“It seems a waste of money buying a ticket that won’t be used. Why does she need it anyway?”

“It’s a forgery. All this paperwork is forged. I’ve even got her identity papers as Olivia Weaver with one of the photographs we took.”

Moira looked carefully at the papers. “They’re good, very good. How did you get them?”

“You know better than to ask. However, I can tell you it’s someone at the university who has matched the paper, the ink and the watermarks. They are indistinguishable from the real thing. Anyway, their purpose is for use when Lucy gets to Minehead where, hopefully, they won’t be looking for Lucy Walker. The ticket is icing on the cake. If you are asked how you got to Minehead you can say that you took the train. ‘Wait a moment’, you can say, ‘I still have the ticket here.’”

 

The day of departure came. Tom arrived with a large box and asked Lucy where her bicycle was being kept. Lucy took him into Moira’s small back garden where she had a shed. “Bring it out and set it over there, upside down so we can get at the wheels more easily.” When she had done that he opened the box and brought out two large glass containers full of liquid and an empty one. He also brought out what looked like a pump mechanism. “I’m going to mix these two liquids together. While I do that could you let down both the tyres, removing the valves?”

“Why? What are you going to do to my bike?”

“I’m going to replace the air in the inner tubes with a gel that the Chemistry Department have developed. It will have the same level of give and bounce as the pumped-up inner tubes gave you but it won’t puncture. Even with a hole in the inner tube the tyre will continue to behave as before. This means you can take your bicycle on a long and hazardous journey without having to worry about the possibility of getting a puncture.”

“Wow! That is such a great idea. Why haven’t I heard of it before?”

“They have only just developed it. Testing has been successful and now they are hoping to make the university and themselves some money selling it.”

“Did you have to pay them for this?”

“No, the chemist who gave me this …”

“… is a member of the Resistance!”

Tom mixed half the liquids in the empty jar and used the pump mechanism to fill the inner tube. When he was satisfied it was completely full he used a small metal screw cap he had been given to close the inner tube. “Now we wait.” After about twenty minutes the gel mixture left in the jar had gone hard, having set to a consistency not unlike hard rubber. Lucy squeezed the tyre, “It feels just like it did when fully pumped up!”

Tom looked relieved. “I am so pleased it worked! Let’s do the other one.”

With Lucy’s bicycle ready for the journey, Tom sat with her and Moira and explained her journey in detail and gave her a sheet of paper with all relevant instructions written out. She would cycle out to Worthing using a very specific route that should, and he emphasised the word should, get her out of New London without encountering any Acquis checks. There she would pick up a freight road train. The drivers had been briefed and would be waiting for her at a specific spot, but would not wait too long. After that she would get off at Taunton and the road train would go on. She would then have to cycle to Minehead. It should take her between two and three hours to make that final leg of the journey. Tom gave her two maps. One for the route to Worthing and the other for Taunton to Minehead. The address of Tom’s colleague’s brother was clearly marked on the map together with his name, which was Martin Weaver. He would only know her as “Olly”.

Lucy would begin her journey at midnight. Tom estimated it should take her about an hour to get to the Worthing junction, but the road train would be waiting from one-thirty to two a.m. so she had some lee-way. They ate a late meal together, subdued and apprehensive. When they had finished eating Lucy packed her uncle’s old rucksack, which she had held on to and which she found comfortable to wear while riding her bicycle. She was dressed in dark clothes, wearing trousers and boots as well as a leather jacket that Moira had given her. As midnight approached Moira hugged her hard and stepped back holding her by the shoulders, “You know, we will meet again Lucy, darling. You can be damned sure of that!” and she let go of her to wipe a tear. Tom hugged her as well and kissed her on both cheeks, “Follow the instructions but be ready to improvise if anything goes wrong. Here, take this,” and he handed her the gun that had been used to shoot Golden Eagle together with a small box of bullets. Lucy pushed it away but Tom insisted, “Lucy, you don’t know what is going to happen on your journey and this may make the difference between life and death.”

“But I don’t know how to use it.”

“Yes you do,” said Moira, “point it and pull the trigger, that’s it. There’s nothing cleverer than that about a gun. That’s why we had hardly any of them in the Broken South before the Acquis arrived. You take it: if it’s you or them I’d rather it was them.”

Lucy packed the gun reluctantly into a pocket in her rucksack, “It’s time I went. Thank you, both of you, for being so kind. I don’t know how to repay you.”

“Live, be part of the Resistance up in Minehead, tell them about your code thing,” said Moira.

“How can I keep in touch with you? Could I take a scribbler?”

“They only work over a few kilometres. Basically, it’s best that you don’t try. As Moira said, I’m sure we will meet again some time in the future.”

With that Lucy walked out into Moira’s back garden, took her bicycle and wheeled it through the gate at the end of the garden. She turned and waved, they stood in the door indistinct with the light behind them and raised their hands. Mounting the bike she started on the first leg of her journey.

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About the author

jorj-K

  • Soth Coast UK

Bio: Retired mathematician

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