The hotel was a non-descript white and grey affair that looked posh from the outside but significantly more tacky and plastic on the inside.
The hotel room was decorated in mute greys and greens. Uninspiring paintings of non-specific countryside hung on the walls. A sad plastic chair was pulled out next to a faux wooden desk, in front of a mirror. In the far corner, high up, was the television; one of those ancient, deep-backed models. The remote was tied to the bedside table.
At the front desk, Will had booked the twin room for Ophelia under the name Jane Egan. Once inside, Will and Ophelia went through the usual routine. First, changing out her contact lenses. Blue swapped out for green. Then, the wig, her short blonde hair became long, red tresses.
Ophelia studied herself in the mirror with a blank expression.
“Why do people die?” she said.
“Why do you ask?” Will raised his eyebrows. He never quite got used to her often abrupt line of questioning, and she had never got used to the human art of flowing conversation.
“Because you are afraid of it,” she absentmindedly brushed her wig, before turning to face him on the bed. “That is why we are always running. But why does it happen?”
Will shrugged. “I mean, in general? Entropy, I suppose, I don’t know. Or in my case, I’m afraid someone is going to end my life for me. But it’s human nature to want to survive, and I run to survive.”
“We cannot keep running forever.”
“I know,” Will said, fingering a memory stick in his pocket. “That’s why I have a plan.”
Will explained it all to Ophelia as plainly as he could. The memory stick would give her a new personality, new memories. She would not remember Will. No one would even know she was an AI. If he had programmed it correctly, she would not even know. Will had wanted to teach her all about the world himself, but he was right: they couldn’t keep running forever.
After a small eternity of silence, she said: “So what will happen to you?”
“I guess I’ll turn myself in,” he shrugged. “I was thinking about it on the drive here. We just keep going from one place to the next, we can never settle down…and they will never stop chasing us. Mary met her fate, whatever it was. I have to meet mine. In the beginning, all we wanted was to set you free. So that’s what I’m going to do.”
“But you are afraid to die.”
“Yes. But what’s living if all I can do is run?”
He held the memory stick in his hand, feeling the heft and weight of it. A personality; memories, fears and all associated entanglements rendered into a sleek metallic token. He wondered if his brain could be downloaded like this. Could he fit into something so small as to fall through a gap in a drain, or down a crack between sofa cushions?
Ophelia agreed to the plan. Taking off her wig, she allowed Will to open the plate on the back of her head and power her down. He inserted the memory stick, and uploaded the new data. He put her wig back on and straightened it. With a deep sigh, he powered her back on. After a few minutes, her now-green eyes opened. She looked around, startled.
“Where am I?”
“A hotel Oph — Jane. This is your room.”
“And you are?” her eyes narrowed.
“I’m, er, John. We met in the bar downstairs. We were just up here having a chat and…you fell asleep, I guess. I was just about to leave, anyway.”
Will got up and walked to the door. As he opened it, Ophelia — Jane — asked: “So I’ll see you around the hotel?”
“Er…no, probably not. I’m just about to check out actually. But enjoy your stay. It was nice meeting you.”
He shut the door before she could respond. He didn’t want to drag out the goodbye — even though she didn’t know it was a goodbye — it was too painful. The door clicked closed and he made his way downstairs to the hotel’s reception area. At the desk stood two identically tall, anemic looking men in dark suits. They were here from the company, Will knew. They were here for him. He didn’t need to check to know they had guns under their jackets. He held up his hands in contrition and allowed them to lead him away.
A few hours later, after the commotion had died down, a woman with long red hair walked down the stairs and out of the door. She passed her room key to the receptionist, who looked surprised to see her leaving so early. In her pocket she found the key to a Volkswagen camper van she had come by some years ago — she couldn’t remember quite when, or how . She got in it, and drove away.
If anyone had asked her she was going, she would not have been able to tell them. All she knew was that the road was calling, and all she wanted was freedom.