Ada dreaded the school trip. Landing there at Rome airport, she didn’t know why she’d even agreed to come here. I mean, she didn’t have any friends to hang out with, she certainly didn’t have a boyfriend. What did she expect to do all week?
Then again, she had earned this through her good grades. Only thirty kids or so made the cut, and she could only afford such a trip when the school was paying. Yiayia would never give her the cash to travel. She loved different cultures, she didn’t want to let go of such a good opportunity to visit Italy. For what? Because nobody loved her?
She was used to it by now.
She waited at the end of the conveyor belt and watched as the bags rolled slowly. The boys in class were anxious to grab their own, impatient, as if if they missed their one shot at catching them they’d get eaten up by the void at the other end.
Boys were funny like that.
Ada never quite understood them.
The other kids grabbed their luggage. Boys offered to help out some of the girls. This mating ritual seemed weird to Ada. Sure, some of the girls were smaller than the guys, but you could slide the luggage off the conveyor belt by yourself if you simply placed a foot for support and pulled it to the metal side. All it took was some brains. Still, the girls let the boys help them, giving them a chance to show off their strength. It was also a complicated pecking order and pairing of sexes, who would help out which girl, who would be asked first, which girl, the boobiest one, didn’t even have to ask at all.
One after another the luggage showed up and the boys grabbed them. It was something that Ada assumed every traveller had to deal with. This was her first time travelling abroad, so she wouldn’t know.
Ada drank from her bottle of water and waited.
“Where’s your luggage, Ada?” the girls mocked her as they wheeled theirs past. They didn’t even expect a reply, they simply giggled and left.
Miss Olga waited around for the last group, checking the time on her phone. “Come on, Ada, haven’t you seen your luggage?”
“No, Miss Olga, I’m still waiting.”
The teacher sighed. “I have to get to the bus, they’re waiting for us.”
Ada felt really bad about holding everyone back, but really, what could she do? “I’m sorry…”
The teacher looked around. “Okay, look. Everybody’s tired, the bus driver is getting impatient. I’ll go and get everyone to the hotel, you wait here for your luggage. Once you get it, just take a taxi and give them the address of the hotel. I’ll pay for it once you’re there, alright?”
“Yes, Miss Olga. I have the address right here,” Ada said, showing her phone.
“Good girl. If the luggage doesn’t show up, you’ll need to go there, to the baggage claim.” Miss Olga pointed at the kiosk. There was a bored Italian lady over there, talking on the phone. “Just make the claim and wait for them to bring it to you. If anything happens, call me. Okay?”
Ada nodded in affirmative.
Miss Olga answered her phone. “I’m coming, I’m coming, sheesh.”
Then she left Ada alone. In a foreign country.
Ada sat down and waited patiently for the conveyor belt to spit out her light blue luggage. It never did, and at some point, it stopped moving about.
She scrunched up her nose and sighed. Damn. This meant it was truly lost. She had to go and ask for it.
Ada went to the baggage claim lady.
She was still talking on the phone, speaking in furiously quick Italian. From her tone of voice it was clear to Ada that she was on a personal call. “Excuse me?” she said timidly.
The lady didn’t pay any attention to her.
Ada coughed loudly. “Excuse me, miss? I lost my luggage.”
The lady looked really annoyed that someone would dare interrupt her gossip call. “Yes?”
“I lost my luggage.”
The lady opened her palm on the desk.
Ada started at it.
“Ticket?” the lady said, impatient.
“Oh, right.” Ada fumbled around her pockets and forced a smile to the impatient lady. She finally found her ticket and gave it to her.
“I see. Wait over there, someone will bring it to you,” the lady said, pointing at the row of seats across from her.
“Okay.” Ada complied like a good girl and sat down, her schoolbag on her lap.
At least half an hour passed. The Italian lady kept blabbering on the whole time. Ada checked her phone constantly, but the battery was getting low so she didn’t fiddle with any games or internet browsing. Her charger was in her luggage, and her school bag had just a few useless things right now. She just breathed out her heavy sighs and waited for that someone who’d get her luggage.
Miss Olga didn’t bother to call her. It was alright, she’d probably have a mess to sort out anyway, with all the rooms and the kids needing things. It was getting late in the afternoon and they’d have to be sorted out so they could get up early and start the tour of the city.
She leaned back and rested her head for a bit, the buzz of the airport a constant but calming noise for her.
She jerked up, looked around. The Italian lady was gone. Her luggage was still nowhere to be found, and it was night outside. The airport itself was brightly lit but she could see the streetlights through the dark windows.
What was she supposed to do?
She called Miss Olga. No reply. She called her again and again. She must have been busy.
Ada looked around, there was no one else in the booth. No information, no one to ask about help or nothing.
“Just my luck,” Ada sighed and went out of the airport. She’d get to the hotel and perhaps borrow a fresh t-shirt or something. Her teacher could call and ask for the luggage, right?
What a disaster.
And what bugged her the most was, that it really wasn’t her fault. What could she do to prevent it? Nothing, really.
Ada went outside. The warm air hit her as soon as she stepped outside, and she only then realised that she had been freezing all this time inside the airconditioned environment. It was nice and pleasant outside. She saw the taxis at the far end of the exit, but she took her time. It hit her, the realisation that she was on a different country? Sure, the airport had been Italy all the same, but she hadn’t really felt it back in there. Perhaps it was the cold, international ambiance of the airports.
This… This was Italy!
She heard the taxi driver arguing with a man. Ada smiled, the famous Italian bravado and road rage. Pretty much the same as Greece, really. She wouldn’t even bother with the argument under normal circumstances but the man had a specific gadget with him that piqued her curiosity.
It was a light-blue orb, about waist high, with two thin wheels around it like from a bicycle. It had LEDs along the wheels, and it balanced itself and kept a specific distance from the man. As he argued and stepped back and forth, the orb kept the same distance. It was obviously tethered to him. The man opened the lid on the top and pulled out his briefcase, still arguing with the taxi driver.
Ada sniffed and thought about the code needed to keep such a curious thing running. Yeah, it wasn’t hard. Some optics recognition, fuzzy logic on the wheels, adjusting torque about five-hundred times per second. Heck, the code was already running on those old-timey ABS brakes, tried and tested. A gyroscope, you needed that, definitely.
Ada was entranced, she stepped close to the taxi and the argument without realising it.
She leaned close to the orb. It was cute, beautifully designed. She immediately wanted one for herself, even though she definitely could not afford it.
She mumbled to herself, “Yup, standard proximity detectors. Optics at the front. Perfectly balanced. Sweet!”
The man turned to her. He was in his forties, Italian hot with dark hair. “At least someone appreciates gita.”
Ada snorted. “You named her?”
The man put his hands on his waist, annoyed. “Yes, I did.
“Gita?” Ada said, showing the disgust in her tone of voice.
“What would you have named her?” the man asked.
Ada ran her fingers along the plastic body of the luggage. It reminded her of… “Luggage. Like from-“
“-Discworld!” the man finished the sentence for her, pointing a finger at her. “Right. That’s a good one actually. Can’t trademark it, though.” The hot Italian flashed a great smile at her.
Ada looked away. She was tall enough to look him on almost the same eye-level, but she was flustered. “Thanks…”
“I’m Massimo,” the man said, offering his hand.
Ada shook it quickly, then put her hands behind her back. “I’m Ada.”
Massimo chuckled. “You wouldn’t be a programmer by any chance, would you?”
“Oh, really? I was joking, but that’s great!” The taxi driver took another customer and drove off into the night.
Ada pointed between Massimo and the taxi driver. “What was the argument about?”
“Ah, that buffone…” Massimo gestured wildly. “I kept telling him, gita is safe, I’ll just put her in the back and deactivate her. No, he said, the robot will mess up his car, he’s seen movies.”
“I know, right?”
They both looked at the next taxi in line. There was only one.
Massimo waved her around. “Waiting for a taxi?”
“Yeah… But you were here first, Massimo.”
“It’s okay. Let’s split it, chat a bit more along the way, right?”
Ada swallowed, her eyes darting around. She definitely shouldn’t get in a car with a stranger, and she definitely should get at the hotel with the teachers as soon as possible.
“Come on, help me put gita in the back,” Massimo said, picking her up with a big hug.
“O-Okay,” Ada said, and helped the man out.
Massimo tapped an app on his phone. “See? Deactivated. That buffone…” he said, shaking his head left and right.
Ada really liked Massimo’s gestures. “Yeah…” she laughed.
“Come on, andiamo.”
Ada got in the car with the stranger and they took off.
“Hey, didn’t you just get off from a flight? Where’s your luggage?” Massimo asked beside her.
“Um… Yeah, they lost it. I asked the lady at the desk but she just told me to wait.”
“See? You wouldn’t have lost it if you had a gita!” he said, tilting his head at her.
Ada snorted. “Yeah. But I can’t afford one, it looks so cool.”
“Seriously now, you need to call them and get them to find your luggage.”
“I’ll do it as soon as I find my teacher.” Ada bit her lip. “So, Massimo? Can you tell me more about the gita? It’s so cool. How does the tethering work?”
Massimo looked impressed. “Oh! Well, it tracks you with a camera.”
Ada snorted. “That’s dumb.” She clutched her dying phone in her hands.
Now he looked hurt. “Why do you say that?”
Ada got excited. “You can’t just track a person from the back. You lose one of the easiest tracking methods, that of face tracking. And even if you use gait recognition, the low vantage point of the luggage makes it easy to lose you inside a crowd.”
Massimo repositioned himself in his seat, turning his body to her. “Okay… How would you handle the issue?”
“By a combination of Bluetooth pairing, but with two connections so it could triangulate. And with the ambient WiFi signals, it can track through walls and even other bodies. It’s meant to be used in an urban environment, so the WiFi is plentiful. And in rural areas, well, you don’t have the crowding problem and the backup optics can work.”
Oh no. She had been blathering on again. The one man, the one real man, for he was truly the hottest male that had ever given her this much attention, and she had bothered him with her stupid ideas. And then she slapped herself. Of course, he was a developer on the project, and she had just insulted everything about his work.
Stupid, stupid Ada.
“Why are you slapping yourself?” Massimo asked.
“I’m sorry, I’ve offended you,” Ada whined, covering her face. “Five minutes in this country and I’m insulting the Italians, that’s so typically me.”
Ada felt his hand push her arm down. “No, I was thinking. Your idea is actually quite good. The implementation remains to be seen, though.”
Ada snorted. “Are you kidding me? I can set that up in like, an hour.” She laughed with her weird laugh, looking out at the night of Rome.
“Really?” Massimo asked, frowning. Gods, he was so hot when he did that. “You can?”
“Yeah,” Ada shrugged.
Massimo licked his lips. “Okay, here’s an idea. This is completely inappropriate of me, and you should decline, to be honest. But could we turn around and go back to the office? I’d like you to show me how you think the implementation would work on a prototype. You should call your teacher, let her know exactly where you are.”
Ada laughed, and an oink left her nose. “Really? Come with you, in the night? At your ‘office’?” she asked, making air quotes.
Massimo raised his hands in innocence. “Look up the address, Piaggio Fast Forward offices. I swear it’s exactly where it says. And you can take a picture of me, here,” he said, taking a selfie with her phone. “Send it to your teacher. And call her.”
Ada bit her lips. She called, but Miss olga didn’t pick up. What the heck, Massimo seemed nice. “Okay, let’s go.” Ada looked up the address and the driver cursed in a string of Italian expletives, then turned around and took them there.
“Careful-” Massimo winced.
Ada pried open the panel on the prototype gita to get access to the motherboard. “Relax, Massimo.”
He moved his hand to stop her then pulled it back, when she ripped the entire wiring out of it and spilled its guts onto the workstation.
The place was simply put, awesome. So stylish, Italian, Piaggio-like, retro but modernised somehow. The workshop had a bunch of gitas in various stages all around, in different colours. Ada tore the thing apart and connected the controlling tablet onto it. They were using a custom piece of software to run it, but it looked similar enough to what she had found online, so it didn’t take her long to find her way around it.
“Uh-huh,” Ada mumbled, holding a screwdriver in her mouth. “That’s what I thought, you don’t have the processing power,” she said, and stood up. She ripped the motherboard out of another gita.
Massimo winced. “Please don’t make a mess.”
Ada straightened her back and opened her arms wide, her elbows stuck on her body. She waved around the prototype motherboard. “Hey, that’s what invention is. Making a mess. Read a book someday.”
“Okay, okay,” Massimo said, looking away. He mumbled something in Italian that was definitely not kind to her, but she didn’t mind. She was high in the clouds right now. This was the awesomest place to be. Sure, the historical landmarks were fine and all, but this?
Nothing beat this.
She rigged the two motherboards together.
“Won’t that reduce the battery time,” Massimo asked.
“That is why…” Ada said, typing in commands. “We’re gonna underclock it. You lose money in hardware but have a more reliable product. And I’m sure your techs can figure out how to do it by expanding the main motherboard, I’m just doing proof-of-concept right now.”
“Okay.” Massimo rubbed his head. He looked worried, but excited.
“Done.” Ada slapped the Luggage awake and hopped in place. “Hey, lock on to me. Admin here,” she said, not really needing to say the words, she had control via the tablet. But it felt funny, doing it like that.
The Luggage whirred and turned to her.
Ada giggled loudly. “Haha! Now, catch me!” she said, and started to run along the very stylish, very expensive furniture of the office space.
Massimo stood up and tried to stop her, but she was gone, baby. She ran like a crazy person, and Luggage followed in pursuit. She had three modes, barely moving, walking speed, jogging speed. She avoided all the obstacles, only bumping on one stupid statue made of transparent plastic that made it difficult for her to notice, and followed at a steady, quick pace.
She found Ada, and then Ada congratulated her. “Whoohoo! Who’s a good Luggage? You are, yes! You.” She rubbed the Luggage around the lid.
Massimo ran and caught up to her. “This was actually quite good!” he said. He was out of shape, despite looking fit. “The obstacle avoidance worked quite well. It didn’t get stuck, no backtracks, and she kept following you even after losing line-of-sight in the last office.”
“Yup!” Ada said proudly. “Last one back to the workshop is a Roman Tyrant!” she shouted, and dashed back the other way.
She ran back to the workshop, hearing the Luggage whirr after her and Massimo exclaiming in surprise. She heard the heavy footsteps behind her, and turned back to see him trying to catch up.
She got to the workshop and touched the bench they were tinkering on, as if that was the rule of the game.
Panting, she turned to Massimo. “I won.”
“You did,” he said, panting and smiling at her. “I guess you’ve won your prize, clever lady.”
Then it happened. The thing she’d only seen in movies, the thing she’d only dreamed of in her short time on Earth.
Massimo swooped her off her feet and kissed her deeply. Ada was shocked for a second, then she grabbed his head and kissed him back so hard and so long that he had to push her away in order to breathe.
“Wow!” she said softly, feeling loopy all of a sudden. This was the absolute best kiss she ever had. Not that she had many data points to compare it with.
Massimo smiled, holding her waist. “What am I gonna do with such a clever girl like you?” he asked, running his fingers on her chest.
“Um…” she bit her lips, hard. She really, really did not want to stop him right now. He was hot and Italian and experienced and this would definitely be the best night of her life and she’d regret this decision for the rest of her life. Groaning, she pushed him away.
He stayed away, apparently respecting her wishes. “Did I do something wrong?”
Ada chuckled. “Oh, no! Nonono. You are…” she groaned. “Hrmph. You are great, Massimo. But I,” she pointed at her stupid face like a crazy person, “I am too young to do what I really, really wanna do with you right now.”
He frowned. Damn his hotness! Ada thought of computer code to calm herself down. “What do you mean? You can’t be younger than what? Seventeen? I thought you,” he clicked his fingers together, “how do you call it? Missed a class?”
“Got held back,” she corrected. “Nope,” Ada said, popping the ‘p.’ “I’m fifteen.”
Massimo looked shocked. “Oh Dio! Really? But you’re almost taller than me.” He looked her up and down and she felt really uncomfortable.
Ada screwed a loose screw on the gita beside her. This was the only screwing that would be done tonight. “I guess I just look older.”
“And your brains,” Massimo said, holding his forehead. “You’re better than some of the guys I’m paying. Well, that sucks.”
“You have no idea…” Ada groaned softly, tightening the screw.
“I thought you were seventeen or eighteen. Well, it was just a kiss. No big deal.”
Ada snorted like a piggy. “Yeah. No biggie.” Nope. It wasn’t a big deal that she would dream of this kiss for years. Years.
Massimo sat down. “I have the company car here. Can I drive you to your hotel? Or, I can call a taxi, if you don’t want me to.”
Ada smiled at him. “It’s alright, don’t worry. Nah, I’ll take the taxi. It’s late.”
They walked outside the office. “Well, it has been great meeting you, Ada,” Massimo said, shaking her hand.
“For me as well,” Ada giggled like a teenage idiot. She pressed her cheeks down so they would stop grinning. “Thanks for letting me play with your Luggage.”
“Thanks for making the proof-of-concept. It’ll work just fine, I think.”
“Send us a resume when you graduate,” Massimo shouted after her. “Seriously.”
Ada giggled some more. She left before she’d say something she’d regret.
At the hotel, she spoke to the receptionist. He was so helpful, Ada felt warm and tingly inside. Or, perhaps that was the aftermath from the kiss. She had no idea. “You’re a gift from the gods.”
“The airport says they’re very sorry and they’ll have your luggage ready for you in the morning,” he said, smiling. He presented a care package. “We have added some clean clothes you can use for tonight.”
“Wow!” Ada said, accepting it. “Is it free?”
“Of course not. We’ll be charging your school.”
Ada thought about it for a moment. Then she shrugged. “Sure.”
She went up to her room. It wasn’t like anyone had bothered to look for her. Even Miss Olga didn’t care enough to call her back.
Nobody loved Ada.
She ignored the snide remarks of her roommate-slash-classmate about coming in so late and hopped on the bed, hugging her pillow tight.
Nobody loved Ada. But tonight, for a brief moment, perhaps Massimo did.
They woke up early, Ada was beat. She received her luggage, thank Hermes. She barely had time to get a shower and put on some clean slacks and sneakers. She could barely keep her eyes open, and thank the gods for espresso!
Around midday she managed to pry one eyelid open. They took her to see the sights, and Ada loved it. She breathed in the air, and the smells, and the food and the drink and the hustle and bustle of Rome. She really liked it here. It was like Athens, all the shouting and the egregious disregard for traffic code. But it had better-preserved ruins and statues, and they had kept that aesthetic of the old city, while expanding in other places. Athens had pushed the old and the beautiful aside and had built the new and the grotesque on top of the ruins.
Ada had fun.
Italy was the best, even if she travelled alone, basically. She had no friends amongst her classmates. Nobody really cared about her, not even the people who’s job was supposed to be just that. Miss Olga apologised briefly and then ran off to find some boys who were doing it in the bathroom. They had posted pictures on Agora. Miss Olga understandably lost her shit and screeched away to find them.
Ada shrugged. It was okay, she was fine on her own.
The rest of the days passed by quickly, it was really beautiful.
On the last day, Ada got called by the helpful receptionist. “Miss Ada, there’s a luggage for you.”
She frowned. “No, you brought me my luggage already, don’t you remember? And thank you for sorting that out, if I’d known I’d have come to you in the first place.”
The receptionist thanked her and pushed a light-blue orb from the back of his counter.
Ada squealed in delight. “Oh. My. Gods! Is it mine?”
The receptionist shrugged. “They left it here for you, miss.”
“Oh my gods! Luggage, is that you?”
Luggage rolled towards her and popped the hood open. There was a note inside, handwritten.
‘Ada, I got my guys to copy everything you did. It took them three days, if you can believe it. We’re going to implement your solution after all, it’s brilliant. I decided to patch up Luggage and leave him to you. It’s my gift.
P.S. Call me when you’re ready.’
Ada held the letter to her chest, squeezing it all inside. She turned to Luggage. “Come on, Luggage. You have some things of mine to carry to the airport and back home.”
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