Busy day at work; tired.
Had to forage for dinner.
Dry and itchy from the winter weather.
Wife suggested we just watch something.
In other words, I was given every opportunity to not write something today. As tomorrow is the beginning of Lent, color me unsurprised at the temptation to give up.
Lily narrowed her Han Chinese eyes to slits behind her glasses and pulled her top lip back to emphasis her front teeth.
“Hey! Loo guys! Whel Mithathippi Liver?!”
“I thought,” Orloff said, considering the glass of white lightning in his hands on the table before him, “I was going to die when you yelled that!”
He picked it up and took a sip. After a grimace, he had a thoughtful look and took another drink.
“I was just doing what you told me…” Lily muttered back at him. Not a drinker, she’d done what she was told and got water and a little raspberry wine. Orloff told her to mix it half and half if she wanted to avoid diarrhea for the next few days.
Taking a sip, Lily let her eyes roam about the tavern in what was left of the downtown of Pine Bluff. They’d gotten past the motorcycle scouts with a ‘fine’ of a single silver. A poorly written note from the one with two chevrons who did the talking was, apparently, their pass into the city. What there was of it.
An empty parking lot guarded by three men with rifles was the corral where they left the cart and Clyde. A few coppers for that. The tavern was unusual: you got your own drinks, but there were waitresses to take food orders.
“Liability, in a way.” Orloff had said. “No laws about drinking and no lawyers to bring a case, but I’d bet that if there’s a fight, it’s a matter of witnesses saying, ‘he got drunk on his own.’”
That he ordered unaged whiskey right after that comment made her wonder how serious he was. Lily got her water and wine and Fausta just a cup of water, to be left untouched. He led them to a table not far from the door along the outside wall, but between two windows. Lily was next to the wall, Fausta to her left, with Orloff across.
“Our plan?” Fausta asked in her low, rich voice, carefully scanning the small crowd in the tavern with her array occluded by her large sunglasses.
Lily was a bit surprised. He’d always seemed to know what was coming next.
“What’s your power level, Miss Fausta?” He asked.
“Eighty one percent.” The corners of her mouth twitched slightly. “All things are possible to me!”
Lily suppressed a shudder at her mental image of her friend waging war in what was left of this town…
“They may well be,” Orloff countered, “but without an inn it appears we’ll be finding bedding outdoors again. It’s just… with those motorbikes…”
“Yes?” Lily asked.
“They’ve natural gas and obviously use it to power generators to make electricity to compress it. I… I wanted to have your friend at one hundred percent before our next leg. To the crossing of the Mississippi at Memphis.”
“Kah, kah!” Fausta emitted two odd sounds.
“Friend?” Lily asked, touching her right arm with her left hand.
She saw Fausta was careful to smile without showing her large, shark-like teeth.
“’Friend!’” Fausta echoed. Lily watched as Fausta’s android shuddered.
She’d laughing, Lily realized. Her silly, young, death-bot friend has learned to laugh! She hugged Fausta’s arm.
“Yes! My dear friend!”
Another shudder, instantly suppressed as a human came close. A waitress to take their food order. Not that complicated as there were only four choices on the handwritten menu.
“So whadda want?” Still holding onto Fausta’s arm and smiling at the table, the waitress’s snippy, Yankee tone caught Lily’s ears.
No… there’s no way…
Lily raised her head and looked up and left at the waitress. It’d been days since she’d washed her uniform. She held a notepad before her, not bothering to smile nor bothering to make eye contact. On her forehead…
“Oh my God…” Lily could only whisper.
Both Fausta and Orloff were suddenly fully alert but against no discernible threat.
Picking up on the odd dynamic at the table in front of her, the waitress looked up from her order pad at the three customers. Some old, burned guy, a paramilitary from Mexico, probably, and… and… that oriental girl…!
“Barrett!” The waitress shouted.
Just below that star-mark and an ‘F’ for felon that had been branded into the woman’s forehead after her trial, Lily stared into the eyes of the woman that had shot her three months ago.