Lilliana Fargo sat in a booth at Denny’s, cup of coffee in one hand with maps and brochures spread across the table. With no plans to look for work, and a hefty savings from years of IT contracting, the six foot tall liger was finally going to take the road trip she had always wanted. Now the question on her mind was where to start and what to see.
The rough shot of her plan was to camp her way from coast to coast. She had picked up a small tent and camp stove, along with a portable generator. She didn’t want to go too long without her gaming fix. She had managed to sell off everything that would not fit in the trunk of the ‘73 custom restored Camaro, leaving her free to just enjoy herself until the summer was over.
“Would you like a refill on your coffee miss?” The young waitress asked with coffee pot in hand.
“I just got the cream-to-coffee ratio perfect, if you touch it before it’s empty I might have to kill you.” Lilly said without looking up from the Grand Canyon brochure she was reading. The waitress just shook her head and moved on.
Starting the trip from Washington D.C. after the debriefing for her last contract, she planned to get to Vancouver, British Columbia within the month. She had managed to score some tickets on a Hawaiian cruise, and with a month before the start, she had time to see all the things she had missed when moving around the country for contracts.
Just as she picked up a highlighter to start marking out her route, the waiter came with her All-American Slam breakfast with extra bacon and sausage. Looking at the table, the waiter paused and asked, “Where do you want these miss?”.
Still not looking up from her task, “Just set them on that stack of maps over there.” When her highlighter hit Washington D.C. she stopped and looked up at the waiter, a young Cocker Spaniel boy, “What is really worth seeing in D.C?”
“What do you mean?” He asked with a confused look on his face.
“How old are you, nineteen? If you had the day off what would you go and do in or around D.C.? It’s not a hard question. Not that tourist junk, the real fun stuff.”
“I am twenty-two, and I really have no idea. I would just stay home and sleep in; I just worked a double last night.” Setting the plate down on the stack she pointed out, “Is there anything else you need?”
“A waiter that does not have a stick lodged up their ass would be nice.” She retorted with a smirk. The waiter turned and walked away without another word. Looking over at her plate, she was suddenly glad it had already made it to the table. She sat down the brochure and pulled her food closer. With both salt and pepper shakers in paw, she coated the eggs and grits. Then breaking up the extra bacon and sausage, she mixed the bits into the grits, wishing she had asked for some cheese. She shoveled the eggs and grits into a slice of toast to cram as much as she could onto the fork before lifting them both to her mouth. With a muzzle full of bacon, sausage, eggs, grits and toast, she leaned back and savored the flavor combination as is washed over her tongue, then washed it down with half a glass of orange juice. As the glass hit the table, “I wish they served OJ in bigger cups, this one is a pointless teaser.” And went back to her meal.
After she finished the simple meal and downed six or seven more cups of coffee, she gathered her maps and paper to leave. Feeling sorry for the poor kid, having to work a double then deal with her comments, she left him a ten dollar tip, and slipped out quickly, she only had one hour to get to the debriefing and it could take that long just to get into the building.
Lilly ran full tilt, Doc Martins echoing through the halls. Snapping the lid closed on her silver pocket watch, she knew she would not have time to change her shoes. She dropped the watch back into the breast pocket of her vest, grabbed the arm of a nearby soldier to anchor herself as she slid around the corner to the conference room. Huffing for air as she looked at the three officers sitting behind the table, she dropped her arm load of documents, and flopped into the closet chair.
Without waiting for them to start, “Non-disclosure, Classified, Don’t tell, Blah Blah Blah. Does that cover it?”
“Miss Fargo, I undershtant you do not vich to renew any DoD kontrakds. Is zat korrekd?” Asked a badger with three stars on his collar.
“Look Sir, I am just tired of doing this shit every year. If you can put in a ‘No Debriefing’ clause in the next contract I might think about it.” She said as she sat up in the chair, “Now here is the deal, I have been doing this for ten years, both in and out of uniform. I know what I can and can’t talk about.” Pointing at the stack of papers, “There are the docs for the code that your guys get to keep, not that any of them will understand a damn thing. Do we really need to go over it all again, General Helfgrad?”
The general continued. “Miss Fargo, you are an asse zat I do nod vant to lose. Vat vould it take to keep you viz us?” Folding his hands in front of him, elbows on the table, he leaned forward, “I can ovver you a hevty sum vith expense akkounts, if you are villink to take the kontrakd for the On-Site System shpecialisht here at the Army Annex.”
“You can take your expense accounts and shove them…” She stopped herself knowing that they could still make her life a living hell for the next few years. “Sir, I am not interested in contracting at this time. I am planning on a change of careers and entering the teaching profession. I wish to make a difference in young people’s lives.”
Snickers were stifled by the two officers flanking the general. Maintaining his composure Helfgrad said, “If zat is the kase, I have an openink at the Schoolhouse of Invormation Technology, in Ft. Gordon, GA. You vould be a great assed, and sent many soldiers on zee right path to becomink world class Invormation Syshtem Varriors.”
Holding in a laugh of her own at the acronym that the schoolhouse name would form, “First, you could not pay me enough to work at that specific schoolhouse. Second, what part of ‘Not Interested in Contracting” is so hard for you to understand? And before you ask, no I do not want a DoD civilian position. GS jobs are not going to work for me right now. Call me in about fifty years when I am closer to your age.” she stood up to leave and added, “So if you have nothing else to discuss, you are making me late for life.”
Standing and extending his paw, General Helfgrad finished the briefing with, “You seem set in your plans, and anyone voo has vorket vith you as long as I have chould know not to challenge it. I vish you the best of luck vith your new kareer.” With a firm grasp on her hand, “And if you need a letter of rekommendation, please do kall.”
With a smile on her face she turned to leave the room. As the door closed behind her she heard them talking, “I can’t believe you did that all with a straight face, Sir.”
“Vell, I am surprised che vas as kollectet as she vas. After vorkink vith her for seven years, I vas expectink a bit more kolor in the konfersation.” Smiling to herself she checked to be sure the general's number was saved in her phone, his recommendation just might come in handy later.
After the debriefing, Lilly went back to the hotel she had been staying at, extending her stay one night. She was not going to miss her chance to see D.C. again. She made her way to her room to change out of the uptight business outfit from the meeting and into something that felt more like her. Not wanting to struggle for parking, she opted to use the public transportation, with that in mind she had to dress to conceal the S&W 500, a rather large 18 inch long .500 Cal hand cannon, a behemoth that was dubbed the Bone Collector, which limited her selection to anything that would go well with a hip length jacket to cover the shoulder holster. She settled for the classic biker chick look with tight leather pants, old Metallica concert T and her leather street armor jacket to cover the oversized handgun. Fastening the chain from her wallet and pocket watch to her thick studded leather belt, she slipped her rooted Droid 4 into its holder and made her way to the bus stop to head out to the Mall in downtown D.C.
She had spent a somewhat uneventful day visiting the monuments and hours walking through just one of the Smithsonian buildings, getting a picture of the Archie Bunker chair from the show All in the Family. Having felt the day thus far a bit on the tame side, she pulled out her phone and extended the keyboard. Opening the browser to Google, she searched for Goth hangouts in the D.C. area, and plotted a course to the first one on the list.
After two hours and several bus changes, Lilly found herself in what looked to be not the best neighborhood. She pulled the zipper of her jacket down just far enough that the grip of her pistol was easily accessible. Glancing at the map, she had only a block to go before she would be at her destination. Walking with her head on a swivel, tracking every movement that caught her eye, she moved with a purpose through the dimly lit streets. She relaxed a bit as she saw the line for the club come into view. The sound coming out of the club was not what she was expecting, in the place of thrash or grind metal, the rhythmic beat of techno filled the air. PShe pulled out her watch and sighed having realized it was too late to head to a different place on the busses, and she hated cabs. She resolved to still make a night of it and at least get a drink and see if this techno shit is as easy to dance to in real life as it is on DDR.
Waiting in the line with the constant beat pounding through the wall was almost more than she could stand. With two calicos in front of her the door man waved her through, “ I got room for one.” With no further prompting needed she pushed past the small cats and through the door. On the other side, she quickly scanned the room with the fast beat and moving ocean of bodies, she found the bar to be at the far end from where she was. The first thought that came to mind, was the poor location of the bar and the D.J. booth. When she tried to move to the bar, Lilly was stopped by a short weasel, “ID, miss”
She looked down at him, thinking he could not be over nineteen years old. “Really? You going to ask me for my I.D. then call me Miss? You better be glad this is not a school night or I might have to call your parents.”
Looking up at her, “If you want to drink you have to get the stamp. If you want the stamp you have to show me your I.D. Those are the rules; I don’t make them I just follow.” Fishing her wallet out of her pocket she flashed her out of state Driver’s license at him. He looked it over for a moment, and then asked, “Where is the date of birth on this?” Having not looked at it herself in a few years, she pulled it back and took a gander. Having found it she placed her thumb by the 1986 and showed him again. “Thank you.” He said placing the rubber stamp on the back of her hand.
She made her way through the gyrating crowd to the bar, and quickly ordered a Long Island ice tea, more long island than ice tea, then sat back on a stool to watch the hormone driven teens jump, bump, and gyrate to the music. Multi colored lights flashed in time with the beat, giving the entire place an almost nauseating strobe effect. Just as she finished off her watered down drink, obviously more tea than island, and her attention was drawn to four coyotes pulling a small kangaroo mouse out the back door, she couldn’t have been more than eight or ten years old. “I am going to kick myself in the morning for this.” She stood and followed the questionable group into the alley.
Once there, the scene was just what she expected. The four boys had the mouse girl pinned to the wall, starting to remove her clothes. She was almost non responsive to their actions. Without hesitation Lilly shouted to get their attention. One turned and said, “If you know what's good for you , you’ll head back in and dance, Bitch.” And turned back to their unsavory activities.
The liger pulled out her bone collector, and cocked the hammer back hard to echo the sound off the walls, she cradled it in both hands and took aim, “I have one question for you kids.” The same coyote that responded before pulled a small .22 out of the waistline of his pants and whirled around at her, “Look Bitch, I will capp…” His threat trailed off as he saw the barrel as wide as a hunting rifle pointed at him.
“So, which one of you wants to be the first for an impromptu gender reassignment?” She said, lining the sights up in her eye. The one looking at her turned and ran, prompting the others to take notice and quickly follow suit. She breathed a sigh of relief. “That was the stupidest thing I have ever done.” She paused for a moment to look around, “Note to self, don’t do that again.”
Gun still in paw; she walked over to the small girl. She was so far beyond doped or drunk to have done anything to help herself. She checked the girl for any wounds or signs that the act had been accomplished. Finding no reason to call the cops or ambulance, she lifted the completely incoherent child onto her shoulder and slid the gun back into its holster she said, “What a way to start a vacation.” she walked to the street and hailed a passing cab. Sitting the girl on one side she got in the other and directed the driver back to her hotel.
The girl had thrown up twice on the ride back to the hotel; Lilly gave the cabby a $20 tip for the inconvenience before carrying the kangaroo mouse up to her room. Taking her into the bathroom, Lilly starts a warm bath and strips the girl out of her soiled clothes. As she dipped the mouse girl into the water Lilly realized how potent whatever drug those coyotes used must have been, the poor thing did not react to the change in temperature at all.
Wrapping a bar of the hotel soap in a rag, Lilly dipped it in the water and kneaded it until suds covered the entire surface. She gently washed over the kangaroo mouse’s fur, her thin, wafer like frame was undernourished. Her ribs were just below the surface of her skin; her fur was coarse and unkempt. Just the sight of the girl in this condition brought tears to Lilliana’s eyes.
Slowly the mouse opened her eyes, wincing at the light. “Welcome back to the world of the living.” Lilly said with a toothy smile on her face. Frightened and confused, the mouse started splashing around trying to figure out where she was and what was happening. Leaning back from the tub Lilly said, “Hey there, calm down a sec. I am just cleaning you up after a little partying at club douchebag; I am not going to hurt you.” Huddled in the corner of the tub, the mouse’s eyes darted back and forth looking for an avenue of escape, “Look, my name is Lilly , and I just brought you here to clean you up and let you sleep off whatever it is that you were on.”
Covering herself with her paw, “Where are my clothes?” She asked followed by a high pitched squeak. “They are right here.” Lilly lifted the vomit soaked outfit off the floor, “But to tell you the truth, I don’t think you want to wear these right now anyway.” Setting the clothes back down “Would it make you feel better if I let you finish up and just wait for you in the room?” Standing to leave, Lilly looked over her shoulder and saided, “If you need anything, just ask. And if you missed it, my name is Lilly .”
June 8, 2013
Looking over her shoulder from the game of Heavenly Sword as she heard the door open, Lilly saw the little kangaroo mouse peeking out into the room. She sat on the bed wearing only her birthday suit. The dark tiger stripes covered her neck back and legs, fading to the lighter colored fur on her shoulders and arms. Her tail flicked back and forth with the dark puff of fur making a loud thump sound each time it hit the mattress. “Want something to eat?” she asked tilting her head to the pizza boxes sitting on the kitchen counter. “Not sure what you eat, so I got supreme. You can pick off what you don’t like.” The mouse, wrapped in a towel, padded over to the boxes and opened one pulling out a slice. “If you’re going to eat my food, could at least get a name?” Blinking at the odd phrasing of the request, the little mouse quietly said, “Cecily”
“Well, Sisy, you any good at aiming these cannons? I fucking suck at it. The only part of this damned game I actually hate.”
Hesitantly Cecily moved to the king sized bed occupied by the liger more than twice her size. “I never really played video games.” She said softly.
“No better time to see if you're any good at it. Come on, I don’t bite… much.” Lilly said with a slight jerk of the head, “Besides unless you managed to wash and dry your clothes in there, we’re not going anywhere for a little while.” She handed the girl the controller as she got close enough to reach. “Take this, I gotta piss.” Walking into the bathroom, she saw the girl’s clothes hanging on the curtain rod to dry, she thought, Resourceful little sprout, looks like she has had to do this before, as she flopped down on the toilet. Lilly sat back on the bed next to Cecily, “Where do you live, Sisy? I will give you a ride home when your clothes are dry.”
Sheepishly, Cecily looked at the floor and in an almost whisper, “Medford, Oregon.”
Wide eyed, “What the fuck are you…” she stopped herself to change her approach. She tossed Cecily the phone, “Here, call your parents and tell them you're coming home, but it will take you about four weeks to get there. If they have any questions give me the phone and I will explain my plan.”
Still looking at the floor, game controller now sitting in her lap, “I don’t have any parents.” Guilt shot through Lilly as those words were spoken. “I am fifteen and no one wants to take on anyone my age. So I left to come out here to live with my boyfriend. But he didn’t want me either.” Lilly could see the tears rolling down her cheek. Heartbroken, Lilly sat by the sobbing girl, “Look, we can figure something out. Until then, how about you join me for the adventure of a lifetime?”
Cecily looked up at the older Liger, “What do you mean?”
Lilly looked down into Cecily’s eyes, “I am headed to Vancouver, by way of everything I can think of between here and the west coast. I don’t know if I can get you into Canada or on the cruise, but I can at least take you as far as Oregon. And all you have to do is keep me awake on the road.”
Donning a weak smile, Cecily said, “That sounds fun.”
Placing an arm around Cecily and giving a little squeeze, “You see how far you can get on this game; I am going to get some sleep. We leave in six hours, whether you're here or not. Just don’t steal my PS3, I can’t get another gen 1.” With that Lilly flopped back on the bed to try and get some shut eye.