"Will she remember?" It was Rock! He was talking to someone.
Wait. She had had this dream before. This was when they inserted their azrealian block! This is when the deal was made. She could hear foot steps move her way, then saw Rock's anguished face above hers. She felt his hand stroke her hair away from her face. He ran the back of a finger down one cheek and then the other. This felt so real. So real she lost the view of the ceiling, it became dark again, then she felt him touching her face again and it was as if a room full of voices shouted "Wake UP!" and her eyes opened again to see, what else? Rock! He was there, touching her face, looking into her eyes as they flew open with sanity and alertness. He smiled at her tiredly, the faint smell of alcohol wafting to her on the faint breeze of nighttime.
"Rock? Is it really you? Am I awake?" Lily blinked hard a few times, but no, he was still there. Looking around she saw the desert, her bike in the background, her own dusty booted feet.
"Yes darling. It is I. You are indeed awake. Can you stand?" Rock stood and offered her his hand. Placing her hand in his, she allowed him to help her up. She looked around again from her new vantage point and saw he was alone.
"Well, I guess you got me. Now what? I was just too tired to go any further." She swayed on her feet, giving testimony to her exhaustion.
"Well, first you have to stop swaying back and forth and come with me."
" You know...I feel very strange..." Her lips felt thick and her tongue seemed to fill her mouth. "...drugged almost." Rock looked at her hard in the eyes, looking for something it seemed.
"Would you be mad if I said I drugged you?" She had been staring off into space and with some effort turned her head to look at him stupidly.
"Well,...yeah." That is, if she could think she would be mad. Right now, sitting down seemed like a good idea and her body followed her minds urging and started to sit on the ground. Rock came up beside her grabbing her arm and boosting her with his hand under her butt.
"Whoa! Not yet sweetheart. Come this way." and he led her to his waiting car. It was black and sleek and compact. Man, I'm not going to get my deposit back on that DeLorean, she thought stuporously. It was all Rock could do to get her into the car. He worried that he may have overdosed her but he knew she would clash with Janet. Everyone does. Especially beautiful women who were a threat to her. He knew it was also likely she would try to escape and he just wanted to slow her down a bit. She did have a triple tequila on top of it all. Oops. She was snoring, her head lolling on the seat as he buckled her seatbelt around her. Resuming his seat behind the wheel, he put the car into gear and drove off into the night, away from the base.
They traveled quite some distance before Lily woke again, this time she was dizzy and felt quite ill. She looked over at Rock and was unsurprized to see him there. Unsurprized to see herself in his car, going somewhere. Oh god, there was that feeling...Lily suddenly shouted, "Pull over!!" Rock's head snapped around, now aware that she was awake and did what she said with some alacrity. As the car stopped with a screech, Lily flung open the door and emptied the contents of her stomach on the ground. A few more retches and she was empty. Despite vomiting, she was hungry. It had been a long while since she had had food, and then with liquor and whatever the hell it was Rock gave her it made for an ugly cocktail on her stomach. She became aware that Rock was holding her hair back for her. As she began to upright herself, another wave hit her and she gagged some more. When that was finally over she sat up slowly, so as not to disturb her head, which now throbbed like a raw nerve, her eyes on fire, so hot, and tearing. Rock handed her a paper napkin to wipe her lips and a bottle of water to sip from. She rinsed her mouth and spat, then took a small, cautious sip. It didn't seem to disturb her equilibrium so she took another little sip. Okay. Not too bad.
"Are you all right?" A worry line had insinuated itself onto his face between his eyebrows.
"And you would care because...."
"Are you going to make me say it? I love you. how's that. I said it. I love you, Lil. I know you don't believe me, and I don't really expect you to, but I do and I am worried about you and that I may have given you a little too much drug."
"Well, lucky for you I'm made of stronger stuff than your other playmates. I'll live. Where are we? Where are we going and is there food there?" Rock grinned, assured now that she was really all right. If she was hungry, it was a good sign. They had been driving for about six hours at this point and Rock was also ready for a full belly and a good nights sleep. He took her hand and brought it to his lips.
"As you wish, my love." In a little less than 20 minutes they were pulling into the parking lot of a cheap hotel with a restaurant in the parking lot. He registered them as Mr. and Mrs. Howell. This brought a grin to her lips at last. He was gratified to see it. He helped her walk across the parking lot, holding her hand with one hand, his arm around her back. They made it there fine and fell into a booth. Rock plucked the sticky, plastic menus from their wire stand and gave one to Lily. She glanced at it and put it back in the stand. Rock also put his up as they waited for someone to come and offer them drinks at least. Lily turned her coffee cup upright off it's saucer with a loud clunk. Then she proceeded to put her spoon in it and stir. TINK-A-TINK-A-TINK! A skinny, birdlike little waitress came out to wait on them. Her glasses were about six sizes to big for her face and there was a reddened dent in her nose where they sat most of the time. When she wasn't pushing them up with the eraser of her stubby pencil. Her hair was reminiscent of a birds nest, all bushy and tangly looking. She looked to be about ninety years old, and wore white, or what were once white, sweatbands around her bony wrists, for holding many hot plates at once. Her lips were enlarged by pepto bismol pink lipstick that was feathering into the grooves and lines around her mouth. A fine mustache completed this picture and Lily felt sorry for her. Sorry she had tinked her coffee cup so loudly. Sorry that this poor old thing was still working in a truck stop restaurant at her age. Lily checked her pockets. She had a thousand dollars in cash on her right now. The waitress was speaking to them in a quiet voice as if to speak loudly would be sacrilegious.
"What can I get you folks? Coffee hon?" Lily didn't really want coffee, she wanted a diet coke, but since she was the one who was beating on her cup she nodded her ascent and the woman poured her cup full. It did smell good. Lily helped herself to creamer and sugar while Rock ordered his breakfast. Lily ordered the eggs benedict for herself. I'll bet Rupert makes a mean eggs benedict...or he will one day, She thought to herself. At least if I have anything to do with it. Lily still assumed that the boys made it home. It hadn't occurred to her that something had gone terribly wrong with them as well. She searched around in her jacket and pulled out a half pack of slightly squished smokes, smoothed the wrinkles out of one and lit it up.
"Filthy habit, you know." Rock remarked. Lily merely cocked one eyebrow at him then blew her smoke directly at him, daring him to object. Taking another, longer drag, she blew the smoke out sideways, flicked her ashes and twirled the coal against the cool glass of the ashtray before pinning him with a damning look.
"So is drugging people." She gave him a quick bitchy grin and went back to her smoke, surveying the area in general, as was her wont. Rock looked out the window, then back at Lily. Why was he so obsessed with this woman? She looked like hell at the moment. Dirty from head to toe, hair tangled into a million small knots hanging out of her braid, smoked too much, cursed too much. Hard to find, hard to hold onto once found, and way too hard on the heart. But he was unable to help himself. It was almost beyond his rational control. The food came and that was summarily devoured by the both of them. Although both had diplomatic training and could dine in the company of kings in any country on earth, there was nothing dainty or restrained about this repast. Toast crumbs flew, jelly containers strewn across the table, mumbled appreciative sounds crossing their lips. How long had it been since they'd eaten? Lily felt better initially, then felt heavy and logy. Rock too felt quite sated and drowsy now. He paid the bill as Lily had one more smoke for the road since most hotels did not allow smoking for safety and comfort reasons. The little birdlike waitress was cleaning up their plates and Lily waited till she had her hands full and slipped her wad of cash into the woman's pocket.
"That's for you. Thanks a lot." The waitress noted her putting something into her pocket and smiled a sweet grateful smile at her.
"Thank you sweetheart. You take good care of that man of yours. You can see how much he loves you." The woman moved off to the back before Lily could ask her any questions. A cash drawer closed and Rock was beside her again, solicitous again.
"Feel okay sweetheart?" His look was all concern for her. Touching, Lily thought to herself cynically, and then thought about the little waitress saying "you can see how much he loves you..." The thought remained on her mind until they reached their room. It was a standard hotel room. Bed, some disposable cups, a bathroom.
"Go ahead and take a shower." Rock offered. "I've got some calls to make." Lily moved into the bath area and hollered back,
"I hope one is for more towels or you wont have any." She found the sample sized shower goodies and ran herself a hot, hot shower. It felt so good she hated for it to be over. When it was, she went back to the bed in her towel, realizing that she had nothing to put on that was clean. She was standing looking forlornly at her grungy clothes when Rock motioned for her to wait a moment, and ducked outside. She was untangling her hair with the hotel's fifty cent black rubber comb when he returned and tossed her backpack onto the bed. Her eyes grew wide and her mouth described a circle as she stared at the bag. Tears wavered for a moment in her vision but she shook them off. Her voice was thick and cracky but she managed to choke out a thanks. He could tell she was grateful and the tears in her eyes made him sorry he had put her though so much, but it wasn't over yet and he was sure she'd cry at least one more time before it was all done. Lily dug through the bag and pulled out some clean underwear, a T-shirt and a pair of leggings. All thin and lightweight but clean and serviceable. Damn she missed her trunks. Rock went and showered as well and when he came out, the room was empty. Damn! He should have known! He grabbed his pants but the car keys were still in them. He strode to the door, still only dressed in a towel swathed about his hips. Lily stood at the railing, smoking a cigarette. He released his breath in a rush, unaware he had been holding it. She turned when the door flew open.
"No, I didn't "escape". I just needed to think and smoke." He nodded and went back inside, not quite shutting the door. He pulled a small duffel out from his side of the bed and also found a T-shirt and some sweatpants to wear to bed. He was just about to go and be with her outside when she came in and shut the door. She tossed her pack of smokes on the desk to be followed by her lighter, crossed to the sink and brushed her teeth with the samples provided. When she returned to the bed he was sitting up, cleaning his pistol. She sat down on the opposite side to watch him. He was intimately familiar with the weapon, stripping it apart, cleaning it, oiling it, putting it back together, loading the clip, slapping the same into the butt of the gun. He looked up at her watching him. Reaching behind him to his duffel, he pulled out her Ruger and tossed it to her. It landed on the bed between them and she eagerly snatched it up.
"My gun! Oh you sweet, sweet, bad boy!" and she lunged across the bed to kiss him quickly and bounced back to her own side, eager now to strip and clean her "baby". He watched her, offering her his supplies. He watched as she expertly cleaned it and reassembled it, fully loaded also. Weren't they an interesting duo?
"I can hardly believe you are stupid enough to give me back my gun, although I did have one in my bra the whole time, but still . That's not the point. How do you know I wont overpower you and take the car and go?" Rock looked at her face, taunting him, teasing him. He motioned toward the door.
"You want to go? Go. I wont stop you. But know this.... don't ever stop running." Lily's face fell. She was just as confused as she could be, and she really had no desire to leave at the moment. As much as she knew she should, and he did say he wouldn't stop her. It reminded her of another moment in time. They were in a clearing, not far from a system base, and she was to be killed. Rock couldn't do it and motioned for her to go, and defended her against his own kind, his own agents. He let her go. But it wasn't over then, and it wasn't over now. It seemed that it would never be over. She needed to know why. Why wouldn't they just leave her alone?
"What is it? Why do you people want me dead so much? Am I causing you trouble? Tell me what's up and I'll avoid your group's operations like the plague, just let me have my life back. I miss my cat, I miss K, I miss Daniel. Just tell me what you want from me!" She was getting loud now. Rock shushed her with a finger to his lips, Lily looked around and quieted. He studied her face for a moment, finally speaking.
"Okay, you want the whole story? Here it is. You didn't just have an azrealian block in your brain. You also have a computer chip in your head. We didn't realize it at the time. The scientist who was working for us had been maintaining contact with mother Russia, and was planning to take the chip and give it over to them. He knew our operatives were onto him and while he was implanting the block, also thought to deposit the chip in you, figuring he could lock onto it with a computer homing signal once you were dead and take it back. He didn't count on you not dying, or escaping our agents the first time. He died for his efforts, and not a moment too soon if the screaming was to be believed. Once they figured out that it was you with the chip, they wanted you badly. Dead or alive. They tried to issue a hit on you without my knowledge, but you know you can't trust thieves or spies and it didn't take long for me to get wind of it. Once I knew they wanted you again, I made it my business to find you first. I almost didn't. I'm glad I did. I could tell by the bruises on your face at the reunion that you were starting to remember something, I never dreamed it was me. I thought you had forgotten all about me and had just gone on with your life. I am sorry you trashed your apartment. I knew about that, I admit. I was the one who broke in and took all your things. I had to. You would have died had you remembered. I took it for granted that you would just go on and not look back. You're good at that." His last remark stung her for a moment. She was not as cold or callous as he suggested, but she chalked it up to his own insecurity and remained silent, allowing him to tell the tale.
"The chip in your head unlocks the mainframe computer at Mission Control at the Army base in Minnesota and allows for the information it contains to be downloaded. This chip has meant the death of at least 100 operatives on all sides, and there are more than two sides here. We need that chip. Everyone needs that chip. It cannot be removed without damage to your brain, but, the upside is, if you are close enough to the computers, it will work anyway. It works by RF, and it only takes being next to the terminal to activate it. I would prefer that you come bodily with me to the base, instead of killing you and taking your brain with me. I didn't ever want it to come to this, but it has. Now. That being said, I have one more thing to say.
I love you with all my heart, and I want you to be happy. Please help me with this and I will let you go forever, if that is what you want. I promise. I will tell you something else important. Daniel? He is not who you think he is. He is not an archeologist. He works for the US government and they are also after the chip in your head. As for K? We believe it is the Russian Government who kidnapped K. They saw the big car and assumed it would be you. We didn't do that. It's very likely that she has been killed by now. Now, all that being said, what do you say?" Lily sat stunned. It was almost too much to digest in one sitting. Daniel? Not who she thought he was? Military? He was only pretending to love her? No. She didn't believe it. K? Russia? Her mind was a whorl of thought. She looked at Rock.
"And I'm to believe you're the only one on my side?" She asked more sarcastically than she felt. He shrugged and nodded.
"Well, I guess, I mean.... I don't know what the hell I mean. I am just oh-so-confused right now. The Russians have K? I thought you guys...well. This sort of blows my rescue plan, now doesn't it? I thought that since you had caught up with me, maybe you'd help me with K, but if your operatives don't have her...." Her voice trailed off and she wandered dead eyed toward the dresser, her smokes, and then the door. She left the door wide open and sat on the cool concrete of the balcony thrusting her legs through the cool metal rails to dangle over the side. Pressing her forehead to the bars she tried to sort out this puzzle. So many confounding new ideas. She looked down at the parking lot, noting the many oil spots, antifreeze puddles, faded yellow parking lines. She watched a small family arrive and unload their trunk. They plucked a sleeping toddler out of the car, who immediately began to cry and was scooped up by her father, who set her on his arm and urged her head to his stalwart shoulder and with soothing mumbles and caresses the baby quieted. Lily stared after them as they went into their room, another sleepy little girl climbing out of the car in her nightclothes already, wandering into the hotel as if she did so often. Poor tired babies. Lily wished she had a big, strong daddy to comfort her right now.