True Blue Lou
by K. Kylyra Ameringer
"Lou, Lou, Lou! My man Lou!"
Lou stopped musing on his breakfast. Many citizens in the complex didn't appreciate some of the dishes served to them in the communal areas. Lou couldn't understand why; there was a large variety of food vendors to choose from so any citizen could opt to have a different cuisine every meal of the week. This morning Lou had eaten at Toastie's, a small cafe off the main pathways. Toastie's wasn't big on variety but they served great beans on toast.
Turning, Lou spotted his friend Yuri shambling towards him. Lou easily hopped off the electromagnetic runner, one of thousands crossing and intersecting through the communal areas of the complex. During peak times, one had to be careful for footpath travelers but Lou's shift was in odd rotation to the rest of the complex's schedule, which meant Level 29's open-air pathways were almost deserted.
"Hey, Yuri. What's up?" Yuri struggled to cross the remaining distance between them. Lou regarded his friend with a mixture of contempt and admiration. Yuri worked in the Qro Dhix department. Lou, being in the Ixtrlopswin department, didn't agree with Qro Dhix's methods. He felt they were sloppy at best, but he couldn't find fault with their success rate over the last few years. He acknowledged that Yuri performed his duties exceedingly well. He just couldn't get past his feeling of mild nausea over what Yuri's job did to him.
Any citizen assigned to the Qro Dhix department eventually showed signs of job-related stress. They gained weight, didn't sleep well, and had to leave their positions. With over a tenth of the population now assigned to the department, citizens everywhere began bulging out of proportion. The Medical department was taking advantage of it and filling the communal areas with large, colorful adverts for easy slimming potions and pills, none of which you could get a hold of without first obtaining a prescription. Yuri had been one of the many who grabbed every tincture and capsule that came his way, yet he still remained grossly overweight.
Lou glanced down at his own sleek, firm frame. He would never let that happen to him.
"I thought I might catch you around here," Yuri panted. He bent over a moment, trying to catch his breath. A heavy slick of sweat coated his forehead. The exertion to catch up with his friend was almost too much for his bulk.
Lou grinned. "Am I so popular these days that my eating schedule is common knowledge? I must remember to ask Vera at Toastie's for a commission for dining there. Do you think they'd like a large, autographed picture of me to hang on their wall?"
"Toastie's?" Yuri asked, licking his lips. "Oh, they serve great grilled pannini there. Mmm, you're making me hungry. Do they still have that soup, the one with the onions and beets? I haven't been up there in a while..."
"Of course they do. I gave them that recipe, you know. It was of my own devising."
"Did you? I didn't know that. You've got to give it to me so I can make it at home!"
Lou tilted his head to one side. He remained silent, letting the distant hum of the complex's machinery fill the gap. Yuri began to shift his weight, his eyes roving everywhere but Lou's face. Lou waited until he judged his friend was almost at breaking point.
"I could do that, of course, but then there's Toastie's business to think about. I doubt Vera would appreciate it very much if I started sharing her recipes with everyone. Besides, she pays me for every bowl of that soup she sells in the place. What do I get by telling you the recipe?"
Yuri met Lou's gaze hesitantly. "A grateful friend?"
Lou turned and moved towards an electron lift. He kept up a steady pace, one that would guarantee Yuri would remain breathless if he gave pursuit.
"Lou! Lou, wait! Just - hold on -" Yuri's voice was becoming weaker as he tried to follow his friend. Realizing he could never catch up, Yuri stopped and tried again. "Alright! Alright! I'll owe you one!"
Lou paused and glanced back at his friend. He crossed the distance between them, gazing around from the high pathway like a ruler surveying his domain. He smirked at Yuri who dropped his gaze.
"Hmmm. A favor from you. Perhaps that would come in handy, some time in the future," he said slyly. "Okay," he said, making up his mind, "I'll get the recipe uploaded to your residence link."
Yuri raised his eyebrows in surprise. "Isn't that a little dangerous, uploading proprietary information directly through the system? We could just bypass..."
Lou scoffed. "Honestly, Yuri, do you think I'd try it if I didn't know I could do it? Administration won't trace it, Toastie's won't trace it ... There's no way they can catch me."
Yuri turned his head away so Lou couldn't read his expression. One thing about Lou always remained the same: his confidence bordered on arrogance.
The two compatriots shambled along, heading to the operations level in a general direction. The pathways began to be busier and the electromagnetic runners started to have distracted looking citizens dotting their interwoven matrix as they descended to the operations level. A pair of citizens displaying the Fzooblysj department's symbol eyed Lou and Yuri; it was unusual for friendships to develop outside of departments and those that chose to do it were viewed with suspicion.
True Blue Lou by K. Kylyra Ameringer