True Blue Lou
by K. Kylyra Ameringer
Lou didn't care that other citizens regarded him as odd or different; he enjoyed the attention. With the complex holding close to one million residents, it was sometimes difficult to stand apart from the crowd. Anything that helped to put the spotlight on Lou was okay in Lou's book. Still, he thought to himself, it would be better if they noticed me for some other reason. Any other reason.
"Well, I have to go check in now," Lou said, turning to Yuri.
"Ri-i-i-ight. It's Phoebe time again, isn't it?" Yuri asked with a little smile.
Lou frowned at his friend. "You know, being First Liaison to a field agent isn't a laughing matter. In fact, I dare say I have one of the most important assignments in the entire complex."
"Oh, undoubtedly, undoubtedly. Of course, baby sitting Phoebe won't really bring you to the notice of Administration, will it?" Yuri asked with bland smoothness.
Yuri's statement stung and Lou raised his voice a little too loudly. "With less than 700 field agents in this entire complex do you think my job goes unnoticed? Or perhaps you consider being a departmental secretary is more important than being First Liaison to a well-established field agent with an excellent track record that has out performed your department's efforts in the last quarter?" Lou was breathing heavily and he felt his cheeks redden with anger. Other citizens were beginning to stare.
Yuri shook his head at his friend. "That's not what I'm saying at all, Lou. It's just ... I know how hard it is to deal with her, that's all. They don't give you enough credit for what you have to put up with."
Lou relaxed and motioned to a small bench placed in a tiny niche off the operations level entrance. The two sat down and the bench curled up to meet the contours of their bodies. A pleasant warmth spread up from the material covering the seat.
"It's not an easy job," Lou admitted. "Other field agents make the transition between the two realities easily, but Phoebe..." He trailed off, shaking his head. "You know they couldn't keep anyone in this position for longer than a few months before I was assigned to it. There was one ... She managed to stay for two years but ended up in the Psych section of Medical. She's still receiving treatments; my boss says she may never be fit for another Liaison position."
Yuri nodded his head. "And you've been doing this for how long now?"
"Six years, seven months, 291 days," Lou said proudly.
"Wow, is it really that long?" Yuri asked with admiration. "I'd forgotten ... You started right about the time I moved into my new residence, right?"
"Yes, I was horribly overloaded that first month. That's why I didn't make your Wutlewdue party."
"That's right," Yuri said. "And it was a terribly dull party without you, my friend."
Lou squirmed on the bench and settled in a bit more. "I can imagine. Was everyone disappointed that I didn't show? I had plans to come and play, you know. I had practiced endlessly for months before as a surprise for your party. You wouldn't believe how let down I was!"
"Oh, it was all anyone talked about!" Yuri reassured his friend. They'd been through this before but Lou never tired of hearing it again.
Yuri waited for a moment as Lou gazed off. "You know," Yuri began, drawing his friend's attention back to their conversation, "you are an exceptional citizen. I can't understand why you haven't been moved into one of the larger residences. I know there's a few free on Level 52."
Lou snapped back to the present with a start. "Level 52?" he asked. "Level 50 and above are for Second Class or higher. I'm only Third Class, like you. Well, not quite like you. You're not First Liaison to a field agent, are you?"
Yuri smiled and avoided the question. "But you work as hard as any Second Class, don't you?"
"Harder!" Lou said with conviction. "The whole place would fall apart if it wasn't for me. No one - no one - can handle Phoebe like I can."
"So why shouldn't you have similar - or better - surroundings? Why don't you earn enough credits to go somewhere better than Toastie's for a meal?"
"I thought you liked Toastie's," Lou sniffed.
"I do, Lou, but you? You can't tell me you wouldn't trade a fresh bowl of Grobb from The Apple over beans on toast from Toastie's any day of the week, can you?"
Lou stared at Yuri. "I enjoy fresh Grobb when I can get it, the same as you. But what you're talking about..." He shook his head and looked away. "It isn't done that way here."
"It should be different," Yuri replied in a small voice. "For a citizen like you it should be different. It ... could be different."
True Blue Lou by K. Kylyra Ameringer