True Blue Lou
by K. Kylyra Ameringer
Lou started with surprise. There were rumors of a subversive group operating in the complex, a tight confederation of upstarts that were working to overthrow the current regime. "I'm not listening to you," Lou said, rising from his seat. "I am not listening to a word you're saying. I am in far too important of a position to listen to you. Everyone here knows my loyalty to the department, the complex, and the mission. In fact, I am so important that I shouldn't even be talking to someone like you!"
Lou hurried away from the seat, away from Yuri whom he knew was looking beseechingly at his retreating backside. The hallway was filled with citizens hurrying from their residences to the central office area. Lou squeezed between the huddles beginning to cram the path and was buffeted around a sharp corner before reaching the entrance to the office area that held the Ixtrlopswin department's cubicles. He paused for a moment to regain a sense of calm. Yuri's talk of breaking complex protocol was as near to blasphemy as Lou wanted to get.
Regaining his sense of self-control, Lou strutted through the departmental cubicles, greeting several citizens along the way. The maze of paths through the cubicles was a labyrinth to the uninitiated, but Lou was familiar with its twists and turns now. Pockets of cubicles held sectional workers; he passed a knot of secretaries with the tiniest of head sets holding blue crystals that pulsed in rhythm to the selected transcription rate, a think tank group largely composed of mathematicians who fiddled with their PADs1. and rarely said anything to anyone, and the quark compression and storage area - really just a filing system - for the entire department.
He finally reached Traffic Control at the very heart of the central offices. From the exterior Traffic Control appeared to be a one story, plain structure with a simple wooden doorframe that entered into nothingness. Once inside that illusion was shattered.
Lou paused at the entrance and glanced back over the cubicles. Most of the citizens in them had never been inside Traffic Control.
Passing through the doorframe, Lou felt the now familiar popping sensation that occurred every time he entered Traffic Control. Officially under Administration's thumb, Traffic Control had always operated with more freedom than most sections were allowed. Only those citizens chosen to work in Traffic Control learned exactly how to control the RSM2.. They kept their numbers low - just slightly over 300 workers - and kept their unbreakable stranglehold on the mathematical equations necessary to transverse the space separating their own comfortable reality and the one currently locked into on Earth. Their monopoly on the most important piece of machinery in the complex gave them a power equal to the current Administration. Thus, Traffic Control was far more opulent than any other part of the complex Lou had ever been allowed in.
The RSM that allowed travel between the complex and Earth was also used inside Traffic Control to increase the structure's size; the one story building dropped away to a cathedral like room, paneled in teak and ebony. Lou stood at the top of a wide staircase covered in deep crimson carpet. Evidence of the machinery at work was here as well. Nowhere else in the complex had Traffic Control's seamless blend of electromagnetic runners and pathways. The only evidence was a slight liquid effect on the carpet, which served to give one the illusion of a gently running crimson stream.
Descending to the floor level Lou's attention was grabbed, as it always was, by the sweet serenade from a small cluster of musicians gathered on a low platform. The air was heavy with the smell drifting from a roaring fire. Lou glided past the fireplace, large enough for eight citizens to stand in, and stopped to enjoy the music. He'd been meaning to speak to them for some time; he thought their music could greatly improve with the addition of his own talent.
"They're really something, aren't they? I hear they've recorded a new release and it's doing very well." Lou turned to see Brenda, a Second Class citizen from a rival section in his department. "You have heard their new single, haven't you? It's being broadcast on Cranium Wave rotation regularly ... Oh, that's right. You don't have a Cranium Wave Insert, do you?"
Lou glowered at Brenda. She knew perfectly well that Third Class citizens were not allowed Cranium Wave Inserts. "Hello, Brenda."
"Hello, Lou," Brenda simpered back. "Aspiring to be the worst citizen worker in your section this month?"
"What are you talking about?" Lou snapped.
"Oh," Brenda said, tilting her head back to regard the heavy crystal chandelier hanging from the ceiling, "I was just wondering what you were doing here, wasting time, when you should already be at your station."
"I'm not due to report in until eight o'clock, for your information," Lou responded tartly. "I'm here early, not late."
Brenda laughed, a high tinkling sound that grated on Lou's nerves like lemon juice on an open wound. "The worst citizen worker and the most dull witted! If you don't rate a Cranium Wave Insert at least get some sort of timepiece!"
Lou's head snapped from side to side, looking for a clock. There were no clocks on display in Traffic Control. It was considered uncouth. Traversing the space between the complex and Earth only convinced the citizens who undertook that task that Traffic Control's motto was true: time was an illusion. Brenda tinkled another irritating laugh as she moved off. Lou cursed under his breath and headed to his station.
1. PAD: Personal Abacus Daktulos, or finger
2. RSM: Reality Shifting Mechanism
True Blue Lou by K. Kylyra Ameringer