True Blue Lou
by K. Kylyra Ameringer
"No-o-o," Lou said.
"No, of course not. And do you know why you were left alone in here?"
"Because I'm a valuable citizen in an important position," Lou replied promptly.
"No, Lou," Yuri said, shaking his head. "It's not because you're valuable or important. It is because they -" Yuri put emphasis on the word, "think of you as nothing more than a feature of this room, like the carpet or the drapes. They cannot conceive that the carpet or drapes would do anything terrible if left alone in this room, so why should you?"
"Why should you, Lou? Why should you, Lou?" Phoebe took up the rhyme and began chanting from overhead.
"So what do you think, Phoebe?" Yuri called out. "Do you want that espresso or not?"
"Espresso, espresso, yes. Phoebe wants!"
"Lead the way, then," Yuri said.
Phoebe made them scatter an equal distance away from each other before she dropped lightly to the ground. Yuri yelped as she leapt from the chandelier and Lou heard Gloria suck in a huge breath. Lou watched the field agent he'd been assigned to with amusement; he'd seen her in action often enough to no longer be amazed at her physical prowess.
They inched their way across the room, Phoebe commanding them to halt every few steps so she could listen for anyone trying to sneak up on her. The dining area was as deserted as everywhere else; upturned chairs and plates of uneaten food were the only residents.
Phoebe was delighted by the espresso machine and crawled right over the counter top to find what she wanted. "Mmmm ... coffee, coffee, coffee ... Phoebe wants," her voice croaked from behind the counter. Her head popped up suddenly. "You want coffee? Coffee, coffee, coffee?" she asked the trio in the dining area.
"No, Phoebe," Lou spoke up before Yuri could. "You have what you want; we're fine."
Phoebe's eyes narrowed. "Why no coffee with Phoebe?"
"Because we all want double espressos," Yuri interjected.
Phoebe laughed merrily. "Espresso, yes!"
"What are you doing?" Lou asked Yuri in a low voice.
"Keeping her off the chandelier for you," Yuri replied out of the corner of his mouth.
The machine was set and steamed away. Phoebe demanded they all take seats at separate tables, but Lou was pleased to notice none of the tables were too far away from each other. It seemed like Phoebe was starting to calm down. She even managed to serve each of them their cups of espresso - keeping her distance and pushing the cups towards them from the far side of the table - but at least she managed that much.
Lou tried to avoid drinking any of the espresso; not because he didn't want to, he did. He just didn't feel right about helping himself to something so expensive his usual budget only allowed for one cup a year. The cup steamed away on the table, filling his nostrils with a heady aroma that made his mouth water. He caught Phoebe's eye. She had retreated behind the counter after serving each of them. Lou looked down into the rich black cup of liquid. He still didn't feel right about it, but he supposed he'd feel less right if Phoebe noticed he failed to drink some and ended up back on the chandelier. He sipped at his drink and felt the unaccustomed rush of hot liquid and caffeine.
The room grew silent for a time as the four sipped at their cups, the warm stealthy effects of the espresso washing over each of them. Phoebe took it upon herself to make another round and served them, this time handing Lou, Gloria, and Yuri their cups.
"Thank you, Phoebe," Yuri said graciously accepting his espresso. "Ah, the moon is full tonight, is it not?"
Phoebe paused and slowly stood up straight. "Not as full as my stomach," she replied with a little smile. She turned to look at Gloria, who nodded, then turned her gaze on Lou. "Lou, Lou, Lou. What are we going to do with you?"
Lou stared at Phoebe, who stood with her arms crossed and an amused look on her face. "Well," she said, shaking her head as if to clear it, "I suppose we'll have to deal with Lou later on. Right now we have work to do."
In a crisp, business like manner Phoebe produced a notepad and began consulting it. Lou watched her uncharacteristic behavior with dull shock. Notepads - regular pads of actual paper - hadn't been used in the complex for centuries. No citizen would think of using such an archaic means of transcription unless they were trying to hide something. To his continued amazement, Yuri rose from his seat and reached into his garment to produce a loosely wrapped package of drawings and schematics. Gloria joined the pair and helped Yuri spread the drawings out on the table.
True Blue Lou by K. Kylyra Ameringer