25
May
10

A Little Visit from PISS

Well, this was awkward. Lia sat stiffly across the laminate table from the Plebeian Intelligence and Security Service agent awaiting a coffee. Maybe caffeine wasn’t the best choice of refreshment for the present situation, all Lia needed right now was to be even more unnecessarily anxious, but the whole scenario had caught her so off-guard that strategic drink ordering had escaped her entirely. Not knowing what would make for appropriate chatter, Lia remained quiet trying not to stare at the woman.

“I suppose you would like to see my badge?” the agent asked in a disarming, but studied tone. Lia nodded uncertainly and watched as the woman took a thin leather case from her purse, opening the booklet to reveal the contents. Not wearing her glasses, Lia was unable to discern much of the little brass insignia and didn’t want to seem as overly concerned as she might have if she reached for her eyewear now. At a loss as to how long she should inspect the identity document, Lia smiled weakly and croaked a thank you, turning her eyes towards the crowded diner table as the agent returned her badge to its place.

“Thanks for coming out today, Lia, I appreciate you taking the time,” the woman continued in the same hollow yet friendly way. “People aren’t always so willing to talk to PISS agents.”

Feigning surprise, Lia quickly raised her eyebrows, “really?” thinking it was always better to appear willing than not; there was nothing like rejection in increasing a person’s suspicion of another.

“Yes,” the agent responded in determined earnest, “I think it’s because people just don’t understand what we do,” and she pursed her lips into a wide, flat grin as if to impress upon Lia the needless lack of trust so many people harboured towards the agency. And following an appropriately timed pause, the agent began again, “the reason I asked you here today was to talk to you a little about the incident at the recent Commonwealth of Advanced Countries’ Assembly and maybe get your opinion.”

My opinion? Thought Lia quickly flattered, but in remembering herself endeavoured to check her bursting ego. Of course she doesn’t really want my opinion. Lia acknowledged her understanding with a short nod, encouraging the agent to continue.

“I do want to put you at ease. You aren’t under investigation or anything like that. I was just hoping to ask you a few questions.” The arrival of the server with two mugs and a pot of coffee interrupted the agent, who immediately redirected her attention to the waitress, thanking her for the service and making polite chit-chat in a deliberate attempt to appear normal.

As soon as the waitress was again out of earshot, the agent continued, “Lia, you had been working for PEWE up until a few weeks before the Assembly. Was there any particular reason why you quit?”

PEWE, widely pronounced peewee, was the acronym for the Office of Protocol, Executive Works and Events. Lia had passed a miserable six months working there under one Josephina Steele before deciding to quit. The department had been responsible for organising the Assembly, otherwise known as CACA, as well as any other major event hosted by the government. Lia wondered why the agent would be so interested in her reasons for quitting PEWE, when it hit her: they don’t think I’m behind what happened: do they? Lia’s anxiety soared to a new high as she considered how best to answer the question. “I just couldn’t take it anymore. The environment was horrible.” The painful look on Lia’s face should have been enough for anyone to believe that what she was saying was the truth. No other job had ever been as demoralising as this one had been for Lia. Just the thought of it tightened Lia’s stomach and she began to feel sick as she recalled her life while working at PEWE.

“Mind if I ask what was so bad about it?” the agent pursued. Lia hated this question. Every time someone raised it, Lia was forced to ask herself if she hadn’t just been a drama queen about the whole situation. Even to this day, some three months later, Lia still couldn’t quite determine whether everything had just been in her head or if it had really been as bad as she had thought it was.

“It’s difficult to describe,” Lia knit her brow as she wondered where to begin.


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