“Eww! This burrito is still kind of frozen inside!” A mixture of brown and green chunks flew from Kip’s mouth back to the plate. “It’s amazing how psycho hot it can be on the outside, but on the inside, it’s colder than that Meena chick you used to date.”
“It’s never easy for you, is it?” replied Dwin. The slender reptilian sat sipping his mid-day herbal tea. He pretended not to notice his partner’s outburst at first, but knew the commentary would continue on without respite until he had reacted. His strict, Zentilian upbringing had equipped him with an even disposition, but during his three years of service as Kip’s partner for United City Mobile Medical, he had learned that sometimes it was best to give in and indulge the guy. “Finish up pal, we need to head over to the Park District. Unit 47 has requested assistance. Apparently there’s been an incident at Slug on a Stick. Possible food poisoning.”
“Gah, it’s not hard people. If it keeps trying to crawl off the stick, don’t eat it,” said Kip.
Dwin watched as Kip adjusted his long, blond hair. Dwin had often wondered why anyone would bother with hair, let alone hair that extended beyond the shoulder. It always seemed like a potential nightmare from a hygiene perspective with its regular washing requirements and its ability to collect bits of food and debris. Also, weren’t most humans opting for a shorter cut these days? Of course, Kip had quickly dismissed the reptilian’s objections on many occasions, always arguing that cleanliness and the mass popularity of the crew cut aside, his fanbase would riot if a razor ever touched his glorious mop. Dwin caught a smile forming on his lips at the very idea of Kip’s band, Poppin’ Wheelies, even having a fanbase. He raised his mug to hide the outward display of emotion and took another sip of tea.
Feeling only a mild sense of urgency, Kip reached for his can of Astralberry Rootie Juice and finished it in three gulps. The chunky medic smashed the empty can against his head and hurled it toward the waste basket. The metallic wad clanked to the floor, missing the basket entirely. Dwin snapped to his feet to pick up the refuse as two abrupt tones issued from the break room loudspeaker.
“Will medics Dwin Michaels and Kip Sparks report to my office immediately! And do not stop off for a hair adjustment, Sparks. It looks fine!” the loudspeaker blared.
“Geeze, a guy gets caught reapplying hairspray one time and suddenly it becomes a thing,” remarked Kip.
“Please let me do the talking this time,” said Dwin.
The two medics began their descent into the basement of Mobile Medical Hub 9. Hubs were outposts serving a small set of mobile medical units for a given geographic region. Dispatchers were confined to the substructure of each facility. The primary job of a dispatcher was to assign medics to a patrol sector in United City, however a certain amount of administrative authority was also given to them. If a medic’s conduct was called into question, it was up to the hub’s dispatcher to bring them back in line. Dwin thought back to the last time they were summoned to Dispatcher Lockbolt’s office. Dwin felt they had been let off easy after Kip was caught using their patrol ship to transport his electric bass rig to and from live performances. The disciplinary action had only consisted of some assigned reading, a massive tome by Medical Director Ian Blades entitled Ethics and Standards for the Medical Professional. Dwin had remembered reading it during his college days, and he once again found it enthralling. He had seen Kip’s copy. It was still in the original plastic wrapping.
Dwin stared at the back of Kip’s head as they neared Lockbolt’s office. His scaly skin grew warm. He clenched his teeth and tried to calm himself with a deep breath. He couldn’t help but remember the previous cullings he had sat through. Every time it had been over something Kip had done that brought shame to the medical profession. Every time Dwin had sat humiliated, never defending himself. He would agonize internally over what he should have said for days, always falling back on his upbringing that taught him to never put his feelings on public display. He began to feel like it was time to question that philosophy. It had only lead him to a life of quiet resentment.
“It was the kid we helped last week. I just know it. We should never have pretended you were famous,” said Dwin.
“For the record, I will be famous. Glam rock is just going through a temporary downturn. Dude, relax. I bet it’s the suggestion I dropped in the box last week,” said Kip.
“You really think he’s that angry over the lack of diverse beverage options in the break room?”
“Hey, he understands the importance of a properly fueled workforce. I’m useless until I’ve had my fourth can of Rootie Juice.”
Dwin closed his eyes for a moment to collect himself as Kip, without knocking, burst into Dispatcher Lockbolt’s office.
“Lockbolt, you handsome devil! What’s up?” said Kip.