(in which our hero continues to investigate his origins & explores his powers’ romantic potential)
Come 9am all thoughts of extracurricular superdoings are buried beneath a steaming pile of spreadsheet wrangling and stakeholder placation.
Over a rushed lunch of bad milkbar sushi I scribble a list of “things you could use long-distance lifting for” and download the DEA app.
The list includes: turn off tv without a remote, open a friend’s beer from across the room, adjust satellite dish sans ladder, pack moving van, lift furniture while vacuuming, move fallen tree from across road, shnaffle frisbee at work Christmas ultimate match, knock cyclist over from safety of cafe across the road, unlock car doors, pull cash registers open…
Is this how superbaddies get started? Seems like the practicality of this power depends on the amount I can lift. Maybe I should try something heavier than bookshelves.
The Department of Extranormal Affairs app is most unimpressive. It’s just a button that links to their website and another that emails them. Clicking on their little explodey-logo launches a lame corporate video introduction that offers no information and makes no commitments.
You’d think the DEA wouldn’t need to use undergraduate actors and cheap blue-screen to make their point. Maybe it’s a legals thing. The insurance premiums on superpower use must be terrifying. Easier to fake flying than hire a flyer I guess.
The essence of their message is that unlicensed use of powers is illegal, but it’s also grateful for the community support supers provide. They also link to a couple of RTOs offering Certificate IV in Use and Application of Enhanced and Augmented Abilities (Safety & Compliance).
I check out one of the course providers. They’ve got a campus in a complex next door to the Big Building. I download the brochure. I get their number and use the landline on the desk three cubicles up. Voicemail. I hang up. Don’t want to leave too much of a paper trail.
Back at my desk an email trawl yields enough enquiries & sample requests to get through to 5. Plus one from someone called Tracy Durojaiye. I’m about to delete it as spam but then I realise it’s upstairs-in-printing Tracy getting back to me re: my ambiguous stickynote.
I call her extension. Tone of voice is kind of important when asking people about industrial accidents they’ve been in, or so I’ve heard.
Hi Tracy? This is Harry Fox down in sales. Thanks for getting in touch. Rashid from R&D mentioned that you used to work at Yadda Yadda? Oh your sister. Sorry yeah he did tell me that. I remember now. Anyway I’ve got some questions about Yadda Yadda and I hoped you might help?
We make a date for coffee around the corner tomorrow. I hang up, trying to second guess her tone of voice. She seemed happy enough to talk. Now I just have to work out what to ask her. Tell me, Tracy, do you or your sister know anything about typhoid shots giving people powers?
We meet at 11 at the hole in the wall barista run by the insane Argentinian guy. He slams 2 long macs in front of me as I sit down. I sip one, wishing it was a latte, but not game to order one. Last time I asked for something other than what I was given didn’t end well.
The mac drunk, I nervously fiddle with the sugar dispenser without touching it and rehearse my questions while I wait for Tracy to arrive.
I turn at the sound of the door banging open. Tracy sits down. Her smile is warm and broad. I remember her. Christmas party 2 years back.
“I THOUGHT it was you,” she said. “Crap Santa.”
That’s me, I say. You found out my secret identity. Had I lost the beard by your turn?
“You had the elastic, but the cotton wool was gone.”
“You were very nice. Kept your hands to yourself. Not like last year’s Santa.”
Who was that? I missed last year.
Ah. Bob. I pause, distracted by an idea so terrible it might be good. Crap Santa to the rescue. I picture myself lifting roofbeams off quake survivors, directing the power with one hand & holding up my floppy red dacks with the other. Accepting thanks with a tug of my cotton beard, careful not to denude it any further. “Who WAS that crap Santa?” they’ll say as I depart.
“So what did you want to catch up about?”
I snap back to my non-imaginary hopefully less crap (though still superpowered) real life. I make up something about investigating OH&S at our plant & a comparison between us and YaddaYadda. Measures put in place afterwards & that.
“I don’t know the details,” says Tracey. “You should talk to Yadda Yadda about it.”
I make up something about breaching nondisclosures. I do my best “don’t worry I’ll manage” face, drop a meaningful pause into the conversation, then start counting to myself. I get to eight.
“I have a twin sister,” Tracey says. “But good try.”
Okay, I say. Do you think your sister’d want to talk to me?
“I can ask her for you.”
We downshift to office smalltalk & after 10 minutes Tracey makes her excuses. I watch her struggle with the door, then give it a nudge.
The door shifts. My arm shudders in sympathy as it scrapes on the floor. Tracey crosses the threshold. I let go and my arm cools down again.
I suck at the dregs of my macchiato & muse on my life’s current ongoing state of “what now?”.
“How you do that to door?” I hear someone say. Turn around and it’s crazy Argentinian guy, looking at me all raised eyebrows.
“Push not pushing,” he says. “Are you with powers?”
“With powers. I see you push.”
“I know my door. This my cafe. Door no open with no push. You push.” He waggles his fingers at the door, arm outstretched, then grins at me meaningfully. “Eh?”
He sits. “My sister-in-law have this too. She move thing,” he says. “No touch.”
That sounds impressive, I say. Is she a… some kind of… super?
“No. She work here. Mostly clean “You do other things?”
I hesitate on the verge of further denial. CAN I do other things? What might “other things” entail, exactly? I pull a ten out of my pockets (with my hands) & pay, making a show of struggling with the door as I leave, overdoing it to make my point.
“No worries mate!” Crazy Argentino screams as the door shudders half-closed behind me. “I keep your secret identity! Just between me & you!”
The rest of the day is by the numbers: shilling medication, swapping email injokes with Rashid, then finishing up with dinner at Jenny’s.
We finalise plans for the India trip over homemade pizza, dough kneaded midair over the countertop as I sit at the kitchen table.
“Show off,” Jenny says.
But so tasty, I reply.
After dinner I reprise the day’s events re: powers & she fills me in on her own work dramas. She was copping some shit from her manager about me going on the trip.
You told her I’m paying my own way, yeah? I ask.
“She thinks you’ll be a distraction,” Jenny says. “She doesn’t really believe in work-life balance.”
How is she with weekends?
I can not come if that’s easier, I offer. Some time apart might let me investigate my power without worrying about worrying Jenny so much.
“I WANT you to come,” Jenny says. “You’re my excuse to get out of after meeting drinks.”
Is THAT what I am?
“Among other things,” she says.
I lie my hand flat on the couch & let the power flow out & underneath Jenny. I raise her gently. She doesn’t notice at first. I feel her weight for a moment & then it sort of dissipates a little, more comparable to lifting a backpack than a person.
She looks down and frowns, then raises an eyebrow at me. So cute. She knows I’m a sucker for the one-eyebrow thing.
Is this okay? I ask.
She nods, smiling. I lean in, concentrating on holding her up, & we kiss. She drifts away slightly, then back, like she’s suspended.
Jenny makes that back-of-the throat noise & I drop her. Our noses smush together & our foeheads bump as she plops back down on the couch.
“Ow,” she says.
You broke my concentration, I say.
“Good,” she grins, leaning in again. “How about we test your concentration some more?”
Like MENSA? I ask, voice muffled by her mouth on mine.
“No,” she murmurs. “Not like MENSA.”
Good. I’m crap at multiple choice, I sigh.
We decide not to bother with the bedroom.
“Hey,” says Jenny after a while. I open my eyes & look up into hers.
I look. We’re not on the couch any more. I’ve floated the two of us into the middle of the room, four feet off the floor. We’re bobbing slightly, but still supported. Which would explain us missing the whole “in mid air” bit ‘until just now.
Jenny leans forward & rests her hands on my shoulders. I stare her, half comedy-incredulous, half actually gobsmacked.
Um, I say.
“Yeah, um,” she giggles.
We wobble slightly & dip a little, but I concentrate & hold us steady, getting a little harder as I do. As you do.
Hold on, I say. I take a deep breath and think us through the air and into the bedroom. Jenny squeals as we spin around to take the corners.
“Magic carpet ride,” she whispers as she wraps her arms around me. I do the same. We float over the bed. I let go. We fall.
Continued in Chapter 6.