Chapter 6

(in which our hero considers a more formal avenue of training)

<– Chapter 5.

The next morning as I dress for work my shoulder aches. I touch the spot where the “bruise” is. It’s warm. A little tender, too.

Lingering kisses on Jenny’s doorstep on the way to work. The morning-after endorphins last almost 20 minutes into our weekly team meeting. We’re trialling a new spreadsheet formula for stock control and there’s been some resistance from clients. It’s as riveting as it sounds.

While You Were Out stickynote on monitor when I get back to my desk. “Call Beth (?) at Central Inst about registration documents”. No idea.

After work I get off 2 stations early to look for payphones. I find one in the carpark of an abandoned 7/11 after 20 minutes’ wandering.

Apparently phonecalls are 60c now. Can’t remember the last time I used one of these. I check the number I’ve called up on my mobile & dial. The smooth silver buttons click as I press them. The phone picks up after three rings.

“Central Institute this is Brad can I help you.”

The stickynote from earlier today pops into my mind. It would appear that “inst” means “institute”, not “instruments”, as I had thought. Not sure how you get “Beth” from “Brad” though.

Hi, I say. I’m calling about the powers courses you offer?

“Hold, please.”

A Savage Garden song swims out of the cool plastic handset. I half-listen to the lyrics, recalling sense impressions from last night.  I smile, remembering Jenny on top of me & nothing under.

“Beth Cowley speaking.”

Yeah, hi. I was ringing about the powers course?

“The Use and Application of Enhanced and Augmented Abilities Certificate?”

Yeah that’s the one.

“Would you like me to post you a brochure?”

Did you leave a message for me at my work today? I ask.

“Can I ask who I’m speaking to?”

I’d rather not say, actually.

“Can I ask why not?”

I hesitate.

“If it’s a privacy issue I assure you current laws prevent forced acquisition of augmented individuals’ personal information.”

Did you leave ANY messages for ANYONE at work today?

“I think I understand,” Beth-who-may-be-the-Beth-who-left-a-message-at-my-work says. “Our institution has an active anonymity inclusiveness policy,” she adds, her tone dropping slightly out of officious & into reassuring.

I’m not sure I-

“You can enrol under your nom de guerre if you prefer,” she says. “Forgive the rhyme. You can also attend class in costume.”

Costume?

“Uniform, if you prefer. We’re happy for you to reveal as little or as much of your identity as you choose.”

That sounds great, I say.

“Do you have a pen?”

Yeah, I lie, instinctively patting my pockets.  She gives me the address to come in and enrol. I hang up and tap a diary entry into my phone about enrolling next week. I’m going to need a new mask.

There’s someone in the car park with me. Waiting to use the phone?

It’s all yours, I say. Sorry I took so long.

“We had a lunch date, I thought,” the guy says, stepping into the light cast by the payphone flouro. It’s Mr. Friendly. What the Hell?

Continued in Chapter 7.

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