Gear Collection

Anja Storm in her new work car

I don’t know about you, but when I’m asked (or even coerced) into signing something, I read the fine print.

I read the boring bits, the legal bits, the limited liability bits, the bits that mention a death clause, and the bits that wouldn’t stand up in court. I read the bits that are standard and obvious. I read the bits that don’t make sense until you read them again. And again. And again. I read the bits that will be redacted when you die or leave the service. But mostly importantly, I read the bits that give me a solid sense of what the agency is thinking.

With software and games and other fun civilian things, I can give an alias name and email. But with this, it doesn’t matter. They know who I am and they can wipe all existence of this.

But I’m a superhero. I have a set of morals that I adhere to personally and professionally. I know that I do not compromise myself for the sake of ASIO. They know this too.

I put myself on the line because it’s the right thing to do. Even though I don’t know the full story of what’s going on in my neighbourhood, I know I’m the person to do the right thing.

So I read all 107 pages of the Agent Code of Conduct. Boss gives me several coffees. She knows it’s a lot to ask, but she also knows that every good superhero worth their powers would do the right thing here. The ASIO agent sits in the room the whole time. He doesn’t trust me, until…

I sign it.

There’s a flurry of handshaking.

I’m a spy. An agent. A superhero on a slippery slope to the dark side, but is strong enough to say good.

Boss walks us out of the room. We walk the ASIO guy to the elevator. He goes up. Boss and I go down.

“Can I ask what exactly is going on that I’m intercepting?” I ask Boss.

“You can,” she says.

“So… What exactly is going on?”

“That’s classified.”

I smile.

We’re now in the land of hidden information. Where I try to piece together things that make sense, where I trust that I don’t need to know what I don’t know, where I trust the agencies I’m working with, where they trust me, and where things could go really well or really, really bad.

A couple more floors down (how deep is this building?) and we step out of the elevator to a floor that looked identical to the last. Only this time, I hear voices. People are here working. How would it feel working like a little mole all day in this underground base? Do they even bother to take the long elevator upstairs for lunch? When was the last time they saw daylight?

We walk through a door labelled GEAR.

A short man is sitting at a desk. He gets up immediately to shake Boss’s hand.

“Hi Celia! Long time no see! What can we get you today?”

Celia? Boss has a name? In all this time I never knew her name. Celia.

“Hi Rod,” she says in the most friendly voice I didn’t know she ever had. “Let’s get Anja kitted up for a mission.”

Kitted up. Sounds so… I don’t know… movie-like. But don’t they always say suit up?

“Which level?” he asks.

“Level A, thanks Rod.”

Rod types away at his computer, for whatever is involved in the Level A kit. I wonder if Level A is the top or the bottom? Maybe I’ll never know.

He gets up and leaves through a back door.

Boss turns to me. “You’re gonna love this,” she says with a grin that only the boss of a superhero agency would grin.

Rod comes back.

“This is yours.”

He hands me a plastic key card. It’s plain white. I turn it over in my hands. Nothing on it to indicate who or what it’s for.

“Thanks Rod.” I know it’s a big deal, even though I’m not sure exactly what it’s a key for.

“Thanks Rod,” says Boss. Celia. Boss Celia? I’ll just stick with Boss.

She leads me out and down a long corridor.

“I know it’s a real rabbit warren down here. You got your bearings, right?” she asks.

I nod. Of course I do. I pretty much have a compass inbuilt into my system.

We reach the end of the corridor and go out through the fire escape exit.

The door opens up to a large carpark. Only it’s not just your regular Shoppingtown carpark. I mean, it’s drab and grey like any other major carpark, but there are just a few cars parked, and along the wall of the fire escape door are a bunch of tall lockers.

“You’re number six,” says boss.

But the lockers don’t have numbers on them. So I wave my new key card over them and sure enough, the sixth locker from the left clicks open.

Inside is a jacket. Dark grey. Fitted. Nice. It’s like mine, but better. Technical material. Soft. Silent to the touch. So many pockets I wouldn’t be surprised if the whole lining was a pocket.

There’s a backpack too. It’s black. And much lighter than expected.

I unzip it.

Glasses, sunglasses, a torch, another torch, gloves, neck warmer, oh another torch, gluten free vegan high calorie chocolate flavour snack bars, oh and gluten free vegan high calorie vanilla flavour snack bars. OK.

“Get the torch,” says Boss.

I pick up one of them.

“Shine it at that number plate,” she says, pointing at a black Subaru Outback.

I shine the torch on the number plate. It changes from a plain old regular Victorian number plate, to just the number six. Cool.

“Let’s get in,” says Boss.

OK. So we get in. I’m in the driver seat, and she’s next to me.

“Your key card is the key for this, and everything from us,” she says.

I press the button to start.

“You’ve got access to all our properties with the number six on them. You’ve got your locker here. There’s a gym and change room with your locker in the staff rec level. There’s a house that’s yours. Number six. We’ve got a number six aircraft, watercraft -“

“Spacecraft?” I ask. I mean, that would be really cool too, right?

“I don’t think you need that,” she says.

Does that mean it exists if I do need it?

“There’s a number six safe house here in Melbourne, another in Sydney, New York, The Cotswolds. There’s a number six laundromat here. They’ll take care of your clothes, your vehicle, your, well, anything that needs cleaning. They have more of them so you don’t have to wait for anything. There’s a number six hotel -“

Hotel?”

“Cover stuff. You might need it. There’s more. Let’s get going. I’ll talk you through it.”

So I drive off and after zig zagging back up to the surface, we find ourselves in the late afternoon sun of Melbourne. Boss talks security features, security protocols, ASIO protocols, spy protocols, and a whole range of classified stuff that you kind of know exists, but never think you need to know it. Until you do.

But I’ve got a burning question. I’m obviously going to be working a lot. Sometimes away from home. I mean, there’s a number six hotel, right? But my cat’s on medication. I can’t just leave her at home for my neighbour to look after these days. She needs her asthma puffer twice a day! So I find out the answer to my question.

I shouldn’t be surprised. I mean, plenty of people have pets, including superheroes and spies and people working in secret. We need vets with high security clearance! So I guess it should’ve been obvious. Of course there’s a number six vet that doubles as a pet sitter and house sitter if required.

“Cool,” I say.

It really is cool.

I drop Boss off out the front of HQ.

“One more thing,” she says. “Give me your watch.”

I give her the phone watch that has only been mine for a few days.

She hands me a much smaller sleeker one. It doesn’t even have a digital display. It just looks like a regular Citizen quartz watch. It’s even solar powered. Cool.

Seems like I’m ready. Like I’m kitted up and ready for my first mission as an agent. Spy. Superhero agent spy. Hmm… Anja Storm, Agent Superhero at work. Can we pretend that has a ring to it?


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