Chapter 26:

Bonus Chapter: Ace in the Hole...?

Half-Paid Heroes

---- Author's Note ----
This is a small Jamie-centric tale which doesn't fit anywhere but bridges a gap between her time at Central and being inducted into the Kirikagura Company. It has a few elements that will be important later, so pay close attention...
Jamie was slowly beginning to settle into her role at Central when it was announced the ancient junkyard would be closed. According to Genevieve's daddy (who dressed almost like his daughter, much to Jamie's detriment), the place was going to become a retirement home.

As Jamie sat on a tiny vermillion stool without one leg, the junkyard around her was its usual looming, stinking self. The fact she was used to the overwhelming odour really gave credence to how long she'd been coming here.

"We've got to move this piano," Jamie declared, staring at the rectangular instrument while putting her hands on her hips. It was not yet fall on this one warm Sunday afternoon, so she was in a red and white polka dot dress in order to let the sun shine on her properly. Meanwhile, the piano was still being worn down by the elements, as mysterious and yet oddly grandiose as it usually was. 

"I could call-" Genevieve started, pulling out a pearl pink clamshell phone, but Jamie stopped her.

The offense squad member then whipped up a breeze with a broad sweep of her downturned palm and lifted the instrument straight into the air, Genevieve clapping all the while.
On the next work day, Mr Ace, a central figure of Central Security and Jamie's direct superior, slammed his palms on to the metal table where Odagaki normally sat to deal with things. The superior's pug-like face and not-quite-yellow toupee contrasted with his signature royal purple superhero outfit. Meanwhile, his microscopic black bead eyes took in Jamie and her work dress.  

"Walker!" he boomed, causing Jamie to shiver from head to toe out of sheer unease. "The informants tell me you used your powers for something mundane!"

Drat, she'd almost forgotten about the informants - a role unique to Central Security, whose job it was to monitor their employees surreptitiously in case they did anything unusual. (It was almost like a certain reality TV show where your every move was tracked for someone else's eyes.) The informants were often those with reconnaissance powers...and they were known for being so good at their job, they'd often work overtime, refusing to be paid for these hours.

That was exactly what had happened here, it seems.

"You're still a greenhorn here," Mr Ace finished, pointing at the exit with a pudgy finger, "so this is your first strike."

A gaggle of Central Security workers in a rainbow of different suit colours had gathered at the door as Jamie left Odagaki's office.

The men pointed at her and laughed as loudly as they could muster, havng heard the entire conversation from outside.

Once again, Jamie was banished to the bottom of the pecking order.

In a world which had made so much social progress, what would it take for one girl to gain acceptance in the wider world, exactly?

Gerry Hines