8. The Overseer

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No-one was visible when the doors unlocked themselves, as if by magic (or perhaps some sort of timer mechanism), at 9am

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No-one was visible when the doors unlocked themselves, as if by magic (or perhaps some sort of timer mechanism), at 9am.

Geoff guessed it was 9am because that's what time most government departments opened. Red morning light filled the lobby. The air was warm, the marble floor stayed cool. Naomi roused as the locks retracted with a loud metallic click.

Everyone stood up and shuffled forward in their line through the now open doors. The old lady pushed a small, red wheelie walker. She continued the conversation from the night before, but more quietly, under her breath, with nobody else participating.

Geoff stepped into the interior of the building. It was less grand than the exterior had led him to expect. The foyer was sparsely furnished with an unmanned reception desk. A folded paper sign sat on the counter.

Please proceed to Overseer's office on Level 3 for all pet relocation enquiries. No letter means no pet.

"Don't worry about that," said Jamieson as Naomi eyed the sign. "If they have your furball here we'll get it. Letter or no letter."

The old lady clearly wasn't too concerned about having a letter either. Although she was breathing heavily. She sat down on her walker in front of the sign. She may have to do it in five-metre increments, thought Geoff, but he was sure no power on heaven, earth or the underworld was going to stop her getting to her Eric.

Jamieson led the way across a worn grey carpet, overtaking the other skeletons, past empty bookshelves and up a set of stairs. Geoff and Naomi followed him onto the second floor, and then up another flight of stairs to the Overseer's office. Thanks to their youth, sobriety and lack of distracted children Geoff and Naomi found themselves the first to arrive in a room filled with floor to ceiling filing cabinets.

Without stopping to take in much of the filing room, they followed Jamieson up one more flight of stairs to the third level. It was completely empty except for a large desk against the far wall. Sitting hunched over this, sat a small man with big reading glasses.

He didn't look up from his computer as Geoff and Naomi approached. he wasn't so much hunched over as suffering from an actual hunchback, it seemed to Geoff on closer inspection. It wasn't clear if this was from a long time spent sitting with bad posture or if he had an actual skeletal deformity.

He wore an untucked shirt with the top two buttons missing and a loose tie. His glasses were only frames. He had some skin leather on his torso which showed through his missing buttons, but no hand coverings. His skeletal fingers tapped away on a chunky grey keyboard common in above-earth schoolroom computers from the 1990's.

Geoff could tell he was the overseer because a gold plaque affixed to the edge of his desk told him so.

The Overseer addressed them without looking up from the screen.

"Letter"

"Pardon?" Geoff said

"Do you have your letter?" the man said more loudly. Enunciating each word with force.

"They don't have a letter. But they need an inventory search," Jamieson said, stepping forward.

At the sound of their new friend's voice, the Overseer stopped typing and peered up at them over the rim of his fake glasses.

At the sound of their new friend's voice, the Overseer stopped typing and peered up at them over the rim of his fake glasses

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Jamieson gave the Overseer a smile. It wasn't returned.

"How many times have you been here?" Geoff whispered to Jamieson.

"Once or twice" Jamieson replied.

The Overseer looked back at his computer screen with a frown.

"Name," He said.

It took Geoff a moment to realise that he was asking a question.

"Geoff," he said.

"Species" the overseer barked.

"Human?" Geoff said. He wasn't sure where this line of questioning was leading.

"He means your pet," Jamieson said.

"Her name's Bernie," Naomi said, "and she's a female, domestic short-hair cat with blue-grey colouring."

The Overseer clicked on something with his mouse, typed for a moment and then looked up at Naomi.

"Misses Nomi Hoops?"

"Naomi Hooper".

"Hmm," the Overseer typed something into the computer.

'Your pet goes by the name Bernie?"

"Yes. Back on earth, before the accident."

"According to my records, you have already collected Bernie from the DPRS," the Overseer said, "we checked her out of our systems to a Miss Nomi Hoops of Firestrum Crescent, New Carrington, last Thursday."

"We don't live in New Carrington. We live in under-Byron Bay. And Naomi's name is pronounced with an 'A' in it" said Geoff.

"We've never been here before," said Naomi, "we didn't even know it existed until we met Jamieon last night."

"Maybe there was some kind of database error," said Geoff, "could you try looking again" he tried to make his voice as agreeable as possible.

Geoff's attempt at friendliness didn't seem to work. The Overseer looked at him without saying anything for more time than was comfortable. Then cleared his throat loudly.

"Young man. I have been working here since before you were born in the before world and I will still be working here long after you have passed onto dust. I built this database, I think I know how to work it."

Jamieson grabbed the edge of the desk with both hands and leaned forward so his face was almost resting on top of the computer monitor.

Jamieson grabbed the edge of the desk with both hands and leaned forward so his face was almost resting on top of the computer monitor

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The overseer clenched his jaw and started clicking and typing again, peering with a look of disgust back at the screen. His face was lit pale green from the electric glow of the machine.

Naomi grabbed Geoff's hand and dug her nails painfully into his palm.

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