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He approached the desk with some trepidation.

“Hello,” he said, “I have an appointment with, um, Hannah Richards.”

He had called from a phone booth two miles from his home and almost as far from his office to make the appointment. Everything had been arranged with the utmost regard to privacy, but he still felt like he was about to get caught; recognised; singled out.

The girl at the desk smiled and nodded.

“Of course, sir. You’ll just need to fill out some forms while you’re waiting.”

She pulled a datapad out of a drawer and handed it over to him. “If you’re registering on behalf of somebody else, you’ll need to fill out the Declaration section 3b as well as the main form. The waiting room is the third door on your left.”

He took the datapad and went down the corridor. There was nobody else in the waiting room; just as well.

The forms were simple enough and he completed them within a couple of minutes. In fact, the name was the hardest part. Once done, he sat clutching the datapad and staring at the random artworks on the wall.

“Would you like to come through?”

He was startled out of his reverie by a young woman in a grey suit.

“Are you, uh, Hannah Richards?”

She smiled and laughed. “Oh no,” she said. “There is no Hannah Richards, really. That’s just a code name we use for appointments. Would you like to come through?”

He followed her into a private office and handed over the datapad as he sat down in the surprisingly comfortable chair.

“Hmm, nice name,” she said as she scrolled through the information. “This all looks to be in order.”

He felt somewhat relieved, but said nothing.

“Okay,” she said. “I will provide you with a provisional license, pending completion of the statutory public safety tests. Please be aware that any actions you take prior to satisfactory completion of said tests are not covered by the city’s insurance and are entirely your own personal responsibility. Basically, hold off on smacking anybody until you’ve done those tests.”

He nodded. He’d set an appointment to do the safety tests when he called to make this appointment.

She stood up and crossed to a cupboard, rummaging around until she pulled out a plastic wrapped package.

“Size L, basic costume in blue. There’s a changing room next door. You can exchange this at the tailors on Seventh, with this voucher here, that’ll cover the basics – mask, tights, custom insignia.”

He looked up at her hopefully as he accepted the package. “Cape?”

She shook her head. “If you want a cape, you have to pay for it yourself. We can’t insure for them, you know? They get caught on nails, stuck in doors, sucked into jet engines – personally, I recommend you go without one. Strongly recommend it. Anyway, you also get your first month’s free pass for the trams and buses. That’s for your provisional period, you just come back here to get it renewed.”

He blinked. “Trams and buses?”

She smiled. “Yes. Free public transport is included with the license. As long as you’re in, ah, in costume, of course. It makes people feel safe, you know?”

He smiled back. It did make sense, he supposed, although it wasn’t the sort of travel he expected.

“Besides,” she said, “It’ll be covered in the safety tests, but we don’t exactly recommend the whole ‘leaping tall buildings with a single bound’ thing, you know? You can’t see where you going to land until it’s too late, and even if there’s nobody stood there, the cracks in the pavement take an awful lot of fixing, and yadda yadda yadda, blah blah blah. It’s not good. Take the trams.”

The printer beside her spat out a small card showing the details he’d given on the form.

“The tailor will attach the photograph for you when you have your proper mask sorted,” she said. “And in the meantime let me be the first to welcome you to the super powered hero community.”

He stood up and shook her hand, juggling the plastic package awkwardly, then made his way to the changing rooms.There was a locker room there too, and he stowed away his civilian clothes and ID, taking only the new license and vouchers with him.

Not quite how he’d imagined it, he thought as he looked in the mirror to adjust his temporary mask.

He stepped outside and looked up to see a purple caped blur speed overhead.  Then again, he told himself, didn’t all of the city’s magnificent heroes start out just like this?

© Kari Fay

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