Andersson Dexter was having a bad day and it wasn’t even noon yet. Things had started out well enough — his room had brightened for him just the way he liked, waking him easily out of a deep sleep. He didn’t even have a twinge of a hangover. But then he opened his eyes and saw the walls of his small room and he remembered that he wasn’t in Europa any more. He was back in the city, alone and Annabelle was thousands of klicks away again.
He had been back for nearly two weeks and every morning was like this, though some days were better than other. This one was worse. When he got to work he was already in a sour mood. He sat at his desk and logged into the office’s network a couple of minutes early. Right on the dot of nine, a little light flashed at the corner of his vision and a customer’s details began scrolling before his eyes. A chime sounded and Dex could hear the faint hum of an open voice line. “Barrett and Brar Upgrades,” he said, faux-cheerfully, “How may I help you make a better you?”
Dex had put in a decade at B&B and he’d been working as a CSR for a long time before he got that job. He’d been threatened, sworn at, bullied, despised and mocked more times than he could count and like anyone in that business, it rarely gave him a moment’s pause. But he was cranky and the last thing he needed to hear first thing in the morning was the stream of invective this customer unleashed. It was twenty minutes before he got the woman to calm down and an hour before he finally resolved the call. A good long time over the twelve minutes that headquarters expected each call should average and another black mark next to the name Andersson Dexter.
Dex grabbed a food brick from his desk drawer and tore it open. He took a large bite of the glutinous cube and slowly chewed while he typed up the notes from his call with Miss-Not-Ms. Mary Stiles, nemesis customer of the day. While he typed, he activated his covert program that allowed him to have access to the everywherenet from inside the B&B system. The firms kept their systems locked down, ostensibly for security reasons, but mostly to keep employees for wasting company time on other activities. Like Dex was about to do now.
While finishing his tasks for B&B, Dex logged into another system, this one for an organization with no official name, but which he and his cohorts called The Cubicle Men. When he wasn’t enduring calls from customers like Mary Stiles, Dex was a detective, solving cases for people who had no legitimate place to turn. The only law enforcement was the private Security arms of the firms and they only cared about problems that affected them. If you had no job, or only a low level one, there was nowhere to fight for you if you were cheated or stolen from. And if your problem was in an area that the firms disapproved of, then you had no chance. Except with people like Dex, who were employed at places like B&B but, unbeknown to their employers, were really on the clock for the Cubicle Men.
There was no new case for him, though, which soured his mood even more. He sighed aloud and his new office neighbour, a mousy looking man whose name Dex had never bothered to learn, sharply looked up. Dex scowled at the man, who quickly ducked his head down again. Dex checked the clock just barely visible in the corner of his vision. It was only ten minutes past eleven.