1.04

The corridor was sterile and lifeless, flooded with dull fluorescent lighting and a stale musty smell. Girders and pipes ran along the roof, the walls were slathered in a thick latex paint, and we were walking over faded concrete tiles.

Even if this was a secret tunnel, the tackiness of it was perfect for Glebe. It felt exactly like we’d been transported into some kind of late 70s public work, although like a lot of things these days, it felt… uncannily perfect for what it was trying to be. 

The several hundred metres we’d walked down the tunnel had been in silence, all excitement having left us after the lecture we’d just received. 

I kept my eyes down, counting the concrete tiles we walked over. The chips of paint and flecks of corrosion were too uniform and with the level of inspection I was giving it to avoid eye contact with the others, it was pretty easy to spot the signs that someone had just dragged some textures through it when they were making this tunnel instead of it being from the decade it looked like it belonged to. 

Lucija marched forward, occasionally flitting back to one of us to try and perk us back up. Given how deliberate her lecture had been, it was hard to guess why she thought it would work and we’d just move on. 

I wasn’t sure if this was just how she was as a person, or if she thought she’d overstepped the mark but I couldn’t shake the feeling that what we felt now was something that she’d fully intended.

It wasn’t long before she was out of small talk attempts, and could only give us observational facts about what we were heading towards. 

“None of the wires above are connected to anything, but the tubing is actually cycling the air. I’m led to believe it’s easier to actually do it rather than try to make it look like we’re doing that.”

“We would have just passed under the Crown Market?”

“We’ve purposely kept corridor perfectly clean, but I think we’re throwing litter in the others and letting them scum up.” 

It was hard to focus on such trivia when all I was thinking about was the warning we’d just been given was that everyone telling us what we were in for had been trying to mislead us, but eventually she stumbled on to some details that I wanted to know. 

“The floor plans designed this tunnel to run for 1400 metres, but I think it’s slightly longer than that. In the Handbook, there should be some small maps that show where these tunnels crisscross, and how you can easily get to the Terminal provided you’re in town.” 

“1.4 kilometres?” Jean did the maths out loud. 

“Yes, it should be a ten-to-fifteen minute run.” 

“Ten-to-fifteen minute run?” Saint echoed with disbelief at the run part. 

“Yes, there is some expectation you’d be able to do that,” Lucija waved away his disbelief. 

That didn’t bother me. I’d skipped over that and was focused on the implication that this strange, tacky tunnel crossed the city. It just seemed so… unnecessary for a television show. 

“This tunnel network was made to be the most efficient, at least outside of the normal legal snafus, not really for you to be comfortable.” 

“You said… the Terminal? Is that a… place?” Grace asked eagerly.

Lucija’s long black hair flicked dramatically as she turned and the smile on her face showed that she thought she’d found something we’d all perk up about. Everyone else was paying her more attention than they had been so I guess she was right.

“It is the place as far as operational matters are considered, but it’s also not something that will ever be shown on the show. That probably makes it sound more impressive than it is, it’s actually a fairly small installation given what it can do.” 

“And what exactly is it?” Grace pressed.

“Trust me when I say it’s not worth the headache of me trying to explain the part you desperately want to know and getting the technical issues wrong before this has all started, or the headache of stealing Yuca’s bit. He’ll reveal the magic once we’re there.” 

Lucija’s long shrug said it all. She really wasn’t going to talk about us being superheroes right now. 

It was clear to me that she would have left the conversation alone there but as she was studying our reactions to another conversational deadend, she seemed to decide that this was going to be her one opportunity to keep us talking like we hadn’t been for most of this walk. 

For my part, I just wanted to hear what the people in charge of this had to say about what was going on. I wasn’t annoyed at her or trying not to talk to her, I just wanted her to stop alluding to things that we would know without telling us them. 

There were a lot of unknowns about this and I’d known that going in, but we hadn’t even made it through the first day on the set and people were already backtracking from things they said and I just wanted people to talk about what we were now contractually obliged into. 

“You know how these days it’s all roads lead to the Exchange? Well for this show, it’s really that all roads lead to our Terminal. We’ve tried to make it so that if things become serious, there is no chance any of you could be caught out in the wrong place at the wrong time. These designs, and the fact that they pulled them off, it really is the way they were able to get the greenlight for this show.”

The way she said they made me think that Lucija didn’t count herself as one of the ones who made this idea happen. I wanted to think of a way to ask about that, but there wasn’t really an easy way I could think of to just start in on that idea. 

“Terminal will be our base of operations, and where you’ll report for all superpower related activities. There’s also training facilities and my own word of advice about here? It’s somewhere that nobody in the show production can follow you, so if you need space from the show, this is somewhere you can come.”

Now that was good to know.

“How many people work there?” Saint asked.

“Twelve, discounting you four, and anything to do with production from Netflix. Only seven are technically employees of the company proper, five of us are in contracted arrangements.”

“Sorry, you don’t work for the show?”

“Wait, you don’t work for this…?” 

I’d been ready to ask so I got in first with the question, Jean asking the same question right behind me. 

“The startup behind the idea is small and focused on the tech. As part of their legal obligations in the government contracts, they are required to finance specialised positions for security and political purposes. I am on secondment from the DoD, so no but yes, I work for the show. Just as the others are from their areas of expertise. I’m sure that’s all incredibly boring for you so we don’t have to talk about the employment arrangements.” 

While she gave a bit of a knowing smile that it wasn’t boring, it wasn’t like the other points she’d teased. It was terser as she shut down the conversation, and Lucija sped up a little bit in her walk. 

I wouldn’t have appreciated the new kids on the block asking her about the state of my employment either. 

I was trying to think of how to ask more questions about the arrangements that wouldn’t be offensive. I would have loved to know any of this going in to signing the contract that I would be on this show.

I’d always felt like I had no real idea of what was behind the scenes, but I’d thought it was just be a television show that the government had agreed to look the other way when it came to the normal drug use. 

Every time that was being challenged in just the first day, it was some allusions towards a huge structure and a refusal to talk about that structure. I’m really hoping things will get clearer after today. 

“How big is the Terminal?” Saint happily changed the topic before I’d thought of a clever way to ask more questions. 

“Hm,” Lucija stopped marching for the first time in the last ten minutes while she thought. “Good question. Maybe ten rooms? It’s functional, but they’ve done what they can to reduce the footprint to make sure it stays hidden.”

We all stopped when she didn’t start walking.

“We’re about to arrive,” she announced to us. 

I glanced around, catching the others’ eyes as we tried to see an end to the tunnel that didn’t appear to exist. 

Lucija casually glanced up and we all followed.

The mess of exposed tubing and structural beams that the roof was made out of suddenly turned inwards, and sleek steel panels had appeared across the roof. It wasn’t a subtle change but it was easy to miss if you weren’t looking for it. 

“The entrance will always be on the left when you see the roof change. Most of them have some kind of obvious thing to use to open the door, but this one is a bit different since it’s basically your front door. This one should open automatically provided its your biometrics, just like the door in the house. Does anyone want to walk ahead until it triggers?”

Nobody really jumped on the offer but Saint stepped forward.

“I’m picturing a Jurassic Park gates moment, so I’ll do it.”

“It’s more of a sliding door,” Lucija corrected him with a polite laugh.

“Hey, how can it always be on the left?” Jean asked while we all awkwardly watched Saint walk forward. 

“What do you mean?” Lucija responded without turning to him.

“If we came the other way, this door would be on the right.” 

“Yes, I suppose it would be.”

“So how is it always on the left?”

“It’s not really,” she conceded and this time turned to him. I saw slightly raised eyebrows and a bit more of a classic teacher look on her face. “This isn’t some maze, but there is the correct way to walk. Every random staircase, fire escape, ramp or whatever leads to this place is designed to dump you so you’re heading forward and not turning. It’s a square, so it works, but you could do it differently if you wanted – ah. There we go.”

There was a slight hiss, and the sound of something rolling as four wall panels suddenly moved away from right next to Saint. He’d been walking slowly since he knew something like that would happen but I saw him flinch as it happened.

He wasn’t that many metres in front of us, and we all ran forward to look in through the door and at the Terminal that had been alluded to. As we caught up to him, I could hear Saint lowly humming the song from Jurassic Park. 

“Well, welcome to the Terminal.”

1.03

“Uh, excuse me,” announced somebody in the hallway who had not been there a minute ago. “Sorry. Excuse me.” 

We all turned to stare at him from the kitchen table. He was quiet and polite, but not enough to stop the several thoughts that raced through my mind – who was he, how he’d gotten in here, had somebody not locked the door, was he a murderer, before I settled on the realisation the others had quickly jumped to: he worked for the show. 

“We had to wait for a lull for any cut to look natural,” he shrugged at our looks of surprise at his intrusion.

He was dressed in full nondescript black clothes, his hair in a large coif and a row of stainless steel piercings ran down his right ear. He gave off that arty-media type vibe. 

“If all of you could sort of head to bed, make it look natural, and then just meet me back in the hallway. We’ll use editing to fudge the details.”

“For what?” I asked after a few moments, since everyone else just nodded along with these instructions.

“The real tour, the real briefing, the… stuff?” He shook his head like it should have been obvious. It was, I just didn’t think that they’d be so cloak and dagger about it. 

So that was what we did. All of us threw in a few yawns and complaints about how late it was, most of which weren’t particularly subtle, and we headed back to our bedrooms. However they edited that together was their problem.  

It was so hard to sit around and wait a few minutes to ensure they had any shots they needed of all of us and it was killing me just waiting. I was the first one back downstairs, although I think the others followed the moment they heard me leave my room.

There was a lady waiting for us when we got back to the hallway. I’d seen glimpses of her this morning as the cars had approached to drop us off here. 

She had long black curly hair, and was dressed in a blouse and high waisted pants. She looked incredibly formal and she was clearly one of the people running the show here. She jerked up from casually leaning against the wall the moment she saw us approaching.

“Hello!” 

“Hi…” we all murmured back in some fashion. 

“I hope you all had a good first day? No issues?” Nobody answered and I think she could see the look of impatience on my face. “We’re going to jump straight to the good things but first we have to run through some housekeeping stuff.” 

The way she said it made me think of the first few days of induction at my job. If nothing else, at least I’d learn how people kept appearing inside the house. It wasn’t a very comforting feeling to be living somewhere people could just show up.

“First things first, I’m Lucija Patrk. I know I met you two this morning,” she looked at Grace and Jean, “but I didn’t really meet both of you.” 

I’m glad she didn’t count that as us meeting. She’d poked her head in through the car window, had a brief exchange with the driver and left without telling me about a single thing that was happening even when I’d asked. 

“My involvement is meant to be more operational, but I’m also appointed as the person to manage you four, so please speak to me for anything. I’m expecting the next few weeks will be a blur so don’t worry if you need to hassle me about things we’ve run through. It’s a lot easier to re-explain something than it will be to clean up the mess if you’ve decided to just do something for no reason.”

She snatched her phone out of her pockets, and flicked the screen a few times.

“There we go, this should have airdropped you all my details. Now, follow me.”

She spun around and marched down the hallway to our laundry room. It was the first room when you walked through the door to the house. 

“The door you’ll need to take whenever it comes to operational matters is here.” 

Lucija stepped into the the walk-in storage closet and pushed against the shelf on the right wall. It swung easily backwards into a sterile, dimly lit hallway. 

“Voila,” Lucija didn’t quite bow.

“Is that how you came in?” I asked straight away.

“Yep, and Jan earlier. There’s also an emergency entrance located under the washing machine but you’d only ever need that if there was a power failure where this door wouldn’t work. 

“Isn’t it just a fake wall?” Jean asked, curiously looking around to see how it worked. 

“No, it’s a magnetic lock. It recognises all of us here so it will open but without that recognition or power, it would be impossible to move. Before you ask, it’s not really my field for how any of that works so I can’t tell you.” 

“And this is what, our superhero lair?” Saint asked hopefully.

“…not quite,” Lucija smiled but it quickly turned into a frown. “It’s not quite that simple. How much did the lawyers or the network tell you?”

“Not much,” Saint shrugged. 

“They refused to tell us any details. I was told that this would be explained on set.” Grace stated very matter-of-factly. 

“Then we may as well start with the basics,” Lucija was visibly unhappy as she started to run over the details. It was obvious to me that she hadn’t been told this would be part of her job, and that she’d thought we’d be a lot more prepared than we were. “Uh, take a seat?”

Lucija sat on top of the washing machine she’d pointed to before. We all glanced around, but the only one who tried to turn something into an actual seat was Saint who sat himself on a stepladder. 

I stood at attention, dying to know what answers we’d be getting about the show.

“Let’s start with the basics. We’ll be using it to source any work we agree to, so you’re all familiar with Just Us?” 

It was the app that had started the superhero dream. It was the sort of thing your parents could never describe properly – mine always called it “Uber for people pretending to be heroes” because I don’t think they know what Airtasker is.  

You posted a job you needed done, and somebody offered to do the job and you either accepted their terms – price, powers, and priors – or you rejected their offer until you found something that worked or you delisted the job. 

Despite their tagline being “there is no justice, there’s Just Us,” the terms and conditions made it clear that it had nothing to do with superheroes, drug use, superpowers or any illegal and prohibited activity, nobody ever used it to look for anything other than someone willing to pop up and give you a helping hand. 

“You all are, otherwise you wouldn’t be here,” Lucija broke up the nervous glances between us. “You don’t need to worry about saying something stupid here, because I need to know more of what you know than I care what you’ve done.” 

It’s not that I thought I’d get in trouble, I just didn’t want to be the first to admit it. In high school, everyone was desperate to try out the drugs that let you have superpowers.

Now that we were finishing university and getting jobs, most people including my friends, thought it was just a dumb teenage phase that you grew out of. I hadn’t admitted it to any of them that I had a schedule where I spent every Tuesday night taking jobs on Just Us. 

“Yeah, I use it a lot,” Jean was the first to admit it and said it proudly. The others joined in, and I murmured about my use of it. 

“Putting aside any of the rhetoric that you’ve seen the Ministers, the talking heads, or the newspapers carry on with, what do you think people actually think about it?” Lucija asked, eyes darting to each of us while she waited for an answer. 

“They’re supportive of it,” Grace responded. “It’s part of the reason why no calls to outlaw the app are ever responded to.” 

“Spot on,” Lucija nodded. “And the government? I mean, they’re one of the main partners in this production.” 

“Oh they have to hate it,” Jean jumped in straight away. “It’s the sort of thing that just shows how useless they are.” 

“Wouldn’t that be why they like it?” Saint asked, and I saw Lucija look approvingly at him. “They get to talk about how bad society has gotten, without anything so awful happening that they need to do something.” 

“Well, yes and no,” Lucija interjected. “They are doing something. We’re here. We’re using it for this show which has a greenlight from the government. It is definitely worth keeping in mind though as we go forward that this is a complicated arrangement that is probably more political than you were ever led to believe.” 

“Because nobody else has said this, it’s just going to have to be something I say. I want to get it out of the way before we start the training, and before you meet everyone.”

“In this house,” Lucija gestured out towards the rest of the house, “it’s a reality show that’s a partnership between Netflix, the Australian government and forty-one key sponsors to give a snapshot into the lives of ordinary people who have access to superpowers. That part should sound familiar since it’s more or less the pitch, without some of the enticing buzzwords everyone seems to love.”

“Outside of this house, you are four young people being given legal access to super powers, a potential blind eye to consequence and then being asked to go out and help the public with the hopes that it makes good watching. They won’t be selecting the “I’m hungover and need someone to fly me a burger for $20” tasks.” 

“I’m not saying any of this to scare you, but because I want you to know this isn’t something that is just a bit of fun, not for us. If we do our job well, this is more like a glorified Border Security or RBT than any teenage dream of a superhero movie.”

”The reason I’m saying this is because opportunities like this tend to bring out the desperate, the crazies, and the mean. There’s a reason why everything we put out says we begin filming next year. The best case scenario is that all the drama comes from you guys. I, for one, want this to be ordinary, not something people out there are trying to get their fifteen minutes on.” Lucija paused there, but it was easy to see there was more to the speech stored in her mind.

The mood in the laundry changed pretty quickly and the excitement I’d had at knowing that we’d finally get to learn about the superpower side of this had sunk heavily in my stomach.

There was a long silence, and the four of us glanced around at each other nervously. Nobody held eye contact for too long. 

Lucija sighed to break the excruciating long silence.

“Well, I’ll probably get told off for scaring you, especially when any of them rabbit on about the tech. I’ve just been in those meetings where they all talk about how great this is, how fun it will be for people, and they just skate over the details and concerns. This will be an extremely rewarding experience, but we can’t overlook that people will make this job hard at times.” 

She added so much emphasis when she said the job would rewarding that it was clear she wanted us to forget what she’d said before. It wasn’t going to be that easy, and the feeling in my stomach wouldn’t just go away so quickly. 

“Er, now, maybe we should just get going to the others? They’re waiting for us, and I think I’ve spoiled the mood so I don’t want to say much more…” 

I think she hoped someone would correct her, but none of us did.

1.02

It’s not often I’ll say this, but this was one of the times where I am so very thankful for boys being able to talk constantly about nothing. 

The conversation might have only been between Saint and Jean, but it meant that this grocery shop was going along smoothly since it didn’t rely on me to make the conversation. 

“You have to agree with me, given you did it too,” Jean gave me an accusatory glare. 

He was exactly what you’d expect for someone who’d grown up in the Inner West. His clothes were loud; he’d worn a collared shirt that was cream, covered in small and bright tropical fruit pictures and his pants were some kind of glossy black material. His dark brown hair was curly and slathered in enough product that it sat in a perfect bouffant no matter how much he excitedly jumped around as he talked. 

The conversation had started in the car and continued as we’d parked and starting walking to the shopping centre. Jean was adamant that two of us had purposely given ourselves ‘cooler’ names when we introduced ourselves, and that we all should have been allowed to pick our names. 

“I don’t think it’s the same thing,” I shrugged. “Mine’s just a nickname from shortening my name. His,” I glanced at Saint, “isn’t even really his name.” 

When we first met, after being shuttled to the house and having to film the sickly sweet and excited arrival, we’d awkwardly introduced ourselves. It was the sort of cringey, first class of the semester meet and greet, but all on camera and all being broadcast to the country at a later date. 

It still made me cringe to think about how rehearsed I’d been as I said hello. 

I’d told them during that incredibly awkward introduction that my name was Marisa, but just to call me Mars because everyone did. Someone had called me that during primary school and it had never gone away.

“No, it’s part of my name!” Saint defended himself after I said that. 

“Your last name. And it’s so much cooler! Of course you’d rename yourself.” Jean interrupted him, and looked at Grace and myself to try to get one of us confirm this point for what felt like the thirtieth time in the last ten minutes. 

“It’s just what everyone calls me, it’s a nickname just like Mars.” Maybe it was because I hadn’t taken his side, but it seemed like the entertainment from discussing this was starting to wane for Saint.

“What would you call yourself? If it’s a good nickname, we could just call you that.” Grace spoke up. Jean turned to her and gave an immediate grin. 

“Jet Black.” He stepped in front of us dramatically, walking backwards through the sliding doors to the mall, and made a grand gesture as he turned and said it. “But! It’s with two t’s, and a q.” 

“No,” Saint walked passed him immediately. 

Grace and I looked at each other, and if it wasn’t our first day of knowing each other, and there weren’t the drones with cameras pointed at us darting around to capture everything, I’d have rolled my eyes and I think she would have too.

It was so lame.

“Wait, what do you mean no?” Jean looked genuinely shocked.

“Does anyone know which way Woolies is?” Saint looked around, ignoring the question.

This wasn’t a shopping centre I’d ever been to so I tried to look apologetic as he looked at us. It seemed like something in the background because after a moment or two, Saint seemed to suddenly head in a specific direction without an answer from any of us. 

“It’s the coolest name!” Jean reiterated. 

“It’s not, it’s ridiculous. Two t’s? A Q?” 

“Have you ever met a Jet Black? Let alone a Jett Blaq?” Jean pronounced the words like they were different. 

“I would think you were lying to me if you told me that was your name.” Saint powered on ahead. “Right?” 

“Yes, absolutely.” I agreed quickly. Grace murmured some agreement. 

“Oh, yet, you get to pick Saint as your name.” Jean frowned at none of us taking his side. 

“That’s it, you’re cooking tonight.” Saint said it like he’d won the upper hand of some argument the two had been having and I expected Jean to argue again, but he just shrugged and made a face to say that was fair enough. 

I think this was some kind of competition between the two of them? I don’t know, there are times where I really just don’t get guys.

It was easy enough to find the Woolworths by following where the production crew quickly ran towards to get set up. 

We grabbed a trolley, and Saint pushed it along as we walked past and piled all kinds of food into our trolley.

As part of the show, we all had monthly allowances that was much more than any job I’d ever worked paid and while I wasn’t as impulsive as the others in spending the money here, I’d made sure there were enough of my favourite biscuits that I wouldn’t go hungry even if the others helped themselves. 

By the end of the shop, our trolley was overflowing with a mismatch of things that all of us thought we could somehow share. We had cereals, fruit and vegetables, chips, some meats and several easy to cook meals that we’d suggested as the thing we could cook for each other. 

“We should get some beer as well,” Saint put out there to the group while we scanned our groceries. 

I’d been thinking about suggesting something similar to make the impending dinner a lot less awkward, and honestly, I hoped a drink would make me feel less self conscious about the cameras. 

Having a production crew appear randomly, and small little camera drones jump in front of you in public really didn’t help make you forget about the fact that everything was being filmed for television. 

“Maybe some wine too?” I suggested, and looked over at Grace. She gave a little smile at the suggestion. I would be happy to have beer, but wine was always better when you were trying to look presentable on television. 

“Yeah, that works for me,” Saint handed the last item, one of the six boxes of cereal we bought so that we’d have everything, to Grace to scan. She’d somehow ended up as the one packing everything neatly into bags. She was being meticulous about the way she packed things and after trying to help, it became clear I’d just get in the way. 

“I’ll put this on my card, someone else can get the next one?” Saint asked.

The others didn’t object, so I didn’t but it did worry me that we weren’t already trying to find a way to evenly split this. 

Our allowances had to cover everything we needed for living including the household bills while we were on the show, let alone trying to make sure we weren’t overspending and possibly putting some away. I was just worried I’d end up getting shafted with other expensive things because it was “my turn” instead of just evenly splitting things between us. 

Saint paid, and we headed through the centre to the bright red Liquorland store that it seemed like every shopping centre had. 

“I can wait here with the food, since you should know what you’re buying,” Jean offered although I wasn’t sure why he thought Saint would know that. 

“You two go and I’ll stay here too,” Grace pointed at me, sacrificing me to have to be the one to carry a conversation. 

“Uh, any wine preferences?” I asked Grace. 

“No, I’ve never really drunk that much. Whatever you think is good,” Grace said politely.

That didn’t help me at all and I was going to have be responsible for carrying conversation for awhile. I tried not to let my face show that. 

Saint and I headed inside and there was silence as we walked over to the fridges. I needed to think of something to say, to just say something. 

“Oh, you totally picked your name.” It was the first thing that came to mind.

“Yeah, I know,” Saint admitted quickly and sheepishly. I gave him a long, silent stare. How on earth did he spend fifteen minutes arguing about that then? 

“I did a legal degree, and I think because you’re always referring to decisions and judges by their surnames, half of us just end up getting called by our surnames. Plus it’s much better than Alexander.” Saint added after a few seconds. 

“You could have admitted that to Jean, it would have saved us a lot of time.”

“Yeah, but why would I?” Saint said as if it was the most straight forward answer in the world. Honestly, what is it with boys?

He opened one of the fridges, and hesitated for a moment before fishing out a six pack of beer. 

“One should be enough, if we’re getting wine as well?” He didn’t look convinced by my noncommittal yes. “Also, I picked my surname. I didn’t pick Jett Blaq.” 

Saint made a disgusted face as he said it. 

I completely agreed with him, but it seemed a bit too early in the friendships to be taking the piss of one of our new housemates and there was always the issues of cameras. These words were being recorded. 

“It’s not… the best name…” I struggled to find a way to say it nicely and I didn’t want to dwell on it in case I couldn’t find more ways to be polite so I asked the other question I’d had from before. 

“Why did Jean think you’d know what you were buying?” 

“Oh, yeah, I work at a bar,” Saint said it like I probably should have known that. I don’t think he’d said that but it was possible he’d said that and I’d been too nervous earlier in the day during the introductions to have really taken it in.

I’d recited their names several times just to make sure I never messed that up, but nothing else about it. That would be mortifying if I’d said the wrong name to any of them. 

“Oh, that’s nice! Which one?” It would be good to live with someone who would know some good places to go to in the Circle.

 That okay place in the city.” Saint was quick to react to my blank stare and I guess he got that a lot. “That’s actually the name of the bar. Some days I still think it’s great, some days I hate it. It’s in the Prince Building?” 

I didn’t know the bar or the building he was talking about. 

“I’ve never heard of it, sorry,” I said disappointedly. That was probably going to tell him I wasn’t very aware of the cool spots in the city.

“I’ll get you guys to come down sometime. What wine are you going to get?” Saint had quickly selected his beer and we’d walked over to the wine racks, and I’d hoped Saint would just select something rather than make me decide. 

It would have been easier if it was just for me but if I was picking for everyone… But it seemed pretty obvious from the way he stood waiting that he’d expected this to be my decision.

“Any recommendations?” I asked. He worked at a bar, so I figured he’d be able to make the decision.

“A red and white, in whatever price range you want to spend. It doesn’t really matter unless you’re spending hundreds.” 

I agonised over the decision for what felt like too long, before grabbing two different bottles that were about $30 each. That seemed like an appropriate amount to spend on nice, for the others and for the show. 

I held them up to Saint for approval.

“The red’s good, but the Estate’s pinot is much better,” Saint offered his opinion very quickly. He could have told me that while I was agonising over the selection…

I changed the white wine based on his suggestion, given he worked in a bar and that I could tell everyone he picked it if it was unpopular. 

“Do we want anything else?” Saint asked, looking at the beer in his hand. The look on his face made it clear he didn’t think we had enough, but didn’t want to suggest we get more. 

“This should be enough for our first night, right?” I couldn’t imagine wanting to drink any more than this while we were being filmed. “Plus I’m guessing we’ll get told tomorrow what’s going to happen about the, uh, super part of this and that’s not something anyone would want to have a hangover for.” I whispered the super part like it was a secret.

It was actually going to happen sooner than that, and with a lot more cloak and dagger than I thought a television show about superheroes would ever need to use. 

1.01

Even though this was a once in a lifetime opportunity, and even though the money was worth it… and even though it was about the only legal way I could ever be any kind of a superhero, there was no way to shake the feeling that this was a mistake.

The others were all probably excitedly unpacking, whereas I’d spent the last hour sitting on my new bed being completely overwhelmed by the fact that I was here.

Don’t get me wrong, our new house was gorgeous and the other three had seemed nice but they’d all been so happy to talk while we paraded ourselves into the house that I just felt out of place.

It was impossible to not feel awkward when you knew every word, every movement was being recorded to be broadcast to the world.

“Hey, …Mars? Did you guys find your rooms?” One of the guys called out as he joined me in the kitchen, breaking me out of that thought.

Shit.

I’d just come down to get a glass of water before I planned to slink back into my room and listen out for when everyone was together so I wouldn’t have to be the one making conversation. That plan was ruined.

The guy who came down the stairs was Saint, although he told us that was his only surname and everyone just called him that. He was tall, dressed in the button-up shirt and chinos combo that every guy dresses in when he wants to look like he’s trying to dress nice but not too nice, but his messy hair and half untucked shirt were a bit too perfect to be an accident.

“Yeah, both of them are on the top floor.” I waited for him to say something back. There probably wasn’t an easy way to run away from this, especially since we were now flatmates and I needed him to not think I was weird.

“Ours are on the second floor. Separate the boys and girls, I guess.” He shrugged as if that had been a surprise.

“It makes sense. I kind of assumed they would.” I didn’t add the ‘for so many reasons’ that I thought.

“They’re pretty cool rooms, wayyyyy better than the one I have at home. Ours were the same just on different sides of the house, so I’m guessing they’re probably all the same?”

I hadn’t even thought to peek into Grace’s. We’d seen the signs with our names and immediately headed straight into our own rooms to check them out.

“Yeah, that would make sense.” Shit. I need to stop saying that.

The conversation stopped, even though Saint kept looking at me expectantly. I’m pretty sure he took the opportunity to check me out, which come on guy, we have other things to worry about.

“So, are you just… setting up your room?” I asked.

Look, it’s hard to make small talk when you know every word is going to be second guessed across the nation.

“Nah, I’ve mostly been looking out over the city from my balcony and thinking about this whole thing. I opened my suitcase but I figure I’ll take things out as I need rather than try to unpack.”

That’s something you’d do in a hotel, not your new house. I’m not sure how you could feel at home doing that…

“Yeah, I haven’t unpacked at all either. I just started reading the pamphlets and things they left for us.” That sounded better than being in a state of shock over actually being on a reality tv show.

Lying on the pillow of the perfectly made bed had been several papers that seemed like an introduction manual to the show. I could just imagine the hosts running through each one on television as we picked them up, explaining the concept of the show to the viewers.

Everyone hates them, yet everyone wants to be one. Brought to you by Netflix, in collaboration with the Australian Government, The Helpers follows the lives of four people authorised to be superheroes.

It’s time to meet the everyday people who dream of being a hero, and what that really means in this decade.

Later tonight I’d actually read through all of them, even though I knew not a single one of them would tell me anything more than the network’s lawyers had gone through in excruciating detail with me and my family.

“I was going to suggest that we all go and get groceries after we’re unpacked, maybe get some beer? One of us can cook and we’ll all get to know each other. It’ll be less awkward if we’re around food and alcohol.”

So I was making it that awkward already.

“Yeah, that sounds good!” I tried to sound excited. I knew I’d have to do things like this signing up for the show but now that it was here… It was just so awkward to be living through. 

“Cool,” Saint grinned. He patted his pockets several times, checking for something. “Alright, I’m going to go outside to have a smoke then go back to thinking about how I’ll style my room.” He waved at me as he left.

I took a deep breath, and then another. I finished my glass of water quickly. The first real interaction with one of my new housemates was done. They had to get less awkward from here.

Saint stood outside in our small courtyard at the back of the house, his back turned towards me. It seemed like he was trying to be polite to not make us both awkwardly stare at each other and that was my opportunity to escape back up the stairs and into my room.

This was my new home for the foreseeable future. The new people I lived with. I just needed to deal with the situation. Every word, every step was being recorded. Hiding in my bedroom right now was being recorded. 

I know, I know, I signed up for it but I never expected to get selected. Out of the thirty million people who could have applied, why did they select me…? And why did I say yes!

This is meant to be the next big thing. The first real superheroes in twenty years. I’m one of them. And here I am, jotting down some notes on a piece of paper about conversations I can force myself through with the others so it’s less awkward for people to watch when it goes to air.

Here it goes, I guess.