CH. 54 «Job #5»

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The person on the other end of the line was confused but resolute. “I’m sorry, I think you have the wrong number..” he said in some sort of Saturnian accent.

“I understand, sorry again to have bothered you. Have a grea-” I started, before he leaned forward to close his connection, and my attempt at politesse was cut off. Slightly frustrated to stare at a blank call screen, I hit my own End button and set the headset on the desk. “There’s another failure to launch.”

Spruce Zenith and his twin brother, Sylvan glanced up from their terminals. They were near identical, except for the places where time had treated them differently. A wrinkle here that the other didn’t have, or a scar there his brother never got. The little things would tip you off that they didn’t share the exact same face, but you could still tell they were made up of the same genetic sequence.

I imagine when they were younger, in days they still hailed as child teli stars and models, the difference was near imperceptible–only if you were the agent-mother that launched their career into the business of entertainment would you know them well enough to tell them apart. The biggest exterior difference now is how they wear their hair; Sylvan always trimmed short, and Spruce’s a little on the shaggy side.

“Well you can’t win them all,” Sylvan said, only glancing up from his workstation for a nano before returning focus on whatever scheduling or billing to which he’d been previously attending.

Gerund’s father, Spruce, wheeled around in his chair. He turned to whine “C’mon, Klay. Give us another one, real quick, I want him to hear your whole spiel before he has to go.” His brother, Sylvan, didn’t need to examine what I prepared to say. He hadn’t been interested the entire past half-hour Spruce had been eking a demonstration out of me.

“Huh? Yeah,” he gave a noncommittal answer to something he may have not entirely heard. I took it as the best signal I could get, and dial the addy for the next customer.

Thankfully, the tone rang until the answering program took over; a recorded voice apologizing for not being able to answer, and ensuring he’d get back to me after I’d left my long winded offer to discount the total if he would book with us  to update his headshots.

Spruce wheeled away from his computer, encouragingly saying “Well it sounded good to me, Klay. What do you think of that, Sylvan, does that sound fine?” he was trying to reengage his brother, who wanted nothing more than make the numbers work.

“Yeah, it all sounds good,” he responded mechanically. He paused a moment and considered his evaluation. “I’d just remember to mention the copy we give on disc, too. And I’ve noticed your voice goes a little higher when you make a call, but it doesn’t need to,” he added.

“Ah, well thanks, that’s actually very constructive.. Ok, so go low,” I replied and contemplated how to remember to incorporate this into the conversation with the next person I’d have to call. “Alright, so next..”

I peered into the window with the short contact info to find the next person I needed to solicit, and used the program open in another window that gave me access to the data base of all the Zenith brothers’ clients for the past 9 years. I cross-referenced the last name to find the next individual who hadn’t gotten their picture taken in over a year and whomever didn’t have the standard contact addresses online to be reached in the mass messaging. I had to send all those emails last week.

Two rings later and the error noise sounded, accompanied on screen by the logo of the service provider that still owned the number which the selected contact no longer did. A recorded electronic voice informed me what I already figured, I clicked off before it could tell me to hang up.

Without a word of gripe or funny remark or approval seeking glance to the peanut gallery, I looked up the info for the next client I’d try to reach. It resulted similarly, though this time it was the familiar image of my own comm company’s logo facing me, and a different mechanical woman’s voice telling me to try my call again. I held back a grumble of dissatisfaction and punched in the next number.

After five rings—just when I was beginning to feel doubtful I’d ever get a positive vidcall and some real face-to-face with a client—the connection actually verified and the receiving party blinked in. It caught me off guard.

A young guy with pointy ears, dark hair and antennae was on the other end of the line, seating himself in front of his screen and adjusting a headset, he concentrated when he spoke directly into the viewer, asking “Hello?”

“Hi there, is this the right number to reach…” I glanced down at the window with the extended contact info for the name of the person in the family who had used a credit card. It took me a moment to find my place.

“Hello?” he continued, peering closer as if searching for something in his screen. “Hello? Is anyone there?” He reached forward to adjust something off-screen.

“Yes, hello, is thi-” I raised my voice before being stopped suddenly.

“Oh sorry, no one here is available to take your call right now,” the outgoing message continued, the guy sympathetically addressing the camera now. “Please leave your name, number and a shor-” I pressed the pound key on the worn-out callbox that sat on the desk of the studio, and skipped to where I’d leave another message. I made sure to speak in a lower tone this time, and of course, to mention the proof disc included at no extra cost. Then, not even sure if they would receive this message today or ever, I wished them a wonderful day.

I set down the headset, glared at my bosses, saying “I hate every mother gorker who thinks that’s a funny way to take a message,” and leaned in to make a few notes on the client in one of the windows I was keeping open.

Sylvan was sitting back in his chair, crossing his fingers reflectively, he’d apparently finished what he was doing and tuned in somewhere halfway through the call. “That sounds pretty good.. pretty good. Now do it a hundred more times,” he said with a chuckle, but that sort of sounded-funny-but-is-still-a-very-serious-remark laugh.

I cleared my throat as I picked up the headset again. “Right, right,” I mumbled, figuring as much.

I knew it would be forever before I ever found any positive results, I was stuck all the way back in entries from the year 2304–I wasn’t out of high school, let alone even living on Mars back then. Nobody for about another three years had a chance of still being in the business. But still I trudged on through the years of boys who’d hit puberty and a growth-spurt, and girls who just simply grew out it. Kids who’d gotten older and gone to college by now. Or they could have found something to spend daddy’s credits on… who knows?

It might be a while before I make enough credits for the twins to see any cut of it myself, but if I can be any help to my benefactors and find them more work, its worth a shot or two. Or a hundred.

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PREV: CH. 53 «Second Job»

PREV: CH. 53 «Second Job»

NEXT: CH. 55 «Job #7»

NEXT: CH. 55 «Job #7»


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