Trials of the Cybermancer! – Chapter 6: The Morning After

May 5th is still a holiday, albeit not an official government holiday. It sure is a holiday celebrated by millions of people each year, but certain businesses such as post offices and banks don’t get to take the day off for Cinco de Mayo. What I mean by this is that I get to go to work bright and early for a full eight-hour shift.

Karina had to be at work at the crack of dawn today (it IS Cinco de Mayo; deliveries are going to be going like crazy) so she left long before I did. I wish she had, I don’t know, woke me up to explain this situation to me before I stumbled into it myself? Or something?

Because I am absolutely not a fan of a dozen shopping robots camping out in front of my friggin’ door and following me around everywhere!

They wouldn’t let me on the sky rail because my “companions” would exceed the car’s passenger load. I had to walk the whole mile and a half to get there…

“I bid seventy-three dollars, and my owner’s rookie card of Hank Aaron,” says one of the robots. “Is that acceptable?”

“No, it’s not, and go away!” I shout.

“Your item is up on Bidbay right now,” the robot says. “We are courting your bids.”

Bidbay…

I friggin’ hate Bidbay.

It’s just this online auction site, okay? Nothing special; you just list your items and then people buy them and you ship them off. But rich assholes who own a dozen robot servants have devised a new scheme that essentially acts as Bidbay’s metagame: the robots find an auction for a particularly-attractive item and they hassle the seller in-person with under-the-table offers to get them to sell to them instead. In cases like these, it can get crazy pretty quickly, and I REALLY WISH the Atlanta government would do some regulating about this.

This game can’t be that rare that they care this much about haggling me…

“Thank you for the reminder that I’m selling my video game,” I say. “It isn’t true, but you can keep telling me that over and over again if you want.”

It doesn’t make any sense to me why they are trying to buy my copy of Genesis Crush, and me specifically. It’s pricey enough that I could probably sell my copy and get another one in return in a few months for cheaper, but I’m extremely suspicious of all of this, not least of which because of how soon it happened after I bought the game.

Also, selling Genesis Crush before actually playing it is a sin.

It seems that apparently Peach Towers has been swarming with bid-crazed robots since before I entered the building, because as soon as I enter the swarm goes from fifteen to fifty. What the hell is going on?

“Get out of the way,” I say repeatedly as I push through them all.

I now have a full entourage behind me. This has got to stop. I enter the elevator, already crowded with other mall-goers, and shut the door before any of them can follow me in.

One of the other humans in here, an elderly pale Jewish woman, sizes me up and gives me the stink eye.

Well, it’s taken a bit for me to lose the robots and reach Atlanta Cares Bank, but I finally do, and I’m only… twenty minutes late.

Mr. Larkins is standing out in the middle of the bank, beckoning me over with his index finger.

“Yes, Mr. Larkins?”

“Y’know, my cousin Vince used to tell me something that’s become my personal philosophy,” Larkins says. “He would say, ‘The best man is the best man.’ Do you get that?”

“I absolutely do not.”

“It means, ‘Get the fuck to work on time or else your boss will fire you because you’re not the best.’ Get it now?”

“I apologize, sir.”

“No need for apologies, Harding. Just stop being a sad sack and get to– What the hell is that?”

“Eh?”

I turn around and…

Oh, great. They found me again.

A good thirty robots are now standing inches outside the entrance of the bank. I guess they aren’t allowed to enter any private residences or businesses, but that definitely isn’t stopping them from standing right in the way of any potential customers and shouting bids at me.

“Ninety-five fifty!” one shouts.

Apparently the bids have increased to amounts exceeding the retail price of a new copy of the game. Is it that far out of stock that I now possess a collector’s item?

All the other employees stare at the scene, unable to complete any work because of the sheer ridiculousness of the situation.

Larkins glares at me.

“I seriously have no idea what’s going on here,” I tell him.

“You better fix it now,” he says.

With a moment of hesitation I step up to the robots, still clamoring about like I’m destined to hand them a copy of my video game. “Please go away,” I say.

No response.

Sigh.

“-use me, excuse me, excuse me–”

I know that voice… It’s Karina, pushing through all the robots and stepping into the bank. She’s dressed up in her Packard’s Pizzas uniform, complete with bright-red visor, suspenders-skirt combo, goggles over her glasses, and pair of rocket boots on her feet. Did someone order delivery here or something? Wait, she’s not holding pizza, though. She’s holding her cellular.

Larkins waves. “Hey, welcome back, uh… Katrina.”

“Karina,” I correct.

“Morgan, phone for you,” she says.

She hands it to me. A pleasant synthesized hum comes out of the end of it. “Oh, Morgan, you’ve certainly gotten yourself into a pickle.”

“A pickle?”

“You know, like a conundrum. You humans say the phrase when you’re being friendly, or maybe when you’re using understatement to be sarcastic. It’s hard to tell sometimes.”

That’s R8PR, all right.

“I know what it means,” I say. “I mean, what do you want?”

“I’ve got a warning for you that’s pretty urgent,” he says. “Your personal data has been leaked online.

“Like, Social Media Killer style?”

“No, like Soviet spambot style. Now there is an account on Bidbay trying to sell off your copy of some video game called Genesis Crush. There is a good chance there will be robot bidders coming your way that will try to buy the copy from you before the online auction is over. So be prepared for some unpleasant circumstances.”

I…

Uh…

“Thanks for the, uh, heads-up, R8PR.” I look behind me at the robots still standing at the entrance to the bank. “Do you have any way to fix this?”

“It’s internet-related so I’m not much help. Find someone who knows about IT, I guess.”

“Who’s… oh!” I turn to Karina. “Do you think we should contact… Chuck?”

“Chuck? To help with your robot thing?” she asks. “Would he really…”

“Listen, I got a business to run,” says Larkins. “Morgan, whatever’s going on is going to be some cute anecdote in a few years but right now it’s driving me out of business. Take these jabbering robots and get the hell out of here and don’t come back until you’ve solved it!”

Hey, I get out of work! It’s almost worth it.

“Thanks for the, uh, warning,” I tell R8PR over the phone, while staring down the dozens of robots in front of me. “I won’t let you down.”

“There isn’t anything for you to let me down on, Morgan. This isn’t a matter of expectations. In fact, that your mind so readily went to that notion is very interesting, and–”

Click.

“I’ll try and meet you after my shift is over,” Karina says. “And hopefully you’ll have everything resolved so we can go to the skate park.”

“Oh yeah, that.”

“You aren’t going to try to use annoying robots to weasel your way out of having fun with me, are you?”

“I would never dream of it…………….”

“Okay, Morgan. Good luck.”

“I don’t need luck when dealing with Chuck. I just need nerves… of steel.”

It sounded cooler in my head.

 

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6 comments

  1. Oh, who’s the mysterious Chuck? Can he save Morgan from these robot hecklers?

    And hopefully Karina doesn’t get herself in a sour spot again. That seems to happen quite a bit lately.

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