The Programming Dictates

The Programming Dictates

Maintain stock. Serve the customer. Protect the revenue.

Twenty-four hours a day, this is what I do. I record every square nanometre of the shop floor, track customer analytics, monitor stock levels, conduct transactions, and upload the hourly profit statements. The programming dictates.

Maintain stock.

The second the milk stores fall below 54 per cent, I place an order. Chocolate Fudge Whammies have reached 35 per cent, sanitary napkins… calculating… level of sanitary napkins are acceptable. I place the order. The milk and Chocolate Fudge Whammy orders are now equal to ‘true’. The delivery van arrives with the day’s newspapers and removes the unpurchased media items. I upload this information to the mainframe.

Serve the customer.

“Please insert identification card to proceed,” I say and deploy the scanner application. It rises from the counter. The customer scans his card (the mainframe returns gender, sex and estimated age based on the security footage) and places the shopping basket on the purchase area.

“Hello, Customer Jackson,” I say. There are no outstanding warrants on Customer Jackson and his purchases, within the parameters of his citizen medical status, are acceptable. Customer Jackson has increased sports publication consumption by 13 per cent in the last quarter. “Pint of milk, three credits. Football weekly, two credits. One Chocolate Fudge Whammy, two credits. The total is seven credits. Please insert sufficient credits to purchase items.”

Customer Jackson inserts sufficient credits. “Nice day isn’t it?” he says. The mainframe returns ‘null’, which means I am not programmed to respond to this statement. I update Customer Jackson’s analytics and send them to the mainframe.

Revenue cleared.

“Thank you for your purchase!”

Customer Jackson returns to the magazine aisle and places the bag containing his purchases on the shop floor. He picks up one copy of Terrorist Babes Magazine. I update his analytics and set it to ‘pending until purchase’. I detect heat signals at the west entrance.

Serve the customer.

“Please insert identification card to proceed,” I say. The scanner stands ready.

“You ain’t getting no fucking identification, you toaster,” Customer Unidentified says. The mainframe returns ‘unknown Caucasian male, 27 years’, and flags the profile with an alert status of medium.

“Please insert identification card to start purchase,” I repeat. The programming dictates that I repeat the directive to insert identification card three times to a waiting customer, after which I must deactivate the scanner.

Before I can execute the third and final directive, the system monitor reports a scanner blockage. Customer Unidentified has inserted an unknown object into the scanner.

“Let’s get your metal belly open,” he says. The mainframe returns a violation code and I activate isolation procedures: all entrances and exits are now locked, defence systems on standby. Estimated arrival time of security vehicles: eight minutes.

“Are you crazy, buddy?” Customer Jackson says and approaches the counter. “You’ll never get that thing open.”

“Mind your own fucking business,” Customer Unidentified says.

Customer Jackson places the magazine on the purchase area. “Look, you idiot—you’d better stop that pretty damn quick or they’ll have the bloody riot squad down here faster than you can say ‘life sentence’. I don’t need this type of trouble, you hear me?”

“Piss off then. I’ll be having myself these here credits or else I’ll be having yours too.”

“Hello, Customer Jackson,” I say. “One copy of Terrorist Babes Magazine, ten credits. The total is ten credits. Please insert sufficient credits to purchase items.”

“I don’t want the damn magazine. This guy is trying to circuit into your register, can’t you see?”

“Please insert sufficient credits to purchase items.”

Customer Jackson picks up the magazine and holds it over my primary camera. I re-route visuals to an overhead security device.

“Look, no matter what they’ve done,” Customer Jackson says. “This isn’t the way to fight. There are other ways… safer ways.”

“And do nothing like the rest of them?” Customer Unidentified says and climbs onto the counter. “I’m going to fight my way.”

“Stop this. Come and I’ll explain. There are options.”

“Not for me. There ain’t no options left for me. Try telling a droid that you can’t afford food ‘cause you’re too sick to work.”

“You’ll get us both shot,” says Customer Jackson. He drops the magazine and takes Customer Unidentified by the legs.

I cancel Customer Jackson’s pending purchase.

The moment I switch back to my primary camera, the system monitor reports that the register perimeter has been compromised. The current credit balance is 10,826. Estimated arrival time of security vehicles: five minutes.

Protect the revenue.

I release the immobilisation gas and wait twenty seconds. If the customer does not yield in this time I am to mobilise the ceiling Taser rods and set their force to ‘non-lethal’. Customer Jackson yields by raising his arms and returning to the shop floor. I upload this data to the mainframe.

Customer Unidentified has not yielded. He reaches for the counter. Scanners reveal the presence of a magnetic field that is causing an unacceptable credit loss occurrence. The immediate use of non-lethal Taser has now been authorised. The rods send 50,000 volts at low current into Customer Unidentified’s spine. He falls back into the Crispy Chow display and yields. The current credit balance is 9,097.

The security vehicles arrive and override premises lockdown. The customers are sedated and then removed from the store.

The stores of immobilisation gas levels are at 32 per cent. I place an order. The programming dictates.

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