One of the most striking differences between working daytime shifts at the Securemarket and working a night shift was the nature of customer interactions. During the day, the social contract was more intact: everyone acted more or less like everyone else, to a greater or lesser extent. What’s more, the crowds were thick enough that there was no reason to spend too terribly long talking to regulars.
At night, those who preferred a little more space, a little more quiet, a little more of a direct connection with the employees came out of the crawlspaces. Most employees either loved this, hated it, or had deeply mixed feelings, and which camp they fell into was often a direct result of which customers took a shine to them.
Yoan Chronom, for instance, was one of Ellica’s. Yoan loved gadgets and geegaws, especially state-of-the-art shells. He spared no expense on his technology and happily showed it off, but in every other facet of life, he was an absolute miser. Yoan spent easily an hour or more every week poring through the clearance and markdown shelves, taking whatever cans and boxes weren’t too dented so that he could pinch every penny and afford the best toys.
When he walked into the Securemarket that Thursday night, he looked particularly excited.
“Oh, hey Yoan!” Reg offered the customer a big smile and a wave.
“Oh hello Reginald,” Yoan replied, “you seem very happy today.”
“It’s gonna snow this week!” Reg beamed. “You look happy too!”
“I’ve got something Ellica has got to see,” he replied with a grin.
“Hey Yoan!” Ellica’s voice called from a few aisles over over the distinctive sound of an automop whirring. “You’ll have to come over here, this aisle’s taking a while. Please come over here. Distract me. Please.”
“All right,” Yoan exclaimed, breaking into a practiced jog. So far as Ellica knew, the man avoided taking the rail and didn’t own any kind of vehicle, so he just… ran everywhere. He managed to skid to a stop short of the automopped section of the aisle. “So. Have you heard. About the new luxury shell startup? Heartware?”
“Well I mean I’ve seen the ethcasts they’ve been putting out, obviously?” She shrugged, pushing the automop repeatedly over a particularly dirty section of floor. “I don’t really know anything about them, though.” She glanced up at him with a raised eyebrow. “You don’t mean to tell me…”
Yoan an one hand through his thinning black hair and then turned it into a flourish, tugging his sleeve down to reveal a holoshell projector strapped to his wrist. “Pow! It’s the Heartware Skip, comin’ atcha live from scenic My Wrist.”
Ellica whistled silently, finally having the chance to move to another bit of floor. It’s not that she minded kids or anything, but they sure did make a mess sometimes. “That’s fuckin guardian, Yoan,” she said, nodding in wide-eyed appreciation. “I will literally never understand how you can afford half the shit you do. And that’s not their low-end model either, is it?” She hadn’t paid that much attention to the ads she’d seen, since she was never, ever going to own one, but she did remember something about the Pulse, the “budget” model for people who really just wanted to be able to say they owned a Heartware. And which still cost more than two months’ salary for her.
“I could tell you, but then I’d, uh. Get my ass sued off.” Yoan flexed his wrist and summoned a matte-light hologram, a screen floating in midair just in front of his hand. “Look at that resolution. Have you ever seen a holoshell with that kind of clarity?”
She shut off the automop, then, and peered closer. “Iyesu, Yoan. I think that thing’s got finer detail than my handshell. Got two questions for you, though.”
“Okay, first question: just how big can you blow up one of those holograms?”
“Eh, not that big.” Making an expanding finger-splay gesture, Yoan expanded the little screen to be about two thirds of a meter tall. Bizarrely, his tone suggested that he wasn’t joking. “But that’s not really what the point of Heartware shells is.”
Ellica blinked and shook her head admiringly. “Okay, I’ll bite. What is the point of Heartware shells?”
“I thought you’d never ask.” He shrunk the screen, then made a ‘watch this’ gesture and told the shell: “Dear Heart, uh… pull up that thing I can never remember.”
The shell reacted, bringing up a timer that was counting down from 4 hours, labeled submission deadline.
Yoan waved it away. “Oh, not that thing, the other thing.”
The shell brought up another message reading Penguin dungeon 2x drop rate on Saturday (2 days from now).
“That’s the one.” Yoan looked over at Ellica and winked. “Never asked it that before, but it knew. Heartware models are the absolute best at fuzzy logic computation ever made.”
Ellica was silent for a moment, staring dumbfounded at the display. “But that’s—” she finally spluttered. “How does—how can—what sort of—that’s incredible, Yoan!”
“I have no idea,” Yoan replied, his voice buoyant with glee, “but it’s Heartware’s thing. They claim that it’s not ‘true AI’, but we’ve never had any kind of fuzzy logic processing like this before. It’s revolutionary.”
“Yoan, I’ve been taking fuzzy logic classes and I can absolutely tell you that it’s nothing like this.” She shook her head, finally recovering her wits somewhat. “It must be using some sort of intent resolution matrix? But I’ve never heard of one of those being evaluated by fuzzy logic circuits, the whole point of an IRM is to provide a single well-defined answer to a question, given the right environmental inputs, and—” She cut herself off, realizing that she’d started to ramble again. “Oh, haha, sorry, Yoan, you’re right though, this is really cool!”
“Yes! Yes it really is.” He pulled his sleeve down, obscuring the shell projector. “They’re releasing models slowly, and there’s a huge waitlist, but I jumped on them as soon as they hit the tech insider circles, so I managed to get the first run. If they roll out a general consumer model, it’s gonna change everything.”
“I can’t even imagine,” Ellica murmured. “How could anyone compete with that? And more importantly, I wonder if Heartware ever has software engineering internships?”
Yoan laughed. “Shh, what if Morganstern hears you?”
She grinned in reply. “Hey, Mr. Morganstern knows I love the Securemarket. He also knows that I’m not planning on making it my forever career or anything, he’d understand.” She chuckled. “I mean it’s moot anyway, I doubt they’d have a particular use for someone at my skill level.”
“Oh, I don’t know, you’re the only person I talk to about my gadgets who follows the whole conversation. That’s real!” Yoan beamed as he delivered the compliment. “Well, you’re almost done with this aisle, and I really ought to start looking over the clearance items.”
Ellica laughed, flattered. “Go for it, and hey, thanks for showing me!”
“Oh, it’s my pleasure!” Yoan waved as he walked away. “It’s nice to show off to somebody who gets why this is so amazing!”
“Oh hey Yoan,” Ellica called just before he turned the corner. “I almost forgot, I had a second question for you.”
“Oh yeah?” He paused at the end of the aisle. “What is it?”
“Just how upset are you gonna be if I tell you your new holodisplay is totally and unquestionably HD?” She only managed to hold the straight face for half a moment before breaking into a shit-eating grin.
“Dad jokes, at your age?” Yoan shook his head. “I weep for your generation.”