True Steps On A False Floor

As the crowd shuffled forward, one pace at a time, every part of their bodies was scanned, the information saved for future retrieval, usage, auction and sale.

The man in the dark room sat at the computer terminal and pushed a button. Then he pushed another, and another, and finally he smiled, content at the information pouring in to the already vast databases. He’d maintained for some time that, pound for pound, there was no more mercenary a creature on the planet than a student, and he was only faintly disappointed to be proved right once again.

Data arrived; a young man wore this set of clothes and had those songs on his MP3 player; a young woman had eaten this for lunch, and smoked that brand of pot…

A red light to his side caught the man’s attention, and a grimace flew briefly across his features before he glanced at the appropriate display and saw that the self-correcting software had correctly interpreted and then ameliorated the results.

His gaze swept across all the screens; despite high level hardware and programming, there was still no way of guaranteeing to account for all eventualities; missing limbs still threw the scan out to a secondary system designed to handle such occasions.

Peripheral vision took in one monitor, a garish poster in the background: “Free Beer for five minutes of your time!” That it took an hour’s queuing (unknowingly walking over hypersensitive x-rays and scanning equipment) to get to the person who would spend five minutes asking meaningless questions and writing down even more meaningless answers was never questioned. They always asked about the five minutes though.

And if they kicked up enough of a fuss, they got their beer and didn’t have to answer the questions anyway.

It was truly astonishing, the man at the computer thought, how often cynicism and gullibility were inseparable.

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