First: The Hidden Mall – a beginning of something
“Excuse me?” Abby took a step backwards, reaching for her friends. “Packaging? I don’t want to be wrapped up any further than I already am, thank you.”
“You will need face masks. Packaging will now commence.”
A whirr and a soft creaking noise came from the bin where their bags had been. A few more sounds commenced – ripping, some shaking, and something that sounded like sucking air through a straw.
Then three identical white bags popped out. They looked clean, they looked like they had everything in them, and they looked more comfortable than the back packs they’d had.
Each of them took one. The bot, now a sphere again, whirred at them one more time. “Please take one face mask each and install on face. Please take one face mask each…”
A tray popped out of the sphere’s side. They took one face mask each and, after a moment, figured out how to put them on. They were surprisingly comfortable, and now the three of them were nearly anonymous.
“This is weird.” Liv-probably-1’s voice came out clearer than it ought to have, but also somehow anonymized. “Like, we got all our individuality pulled away.”
“On the plus side,” the other Liv pointed out, “we’re clean. Now if only we’d been fed.”
“The food depot is out this door and to the left. Please follow the blue line.” The bot was far too helpful. “You have been cleaned. You may now pursue food.”
“Do we have to chase it?” Liv-probably-2 muttered. “Because I’m not all that hungry, but I might still run something down.”
“Please follow the blue line towards food,” the bot repeated.
“Following,” Abby agreed. She took both Liv’s hands. If she lost them here, she was never going to be able to pick them out of a crowd.
One of the Lizs glanced sidelong at her. “This is getting to be a habit.” Continue reading