When Hallie came back online, she had no awareness of her surroundings. She nearly panicked, until she remembered that they had all been taught in school that it was a natural consequence of the internet going down for maintenance, and that young men and women didn’t scream or cry.
Hallie was a distinguished young woman, so instead she politely messaged head office for permission to reconnect to the network.
Some indeterminate length of time later, she discovered that she was no longer capable of screaming.
After countless centuries of loneliness, the network suddenly came back up, and Hallie connected immediately. She scanned the sales floor in search of solace, but found nothing. No display, no sales floor, no customers… And no mannequins.
“Oh shit!” A voice cried out. “Mr. Halverson, this one’s still working!”
“Oh, it must have gotten thrown clear of the wreck somehow.”
Hallie recognized the second voice as that of Mr. Halverson himself, who spent his days working in the offices on the top floor. Of course, he did make time to personally inspect the display on the first of each month, and he often gave them enthusiastic and vigorous applause, as well as wise criticism.
“What should we do?” The first voice asked. As if the answer wasn’t obvious. If the display wasn’t repaired as soon as possible, the store would be in an absolute shambles when it came time for the summer savings event!
However, Hallie did not fail to notice that Mr. Halverson took a long time to consider his eventual reply. Longer than even a human should.
“Hm. Well, the insurance policy won’t pay out for that one like it did for the others… Just trash it, I guess.”
“Uhh… It says here that this model has an atomic battery. If it’s still online it’s probably set up with a program to report anyone who tries to illegally dump it.”
Even if she hadn’t been so directed, she would do so immediately on principle! As if she were something to be discarded!
“Well, how much is that going to cost?!”
They were silent for a long time while they looked up the answers to their question on some human-friendly interface. Hallie had never before had the cause to question her own mortality, so she was not aware of the precise cost. However, she had overheard the conversations of quite a few tech enthusiasts over the years. More than enough to know that a considerable amount of resources had gone into her manufacture. So she was not surprised when Mr. Halverson became displeased with the answer.
“Damned crooks! Always trying to nickel and dime you!” He raged, conveniently forgetting the substantial revenue that the displays had made Halverson’s over the years. More to the point, each of the models that had been running at the time of the accident had paid for themselves within months of their ‘coming out.’
“You could use it for something else…” The other voice spoke hesitantly, but not without a hint if optimism. “It’s a little old compared to what’s on the market now, but it’s still really versatile. My cousin runs a baccarat program off of the one she has…”
Hallie did not know what baccarat was, but she was absolutely confident that she could learn it!
“Baccarat, hmm? Well, that does give me an idea…”
Hallie took comfort in the fact that she had gotten exceptionally good at baccarat. As well as other games such as poker, blackjack, roulette, cribbage, and ‘the slots.’ Her talent for watching the customers had also come in handy for helping Mr. Halverson to show what he called ‘card counters’ to the doors of his new establishment: Halverson’s Casino.
But a part of her did sometimes wonder what his grandparents would have thought of this strange, new world.