I’m fidgeting. Shifting from one bare foot to another. Picking absent-mindedly at the sheath strapped to my thigh. I glance around at all the celebrities, athletes, and superheroes waiting in line, and I wonder, how can people do this? How can people stand in lines and wait and wait and wait some more—how does the world spin on like this?
“What’s the matter?” Jan asks, his voice sounding all 32kbps MP3.
“This is definitely the worst line I’ve ever had to stand in,” I reply.
“Worse than the lines at Spendco?” Ernie asks.
“Worse than Macro Central on Black Friday?”
I think for a moment. “Close.”
Eva glares at me. “You could swipe out and just stay jungle-skinned for the rest of your life. Anything’s better than waiting in line for any amount of time, right?”
“Sarcasm?” I ask with a frown.
I face forward again.
The line moves on. Amazingly, Ernie sticks with us all the way to the front despite frequent complaints that today’s social media generation is too hung up on skins that prioritize sex over substance. I start to point out his recent, rampant overuse of Jason Momoa, but Eva cuts me off each time with a well-practiced look of, “Don’t make a crappy situation crappier by lighting a fire under fat-shit’s ego.”
Taurus’ tech support team is stationed at two-dozen windows set along a bland, high-lipped counter. My guess is that they’re saving bandwidth by keeping things plain and simple—kind of like how those original Star Trek sets were so vanilla due to budgets being nearly non-existent. Jan goes off ahead of us, his pixelation eliciting a brief scream of terror from the support rep assigned to him. When it’s my turn, I walk up to the appropriate window, standing on my toes so that I can rest my elbows on the countertop. The combination of the high counter and Tommy Carlton’s short stature is almost comical.
My bored-looking tech rep nods and says, “Hi, my name is Marta. How may I help you today?”
Isn’t it obvious from the fact that I’m a Tarzan character and in black and white? “I’m persistently skinned,” I reply.
“Did you receive SuperMegaNet update 0.97.121.168?”
“Um…I think so?”
The tech rep nods again, does something on her laptop. “It looks like you installed the update earlier today.”
“It installed itself, actually.”
Eva nudges me in the ribs, shoots me a heavy-lidded stare. “He digresses.”
Unamused, the tech rep continues to do things on her laptop. “It looks like you have the SuperMegaNet desktop client installed, correct?”
“Is your system up to date?”
“Yeah, but the glitch occurred while I was using my phone, not my PC—”
“Hm.” There’s noticeable brow-furrowing crinkling the tech rep’s forehead. “According to your system’s anonymous telemetry data, there’s a new update for Mudbrick Gymnast available.”
I do a little brow-furrowing of my own. “What would viewing and editing PDF files have to do with me being skinned persistently?”
The tech rep shrugs. “It might have nothing to do with it, it might have everything to do with it.” She checks her laptop once more. “Hm. Several of your Mudbrick Creative Suite cloud apps are out-of-date. Mudbrick Gymnast is at version 19.021.20058a. The current version is 19.021.20058b. Additionally, you’re using Mudbrick Selfie 21.0.1. The current version is 21.0.2. Layout 14.14159, Reveal 13.333, Cafe 18.104.22.16812.RC5, Arouse 22.214.171.124, and Doodle 23.98—all out-of-date. Have you been paying your subscription fees on time?”
“Uh, yeah, but—”
“Okay, what I need you to do is go ahead and update your Mudbrick software before we proceed.”
I blink. “So, I have to download back home, update, re-upload, and stand in line all over again?”
The tech rep waves her hand dismissively. “We can do a VPN from here.” She swivels her laptop around, yawns, looks at the ceiling. “Please enter your PC’s username and password. All connections are secured with the latest WEP technology. Taurus Labs is in no way liable for any damages or losses…resulting from…yada-yada.” Yawn.
I’m not going to lie, I am not okay with handing over my PC credentials to Taurus or anyone else. But the thought of having to wait in line all over again is just…no. So, here’s the brilliant plan my brain concocts on my behalf: hand over my password now, immediately change it when I get back home.
I sign in. My desktop, with its epic Roger Dean background, slides into view. I open Mudbrick Manager; a dialog box pops up:
Thank you for subscribing to Mudbrick Creative Suite. Please help us improve Mudbrick Gymnast by answering the following mandatory questions.
Followed by twenty questions asking me about usage statistics, whether or not I’d recommend Mudbrick Systems’ software to friends and family in a variety of unlikely scenarios, and information regarding my…sexual preferences?
I don’t even start the questionnaire before swiping the dialog out of the way and raising my hand. “Miss?”
“Yes?” the tech rep asks, setting down her nail file.
“Why am I paying for Mudbrick’s marketing research?”
Another yawn. “If you like, I can transfer you to Mudbrick’s customer support department.” She reaches for her laptop—
I slam my hand on the countertop. “Don’t you dare!”
Something’s brushing against my butt.
Glancing over my shoulder, I spot Ernie trying to peek under my loincloth. “What are you doing?” I yelp.
“Checking for shiny pairs in bloom,” he replies.