Strafe and Fire III

Devon swore as he lost his last life.  Before respawning, he checked his messages.  One new message: his friend Kale had just gotten a copy of Strafe and Fire III for his birthday, and invited Devon over.  Devon selected the quick reply for “Be right over” and pulled up the Transportation Manager to fill out a Travel Declaration.  “destination… favorites… Kale’s house.” Date: “today”. Kale had already filled out a Declaration of Visit, and it popped up now.  Devon chuckled at the Declared Purpose, “to kick his ass in Strafe and Fire III”. The approval went through and he headed out the door.  The game was just a small commute away.

Kale was at the grocery store, picking up some snacks for the evening.  As he approached the autoscanners, his mind went thru its checklist. Rarely did anyone have anything illicit, but everyone went thru the list in their head before an autoscanner.  “Did he have anything that could be considered a weapon? Any merchandise out of his age or class rating? Any medications outside of their original packaging?” He gave himself the “all clear”, and stepped into the autoscanner.

The scanner picked up the transmission from Kale’s Universal ID, then it picked up the transmissions from the groceries in his bag.  It looked up Kale’s records, and found the Declaration of Visit, which allowed for the additional food. Kale’s allowance account was deducted, and a few other checks were done.  These passed, except for one.

The sirens on the autoscanner went off, while the lights flashed bright yellow.  A stern automated voice said, “There has been a problem with your purchase. Please see security personnel.”  Two guards came over to Devon. “Hands against the wall, and please hand me your backpack.” One guard scanned him with a hand scanner while the other went thru his backpack.

Kale sighed.  He thought he had covered everything.

The guard looked at the message from the autoscanner.  “OK, Kale, the problem is your choice of snacks. They push your friend Devon over his heart-healthy cholesterol limit. You’re either gonna hafta put back some of those chips or buy some Heart Safe brand cholesterol limiting pills.”

Kale protested, “I can’t afford those pills.”

The guard looked at his display, “Yeah, you’re right, the pills would push you over your allowance limit.  Guess you gotta lose the chips.

“Can I just buy some carrots or something?”

The guards eyes narrowed.  This kid was protesting more than he should.  But he ran the carrots anyway. “Yeah, you can get a six ounce Good Berry Farms, Inc. baby carrots.  That’ll get Devon’s numbers square.” He handed him back his pack. “Get that taken care of, and stay out of trouble.”

Devon’s commute had gone as smoothly as it could have.  He caught the train that the Transportation Department’s computer predicted he would, so Trans Dep could time a bus to be ready as he came out of the train station.  He arrived at Kale’s house as Kale was picking out carrots.

Devon slid his ID thru Kale’s doorbell scanner.  A series of messages displayed on the screen. “Devon Garcia (425-76-2785-329) recognized… Sorry, Kale is not in… Visit Declaration found: Devon Garcia is expected…  Trust level: high… Access granted.” Devon heard the dead bolts click, then a fake cheerful computer voice said, “Welcome Devon”.

When Kale arrived, Devon was sitting in his guest gaming chair playing a spaceship dogfight game.  He blew up his opponent then flipped the game to pause. “Hey K.”

“Sorry I’m late.  Someone didn’t tell me their cholesterol numbers were high.” He threw the bag of carrots at Devon.  

“Oh, sorry about that.”  Devon said, opening the carrots.  “I hope you didn’t get into too much trouble.”

“Nah, it’s ok.”  Kale started unloading the rest of the snacks.  “I’m still under my detain limit. Just got a warning.  But you better enjoy these chips.” He tossed the chips at Devon.

Kale picked up the Strafe and Fire III package.  “And here it is.” He broke the quality seal and opened the game.  He inserted the game, then scanned first the authenticity card then his own ID card.  

He got into his gaming chair as the game yelled out, “Strafe!  And Fire! Three!” He raised his right hand just before the system said, “Please raise your right hand.”

The system immediately detected his right hand was raised, but still had to wait the legally required two seconds.  Then, in a dry voice, “Do you hereby swear (or affirm) that you have you read and agree to the terms of the licensing agreement and that you have legally acquired this software?”  Kale said “yes” in a clear monotone designed to make sure the system didn’t have to ask him to repeat himself.   

Then came the Purchase Circumstances Screen.  “How did you receive this software?” “Gift or Present” “Who gave it to you?”  Kale entered his aunt’s name. “What was the occasion?” “Birthday” Then the screen said, “Transferring to a live agent.”  The boys look at each other. Something must have gone wrong.

A bored-looking woman appeared on the screen.  She looked at an unseen screen, and didn’t look up when she asked in a monotone, “Name please?”

Kale responded mechanically, “Kale Kline 893-72-9838-12.”

The woman gave no indication that she had heard him and asked the next question, “How did you receive this software?”

“My aunt gave it to me.”

Still in a monotone, “What was the occasion?”

Kale was getting nervous, “Uh, for my birthday.  It’s a birthday present.”

Now the woman stared right into the camera, right at Kale, and spoke with inflection, “The problem, Kale Kline, is that your birthday isn’t for another four weeks.”

The woman’s sudden change in attitude had its desired effect on Kale, and he froze a moment, then responded, “She’s going on vacation.  For a month. She thought she’d give it to me now. It’s for work – her vacation I mean.”

The woman looked back down at her screen and fiddled with it for a bit.  After a moment she responded, “OK, I’ve got her Travel Declaration. Yes, she’ll be gone for your birthday.”

Her off screen hands worked with her system a second longer.  Then, back in her monotone she said, “I’m authorizing your registration.  Thank you, enjoy your software.”

Kale and Devon breathed a sigh of relief.  Then the Strafe and Fire III main screen showed up.  Kale turned to Devon and said, “And now, get ready for the finest video game carnage the world has ever produced!  Oh, and pass me the carrots.”


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