“Another staff member. Unable to assist. My apologies. Accept. Accept.”
Helen heard another spring give way and a soft steely tinkling sound. Then a sudden loud bang made Paula yell and Helen jump back. That straining electric motor finally wound down. Lina’s head straightened and wobbled stiffly then she spun awkwardly around on her toes. After a half-turn she sprung into forward motion, still walking on tip-toe - though it seemed like the robotic retailer was having some trouble balancing. Those poised hands now swung with considered precision - the movements more hurried and stilted - each step seemed rushed and jerky. As Lina made awkward progress back toward the counter Helen noticed something else.
A section of Lina’s steely choker was askew, sticking out from the back of her neck at an angle as if on a hinge. “Please see another. Unable. Unable. I am not required.”
Helen stepped after the oblivious blonde and peered closer at the jutting piece of jewellery. There was the strong odour of burning plastic. Popped open as it was, the slim section of choker exposed a narrow rectangular hole in the back of Lina’s slender neck. Helen could see another computerised socket inside, but as she caught up and tried to get an even closer look there was a flash of sparks. She jumped back and just watched Lina go. A faint haze of smoke billowed around the overcharged automaton.
Helen heard Paula gasp again. She was pointing at Lina’s feet, her other hand still at her mouth. Helen looked too. As Lina walked stiffly away the soles of her bare wet feet flicked up behind her. On the ball of each foot there was a small black rectangle. With each step puffs of black smoke appeared from what Helen could only guess were computer sockets of some kind.
“To perform. Not required. Please see another. Unable.” Lina chattered pleasantly. When the shapely blonde reached the counter Helen was surprised to see her walk right into it. That toned torso tipped forward then straightened awkwardly. Then she just stood there with her hands resting at her sides, a thin veil of smoke rising up around her. Helen and Paula exchanged glances then walked over. Helen peered around Lina’s right shoulder.
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