11:00 AM, smoke break

Morning shift again, slept about 4 hours, getting up at 5:10. I feel weirdly refreshed, that happens every once in a while, but I think I’m just excited to see whether or not Ann comes back in to work, or uh, survives. She doesn’t need to be trained on anything, the procedures and policies are near-identical, even though we tend to bend the rules a bit. Collected the loose money from the counter, I’d added a little whiteboard with a marker, asking customers to write down what they’ve bought. Nothing was written down, but there were about 5 candy bar wrappers on the counter, with almost the amount of money it would have cost to buy them. I rung them up and covered the missing change myself. That’s how good a mood I was in!

Oliver was home, didn’t really have any plans on leaving, so we hung out all morning, he helped me changing out the coffee during the morning rush, despite him being off the clock. I’d like to note that it’s good that Oliver, Marvin, cactus and I had come to the agreement that none of us were going to work 12 hour shifts anymore unless we personally needed to a few months back. It’s frustrating to work a shift alone, but, in the end we all decided it was worth it to have more time off. Another downside is frequent turnaround shifts. If we could write our own schedules, you know, we’d each just take a shift, however… the way schedules are written at Gasarillo is to input our names and available work hours into the computer system, and the computer creates a schedule at random. “It’s the only truly fair scheduling system.” according to the HR reps I’ve talked to about this. There’s a little bit of leeway in trading shifts, but anything over a 25% overall change to the schedule locks us out of the system for a week. Most of those changes go towards putting Marvin on as many night shifts as possible. With Ann here, I’m not sure how this will complicate things for him. He may have to work more days.

The awkwardly placed, under-counter computer. Squat Water is formerly Aquafina, huge jump in sales after name change.

5:45 PM

Ann came back to work! She wasn’t even dead or hurt! She returned to Oliver the 1911 he’d loaned her for the walk home, seems she’d had a PMR-30, the premier handgun for Puppet-people, sometimes joked to stand for “PuppetMurdeR-30.” For those in the Puppet community, their extremely light weight means firearms can present a real challenge for them and need something that’s easy to control. Did she walk all the way across the country with it? It seems like it could have gotten her in trouble, traveling around with a gun on foot for 2,200 miles (had to look up on maps the exact distance). Perhaps she’d kept it in a locked case in her backpack.

Ann might be a more capable fighter than I’d suspect of someone outside the area. It occurs to me, having lived here most of my life, that I don’t actually understand the danger levels of living somewhere without an interdimensional anomaly spitting out dangerous monsters all the time. Could it be that there are random attacks at every gas station? I asked Ann, and, no, that’s not normal. It’s very different from organized stickups by rival companies. Despite her fear, she seems kind of excited at the idea of engaging in mortal combat during the workday. I have to admit, the first few months I worked here, it was a real thrill. Since then, it’s a nuisance, especially when you have a lot of work you’d like to get done, and super especially if a lot of the work you need done is cleaning up from the previous attack. You especially don’t want a customer being hurt during this time. Most attacks happen when nobody is around, which makes sense, but sometimes it’s not so simple. Customers can be pretty helpful during these fights, and usually do a good job of avoiding harm. The store has had a few lawsuits from this, thankfully it never comes down to us being blamed.

So things at the store are good right now! I almost forgot about the trees/cloud situation: more trees, cloud still in one place. Not too unusual, but I don’t especially like it. Ann has no point of reference for what it normally looks like inside the Territory but she did say she thought it was “kinda spooky seeing the clouds stay in one place with such strong wind.” which seems like fuel for my theory that it’s a swarm of something, working against the wind. Maybe a sentient gas, or very patient insects.

Ann wearing her big parka and looking cheerful in front of a deeply ominous cloud.

I also forgot about the flare situation: still going strong, what an incredible amount of fuel to burn. Living here for some time, it seems like I’d know a little bit more about what’s going on with that, but I rely solely on the joke/idea that they’re burning off a bunch of stuff immediately after emissions/environmental inspectors have left the plant, or they’re for some reason experiencing a lack of scrutiny in burning off stuff that could be disposed of in a better way? I seriously have no knowledge on this. It’s both ominous and comforting, seeing the giant flame in the sky, which is easier and easier with the night coming now at 5:30! Dark at 5:30. God, I know it feels like the summer lasts forever here, but as soon as it’s getting dark at 6:00 it just feels like, “where’s all the daylight.”

3:40 Post Meridian Flare

Diane is having a similarly “good” time at her job. She’s the local operations manager for Starbrusque’s (the coffee shop) crime division. Recently loosened regulation on physical harm to competitive properties means she can extract a lot more value from each operation, see, the value of each job is determined (at Starbrusque’s, anyway) not just by how much money they can take from a competing business, but by how much damage they cause that has to be covered by the competition. The damage assessment takes some time, because they have to get official estimates from the insurer, but smashing windows has never paid off better for her. She’s been having some very minor problems with her police handler, though. It’s not common knowledge how the police handler position works in the corporatized crime game, but here’s my understanding: anyone big enough to operate in the game is big enough to afford a police non-interference permit, but local departments extremely hate not having at LEAST eyes on the scene. So! Each Starbrusque team, as part of a now-packaged deal with the permit, has to have an officer with their team from the beginning of the job to the end, as they observe and note that all actions are legally illegal, and not illegally illegal. Not a problem for Diane because she’s so by-the-book, however, her handler is late up to 30 minutes sometimes! They’re not giving her team bad marks or anything, there’s no animosity. Regardless of that, it’s hurting her metrics a little bit and her hands are completely tied. It’s not enough of a setback for her to suspect that any competitors in the area have purchased a police-interference token, or if they have, they’re definitely not getting their money’s worth.

Diane explains non-lethal shootout over Microwave Quik-Calzone Enhanced Nutrition Product dinner.