She looked up and squinted at the sky. The one thing they got wrong was the climate. The one thing they got right was it's violence. Charlie hurried across the landing bay to the gang way. The truck grumbled and continued out heading for the charging lanes, and joined a queue of three. Charlie look over at the lanes and pressed her fingers to her headphones.
"Tell me when you enter the static-station" she said.
"Sure. No problem.", said the truck.
The service station was ugly. Once upon a time they would attract a crowd. People would stop road side to empty their bladders and fill them again. That era was gone.
Charlie walked in and headed straight for the bathroom. She entered and bought a towel and single serving and conditioner and a key card, and a surveillance drone. Public amenities are legally unbiased, a constitutional change that made bathrooms free and safe places. Charlie walked down the crisp tiled floor and heard the familiar carnal slap of sex coming from one of the washrooms. There was an erotic moan. Which was followed by an angry voice from a different cubical.
"Arrh fuck off will ya! Fucking perverts!" said the voice.
There was a moments pause in the fucking, and then it continued with noticeable increase in drama.
"Ah, yeah fuck it to me daddy. Yeah, ah yeah, split my open bitch" said the cubical.
"Fucking hell, ya cunts I'm calling the cops!" said the other cubical.
The offending cubical cackled with contempt.
Charlie stopped. She did a u-turn and headed out. At the enhance another man was entering. The man was big built and his eyes undressed Charlie.
"Is the water not working?" asked mister eyes.
"Oh no it's is yeah, and so are the whores" she replied, "if thats your kinda thing"
The man rolled his eyes and turned around too.
Charlie looked at a large glowing floor plan, orientated herself and head off. She took an empty escalator up to the shopping mezzanine, wondered around and entered into a department store. A security guard stood outside transfixed by his phone. He was more fat than anything else, and didn't even register Charles arrival. The entrance to the shop had large black slabs at either side, and the moment she breeched the threshold a tall screen at the mouth of the store showed her a poster of her in a summer dress, on a sunny beach, she was running. She looked fantastic. Her chest was half-a-cup larger, here eyebrows where neater and her face was radiant. She even had matching beaded bracelets on both her arms. The model did a swooshing turn and started running along the beach with water splashing up to their knees.
Charlie walked past and looked up at the aisle signs: bathroom, clothing, toys, biscuits, toiletries. She walked toward the clothing section. A man and woman left as she arrived, she had the dress the mannequin was parading draped over her arm, and he had a plastic basket with sockets and underwear in it.
"Excuse me, hi, where is the underwear?" Charlie asked
"Down there" the man replied and pointed to the far corner.
Charlie grabbed a basket.
The gargoyles watched.
The underwear hung in rows, each in a plastic wrapper with a cardboard cuff that had an image of the garment, showing it's cut, colour. Each row catered for a specific size, S, M, L, XL. Charlie put the basket on the floor below the first row and slide the entire row off the hook so that they fell into the basket, a waterfall of panties. When the row was empty, she pushed the basket with her foot, and did that same to the second row.
The gargoyle turned it's cyclopes eye on her, and watched as Charlie emptied all of the rows, one at a time until a shop attendant arrived.
Hello excuse me, said the attendant, is there something I can help you with?
The attendant looked over his shoulder, a few paces off to the left was the fat security man, standing with his hand on his hip.
Charlie looked at the attendant.
"Do you have any more panties?" she asked.
The attendant looked at her basket, it was overflowing, then he looked a her, and shook his head.
"You have taken all the panties" he said.
"So there are no more?" Charlie asked.
"More? You got hundreds in there", he said.
"So?" she asked.
"No, we don't have any more! You can't just buy all the panties! What about the other people, ya know? I mean ... ya know?" he said.
"Not even in the back?" she asked, "Can you have a quick look?"
"They're not even gonna fit you, those ones there, look, they're SMALL, you will not fit into those. I'm sorry but you just won't", he said.
"OK, this'll do" Charlie asked.
The attendant just stared at her.
"What? I use a lot of panties" said Charlie
"Can't you ... you know ... wash them?" he asked.
"I could, I guess" she said.
Charlie picked up her basket and left. she emptied everything into a large square plastic bag, which she folded and stowed in her backpack.
From the clothing shop shop she head for the super market. One aisle had a small underwear section, she took all the panties on display there too. Then she picked up some toiletries, found the stationary section and got a large box of bubble wrapped envelopes, from under the shelf. That is where they keep the stock for topping up the display stand, she took a sealed box. In the kitched department she took three packets of zip lock freezer bags. Apart from those unusual items she filled the trolley with typical stuff, canned food, dehydrated meal packs, and other compressed goods. She also got some furtilizer sticks for George, and some fresh fruit. A small mounted screen beeped each time she added something her invetory, it showed the number of items in the trolley and the total cost.
The checkout was empty except for two adolescent girls sulking into their phones. Charlie rolled past. The front left wheel shuddered as she wheeled the card around. One of the girls glanced at her like a librarian does a noisey boy.
The exit to the supermarket was a winding s bend, leading the shopper past snaks and sweets and packets of alchol and out. At the end of the path was an automated gate, with lanes for three carts, like a border control at the airport. Charlied rolled into the middle lane, stopped at the gate for a moment. A large screen offered her travel insurance and an opportunity to enter the national lottery and a once in a lifetime chance to win a free holiday in Sunny Sudan, a get away from the rain, Charlie rejected all the adverts. The final screen showed her the same information as the smaller screen, the nubmer of items and the amount, under that was a large button PAY NOW. She pressed the button, the gate opened and Charlie pushed the cart out, and down the main passage past closed shop window signs and empty restaurants and depressed coffee shops, past top shops and lingerie posters, toward the rear exit to the mall.