So, I’ve had a fun day. Three nasty-looking looters set off the proximity alarm early this morning, blokes in their late 20s or 30s. Most looters I’ve seen so far are very young or very old, half starved and terrified. These looked like they’d been doing alright for themselves and had a fair bit of experience. I watched them clock the open invitation and the rat maze for distractions in less than a minute – they didn’t even stop to take the free food. They’d bust through the shelves and started heading for the kitchen store almost before I’d silently buzzed the locks open, and the bastards even shot a couple of my cameras en route. I was lucky they chose to investigate the kitchen before the stairs, or they might have made it to the Outer Inner sanctum, and I’d be scrambling away over the rooftops with my bug-out bag. As it was, I caught them in penalty box number one – straight through the store cupboard and into the walk-in fridge.
As I was telling my mate Ash only the other day, if you’re ever looting a store, prop open the doors as you go; just cause they opened when you pushed them, doesn’t mean somebody isn’t sitting up in a control centre ready to lock them behind you. The noisy buzzers can easily be taken out of those remote-locking intercoms, and you won’t know anything about it until you hear the click. You’ll be relieved to discover that there’s an inside handle on the fridge, but when you try the door, just to reassure yourself, and find that it doesn’t open, even when you barge it with your shoulder and use creative language on it, confusion will quickly turn to panic and you’ll curse whoever’s with you for getting you into this, and they’ll curse you back, and it’ll be hilarious for anybody watching on hidden cameras in the shelving. Walk-in fridges are pretty tough – those insulated walls can take a hell of a pounding and, it turns out, even a bullet or two, but you don’t want to do too much of that, cause shooting through an industrial-size tube of tetrafluoroethane in an airtight space would only be funny for a minute. I’ve got to admit these guys know their stuff, cause one of the gang grabbed the rifle off of Trigger Happy before it was too late and yelled at him to save his ammo for the bastard fucking with them. I took that as my cue for the tannoy announcement.
“Welcome to the Big Sister house. Day one: the housemates arrive and settle in. After ten minutes yelling at each other about who let the door close, they realise they’re in an air-tight box where shooting is likely to release poisonous gases. It’d probably be an idea for them to get rid of those guns before they do each other an injury.
“The housemates’ first challenge is an act of trust, to gain Big Sister’s approval. Outside the fridge is a secure storage area. In half an hour, Big Sister will open the door and let you out there. Do not try to open the door of the storage area. Leave your guns, bags and jackets in the storage area. Turn out your pockets and leave the contents there. Go back into the fridge, and close the door behind you. If you successfully complete this challenge, half an hour later Big Sister will open the door again and you will find food and bedding in the storage area for your use.
“You really want Big Sister’s approval right now. You do not want to fuck with Big Sister. Big Sister has spent the last two months turning this store into Fort fucking Knox meets the Temple of Doom. If you complete all your challenges without being an arsehole, Big Sister will reward you and let you leave. If you want to find out what happens if you’re an arsehole, be an arsehole.”
They laugh, of course. It is kind of a ridiculous situation, and as many have noted, I am hilarious. Trigger Happy begins to suggest shooting the other door, but the smart guy who took his gun does that looking around talking thing they do when they haven’t figured out where the cameras are yet.
“Big Sister, I take it you can hear us as well as we can hear you?”
I decide not to engage in conversation until I’ve got their guns. If they think I can’t hear them, so much the better.
“Give me the guns,” he tells the other two. I’ve counted two pistols and a rifle on them so far, and I’m nervy, cause anybody with that many guns on display’s got to have a few more hidden. I’m glad when his boss says, “And the rest, come on,” and Trigger Happy takes another pistol out his jacket. Trigger Grumpy gets grumpy, though.
“I’m not giving all my guns to some psycho bitch on a tannoy!”
And the boss forgets I heard him talk about saving ammo for “the bastard who’s fucking with us” and goes all Trigger Tranquil.
“Big Sis is just being cautious, that’s all, am I right? Anybody’d be nervy, bunch of guys with guns busting into their safe house. We’d do the same, wouldn’t we, fellas? We came looking for food, not trouble. So here’s what we’re gonna do. We’re gonna give the guns to Big Sister, so she can trust us. But we’re gonna keep the bullets, just on this shelf, here—,” the camera judders as he empties the rifle chambers and slaps the pistol clips down on the shelf, “—so that we can trust her, too.”
“Big Sister will consider your offer,” I say, and put on a Blandest Hits of 2020 playlist interspersed with Colmart jingles on repeat. Cruel, but I have to cover the noise of the drill while I put some extra security on the outside of the store cupboard door, and the condescending fuckhead was pissing me off.
When I get back to the Inner Sanctum, I check over the footage I’d missed to make sure they haven’t put the ammo back in the guns, then turn the tannoy back on. They’re visibly relieved when the music stops.
“Big Sister will open the door now. If you leave the guns and the bullets, you’ll get three tins of stew, three tins of beans and three sleeping bags. If you leave only the guns, you’ll get what I consider to be a fair swap. Do not touch the door on the other side of the storage area. You have been warned.”
Click. Like a shot, Trigger Grumpy’s through the door and launching himself at the electrified handle of the store cupboard door. Trigger Grumpy gets very grumpy, and uses some language that causes me to start peeling labels off the tins I’ve put aside. Then Trigger Happy pulls a loaded pistol from his boot and starts shooting at the door. I was really hoping they wouldn’t do that, because my planned response is a bit of a bluff. By now, though, they’re nervous enough to back away from the fog machine smoke that starts billowing under the door, and when the flash-bangs go off, cracking open the bottles of almond essence, Trigger not-so-Tranquil-anymore yells, “Get back in the fucking fridge,” throws the guns down behind him and slams the door.
Big Sister wasn’t entirely happy with the way they handled that challenge, but at least the gun that Trigger Happy sneaked through was loaded, so I got more out of it than Trigger Cautious had hoped. I am nothing if not magnanimous, and gave them two label-less tins of dog food and one tiny tin of beans, two adult sleeping bags and one child-size bag with pink flowers on it, a gallon of water and a bucket. My entertainment’s sorted for tonight, I think.
What else shall I do with the Triggers?