Editor's note: This story didn't win the contest, but it did come accompanied by the most amusing email:
My name is Mike and I am a ludite.
I have no e-mail address
I have no computer
I resemble a shaved monkey.
So in order to get this fantastic story to you I am borrowing some one elses stuff.
After the last of the gangers had left the screams of fear turned to cries of anger. Bob was one of the last to climb out from cover, he had hidden himself under the cleaning station with all the greasy plates and cutlery. "The last time this happened I was hiding in the waste disposal room" Bob said to no one in particular, his voice was a little too loud to be socially acceptable. Bob ducked his head almost in subservience as he anticipated the instructions that had not yet been spoken. Bob's head bounced and wobbled on his shoulders as he stumbled between the tables and chairs towards the waste disposal room.
Once Bob had reached the waste disposal room he ran the hot tap to heat the water as he poured the correct measure of detergent into the mop bucket. Bob grabbed a roll of the red and white cordon tape and dragged the mop bucket through to the food court.
Bob ignored the angry demands from the store managers and the shop owners. Bob nodded his head in agreement when they argued that the customers would not want to buy food or music or clothes with all this blood around. Bob sympathized with the store managers and shop owners however Bob knew what had to be done. With surprising efficiency Bob cordoned off the shops and parts of the food court that had been affected. Bob ignored the harsh language and the bad names that were directed towards him from the store managers and the shop owners. Bob knew that they didn't really mean what they said. Bob knew that they were stressed and angry because of how that mindless violent act made them feel powerless and frightened. Bob accepted that.
The Law arrived. Bob started cleaning the parts of the food court that were not cordoned off, plates and cups and food all spilled on the floor. Police with forensic thaumaturgy badges took samples. Bob stood the tables on their legs and set the chairs around the tables just as he had been shown on his first day on the job. The police started interviewing people. Bob went to check the other parts of the mall.
Bob soon discovered that the rest of the mall was untouched and most of the shops in the rest of the mall were conducting business as usual except for the subdued chatter "Did you see...", "They didn't take anything?" and "What about when...". Bob noticed that the most common question was "Why did they do it?" As he walked past the arcade games on the mezzanine floor above the food court Bob saw something that convinced him that he had the answer to that question.
Bob hurried to where the police were conducting their investigations. Bob walked up to where a particularly offensive shop owner was giving his statement.
"I know why they did this" Bob announced, interrupting the shop owner mid sentence. The shop owner started to smirk at Bob.
"So tell me Bob, why did this happen!" demanded the shop owner.
"Well..." mumbled Bob. Bob was sure the shop owner was angry about being interrupted, the gun fight and loosing all the customers, however Bob thought that the shop owner was acting out of character, he was almost smiling and talking like he was trying to explain something. "Spit it out already Bob!" Growled the shop owner. "The officer can't spend all day listening to you!"
Bob shook himself and decided to ignore the angry shop owner. "I was on the mezzanine checking stuff..." Bob was distracted by the shop keepers behavior. One moment he was asking Bob questions then the next moment the shop owner was trying hard not to listen to the answers. "I saw an arcade game..."
"That's where they are kept Bob" interrupted the shop owner.
Bob continued "It had been messed with."
The shop owner laughed and said, "Look around you Bob. Just to refresh you memory Bob, a bunch of gangers came through on a rampage, killing every one."
Gaining confidence in spite of the shopkeeper, Bob continued in his too loud voice "The lock was drilled out and some wires had been stripped!"
The shop owner interrupted again "Gangers after the cash box!"
Bob pleaded with the shop owner not to interrupt and claimed that the gangers were not in that part of the building. The shop owner ignored Bob plea and asked, "How is an arcade game connected with this here carnage Bob?"
Bob took a deep breath and began to explain his theory. "The game is not owned by the mall, it is owned by the people that makes the games. The game has a communications thing in it so that people paying by Cred-stick can use it and so they know when it needs fixed." Bob could not see that he was loosing the officer's interest and making the shop owner angrier so he just continued on. "The people that make the games would expect data flows from this game and it would easier breaking into the arcade game than breaking into a computers security systems, and... well... I think Shadow Runners did it." Bob would not have seen, even in retrospect, why they would never believe him.
The officer looked around uncomfortably the shop owner turned red and veins popped out on his forehead, he looked ready to burst. Bob saw now that he had lost them but he continued to try and argue his case. "They arranged a decoy with those gangers, they broke into that game and took stuff from the game makers."
The shop owner had had enough. The shop owner ranted and raved, he yelled things "Shadow Runners... you're dreaming... you've seen too many sim's... Shadow Runners don't exist... next you'll be telling me that you've seen the tooth fairy." and "You don't live in the same world as the rest of us." Bob was rather shocked at the strength and force of what the shop owner was saying, it didn't show on his face though, Bob always had a slack jawed expression on his face.
After the shop owner had finished and Bob had been convinced that he was being ridiculous Bob looked to the officer and said, "Is it ok if I go clean up the mess in the food court now?"
The officer just nodded. Bob walked out into the food court and started cleaning. As Bob waved to the arcade game technician that had been sent to fix the lock the shop owner shook his head and said to the officer, "You'll have to excuse Janitor Bob, that retard is brain dead!"
©1999, Mike - used with permission