Tim tried not to stand out most of the time. It was a challenge, he didn’t dress like a normal person, his hair was bright green (starting to fade though, back to its natural mousy brown). He certainly couldn’t walk through a metal detector, even naked it would be set off by all the metal he had pierced himself with. A punk, good for nothing, his old leather jacket was covered in arcane symbols, a leftover from his brief flirtation with paganism. He didn’t regret it though, they looked cool. The jacket was too large, or he was too skinny, probably the latter. He didn’t get to eat all that often, or all that well. Thing was, he had a way of blending into the background, despite everything. Probably a good thing, since when he did get to eat it was usually because he stole something.
A beautiful morning, the boardwalk was bustling with people, sunshine bringing them out to look at the water, enjoy the rare warmth. Tim spotted the shop out of the corner of his eye as he weaved his way through the crowd. Jenny would have just lifted a wallet, but Tim didn’t have her gift for getting out of trouble if he got caught, so he left the wallets to her. Instead he like stores, and this one was crowded despite the early hour. Tourist trinkets and junk, nothing worth much, but easy enough to resell. The clerk was dealing with a tourist, an obnoxious yank from the look of things. Good, she wouldn’t be paying attention.
Tim drifted to the back of the store, making his thin frame blend into the background. When he realized he wasn’t being watched he acted. There was a table full of nicer sweaters. Nothing amazing, but they retailed for a hundred bucks, so they were something he could sell. He grabbed a couple, slipped them up under the back of his jacket. Easy, nobody saw. Time to bail, walk casually to the front of the store, no hurry at all. He ambled, mosied even. Nobody paid him the slightest heed. Finally, he reached the front and headed out.
As his hand touched the door a voice rang out “Hey, you want to pay for those sweaters?”.
Fuck. How the hell did she see him? She never even came to the back, he logged the location of all the cameras when he went in. No way he missed one. That just wasn’t something he did.
He slammed the door open hard and started running. The great thing about stores like this, the clerk couldn’t leave and unless he was incredibly unlucky by the time the cops got there and got a description he would be long gone. The crowds were heavy, and that worked in his favour. He started weaving through them, moving at nearly full speed anyway. People got out of his way, and he was able to wind his way between them as if they were statues, years of experience had taught him that trick.
He ran for a pedestrian bridge, hitting the wall next to the stairs and vaulting up it, grabbing the top so he could pull his body over. He was on the bridge in an instant, running across the street to a nearby cafe. He was golden now, no chance they caught him. Better to ditch the sweaters though, he could come back later and see if they were still there.
He found a planter and jammed the sweaters in behind it, way out of sight. They would get a little bit dirty, but no big deal, still worth a few bucks. Damn, how had the clerk noticed him? It was impossible. She hadn’t checked the back. He must have missed a camera. That was it, had to be. He walked down off the pedestrian bridge back into the crowd and headed for downtown. Better to check the market, see if there was something he could grab there, wait until the heat was off here. Cops would be showing up to the store any second, might even look through the crowd for him.
After a few minutes he was thoroughly lost in the crowd, far from the boardwalk and the crappy souvenir shop, when he felt a heavy hand on his shoulder. “Come with me son. I’m afraid you’re under arrest.”
“Shit. How the hell?”
“You wouldn’t believe me if I told you. The boardwalk is not going to be good for your type from now on. Hell, nothing’s going to be good for your type.”
The police officer led him to a car and put him in the back, pushing his head down as he pushed him in. Once they were under way curiosity got the best of Tim.
“Seriously though, how did you catch me?”
“Didn’t you wonder why I didn’t ask you where the sweaters were?”
“Didn’t even think about it. Why didn’t you?”
“We have you on video. The whole thing, you taking the sweaters, ditching them at the planter, your whole run through the crowd shtick. All of it. You are done.”
“Okay, that’s bullshit. No way I missed that many cameras. Not possible. There are no cameras on the bridge. I know that shit for sure.”
“Language. Yeah, new security feature. If you get out of jail let your scumbag friends know. Smart dust. Billions of tiny cameras, so small you can’t see them without a microscope, flying through the air, surround you all the time. You scumbags are done on the boardwalk, and once we get them spread you are done everywhere.”
“Nobody can watch that. Too many cameras are just as bad as none, everybody knows that.”
“The computer watches the feeds. Smart software. No people needed.”
Tim felt sick to his stomach. How were people like him going to survive?