Drek took the black terminal up to the front desk.
The terminal was a small handheld device resembling a game controller. It had joysticks, miscellaneous coloured buttons, and large central screen, which was now blank. A standard Model 7 Simulation Interface.
"It's broken," Drek stated flatly as he dropped it on the desk.
The desk worker looked up from her monitor. A nametag read "Jillian," and below it, "Simulation Technician II."
"Have you tried turning it off and on again?" Jill asked dryly, peering over her glasses.
"Of course I've tried turning it off and on again," Drek replied impatiently.
Jillian sighed and stood up to look at the terminal. It was unremarkable, except for the black screen.
"So it's just black like this?" She asked, picking it up for inspection.
"Yes!" Drek replied again, with undue exasperation.
He was going to be one of those customers.
Jill held the power button, and after several seconds, nothing happened. She plugged in a diagnostic cable and walked back to her monitor.
"What was the last thing that happened before it stopped working?"
"It was working just fine, then, out of nowhere, this!" he gestured.
Jill leaned on the counter.
"If you read the manual, or the contract, you know we only warranty replacements up to ten years, or due to inherent defect."
"Well," Drek began, "It's clearly defective. Or else you're false advertising. The advertisements clearly say a hundred years."
"Up to a hundred," Jill corrected.
"Yes, well, it's hardly half that. Sounds like false advertising to me."
Jill sighed and went back to her monitor, firing up the diagnostic application. She connected the camera override, and the terminal flickered green.
Jillian and Drek peered over the counter to look at the screen. Green tinted a grainy picture of a rough surface.
Jill thumbed the joystick. Nothing happened.
She adjusted a dial, and the picture clarified, and panned out. They were looking at a wood-grain texture. A long, rectangular wood-grain texture.
Jill stopped typing and looked at Drek with that sardonic look known only to customer service reps faced with one of those customers.
"It looks like your simulation terminated," she said, with undue patience.
"Well, it only has fifty-nine years logged. There's no reason for it to end so soon. Anchors are supposed to last a century, or more."
She wasn't paid enough for this.
"What exactly was the last thing you were doing?"
"Nothing," he asserted again, flushing.
Jill went back to her chair and sat down. Life is too short to argue with obstinate customers. She opened the temporal interface. Several more clicks, and the controller's screen flashed on her monitor, with a dial, which she turned. The image begin rewinding. A lid closing. Faces flashing above. Ceiling. More ceiling. A different ceiling. A white ceiling. She slowed the dial. The viewport looked down, red flashes, rising, rising, turning, bobbing. She paused the dial and turned the monitor so Drek could see it.
She pressed the resume key and they watched as the mute video played. Turning, bobbing, looking down, a hand clutching a striped polo. The video blurred. Red tinted the edges. The viewport lowered, dropped. Jill hit pause and looked at Drek.
Drek looked embarrassed.
"It looks like the anchor had a stroke," she said dryly.
Drek continued to look embarrassed.
"At barely half a century!" he held his ground.
Jill turned a blank face back to her monitor. She depressed some keys and diagnostic bars appeared. Another key, some bars disappeared and others appeared. She looked at a grey bar. Cerebrovascular activity. A red bar. Ruptured vessels.
"The manual clearly states that excessive use of the suggestion and notion interfaces will lead to cerebral damage and even anchor cessation."
"But she hadn't done anything in thirty years," Drek protested weakly.
"Nevertheless, the policy is clear. We cannot refund or replace units which have been used in excess of handbook guidelines."
"What was I supposed to do, keep playing the same boring simulation every day?" Drek asked.
"I'm sorry, the policy is clear," Jill stated firmly, with a twinge of internal satisfaction.
"What about reactivation?" Drek asked.
Jill frowned. "We haven't done that in a simulation-millenia. It causes instability in the continuum matrices. And besides, it often has undesirable cultural effects within the simulation."
"But..." Drek began.
"I'm sorry," Jill repeated, "The policy is clear."
She unplugged the diagnostic cable and pushed the black terminal toward Drek.
"Is there anything else I can help you with?" she asked, decisively ending the conversation, "Perhaps a new Model 11?"
"No…no thank you," Drek stuttered, taking his terminal and propelling himself toward the door as Jill waved an appendage at the next customer.