Cash Centre

Harry had worked nightshifts at the Cash Centre for five years. It was boring but steady work. Lord knows there are few good jobs in Lucerne. Most families sent their earners to Strattus, but here was a way for an unskilled man to support his family locally, for which Harry was grateful. He was not an ambitious man, and had a friendly yet somewhat oppressive relationship with his boss.

“Morning boss,” Harry said to Timothy.

“Morning slave,” he replied. “Did you sleep well today? Do your neighbours still think you’re a vampire? Do you still howl at the moon?”

“All of those things,” said Harry. “Now do you want me to stand around chatting, or do some work so you can get your bonus?” He switched on his Daylight, Ultraviolet, and Infrared lamps and sat down. He often thought how strange it was to work in a place like this – a high-tech workspace on the edge of the wilderness, toiling in artificial light through the darkness.

Harry worked in the Operations team counting cash. Trucks arrived throughout the night, bearing labelled and tagged canvas bags. Workers were allocated eight bags each, one per hour being the standard work rate. Harry emptied the bags into a raised metal bin and worked through the bundles conscientiously. Most were Clean #1, meaning that they contained what they said – a hundred twenties, a hundred fifties, or a hundred hundreds – but some held misallocated notes. There were fake notes and foreign notes; torn and worn ones too. Occasionally there was a cheque – how those got in he had no clue.

The process was simple. Stage One was sorting the notes through machines. They were macro- and micro-weighed, and graphically, structurally and chemically analyzed. Every note, and each batch, must be acceptable, or the bundle was rejected. Stage Two was manual checks. His hands had developed incredible sensitivity. His fingers were like radio antennae – picking up every bump, hollow, and ridge. Stage Three was alerting Timothy to irregularities. Stage Four was the CCTV monitoring everything, though this was out of his control.

“What are you doing?” Harry had warned a new colleague. “You’ll never get away with it.”

He said, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“You know what I’m talking about. You’ve been up to something all week. Why are you being so stupid? And coins! Why coins?”

“It’s a test to see if I can get them out. They won’t care about coins. It could be loose change in my pocket. How will they know?”

“Believe me, they’ll know,” said Harry. “They’ll know.” Harry never saw that worker again. Another man arrived at and left work in a taxi daily. It was only a $10 fare from the Village, but that was $100 a week, and $5,000 a year. He could never afford that on his lowly salary. There was a reason that Timothy called them slaves. After five years Harry was only making $25,000 annually. It was company policy to pay people badly, so they didn’t attract ambitious people – like the taxi guy. Eventually he was caught with notes rolled into his nostrils. That’s why they’d never found them in his ass. You’d think that three rear cavity searches would be warning enough. He was caught when he sneezed one day and Queen Elizabeth shot out. GB. Great Booger. HMS. Her Majesty’s Snot.

With hundreds of thousands of dollars passing through your hands daily, even millions some days, sure it was tempting to steal. But Harry was a practical man. He knew that he wouldn’t get away with it. He also liked to think that he was honest.

Staff were required to be discreet about their employment, and only to tell their immediate families. Wilderness, discretion, and nightshift – boy they expected a lot for their silver. But he knew others that couldn’t resist showing off. It was human nature. Some daytime workers had big houses and flash cars. They must be working in the other half of the operation – Analysis. But there seemed to be so many of them – what did they analyze? Everything was done already by the Operations team.

Timothy called Harry into his office for “a chat”. Harry sensed that it was more than that. He was asked if he was happy with his job. He said that he was, but could do with more money, for he had a family to feed. “Well how about triple your current salary?” Harry didn’t know what to say. Here was his boss offering him a cut in some high-level scam. If he refused then he’d be fired for sure. If he accepted then he’d be caught for sure. He was being set up here. What could he do?

“I know what you’re thinking,” said Timothy. “That I want you to commit a crime. But that’s the furthest thing from my mind. You’ve proved to be an honest and loyal worker. I’m offering you a promotion. You will leave Operations and join the Analysis team.”

“Doing what exactly?”

Timothy said, “Follow me.” and took him into the other half of the building. The labs where fingerprints and DNA from every note was collected, deconstructed, and integrated. Every user of that note was recorded. The Authority used the information from notes to value individuals – their worth to the province, how many services they were entitled to, and which opportunities they deserved. Ordinary people had forgotten that money itself has no value. It is merely a symbol of what can be done by people. They create its worth, and by that, mark their worth.

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