“So, where do you want to go for lunch?” Astrid asked as she pushed the now-cuffed criminal into the back of the police van. The information they had gathered proved correct, and old maintenance facility had been converted into a ‘crime-cluster’, comprising of servers hosting a variety of illegal information and programs, with secure tunnelling into the cluster and hefty fees to pay before access was given.
“Well,” Ameer grunted a little as he steered a rather ornery cracker towards the van with one arm, his cybernetic right arm concealed as usual underneath his great coat, “There’s a Mealworths near here, I could go for a kebab.” Noticing the face Astrid pulled, Ameer laughed. “I know you’re not a huge fan, but…”
“But what?” She asked, handing over the proper forms on dataslate to the van’s driver.
“Our first ever lunch break after I got the job, you insisted quite strongly we go to Sizzlers. Did I make any comments?”
Astrid’s face fell at that unfortunate first choice, before she nodded. “Alright, you win this one. I -did- treat you to a fakon bap though, and coffee. And moon pie, come to think of it.”
“Fakon, a non-guilty pleasure.” He chuckled, wandering back over to Astrid’s UNPF Lunar Cruiser, a meaty looking six wheeled patrol vehicle capable of operations both in domes and outside of them. While most of the activity on the moon took place inside habitation domes, there were complexes, factories and facilities outside them. “You going to drive?”
“Like you even had to ask.” Astrid replied, her exoframe whirring gently as she slid into the driver’s seat.
Mealworths was fairly busy with the lunchtime rush when they entered, a few people eyeing up Astrid’s UNPF protective vest, and a few more eyeing the obviously military coat that Ameer had a habit of wearing. Clean and bright, rows of tables lined the eat in section, with benches running along to provide plenty of space for people to sit. Out of food-grade recyclable packaging people tucked into sides of beans, lentils and other vegetables, croutons and bread. The ‘main’ of the meal was insects. Bowls of delicately cooked and seasoned worms, grubs, larva, and other assorted insects.
There were a few dishes that Astrid tried hard to avert her gaze from as she queued. Worms, grubs and larva she was fine with. Not quite fond of them in this form compared to their processed form used to make flavoured meat products, but compared to the man eating Spicy Space Spiders or the woman enjoying long strands of Breaded Centipedes…
“Welcome to Mealworths, what can I get you today?” A young woman behind the counter asked as they reached the front of the queue, dressed in the pale red and grey uniform of the company.
“You go first Ameer, I’m still trying to decide.” Astrid grumbled as she looked over the menu.
Chuckling softly, Ameer leaned on the counter with his ‘good’ arm. “I’ll have the Barbeque Locust Kebab meal, with edamame and three pepper salsa, black tea with one shot soy milk, one half shot sugar, and… that’s it, I think. Astrid?”
“I don’t suppose you have anything non-insect shaped?” She asked hopefully.
“Only on the kid’s menu, Miss.” The server replied apologetically, before a bright smile crossed her face even as Astrid’s fell. “But I can recommend the Mealworm One Pot, it’s mealworms, mixed vegetables and wheat noodles. It’s one of our most popular dishes with those who might not feel like trying unprocessed insect meat.”
“Fine, I’ll have one of those and a caramel machiatto.”
“Oh, two fiery red ant lollypops, too.” Ameer added, before hovering his hand over the order pad. As the RFID receiver in his palm and the transmitter in the pad authenticated, he authorised the payment.
“Excellent choices, thank you for coming to Mealworths. If you’d like to wait at a table, we’ll have your food brought over to you, so you can eat in or take away.” The server smiled, before looking over Astrid’s shoulder. “Next, please!”
“We are not eating this in my car.” Astrid muttered as they sat at a table, opposite each other.
“I wouldn’t presume we were. Tell you what, tomorrow we’ll go to Sizzlers. My treat?” He offered.
“You’re being suspiciously nice, Ameer.” Her eyebrow was raised as she spoke, eyes searching as they scanned his face. His bright smile in return did nothing to quell her suspicions.
It was at that moment that the robotic server trundled over to them, brought out to assist with the lunchtime rush period. Its extendible arms worked to place their trays in front of them, linking each dinner to the various signals it picked up from the diner. The sleek, pale red and grey machine retracted its arms and wheeled itself back to the serving station.
“Two reasons why.” Ameer began as he took one of the long skewers from his box, impaling five barbecued locusts. “One, you saved my ass today when that perp got the drop on me.” He admitted, before taking a bite from the kebab.
“And two?” She asked while averting her eyes.
“Eating here unsettles you more than eating at Sizzlers unsettles me. Treating you to lunch tomorrow means I get to enjoy this more today.” The former soldier smiled, before it turned a bit more wolfish. “Don’t let your mealworms get cold.”