Micro Monday: A Meal to Die For

Posted: April 1, 2013 in Micro Monday
Tags: , ,

Dagmar’s lungs began to burn again, so she took another breath from the tank. It was easy to plan to ration breaths from the tank before the mission; it was always different once she was in the field. She made a note to hold back until she could get some better compensation from her client.

“Aren’t you curious to know what this rare ingredient is?” the synthesized voice in her ear whispered.

“The parameters said I’d know it when I saw it, Essi. I don’t make a habit of asking questions my clients don’t want to answer.”

“That seems like a dangerous standard operating procedure.”

“Believe me, it’s no more dangerous than asking questions.”

“This seems like a lot of trouble to go through just for a gourmet dish.”

“Well, you’re an AI. What would you know about food?”

“And you live on freeze-dried nutrients. What would you know?”

“I think that’s exactly why I’d know about it. Now shut up. I have to concentrate.”

She took another breath and approached the final door. She entered the passcode she’d memorized, and the door slid open. The instructions had been right: there was only one thing in the room.

“I don’t think that’s what you’d normally call an ‘ingredient,’” the voice in her ear said.

In the middle of the floor was a rothari youth, maybe female based on the color of its skin. Dagmar sighed and shook her head; the little tentacled thing didn’t look like much, but she could fetch a handsome price in some of the higher social circles that wanted the delicacy of eating a sentient species without the taboo of cannibalism. The young rothari spoke, but Dagmar had no comprehension of what she said. It sounded more like popping bubbles than words.

“Maybe a question or two was in order?” the voice in her ear said.

“Shut up, or shut down. Your choice,” she murmured as she closed and sealed the door behind her.

The little thing looked up at Dagmar and began to knot and unknot its tentacle-like appendages. She rubbed her eyes in the palms of her hands.

“You have a contract, Dagmar,” the voice reminded her.

“I know!”

“Why is she here, anyway? Why isn’t she at home? She’s obviously too young to be in a place like this one on her own.”

“I don’t know!”

“What are you going to do?”

Dagmar looked up again and peered at the youth. She had no idea why this child was here in this locked room alone, but she couldn’t think of a single altruistic reason for it.

The young rothari extended its tentacles toward Dagmar, not unlike a human toddler asking to be picked up. She reached for the outstretched tentacles, and the small thing moved surprisingly fast up her arms. It wrapped itself around her rested its head against Dagmar’s shoulder. This close, she could hear the child struggling to breathe and felt her tremble.

“Ma’am?”

“Houdini protocol, Essi. We’re going to have to lay low for a while. And it looks like we have a new addition to the ship.”

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