“Wow, this is really good and stuff,” I said to my dad, my mouth full of burger. It was really good for real.
“I know, right?” my dad said. It was so cool to see him again. Felt like old times and whatnot.
We were sitting at a small table outside this thing that looked like on of those airport pubs in the underground mall city or whatever where my dad lived now. He was telling me about his job and stuff.
“Yeah, it’s totally cool, and stuff,” he was saying. “My group does a little bit of everything. We’re actually pretty technical. We even do some light maintenance on the robots. Plus like a lot of facilities management, which is really important. Like changing doorknobs or light bulbs. Cleaning up the bathrooms, taking out the trash. You know. It’s a really big deal here cause you know the whole thing’s underground. Well, mostly. So like that’s all we got.”
“Yeah, man,” I said. “Very cool. I guess you must be earning a lot of money and stuff if you do all that.”
“Oh yeah,” he said. “Pretty rad, for sure. Pays decent too. We don’t use dollars actually, but it works out to about fifteen dollars an hour or something, I think.”
I was only making like $10.50 an hour pushing shopping carts at Walmart, so I thought that sounded like a pretty sweet deal.
“And I guess you probably get like a free apartment or something, right?”
“Well, not exactly,” my dad said. “It comes out of my credits and stuff, you know? Just like anywhere. It’s pretty small, but it’s really nice, you’ll see. I even have a fold-out couch you could sleep on. And we can share the mini-fridge.”
“Damn, that sounds nice,” I said. I was missing my mom’s basement for sure, after being cooped up in that pod thing or whatever the hell it was that brought me here. It was good to get some real food in me too, and I was feeling like I was getting back to normal. Maybe even a new normal, and stuff. Here with my dad. I didn’t know yet what I was gonna do. If I was gonna stay or whatever, or like if I could even leave if that drone was already gone.
“What did you call this burger again?” I asked him.
“Radmeat,” he said.
“That’s a rad name,” I replied.
“I know. We make it locally too. Well, not me we, but like it’s made here by another group.”
“What do you mean it’s made?” I said, suddenly slowing down as I chewed.
“Yeah,” he said. “There’s no red meat here because we’re underground and on an island and stuff. It would be really expensive to get it shipped or flown in or whatever. So we have radmeat instead. They make it in big vats here from like…”
I put the burger down. “Vats?”
“Yeah, I mean I don’t know the technical terms. But its like, ah, cultured meat and vegetable proteins, I think?”
“Well, that doesn’t sound so bad, I guess,” I said, reconsidering.
“Yeah, no. It’s actually really cool. I think it’s made from uh, rat embryos, edible insects, and, um, lentils or something. At least I think, that’s what they say around the shop at work.”
“So, Radmeat is actually rat meat?”
“Well, not only that. Also cockroaches and lentils.”
“Well, I do like lentils, actually,” I said, picking up the burger again to look at it more closely. It just looked – and tasted – like a burger. No like rat parts or bugs legs or anything sticking out of it. I took another bite, and decided I didn’t care. Thinking about lentils made me miss my mom though. She was gonna be pissed about the car, and I couldn’t just disappear on her. Well, like dad did.
“Dad,” I said, “I just realized I gotta call mom. She’s gonna be super worried and stuff.”
“When did you talk to her last?”
“I told her I got a new job and was gonna crash at Mikey’s for a couple days. Only problem is idk how long ago that was now. Could be a couple days I guess. Can I call her? My phone’s dead.”
“We’ll have to get permission,” he said. “But I’ll make sure we can get it soon.”
“Permission?” I said, confused.
“To contact the outside world, yeah. People in our group have restricted contact.”
“Wth?” I said. “That sounds sketchy af. Is this like a cult or something? You can’t contact anybody without permission?”
“Dude, relax. You know me. Would I ever join a cult?” he said.
I thought about it for a minute and decided I wasn’t sure.
Just then, my dad’s phone beeped and buzzed. He took it out and looked at it.
“Okay, we gotta go,” he said. “It’s our turn.”
“Our turn for what?” I asked.
“To see the big guy, and figure out what you’re doing here.”