[12] Sage

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The spaceship cafeteria is like the Hollywood version of a school lunchroom.

When I think "cafeteria," immediately summoned to mind are grimy tables, stained walls, questionable yet food-like substances, and irritable lunch ladies - a scene that hasn't changed for at least a century, I'm sure.

This cafeteria is gleaming white, like the rest of the spaceship. The tables are smooth cream, with seats that seem to have been molded to a human form.

The counter where school children would receive their food is at the back of the room, and it is merely a long counter. No window, no lunch ladies. There are five small screens in which we type in our orders and promptly receive the food in five minutes, tops, no matter what it is.

When we've all settled into chairs (all three of us have creatively gone for hamburgers), it's silent in the room except for the occasional smack of lips from one of us. The hamburgers don't taste quite right and a small portion of me wonders if they're even real.

I find that our seats are adjustable for height and start playing with mine, going up and down, over and over. Jake shoots me a look.

"Do you think the Albinos keep tabs on us all the time?" asks Deirdre. "They kept tabs on us all the time where I used to live."

I start to ask where she used to live when I realize that she hasn't had any solid place of residence besides her parents' house until she was forced into some loony bin. The Voice blocks my reaction to this realization so much that I don't even blink.

"Same here," Jake says. "The mental hospital watched us all the time. There were cameras everywhere."

"They hid them where I was," I input offhandedly. "Dunno why they weren't out in the open, but I knew they were there because one of the workers mentioned my favorite song to me and I only ever sing it when no one is listening."

"So you're pretty behind on the times," Jake notes, obviously referring to my news-less three years in the insane asylum.

"A little bit, yeah. When I was caught, they were working with EMP tech for warfare down south and we were reinforcing the protection wall around California's coastline 'cause of the increased flooding."

"They finished that project, but not in time. Three coastal cities got flooded and four more were evacuated and have been abandoned ever since. And the EMP stuff died out when it backfired and wiped out the grids in Florida and Georgia for two weeks."

"Woah. What else happened?"

"Oh, the usual. A few famous people died. Ricey was elected again and nominated for eight years. Dunno if he got the presidency. I was captured at that point."

"Who's Ricey?" Deirdre asks, confused.

"The U.S. president," Jake answers as I answer in slightly more detail, "He was the old U.S. president. Well, I guess he is again."

Deirdre nods slightly, then frowns, her understanding lost. "I only went to a little bit of school in the insane asylum...I didn't learn about the prez-dent, I don't think."

Jake and I immediately dedicate the rest of our mealtime to educating Deirdre on the American democratic system.

As we finish telling her about how America started World War Three almost a century ago, the same Albino whom we met yesterday enters the cafeteria with Xavier and Nicole close behind.

"It is time for your initiation," she announces calmly, and Jake's hand curls into a fist on the tabletop.


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