Three faces. Well, two faces and something that was presumably a face but definitely non-human and looking more like a rotting ham with electrodes attached, glared at Gus. Apparently, they were the only guests prepared to share in the special feast.
Their table was simple and round – laid out in old earth fashion – white linen with the requisite bunch of holo daisies in the centre. That’s all. No cutlery at this once in a lifetime meal.
Gus strained to lean forward an inch.
Closer inspection revealed the elegant swirls jacquarded into the cloth were glitching slightly. Holocloth. He wondered if anyone in the colony had ever seen real linen. Certainly not the Deputy Governor’s wife whose job it was to prepare the exclusive Thursday evening dinner club. Gus looked up and reviewed the rest of her attempted propriety.
A faded print of van Gogh’s Wheatfield hung on the adjacent wall. The standard overhead fluorescent tubes had been replaced with apricot diffusers giving the ceiling a warm autumnal glow. There were even soft furnishings – such luxury. It had been many years since he had been in a room with drapes.
Gus assumed there would be noise inhibitors behind the curtains to drown out the all-pervasive racket from beyond the dining room. Or, he wondered, was it to keep our noise from them?
He hoped Bruiser, who had been selected as their chef for the evening, was making an equal attempt with the cuisine. The aroma wafting into the room was promising; a heady mix of chilli, roasted peanuts, garlic and lime. Aside from the chains around his ankles, he had to admit the club was quite pleasant.
Then the heavy steel door clanged open. Two waiters, whose aprons didn’t even approximately cover their combat gear and holstered guns, dragged in the fourth companion by gritty black chains.
Gus’ shoulders dropped. He had hoped that Xlam the snitch from 223G would be the next to dine but it was Mack from 225G. Mr Crazy-shuttle crashing-pilot torturing-Mack.
One of the other guests whimpered, echoing Gus’ own unease at his final companion. Mack was a jarring reminder of the true purpose of the room. After years of being waitlisted, Gus had finally received his seat in the death row club diner.
Mack threw his head back and roared.
Gus watched in awe as Mack tugged on his chains and abruptly leaned back. The veins on Mack’s thick neck strained as he pulled against his restraints until he was nearly seated on the floor.
The simple act of defiance caught the “waiters” off guard. Unbalanced, they flew backward into the hallway, smashing into the food trolley and other waiters beyond.
From the tangle of limbs on the floor, Mack grabbed one of the guns and shot through his chains.
Free at last, he shot two more rounds victoriously into the ceiling before unloading the rest into the poorly disguised guards. Then he reached down to the spilled meals and shoved a victorious fist full of Bruiser’s steaming pad thai into his mouth.
Immediately Mack wretched. He frantically clawed at his throat. Somewhere a klaxon sounded, bright lights flooded the room and a riot squad stomped in, but it was all too late.
Mack collapsed on the floor. Dead. The coroner would later report that Mack had suffered sudden adult onset of peanut allergy.