Chapter 11:

A Fast Food Discovery


Thanks to Bliss’ life-changing teleportation ability, they all arrive at a McDonald’s that Viper estimated to be half a mile away. Now, could they have walked that distance? Sure. Was it a waste of Bliss’ capabilities, especially since her skill has such a large recharge time? Absolutely, if you didn’t have Viper glaring at you with the impatience of a thousand bees vying for a chance at meeting with the queen.

Unfortunately, while Lucky had been hoping that Bliss would be able to transport them right outside of the McDonald’s to avoid any unwanted attention, they end up slamming right into the glass right next to the front door.

Lucky is none too thrilled to discover that she does, in fact, have pain receptors. Ow.

They all let out various moans of pain, a symphony of agony if you will. They harmonize so well together that Lucky wonders if they should be shooting for a record deal. Lucky and Panic Button pull their faces from the window and roll around on the pavement in pain.

“Sorry guys,” Bliss says as she unsticks her face from the glass and holds her horse head in her big bear paws.

“It-It’s not your fault. You’re new to this kind of thing,” Viper says, his voice tight with pain. Even in moments like this, he’s not prone to getting angry or annoyed. It’s kind of funny that bugs and humidity are enough to get to him though. Viper swipes at his face with his paw as he tries to soothe the pain from the impact. “Maybe we can look at your settings later to try and figure out how to fix your landing coordinates.”

“Later? Are you kidding? Do you think I can go through another round of getting my face smashed in? Nooo way we’re traveling like that again unless Bliss works on that.”

“Well, I’ll be sure to leave you behind next time to walk your furry behind to wherever we go next.”

Just before Panic Button could argue with Bliss some more, she haughtily walks through the automatic sliding door of the restaurant without so much as a backward glance. The three remaining Pets look at each other.

“We should follow her,” Viper says.

“Yeah, we shouldn’t waste too much time in one place. It could be dangerous,” Panic Button agrees.

“After you two, then.” Lucky gestures with her big floppy ear at the door, as one by one the three of them join Bliss in the McDonald’s that Lucky knows holds all the answers to the world.

The inside is, as one would expect, busy. Even though it’s so early in the morning, there are people milling about waiting for their food. The place seems more likely a coffee shop with its sleek dark wood and steel accent decor. There’s even throwaway art prints on the wall, a lot of which seem entirely disconnected from the kind of place this is. 

What stands out admits this boring, big-standard decor design, is the presence of other Pets. Much to her surprise and confusion, none of them look anything like their squad.

A lot of the Pets seem more obviously robotic, with parts sticking out and an inflection in their voice that sounds inhuman. Their designs themselves are mostly animal-like at least, but Lucky is shocked when she looks behind the counter at the workers running the restaurant.

“Those are…” Lucky trails off.

“They’re humanoid Pets,” Bliss explains. “They’re actually one of the most common models you see, especially in a place like this. Since no real person wants to work in a restaurant anymore, the companies bought Pets to serve their businesses for them.”

Lucky watches as the humanoid Pets behind the counter interact with each other and the customers just like any other human being, with the only difference being that they looked cartoonish almost, just like her.

“They’re nothing like the other Pets here,” Lucky whispers to Bliss while covering her mouth with her ear as the four of them find themselves a nice corner table to gawk at the fast-food joint from.

“They’re more advanced, though I’m not sure if they’re on the same levels as us or not. We have a human consciousness, but in their case they’re usually highly advanced AI.”

Lucky watches as a kid walks up to a touch screen ordering kiosk and hears a happy jingle play as a big “ADOPT” animation appears on the screen. The young boy presses the button, jumping up and down in excitement as he watches an animation play across the screen.

Lucky finds her zooming in on the animation with her lenses as best she can, her curiosity piqued. Soon enough, a small winged robotic bat appears on the screen. The boy squeals and pulls on his mother’s skirt. “Mami, look, look! I got the limited-edition Pet!”

She smiles at him. “Yeah?”

He nods up at her, beaming. One of the workers call their number, and the little boy rushes over to the counter. The worker smiles down at him with their cartoonish grin and hands him the bat. It can’t be anything more than four inches across, and even from here Lucky can already tell the paint used on it is cheap.

Still, the child seems happy regardless, and accepts the gift. He presses his thumb to its back, and the bat moves for a second, as if thinking about taking flight. “Owner registration complete. Thank you for adopting me, Alejandro!”

“You’re welcome! We can play in the pool, and, and draw on the sidewalk together.”

Lucky winces at the thought of putting the little bat anywhere near the water, but the Pet just says, “I would be happy to play with you!”

Alejandro seems pleased by this response and tugs on his mother’s skirt again. “Mami, can we buy it some cookies?”

“Only if you promise not to ruin it as soon as we get home.”

“I won’t! I really like this one!”

She smiles down at him again and says, “Yeah? Alright then.” This time, she approaches the touch screen. She moves through different screens quickly, before placing her thumb on the screen to confirm something. Something is printed at the bottom, like a receipt, and she hands the code over to the boy. “Go ahead and let him scan that so he can enjoy eating with us.”

The little bat flutters over to the receipt and scans it, a little noise of joy coming from it and the comical sound of a child pretending to eat comes from its speakers. “Thank you so much for the food! Now I should be able to understand and respond to more phrases!”

Lucky watches the mother-son duo as they leave, and while she should probably be making connections about how the GACHA system functions, all she really can think of right now is whether she can actually experience the taste of food again even as a stuffed dog.

“Virtual food…does it taste like real food?” Lucky asks.

Her three companions exchange looks with each other, trying to gauge whether any of them has any experience with the wonders of digital cuisine.



“I wish!”

Based on what the little bat said after it was fed, it’s possible that eating food may even give their abilities some kind of boost. While Lucky wishes they could roam as they like without worry, they’re already getting looks from some of the other McDonald’s customers. Lucky reeeeaaallly doesn’t want to find out what happens if people start to get too nosy.

Still, as Lucky listens to the sound of fries being scooped into containers and smells the enticing and unmistakable aroma of the best fries in the world, she hopes they have them in the digital menu too. “Is there any way to buy digital food?” Lucky asks, tail wagging back and forth as she looks at the touch screen kiosk with longing.

“We could, I think,” Bliss says slowly. “We can carry bank and currency information to make purchases. Actually, to even use a Pet you have to have it attached to a bank account. Usually, owners put protections and settings on Pets to manage that kind of thing, but we don’t have owners.”

“Wait. Then whose account are we linked to?” Lucky asks.

“Let me check,” Viper says, taking a moment to let his system run through fields of data in mere seconds. He seems to perk up after he’s finished, a satisfied look on his face. “It’s Lester’s account.”

“Oh-ho, is it really?” Panic Button says with a mischievous gleam in his eye. “Well, it’d be a shame to just let that money sit there, wouldn’t it? Maybe we should use it.”

There’s a lot of different decisions Lucky could have made after hearing Panic Button’s suggestion. To wait, or maybe even not to take the risk of doing it at all, especially when they didn’t want a connection with the very same man that they’d just successfully escaped. These would have been smart, wise decisions to make in a situation like theirs.

Lucky doesn’t make the wise decision.

Instead, she boldly walks up to the touch screen, the orders of her friends in her memory banks while they wait for her at the table in the corner. Lucky doesn’t bother restraining herself, and orders and obscene amount of items off the menu. She orders one of every digital item they offer until she’s sure she’s spent every last drop of Lester’s money (which really didn’t amount to much all in all).

So many little receipts pop out of the machine it reminds Lucky of those old school tickets you could get from an arcade machine at a game center for prizes. They’re all connected to each other in one seamless line, and Lucky snaps the very last receipt from the machine with her mouth before excitedly rejoining her friends at their table.

“Oh, I want to try this one!” Panic Button says, pulling about ten different receipts from the pile at the same time.

Bliss looks at the wide array of options on the table with a mix of curiosity and trepidation. “Can you get fat from virtual food?”

“I don’t think so? As long as our data isn’t full,” Lucky guesses, unsure of the answer herself.

“Hm. Well, it wouldn’t hurt to have a few of these…” Bliss says, joining in on the fun and taking a bear paw’s worth of receipts for herself.

Viper, for his part, is looking down at the receipt for a frosted smoothy with a sparkle in his eyes. “It was worth surviving the bugs for this.”

As soon as Lucky begins scanning the receipt for fries with her systems and experiences that oh-so-familiar taste she’s known and loved for what she imagines is her whole life, she squeals in delight.

It doesn’t take long for her companions to join in, all of them enjoying the taste of the digital food as if it were real. The taste also seems to last the same length of time it would take a regular human to finish the food. So, while Panic Button eats a hamburger, he experiences the flavors for the same length of time it would take him to bite, chew, and swallow his food like a human.

However, unlike humans, they don’t end up getting fat at all, which allays Bliss’ fears pretty quickly. Soon, she’s devouring receipts at an even faster pace than all three of them combined.

It feels so normal, so human to be sitting together, chatting over food while laughing together. There’s a silliness to it now that they weren’t allowed in the cages, especially from Bliss and Viper, who normally acted more mature.

They begin to dare each other to try different flavors at the same time by scanning multiple receipts one right after the other, so they’d have to process both tastes at once. This leads to some truly bizarre and downright disgusting combinations on both ends, with Viper and Bliss commiserating with each other over just how awful some of the tastes are.

“Maybe they shouldn’t have given us an eating function,” Viper says, looking sick, his head down on the table.

“There’s just some things I just didn’t need to know. How a fish sandwich and a cookies and cream smoothie taste at the same time is one of them,” Bliss laments dramatically, looking as if she’s having an existential crisis.

Lucky and Panic Button just watch them and laugh as they struggle through the now agonizingly long processing times for their food.

For the first time since meeting them, Lucky wonders if they would all have been friends before they became Pets. Would they have ever even met? Would they ever have been able to come together like this? She doesn’t know, but she hopes so.

Steward McOy