They had arrived in the middle of the Dubai night, but they saw three times as many people in the streets as they had on New Barcelona. Sophia remarked that it was way better lit than her old neighborhood. Indeed, Dubai Colony’s capitol may have been the most opulent place 231 had been on a mission.
Sophia stopped suddenly and gasped. “No way!” She grabbed the Goliath’s thumb in one hand and tugged him toward a cart parked at the intersection of two main roads. A dark-skinned man in a sharply pressed suit was walking away from the cart, holding a thin plastic bowl of steaming noodles.
231 could smell a salty, meaty smell. He realized that he was hungry too. And it was only then that he realized that he had forgotten to take rations.
Sophia was at the cart, beaming up at the thin, aproned man holding the ladle. “Two, please.” She turned to 231, almost giddy. “I can’t believe they have soba here! Have you ever had it?”
The scent from the cart was very appealing. “No,” he said, looking into the steaming trays. Thin brown noodles in thin brown sauce. 231 spotted a few pieces of unidentifiable meat.
The vendor said something in Arabic and handed Sophia two bowls and two pairs of chopsticks. She nodded at 231, who took them from the vendor as Sophia flipped open her palmtop to pay.
“This is so awesome,” she said, smiling at the soba vendor and walking away from the cart. “Gimme mine!”
231 handed over the noodles, then stared at his own. “Thank you.” The last time he had human food was the cake at the birthday party so many years ago.
Sophia was staring at him rather than eating. “Try it!”
231 looked at the chopsticks in her hand, decided against it, and lifted the bowl to his mouth instead.
The brown sauce was as salty as it smelled. The noodles were firm and chewy. The meat was some sort of sausage, tasting more of the sauce than anything else.
It was, by far, the most delicious thing he had ever tasted.
231 chewed and swallowed, his eyes lighting up. He took another mouthful before smiling widely at Sophia, nodding his approval.
Sophia tilted her head and smirked. “Toldja.” She lifted a wad of noodles to her mouth with the chopsticks.
“Mmm! This is better than cake!”
Sophia chewed, and stopped. She chewed again reluctantly, and swallowed with a grimace. “This is horrible. Don’t eat it. Here.” And she reached for his bowl.
At least he had gotten one bite. 231 resignedly held the bowl out to her.
She once again looked at him as though he were crazy. “You can eat it if you want. It’s just really bad.”
231 jerked the bowl back, then had a thought. “Do you know what Goliaths usually eat?”
Sophia shook her head. “You want mine?” She offered her bowl.
He immediately took it and emptied it into his. This really was a good assignment. “I saw a human eat a thing called a bar of candy once-”
“A candy bar.”
“Yes. Thank you. We eat bars, but they’re made of protein and vitamins, not chocolate. But they’re the same color.”
Sophia’s eyes flicked from him to the bowls of brown noodles. “Um… where does the protein come from?”
231 had never thought to ask. He shrugged and downed another mouthful of soba.
The girl sighed and looked around the square. “Well, I still don’t know where we’re going. Let’s just keep walking, okay?”
The Goliath nodded, discarding the empty bowls into a waste bin. “Lead on, Milady.”
Sophia smiled softly at him. “You’re all happy.”
231 paused, and realized that he was.