Author : Bob Newbell

The policeman and his young partner crouched down by the doors of the warehouse. Their night-vision contact lenses allowed them to see perfectly in the darkness.

“You ready?” asked the older cop.

“Ready,” said the rookie.

The veteran officer considered his partner. The young fellow has the courage of ignorance, he thought. He recalled having had similar self-confidence just before his first raid. It’s easy to be brave when you’re up against an abstraction. It doesn’t look that bad in the pictures and videos. Encountering what’s on the other side of that door in real life is a substantially different experience. A few people can face it head-on and do just fine. Most need some measure of acclimation. And then there are those who just can’t take it. For the latter, their first raid is also their last. They have to find another line of work.

The older cop motioned for a robot to approach. The machine quietly padded over and began spraying a thin stream of solvent on the lock between the two doors. The metal started dissolving. The two flesh and blood policemen took up positions on either side of the robot. The senior cop nodded at the automaton. It pulled the doors open, the corroded bolt between them crumbling to the ground, and rushed in, its headlamps shining brightly, twin guns attached to either arm at the ready. The two officers followed it in.

“Get down on the floor, face down, put your hands behind your heads, and interlace your fingers!” the older cop barked at the six rough looking men in the warehouse. One of the men tried to go for a gun that was sitting on a counter. The robot’s left gun arm locked on to him and fired. A taser bullet struck the criminal in the left shoulder, the barbed, electrified slug dropped him to the floor.

“ON THE FLOOR!” screamed the officer. The remaining suspects complied. Lights shone in through the windows around the warehouse: additional police robots.

The rookie looked in stunned silence at the enormous room. The carcasses of cows hung upside down suspended by their hind legs in one part of the warehouse, blood from severed carotid arteries and jugular veins draining into large basins. In another section, pigs were in various stages of dismemberment. Over to the right, a door to a walk-in freezer was open, the raid having taken place just as one of the men was stepping out of it. Frozen chickens could be seen inside.

On a hot plate on a counter, bacon sizzled in a skillet. Testing the product. The scent filled the air. The rookie turned pale and promptly threw up. Two police robots walked in through the front doors and proceeded to restrain the suspects with plastic cable ties.

“You okay?” the elder cop asked his young partner.

“Yeah,” the young man said, his voice thick. “Sorry. I didn’t think I’d…” He let the sentence trail off.

“It happens. You get used to this. Sort of.” The senior officer shook his head. “Texturized vegetable protein, 3D printed synthetic meat, tofu and tempeh. We like to think we’re so civilized and that mass murder like this is a thing of the past. There are even some sickos who’d like to turn back the clock and decriminalize eating meat.”

“And to think for most of history up until a hundred or so years ago most people actually ate this stuff,” said the rookie.

The old cop looked at the restrained detainees seated on the warehouse floor.

“Damned omnivores.”

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