“This is the intern again at Outlaw X. We’re going to keep going with the Cyrus T. Laserpunch stories for now. Everything’s fine. No one’s missing. The station interns aren’t in the middle of hostage negotiations. Enjoy the story.”
I spent the next four months in a rut. Alone in my apartment. Always on the lookout for killer robots from the future. Borderline alcoholic taking the edge off things at the restaurant. I was one part repairman, one part chef. And it wasn’t all bad. I enjoyed the satisfying of creating food that’s damn good. It’s art and science all in one. It’s the culmination of herbs grown in one place, minerals mined in another, animals raised on food to give them the right flavor, and someone who brings them all together in the right combinations. There are recipes that convince men to marry and there are recipes that can comfort widowers. The recipes themselves might come from hundreds of years in the past, traveling along trade routes as living history until today.
My passion for food helped me get through those months when my mind was like an autoknife. Then one morning, I woke up to knocking on the door. “Open the door you prick!”
Drowsy, I rolled out of bed. I checked the peep hole with my hand on my pistol. I had the pulse rifle under my bed but I built a pulse pistol for concealment. Sara came back and she looked pissed. I kept my hand near the pistol, but opened the door. “Hey Sara.”
“Hey jerk. Did you just wake up? You’re sleeping until noon now?” She crossed her arms over her large belly.
I yawned, shaking my head “No” to her question.
“Wake up. I need your gravy,” she had a mean and pouty look on her face. I liked it. It used to mean sex.
“You look like you had enough.” I smiled, reaching a hand out for her belly.
She slapped my hand away. “Hands off my baby. And I meant that white gravy. The stuff you make with the potatoes when you fry that steak. I’m craving it.”
I left the pistol alone and moved aside to let her in. Chicken-fried steak with corn flake in the breading, with white gravy. I didn’t have any potatoes. “I haven’t been eating well.”
“Yeah, well, you should,” Sara said. She was trying to get onto me. It was cute. “What are you smiling at?”
“You… um, do you have a name for our baby yet?” I pointed to her stomach.
“She’s my baby. You caused enough trouble for her already,” Sara adjusted her glasses and narrowed her eyes at me.
“I didn’t tell you to leave me, but you’re here now. How have you been?” I asked.
“I’ve been fine. Then my dad found out it was yours and cut me off. He never liked you. He hoped I cheated on you.”
“I’m sorry,” I said.
“You should be,” she said. She shut up to finish eating. She shoved the food into her mouth, barely cutting it small enough, getting gravy all over her cheeks. She looked beautiful.
I let her finish in peace while washing up dishes. I had a couple of hours until I needed to go in. “I’m going to get a shower,” I told her.
“Fine, whatever,” Sara said.
I left the door to the bathroom unlocked because she always used it after eating and I don’t want a pissed off pregnant woman shitting on my bed. She came in and shat in my toilet but I’d smelled worse. I once camped out in a sewer for two days straight waiting for a sweep to pass so I could take down a cell tower and collapse the robots’ rear line.
I paused, thinking of my life in the future. “We’re going to be fine. I can help you.”
“Living in this shitty place?”
She had a point.
That night after the dinner service, I was exhausted and one of the microwaves was broken. The chef wanted me to fix it up before dinner the next day. Fancy restaurants still use microwaves. I told her I was taking it home with me. I pulled into a parking lot nearby and stole a car there. I brought the microwave with me. The microwave and I pulled up to the nearest bank. I laserpunched through the door, but the vault was too big for me to get my fist through. I set the repaired and optimized microwave against the vault door, plugged it in, and set it to three minutes, forty-five seconds. In the time it took to superheat a pair of hot pockets, the optimized microwave melted a hole through the vault door.
The police they have here are not as efficient as the Liquidators I grew up around. It was night and they weren’t busy. I melted through the vault door and cleared out of there with enough paper currency to improve my living situation. The microwave needed to be tuned back down for the restaurant. That wasn’t hard. I rolled out of bed and did that the next morning while Sara was farting up the covers. She got gassy when she got pregnant. She pooted away in bed while I got the microwave fixed, then I woke her up with a breakfast sandwich.
“What’s that?” she asked groggy.
“Scrambled egg, sausage patty, American cheese, on toast,” I held out a plate for her.
She pointed to the table. “No, that.”
I set the plate on the table next to the vase of flowers. “I got these for you. You like pink roses.”
“No,” she kept pointing.
“That is a stack of $2,500 in hundred dollar bills,” I told her. “You want it?”
“Where did you get it?” she sat up.
“You don’t want to know. I can take care of things for us.”
She got out of bed. “Fuck you, you can’t take care of me from jail. You need to stop blowing shit up for whatever reason.”
“I was saving the future. Why are people so concerned about an incompetent private company when there are billions of lives in the balance?” I paused to grab a drink out of the refrigerator. “That’s just a little bit of money no one will miss, for you and our child. You want to feel sorry for some bank with millions or do you want to feel good that you now have money of your own?”
I didn’t have any expectations about the past because I didn’t expect to come back. The people are so unselfish. They never know when to fight and take for something just for themselves. They fight over abstract things, ideology and corporation. Is the future like that now that people don’t have to fight for survival? Is there a me out there whining about companies not making enough money?
“I guess I don’t care about them,” Sara said. “They’ll put your ass in prison and that’s bad for all three of us. Where would I get this delicious food? You should use your future knowledge to become rich. Like, who wins the lottery?”
“I don’t know. I never read up on ancient history.”
She smiled while giving me the finger. “What about your mechanical stuff? Can’t you invent a super bomb people will pay millions for?” That is too selfish. “What about that thing?”
“That’s a microwave. I fixed it for work but I made it too strong. I brought it back down. I better get it up there to work.”
“I’ll drive you,” she said.
Ten minutes later, we stared at the chain across the door and the big notice plastered to the window.
“I thought this place was doing well,” Sara said.
“Yeah. Seized for nonpyament can’t be right.” I pulled out my phone and called up the chef. The phone told me the number was disconnected. “She fucked us.” I looked at the restaurant, then into the back seat. “Hey, pull around to the back.”
“Why? Are you going to take something?”
“Yeah. We’re going to eat good. The cameras out back don’t work anyway.”
I popped the rear lock open in my metal hand and went in. The power was still on, so I grabbed some of my favorites out of the freezer and refrigerator. I stacked those up in the passenger seat so I could jam appliances in the back and trunk. “Let’s go, go, go!” I shifted the trays of food onto my lap and shut the passenger door. Sara got us out of there.
Over the next few days, I found buyers for most of the appliances. I don’t know why Sara focused so much on the restaurant closing. Maybe boredom. She was the first to tell me when they announced the embezzling indictment against the chef who trained me and owned the restaurant. But she checked and found out the embezzlement came out when someone tried to buy it. “Hey, this is a weird thingy. That creep who owns SpaceNet bought the restaurant was trying to buy it and started this.”
“That’s odd. Space and satellites, and a restaurant,” I said.
“You think SpaceNet knows who you are?” Sara asked.
“Doesn’t matter. I’ve been thinking about what you said. I have an idea about the microwave and the air fryer. I’m going to make them stronger, more reliable, and more energy efficient than what anyone else now can manage. I can make it work.”
Sara clapped. “I’ll take this to Daddy’s investment firm. I think he’ll see it’s a winner.”
It seemed great. Two months later, SpaceNet bought the controlling share and fired me. A month after that, Sara waddled around the apartment with her big belly. She stopped insulting me. I knew she was ashamed of me. She didn’t understand why I wanted to stream the press conference. The son of a bitch who bought me out of my company was presenting the Mega-Microwave as his own personal invention. He copied the company’s patented blueprints exactly.
“Now, I’m going to turn it on and let you see what happens when it microwaves a pizza. Contain yourselves, there will be enough for everyone,” he said.
I hit record.
The Mega-Microwave blew up.
“I learned a lot in the war against the robots. I learned how to scavenge and repair things. I learned about explosives. I learned how to ambush a more powerful foe. We’re selling short.”
“What are you doing? You don’t know investing!” Sara got her anger back and walked over, shaking the Mountain Dew in my plastic cup.
“I know with the money I’m about to make, I’m going to have enough to sell off the Cyberpunch Mobile Air Fryer without that jackhole sabotaging me. And done.”
Sara looked at me and looked at the page. “You son of a bitch. Pants off and shut up.”
“Wow. This is Tim the intern again. So that was the story of the Cyberpunch Mobile Air Fryer. The appliance of the future, today. Also, I remember that stream. My roommate was one of those weird fanboys. I think he hung himself because of that, but I got to keep his computer. Everyone, I have good news. Outlaw X is back. He’s taking a little breaky, but he’ll be better tomorrow! We now return you to our regularly-scheduled programming. You heard it on the X.”