It Goes Like This

Albert adjusted his tie. He grinned at the cameraman.

"You're fine, nothing in your teeth," said John the cameraman.

"Good," Albert said. He turned and kept his grin in place. Next to him stood a white-haired man, obviously a professor, with a white coat over a button-up shirt and slacks, and very delicate glasses. He had the silly grin of the completely non-telegenic.

"Rolling," John said. "Whenever you're ready."

"This is Dr. Ingoss," Albert said, to the camera. He turned a fraction of a degree. "How are you, Dr. Ingoss."

"Oh, I'm quite fine and good, thank you," Dr. Ingoss said, with an accent as untraceable as a whiff of gas on a crowded train.

"We're here today at Dr. Ingoss' home and laboratory, is that correct, Dr. Ingoss?"

"Yes, yes it is."

"And what are you a doctor of, exactly?"

"Roobotics," he said, mangling the vowel.

"Robotics, yes. May we go inside?"

"It would be the pleasure mine," said Dr. Ingoss. Albert and John followed him to the garage door, which opened automatically on his approach. The garage appeared, from the outside, to be able to fit three or four cars. It only had a single small car sized door.

Inside, the garage wasn't so much a futuristic laboratory of wonder as a series of heavy wood benches, covered with a variety of electronic gear and shelves slung underneath the table filled with other metallic bric-a-brac. The smell of paint and ozone tickled Albert's nostrils.

"And this is where Dr. Ingoss produces his creations, designed to improve life for us humans."

"Indeed very much," said Dr. Ingoss. "When I was a boy, we had to do everything ourselves, from fetch water from the well to stoke the fires myself. Why, I thought. Today we have cook stovetops and plumbing, but we need to go further. This, for instance," he walked over to a pole on a metal base, about six feet tall, with delicate arms coming off of the pole like branches off of a tree trunk every few inches. A few hydraulic lines ran here and there, coupled with electric wires. At the top sat a metal box about as large as a small lunchbox.

"You will never have to worry about take clothes off again," said Dr. Ingoss. "It goes like this."

A moment after Dr. Ingoss finished speaking, Alpert heard a whirring noise come from the machine. A light on the box at the top of the pole began to blink. The machine's arms became a blur around Dr. Ingoss, who a moment later stood there in the nude. His clothes sat on the workbench next to him, neatly folded. The machine's arms slid to a halt in their original position.

"Voila," said Dr. Ingoss, gesturing at himself, his pale paunch and the regions below. "Note I needed to do nothing."

"We'll take this out in editing," said John, panning up to Dr. Ingoss' proud grin. John gave Dr. Ingoss the thumbs up, who beamed even more.

"Dr. Ingoss, please have the robot put your clothes back on so we can continue the interview," Albert said.

"Oh, it does not yet do that," said Dr. Ingoss, putting on his underpants. "But it will soon. I put the most difficult chore first, dressing will be easy."

Albert tapped his foot until Dr. Ingoss was fully dressed. John did a few pans across the workshop for stock footage.

"That was a very impressive machine," Albert said. "Could you show us some more?"

"Oh, indeed, indeed very much," Dr. Ingoss said. He led them over to one of the tables near the back. A small track ran down the length of the table, and an array of machines sat along it. Three bowls sat on one of the rail cars. A dorm refrigerator sat below the table.

"The inconvenience of preparing meals and eating is a gross one for this modern world," said Dr. Ingoss. He opened the refrigerator, and took out a bag of rice, a small steak, some vegetables a few bottles of sauce. Placing them on the counter, he arranged the steak in one bowl, the rice in another, and the vegetables and sauce in the third one.

"It goes like this," Dr. Ingoss said. A moment later, the little cart whirred to life.

"Are you getting this, John?" Albert asked.

"Sure am," John replied.

The trio watched in silence. The cart trundled along the track, stopping at various points where the machines would grab the bowl, tip it over into funnels on their tops, and place the bowl underneath the machine. Depending on the machine, either a few moments or as much as ten minutes later, the bowl's contents would drop back into it. One machine dropped cooked rice into the bowl, chopped vegetables fell out of another, sauce squeezed out of one, a fully-grilled steak came out of one towards the end, and so on. Each machine had a heat lamp focused on the food waiting on the car to keep it warm.

The second-to-last machine plated it, and the plate chugged up next to them.

"Observe, the meal is cooked," said Dr. Ingoss.

Albert admitted to himself that while the Nudie Machine, as Albert had come to think of it, was a little weird, that steak looked damned tasty. And the vegetables glistened with the perfect amount of sauce. Even the rice appeared perfectly fluffed. His stomach rumbled. Albert remembered the missed highway exits and convoluted roads that made them late and also chewed up his lunchtime.

"May I try a bite?" Albert asked.

"Of course, when it is done," Dr. Ingoss said. "It is cooked, but it is not ready. I programmed these cart to stop here, so that I can check it. Control of quality." Dr. Ingoss pulled a cooking thermometer from his lab coat and stuck it into the different foods. He turned back to Albert and John, satisfied. "One final step is necessary. It goes like this," he said. A moment later, the cart whirred back to life and trundled towards the final machine, which upended the perfectly-plated food into a funnel.

A funny, high-pitched whine came from the final machine, and then a runny, poorly-mixed gray goo squeezed out of the bottom of the machine into an oversized shot glass. The clear sides let Albert look on, disgusted. The liquid looked like those little gray worm turds, tiny bundles of spheres, that Albert used to find in the dirt as a child.

"Now, is ready," Dr. Ingoss said, still smiling the smile of a proud father. He held the glass up to Albert. His nose wrinkled and his gag reflex tickled. The smell had gone from delicious, homecooked meal to a motor-oil tinged aroma of lukewarm, slightly-off beef.

"What'd you do to it," said Albert, in the rhetorical tones of someone asking a good question too late. "Why'd you do that to it?" His stomach also grumbled in protest.

"Said I earlier, the process of eating and cooking is inconvenient, too many chews and too many swallows. This has been, mostly eaten? Yes, mostly eaten. Shredded and compressed. It saves time and is more efficient. Machine with many blades is better than the mouth and teeth of you or I."

Albert tried a little of the goo, for the camera, and almost masked his displeasure at finding out that it tasted exactly as it smelled. Albert briefly thought that what Dr. Ingoss had really developed was an aromatic paste that could destroy years of experience pretending to be happy on camera.

"This is a delicious paste," Albert said. There. He had mastered the flavor. The gag reflex made him sound strangled, but he got it out.

"Do you have some water?" Albert asked.

"It goes like this," Dr. Ingoss said.

A moment and a small whirring sound later, a jet of water hit Albert in the face and soaked the microphone. John jumped backwards to protect his equipment. Albert wiped the water out of his eyes and looked towards its source. A few final drops of water dripped out of the swivel-mounted hose on the ceiling.

"Yes," said Dr. Ingoss, smiling some more. "You don't have to get out of your chair when you thirst."

"Very nice," Albert said. His nice wool suit would take forever to dry. His eye twitched involuntarily. "Let's keep this going."

Albert walked over to another table, and turned to pick up a small contraption that looked like a rocket ship.

"Does this actually take off?" Albert flipped it over, looking for some kind of switch or toggle. "Wait. What's the phrase you use? To activate the machines? Oh. Right. It goes like this," Albert said. Nothing happened to the model rocket ship. Albert set it down and turned.

Dr. Ingoss was completely naked. The Nudie Machine's arms had just stopped whirring.

"Goddammit," Albert said. He motioned John to point the camera up, up, tighten up the shot on Dr. Ingoss' face. Albert had had enough. He hid his impatience and anger behind his reporter's composure. He could've been an anchor, but journalistic politics had ruined that. Now he was out here with John shooting this ridiculous feel-good segments that just languished in the vault if anything else of remote interest happened during the day.

He took a deep breath, and leaned against the open doorway of a hollow egg-shaped pod a little larger than a man. It's surface was cold, and studded with thick metal arms that ended in hooks. Inside, it was completely smooth and with a drain in the floor. Albert rested his head against the pod. The cool metal helped him re-focus. After a moment, he opened his eyes. Dr. Ingoss had walked over, followed by John.

"And what do these machines, these wonderful machines of convenience, run upon, Dr. Ingoss?" Albert said.

"Well, you have to oil them occasionally, and replace a sprocket here and there-"

"Yes, but what do they run on?"

Dr. Ingoss seemed to ignore him and only picked up speed. "-and their servomotors have to be replaced and I have experimented with batteries and things of that type and nature but ultimately a circulatory system worked best-"

"What the hell powers them?" Albert asked, his composure cracking again.

"-gasoline worked okay for a time but I needed something better and more convenient. Something that would come to me, for sake of being most possible efficient. Transportation is a large inconvenience."

"What? A power that comes to you? Solar, Dr. Ingoss?"

"No, I engineered them to gain their greatest energy reserves from the blood of the curious newsmans."

Albert frowned. Ingoss was talking too fast for him to really follow.

"What?"

"Oh, well, it's very simple, I'll show you. You're standing right by the machine," Dr. Ingoss said, gesturing at the pod. "It goes like this."

After a moment, Albert heard a whirr from the pod.

Prev # Next