Tires squealed, asphalt screeched, and the truck was slowly filling up with a curious mixture of the smell of gasoline and chicken broth.
For Master Chef Fettuccine Brisket, this was Nirvana.
“Cook, Serve, Delicious!” was the hottest thing America had seen since the Blue War ended with the razing of Las Vegas, and it was currently barreling its way towards a Davidson County intersection with ten crates of ham and a dream.
“Almost there!” cried Whisk from the steering wheel.
Fettuccine glanced up from the sushi he was furiously plating, giving a nod to his robotic assistants.
“Well then...let’s put the “meat” in “meet n’ greet.” he grumbled.
Looking up from the laptop computer actually embedded in her lap, Cleaver made a face.
“Uh, Chef, I don’t think that’s how words work.”
The truck slid into a parked position, and all three inhabitants took their places in preparation. As Cleaver tugged open the blast shield/serving window, a horde of hungry citizens descended upon Cook, Serve, Delicious!.
The orders poured in like extra-virgin-olive oil, Whisk leveraging every bit of processing power she had to mark customers as Cleaver ripped boxes of freshly-cooked food from the shelves, pushing it into the throng of grasping hands.
Even as Fettuccine swiftly assembled several plates of burgers with one hand while stirring a pot of chili with the other, metallic hand, his (partially metallic) mind was elsewhere. He was lost, as he feared he had been for days, in memories of the past. Fettuccine was in SherriSoda Tower, whistling to himself as he pulled open the doors to his newly opened restaurant.
Those were simpler days, back when society was marginally functional and the only place you’d see a combat-bot was in a museum. Even in those early days, burning sopapillas and soaking corn dogs in mustard, there was something about cooking that made him feel alive. It was not only his talent, but his passion, and even as the restaurant grew, he ensured that each and every dish was made with the utmost care. For his beloved guests, no matter if they ordered the plainest of burgers or the most colorful kebabs, Cook, Serve, Delicious! was to be a dining experience with heart.
Then SherriSoda had been forcibly closed down and his restaurant repossessed by the government, after the owners had been found guilty of siphoning money from their housed businesses. Fettuccine was heartbroken. Was every soda poured, every toilet scrubbed, every attempted thief karate-chopped for nothing?
No. It wouldn’t end this way. Fettuccine gathered what little remained of his savings account and rented a space in Teragon Supertower, the country’s most famous remaining skyscraper composed entirely of restaurants. But running the restaurant alone was not enough to pay for Fettuccine’s rent. He sought a partner and discovered upstart sous-chef B.B.Q. “The Ranch” Salad. Together, they formed a formidable duo, working for commission at nearly every other restaurant in the Supertower as they worked to rebuild Fettuccine’s dream. Such fire-forged friendship, tempered in the heat of a thousand creme-brulee torches, soon revealed something sweet, like creme-brulee immediately after being torched.
The day that Fettuccine married his husband and reclaimed Cook, Serve, Delicious!’s five-star rating was the happiest of his life.
The saddest was the day after that, when an ICBM struck the Supertower and blew it up.
When Fettuccine next opened his eyes, he was lying on cold metal, looking up at two combat robots, and assumed he was about to be dissected. Thankfully, they instead offered him a job. Whisk and Cleaver had left war behind to become food truck operators, and together, they dreamed of winning the Iron Cook Speedway competition, America’s most prestigious food truck based competition. Whisk was an expert pilot capable of steering the vehicle down even the most wartorn roads with ease, and Cleaver’s experience with heavy weapons made her the perfect choice to fend off assaults from other food trucks. The only thing missing was a competent chef, and with the legendary Fettuccine Brisket on board, they believed they really had a shot.
The prize would be enough to restore his…
“Chef!” Cleaver’s voice ripped Fettuccine back into the present. “All done here, we’re going!”
Wordlessly, he nodded, diving back into his work preparing the next stop’s supply of French Fries. Somewhere between the curly and the waffle, a familiar sound filled his cyber-ears. A joyful tune, full of trumpets and bells, was quickly approaching.
Panic began immediately.
“Cleaver! It’s Chilly Bowl!”
With a grimace, the former combat-bot dashed across the truck, scrambling into Cook, Serve, Delicious!’s mounted turret. They were barreling down the open highway now, caught right on the lawless streets of New Kentucky. Across the irradiated plains, a sinister voice cackled.
“Hahahahahaha! Competitor! Surrender yourselves and purchase a Chilly’s Chums membership, or be ripped to shreds by our superior firepower!” As Fettuccine turned to face the window, an enormous icecream mascot rose to meet him, painted on the pastel pink side of a two-ton pile of speeding death and frozen treats. In its cockpit, leaning out the window with cannon in hand, was a cyborg.
“I, Unit Designation: Tasty Sprinkles, demand your surrender, Chef Brisket!”
With a flourish of his weapon, Sprinkles fired a blast into one of the truck’s external holding stations, coating the road behind them in burnt metal and slightly overcooked waffle fries.
“That’s not your name!” Fettuccine pounded his fist against the window as he called, his eyes alight. “You’re not Tasty Sprinkles!”
“Well, I tried to play it soft-serve, but it sounds like you like it hard candy! Very well!” With a laugh, Sprinkles aimed his cannon at Fettuccine.
“B.B.Q.! Your name is B.B.Q. Salad!” Fettuccine cried. “You’re my husband!”
It may have been a mere trick of the light, but for a moment, Fettuccine could have sworn he saw recognition flash through the cyborg’s eyes. The hesitation was all Cleaver needed. The whole truck rattled as the mounted cannon unloaded a salvo of bullets into one of the Chilly Bowl truck’s tires.
“Damn you, Cook, Serve, Delicious! I’ll get you next time!”
As Sprinkles’ truck swerved off the road, coming to a shuddering stop in a ditch, Fettuccine sighed.
“We’ll save him, boss.” Even from the driver’s seat, Whisk’s voice was clear. “We’ll win the Iron Cook Speedway, rebuild your restaurant, and save your husband from whatever Chilly Bowl did to him.”
“Maybe.” Fettuccine grumbled. Tightening the chef’s hat on his head, he returned to his station. “But we can’t do that if we don’t please these customers.” As he turned on the stove once more, the scent of frying chicken filled the truck.
“Let’s get cooking!”