It’s two in the afternoon somewhere outside your stratosphere and LJ and Jemimah are hanging upside down in zero G laughing their asses off.
“Look! Look! Hair like a troll doll!” Jemimah buckles upward with tears of laughter. LJ’s eyes widen with recognition at the 90s dolls and she too soon keels over at the silliness.
“Where have the others gone again?” asks LJ once she has caught her breath.
“Off saving some place outta Betelgeuse…”
“Huh. How come they never take us with them?”
Jemimah smirks, trying to make her face even more like the tiny doll figures, “Dunno, Strider says we don’t take the job seriously enough and Laser boy says we’re unable to focus. Is there any food left?”
Abruptly the two girls fall on their heads on the deck, swearing sharply. A tone chimes as the ship’s screen changes to show a woman peering in at them curiously. It’s Anniemole, head of the Earth’s Underground Transport system and their friend.
LJ grumbles, “Why did we route the phone through the anti-grav? Owww!”
“After Captain Crack caught us messing about last time impersonating an air balloon fest, we thought it might be better to be on the deck when visitors drop by,” huffed Jemimah.
“I won’t bother trying to translate what you’re up to,” says Anniemole briskly. “Where are the Lycras?”
The Lycras are the interstellar team of superheroes who travel between galaxies saving things heroically and shouting positive maxims. LJ and Jemimah work on their ship, Angela, as the tech support.
“They’re out,” says LJ.
“Saving something,” adds Jemimah, brightly.
Anniemole looks concerned. “That’s bad news. We’ve a situation on Earth that could do with some help…” She tails off in thought.
“We can do it!” LJ exclaims, “Can’t be that hard, I think we have spare Lycra somewhere around here, too.” Jemimah nods enthusiastically.
“I don’t think so,” Anniemole smiles sympathetically. “The human race’s participation in culinary preparation is under threat from cookerybots again. We’re two down on a crack team of competitive chefs and they’ll need some expertise.”
“No trouble,” says LJ proudly. “We cook all the time…and we can read up on anything else we need. We’re still a part of the crew of ‘Angela the hero ship’ you know.”
Jemimah nods unconvincingly.
Anniemole does not look sure but her time is short and she needs two people to join the fight. With reservations she relents, “Okay then. You two need to be in London, UK on Sunday morning ready to cook. The human race may depend on you, you could be our only hope. Be there on time and may the fork be with you.”
The screen buzzes and she disappears. LJ and Jemimah look at each other and grin. Research time.
Twenty minutes later, the girls are chewing on pencils, doodling on paper and frowning at the wide screen. A wikipedia screen is showing them results for the word “Chef”.
“Hmnnn”, says LJ “- this online Earth index is strange. Is that really a chef?”
“Let’s try another one of their databases.”
An old YouTube icon appears on the monitor and various video choices cascade down the screen. Jemimah waves at one of the options and a video opens up to show them some colour digital material. They exchange glances and wide grins as a slightly fuzzy man with a moustache and three fingers on each hand sings in a small kitchen.
“Irshdy birshdy biiiirshhh, coookey the chicken.” The man swings a cleaver wildly at what looks like a soft bird. “Bork!” he shouts and brings down the enormous knife.
“I don’t understand what he’s saying,” comments LJ.
“The label says Swedish Chef Muppet,” Jemimah is reading from the screen and taking notes. “Maybe Angela cannot translate foreign languages that old.”
“Angela, can you replicate that Chef Uniform for us?” asks LJ.
A soft voice over the tannoy replies, “Of course LJ, in sizes to fit you and Jemimah?”
With a soft whirring, the replicator starts up a weave before white buttoned shirts and tall hats start to appear.
“Looks good,” nods LJ. “Let’s look up a recipe and get a map to London sorted.”
“It’s hard to believe all the people of Earth in kitchens had to wear these things,” LJ is fidgeting at a dark and curled false moustache that is tickling her nose.
“Maybe it’s a hygiene thing,” wonders Jemimah, wiggling her top lip around and trying not to inhale the stray fibers. LJ looks unsure.
Dressed like Muppets, the pair walk through the travel door and step from Angela into a grey London street behind the main shopping thoroughfare.
They’re at the Cookery School and today is the day where humanity gets to fight for its rights to the kitchen.
People are already gathering in the bright clean spaces. Curiously, none of them appear to be wearing tall hats or false moustaches. LJ and Jemimah look to each other and shrug, then grab hot caffienated
drinks and try their best to blend in as well as they can.
Over the next hour, teams are formed into pairs who will each cook a three course meal. They are competing against each other, but most of all, they are working to impress the Aitkin8000 – a machine so
well-programmed to cook that it is waging (and almost winning) a campaign for all cookery to be automated rather than a pleasurable skill for any fleshy earthling to indulge in. The earth people around
LJ and Jemimah look downcast at this, steeling their resolve to find a way to impress this robot fiend.
It’s not long before the kitchen space smells glorious and food bloggers and online funsters are creating great food. For a little while as they enjoy the task in hand, the participants forget to worry about what is in the balance for this competition. LJ and Jemimah are trying their best to come up with a plan to overthrow the robot and liberate chefs for humankind. Surprisingly they don’t appear to be taking it too seriously….
“Omnomnomnomnom!” LJ is gleefully spooning melted chocolate into her mouth, Jemimah is trying to balance a teaspoon on the end of her nose.
Their food is chilling and mostly prepared – probably not winning dishes – and they are certainly enjoying their time joining in. That is, until the judges arrive.
Culinary experts file into the kitchen and the general chatter and giggling falls away. LJ and Jemimah are still shouting “Chef! Yes Chef” when a dour, mechanised clanking echoes in from the doorway. The Aitkin8000 has arrived to serve its judgement.
The girls look at each other. “Know your enemy,” mutters Jemimah and goes about turning toast into breadcrumbs, trying to act natural.
The culinary chef-o-tron wheels around the kitchen. He looks human but the weight of his mechanised steps gives away the hardware within. Clicks and whirrs can he heard as he scans the food being prepared and asks questions. LJ is fielding his enquiries with a smile while Jemimah under cover of the sound of a blender checks the back of the droid for any obvious datapoints. Squinting at the back of his shirt she can see something under the fabric that doesnt look too human. A brief flash of light points to something distinctly mechanised. Behind his ear she can see an audio sensor too.
Returning with the breadcrumbs as the Aitkin8000 is distracted by a raspberry meringue dessert, she shares her observation with LJ. The game is on.
Presently a competition organiser shouts out the time and the pressure is on the chefs to plate up and finish their presentation. Time also for LJ and Jemimah to make their move.
The girls get their food plated up and make a fuss to cover their moves. LJ snatches up her phone and gets the bluetooth running – it’s a long shot that the Aitkin8000’s systems would be wide open, but stranger things have happened. She glances as the screen and reads that the winners have not only been chosen, but their fate will be sealed. As the top chefs for the day they will be sacrificed as an example. She gulps. Their next move looks to be more important with each passing second.
Jemimah has moved closer to the robochef, carefully dripping oil on the floor as she gets closer. She nods to LJ and steps behind the Aitkin8000, still nodding at her partner.
With panache and in a very convincing move, LJ manages to step and turn on the oil, crashing into the Aitkin8000 who recoils, not impressed by the flesh contact. As he steps backward into Jemimah, she
catches his shoulder, hitting the concealed button and holding her breath to see if her hunch was right.
The Aitkin8000 twitches and halts on the spot, by now the other cooks have stopped their work, waiting to see if the robot will produce his chop-o-matic limb fittings and reduce the hapless pair to slivers of
A long pause is followed by an electronic voice coming from the robot.
His lips are not moving and his head lols over to one side. “Reboot in process”. LJ grins at Jemimah as she leans in toward the robot and whispers behind his ear.
“Reboot aborted. System shut down,” the electronic voice is continuing as raspberry coulis drips from suspended cutlery and everyone freezes.
“Aitkin8000 system, abort!” shouts the electronic voice. “Command error, system error, erase data files, commands incomplete.”
The robot is no longer able to reboot and its own commands no longer make sense – the Aitkin8000 is wiping itself, permanently. The droid’s limbs start to tremble and shake, its head twitching more violently.
“This doesn’t look good,” mutters LJ and Jemimah moves to watch the results. The tremors increase as the autochef takes on a startling physical fit. People are backing away. With a pop and crackle, smoke
appears to be rising from the robot’s eyes and nose. He starts to utter random words, “Reduction, human reduction, slice, saut-…”
Finally with a cry of “Moderate Oven!” the Aitkin8000 shudders to a halt.
“Disappointing,” Jemimah shakes her head. “I thought there would be an…” The Aitkin8000’s meat covering explodes covering the pair in a greasy substance, much to their general disgust.
LJ delicately runs a finger down her face and licks it. “Olive oil,” she confirms. “He was running on olive oil.” They look at each other and the mess they are in and laugh.
FOR THE WIN
After a large clean-up effort, the remnants of the Aitkin8000 are finally cleared away and the chefs celebrate their victory with a meal. The winners of the competition are announced and it’s time for LJ and Jemimah to return to Angela.
They port back to the ship, still wearing their smeary oil-covered chef whites.
Back on Angela, the Lycras have returned and are not pleased to find their vessel has been left unattended.
“Where the hell have you two been?” demands the Cryptoid angrily, “We can’t leave you here to look after a domestic ship?”
The Binary chimes in, “What the hell have you been doing? You’re disgusting.”
“What are we supposed to do? We have to go out and save worlds that you two have never even heard of and we cannot trust you to look after yourselves?” The Shadow Lady is not impressed either.
LJ and Jemimah try their best to butt into the bitchkreig to explain but it’s no use. Lycra egos are not to be trucked with.
“At least go and clean up. And you need to fix the food replicant, it just keeps producing chocolate and coffee,” mutters Cryptoid.
LJ and Jemimah look at each other. “Bork?” mutters LJ, Jemimah smirks and they head off to change and think of something even more repulsive than last time to program into the replicator.
Hurrah! Thanks to the organisers and Qype for putting a fabulous day together. Thanks to everyone we met who made us feel comfortable in our facial hair. Thanks to all of the photographers whose photos feature in this story and for goodness sake – VOTE FOR TEAM BORK!BORK!BORK! – Isn’t saving the world enough for your vote?