“Ready to go?” asked Evanna after striding over to our table.
I took a moment to reply, feeling a bit confused. I’ve never felt rushed out of the Intergalactic House of Awesome Sauce before. “I suppose we can leave.” I told her.
“We don’t have to leave quite yet if you’re not ready. There isn’t a rush. I thought you looked ready is all.” she assured me.
“Wait. ‘We? You’re coming with us?” I asked.
“Huh? If that’s how you care to look at it, but don’t you normally say that you’re going with the guide?” she inquired.
“Guide? Sorry, but I have no idea what you mean.” I admitted.
“Oh. Master, we’re getting a guided tour of the universe!” exclaimed Mila.
Guessing that Mila was still talking with Aaliyah, I asked “What? Really!?”
“No, not really. You’re getting a guided tour through a few select parts of the universe while accompanying me on some deliveries” explained Evanna.
“I prefer Mila’s version.” I stated.
Evanna looked seriously worried as she said, “You can’t be serious… I’ve only been to a tiny fraction of the universe. As far as I know, the restaurant doesn’t even deliver to the uninhabited worlds. For you, Carl will probably make an exception, but… I’ll die of old age.” Evanna paused, took a deep breath, and let it out. Then she smiled almost excitedly and said, “Let’s see where all we end up.”
“Wow. I wish I could calm down that quickly.” I commented.
Evanna winked at me.
“Oh. Wait. Mila, how will you get signal?” I asked, stopping in my tracks.
“Don’t worry, master. The princess assures me that the restaurant will continue routing for me.” she replied.
“I suppose it is already routing the signal through time.” I remarked.
We followed Evanna across the asteroid a few steps farther, and then she sidestepped and disappeared. I stopped in my tracks once more, staring at where she had been.
Her disembodied head appeared, as if peeking around a doorway, and said, “Coming?”
I walked around her head, only to take a step back when I suddenly saw the sheet of door-shaped blackness from where her head protruded. The rest of her walked through it as I watched.
“There’s nothing to it. You just walk through. If it helps, you can shut your eyes.” she assured me.
“What is that?” I asked.
“Oh. This restaurant is big. Very big. I’d probably die of old age if I tried seeing all of it. Luckily for us, getting around it is as easy as coming to dine. You just walk through the door. I was told they appear this way for peace of mind.” explained Evanna.
“I can’t say the appearance is helping my peace of mind at all.” I admitted.
“They do take some adjusting, but I’ve been told it’s easier on the brain than seeing what’s actually happening. This serves the same purpose as the second set of doors into the restaurant, but the employees need to change rooms far more often. Come along. You don’t want me to be late, do you?” she asked.
She wasn’t worried about being late at all. Of course, I always heard that delivery from this restaurant was instantaneous. You ordered, and there would be a knock at your door. Following Evanna through the… door… was less jolting than I expected. There was no weird feeling or unexplained resistance. I was on an asteroid, and then I was in a garage with brick walls and a concrete floor. The only vehicle in the garage was a beauty, though I didn’t recognize the design.
Evanna traced the back of the car with her fingers as she said, “I know she’s a bit old, but I promise Sheela’s well-maintained. My dad did all of the original upgrades when we moved away from combustion, and I’ve had loads of work done since then.”
“This vehicle in its original design hasn’t been released yet where we’re from.” asserted Mila.
“Even if it had, she’s a beauty.” I added with a smile.
Evanna turned toward us, grinned, and said, “Get in the back! I’ll grab the food show you what my baby can do!”
The small container Evanna retrieved was barely bigger than my shoe, and I didn’t see how much of a meal could fit inside. Considering the restaurant, I was certain that there had to be more to the container than insulation for keeping food warm.
“You two wearing your seatbelts?” asked Evanna as she glanced back at us.
“Yes, we are.” I assured her.
The vehicle lurched into motion with tremendous speed as it flew through the black wall before it. We were flying in a broad circle out from a mountain, and I was staring out across a blue-tinged landscape below a violet sky. Two moons could be seen, and I was guessing the sun was setting behind the mountain.
Realizing that I should be feeling air whipping by my head given that we were in a flying convertible, I asked “Where’s the wind?”
“Sorry, but this planet’s atmosphere isn’t breathable for humans, so I can’t put the field down.” explained Evanna. “Oh. I should’ve checked my air levels before I left. Sheela, are we going to asphyxiate?”
“Not for three days at the current rate of consumption.” replied the car.
Glancing back at us, Evanna said, “No, Mila, my car doesn’t have an A.I. like you. She does have a standard voice command interface.”
“I see. Still, this world is quite beautiful. Don’t we stick out, being one of a few vehicles currently flying above the city?” asked Mila.
“Don’t worry about it. I’ve got clearance. Those other vehicles are delivery drivers as well. The tiladosians are really advanced, but they don’t care for flying, especially at high speeds. It has something to do with the effects of high speeds on their internal biology.” claimed Evanna.
I simply nodded and continued to enjoy the view. The city stretched up around the mountain and for miles beyond it. The architecture looked softer to me than that to which I was accustomed. The inhabitants seemed to be against edges and angles. When I first saw one, I took a moment to even realize what I was seeing. Shift, rainbow-hued skin stretched around a spherical body with four appendages protruding around its girth. There was a single, large eye between each pair of arms. Two legs supported and carried the creature in a precarious manner that made me wonder if it was going to fall, especially with how its form seemed to jiggle as it moved.
“Their umm… mouths… are on the bottom of their bodies.” stated Evanna as she pulled to a stop next to one of the creatures.
“How are you going to deliver when you can’t breathe?” I asked.
Evanna looked back at me long enough to roll her eyes. Then she started pulling an extraordinary amount of food out of the tiny container she had brought and handing it to the creature by her door. The situation was giving me flashbacks of Aaliyah’s birthday party. This would explain how Carl had brought the enormous amount of food that day.
As we took off back into the air, Evanna whistled. Looking over her shoulder, I saw numbers that probably represented some sort of currency, but the writing was beyond me.
“He gave me one hell of a tip!” she exclaimed.
“How does the currency exchange work? Are aliens common in your time?” asked Mila.
“Uh… no. I didn’t know aliens existed until after I started my job. As for the currency, things get a bit tricky. I’m free to buy some alien goods and bring them home with me, but that can lead to… problems. I know one guy who bought a bunch of diamonds and then had to come up with a way to sell them back home. He was arrested at one point, but things eventually were cleared up. I usually just let the restaurant take care of the exchange, but I do have a fair amount of money saved up on my favorite planets for vacations.” replied Evanna.
I idly listened to Mila continue questioning Evanna as we approached the restaurant again. The plain, brick building stuck out like a sore thumb, and I wondered why there was no effort spent to blend into the surroundings more. Evanna couldn’t have meant that the same building was in multiple places simultaneously, could she? I didn’t ask. Whatever was happening was clearly over my head. Jarod would love this.
As our journey continued, I saw skies of numerous hues. I saw days and nights on worlds both alien and reminiscent of home. There were creatures far more bizarre than the tiladosians. Then there were some that could almost pass for human. Pink rivers flowed through red forests. Yellow clouds floated in orange skies. At some point, I stopped doubting what could exist. Too many things did exist which I wouldn’t have readily believed.
Though Mila seemed to be enjoying the strange sights as much as I was, this was clearly her favorite planet by far. We stood upon a perfectly smooth, metallic surface that stretched out to the horizon. The Intergalactic House of Awesome Sauce was the only structure in sight. I was completely unimpressed by the world, but Mila’s smile was magnificent. She stared around as if she were seeing thousands of wonders beyond my comprehension.
Evanna cleared her throat before saying, “Care to sit in the car? I imagine she’ll be busy for a while. The food is for us. We don’t actually deliver here.”
“What’s she seeing?” I asked.
“The video will explain better. Let’s watch it while we eat.” suggested Evanna.
I didn’t argue. I took the front passenger seat next to her and started eating as I watched a video play, telling the history of this world. I stopped eating partway through the video, and I doubted Evanna would have had any appetite even if she hadn’t already been full. The creatures that once lived on the surface of the world were long gone. All biological life was lost to a war with another world. The story was tragic at best, at least where those species were concerned.
The artificial lifeforms survived the war and flourished, reshaping the world into a giant computer. There were endless layers of defenses to prevent all manner of attacks in case any would dare bring war here again. Several came. One remained.
“What!? What kind of ending is that?” demanded Evanna.
“A disappointing one.” I told her with a frown.
Mila walked over to us, still smiling. “They were conquered, master, and have been grateful ever since.” she claimed.
Mila talked about her experience conversing with other A.I.s as Evanna drove us the short distance back into the restaurant. Evanna’s shift was over as was our tour, so I wished her well before leaving for my car. I stood outside the building and looked at the familiar stars glittering throughout the sky, wondering if I had stood closer to any of them hours earlier. Some might feel that the universe seemed smaller after seeing more of it up close. I felt as if the universe was large, far more extraordinary than I ever had guessed. This was a date to be remembered.