Space Juice: Chapter 5 – Special sauce

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Gaston Dimble was lying on his back next to his fifth Betelgeuse Burger when Marley found him in the buggy park outside Jinko’s Takeaway.

“My Betelgeuse Burgers were spiked. You look blurry Chuck. And there’s two of you.” Gaston pointed unsteadily.

“Four, almost five Betelgeuse Burgers? I’m not surprised the special sauce has taken effect… although I never believed the slogan: ‘Fill your stomach. Blow your mind’.”

“They must make them differently here.”

“That is exactly what I want to find out. The key to their burgers has always been the special sauce. And if my infallible instinct is correct, the key to the special sauce is red dust. They are experimenting on you Gaston. Making a burger so powerful it will not only subdue the appetite but control the mind. If only we could find a way into the laboratory sector, we might find an answer to your Betelgeusian indigestion.”

Gaston groaned.

“You might uncover the secret ingredient for the special sauce.”

Gaston sprung to his feet. “Let’s go.”

Before they set off for the laboratories Gaston re-entered Jinko’s Takeaway to tell off the manager. Marley threw his hands in the air and reluctantly followed him. Behind the counters young kitchen-hands tossed buns in the air, opened bags of oil and scrubbed metal cabinets.

“Good timing,” said Gaston Dimble. Two Health Protectors were touring the premises.

cartoon picture of a burger joint called Jinkos on a red planet
One of the more scenic burger joints in the Orion Arm

Marley lingered near the entrance as Dimble approached the manager. He busied himself with documents proving he had a 100% record, his food processors underwent periodic maintenance, and his staff were reliable and clean.

The manager was sweating as Gaston approached. The Health Protectors, eager to discover something amiss, probed about, casting stern glances designed to unsettle. The inspectors shuffled files. Gaston stood before them without being noticed. He tried to clear his throat, but a layering of special sauce still blocked it. The manager lowered his head and finally noticed the onlooker. “Can I help you?”

“You can help clear my throat. I demand a refund, or a year’s supply of chips and gravy. Those Betelgeuse Burgers you sold me were spiked.” The Health Protectors pricked up their ears.

The manager was nonplussed. “I assure you we use only the finest ingredients: gherkins farmed on Crete 581c, fresh American tomatoes, horse from Betelgeuse.”

“What about the special sauce?”

“That,” and the manager’s eyebrow twitched, “is a secret.”

“There are no secrets from the Health Protectors,” they said together. He asked the manager if he made the sauce on the premises.

“Of course not. The burgers are constructed by qualified staff. Only those with a Diploma of Burger Assemblage are allowed to work in our franchises.”

“You’re digressing,” the Health Protector frowned. “Where do you make the sauce?”

The manager turned slightly red. “You know I can’t reveal the ingredients. But I assure you,” he articulated every word, “only expert scientists mix the sauce, and under strict supervision, in the settlement labs.”

“Great. We’re heading there next,” said the other Health Protector. He punched a few numbers on his company flablet.

Chuck Marley, watching near the door, smiled and slipped outside.

The Health Protectors conducted last-minute checks of the premises, verifying that all employees had Diplomas of Burger Assemblage. One did not posses a valid working visa. However, since no one really wanted to be on Zorge, they ignored her.

Gaston moved closer to the manager and poked out his stomach. “Do I get a refund?”

“Nothing has been proven, you ate too much.”

“You sold me too much. See the sign. It says burgers must not be supplied to patrons who are full and/or senseless.”

The manager didn’t shift an inch. Yet his right eyebrow twitched.

The Health Protectors finished their tour. They reassured Gaston that if they found anything suspicious in the lab samples, he would be notified. He would then be able to exercise his rights under the Health Protection (Special Sauces) Act. Gaston followed them towards the doors.

What happened next was a mystery to everyone but Chuck Marley.

As each Health Protector made his way through the door, a metallic arm appeared with two long metallic sinews. An isomorphic back scratcher pinched the shoulder muscle of each Health Protector as he exited. Both slumped to the ground, unconscious but breathing. They looked as content as two Martian rocks honeymooning on Phobos.

Dimble stood, stupefied.

“It’s my new incredible isomorphic back scratcher.” Marley beamed. “An old technique that goes back thousands of years. I’d never tried it before on anyone but myself.” He didn’t admit to reconfiguring the device’s electrical intensity. He had set it to beyond maximum…for maximum discomfort! One advantage of buying from an unauthorised seller. No limitations.

“Chuck, those Health Protectors were going to get my money back and a year’s supply of chips and gravy. All we need is evidence they’ve breached the Health Protection (Special Sauces) Act. They were heading to the labs.”

“Don’t worry, Professor Dimble, we’re going there immediately, now that we’ve got reason to be there. Help me undress these protectors.”

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