Number 3, Boudicca Lane was a nondescript house, tall and thin, fronted with a blue door, and sandwiched between the Fox & Fiddler and the Taj Mahal Indian restaurant. Anyone passing would not have bothered to give the small house even a second glance. Such was its unexceptional qualities. But behind the blue door of Number 3 Boudicca Lane, Mr Jarvis had bigger concerns than the notoriety of his humble dwellings to consider.
I'm not eating it, he said aloud. Even though the cranial implant transmitted his words just as effectively via thought, using his voice denoted his displeasure.
You have no choice, replied the voice of High Command. It's imperative to the experiment. Besides, it smelt delicious while cooking .
Jarvis sighed. Sometimes he wished he could disconnect the cranial transmitter, and be free of the babbling voice in his head, just for a few hours. No! he said flatly.
It was a simple question that Jarvis had no answer for. Thinking fast, he remembered a conversation he had overheard in the Fox & Fiddler yesterday. I'm experimenting with vegetarianism, he lied. So, you see, I can't eat meat.
The voice of High Command huffed, followed by a static-filled pause. The Supervisor wishes to speak with you, the voice finally said.
Jarvis froze, his teeth clenching.
This is the Supervisor, a gruffer, stronger voice announced. What's the problem, agent?
Vegetarian, sir, Jarvis said, quickly. Meat sucks arse.
Nonsense, agent, the Supervisor snapped. Save the Earth slang for your reports.
Yes, sir, Jarvis said, and was sure he could hear the giggles of the operators back in the control room.
The Supervisor continued. You were given specific instructions for this experiment. Every item of food was carefully decided over. What's the real problem, agent? And I'll tolerate no more about meat sucking anything.
Jarvis glanced at the thin rashers of freshly cooked bacon still laying in the frying pan. With all due respect, sir, the supermarket' experiment wasn't as well thought out as we supposed. No, Jarvis added as an afterthought, I pushed the trolley around, while you lot sat on your arses telling me what to pack into it.
I heard that, agent! the supervisor snapped. Explain yourself.
Jarvis stiffened. Well . . . With less productivity and a little more selectivity, we might've gained a higher learning curve.
Quality over quantity. I see. Why weren't these objections raised earlier?
They were! Jarvis shot back. In my last report, sir: Day 6, subsection 2, paragraph 5. It's under the heading: Shopping For Food When Hungry = Lardism.
Checking . . .
The transmission was interrupted by white noise, giving Jarvis a few blissful moments of solitude. He hated this planet and longed to be home. Temptations were everywhere. Corruption stalked him.
Confirmed, The supervisor's voice suddenly said. But you're still going to eat it, agent. Is that clear?
Yes, sir, Jarvis replied grumpily.
Good. Now prepare the bread . . . that nice thick stuff you bought.
Dutifully, Jarvis took a carving knife and cut two thick slices from a fresh tin loaf. He then placed them onto a plate. Is this really necessary, sir?
Yes. Add some of that red stuff, too. Ketchup, is it called?
Without reply, Jarvis took the bottle of tomato sauce and shook it vigorously, wishing it were the supervisor's neck. He then unscrewed the cap, and smeared some over one slice of bread.
You're doing well, agent, the supervisor whispered, almost excitedly. Keep it steady. Now add the meat . . . but do it slowly.
Jarvis couldn't stand it. Sir, he protested. I have to warn you that I've seen the animal this meat comes from.
And your point?
It's a disgusting creature.
Just do your duty.
But, sir, it sleeps in its own poo!
The meat, if you will, agent.
Jarvis forcefully grabbed the frying pan and forked the thin, crispy rashers onto the bread. Anger rising, he smacked the two slices together, and gripped the sandwich tightly. Is this what you want? he growled.
Eat it! the supervisor ordered.
Jarvis took a bite, and then another, followed by another. Mouth crammed full, grease and ketchup spilling onto his chin, his knees felt weak and his eyes rolled back. Fucking Champion! he roared, spraying bits of sandwich over the kitchen. It's better than naked volleyball!
Oink oink, purred the supervisor. Quickly, agent, finish it and make another. That's an order!