Hank's vintage ‘50’s coupe replica glided to a smooth stop in front of Barbie's house. He swiped his palm at the steering wheel and sounded his signature horn-tone, “Magnificent Seven”. Barbie bounced to the front door and waved at him to wait a minute. Hank saw her kiss her mom and wave to her dad somewhere deeper inside their home. Hank had been dating Barbie since freshman year, she was a terrific girl. Barbie flew out of the front door all bright sparkles, and jumped next to Hank on the coupe's front seat. They both waved at Barbie's parents as Hank slid his coupe into the center of the street and they sped off on their customary Saturday date.
"Hey boyfriend." Barbie bubbled.
"Hey Girlie girlfriend." Hank answered back and then they both kissed.
"I see you and Floyd got this old coupe running again, what was the problem this time?"
"Oh, nothin' much, we just shoved a new computer in and her hover sleds started right up."
"A new computer? Where in the heck did you find one?"
Oh, Floyd's uncle has a junkyard full of old hover cars, besides this baby's got brand new electro-magnets on her. Man is she smooth."
Barbie gave Hank's arm a big squeeze and touched the screen on his dash, she then touched menu and poked with her index finger the selection marked mirror. A holo-screen popped up and Barbie fussed with her hair and took her fingernail and scrapped some smeared lipstick off her lips.
"So what do you want to do today Barb?"
Barbie caught her own eyes in the holo-mirror and suddenly had an idea.
"Hank, let's go to the Drive-thru."
"Oh, Barbie, honey, sugar, you don't really want to today, do you?"
"We've talked about it so often Hank dear, and when we get married..."
"Hold it, we're still in high school."
"We're Seniors Hank Brackleman, and I'm not waiting for old age before I get married. That's just the kind of girl I am." Barbie folded her arms for emphasis.
"I know how you feel Barbie, baby, but... the drive-thru is, well it's such a big step."
"Come on Hank, an ‘all letter man’ like you, scared of the drive-thru?"
"Aw... if I didn't love you so much, I wouldn't let you talk me into these things."
Hank then swung the old coupe over to the left magnetic turn slot. He knew right where his girlfriend wanted to go. Every time they passed the place, she would always make some comment and sigh. Many times Hank had deliberately avoided taking routes that would pass Drive-thru's because he just didn't want to get Barbie started. But today there was no distracting her. They were finally going to the Drive-thru.
At a block away, the Drive-thru could be seen. It was a large, square shaped building made of white masonry bricks, an overhanging, sharply slanting roof with huge loops of yellow and purple neon lights that arced over opposite sides of the building. Large, blinking arrows pointed the way through each section of the drive-thru. At each section there was a voice activated screen that would ask questions and bring up appropriate menu's. Hank didn't like talking to machines. At his after school job, Hank's boss was an AI interphase bot. Hank just didn't think a machine, even an intelligent one could understand how hard he was working, but that's just the way things were, bots and AI had been a way of life before either of them were born.
"May we take your order please?" asked a hologram of a person's head. Hank didn't like the image, a pasty white face, high-arched, pencil-drawn eyebrows and wild shaggy red hair. Hank leaned back in his seat and let Barbie lean over his lap to talk to the hologram through his window.
"Yes, um, we've never been here before, so can we see what's on the menu, please." Barbie asked.
The garish head smirked a twitch of a smile then turned completely around before spinning like a top. In a brief moment the head had turned into a menu with several options listed on it.
"Which one do you want to try Hank?" Barbie asked her boyfriend who had his eyes almost squinted shut.
"Huh? I, I, have no idea Barbie honey, you pick."
"Oh ya big scaredy cat. Ok, 'Menu', we'll take the Nacent-combo order, joined DNA, random orientation selection, a side order of skills and-" she paused and looked at Hank. "What do you say Hank honey, how about a happy package?"
"Sure, fine, this is your order Barb, I'm behind you all the way." Hank then slid down a little in his seat.
"Ok then, order complete. Next." Barbie commanded and bounced back on her side of the Coupe with a giggle of expectation.
Hank just made a slight grimace. The hologram head returned and startled Hank when it leaned closer to the coupe’s window, almost looming inside.
"Order.... received. Synthetics selected. Proceed to the next station for organic samples, please."
Barbie's excitement was barely containable in the small confines of Hank's coup. She squirmed on the rolled upholstery bench seat, and drummed her hands on her thighs. Her eyes almost shot fireworks from under her long lashes. Hank worked his mouth, cranking his jaw and stretched the skin of his neck up and down. They moved slowly forward, following behind another vehicle, a mini van. Hank, a hardcore gear-head, noticed it had dual magno-runners. The mini van slid forward and Hank and Barbie drifted into section two of the drive-thru.
This time a hologram appeared above window level. It was a full female bust decked out in a powder blue uniform, pillbox hat, with pink thread piping all around. Two tapered tubes telescoped out from beneath the hologram and moved toward Hank’s window, then the hologram spoke.
"Please deposit two separate DNA samples via the syphon jets now approaching your vehicle”
Barbie immediately offered her right index finger and a micro needle pricked, then suctioned blood from her delicate fingertip. Hank hesitated. He sheepishly eyeballed the needle. A red light started to flash behind the female holograms bust.
"Please deposit another DNA sample, time is crucial to the success of the process. Deposit the sample NOW."
Hank hesitantly moved his hand toward the syphon nozzle. He was about to pull his hand away when the needle shot out and took a drop of his blood.
"Ouch" Hank yelped and sucked the end of his finger.
"Yer actin’ like a big baby today Hank. This is gonna be fun. I can hardly wait."
The blue uniformed hologram instructed them to section three of the Drive-thru. There they were instructed by a plane metal cube with a protruding nose shaped like a microphone to give voice pattern samples. They were asked to speak softly, to shout, then to sing an old nursery rhyme. After giving their voice samples, Hank and Barbie were instructed to proceed to section four, the final section for delivery of their order.
"This is it Hank honey, aren't you excited?" Barbie clutched Hanks arm. He could feel her virtually vibrate with joy.
Hank gave her a sheepish smile and took a deep breath. He knew other pals of his whose girlfriends talked them into going to the Drive-thru and none of the guys ever talked about the experience afterward.
It took about twenty minutes for their order to arrive. They parked the coupe in one of the diagonal slots under a jutting aluminum canopy that held similar slots on either side of a tubular median. A bell rang, a series of lights shot out from the building and raced around the canopy. Presently a cylindrical android bot glided out to Hanks coupe and aligned itself with his window.
"Please roll your window half way down, sir." the bot instructed. Then from the bots breast plate a door slid open and a small tray levitated out and forward. On the tray was a folded bundle of fleece. The android then attached the tray on the window of Hank's coupe. The small bundle began to squirm. Hank swiped his credit dongle in front of the bots scanner and watched as six hundred flash credits were removed. The android then spun on it's axis and sped back to the building.
"Enjoy. Thank you for stopping at the Drive-thru."
Hank sat and stared at the bundle. Barbie looked at Hank in surprise.
"HANK! Hand it to me, I want to open it right away, what's the matter with you?"
Hank gingerly handed the wiggling bundle over to Barbie as she gently unfolded the fleece coverings. Hank switched on the overhead compartment light just as Barbie uncovered a little round face with wet and gurgling lips.
"Momma, Dada." it blurted right on cue.
"OH Hank, it's absolutely precious, isn't it?"
"Um, yeah, sure Barbie honey."
Barbie held the little baby up off her lap and closer to the interior light.
"Oh look Hank, it's got your nose." Barbie chuckled and squeezed the brand new baby. Suddenly, the fleece wrapping dropped off it’s chubby body and both of them noticed the baby’s sex. Their baby was female.
"Ah, she's got your eyes Barb, and I think those are your little round ears."
Barbie picked up the wrapping and wound it around the active little baby. She kept looking back and forth between Hank and the baby.
“She feels so soft and life-like.“
“Yeah,“ Hank agreed rubbing under the baby’s chin with his think finger, “She’s awful smooth and even warm.“
Hank had never seen Barbie smile so much before. Coming to the Drive-thru was a good idea after all.
"Hank, let's take it for a ride ok?"
"Sure Barb, where do you want to go?"
"I know, let's take it for a ride on the outer drive."
"Cool, we haven't been down that way in a while.
The outer drive was a stretch of highway that made a circular loop around the town. There were no magno plates in the road and drivers could drive anywhere their hover vehicles could navigate. Hank liked the feeling of freedom this route gave him.
They reached the on ramp and stopped at the entry booth. An old robot from two decades ago greeted them and asked what scenery they wanted.
"Hank, let's do rural, I haven't seen the countryside in oh so long, please let's do rural, for the baby."
"Ok, honey, rural it is."
"Roger Dodger" replied the robot and pulled a bunch of levers in his booth.
As Hank cruised his coupe up the ramp, trees and wild flowers and fences and cows began populating the sides of the road. Barbie bounced the baby up and down on her lap and rubbed noses with it. The baby laughed a natural laugh that was a synthesis of both her and Hank's laugh. Hank looked down at the bundle of happy joy and gave a short chuckle.
"What?" Barbie asked quickly. "What's so funny."
"I don't know, seeing the two of you there, playing and laughing, I didn't think it would be like this, I mean, be this much fun.”
“I told you we should have gone to the drive-thru sooner Hank honey.”
The little ‘happy package’ sucked it’s thumb and looked back and forth with it’s big blue eyes at the two of them. The young couple drove for a couple hours, several loops of the outer drive and didn't once repeat any hologram scenery. Hank thought the old technology was every bit as good as the new technology, it still had magic. Everything these days was beamed directly into the viewer’s mind, it just wasn’t the same as physical holograms.
"Hank, do you want to hold the baby for a while?"
"Um, I guess. Let's exit the drive and head over to the park and we'll stop there so I can hold it.
The park was a square patch of organic thatch, preserved smack in the middle of the town. It actually had an old oak tree still surviving in the center of it. The living tree was said to be over six hundred years old. Vehicles could park all around the perimeter of the park but no one was allowed to get out and actually walk on the organic blades of thatch. Hank parked and Barbie gave him the small baby. It's round blue eyes glistened up at him. Hank smiled and the baby mimicked a smiled back at him. He gave it a little squeeze and then tickled it under it's chin. The baby laughed and laughed. It's laughter made both Hank and Barbie laugh too. They had been out all day and it was getting near dinner time.
"Barbie, hon, I'm getting a bit hungry, how about you?"
"I could use something to eat." she replied.
"How about we go get some Space Cow burger's?"
"Oh, I love their synthetic fries, they're so crunchy. Ok, let's go there."
Hank began to hand the baby back to Barbie when he noticed a foul odor.
"What's that smell?" he asked.
"I'm not sure, I think it's coming from the baby."
Hank smelled the baby closely and choked a bit.
"Yep, it's coming from her alright."
"Well, I think there's a place on the way to Space Cow burgers."
"Ok we'll stop there first."
Hank and Barbie glided the coupe over to third street and made a right. Up ahead was one of the Drive-thru’s Recycling receptacles. The receiving funnel was on Barbie's side and she noticed a scruff of fleece snagged on the funnel’s edge as Hank pulled up. Barbie re-wrapped the baby securely and shoved the bundle into the mouth of the funnel. A suctioning and popping sound emitted from the receptacle and then a yellow and purple glowing double arch appeared above it.
"All finished. That was a blast Hank. We'll have to go to the Drive-thru again real soon. Maybe next time we could get the toddler package."
"No problem Barbie girl, now how about some slurry burgers and crispy synth-fries? I'm starving."