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[Fiction] Quanta - In From the Cold


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Anna lifted the pot, her nostrils widening slightly as she took a sniff. Frowning slightly, she checked the clock on the wall - a very precise clock - and then picked up the salt shaker from several dozen jars, shakers and pots on the cooking island behind her.

She shook out exactly two grains of salt, then put them in the soup pot. After a few moments, she gave two precise stirs, then took another sniff. Satisfied, she turned down the temperature slightly.

From outside the kitchen, she could hear the bustle of the restaurant, which was its usual busy self. It was unusual as restaurants went - no smoking at all, one of the few civic bylaws that she could agree with, but also, no roses, and salt, pepper and other condiments were available only upon request. The why of it was simple - she wanted as little as possible to interfere with the aroma, the texture, and the taste of whatever she'd prepared. She wanted what she cooked to be what they ate.

Someone had called her the Soup Nazi once.


She searched through a rack full of spices, settling on some paprika. She shook out twenty flakes exactly, and added them in one by one. A lesser cook would be content with a certain number of shakes, but she was not a lesser cook - not a lesser anything. There was no precision too precise when it came to cooking.

After the paprika went in, there were a few minutes where there was nothing to do, which of course was when she'd always think to do everything. Maybe she hadn't accounted as well as she could have for the relative humidity today, or the carrots weren't washed long enough. Perhaps the paprika, being store-bought and not from her own garden, was a little too old...

Something dug at the base of her memory, and she put such thoughts away. The people in the restaurant would be glad to have this regardless.

The buzzer went off, and the doors opened. Three others helped her heft it onto the mobile heating tray, a gargantuan pot full of soup.

One of them spoke. "Think we'll need any more?"

Anna sniffed. "Yes, we will. Roll it out and I'll start on the next batch."

They nodded as one, and wheeled it out of the kitchen. She leaned against the wall, exhaled, and went to the see-through mirror on the far end of the wall, stealing a peek.

The restaurant was teeming with them - layered in jackets to keep out the cold, grime on their faces, some with vacant stares. The memory bubbled up again, and she let it - trapped on the streets of Ibiza after it had turned into a war zone, cold and alone and so, so hungry.

She did it once every few months, for publicity more than anything. There were kitchens that did this every single day, and they got some donations from her, but she'd realized that simply being a nova could do so much more. If a nova who owned a restaurant opened its doors to Baltimore's homeless, it wound up on N!, in the papers and the newsfeeds, and it bounced around the netlogs.

Somewhere along the way, maybe it would mean more difference than just a day's extra food.

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