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[Fiction] Quanta - Food for thought

Dorothy Roberts

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The way to a novas heart is through their stomachs. They eat more, they have more accute senses, and they tend to have a great appreciation for the finer things in life. So it's no wonder that, as a nova cook, Quanta held no little sway within her chosen circle of 'friends'.

She'd only been a member of the Casablancas for a short while thus far, so it was difficult to really think of this diverse group as friends. Allies, certainly. Acquaintances, definitely. But friends, that was pushing it slightly. These were not people who befriended quickly or easily.

Still, she was in a position to leverage quite a bit out of her allies at a very low cost to herself, just by inviting someone over for a friendly meal. Take tonight, for example. After closing up her restaurant and returning home, she'd called up one of her new friends for a private dinner. Flashback, a fan of spicy foods, was more than happy to join her, having a great appreciation of fine cuisine.

The meal was simple but exquisite. The finest ingredients - most of them taken from her own garden, or freshly acquired from an urban farmer she'd befriended personally. Everything was perfectly seasoned, perfectly textured, exactly as she wished it, and placed on the table at the exact moment that her guest arrived, in a flash of white light, in her kitchen. She smiled at his promptness, and gestured at the heavily laden table. "Please, have a seat."

Salad, where each leaf and slice of vegetable was individually selected by her expert eye, coated in a vinegarette that she had blended three days ago, the vinegar from a covetted bottle of 2000 Australian Merlot, blended with fresh olive oil (locally produced), and an entire handful of crushed peppercorns which she'd dried herself.

Bread, baked in her own oven, airily light, piping hot, and deliciously sweet and aromatic with honey and fresh basil. The butter was also freshly produced, acquired from that local farmer, and mixed with cinnamon - real cinnamon, from real cinnamon bark, not the nearly flavorless stuff they normally used here in America.

Gazpacho soup, the tomatoes picked from her garden just before she'd peeled, seeded, and arranged them in the pot with all of the other ingredients. Especially the two hand peeled haberneros. The same with all of the other herbs and vegetables that went into the soup, which had been melding flavors for exactly eighteen hours at 2 degrees celsius.

And finally, a plate of Chile Verde over rice, with rich and succulent hunks of pork completely suffused by the smell and flavor of green chiles.

Flashback dug in, and as he ate his mouth and eyes watered in anticipation of each dish to come. Anna could think of no better compliment to her cooking, but she waited until just before serving the last dish to break out of idle chatter and into her more serious request. "You have enjoyed so far?"

Flashback, anticipating the main course, replied. "Very much so, my lady. If there is anything I can do for you in return..."

She flashed a winning smile, and placed the entire plate of chiles and meat before him. "Why, now that you mention it, there is this one little thing. It won't be a problem for you, I'm sure. I just need to...borrow a bit of your quantum expression for a while."

Now, Flashback hesitates. Torn between the plate of chiles and concern over the favor that was being asked, he opts for more details. "What do you mean, borrow?"

"To take away, and then give back. I cannot keep what I take, regardless, but...I have a need, to experience the past. You have that gift, yes? I merely wish to borrow that from you, while you eat. It is not so much that I ask, yes?"

Her friendly smile and soothing presence wash away Flashback's fears. He's heard of this, though he hadn't realized that Quanta was capable of it. Nodding, he holds out his hand for her to take. She shakes it, and he can feel...something from her, washing over him. After a moment, it is done, and he returns to his delicious meal.

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