Citizen of the Glade
Group: No Kindred
Member No.: 81
Joined: 14-January 06
This isn't warhammer related, but I figured it fits in here anyway. Okay, so. The replicators in Star Trek that summon the food have always bothered me. There's just so many problems, but the main issued I had, was how this would affect the hospitality industry. It just seems like it would put so many people out of a job. So I thought of how similar that would be to feudal Japan, with books like Shogun. After the wars with China and Mongolia, the Samurai were leftover warriors, no longer needed in a world ruled by merchants and land owners. I figured that in a world with replicators, Chefs would become these wandering Samurai like figures, looking to fit into a world that no longer needs them. This got my writing bone itchy, and the following transpiredt. So here you go, Travelling Samurai Chefs. It's about 3,400 words long.
Wind was howling ferociously across the city. Nobody heard the crunching of footsteps. All they saw was a hint of white beneath a beaten brown coat and a hat that had seen better days. The blithering of television sets in store windows cut through the wind. An older man and a younger woman were advertising some new gadget on the screen.
“Now Betty, how many fission units does your old auto-cleaner at home use?”
“Why Tom, I’m not even sure I can count that high!”
The footsteps continued down the street, unfazed by the cheap, cheap bargains. A colourful flyer blew across the ground. A hand extended from the coat to pick it up. It was advertising a new Synth Restaurant that had opened up down at the inner city. The hand crumpled it up, and stashed it away quickly, as if it was prone to disappear at any given moment.
George threw his phone across the kitchen. He slumped down on the bench, with his head in his hands. “Who was that?”His wife Selene had snuck up on him again. She put her arms around him, and rested her head on his shoulder. “What’s wrong?” She spoke softly, stroking his arm.
“That was Toby. He’s in jail for breaking and entering, and vandalism. They found him trying to smash up the synth joint down the street. I can’t run this kitchen by myself, and we don’t have enough cheddar left to pay the rent without today’s profits. This is it. Pack it up. Call the bookings and apologise.” His voice was as dead as the restaurant floor. Selene stoped stroking his arm, and looked away into a corner. Her hands had gone cold.
“Look George, we both knew that this day was coming eventually. We haven’t had a good night in years. To have stood up with the Synth bars for this long, we’ve done incredible..”
George stared at the bench for a few minutes as they stood in silence. He mumbled something under his breath
He straightened up and met Selene’s gaze.
“I said, it’s not fair! The government should have done something ages ago. Kitchens are closing down everywhere, and people like us are getting kicked out on our ass.” His voice was getting louder, and his eyes had started twitching.
He grabbed her tightly by the arms.
“No! This is bullshit! We... we just...”
Tearing up around the eyes, he plunged his head at her chest and quietly whimpered.
“We’ll be fine, George.” Her soothing voice calmed him down a little; he stopped shaking. “There’s been harder days before, I’m sure we’ll manage.”
It was a small place, only seven tables. One of those quaint organic places where they still cook the food you pass on the way to work and think “I should get breakfast there sometime”, then forget about. The door burst open, letting the harsh winds through the room. Selena was still comforting George in her arms.
“I would have words with the Lord of this house.”
“I’m sorry, we’re not open. You’ll have to eat somewhere else.”
“I have not come to eat. Is sir the Lord of this house?”
She cocked her head up, ready to throw the stranger straight out to the street, but something stopped her. She couldn’t tell much about him. His face was concealed by his hat and a large collar, and his body by a long coat, but something about his voice commanded respect. He came off as the sort of man that would not get thrown out very often.
“The new Synth Bar. It is stealing your customers.” It was not a question.
Selene was still rooted to the floor, but George managed a nod. The man took another step forward, before dropping down to one knee.
“I offer my skills, my experience, and my life, should the need arise, to your cause.”
George tried to compose himself, and very hesitantly inched ever so slightly toward the man.
“Does... does that mean that you’re a chef?”
He was still on one knee, staring down. They did not see his reaction, but George had clearly struck a chord with the stranger.
“I once bore such a title. Events transpired. Mistakes were made.” His head had begun to quiver ever so slightly. “Those times are gone now. I come before you, a byzantine antique of a bygone era. Will your lordship take a mercenary dog into his ranks, knowing full well he holds no status, and no honour?”
George cleared his throat, and backed away a little, toward Selene.
“You can’t possibly hire this freak. You heard him. He doesn’t need a job, he needs counselling.” She was looking him up and down, like a maître d' would a shirtless drunk. She hadn’t bothered to lower her voice, despite the man being well within earshot.
A sly smile cracked onto George’s face, one that Selene hadn’t seen in years.
“He’s all we’ve got. Either he cooks, or we start nosing through the classifieds.”
He turned away from Selene, and walked directly toward the man, still somewhat cautiously.
“Now, we don’t have much in the way of, ah, wages-“
“That is not an issue.”
For the first time in a long time, George was feeling confident.
“Well, alright then, I’d be glad to have you work. The other lad had his own equipment, and there’s not much to go around here, so-“
Even without seeing the man’s face, it was obvious that he was grinning a little.
“That is not an issue.”
In one fluid motion, he stood up and threw off his coat and hat. He had a sharp, long face that hid his age, but his eyes and a large scar told of many harrowing years. His chef’s jacket and checked pants were frayed, torn and weathered, but underneath the wear and tear, they were well-ironed, clean, and perfectly fitted. Two bandoliers across his chest housed at least a dozen knives, all sharp enough to slice through concrete. A large leather belt holding assorted pans, spoons, and other instruments clung to his waist. All of it was of the highest quality, and quite clearly well maintained. Selene and George had yet to move a muscle.
“You may call me Jasper. Throw open the gate, and take me to the kitchen. It begins.”
The kitchen was small. It was a good thing George had never had many employees, because they probably wouldn’t have had enough room. The stoves were the old gas-powered ones. Hard to buy now, and even harder to repair, but they were clean, and they worked. George couldn’t help but feel a little embarrassed by the kitchen. Something about Jasper told him that he’d been in kitchens you needed a map to get around. “Heh, it’s a little cosy, I guess...”
“Small is good. It will be easier to defend.”
There was a lot about Jasper that wasn’t sitting right with George, but at this point, his voice was on the top of the list. His face was still wrinkle free, his hair was a deep brown, and he looked slim and limber, but every time he opened his mouth, the room just went a little colder. George remembered hearing his Grandfather telling him how to sweep floors. It sounded detached, distant, factual, text-book, but most of all, old. He didn’t know where this guy came from, but he’d bet everything he had that this was not somebody who had scored a free ride through anything.
“So, uh, anyway... We’ve got about twenty booked in for tonight. We’ll probably have more; most of our customers are walk-ins. That should be easy enough to handle between the two of us. Are you right to do the pans, or do you want to be on larder?”
Jasper’s gaze was very hard to meet, and George broke eye contact almost immediately.
“I have cooked for forty by myself, my Lord, while the rest of my team was walking out the door. There will be no problems tonight, I give you my word.”
“That... that’s good. I think. I’m glad.”
“Then I have pleased my Lord, thus I have done my duty, and am also pleased.”
George was feeling a little unsettled, and quickly excused himself out of the kitchen, and back to the restaurant floor.
Selene was polishing glasses at the bar, but George was more than aware that she’d been eavesdropping on his conversation.
“Selene, this night is important.”
She stopped polishing, and turned around in a huff.
“Did you leave that freak alone in the kitchen? He’s probably stealing things right now.”
The smile dropped from George’s face very quickly.
“His name is Jasper. He offered to work here, for free. No pay. All you’ve done since he showed up is call him a freak. I don’t care if he’s an oddball. He’s a good man, and you’d best start treating him such. I know times have been tough lately, but that is no reason to get so bitter and cynical.”
Selene was staring at him extremely attentively.
“What? Why are you staring at me like that?”
She moved around to the front of the bar and took him in her arms.
“I haven’t seen you get this passionate in a long time, George.”
The two of them looked into each other’s eyes longingly, but the tenderness of the moment was cut open by the first customers arriving. “I’d better get back to the kitchen.” George whispered into her ear. “Tonight is going to be good. Just you wait.”
Almost skipping back to the kitchen, George found Jasper on his knees again, this time with a knife laid flat on the palms of his hands. He had his eyes closed, and seemed to be speaking to himself.
“Uh, Jasper, was it? We’ve got customers, so, uh, finish up whatever it is you’re doing there.”
Slowly getting up, he slipped the knife deftly back into his bandolier, and moved towards George.
“I was saying a short prayer, my Lord. At this point in time I have little reason to believe in gods, but if there are any up there, I should hope that in days as dark as these, they would see fit to aid us in battle.” Despite his abundant oddities, George couldn’t help liking Jasper. There was something incredibly honest about him, the sort of down-right blunt directness that’s supposed to be there in the kitchen, but hadn’t been for quite some time.
“Everything is already prepped and ready, so we can get started as soon as Selene takes the order.”
Jasper did not respond.
“O...kay. So, I’ll take the larder, and you work the pans, alright?”
This time he bowed, and headed to the stovetops. George was about to turn around to his section, but then he remembered that they were gas ovens; nobody knew how to light them. By the time he looked back, Jasper had already lit the ovens, and all of the stovetops. George raised an eyebrow, but if he’d learned anything from the past few years, it was to not ask questions.
“Order up” Selene muttered under her breath, trying not to look at Jasper. George cleared his throat and snatched the order off of her, glaring her back into the restaurant.
“Here we go Jasper, first order.”
George had never in his life seen anything like it, and for the rest of his days this was one night he would never forget. Everything Jasper did was in one continuous motion; there was absolutely no wasted time, or action. Each and every meal getting sent out was perfect down to the last detail. If an entire hive of soldier ants all formed together to make one being, it would be put to shame by Jasper’s performance. He was completely attuned with the kitchen, and it seemed to bend to his every whim. George felt he wasn’t even needed at all, but Jasper was using him just as much as he was using the stove, or the pan. Everything was in its place, and it combined together in perfect harmony. For the rest of the service, the world seemed to disappear. There was no cheddar troubles, no snyth bars, no dead-beat customers, no pain, no worrying; there was just the kitchen, and the food. George had never enjoyed himself that much in the kitchen before, and he knew he never would again, but the thing he remembered most, was Jasper’s eyes. When he was cooking, his eyes looked like balls of fire. The sorrow and dread from before was all gone, and with every stir, every step, every cut, the fire in his eyes burned with more passion, until the fire was towering so high it was glowing brighter than the stoves.
Service was over, and George was slumped on a milk crate outside having a cigarette. Jasper was leaning on a wall staring up at the night sky.
“George, a customer out the front wants you.” Selene had a habit of sneaking up on people. George snuffed out his cigarette on the floor and toddled off back into the restaurant. Turning around to make sure he was gone, Selene marched up to Jasper, inches away from his face.
“Listen here, you. I don’t know what your game is, but my husband is very dear to me. You’ve given him false hope by working for one night. This isn’t a permanent solution to anything. We’re still in cheddar trouble, and the synth bar is still stealing our customers. We’re still going to end up bankrupt, but now he’s going to hurt even more because you’ve bounced in here with your ‘My Lord’ and your fancy footwork.”
Jasper had not looked down from the stars.
“Are you even going to talk to me?” she snapped.
He got up off the wall and stood straight, about a head taller than Selene. She broke eye contact with him within seconds.
“Did you see the Lord as I, my Lady? He is pleased. More than that, he is excited. I have helped him remember why he is still here today.”
Selene sighed, and looked down the street. She saw the synth bar, still open and still filled with customers.
“I suppose it is good that he’s feeling happy. It has been a while since I’ve been able to say that.”
They stood in silence for a time before George came out with a huge smile, trying to hide something behind his back.
“Now Jasper, I know I said I didn’t have anything to pay you with, but after what you did in there tonight... I want you to have this.” He pulled out a bizarre instrument and handed it to Jasper, who held it as gently as one would a baby. “It’s a three-string shamisen. My father gave it to me when I was just a wee young lad, but I never learned how to play the dayum thing properly. I figured from looking at your knives that you’d be able to give it a good home. It’s just been gathering dust in the closet here.” Jasper looked tenderly up and down the instrument, before looping the cord around his arm. He plucked at a few of the strings, playing a very simple refrain. George laughed heartily while Selene tried her best to hide her astonishment.
“That’s impressive that you know how to use it Jasper. I haven’t met anybody who’s known what it is yet.” George lit up another cigarette and reclaimed his post on the milk crate. Jasper abruptly stopped playing.
“I will forever treasure it. Would your Lordship care for story? It is but the very least I could do to repay your amicability.”
Selene sighed. She was clearly growing tired of Jasper’s vernacular. George snarled at her before looking back to Jasper.
“I’d love to hear a story. Go ahead.”
Jasper began to slowly pluck at the strings again, and started to speak.
Many, many moons ago, there was a very young and talented cook. He was working at one of the largest restaurants in the land. Every night he got to cook for hundred of hungry people. He was learning more and more each day and led a very happy life. A few years passed, until one day, the cook thought that he had learned more than the head chef, and challenged his right to leadership. Now this chef was long in the tooth and very wise for his years so he accepted the challenge, knowing he could trick the young cook. The day of their challenge came, and the chef laid down the rules. He said that he had told the kitchen staff that they could all have the day off, despite the hundreds of people booked in for dinner. The challenge was simple. The young cook was to convince them to come to his aid, and fight under his banner that he could defeat the old chef. Of course, the young cook had so much more left to learn, and failed to convince any of them to battle alongside him. His hubris was his downfall, as he tried to cook for the hordes by himself. It was a valiant effort, there is no doubt, but one man against hundreds is not a fight that anybody can win. And so the wily old chef closed down the kitchen, and banished the young cook from his halls, never to return.
Ashamed and dishonoured, the arrogant young cook vowed to travel far across the lands, cooking wherever he could find work, that he could hone his skills and maybe someday return to correct his mistakes. In his travels he saw many things and met many people. Eventually he came to a realisation; his brothers did not abandon him in that battle so long ago because he was too weak, but because he had challenged the leadership of the kitchen. A kitchen needs to have every person working together to create anything worthwhile, and his defiance against the old chef had thrown it out of order. He had destroyed the very thing that he had sought to strengthen by becoming the leader. The young cook now saw that kitchens were incredibly special places that taught lessons that could not be learned anywhere else.
While travelling back to the old restaurant to make up for his arrogance, there was a change in the world. Technologies were advancing at an incredible rate, and they were revolutionising every area of people’s day-to-day lives. However, there were unforeseen consequences with some of these technologies. Food synthesisers that could replicate entire meals in seconds became commercially available for businesses. People were elated; service was fantastic, and there was hardly any waiting for food. To traditional restaurants, however, this was practically a death sentence. The young cook saw the kitchens he had learn to respect and love fall down like dominos. It broke his heart to see these courageous warriors fight a battle they could not win; he had experienced that loss first hand. Then and there he made another oath, but this time, he swore that he would fight the synthesisers at every turn, and help every kitchen he could find stay in the battle, because he could not bear to lose the places from which he had learned everything he held dear.
Jasper stopped playing. Selene was frozen still, and George was practically in tears again. Jasper got up and put his coat on.
“Now I must leave, my friends.”
George bolted up from the milk crate and ran up to him.
“D-do you have to go, Jasper? Will you ever come back?”
Jasper turned around to George and put his hands on his shoulders. The sorrow in his eyes was back.
“It would be my fondest wish, my Lord, to stay here and cook with fine people like you and your wife for the rest of my days in this world, but yours is not the only kitchen in hard times. There are so many more to help yet and I cannot stay anywhere longer than is absolutely necessary. I am sorry. I will miss you dearly.” Jasper kissed George on the forehead, before swinging the Shamisen over his back, putting his hat on, and walking down the street. George stood in silence with Selene, watching one of the last good men left in the world walking away, alone once more.