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Dinner with the Ambassadors
by Brett Pierce
No one was quite certain when the Summit had become an institution. It may have been they were the first restaurant to be written about in the Interplanetary Institute’s cultural guide to Lazanu. Or it could have been when the Hek Accords were finalized over dessert at Table Six. Many believed it’s legacy had been secured when it became the first restaurant to serve the Kettel-ta delegation (considering that they were a deep ocean species that had to travel in high pressure water tanks on treads, it had been a technical achievement as much as a culinary one). After that meal, the Summit had adopted the boast that they could serve anyone, anything, from anywhere.
The steward of that legacy was Wen Ral-to, who had been the general manager of the Summit for the past eight years. The walls of his office were packed with pictures of himself with heads of state, celebrities and leading scientists while his desk was a mess, an odd contrast to the precision he ran the restaurant with. He dug through the papers with an annoyed grunt while the head waitress Elo Yat-wu, a woman of considerable height with long arms that served her profession well, waited patiently. “I’m guessing it’s not good news” she said as he pulled a yellow sheet of paper out from under the chaotic pile.
“It’s challenging news” he said, giving the document a quick look-over before returning his gaze to Elo. “The rumors are true, there’s another alien species joining the Institute called the Selt. It seems that the chief diplomat was a Lazani and he recommended the Summit for the reception. So, in about three weeks’ time we will have to serve three Selt Ambassadors along with a full Institute delegation”.
“That’s excellent” she said, already divvying up the rooms of the restaurant in her head. “We know what to expect from the Asterba and the Kettel-ta, what are we going to have to do to accommodate the Selt?”
“Well according to this the Ambassadors will be two dogs and a horse” he said with a wry smile, leaning back in his chair.
“Two what and a what?” she asked, certain she misheard him.
“Two dogs and a horse” he repeated.
“That has to be some kind of joke” she said, grabbing the piece of paper and reading it over. “Do they mean that they’re like dogs and horses? Like the Xunamarian are like birds?”
“Someone very smart must have written that, because I can’t make heads nor tails of it. As far as I can tell, the Selt are microorganisms that…combine in some way with a host body. They quite interested in humanity, but since there are extreme ethical concerns about them living in a human body, they’re taking domesticated animals instead” he said, unable to hold back a snicker.
“And so we get to serve two dogs and a horse. This doesn’t say anything about dining traditions” Elo said as she read down the paper.
“That’s because the Selt…infect? Inhabit? We’re really going to have to find out what the proper language is for that. They inhabit hundreds of different species on their home planet, so they have nothing in the way of etiquette we’d find useful” Wen said.
“How does Chef feel about this?” Elo asked, setting the paper aside.
“You know her, loves a challenge. She’s down at the Veterinary College getting a crash course in equine digestive systems. I’m not worried about the food, the sticking point is how to serve it” Wen sighed, sorting through his pile again.
“Well we certainly can’t serve the dogs on the ground, that would be insulting no matter where you’re from” Elo said, tapping her lip. “It wouldn’t be too hard to have platforms built to the appropriate height so they can eat at table level. The horse won’t be much of a problem, Asterba are around the same size and we can accommodate them.”
“What are we going to feed it out of? We can’t have everyone eating off fine porcelain and then drop a trough in front of the horse” Wen said.
“We can get one specially made. Not a porcelain one, but a nice one we can paint in our colors. The horse would have to be put at one of the corners so it would be easy to serve it” she said, plotting the layout in her mind’s eye.
“Good, good. I’m going to call Chef and see if she can tell me anything yet. You inform the staff and make sure they keep any ‘eats like a horse’ jokes to themselves until the delegation leaves” he said, already dialing a number.
“Yes sir. I’ll try to get some estimates on those painted troughs” Elo said, quickly leaving the room as Wen began one of the stranger phone conversations of his life.
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