“You just need to get your priorities in order,” Pern said as he plunked the ripe wikifruit onto the table. Courtney watched with dismay, her eyes wide as she watched the young man end drive a long knife through the product of her months of gardening. “Food is all fine and good, but we already have food. We’ve got over a hundred rations to get through before the supply ship comes. This,” he said, indicating the smooth, pink outer shell of the fruit, “is for something better than eating.”
“The only thing better than eating is breathing,” Courtney said, reciting one of the three principles that had been drilled into her during pioneer orientation. Pern laughed.
“You haven’t been here for long, have you?” he asked. He moved the blade around the thick stem of the wikifruit until a circle the side of his palm could be lifted from the foot-long purple shape. Pern reached for the next instrument, a long-necked spoon, which he stabbed deep into the fruit’s body.
“Iâ€¦” Courtney began, but her shock quickly overcame her dedication to the pioneer ideals. Pern looked up to her with a warm smile, then twisted the spoon and lifted a clump of soggy pink from the inside of the wikifruit before dumping it into a bowl. He repeated the motion several times, and the rose-colored heap grew larger and larger until it seemed that so much mass could not have been contained within the now-hollowed fruit. Pern ripped the corner from a bag of sugar with his teeth, then poured it into the bowl in an avalanche of white.
“Get me the riser,” he told her. Courtney stared at the fruit, her horrified expression similar to the one she’d worn when she heard about the great wagon incident. She had no choice but to obey, though, and he knew it. When she returned with one of the small packets she used to bake bread, he tore the top away and emptied the paper envelope over the white and pink heap. Pern stirred the pile with his spoon until the wikifruit meat was a squishy, sugar-embedded glob. He lifted a spoonful, offering it to Courtney. “Wanna taste?” he asked.
“You monster!” she whimpered. He shrugged, and shoveled the bowl’s contents back into the purple rind.
“You’ll thank me in a month or two,” he told her with a knowing smile as he sealed the wikifruit with the circle he’d first carved away. “Everyone always does.”