Author: Julian Miles, Staff Writer

Dino’s at the hatch, jigging up and down like he does when he’s worried.
“Table Seventeen, the Lantoran’s getting antsy!”
I flip the trout end-over-end in the pan: “Tell the lovely cephalopod that his trout is being sautéed in ox butter and I will not hurry the process.”
“Yes, Chef.”
All I’m trying to do is run the finest restaurant this side of the Tiiri Quadrant. Naturally, I’ve got time for every little problem.
“What’s up, Kai?”
“Sheila’s been sucked on!”
Oh, for pity’s sake.
“Did you make sure the Effervescent Yamdri was served to the table at over 316 Kelvin? A hungry Kroonin targets solely by temperature.”
“Sorry, Chef.”
“You’re serving the replacement. Might want to get it right. Send Sheila home.”
A hand slaps my bum: “I’m fine, Chef. That new security Benthusian is really fast. Saved my life.”
I lift the pan off the heat and look her over: torn blouse, big red mark on neck and chest, makeup runs from crying. Bright eyed, though.
“Okay, if you insist. Freshen up and put your bodysuit on. The Padrang Ambassador’s coming in.”
She grins: “Splee’s a lovely blob of polar jelly.”
I shake my head. All the invertebrates are sweet on Sheila. Her eyes are ‘rooglash’, apparently.
“Yeah, but he’s coming here at the same time as the G’k’l’roc delegation.”
Jerhn stops, serving tray poised delicately on pseudopod: “They’re Flame Nation! You never said anything. The burners aren’t lit!”
I told Kai… Never mind.
“Sheila, deliver Jerhn’s platter. Jerhn, you’re on Flame Nation and no-one takes you off until the delegation tips you handsomely and departs. Move, people!”
“The temperature conflict problem?”
Good point. Can’t be having people getting steamed. Just a minute –
“Sheila, get the crud cleared out of freezer nine except for a metal pallet, all the racking and any big carcasses. Set up a liquid nitrogen fondue in there. Ambassador Splee’s fascinated by ambience. Tell him we’re giving him a ‘Stantazen Coldship Barbeque’ experience tonight.”
“Bringing him in through the loading bay for added veracity?”
She gets it!
“Spot on.”
I’ve added fresh-chopped parsley and the trout has flipped twice before –
“Yes, Kai?”
Something simple, please, oh Gods of the Culinarily Challenged.
“Got some plant thingys from Edma asking if we have tables. Was going to put ‘em on Table Thirty as it’s been empty all night, but that security octopus you hired said I should check with you first. He’s chatting with the plants so they don’t wander off.”
Give me strength.
“Kai, why do you think Table Thirty is vacant?”
“Dunno. It’s right up in the dome. Nice view. I like going up there for a toke.”
In my restaurant? Deal with it later. Doc says my blood pressure can only handle one stupid at a time.
“Kai, what are Yangru?”
“Energy forms from Yang. Invisible unless they want to be- Oh.”
“It’s the only table where they can feel the energy waves of the city.”
“Where do I put the plants, Chef?”
That’s it.
“They’re ‘fronds’! Calling an Edmari a ‘plant’ is an insult.”
“Whatever. So, where do I put the plants?”
Must remember: can’t afford the time off for a prison sentence.
“Get Jao, the Benthusian, to escort the holy fronds to Table Two.”
“That’s your break table.”
“Guess I’m not taking breaks for a while.”
Am I allowed to use a bat instead of sarcasm?
The trout slides onto the platter.
“Dino! Seventeen!”
“Yes, Chef.”
Someone’s parked a shot of tequila nearby. Deep breath, down in one.
Right. Back to it. Only nine hours to go.