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Runner-up: Chocolate


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On the sixth day in orbit around Coralla Prime, it was decided that first contact with the Corallans had progressed so excellently that the crew of the Apollo would be given restricted shore leave. A draw had been made, among the officers of the ship who were off duty, to participate in a cultural exchange on the surface and Ensign Maxwell Traenor had been lucky enough to draw a slot.

Once on the surface, the ensign had been drawn in to an establishment where he joined at a table with a Corallan, and polite conversation ensued. Maxwell, being a physicist and not at all a xenoanthropologist, had been initially concerned, but fell into comfort fairly quickly. The Corallans were an amphibious race, but despite their cultural and physical differences, Maxwell and Siath, as his counterpart was named, found much to talk about. The only issue was the universal translator, which infrequently stumbled upon deciphering the odd word in either language.

Tilting her head, Siath addressed Maxwell. "Would you like to try our food?"

It had been noted that the Corallans tilted their heads quite frequently in conversation. The cultural debrief had stated that it was a physical quirk of the species, with both physiological and social implications. It either depicted deep thought processes or an emotional entreaty, depending on the situational context. Maxwell found it endearing, possibly because of the resemblance to an iconic gesture of domesticated dogs back on Earth. In this context, he assumed it to mean that she felt strongly about him trying the local cuisine, and felt loath to decline. In truth, he was nervous; an adventurous diner he was not, but it was expected of him as part of his involvement in the cultural exchange.

"Thank you, Siath, I would really like to try your cuisine."

Siath tilted her head again, the nictitating membrane of her eyes rapidly moving back and forth. This as well was covered in the cultural debrief, as a signal of confusion or fear. It was not nearly as endearing as the head tilt, but Maxwell had seen it before. It most likely meant he had said something that the universal translator couldn't decipher into the Corallan tongue.

"Please say again, Tray-e-nor, I do not understand."

"Um... I would like to try your food?"

That seemed to work, because Siath perked right up. Apparently 'cuisine' had no analog in her language. "Excellent, Tray-e-nor! There is a food that we are proud of, I will serve you. It is called *ktckkk*."

It was now Maxwell's turn to sport a look of confusion, for the universal translator commonly stumbled over proper nouns in the Corallan language. The species' gravelly, guttural vocal intonation was hard enough to follow when the translator worked, but when it didn't, the sound was especially jarring to Traenor's ears. "I'm sorry, Siath, can you try again?"

"Our food, it is called *ktckkk*. I cannot explain, it is *tchrrkl*... It is sweet after meal food."

"Oh! What we call dessert, perhaps?"

Again with the look, and if she had lips, Maxwell would assume she would be sporting a bemused smile. "I do not understand your word. But no concern. I bring now."

Maxwell Traenor waited patiently while Siath went into an adjacent room. After only a few moments, she returned with a plate. The scientist watched her approach with morbid fascination, worried about what he might see. What if it was live grubs, not unlike Klingon gagh? Cultural sensitivity or not, he was unsure if he would be able to stomach such a dish. As the deep bowl was placed before him, he peered over the lip of the dish.

It was chocolate!

The smell that permeated the air above the bowl was heavenly. Floral and berry notes wafted forth on a strong undercurrent of an earthy vegetal scent, sweetly caressing his senses with its sugary headiness. The more he drew the perfumed air deep into his lungs, the more it enticed and intoxicated him.

"This looks wonderful, Siath!"

His spoon crackled through the sharp brulee crust, leaving slivery shards of caramelized sugar spidered across the top. Inside, the utensil swam through a creamy mousse, interlaced with ribbons of viscous fudge. Maxwell drew a spoonful of the delightful confection up to his lips, and let the taste tingle on his lips and tongue. The wonderful nutty, woody base flavor carried an exotic song of spice, citrus and vine fruit across his palate. It was like the best chocolate he had ever eaten, except more vibrant and intense than any that had come before. He blocked out all else, letting his being immerse in the experience of that dessert. It sang in his brain, it swam in his veins, it lifted him to the heights of euphoria. He absently scratched at his face as he devoured another spoonful of the manna in his bowl.

"Siath, this is the most wonderful food I have ever eaten. It... it completes me... it's fantastic... The spice in it is heavenly, though a bit strong. It makes my lips and tongue tingle so much that they almost feel numb..."

Yet another spoonful, though it was thicker than he had originally thought. It stuck in his throat and was hard to swallow, but worth every morsel. He knew he should slow down, not eat so quickly. He was shoveling it in so fast that he could barely catch his breath between bites. He scratched more insistently at the persistent itch on his neck and throat.

"Tray-e-nor, you are happy, yes? You bloat with joy and change color because you are pleased?"

Bloat with joy? What a strange comment, thought Maxwell. But that thought was hard to grasp, as was any thought. His mind was hazy and unfocused, difficult to grab onto any one topic. He wheezed with difficulty, trying to put but one more taste of that creamy, sugary wonderfulness between rubbery unfeeling lips that could not part...



"...has been treated with adrenaline. I mean, a chemical that reverses the effect of his immune system from overreacting. That is why he couldn't breathe."

Coming to and looking up through squinted eyes, Maxwell could discern the comforting blue collar of a Starfleet medical uniform. Beside the doctor was Siath, the membrane over her eyes fluctuating rapidly. He felt bad for putting her through so much distress.

"I did not know! Our cultural document stated that flushing of the skin of the species of Tray-e-nor indicated arousal. I only assumed that he was enjoying the *ktckkk*!"

O foul temptress! O what terrible fate! The divine dessert had turned on him? He had suffered an allergic reaction to the wondrous treat? How could life be so cruel as to deprive him of a love of which he had just experienced but once? Nothing short of perfection had been introduced to him, and it had tried to kill him? And why was his oxygen-starved brain spinning in addled Shakespearean soliloquies?

"Not to worry, he will be fine. See, he is already rising again to his feet. We will mark this reaction in our medical documents, so hopefully this unpleasantness can be avoided in the future." Suddenly, the medic reached out and swatted Traenor's hand. "For goodness' sake, Ensign, drop the dammed spoon already! And don't look so petulant."

But it was so good...

Ensign Maxwell Traenor


USS Apollo-A

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I want to reiterate, that life threatening food allergies are something to be taken seriously, and I do not intend to belittle or demean the topic. This was meant purely as fictional satire. Thanks!

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