Freddie walked out of his workshop - careful to pass by the various supplies and his coveted “treasures” (consisting of mostly random old-world bric-a-brac and foodstuffs - that were a bit past their expiration date), he burst from his “lab” and stormed into the main reception area of the warehouse (where the Winter Truce Celebration will be held) and gently placed a datacube onto the counter and eagerly motioned to Emilia for her to come over.
“Look! I knew after I cleaned this little beauty up - contacts and all, I could get my terminal to read it, and it did! And a few days ago, I broke the encryption! You’ll never believe what was on it! Guess! Guess what was on it!”
Freddie frantically placed the datacube into the data reader, “Look! A bunch of old-world recipes! Look!”
Freddie showed Emilia the screen, an index of recipes lights up the screen - some even have pictures.
He scrolled through the list and enthusiastically added, “They’ve pretty much all got something called ‘gelatin’ in them, and most of the ingredients I’ve never heard of - let alone even come across, but there is at least one here that I have most of the ingredients for... well, uh... kinda.”
He scrolled with his finger along the list and found what he was looking for, and pointed to - The Holiday Fruitcake.
“The Holiday Fruitcake! I mean, doesn’t that sound amazing!? I mean, I think I might have to substitute a few ingredients, but for the most part, I think I can make it work!”
Dubiously, Emilia began, “You sure your substitutions will work? Like you said, old-world recipes have a lot of stuff we’ve never seen, nor even heard of, you know?”
Freddie slammed a bag down onto the counter next to them. “Already taken care of.”
“I’m sorry, how?” Emilia responded skeptically.
“Well,” Freddie started, “...remember when I went out yesterday to grab a few things? I was actually out looking for stuff for this recipe.
Oh, and by the way”, he said tentatively, “I also invited some of the local organizers to our get-together. I, uh, kinda had to because when I went around asking around about cardamom and crystallized ginger, people started getting suspicious.
They were asking me why I was asking for things they ain’t never heard of.
I told them I discovered a super rare recipe and needed a few of these things to make it work. They were more than a bit suspicious.
Actually, things got a bit loud. People started to stare and gather around. I had to think quickly - so to calm things down, I invited a few of the organizers to our get-together. So they could see for themselves that it wasn’t anything to be threatened by.
And it worked! Plus, now we have more guests. So win-win!” Freddie smiles, “And for the rest of the ingredients, I got an old nutri-paste machine. One from before the last regulations got removed”, he winked slyly, proud of himself.
“They kept a bunch of these ingredients in it to fabricate in real-time - so they were preserved really well. Nobody has much use for them anymore, so they’re mostly still okay.”
"Freddie, you gotta remember we’re still on assignment. Gotta make sure no faction spies try to shut the whole thing down. A couple of the Freedom Fighters have been acting sketchy all week.”
Freddie looked at Emilia and then back at the datacube display, “Well, maybe if we do it right and get on their good side, they’ll think twice about shooting at us next time we’re sneaking around.”
“And if not?” Emilia stopped.
Freddie continued, “Well, it’d still be kind of fun to try and make it, plus we might even get a great story out of it, right?
"And who knows? Maybe everyone will love it. Or hate it - might bring ‘em together. Kinda like a common enemy.” Freddie chuckled.
Emilia looks back to Freddie, serious for a moment. After a few seconds, her scowl broke into a smile, and she began to laugh too.
“Yeah, okay, you got me. How’re we gonna bake this thing?”
Freddie motioned with his hands, “Connect a heat sink to the engine, then attach a metal box to that, then we just let the ship run for a bit & use the ship’s diagnostics to keep an eye on temps.”
Emilia raised an eyebrow, “You thought this through already, huh?”
With a head nod and a winked, Freddie answered, “Entirely.”
Freddie burst open the door to the warehouse - where this year’s Winter Truce Celebration was taking place.
Freddie had succeeded in coaxing the old machines, whirring, huffing, and shaking into producing a fruitcake (with probably only 'fruit' as best, 'froot' at worst, in it).
Vindicated, he held the bread aloft. In his mind, sunbeams rained down upon the loaf, and he shouted, "Let us have cake!"
Emilia whispered, “Uh, I’m pretty sure it’s ‘Let them eat cake’”
Freddie turned with a great big smile on his face, so proud, “What?”
“Never mind.” Emilia just smiles and enjoys his exuberance.
Freddie approached two people - one was from the Desert Rats, another was from the Steppe Tribes, both were admiring each other’s nature-crafted accessories. He uncovers the cake and offers, “Care for any?”
Removing the covering revealed a very sad looking, not too appealing, burnt-black block of dry fruit-paste, baked into a loaf (of what one would assume was supposed to be the cake), causing both the Desert Rat and the Steppe Tribes friends to recoil, shake their heads no, and move straight away to another part of the room.
Undeterred, Freddie continued to offer his creation to two other groups - and failed just as badly. No one was interested in trying the charred, scary, unknown creation he was offering for consumption.
“Okay, Freddie, maybe we made a mistake. Let’s just put it back in your lab and enjoy the party?” Emilia suggests, elbowing Freddie playfully.
“No, I can make it better.”
“It’s basically nuked as it is, how’re you going to make it better?”
“Ah, I know!” Freddie perks up, “I’ll be right back. I got just the thing to make this better in my lab!”
As he entered his lab with his prized fruitcake, he saw someone with a covered face (Freddie thought the intruder looked kinda like a intruder from one of the comic datacubes).
The intruder was at his terminal stealing his datacube with all his precious recipes!
“Hey! What are you doing?! Stop!” He dashed towards the intruder.
Freddie tried to grab the datacube from the intruder - they began to scuffle.
Emilia overheard the fight and rushed over, but just then, the intruder ran out into the main reception area with the datacube and Freddie’s beloved fruitcake!
Emilia shouted, “That intruder has the datacube!”
Even though it was as hard as a rock and potentially inedible, Freddie was more concerned about his dearest creation: the fruitcake. It was his baby!
They follow closely behind the intruder. Then, the intruder wildly threw the fruitcake behind - missing them.
Emilia grabbed it and fired it back, knocking the intruder over…right into the main buffet table.
The intruder fell over, dazed.... and the fruitcake broke into a bunch of pieces.
Everything seemed ruined.
Despondent, Freddie sat down in the corner and just watched the holiday celebration fall apart.
Freddie thought to himself, “This is all my fault.”
They restrained the intruder in Freddie’s lab/workshop. They tied the intruder to a chair and removed the “intruder’s” mask.
“What’s your problem? Who are you working for? Why were you trying to steal my Fruitcake and datacube?”
It was a young male, about 16 year old. His hair was short, close cut, and he had hazel blue eyes, full of determination and grit.
“I’m a merc-for-hire. I don’t work for any faction!”, he huffed. “I heard you had a super rare recipe - and it used a bunch of super rare, potentially expensive, ingredients, and or parts. So that means it probably makes a Tec 4 or 5 weapon of some sort, or something even better.”
I was gonna either sell the recipe for a grip of chips, or use it myself and sell the super-summed whatever it was, for even more chips.
Emilia squinted her eyes and looked hard at the intruder, “I don’t believe you. Maybe some of that holiday fruitcake that I knocked you out with will knock some truth out of you after we shove some down your gullet! We have plenty.”
“Alright, alright, alright, hold on. Look, I'm just trying to survive like the rest of you guys okay. I’ll be straight up with you, okay? Just please don’t make me eat any of that gross lump of sadness. Just thinking about it makes me nauseated.”
“Alright, start talking and if at any time I don't believe what you're saying - in goes the “truth serum”, got it?
“Yeah, yeah. Look, yesterday we saw that guy”, he nodded his head toward Freddie, “asking around and talking about some miraculous recipe he’s discovered, boasting about a grand feast of some kind, and well, our group is in the midst of really some hard times, food is short.
Lately, we ain’t been able to find the parts we need to make our nutri-paste dispensers work. We got families… kids, ya know.
Then, the other day we heard that guy talking about how he was able to bypass the safeguards and substitute items… it just seemed like the miracle we needed, okay?
A few of us came early to check out the ‘security’ and other features because we learnt that you guys are also tasked with running security too, so we knew we had to be on guard. You met a few of us earlier. You see, we are not bad guys, okay?
Anyways, we’re desperate okay?” His voice started to break, “Look, I got lots of family and friends at home who are on the brink of starvation - little ones crying themselves to sleep because they’re hungry.
I couldn’t just stand by another day and do nothing, okay?” He tried to choke back the tears on those last words, but failed.
Emilia untied him, allowing him to wipe his tears.
Emilia smiled kindly at him, “Look, we have more than enough to go around. Please stay as our guest and after the party we can take a look at your machines and see what we can do, okay?”
Freddie interjected joyfully. “As a matter of fact, I think I know where to get another “pre-removal of regulations” nutri-paste machine!
This is the Winter Truce Celebration! So let’s just call a truce and eat some cake - some delicious holiday Fruitcake! Whaddaya say… uh, what is your name anyways?”
“My name is Derrick, but they call me D.”
“Nice to meet ya D, that’s Emilia and I’m Freddie!”
When Emilia knocked the intruder in the head with the fruitcake, it broke into a bunch of pieces and everything seemed ruined… But, then one of the more curious (and braver) Desert Rats picked up a piece of the fruitcake, smelled it, tasted it…and liked it.
He shared it with others in the group. “Hey you guys! You gotta try this! It tastes way better than it looks, and smells!”
They all tried it and most enjoyed it. Other folks, not so much.
But pairing it with some Flaming Skull Vodka, Jugo de Cerdo, or everyone’s favorite - Rat's Piss brew helped… a lot.
When Emilia, Freddie, and D came out of the workshop, Emila couldn’t believe her eyes.
“Freddie, look! Your Holiday Fruitcake is a success, it totally brought everyone together!”
Freddie’s face lit up and he immediately ran back into his lab and hauled out more of the fruitcake. “Hey everybody! We’ve got plenty for everyone!”
A huge exuberant cheer erupted from the guests!
People were really getting into the swing of things. People were laughing, joking, eating the cake, drinking – and getting into the spirit of festive togetherness and heartwarming community.
To look at them all, you’d never even know they were strangers just a few hours ago.
Freddie was about to haul out some more of the weird foodstuffs he made, but Emilia stopped him. “Uh, maybe we should quit while we’re ahead”, she winked.
Freddie smiled and agreed.
In the spirit of goodwill, they shared the recipe with the D, his crew, and anyone else who wanted it.
Freddie sits at a table at the party, admiring the unity as it starts to calm down. Emilia sits down next to him.
“Well, I just talked with D and his crew. They are in really bad shape from what they tell me, but with my skills and your ingenuity, I know we’ll be able to help them.”
“Who knows what will be on the next datacubes you find? Might even have something useful on it that could help them, and others like them, to survive a bit easier.”
“Or maybe some more awesome old-world recipes! You know, there was something I really wanted to try and make…what was it called…uh… oh yeah! Tuna ‘N Waffles! Doesn’t that just sound great?”
She looked at him incredulously, then just shook her head, “Yeah, Freddie, that sounds just great.”
Freddie sighs contentedly, “I can’t wait for the next celebration. I mean, look how great this went. Yeah, there were a few tussles and loud arguments, but all in all I think it went pretty great. No one was body-slammed or put in a headlock, and I think a few might've even made a love connection…”
She looks at him and almost says something negative, but decides to let him have this and concedes, “Yeah, we did prevent some serious drama this year.”
The two look on as a Texas Star and a Steppe Tribes member are wrestling it out on the middle of the floor.
A guard nearby begins to approach them to break it up, but before he gets to them they stop, start to laugh heartily, slap each other on the back and proceed to eat more of the fruitcake and drink more libations - singing a drinking tune.
“We gotta know how to fight and survive, yes, but having heart? That’s rare out here, Freddie. But if we can get people together for even a few days every year, maybe that’s a sign that things can get better.”
Freddie smiles and looks out at the celebration, “I think it’s definitely a sign of things getting better.”
Freddie stood and held up his cup, “Happy Winter Truceday! Drink up and eat up! Fruitcake, Trucecake, anything but no cake - Am I right everybody!?”
The room overflowed with a cacophony of agreements, cheers, laughter and hope.