Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Christmas Cooking/Baking (not recipes) (10/16/08)
TITLE: TOP SECRET
By Scott Sheets
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"I noticed in your background information, that you worked in nuclear intelligence. Well, let me tell you, Rogers, what your dealing with here will make nuclear material look like candy. The President doesnít even know whatís going on in this facility."
"Sir, what exactly are we guarding here?"
"We canít take any chances, Rogers. Thatís why we maintain absolutely secrecy until new employees are officially hired and on location. Letís head outside and see if we have a shipment arriving."
Commander Miller and Rogers braved the frigid winds of the northern tundra. Winter darkness blanketed the daytime making visual contact difficult. The sound of steel crushing ice carried over the snow capped terrain assisting their search. Off to the left, they distinguished a freighterís silhouette weighed down in the polar waters.
"Sir, is that carrying our cargo?"
"That it is, Rogers."
"Sir, that looks as heavy as pig iron."
"Not pig iron, Rogers. Something even heavier-fruitcake."
"You heard me right-fruitcake. Weíve been storing and recycling fruitcake for centuries."
"Letís head back inside and Iíll show you what I mean."
The two trudged through the snow back inside. Their steps echoed down the sterile steel corridor to an assembly warehouse. Inside, the workers re-wrapped fruitcakes from previous Christmases.
"Landfills could never sustain the number of fruitcakes thrown away after the holidays," Miller noted. "So we have special operatives who salvage the disposed, unwrapped fruitcakes and ship them to our facility. Here we scan them for bacteria, which is usually non-existent. Our studies have revealed that even bacteria donít like fruitcake. After scanning, we rewrap them in fresh sterile packaging and ship them back to major retailers for resale. It truly is the gift that keeps on giving."
"How many times do they get recycled?"
"We have different colored wrappers indicating how many years a particular cake has been recycled. The blue ones here represent five-year-old cakes. The purple ones are for ten-year-old cakes. After ten years, we remove them from circulation and place them in our underground storage facility."
"I had no idea fruitcake lasted so long."
"Not many do, Rogers. Most people throw them away before they have a chance to find out. In fact, we have one fruitcake from ancient Rome. They made it with pomegranate seeds, pine nuts, raisins, and barley mash. We also have some from medieval times, the American Revolution, and the civil war. One fruitcake we received survived the Chernobyl melt down. They are pretty amazing cakes."
"If no one eats them, Sir, why do people still give them at Christmas?"
"Tradition, Rogers. Tradition. Unfortunately, this tradition has recently created some cataclysmic, global challenges."
"How so, Sir?"
"Did you notice the melting ice caps as you approached our facility?"
"Yes, Sir. I was shocked at the effects of global warming."
"Fruitcakes, Rogers. Itís from the fruitcakes. We started circulating the whole carbon emissions thing to maintain secrecy, but its actually from the fruitcakes. Itís a strange anomaly, but a large concentration of fruitcake generates massive amounts of thermal units. Have you needed a jacket inside our facility?
"No, Sir. I was surprised you keep it so warm."
"We donít even have heaters installed. We used to store the fruitcakes outside, but when we noticed the extensive polar melting, we built an underground warehouse to try and curtail the effects. Unfortunately, we still havenít solved the problem."
"Sir, what will my specific role be in the facility."
"Well, Rogers, you are among an elite crew at this facility. Come with me."
Rogers and Miller left the assembly warehouse and turned down another steel corridor. They marched deeper into the heart of the facility and arrived at a heavy steel door monitored by a retinal scanner. Miller placed his eye to the scanner and looked straight ahead. A beam of light traversed his eye and the door opened. The two entered and ventured onto a platform overlooking a group of scientists in bio-hazard suits manipulating various fruits, nuts, and flours to form different cakes. A number high-tech ovens were baking their various experiments.
"These are the finest culinary minds in the world, Rogers, and they have been working around the clock to develop a fruitcake recipe that tastes good. If we can find that, our problems will be solved. Your job will be a taste tester."
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