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tasted like breen. The spoon stood upright in the curdled mass.

He approached Isabelle's plate with more dread than he'd ever faced a training session. He'd eaten at least a dozen of the greasy, pungent orbs by now, each worse than the one before.

The gravy looked a bit thicker on this one, as if it had begun to coagulate, and as he tilted his head he saw it had a kind of jellied sheen. The sphere below was shrouded in mystery. He tried to remember if this was the batch in which they'd done the extra protein processing for added texture, or where they'd replaced the artificial proteins with some local mealworms. Did it really matter, though?

Her thin brows raised, Isabelle handed him the fork, handle first. He wished now he'd learned how Blaylock turned off the taste center in his brain. He stabbed the ball, swirled it in the gravy, and jammed the breen into his mouth. He closed his eyes, focusing on the texture they were trying so hard to reproduce. Narn cooking literature spoke of the texture of breen in great depth and complexity, praising the sensation of the teeth sinking into the perfectly cooked breen, "the playful hint of a crunch followed by the incomparable juicy meaty moistness." The literature cautioned that "Breen should be neither too loose and crumbly, nor too firm and stodgy."

Galen just tried not to gag. After an incomparable amount of time, his mouth was finally empty. Though the taste lingered. "I think I felt it that time." Galen opened his eyes. "The crunch. The juicy meaty moistness."

"Really? You think that's it?" She ran the back of her hand across her forehead, leaving a brown smudge there. Her robe was covered with powders and stains, as was his.

"I think I felt it. You try it."

Dread filled her face, then resignation. She jabbed
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