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With desperation and disdain, Gromov stared at the plate the waiter had served. The dish resembled a piece of art, arranged exclusively. The combination of red, green, and yellow made it a feast for the eyes of a gourmet. Not familiar with most of them, he recognized tiny octopuses, shrimps, and broccoli supplemented with rice on curry. The origin of the rest remained the great unknown, an unexplored land occupied by unfortunate creatures that ended their short lives on the chef’s palette.

“What is it?” he pondered. “What is it? Am I dreaming or what? I told Akane to order a fine meal, didn’t I?”

He checked the serving of the others and realized that not all of them received the same. The lieutenant Schubert, who insisted on accompanying him, sit by his left side and got a magnificent beefsteak; its fragrance excited Gromov’s nose receptors to the highest level, while his stomach kept revving in a desperate emptiness.

“Sir, are you all right?” asked Schubert, who sensed the gloominess, crawling around.

“Nope,” said Gromov and tried to touch one shrimp with the fork. “I swear that thing just winked at me.”

“You’re seeing things, sir. They are dead, completely dead, boiled to the core.”

“Are you sure? They look quite raw to me. I’ve never been in a fancy restaurant before, but I’ve heard they have some nasty habits there. For all I know the rich might enjoy the sensation of how those tentacles jerk, when swallowed. They move. I swear they move.”

“No way, sir.”

Gromov, on the verge of panic, was not assured by Schubert, since the blond officer intentionally avoided to look at the plate in question, gulping nervously water from the glass. His fair skin became even paler and he sweated so much he had to wipe his forehead with Akane’s shirt.

“Lieutenant,” Gromov said suspiciously. “Are you feeling well?”

“Yes, sir, just… I am so excited, a bit nervous. The people… The honor…”

“You are blabbering.”

“Sorry, sir. I just… Since childhood I hate the fish smell. Can’t stand it. If you are going to eat this, I am afraid I will…”

“What?”

“I’m so embarrassed, sir. I feel quite nauseous. Not that I am gonna vomit or something…”

To his uttermost horror, Gromov felt the very same nausea emerging from lower part of his empty belly.

“Stop it immediately,” he whispered furiously. “It’s contagious. One more word and I’ll introduce you to the soup I ate before.”

“Sorry, sir. You can have my share,” offered Heinrich Schubert with plain regrets. “I am not hungry anymore.”

The tender, almost motherly affection towards Schubert rose in Gromov’s heart. On the other hand, to eat his dinner after Akane had smashed his face? Talk about the mixed feelings.

“Excuse me, sirs. They informed me Lieutenant Anbi should sit here.”

It was the waiter with a bowl, holding it up onto the open palm.

“She is in the de…”

Gromov brain calculated in inhuman speed, switching into the battle mode in that instant. Akane was not here. But there should be a meal for her. The bowl in waiter’s hand differed from the plate he had the seafood on. Meaning…

Gromov showed a wide smile, full of predatory teeth: “On the right address you are, my good man. Just put it here, she will come back at the moment. What is it, anyway?”

“A green salad with chicken, sir.”

“The green salad, huh? Certainly with no seafood I presume?”

“No, sir.”

“Excellent. In that case, you can take my plate away. If you meet a beggar along the way, you can feed him.”

“I beg your pardon, sir?”

"Pay it no heed. You can go now. Thank you."

As soon as flabbergasted waiter disappeared, Gromov readied himself to dig in: “Bon appetite, lieutenant.”

“I can’t believe what you’ve just done, sir. You stole the food from your subordinate.”

“Exactly so. As they say, a desperate situation needs desperate measurements.”

“But she is going to starve. You don’t mind?”

“Not at all.”

Grinning happily, Gromov started eating.

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About the author

Pavel Morava

Bio: Born in the Czech Republic, Pavel Morava is not a native English speaker. Having been twenty-two years old, he published his first book, which did not become an international bestseller. After a few other attempts, Pavel Morava abandoned the literary career for over twenty years, during which period he has been focusing on processing of plastics, programming, and raising of children.
Recently, with more time at his disposal, he returned to the forgotten ambition, fighting a futile battle with English language, procrastination, and the tendency to give up too early.
Being vivid reader of not Anglo-Saxon origin, Pavel Morava was fortunate enough to experience books from different countries, including Czech, Russian, Polish, Chinese, Swedish, Dutch, Japanese, French, German, and English. Such a vast literary variety heavily influenced his own work, which typically relies on an one-point-of-view narrative, consecutive storytelling, and elimination of unnecessary details.
Web novels and online publishing made him reevaluate his approach to style and building blocks of the text; the result should be, hopefully, lighter, shorter, and more intelligible for reading on electronic devices.

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