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Oct 28, 2021 10:20 AM
Dottie lands in the middle of Brian and Jackson
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"Can you do it, like, server-side as it were? In the factory?"

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"It takes some precision if you're working on more complicated foods. If your main flavor enhancers are salt and sugar, it's an easy job. If you're combining more exotic things, you'll need someone who knows what to boost and what to leave alone."

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"But if you can turn snack cakes diet-friendly they'll be real into that. Though I suppose there might be regulatory issues with proving that the things are magically lower calorie when they presumably burn the same amount in a calorimeter."

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"Hopefully, we can pass all the regulatory challenges on to someone who gets paid to deal with them. I've gone this long without having to worry about legal minutiae, why start now? We still use Quell like this in hospitals- unlike airplanes, where you have to worry about messing with weather patterns if your chant isn't tight enough, it's been an easy sell there. Some countries used it in prisons, but that's politically unpopular in the U.S.- and it's not lucrative enough that chanters were lining up for it when they could specialize in power generation."

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"Can you go into more detail on the hospital and prison uses?"

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"Sure, I'll tell you what's common knowledge- and some late nights spent online. In hospitals, Quell is used to improve the food's taste, how long it lasts, and how nutritious it is. The chanters focus on the food, and there aren't any high-profile studies linking it to any issues within the hospitals themselves- if there's a general link between Quell and climate change, we're screwed, but most scientists think it's power generation specifically that does that, because of the greenhouse gases. Anyway, taste, nutrition, quality in general, maybe. With prisons, some European countries use Churn pretty much the same way, to improve the food. I've heard they also use Dampen to keep violence down, but I wouldn't be surprised if most prisons in the world do that, if they can afford it. I haven't looked into it."

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"Huh. Is there some reason this is usually done at the institutional level and not higher up the supply chain? Magically delicious broccoli and magically low-sugar Poptarts and such?"

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"I don't know enough about food production to be totally sure, but Quell doesn't usually do persistent effects. The chanters working on power generation did that all day; using it on food right before consumption is going to be more reliable, if you're not someone with particularly good chants, strong rapport with your co-chanters, or a lot of practice."

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"Huh. Restaurants, then?"

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"Restaurants do it, yeah. Most restaurants hire chanters- the really talented ones usually shop around a lot. They're kind of celebrities. We have bigger franchises which work differently- I assume they benefit from economies of scale somehow, but I've never looked into it."

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"Makes sense. Does it work on things with no calories? A lot of eclipsed might tolerate virtuality better if they could eat something that tasted like food and wasn't."

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"Worth looking into. There were massive leaps in the '70s with how nutrient-dense potatoes are, but nothing people have tried with gum has worked out, for example. It doesn't work on 'pure' water, but maybe there are experiments going on to figure out where the boundaries are."

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"...like it doesn't work on distilled water or it doesn't work on tap water?"

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"-purified water, water that isn't polluted. It should work on water containing minerals, including salt, as long as it has some disease in it. Does that help?"

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"...some disease in it, why would that be."

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"Quell treats disease like it's food. Quell can amplify things that are energetic. Lightning, rain, wind, fire, calories- they all involve energy. Without getting into the science of it- and I want to reiterate that I was planning on thinking about books and plays until I ran out of money- we're sure that Quell doesn't work on anything where there's no energy. Disease is alive, and unlike plants, animals, or fungi, which you can't use Quell on, disease works just like food."

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"...that's weird! I guess you could do... uh... vaccines? This way? Some vaccines can be ingested. Attenuated virus and Quell and the kids can feel like they're drinking something that has anything in it. I think right now the state of the art is, like, zero calorie powdered lemonade."

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"Like I said, literature nerd, but yeah, that mostly makes sense to my high school education. Define 'virus' for me?"

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"A dubiously alive molecule that uses host cells to replicate itself. Causes flu, most colds, most stomach bugs, lots of other stuff."

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"-huh. I think we used chants to patch a lot of gaps in medical knowledge. We should have doctors compare notes before there are any plagues. Any other major things we need to worry about?"

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"...not off the top of my head but you should probably get vaccinated for everything."

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"Sounds like a plan."

He tools around with his comic book precog design some more while he eats his mussels. He could have different kinds of detail- dialogue, narration, the use of color could be something-

"In the mood for dessert?"

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"Always!" She wants tiramisu.

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He'll order cannolis. They're reliable, if not astonishing.

Dessert is had, during which Dottie will ask polite questions about Isabella's work. She's he's interested to know what she does in an ordinary day.

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"I'm not allowed to talk about it much, unfortunately! I do precognition, but a lot of it is confidential and what isn't is cover for the rest."

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