(CW: contains BL2 and possibly BL9 from the Blacklist.)
Recipe taken from The Mini-Balrog Cookbook.
“Are you sure this is safe, Matt?”
“Here in Headquarters? Absolutely not! But what’s life without a bit of risk?” Matterhorn chuckled to himself. The incredibly old and wrinkled man held up a matching old and wrinkled cookbook, squinting at its pages.
“Fair enough, but this looks like more than ‘a bit’ of risk.” Tess, a patchwork woman made of metal, glitter, and papery flesh, took a step back to give her fellow worker some space.
“Oh, it absolutely is!” Chuckling, Matterhorn put down the book by the currently pre-heating oven. Opening one of the kitchen shelves above him, he pulled out a pot and moved over to the stove. “Sue Souffle takes special care, see? Our supply of meat is limited, so we can only spare so many mistakes.”
“Not that kind of risk, I just…” Tess made a vague gesture with her claws. “I just see this as unsafe. This is an old recipe, and I haven’t calculated the chance of success yet.”
“I’ll keep that in mind. Riley!” Matterhorn spun to face the corner of the room.
In the dusty kitchen corner, slightly obscured by shadows, the Lucario wearing a Cafeteria uniform flinched - he had been trying to stay out of this mess for the last several minutes. He gave an apologetic nod and stepped forward, head bowed and paws behind his back.
“There we go.” Matterhorn clapped his hands together, reading through the cookbook’s list of ingredients. “Alrighty, then! Riley, I need milk, eggs, butter, and some Bleepka. Pronto.”
Riley jolted upright and moved, becoming a blur as he followed the order as fast as he could. A light breeze kicked up from sheer speed as the Lucario searched cupboards and scattered boxes faster than the eye could track, leaving rattling jars and half-open drawers in his wake.
A few seconds later, Riley screeched to a halt in front of Matterhorn, an array of ingredients held in his paws. He was breathing heavily, eyes wide, but said nothing.
“A bit more than I asked for, but this should still work. Go ahead and toss it over here, will you?” Matterhorn gestured towards an open space on the counter. Riley dumped the ingredients there, before retreating back to his corner.
Matterhorn took a stick of butter from the pile and tossed it into the pot on the stove. Then he grabbed a carton of milk and tore it in half like an eggshell, letting its insides splash into the pot as well. Humming to himself, he also took a bottle of Bleepka, tore off the cork (and the top of the bottle) with his teeth, and dumped its entire contents into the buttered, milky pot.
“Now, let the show begin!” Matterhorn grabbed the stove dial and cranked it up, grinning as a surprisingly small flame lit up underneath the pot. The sauce began to simmer.
“Do you need help with that?” Tess had walked over, raising a metallic arm. “If you’re truly dedicated, I suppose you’ll need some.”
“Oh, perfect timing! Help would be very useful, yes.”
“Right, in that case… can I see that?” Tess pointed at the cookbook.
“Be my guest!” Matterhorn picked up the book and handed it to her.
Tess took a moment to scan the list of ingredients, noting the ones that hadn’t already been gathered. Sighing to herself, she placed the book on the counter again and turned to Riley, who was still in the corner and trying to act like he wasn’t there.
“Riley, can you pass me the, uh…" She paused. One could hear the gears in her head actually turning if the pot on the stove wasn’t simmering so loudly.
"What's the word now…: She made a vague gesture with her claws. “The soft, tiny breads? Sorry, running on low battery today."
"...You mean the breadcrumbs,” Matterhorn said, pointing at the cookbook.
If Tess still had blood, she would've flushed red. "The… the words are unclear, and the illustrations don’t help.” She turned to Riley. “Um, do you mind…"
Matterhorn laughed, then cupped his hands over his mouth.
“Riley! The breadcrumbs! Oh, and some cheese while you’re at it! Of the Swiss variety!”
As Riley became a blur once again, Matterhorn turned back to the pot. He reached into an open meat crate on the floor, grabbed some of the suspiciously glittery clumps in both hands, and dropped it into the bubbling sauce.
Some of the sauce splashed onto his beard, and he took a moment to lick it for a quick taste test. He nodded in appreciation. “This is fine enough so far - oh, hello, Riley. Back already, I see.”
The Lucario had returned in seconds, bags of breadcrumbs and wheels of cheese stacked in his arms high enough to nearly obscure his face. He hefted the ingredients, making a weak attempt at a smile.
“Thank you, kid.” Matterhorn nodded. “Add that to the pile, will you?”
Riley gave him a shaky nod before moving to do what he was told.
“Hey Matt, sorry for the interruption, but can you move for a second?” Tess walked over to the pot, holding one of her metal arms over the simmering sauce. Matterhorn shrugged and scooted to the side.
Tess twisted a dial on her outstretched arm, and one of her metallic fingertips flipped open. She held it out, letting a thin stream of salt flow out and into the pot. She twisted the dial again, causing the salt stream to stop, before being replaced by a stream of black pepper. Another twist, and some nutmeg was poured into the brew as well. Finally, Tess twisted the dial once more, and her finger swung shut. She leaned back and let her arm fall back to her side.
“Just had to add the spices.”
“Perfectly fine! Saves me the trouble of calling Riley again.”
At the mention of his name, Riley jolted, even after having retreated back to the corner. Neither of his fellow Cafeteria workers seemed to notice.
Matterhorn turned the flame off of the stove and moved the pot to a different burner. Letting the sauce settle, he moved over to the oven and opened it up, grinning as a wave of heat washed through the kitchen.
“Perfect! Time to finish our mix.” With that, Matterhorn scooped up the rest of the ingredients on the counter and dumped them into the brew, not even bothering to crack the uncooked eggs or break apart the giant wheels of Swiss cheese.
“I don’t think that’s what the instructions said you should do, Matt.” Tess backed away from the ‘splash zone’ of sauce that sprayed onto the floor as the ingredient-dumping commenced.
Matterhorn chuckled in response, wiping his hands off on his apron. “Well, don’t you worry your head about it. It’s just a shortcut, that’s all. Time is of the essence, and we have hungry Agents to feed!”
“I… I still don’t think that makes this a good idea.”
“And that’s a you problem, kid!” Matterhorn picked up the pot, shoved it into the oven, and slammed the door shut, before stepping back and grinning proudly.
“Now, we wait.” The old man stared at the closed oven, through the glass window and at the cooking souffle within, dimly lit by a small yellow glow.
“Wait for how long?” Tess walked forward to look at the temperature settings. “You never set a timer. And why is the oven set to 375 degrees Celsius?”
“Oh, it’s Celsius?” Matterhorn thought about this for a second, before shrugging. “Eh, whatever. That just means it’ll cook faster, going off of HQ’s warped rules of nature.”
A low rumble filled the air. Inside the oven, the souffle began to rise, oozing over the melting pot it had been stuck in and filling out the oven.
“I’m not convinced you know what you're doing anymore,” Tess said, backing up as the souffle swelled enough that it pressed against the oven door. “At the very least, are you sure we’re not going over recommended heating time?”
“If anything we’re well under it!” Matterhorn picked up the cookbook and brandished it like it was a holy scripture, tapping a finger against the instructions. “The book says 35 minutes, and we’re barely at one here!”
Tess grimaced, shooting a wary look at the rumbling oven. “Somehow, I don’t think the ‘Mini-Balrog Cookbook’ accounted for this scenario.”
“Well, shame to be the Mini-Balrog, because here we are!”
The oven behind him began to groan loudly, the sheer mass of souffle prying the door open from the inside and already oozing through the gaps. Matterhorn turned and gave it a look.
“Oh, what a quick bake we’re having!” To the surprise of his fellow Cafeteria workers, the old man gave a hearty laugh. “Look at it go! Look at the number of portions on that thing!”
Riley had left his corner and fled the kitchen the moment the oven had cracked open, and Tess was starting to feel like he had the right idea. She slowly inched towards the exit, even as she was unable to take her eyes off the abomination of a souffle pouring out of the oven.
“Are you sure this is going to be okay?” she asked, her voice showing a hint of fear despite her best attempt to hide it. “Will you be okay?”
“Haha! I fear nothing!” Matterhorn declared, arms outstretched as the souffle reached critical mass.
“Right, if you’re dedicated… I’ll miss you, then.” Tess turned and ran as the souffle finally burst open the oven door, erupting out and into the kitchen in a shoulder-height wave of gloop. Matterhorn didn't seem to care, still gazing upon his handiwork with rapturous awe.
“I’ll be back!” The old man kept his arms outstretched, laughing even as the wave of flour and glitter washed over him.