The Cafeteria

The teenage stomach abides by no one, especially when there are giant cookies involved, so you head over to the Cafeteria for some lunch. High school cafeterias are a strange beast. The familiar sour milk smell from grade school gets replaced with the stench of french fries laced with body odor. No matter what they do to clean the room, this smell remains and you’ve always felt you could almost taste it... but do your best not to think about it as you smile at Gladys the ‘food services technician’ behind the line.

Gladys is a plump older woman who was obviously quite pretty in her day. Now with her hair netted and the strings of her apron stained with mystery sauce it can be a bit hard to see it but when she smiles back and answers your inquiry about her day with, “Same slop, different day, sweetheart,” you can’t help but appreciate the twinkle in her eye. Gladys is your favorite thing about this room.
After paying, you spin about to survey the seating. It’s the same as it is every day. In one corner, the Science Club folks are playing with some kind of contraption. Over on the left side at the round tables by the window, the soccer team and other athletes sit, all legs and confidence. And right in the middle is a quiet table of people reading books, oblivious to the chaos around them. Just another day in the cafeteria..

You decide to go sit with your buddies from the Science Club. You did, after all, come to the Cafeteria to be a bit social (and get a cookie from Gladys). As you walk over, you pass the quiet center table and surreptitiously glance at what everyone is reading. One of the girls is engrossed in a compilation of stories about King Arthur! You feel an instant connection and resolve to chat with her if you ever get a chance.

You’ve arrived at the table and have demolished half your lunch before you think to ask about the contraption the other kids are playing with. At a glance, it looks like some kind of paint agitation machine... for a carton of milk. Upon closer inspection you realize that there is actually a laser focused on the carton! You nudge your way over and ask one of your buddies about it. He tells you that it’s a prototype for a matter concentration unit.

Sam, the resident genius, is always coming up with crazy things. Last year she made a compound that reduced friction in incredible ways. In what has been dubbed the Penguin Incident (PI for short) she turned the hallways into surfaces so slippery that everyone had to slide on their bums or bellies to get between classes.

As you reflect on the fun of that day, as well as the favorite pair of pants it ruined, Sam flicks a switch and the milk carton starts to shake. You have your misgivings about this action, but do find yourself intrigued.

Do you:

Tell them to stop the machine! After the PI, who knows what might happen? Click here.
Stand and watch! It’s just milk... Click here.