This story uses characters and locations based on the Gunslinger Girl manga written by Yu Aida and published in monthly shōnen magazine Dengeki Daioh. The characters of Kara and Michele are original to myself.
Chapter Twelve – Minimum Miles
This story was inspired by the Autumn 20x1 fratello Quarterly cover drawn by wraith11 on deviantART.
After morning classes, Claes changed into green shorts and a turquoise t-shirt under a blue sweater vest. She slipped her bare feet into sandals and after styling her hair in a ponytail, placed a well-worn straw hat atop her head. Outside the cyborg warehouse, she filled a blue watering with water from the spigot and started walking across the grounds towards her herb garden.
To reach her garden required her passing the larger vegetable garden Michele Pagani had started once he and Kara had arrived at the Agency. She noticed the stalks that held the tomato vines rustle and as she stepped around, she could see Michele kneeling amongst them – in his suit.
"Wash day. Nothing clean, right?" she called out.
"Eh? Oh, hello, Claes. Uh, yeah…" Michele said with a nervous laugh. "The Campari tomatoes ripened a bit quicker than I expected," he added to explain why he was working in a suit.
"Tomorrow is Saturday," Claes observed. Saturday was the single day that the Agency cafeteria was not staffed and therefore the kitchens were opened to anyone who wished to prepare their own meals.
"It's been a few weeks since I've made a home-cooked meal," Michele noted.
"If you need a sous-chef, I am available," Claes offered.
"That would be great," Michele said.
"So I guess my plan to lure Michele to a romantic dinner at Enoteca Pinchiorri is out the window," Kara noted as she added a spoonful of sugar to her coffee.
"Why do you need to drive all the way to Florence for dinner?" Petrushka asked.
"The after-dinner shopping," Gattonero replied, earning her a scowl from Kara.
"On that basis, you'd think she'd pick Osteria Francescana," Allison noted, referring to the top restaurant in Italy – which just happened to be across the street from the Ferrari factory.
"Driving hundreds of kilometers for a meal is pretty wasteful," Soni commented.
Kara's head snapped up and a smile broke out on her face.
"Soni, you're a genius!" she exclaimed.
"I've been wracking my brain on what to write for the autumn issue of fratello Quarterly, but you just gave me an idea."
As part of their English language studies, the girls created a quarterly magazine – they chose to call it fratello Quarterly – under the guidance of Jethro Blacker. Henrietta provided many of the photos while the cyborgs, handlers and staff took turns writing articles. For this issue, Kara had been tasked writing one of the articles, but she'd been hard-pressed to come up with an idea.
"Uh, glad to be of help," the blonde cyborg replied.
"Kara, if you're not going to help prepare the meal, at least stand out of the way," Claes groused as she removed a selection of fresh vegetables from a large wicker basket and into the sink to be washed. A smaller basket held herbs clipped and dried from her garden.
"I need some pictures for the article and I also want to see how you prepare the meal so I can include the recipes," the Franco-Japanese cyborg replied as she leaned over and snapped some photos with her camera.
"Out," Michele ordered and Kara retreated to the opposite side of the kitchen to flip open her MacBook Air and start writing copy.
Once Claes had cleaned the vegetables and herbs, Michele pulled out a large roasting pan and collected most of the tomatoes, one onion, seven cloves of garlic, dried oregano and fresh basil. He chopped the tomatoes in half and the onions into small bits, followed by crushing the garlic cloves before smothering the concoction in virgin olive oil and mixing them together, adding a pinch each of salt and pepper. The pan then went into a very hot oven to roast for the next hour.
While Michele worked on his dish, Claes chopped a large butternut squash into quarters. After cleaning out the inside of seeds and filaments, she washed it and into another oven it went to roast for 30 minutes.
Kara swooped in to snap pictures and then recorded the list of ingredients on her iPhone before Claes chased her away with a sharp glare. She then went over to hover by her handler and used the iPhone to record video of him starting to prepare fresh pasta.
Michele formed the flour into a mound and then made a well in the middle, to which he added the eggs. Using a fork, he first beat the eggs until they were fully incorporated and then started to gradually pull in flour from around the well, incorporating the two until the eggs had absorbed all the flour they could. Michele pushed the remaining flour off to the side, adding a bit as necessary to help him knead the dough when it became too sticky.
The dough was set aside to rest and the squash removed from the oven, tested, and confirmed done. Claes set it aside to cool and Michele removed his pan from the oven long enough to stir all the contents before returning it to the heat. Kara, meanwhile, went back to her laptop and resumed typing.
Michele and Claes took a quick break before they both shifted into high gear. Claes removed the squash meat from the skin and compressed it in a towel to eliminate as much of the water as possible. She then placed it in a bowl and proceeded to manually puree it with a potato masher. Michele removed the roasting pan from the oven and allowed it to cool while he rolled out the pasta dough into thin layers before cutting into 8cm squares.
After squashing the squash, Claes added an egg, grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, a pinch each of salt and pepper and finished it off with finely ground amoretti cookies, mixing them into a homogenous and fairly dry concoction. She then brought the bowl over to Michele and together they spooned a small amount of filling into each square before folding them over and crimping the edges to seal them. Once completed, they were covered with plastic wrap and placed in the refrigerator.
Kara returned to film Michele making of the Campari tomato marinara sauce. He'd removed the tomatoes and placed them into a pot to continue to cook, followed by mashing the garlic cloves and onions and adding some tomato paste he'd created the previous evening. All of this went into the pot and allowed to simmer for another 30 minutes.
"So after all our hard work, when do we get to eat?" Kara asked.
"What do you mean 'our'?" Claes asked. "I don't recall you helping out!"
"Hey! I just put the water on the boil for the pasta!" Kara exclaimed, in response to which Claes covered her face with her palm.