She fills the filter cartridge with crushed cinnamon, then slides it under the boil-jet. The inverted kettle howls to life as vapor erupts from its exhaust system, mere seconds before water begins gushing through a Medusa’s wig of transparent pipes. The fluid slowly takes on a shade of burnt umber as the cinnamon concentrates inside, combining with milk and black honey in its coils. The final product trickles into her mug, still steaming from the heat of the machine’s galvanic wires.

“I should have known it was you making that ruckus,” It’s Dmitri, the nosiest of her managers. “You’re such a cinnamon snob. What is it today? Some organic Lemurian blend again?”

“Outer Kentucky grind,” she replies, blowing lightly on the concoction. “Coconut-infused, imported from the demilitarized zone, still about thirty-percent legal. Or something like that.”

“Thirty percent’s good enough for me to not ask any questions.” He does so anyway. “Have you ever tried putting anything else in that autokettle? Just to see what happens?”

“Like what?”

“I don’t know. Almonds? Cloves? Maybe coffee beans?”

“Hmm. Nuts would probably just jam the valves, and coffee, well…” she thinks for a moment, then, “I suppose I know a guy who could get us some.”

“Who knows? There’s probably an alternate universe where people jet-boil ground up coffee beans every morning, if you believe what the philosophers have to say about micromatter.”

“Are you talking about that theory where the snake in the box is both dead and alive?”

“Yeah, the one where it swallows its own tail.”

“I love that one. So, what would that be? A whole civilization of people starting their day jacked on stimulants? Can you imagine how agitated everyone would be?”

“Yeah, it would probably suck. Then again, I could do a lot with a workplace full of addicts,” he shrugs. “Maybe even get them to work eight hour days. I might have to borrow your machine sometime and see what happens.”