Legion of Lawndale Heroes created by James Bowman
“What’ll it be today, sir?”
You shit, Tom Sloane thought, as the cafeteria worker turned to him with a smile. You know that you don’t have to call me ‘sir’.
“It’s called ‘being polite’, Tom.”
The Legionnaire turned to see Daria Morgendorffer breeze past him. “Remember, Tom: ‘air and water’. Don’t project like that if you don’t want people to read you.”
Tom’s shrug didn’t reveal the sudden, slim spike of ice that went up his back. She read my mind! She just read my mind!
“That’s a hard one. You know, ‘blue bear’ and all.”
Daria actually smiled as she remembered that phrase; she had mentioned it to Jane when she first revealed to her friend her telepathic powers.
The icy sensation Tom felt dissipated instantly at the sight of the tiny Legionnaire’s smile - still a rare occurrence, as all her friends (and teammates) knew.
“You can still smile in my presence, too. Nice to know.”
Daria nodded. “Well, it’s not as if I haven’t messed up - time and time again. If anyone can cut somebody a break, it’s me - and it’s part of the whole ‘trying to work with the personality-disabled’ thing, of course.”
The signature sarcasm in Daria’s voice allowed a real smile to form on Tom’s face - things were getting back to normal - well, whatever the Hell that was for anyone in the Legion. “Wow. Talk about ‘character development’.”
“Smart ass” Daria shot back. There’s also you punching out both that Da Feet jerkass and the last allosaurus chasing me, Jane and Sandi - before she could blast it’s head off, too. Ugh. Those things are filled to the guts with guts and other nasty things.”
The memory of the look on Daria’s face as she pulled the still-steaming entrails of an allosaurus out of her hair, shudders of disgust visible as the dino pieces fell to the ground with wet, sticky sounds, made Tom openly chuckle.
“Well, if it helps - not every girl can look good wearing dino entrails,” Tom told her. “Pebbles Flintstone tried it during her ‘emo dino’ phase, and it didn’t work. Other creatures kept trying to eat her - and besides, vivid pink flesh with black burn marks and bright red blood clashed with her hair and skin tone.”
Off to the side, Sandi Griffin (who sat at a table with Julia Carlyle) finished off a particularly crisp broccoli floret as she nodded in agreement with Tom’s assessment.
A throat being cleared caused Tom and Daria to turn, where Mack finished a large of chocolate milk before he looked down at his shorter teammates. “Me Mack want big chunks tasty Italian lasagna stuff,” the tall, Black Legionnaire half-spoke, half-grunted, as he did what was (passably) ‘caveman speak’ - or, Daria thought, a good example of their old schoolmate Kevin Thompson as Rocky Balboa. “Me Mack want big chunks lasagna to stuff in mouth. Me Mack want big chunks of tasty Italian lasagna stuff to stuff in mouth now. Me Mack want small people move.”
“God, Mack - you get all crazy when they go Italian!” Stacy Rowe bounded up behind him, tray in hand. “Hi, Daria!”
The stunningly beautiful Legionnaire - easily the most attractive of the Legionnaires, although Trent Lane and Julia Carlyle could also qualify - let her expression go from happy to imperious in the instant it took to look at Tom and turn away.
Mack took advantage of the momentary awkwardness to step around Tom and Daria - and accept a pair of five-inch high slabs of lasagna which almost covered the dinner plate they sat upon - as Stacy blasted her multi-terawatt smile at the cafeteria worker.
The young man’s personality perked up instantly. “Hey, ‘Wild Thang’! Got some of that ‘small paw’ stew that you like, and we cooked up a fresh batch of corn bread muffins with it-”
“Muffin me. Now.”
Curiosity crinkled over Tom’s face. “’Small paw’ stew?”
Daria spoke up. “He means ‘burgoo’.”
Tom’s curiosity grew as Simba Jacks (his mom was a Disney fan from childhood, and the unhappy benefactor of her eternal love of The House of Mouse’s works, which he knew probably better than most people who worked there) turned to Daria, the smile he gave Stacy undiminished not one bit.
“That’s right - but in Kentucky, we’re not so fancy as you Texas transplants. We just call it what it is - ‘roadkill stew’.”
The words came out of Tom’s mouth before he realized that he’d spoken, let alone the tone of surprise that colored them. “You don’t sound like you’re from Kentucky.”
“That’s what my sisters Cindy and Merry say - but Cindy’s got a way with the lingo anywhere she goes. She sounds more like a TV reporter than they do.”
Jacks’ words were for Tom, but his attention was focused squarely on Daria - something else Tom found was not entirely to his liking as he turned back to the Legion Leader.
“So, uh, you managed to stay in the kitchen with your pa when he was - experimenting?”
Daria fought back a laugh - she’d been assailed with many stories of her father’s exploits in the Legion’s kitchen (which he’d been banned from using until General Armalin, making amends for the ‘Halloween ice-water’ incident, had asked the head chef to allow him cooking privileges - always supervised, of course).
“Like you said - born and raised in Texas. Had a strange need to occasionally eat. The way Dad cooked, the way money was for us back then and all the ‘critters’ running around - yeah. We even ate straight off the buffet at ‘Roadkill McGill’s Roadside Diner’ more than a few times. One night, we got a deer that the trucker in front of us hit. No head, but the rest wasn’t touched. ”
Off to the side, Jamie White turned away from watching Mack plow through his first piece of lasagna. “I love that show - and Sonny Monroe is so hot...!”
Stacy stopped half-way through a large corn muffin dripping with honey (Daria chuckled inwardly; of course Jacks had a bit of a crush on her) to look over to Jaime. “I know - isn’t she? Her hair’s so shiny...!”
Daria continued on. “Ever have a really thick venison steak? Dad knows how to butcher game, so we took that deer home...”
A commanding voice drew all of the Legionnaires’ attention away from their food. “Rowe. If you go hunting - be sure to have your permit. Only early morning or early evening, remember?”
All eyes turned to see Kyle Armalin - the U.S. Marine Corps Major General who was also the current Adviser to the Legion - standing next to Jacks, a tray in hand. “Morgendorffer. I need you to authorize a Gridrunner for an overnight flight.”
He paused, and then looked directly at Tom. “Grab a change of clothes and pick a teammate, Sloane. We’re taking a trip. You may need backup - or at the least, moral support. Wheels up in an hour. Eat quickly, or grab something to go.”
Jacks glanced in Tom’s direction.“I could fix you up something for the plane, Mr. Sloane. I noticed that you and Miss Morgendorffer both like the house special pizza - we’ve been doing half-pizzas for carry-out.”
“He’ll have a carry-out, Jacks - and I keep telling you to call me ‘Daria’.
It was only then that Tom noticed the watch Jacks was wearing - or, more accurately, the Mark 31 psi-augmenter he wore.
“Wait a minute. You’re a telepath. You’re an Axehead?”
The young man drew himself to attention in an instantly-recognizable manner. “Cadet Third Class Jacks, Mr. Sloane. Mental Enhancement Program - with a minor in culinary arts.”
He didn’t mention that he was a low-powered telepath - a mid-range Class Two, and far less powerful than Daria (which is why he wore his Mark 31 at all times when he was at Legion Tower) - but with the scuttlebutt that this ass Sloane was afraid of telepaths, why say anything?
“I had to jump through a lot of hoops to get on the line here in the Tower’s food service - and between weekend trips up to Boston and NYC, selfies with Legionnaires and working with Lauriel Bestard-Ribas...? The next six months are beyond.”
Tom turned to Daria. “You didn’t mention that we had already replaced Julia.”
Julia cleared her throat loudly - Tom hadn’t noticed her until that moment - and Daria shook her head. “We haven’t. She’s still our USAES Cadet Liaison until June. You were incommunicado the day of that meeting.”
“Turns out that a lot of cadets wanted in here through their internships,” Julia said, her feelings absent from her voice. “Better be careful, Sloane. There’s some really cute Third Years who started working security detail, food service and administration last week - and the Sarge won’t like anyone messing with them.”
Daria took the plate Jacks offered (roast chicken legs, stuffing, mashed potatoes with gravy and mixed veggies) and a slice of cherry pie as she leaned back in Tom’s direction.
“Oh, and for my ‘good deed of the day’ - something you should know,” she said, her volume low, so only Tom could hear. “It’s about that mental block that you have in your head - the one that you learned about at the Academy? It completely blocks people from reading your mind, and they can only get your surface thoughts if you actually project out to them.”
As Tom looked at her with a sense of wonder, both Julia and Stacy cocked their heads as if they suddenly heard something very interesting...
“It’s like spraying a cat in the face with a squirt bottle. It doesn’t really hurt, but it’s annoying - and sooner or later, either the cat gets the hint and stays away, or gets tired of it and goes for the hand with the bottle.”
Daria sighed. “I thought I’d tell you so you’d stop bothering telepaths by worrying that you’re being scanned. Oh - and try the chicken or the pizza. Jacks gave up working in the Senate Dining Room when he found out he could get in here to finish up his internship year. He made the pizza tonight. The man has a gift when it comes to baked foods.”
26 April 2018