Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Hero Lunch: Tony's Diner

Hero Lunch:  Tony's Diner
Mark A Davis

John Blume was Boy Secretary -- a young man who dressed in women's clothes and worked as a secretary for one of the best-known supergroups in the world, The New League of Two-Fisted Justice.  He manned the front desk of their fancy new headquarters in New York.  Once upon a time he had been a sidekick to Grandpa Anarchy, known then as Boy Waitress, but while he kept in shape and knew some martial arts, he'd never had super powers.  These days he was just a man in a dress with a fancy name.  The job did come with some perks, however -- he knew some of the world's most powerful heroes on a first-name basis, and he even had his own trading card, part of the Sonny's Collectibles Sidekicks of Grandpa Anarchy line of cards.

Mind you, some very marginal heroes with extremely questionable powers were included in that card set.  Boy Secretary's was one.  Still, it was pretty neat.  He had the card framed on his wall at home.

John had a neatly-trimmed beard and long blonde hair in twin braids that fell past his shoulders.  Today he was wearing a blue dress with a sailor collar, white tights and black Mary Janes.  He glanced up from his desk as someone in green and white power armor flew down and landed in front of the building.  Circuit Girl entered and made her way to the elevators.  "Good day, Miss Circuit Girl," he said with a smile.  "Saved the world again?"

"I wish," the young woman replied.  "I spent the entire morning dealing with the mayor.  There have been more complaints about our saucers making too much noise at night.  I told him crime knows not day or night...."

"This sounds like something Grandpa Anarchy or Dark Dr. Dark should be dealing with," Boy Secretary noted.  "They are co-leaders of the group, are they not?"

Circuit Girl smirked.  "In this group, being leader means avoiding as much responsibility as possible.  Say, what are you doing for lunch?"

"No idea," said Boy Secretary.  "I forgot to bring anything...."

"Have you ever eaten at Tony's Diner?" the heroine asked.

"I don't think so," Boy Secretary replied.  "Is that nearby?"

"It's... quite a hike, I guess you'd say," she replied.  "It's on Lavender Avenue, right in front of the palace."

The boy's forehead wrinkled.  "Um... Lavender Avenue?  Palace?"

The girl grinned.  "Just come with me, and you'll see," she said.  "Lunch is on me."

Circuit Girl led the boy upstairs, where she changed into her regular costume.  She led him through several security checks and to a room with a large dimensional portal.  This was a a giant circle of carved metal, with a ramp leading up to it.  Strange symbols marked the outer perimeter of the circle at regular intervals.  It was like a large alien clock without hands.  The center was a liquid surface of pure aqua blue, as if it was a wishing well on its side.  It hummed like an electric generator.

Boy Secretary stared in wonder.  "Wow," he said.  "I've never used the gateway before."

"It's perfectly safe," Circuit Girl replied.  "We use it all the time."

"This diner isn't in New York?" he asked.

"Not even close," Circuit Girl replied.  She set the coordinates, and the two stepped through.

They found themselves in a futuristic room with smooth white walls and a similar gateway.  The walls vibrated softly.  The floor was rubber tile.  Circuit Girl led him out of the room and down a hallway.  They passed a window, which Circuit Girl pointed out.  Boy Secretary glanced out and came to a full stop.  What he saw outside was a starry field of black with a green-blue earth below them, partly in darkness.

"Oh my stars!  We're in space?" he exclaimed.  "It's... beautiful!"

At the same moment, a young woman in a silver bikini and go-go boots appeared at the far end of the hallway.   She had auburn hair and wore a belt with a holstered blaster.  A pleasant, disembodied female voice said, "Welcome to S.I.S.B. Space Station Terra.  My name is Valerie 9000.  Please feel free to ask me anything."

"Oh, hey!  Circuit Girl!" the girl in the bikini exclaimed, approaching.  "Who's your friend?"

"Eve, this is Boy Secretary,  who is our secretary at the New League of Two-Fisted Justice headquarters," Circuit Girl replied.  "Boy Secretary, this is Eve the Explorer.  She's a member of the Society of Intergalactic Space Babes, and has been manning this station for the last few months."

Belatedly, Boy Secretary noted Eve's S.I.S.B. belt buckle.

  "We were headed to Tony's Diner for lunch," Circuit Girl added.

"Oh wow, really?" Eve exclaimed.  "I've never been.  Can I come with you?"

"Of course you can!" Circuit Girl replied.

The trio went down the corridor and into another room with a gateway much like the other.  "That other is the local gateway," Eve said.  "It's mostly used to pop down to earth, and to stay in contact with the League, and the Archons, and the Black Moon Maidens.  There's an interstellar gateway as well, but this one is specifically for transport to another station in another dimension."

"Wait.  Another dimension?" Boy Secretary asked, coming to a halt.

"Don't worry, it's as simple as stepping through the portal," Circuit Girl said.

They stepped through.  They appeared in a room that was broadly similar to the one they'd left -- with a gateway and an ramp leading up to it -- but it was also quite different.  The walls were wood and polished brass, with rivets and pipes and dials everywhere one looked.  The gateway itself was somehow more ancient and more imposing, a massive device of steel and brass and copper wire and moving parts, although clearly it performed exactly the same function as its futuristic counterpart.

"Wow.  This looks very different," Boy Secretary said.  There was even music playing -- the sounds of a string quartet.

A female automaton in a flowing silver gown awaited them.  "Welcome to S.I.S.B. Space Station Amethyst," she said.  "My name is Valerie 1895.  Circuit Girl I know, and I've met the lovely lady Eve.  This lovely man in the fetching blue dress can be none other than Boy Secretary, whom I have never met.  Again, welcome."

"Amethyst?"  Boy Secretary's face scrunched up.  "I think I've heard of that... it's a fairyland, right?"

"That is correct," said Valerie 1895.  "Grandpa Anarchy and the S.I.S.B. helped repel an invasion of Amethyst from space, after which this station was built to help patrol the stars above the fairyland and protect it.  I run the entire station -- I am, of course, a copy of Valerie 9000, adapted for a more steampunk setting.  As you might imagine, modern technology does not fare well in a magic-based fantasy setting.  The more steampunk our technology appears to be, the better it works, strangely enough.  Which is of course why I was given a physical, automaton body."

"I see," said Boy Secretary.  "Well, it's nice to meet you."

"What can I do for you three today?" the automaton asked.

"We came to have lunch at Tony's Diner," Circuit Girl said.

"I see.  Step this way, please."

The automaton led them past thick glass portholes and to yet another room with a gateway.  Along the way Boy Secretary saw several generic Space Babe automatons seated at desks or standing before terminals and work stations.

One final trip through a portal brought them to a room of marble and wall tapestries.  Zombies in armor stood at attention, looking at nothing in particular.  The reek of death was present, although not overpowering.  Boy Secretary wrinkled his nose.

"The Amethyst gateway is in in the palace of the Necromancer King -- unfortunately," Circuit Girl said.  "Come, I'll show you the way.

She led them out of the palace, across a square, and through tall golden gates, also guarded by zombie soldiers.  They stepped onto a wide cobble road.  Jeweled spires and domes arose around them, with colorful violet flags flapping in the breeze.  They passed a wide square with stalls filled with merchandise lined up along the walls, with throngs of people in colorful clothing.  Many of them wore things that seemed folkish or of a style more than a century old, with many tall, broad-brimmed hats with buckles on top, breeches, and women in full skirts that brushed the ground.  But there was no time to explore -- Circuit Girl led the group to a place where stood a long silver diner car -- just like those one might have seen in the Northeastern U.S. in the 1930's or 1940's.  It resembles a sleek aluminum rail car, with a long counter inside fronted by round silver stools with red leather seats, and by booths with red leather seating on the other side.

The place was busy but not too crowed.  The three found a booth and were barely seated when a waitress appeared.  This was a young tiger girl, with a catlike face, pointed ears, and orange fur with black stripes.  She wore a red dress with a white apron over it.

"Circuit Girl, welcome back!  What can I get ya?" she asked, in imitation of a Jersey accent.  She handed each a menu.

"We'd like time to decide, Katherine," Circuit Girl said.  "This is the first time here for my two friends."

"Take alla time you like!" the waitress exclaimed.  She disappeared, returning with glasses of water and napkins and utensils.  She poured coffee for each of them.

Boy Secretary was still taking in the diner.  There was a clock on the wall with the logo for the New York Giants on it, and also a Yankees banner on the wall.  There was circular glass case filled with cakes and pies.  The menu was exactly what one might expect from a diner in New Jersey or New York -- lots of fried food, with burgers, fries, and grilled sandwiches dominating.

The man at the grill turned out to be Tony himself -- a jovial, portly man in a white tee shirt and stained apron.  He saw Circuit Girl and called out to her.  "Hey there, Circuit Girl, Darlin'!" he exclaimed.  "Ain'tchoo gonna introduce mes to yer beautiful friends?"

"Hey, Tony," she replied.  "This is Boy Secretary, who mans the front desk at our supergroup headquarters, and this lady is Eve the Explorer, who is a member of the Society of Intergalactic Space Babes and runs their station Terra above earth."

"Youse both looks lovely today," Tony said with a smile.

"Why is there a New Jersey diner in the middle of a fairyland like Amethyst?" Boy Secretary asked.

"Well," said Tony, "that's a funny story.  I usedta owns a diner like this ones in Jersey, but one day this tornado comes along and carrys it away.  Grandpa Anarchy and Unpossible Man were there, and we all winds up here in this here Amethyst fairyland.  After a bunch of adventures, that there Necromancer King asks me to stay as his personal fry cook -- see, he was dependin' on zombies to cooks for him before that, and I ain'ts gotta tell youse what a disaster that was."

Boy Secretary blanched at the thought.  "I can imagine," he said.

"Well one things leads to another, I get Mildred to come here, and heres we are," Tony said.  "I'm the official cook o' the palace, but I also runs this here diner durings the day."

Katherine returned to their table.  "Decide on what you want yet?" she asked.

"I think," said Boy Secretary, "that I'll have the grilled veggie sandwich, with fresh fruit...."

Tony made a face.  "That ain't real food," he growled.  "That's only ons there 'cause that Princess Amethyst insisted."

"And it's what I'm ordering," Boy Secretary replied.  "It's on the menu, after all."

"Yeah, yeah," said the cook.  "I'll makes it, but I won't likes it."

"The turkey cheese steak for me," Circuit Girl said.  "What about you, Eve?"

"I'll have the mac 'n' cheese burger!" Eve exclaimed hungrily.

"Coming right up!" Tony called out.  "Don't forgets to saves room for dessert!  My Mildred makes the best pecan pie in alla Amethyst!"

"I would suspect," said Circuit Girl, "that she makes the only pecan pie in all of Amethyst."

"Dat's true," Tony agreed.  "But trust me, it's really good!"

The food was excellent -- even the grilled veggie sandwich that Tony was so loathe to make.  For dessert Boy Secretary ignored the pecan pie and instead picked a cake made with fairyberries and lavender zuna seeds, which were as small as poppy seeds but added an incredible flavor to the cake.  "After all," Boy Secretary reasoned, "it would be a waste to travel all this way for lunch and just eat food that I might easily find back home in New York."

By this time Tony's wife Mildred had shown up.  She was a round, smiling woman who, it turned out, was from Kansas City originally.  She liked living in Amethyst, and retold the story of their arrival from her point of view.

"So one day a tornado comes along and picks up the diner and carries it away.  I thought my poor Tony was a goner.  They never found a body, of course.  Turns out he was in fairyland having adventures with Grandpa Anarchy, who knew?  I found out weeks later when this Necromancer King shows up on my doorstep with Tony in tow.  We barely had time to sell the house before he whisked us away to his kingdom.  But you know, it's all right.  You don't age here unless you want to -- you gotta like that!  Of course, I was already 46 when I got here -- you think they coulda found me when I was 25 maybe?"

"Mildred was a beauty whens she was 25," said Tony.

His wife scowled.  "You saying I ain't beautiful now, Old Man?"

"Nah, youse is still beautiful," Tony said, his face flushing red.  "I loves ya Babe, youse knows that.  I'm just saying...."

Mildred laughed.  "He's so easy to tease," she said.  "That's what I love about him.  That, and he does most of the cooking.  By the way, did he tell you about his magical frying pan?"

"More than once," Eve replied.

Boy Secretary checked his watch.  "It's getting late," he said.  "We've already been gone two hours...."

"Relax," said Circuit Girl.  "Time flows differently between dimensions.  We take our time and still get back to New York an hour after we left, no problem.  That's the other reason I love coming here -- apart from the food.  I still say Tony runs the best diner on two worlds.  We'll even stop in to see my brother before returning, he'd kill me if we didn't...."

"It's certainly been the most unusual lunch break I've ever experienced," Boy Secretary said.  "Or ever will experience, I suspect."

There was a twinkle in Circuit Girl's eye.  "You've never been to the Slice of Time Bar and Grill, have you?" she asked.

"Um... no?" replied Boy Secretary.

"A brontosaurus burger might change your mind," she said.

The door to the diner slammed open and a young boy in purple knee britches and a matching waistcoat with bright brass buttons charged in.  "Circuit Girl, Circuit Girl!" he exclaimed.  "Come quick!"

"Alisto?"  Circuit Girl stood. "What is it?"

"My sister Annaballa has been kidnapped by Wicked Eustace of the Barren Pines!  She said she was gonna transform her into a Wooly Willow tree!"

"Oh, my goodness!" exclaimed Mildred.  "The poor girl!"

"But... transform her into a tree?"  Boy Secretary frowned.  "Why would she do that?"

"I don't know," the boy said.  "She's a wicked witch!  That's the kind of thing they do!  You're a hero, Circuit Girl, you've got to save her!"

"I have a spare power suit in the palace..." Circuit Girl said.  She glanced at her two companions.  "I can do this, and we'll still get back in time.  You don't mind waiting for me, do you?"

"Wait for you?" Eve said, brandishing her gun.  "What are you talking about?  We're both heroes, too -- we're coming with you!"


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