Lunch At Merlini's

Summary:
August 8, 2014: Vorpal needs food badly. Encounters Fire Elemental. Shoots the Food.

Baxter Building - New York City

The Baxter Building, home of the Fantastic Four. A twenty-one story skyscraper in the 'concrete gothic minimalist' style, it's notable for the floating circle-four hologram that hovers over it at various times. Like all Manhattan skyscrapers, it has the usual "public space" at the street level.

Directory
- - -
Ground Floor: Baxter's Grill, a 'Mom-n-Pop' style diner serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner until 9pm
The Chancery, an upscale restaurant with a nice wine bar, open afternoons and evenings until 10pm.
Merlini's Specialties, a popular place for sandwiches and desserts. They sell 'artisanal fair-trade coffee and chocolates' and are open from 8am, closing at 7pm and re-opening at 9pm until 10:30pm. All three restaurants use the public space for outside seating in appropriate weather.
- - -


Characters

NPCs

  • Willy Lumpkin
  • HERBIE
  • Coffee Shop Guy

Mood Music:
[*<http://insert.video.or.music.link.here>]


Lunch is good. Sunday brunch, well, a little late for that. Johnny Storm is a little bit hung-over, a little bit incognito, as much as he ever is anyway. He's sitting at a sun-shaded bench in the mini-garden outside of Merlini's with a medium-huge sandwich (the Storm Front Special) containing pepperoni, pastrami, linguini, pepperoncini, radish sprouts, mustard, red onions and cream cheese, and on a garlic hoagie. The joke being that Storm Front is Johnny Storm's little auto racing company that could, and he chose the ingredients because they give almost everyone gas.

He's also got a very large mug of iced coffee with no sugar or cream.

The 'incognito' is due to his NOT wearing his FF uniform (neither the blue nor red version) but instead, wearing chinos, a henley, and a light shell jacket with the Storm Front logo, and a backwards baseball cap. It's easy for anyone who knows better, to recognize him.

~

Crime knows of no lunch breaks- but unfortunately, stomachs do. Vorpal is not exactly incognito- he can be if he chooses to do so, but where is the fun in that? Hiding his nature would mean depriving the world of double-takes and boggling looks at the walking, upright feline. And so, 'clocking out' temporarily, the young man makes his way to where the food is.

He doesn't even bother to change out of his uniform because- well, it would defeat the purpose. After Flash and the other guys managed to get the team featured in the newspapers with a Swedish sponsorship, subtlety went out the window to the beats of "Mamma Mia."

Sandwiches sounded damned good, and relatively nutritious while lightweight, so why not?

The Cheshire walks in, hands in the pockets of his sleeveless band jacket and grinning at everyone as he makes his way in.

~

The sandwich shop layout is typical of such places: a "coffee only" line, for those in need of fast caffeine now; and a "sandwiches/desserts and coffee" line for the rest of the customers. This being the afternoon, the dessert bar is smaller, the sandwich bar larger, and the man at the bar says, "Hey, wasn't you in the papers yestiddy?" at the purple bipedal cat.

Meanwhile, a shining white and silver thing shaped like a Pixar special effect has gotten off one of the elevators, and hovers quickly past Willy Lumpkin and out the front doors, spinning in place then orienting on the man in the racing team jacket. It heads towards him, holding a pair of running shoes on the end of one robot-claw hand.

"Mr. Johnny. You forgot your shoes again. You know you should dress completely before coming into the public parts of the building," it says in a prissy sort of scolding voice.

"Aww, thanks Herb," Johnny answers. The robot drops the shoes and whirls, spotting Vorpal in the line.

"Anomaly detected. Scanning." Faint yellow rays flicker in Vorpal's direction.

~

"Something like that," Vorpal says pleasantly, "Mostly my team-mates, though— what's looking good on the menu? Anything with salmo—"
The Cheshire's question is stopped short, however, when the rays shine on him.
"… am I getting a tan?" He asks, puzzled, and then looks in the direction of the rays. "Is Wall-E fixating on me or somethin'?"

~

"Salmon? We got lox and cream cheese with red onion on a poppy seed bagel, special on Sundays," the sandwich guy says. He looks over at HERBIE. "Nah. That's just that butler robot from the FF. It's harmless."

The man waits to see if Vorpal wants the bagel, because the other alternative, the spicy salmon on Japanese rice crackers, is just someone's weird idea of fusion food.

Johnny slips his shoes on, and then looks up at HERBIE.

"What's it say?"

"Nothing, Sir," the robot butler says petulantly. "Unable to identify anomalous energies. Dr. Richards would find this fascinating, if he were present."

"Yeah, but he and Sue are visiting Ancient Mesopotamia, aren't they? Or something like that? With Ben?"

~

"That sounds wonderful, thank you…" Vorpal says, sounding rather absent-minded and taking his wallet out to pay.

"Didn't your mama tell you it was rude to scan?" he says with a grin, good-humorely as he snaps his fingers. A small rabbithole in reality appears, and one behind HERBIE- so that the little robot ends up scanning himself instead of Vorpal.
The Cheshire grabs his bagel and, with a grin, walks up to the Fantastic and his robot. "Not that I don't mind the flattery at being scanned, but I usually go for dinner and a movie first before I have my cellular composition and other things under the microscope."

~

"Oh, sorry," Johnny says. "But Reed's kinda paranoid since that Mole guy and the french maid Doombot and the Mad Hatter Size Five Club and …"

HERBIE makes a Pbbbt! noise. "Scan corrupted. Dimensional warp detected. Archiving preliminary findings. Subject is not overtly hostile. Do you wish back-up?"

Johnny laughs. "No, HERBIE, go back upstairs. I'm sure it's fine."

HERBIE seems to mutter in passing, "I am a robotic guard drone, I do not have a mother."

~

"He's adorable," Vorpal remarks as HERBIE makes his exit. "I'd totally want one just to annoy Flash." Bagel plate in hand, he looks at Johnny. "As I live and breathe, Mr. Storm, out here in plein air and all." He lowers his voice "… I should be a bit more subtle, lest you get mobbed for autographs."

~

"Nah, I'm safe here, everyone knows I charge a hundred bucks for autographs at the Baxter Building. For charity."

Johnny nods at the bench. "Care to sit down, Captain Tenniel, and explain why a purple cheshire cat is a thing?"

Don't let it get back to Ben that Johnny actually remembers the name of the illustrator for Alice in Wonderland. Ben thinks Johnny's an idiot, a carefully cultivated impression on Johnny's part.

~

Vorpal raises an eyebrow, catching the reference. Taking a seat and putting his bagel down, he leans back on the chair. "You sure you want to know? It's a rather convoluted stories. It is so convoluted that in fact it is two stories convoluting into one."

~

"Well, if you know who I am you've already seen my U-Tube feed so you know how I got to be the hottest thing in town. So, yeah, go for it!"

Johnny leans back, ignoring the sandwich and instead drinking coffee. Because the sandwich suddenly doesn't smell like the best thing ever even though a few minutes ago he wanted it more than staying in bed. Apparently, he only wanted two bites of it.

~

"Amen to that," Vorpal jokingly adds to 'the hottest thing in town.' "Alright. Once upon a time. Or twice upon a time, there was a young man who worked very hard for the money. Sort of like Donna Summer, but without the pink waitress uniform. And there was also a spirit of mischief, a creature thousands of years old who went around creating mischief where'er he went…"

As Vorpal speaks, a storybook appears on the table and little figures appear on the pages and spring up, walking around as if they were animated.
"The spirit of mischief went around the world playing pranks and jokes on everyone— the Cait Sidhe, the Tiger in the Mirror, the Baka Neko, these are all names that people gave him. The spirit was a shapechanger, but it always returned to the shape of a cat. And then, one day, the Yellow Emperor, the precursor of his August Personnage of Jade, heard the cries of his people who were beset by mischief day and night… and, using his great magics, he trapped the spirit into the legendary Mirror of Heaven. From that point on, the cat would see the ages pass by without being able to escape from his prison…"

He waves a hand, "Meanwhile, on page two, several thousands of years later, a young man was just minding his business, working in a warehouse until a certain antique dealer decided to store very rare and exquisite items in said warehouse." He leans back. "With me so far?"

~

Johnny pokes a finger at the edge of the storybook. He pulls his hand away, snaps the fingers, and a flame appears on his thumb, then takes humanoid form and steps down a set of "fire stairs" that appear before and fade behind it, until it stands on the floor of the "warehouse" looking around at the things there.

Johnny, however, is simply grinning quietly to himself.

~

Vorpal chuckles at that. "Nice… well, as these things are wont to happen, circumstances conspired and the young man ended up smashing up against the mirror, where a shard of it penetrated his chest- bam, right through his heart." Vorpal snaps his fingers. "Dead on the spot. Except not really— the Tiger in the Mirror and the boy's soul sort of merged together… and the young man ceased to exist, as did the Tiger in the Mirror. In their stead was a sort of amalgam of both, with bits of both but being really neither, but a brand spanking, rather sexy new being." He leans back, arms behind his head. "Oh, yeah, and the Cheshire thing? The kid had a soft spot for the Alice in Wonderland stories. Since the Tiger preferred a feline form… I guess he decided this would do. I think he didn't realize what would become of him when he manipulated chaos around the mirror so that the guy fell through the mirror instead of dying from a broken neck. I bet he was betting on surviving, since he had bet against the odds for so long. Karma's a bitch, sometimes."

~

Johnny ponders this for all of 0.05 microseconds before he comes up with the worst possible metaphor and blurts it right out.

"So, you're like the bouncing baby of the story, the tiger was the sperm and Keith was the egg and POP! Not even nine months later, there you are, making your parents wish they'd been using protection. Instead of the rhythm method."

~

Vorpal smirks. "See, this is why I don't reveal my Secret Origin. From this point on, I'll say that I am the son of Tigra and Nightcrawler from an alternate timeline. Thank you for that image— if you suggest that I wear diapoers from now on, I swear I will anvil you."

~

"Oh god no. Please. No diapers. I saw a web page once… the videos… it was horrible… grown men in dog suits and diapers… never going on the internet again, nope nope nope," Johnny says, hamming it up. He drinks some coffee and grins at the Cheshire Cat. The little flame dude leaps into the air, flies around Johnny's head once and then into one ear and (apparently) out the other, before waving and flickering out. Johnny takes a bite of the sandwich, once again interested in food, and swallows, and burps a little.

"Ah, there's the Storm Front special effect," he mutters.

~

"Dude, don't complain- the moment I start getting famous, just try to imagine what kind of pictures those guys are going to draw of ME." Vorpal hehs, munching on his bagel.

"So, does that origin story satisfy your thirst? I've got others, if you want more."

~

"Nah, it's fine, I always prefer the virgin pressing when I can get it," Johnny says. "'sides which, I know what they're going to draw of you. I've been in the public's eye for the last six years or so. Apparently, according to Racer xXx, which is a person I will punch even if it turns out to be a girl, I win races by 'exhausting' the other race drivers the night before in a multi-person orgy. Now, I admit to having stamina, but that's just ridiculous. And that doesn't even get close to the stuff on the Human Torch slash sites."

Yes. The sandwich IS helping the hangover, as is the vat o' coffee. Storm eats a few more bites and drinks about half of the coffee before he has to stop again to let things … settle.

~

Vorpal raises an eyebrow. "Geez. It sounds like the fictional versions of you are getting more action than you are. I'd sue," he says, with mischief.

~

"Yeah, it does almost sound like that," Johnny laughs. "S'not true, though, don't belive Ben's lies. For a pet rock, Mr. Grimm is pretty darn chatty."

He has only a quarter sandwich left, and he wraps it in the foil it came in, for later.

"So tell me about this Titans thing. I mean, I have the Fantastic Four gig, but I'd love to hear about how teams work when the whole 'family' thing isn't getting in the way."

"To be truthful," the Cheshire says, "I more or less got swept in the wake of the group-forming wave that is Flash. So far, I am more or less going with the flow because… hey, I'm here to be a hero, so why not? I expect that soon I'll be able to settle down and find out what exactly is it that I'm supposed to be doing."

~

"Really? If that's the case, well, I've got some bad news. Eventually things do settle down, but you never find out what you're supposed to be doing," Johnny says, and chugs the rest of the coffee, then emits a belch into the mug. Classy. Truly classy. Expect a scolding robot to come down and chide him for this any second now.

He says, "That's better. Anyway, I'd invite you up except some machine of Reed's might try to grab you, and there's all sorts of portals and stuff that you probably would want to look in — I know I do — but you'd probably be able to. I can't, Reed's got the dangerous stuff me-proofed."

~

Vorpal laughs at this, "Well, tell you what, you can wait until Reed and co. come back from … ancient Mesopotamia, and ask him to Vorpalproof the floor for me."
The cat takes out a card. "I'm not that hard to get a hold of. This is the number at the Embassy where we're staying for now."

~

Johnny takes the card, and pulls one of his own out of his jacket pocket; his is on a very thin strip of finely woven glass and metal, because it's fireproof.

"My personal number is on there but you have to warm it up to 100 degrees to see it," Johnny grins. "Otherwise you get HERBIE."

He pulls a phone out of the same pocket in the jacket and takes a picture of Vorpal's card, front and back, because, well, he's likely to set it on fire between now and when he gets back inside.


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