pre the LunchCounter

A short vignette by Kenjiro Cross (Robert Haynie)

Standard Disclaimer- they aren't mine, never were, never will be,
we ALL know who they belong to, if you don't than where have you bee Hiding, come On. Oh, except for Handoki-san. He's original. ^_^

My restaurant is called the LunchCounter. It's an english word that means a place where you have a mid-day meal. That's how it started,
really, in fact, but I run 24 hours a day now... simple fast food that almost anyone can afford. I like to think I serve a better class of quick food than the ten thousand other similar espablishments in Tokyo. I rather have to, really- I have a special clientele.

I have at anytime four to six people working for me, making noodles, rice, tempura bits, sandwiches, American-style quick food, you name it. All sold, served, and eaten at the counter or at a half dozen small tables. There's always SOMEONE here eating- police on break,
night workers, students, early morning salarymen on their way to the office...

And there's the back room.

When I first opened the place, there was a room that I found myself not using. I know, in crowded Tokyo that sounds almost impossible.
But for a month after I opened,I never got around to using it... I now think that was destiny.

I first met them when there were only two- tired, battered, and improbable beyond belief. Two girls- strange, beautiful girls in wierd versions of school uniforms- and all I could think to do was offer them tea. From that, it's evolved...

It's late at night when the signal blinks and beeps. I catch my sleep in catnaps, never know when there's going to be a crisis in the kitchen or the like. the LunchCounter has a small apartment for me, the main kitchen, the main dining room, and the special small reserved backroom. Which is what the signal is about. They are coming in to wind down after a fight, grab a bit of much needed nourishment, and discuss matters for a bit. As usual.

I prepare the usual- Sandwiches for Sailor Mercury, who will spend a part of the time studying- although I have no idea WHERE she carries textbooks in that fuku (if you can call a skintight bodysuit and a miniskirt a fuku), Udon with a topping for Sailor Jupiter, unseasoned-
she adds her own, rice and tempura bits for Mars and Venus, and as much of whatever the HELL I have around for the Bishojo Senshi Sailor Moon, who can eat more than anyone I have EVER met.

There' s knock at the door, I open it. When this started it was a card table and a couple of folding chairs. Now it's a larger, finer table, with cushioned chairs, I keep a couple of folding cots in case of injury, as well as a well stocked medical kit. I see what I expected-
the Senshi- but Sailor Moon's carrying a little girl with hair that for once is stranger than hers, and behind them is someone they have mentioned more than once, but hasn't been here before- Tuxedo Kamen.

"I think I'll need another chair, then... Please excuse me."

When I bring back the extra chair, the little girl is asleep on one of the cots, Mercury is tending a scrape on Mars' arm, Jupiter is doing who knows what this time to the udon, Venus is staring at the television I had put in- what does she see in that Ranma 1/2 show?- and Sailor Moon is sitting uncomfortably next to Tuxedo Kamen.

"Tuxedo-san, what would you like to have?"

The man in the mask- it's actually a relief to realise that he's as improbably dressed as the Senshi are- shrugs. "Tea, and anything else."

And the little girl with the wierd hair opens her eyes, and pipes up, "Can I have something too? I want ice cream with chocolat sauce and nuts and sprinkles and three cherries!"

I nod. "One more Sailor Moon Special, coming up."

I should explain that- no matter what Sailor Moon eats- or how much- she always finishes up with that for dessert. I suppose fighting monsters burns off a LOT of calories, because she never seems to gain weight.

As I head to the kitchen, I can't help but sense some tension between Sailor Moon and Tuxedo Kamen. No idea of what it could be, of course... but if they want to tell me, they will. They tell me things sometimes- even Senshi need a sympathetic ear after all.

As I return with the dessert, Tuxedo Kamen is comforting the little girl, Mercury has got one of those books out again, Venus and Jupiter are relaxing with the new Megadrive and Mega-CD unit I bought for them to unwind with, and the usual stage two tongue war has started between Moon and Mars. Except for the little girl and the guy in the tux,
business as usual.

I hane the little girl her dessert, and what I has fast for Tuxedo Kamen to eat with his tea. He looks at the plate, and begins to snicker.

"Is something wrong, Tuxedo-san?" I ask, never wanting to disappoint a customer.

"No, not at all, Handoki-san. I just wasn't expecting a plate of odango."

For reasons I may NEVER understand EVERYONE but Sailor Moon breaks up in laughter. She, on the other hand, looks severely aggravated.
Perhaps it's a senshi thing.

"Shimatta!" yells Jupiter. "I lost a life!"

"Don't worry, it's free. Special for my special customers." I take my usual seat, everyone having been served, draw out a cigarrete,
strike my lighter, and frown. I forgot to fill it.

"Please, allow me, Handoki-san," says Mars, and then she whispers,
"Cinder Flare". A very small flame pops up on the end of her finger, and she lights my cigarrette.

Oh, you didn't know about that? Well, they don't use them in fighting- they found after coming here and being able to wind down that they had small powers. Cinder Flare is Mars, Close Chill is Mercury- she uses it to fast chill soda and (for me) beer in her hands, Jupiter has the Sparking Charge- lie a joybuzzer, but she ran a radio for a half hour once during a power failure, and Venus has Glowing Luminance- during the same power failure she kept that ball of light up so Mercury could study.

I don't think Sailor Moon has a small power, unless being able to pack twice as much food into her as should be possible is it.

"So," I ask, "What was it tonight?"

"Another Droid," replies Mercury. "Wierd one using bubblegum attacks."

I shake my head. As strange as the senshi might seem, thier foes go FAR beyond them in sheer unlimited wierdness. "Is this the girl you're protecting?"

Mars nods. "Um...Call her Rabbit. For now."

The little girl sticks her tongue out at Mars, who ignores it.

I raise my hand. "Miss Rabbit, I don't know or WANT to know any real names. Please indulge me in this."

She calms down, and returns to her ice cream. There's anothe muffled curse as Jupiter loses another life. "Venus, how come you're so good at this one?"

"Well," Venus replies, "It IS the new Sailor V cart."

That part I do know- she used to be Sailor V. I have an autographed animation cel she got for my wall. This has it's perks.

We quietly discuss the latest fight- Mercury took out the bubblegum with the Shine Aqua Illusion, and then Sailor Moon did her Moon Princess Halation, which I have seen in battle- talk about an improbable looking move!- and that was that. They don't yet know who the new enemy is, but they are hopeful.

At length, after an hour or so, they decide to leave. I try to insist that the bill is on the house, but they insist on paying. This time, Tuxedo Kamen, the new customer, decides to treat them all. At least in his outfit there's a place for a wallet- heaven knows WHERE the Senshi keep their purses. Probably in the same place Mercury keeps her textbooks.

As they leave, with the little girl in tow, I lock up. Until the next time, the back room will be deserted, even by me. It's a little thing, perhaps, but it's my small contribution to those who are staking everything against dark powers I'll never understand.

I sigh, wondering if- just if- someday I'll know the whole truth of the matter. I return to my bed, trusting my employees to keep the place running.

After all- it's just a lunch counter in the end.

Fin.
/pre