Tony Piccolo had some time to kill and he was hungry.
He was enjoying some, in his opinion, well deserved free time. He didn't even bother to change before leaving the boat; there were so many people walking around in uniform in Cape Quest, one more wouldn't make a difference. He was supposed to meet Lucas and Dagwood later for dinner, but that was hours from now. And his stomach was telling him to eat...NOW.
Tony didn't want to spend his afternoon waiting to be served in some restaurant. He decided portable food was the way to go and headed for the first fast food place he saw. It was surprising that places like this were still in business. After all, the main food they served was hamburgers and beef had been outlawed years ago. But, Tony figured, how often did they actually serve beef in these burgers in the old days anyway? He gave a mental shrug and went in.
The place was crowded and the line snaked around in front of the counter giving Tony plenty of time to ponder his choices. When it was his turn to order, the distracted teenage girl in the brown and orange polyester uniform asked in a harried tone, "Can I help you, sir?"
Tony, tickled by being called "sir" lost his train of thought for a moment. "Uh, yeah...I'd like a double cheese-burger and a super-large chocolate shake." The teen punched in the order on the antique machine, and then she turned around to yell in Spanish to the people preparing the food in the back. She was about to hand Tony his claim ticket when he added, "Can I have some fries with that?" The polyester clad girl rolled her eyes, punched a few more buttons and yelled again in Spanish.
"Anything else sir?" she was clearly prompting him to move along.
"Nah, that's it. Thanks." He winked at the girl and got a small smile in return for his effort.
Tony moved down the counter to wait for his food. He passed the time watching the people preparing the food in the back scurry about. Tony was jarred out of his thoughts by a person calling, "Number 75! Number 75!" Tony looked down at his ticket and waved at the boy calling out his ticket number to indicate that the food was his.
The boy came over and pushed a yellow tray with a burger and a large shake on it toward Tony. He held out his hand for Tony's ticket. Tony indicted the tray, "I'm supposed to have fries with this."
The boy looked down on his receipt. "It don't say fries here mister." So I've been demoted from sir to mister, eh? Tony thought. Tony showed his receipt to the boy, but wouldn't give it up to him. "Here, see?" Tony pointed. "I ordered fries."
"Mine doesn't say fries."
"The girl had to ring it up twice...I ordered the fries too late. She put the order in and then added the fries on, ya see?"
The boy let out a sigh of the overworked and underpaid. "I'll go get my manager."
"Just gimmie the fries...!" But the boy had already disappeared into the back. "Oh yeah, I saved *so* much time coming in here..." Tony muttered to himself.
"Excuse me sir? I'm the manager, may I help you?" Tony launched into the story again about ordering the fries after the original order had been put in. He didn't notice the manager staring at his uniform.
"Well, we can take care of that with no problem." The manager grabbed one of the teens walking by and gave him an order to grab some fries. He leaned over to the boy and whispered, "Make sure they're hot, right out of the pan." The boy shrugged and went to wait for the fries to be ready.
Tony was surprised that the manager was so helpful. And he didn't seem to be in any hurry to leave. It looked like he wanted to say something, but wasn't finding the words to say it. Tony could stand the silence no longer. "Thanks for your help. Ahh..Nice place you got here."
A look of infinite sadness passed over the manager's face, so quickly Tony thought he might have imagined it. The man had to clear his throat before he could speak. "Yes, thanks. It keeps me busy." Now that the man had started to speak it seemed a little easier to keep the conversation going.
"I see from your uniform you serve on seaQuest. How do you like that?"
"Aaah, it's alright. It beats some other stuff I could be doing."
"What about the crew? How do you like them?" The manager seemed almost desperately eager for information. Tony gave him a wary glance. What interest could a guy like this possibly have in the crew of the seaQuest?
"Uhh, they're good people." Tony looked over to check the status of his fries. He tried to will them to cook faster.
The manager picked up on Tony's uneasiness and gave a chuckle. "You must think I'm a nut." Tony didn't dignify that with a response. "You see, I ...aahhh...used to work with a guy who served on the seaQuest. He told me all about it, and I like to keep tabs on how she's doing. Ya know?"
Tony looked suspiciously at the man behind the counter. "Oh yeah. Who's your friend?" The seaQuest had only had one tour before Tony had signed on so he figured he'd at least have heard of this guy's friend.
"Ben Krieg. You heard of him?"
"Oh yeah, Lucas' friend. I heard of him." The manager's face softened momentarily at the mention of Lucas. Tony gave a conspiratorial wink, "He sounded like my kinda guy, you know. I bet the two of us woulda hit it off real good, from what Lucas tells me."
The man grinned. "How is Lucas?"
Tony grinned, "Wolenczak is wound a little tight, if you know what I mean. But I'll loosen him up. Who else did your friend know?" Tony continued to chat with the manager until long after his fries had arrived. They wound up sitting at a table near the kitchen. Tony ate while the manager regaled him with stories from the first tour of seaQuest. This guy knew all about the senior staff and had some classic stories to tell; this friend of his, Krieg, was a gold mine of information.
And Tony tried to give as good as he got. No one in their right mind would believe half the stuff that had happened with the crew of seaQuest on this tour, but this guy just took it all in. He was interested in even the smallest scrap of information about the crew.
Tony looked down at his watch and was startled to realize that it was almost time for him to meet Lucas and Dagwood. "Oh jeez! I'm gonna be late! I gotta meet Lucas and Dagwood. Wolenczak's gonna kill me!" he gave an apologetic glance to the manager.
The man stood up and offered his hand. "Sorry to have kept you so long. I should be getting back to...you know..." he pointed off toward the kitchen.
"Yeah. It was nice to meet you...uh...and....say hi to your friend Ben for me." Tony reached out to take the man's hand. "You know, you might want to tell Ben to give Lucas a call. I know he'd love to hear from him." Tony looked pointedly at the man's name tag, clearly labeled "Krieg". The two men exchanged a knowing glance.
"Yeah, I'll pass on the message. Thanks."
Tony picked up his tray and tossed his garbage out as Ben made his way back to the kitchen. He waved as he made his way out, and Ben tossed back a mock salute. Tony shook his head in wonder trying to figure how a person who'd served on the seaQuest could end up a fast-food restaurant manager. And if Krieg didn't want to make it known that this was where he'd ended up it was his business. But...Tony thought he'd just mention in passing this great new place he'd found that served the best fries, to Lucas. And they'd see what would happen from there.