A Legion of Lawndale Heroes 'Mini', by Brother Grimace
Legion of Lawndale Heroes created by James Bowman
(Continuity note: this 'Mini' takes place several hours after the events of LLH 13:6, during the evening hours before the events of LLH 13:7.)
It was tough to be a guy in the Legion – that goes without saying. The women ran it – that went without saying – and especially when I joined. At that time, it was just me, Tom and Charles; soon, Bai Zheng would be there, as well as the others...
Still, it was damned hard to be in the Legion at times. Guys need to be guys, every once in a while.
- from The Accidental Legionnaire, by Michael Jordan Mackenzie
The four young men decided to crash in Tom Sloane's quarters, which despite over 1000 square feet of living space looked something like a dorm room. Despite the fact that it didn't offer the big screen TV that the floor's open area boasted, the guys decided that Sloane's place was just the place indeed – grungy enough and possessing the property of not being open to anyone coming out of the elevator.
At some point it was decided to get something to eat. The four spent too much time wandering down the aisles of the local supermarket before throwing up their hands and calling for a Cluster Burger. Afterwards, it was a quick retreat to Tom's room, where they could all shoot the ****, despite the presence of the "Axehead pukes" (as Quinn called anyone from the United States Academy of Extraordinary Studies). Rafael Vargas's affiliation with the Legion's "friendly" rivals was forgotten, and he was treated like any of the guys – there was strength in the Y chromosome.
Vargas had hoped for a short visit – he was only there to deliver forms for Julia Carlyle along with a supply of "flush" tablets. However, somehow he had found himself in a conversation with Charles Ruttheimer. Before he knew it, the four of them were a group, but he liked the company and he liked the digs.
"Okay, my turn," Mack Mackenzie said, taking a Cluster Burger and an order of fries out of the large bag before passing it on. "You're going to a family reunion, and they all think that you're married, so you need to show up with someone who they think is your wife."
He looked at the others in the living room of Tom Sloane's quarters. "Who's the girl you take along with you?"
This was an important question, and required much thought. Tom, still recuperating from his 'lover's spat' with Jane Lane, sat up in his recliner as he thought the question over.
"Your ex, Mack," he said, wincing as he reached for a burger. "She's easily the smartest girl here, and she's the type to totally get into the role if you could get her to agree to help you, so she wouldn't slip up. Plus; between her parents – especially since Mr. Landon became a billionaire overnight – and the work she's done around political types, she'd be more than able to either dodge the snooty comments or know how to slam them back over the net. She's also got great legs, and plays tennis."
Mack, Charles and Rafael all stared at Tom. "You sound like you've given a bit of thought to this beforehand, Sloane." Rafael observed.
"In my family, any wedding is barely one step down from an arranged marriage," Tom said, wincing as he reached for his glass of flavored seltzer water and sipped half of the contents down. "With the exception of Julia, Jodie's the only girl here I could actually get serious about putting a ring on her finger without risking getting cut off."
In more ways than one, he thought, remembering the mental conversation that he and Daria Morgendorffer had just after they had encountered 'The Network' – wealthy, twenty-something members of the Elite who lived a life of debauchery and disdain for law that had led to some unpleasant discoveries during the 'Gold Team's recent trip to West Texas. God knows what they would do to me, thought Tom, not to mention what the Colonel is going to say when I tell him.
I almost want to talk to David Allen or Chandni, he thought, remembering two of the Elite progeny about his age – they all knew one another, like a fraternity - who were now cadets at USAES alongside Rafael, and ask how they broke the news to the people they have to be close to – or if they did.
Tom put the glass down. "No – I'm not thinking about asking Jodie out, guys. After what's happened recently... I think it's time to stop fishing off the company docks. Well – for me, anyway."
Charles drank from his bottle of flavored water. "Julia," he said without preamble. "Langston doesn't have anything to worry about, but for what you described - Julia... or Maryann Lyter."
Mack Mackenzie ran his fingers around the top of his bottle. "Maryann?"
Charles wiped his mouth with a napkin. "Julia, if I didn't care about offending anyone. She'll always speak her mind and be ready to hit someone if they wish to take it further, even at a formal dinner – but if I wanted them to be jealous, Maryann. She's got that Angelina Jolie thing going on – you know, that look of hers that says "I know what you're thinking about when you look at me, and it's okay – I don't mind."
Tom shook his head. "Yeah, I can see that. Still, I couldn't take Maryann home with a ring on her finger. I couldn't take either of the Morgendorffer sisters home, either – even with the money they have now. Well - maybe Daria. Still - I'd have to flip a coin. Julia or Jodie."
Tom stopped talking long enough to take a big bite of his Cluster Burger, and washed it down with a big swig of sweet tea. "Maybe Alison Cockrum. I heard that she's super- intelligent, and she looks like she could be in a beauty pageant – as good as she looks in those black Phantom Eagle uniforms, think about how she'd look in an evening gown...."
"Yeah – I wouldn't go there, Chuck," Rafael cut in, pointedly ignoring Tom's comments. "Maryann would expect you to keep up the façade 24/7 – which means that you'd learn a lot more about the girl than you expected. She's not as wild – well, as open as Leda Calavicci or Sidney Simon are. Nobody would mind if you took Sidney off the market - she takes the term 'free-range' to a new level – but expect a very busy time behind closed doors."
"With Sidney, Maryann or Julia?" asked Charles, and everyone laughed.
"Why choose?" Mack replied, before drinking some of his strawberry shake straight from the cup, instead of using a straw. "Like my uncle said to some of my old hen aunts at our family reunion, 'I got married just so I could have a woman or two on the side.'"
The Academy cadet swiped some of Tom's fries as he spoke up. "Down, boys – these aren't your free-range Lawndale babes who learned about sex at a sleepover, and expect you to take them to fancy restaurants just for the possible chance of getting to hold their hand. Academy chicks work without a net. Best step up or step off when you look at one of them with plans on your mind – and best be able to carry through. Oh, Lord – do they talk. Does the phrase 'attention to detail' ring a bell?"
Charles and Mack both smiled, causing Tom to roll his eyes. "Oh, please," he huffed. "It's not like you've got an oak tree in your pants."
Mack shrugged, a nonchalant look on his face. "Nope. It's the size of a can of air freshener. A couple of inches longer, too."
Rafael almost gagged on a fry, and Charles put his right fist up 'black power' style as Tom snorted off a laugh. "That's just a myth, Mack."
"You being straight with girls is a myth – 'Air Jordan' is the reality," Mack said, directing a calm glance in Tom's direction as he pointed to his crotch. "Go ask Jodie – and if you don't believe her, grab a measuring tape on your way back."
Rafael whistled, marveling at how much the Legionnaires were like the guys at the Academy – especially the three other guys in his cadre in their B.S. sessions. "BTW - Alison's not your speed, either, Tom," he told the Legionnaire. "One – she's the smartest girl in the First Academy – maybe a couple of steps below Jodie Landon. Two – she's got an identical twin sister, Autumn, who's got the same power as Jodie and is probably just as smart as your girl is, too, and three – Alison's also got magnetic powers. You want to take another ride on that 'maglev train'?"
Rafael leaned forward, and Tom scowled – but from Rafael's words or the loss of his fries, the cadet couldn't tell. "And you really don't want to go sniffing around the duchess, either," he continued, looking Tom directly in the eye. "When we were Fourth Class, Jackson Muldoon – he was Commander of Cadets then – asked Julia out. She was almost seventeen, and she thought he was cute, so they went out a few times, and Da-"
Tom rolled his eyes, and cut Rafael's words off with a disdainful laugh. "So? If a guy likes a girl but doesn't make a move, he's not going to get her – and what does he expect? Julia's hot, and someone's going to hit it – it might as well be the guy who acts like he's got a pair and steps up."
"Spoken like a true member of the 18th Century French aristocracy. You'd step up just like Louie the sixteenth," Rafael said dryly, wondering just how low his own opinion of the boy (because having cojones doesn't make you a man, he thought very loudly, only wearing them like a man does) would sink, and momentarily wishing that he had Amorette Molyneux's hair-trigger temper. Or Quinn's temper... apparently, Lane beating you like a Navajo rug didn't teach you anything – and I wish to God that you would make a move on Julia. It would be fun betting on who would turn you inside out first – my people, or your own.
Rafael hid his scowl as he drank a good portion of his strawberry-banana shake. Dumbass. You've got three redheads here, they all have tempers and you don't seem to learn. Well, good luck, God be with you - and I'll be sure to stay clear of the blast zone.
Charles grinned, showing the expansive smile of old. "What were you saying about Maryann, Rafe? I am spoken for, personally – but your lady friend does possess - a certain charm, particularly when she wears that outfit from the battle last spring..."
"Yeah," Rafael replied. "Crop-top, low-rider jeans – and she had to have a bolero jacket, as if we haven't all noticed that yes, she's in incredible shape and has great abs. The Professor let her get away with that; he said it would be a distraction for anybody she fights."
"It's already a distraction to have one of 'Charlie's Angels 2000' picking up cement trucks and throwing them like Frisbees," Mack agreed; he decided to not mention his meeting up with Maryann and Carolyn Field during their second week at the Academy for a two-on-one VR combat session – and how he was profoundly grateful that he had some measure of self-control...
"Yeah, Maryann's got 'bed-breaker' written all over her," Rafael said, remembering how he and Maryann stayed on-campus last Christmas... and how an innocent game of 'three-man' with Maryann, three other female cadets from the Elite Academy and three cases of Czechvar beer resulted in his bed being totally demolished, being treated in the infirmary for a sprained back – and not being able to stop smiling for a month afterwards. I'll be damned if I tell that story with Sloane around, though. "Her code-name is 'Tempest' for a reason."
Mack shook his head clear, and glanced around the room to see the dreamy looks on the faces of the others, as impure thoughts flew through their minds about Maryann. "Dudes! Chill! She's a person! Yeah, she's very hot – but still-!"
"It's superpower syndrome," said Charles. "Or is it just me? Does every woman who has super powers become alluring in the extreme?"
"I wouldn't toss her out of bed for eating crackers," Tom said, remembering the day that he had met Maryann – the day the Legion first went to the Academy – and how she looked in her uniform. "Not at all."
Mack pointedly ignored Tom as he turned back to Rafael. "What about you, military man?" he asked. "Which girl would you pass off as your fake wife?"
"Oh, there's a few at the Academy that could work – but I think that I'd pull from your side of the lake," the Latino cadet said, scarfing down the last of Tom's fries before he continued. "She's sweet, she's attractive – she's got world-class legs – and she seems like she'd be eager to please."
Mack had been in a number of conversations with Trent Lane since he'd joined the Legion – many on the subject of the female members of the team – and the warning sign flashed on in his head. "Oh, man. You don't mean-"
"I'd take Stacy."
Rafael wondered why Mack and Tom winced and turned away as if they had both just been kicked in the groin, adding loud groans. "What?" Rafael continued. "What's so bad about her?"
"Nothing," Charles said, actually sounding insulted at his teammates' reaction. "Stacy's just – well, she wasn't that – she had a bit of a problem with self-esteem. I never understood the rationale behind that – our lovely Miss Rowe was always the most beautiful member of the once-and-now-blissfully-departed 'Lawndale High Fashion Club' – but, I suspect that prolonged exposure to the double-barreled character assassination that defined Quinn Morgendorffer and Alexandra Griffin has taken a toll upon her."
Tom looked at Charles in disbelief. "Are you sure that you don't have a thing for her?"
Charles responded with an accompanying glare capable of sterilizing oceans. "The only thing you've ever had for women is in your shorts – and like your respect for them, it isn't much. Some of us can be friends with a girl – and it isn't because 'we can't be more."
The first male Legionnaire leaned back; the sarcasm dripping from him like venom. "You – don't know how to be friends with a woman... do you, Tom?"
Tom gave right back. "At least my women didn't come out of magazines and third-dub VHS tapes. I know all about your famous 'collection'."
"Oooo! The ghhhreat Tom Sloane is going to enlighten us with the vast expanses of his knowwwwledge with the fair-ah sex! Do go on, Mistah Sloane!" said Charles, clutching an imaginary set of pearls. "We wilt at the firepower of your romantic acumen, as illustrated by your relationship with the fair Miss Lane, and the lovely lady with the Ring who dropped by recently!"
Charles took a sip of water, and then continued. "I'll have you know that they're all first-generation re-mastered DVD's – and you forget that we both matriculated at Fielding. The reports of your women 'coming' are greatly exaggerated."
"Regardless of what Charles said on how she got that way - the word about Stacy Rowe is 'clingy'," Mack said, cutting Tom's reply off with words and a warning glance to both of them before turning back to Rafael. "Oh, hell no. I remember what a few guys from Lawndale High – guys who actually treat girls decently – said about her. Be her friend if you want, but if you show her anything like affection, you'd better either be ready to marry her, or start looking over your shoulder for when she comes after you, 'Fatal Attraction'-style."
"Like your friend Tiffany is about David Allen?" Rafael asked. "You know, either she's really got a thing for him and it's coming out in the weirdest way, or she's still mad at him for that VR thing!" Rafael grabbed another handful of fries. "Is she really that shallow - that she's sworn jihad on the guy because he made her look like she was fat?"
Laughter rocked the room, dispersing the tension like morning fog. "What - did I say something funny?" Rafael looked about the room, confused. "What?"
"Yes, the beauteous Miss Blum-Decker is that shallow," Charles spoke up, as he and the other Legionnaires nodded in unison. "She takes being slender to another level. That's the Danger Zone, Good Sir."
"Hey – is it true that her parents are two women?" Rafael asked. "Not trying to be a freak – I mean, other people are raised by gay parents, too. Julia's mother and her partner have been together since they were in college."
"I've seen Miss Blum and Miss Deckler a few times, but Tiffany doesn't talk about them much, or about her father," Mack informed his guest. "I've only seen him once – that was way back in second grade. I barely remember what he looks like. And gossip – and you know what gossip's like – is that Ms. Blum is a crazy shut-in. She hasn't left the house in years."
"Okay. Rowe's damaged goods, Blum-Deckler's a thin freak with the depth of a teaspoon, Taylor's not the fastest ship in the fleet, the older Morgendorffer's a sarcastic chick who doesn't drive stick-" Rafael said, reaching for Charles' fries and finding a king cobra – a real King Cobra, poised to strike - looking down at him before drawing his hand back. "The younger one gives all-around new meaning to 'sticker shock', Lane's hot but bats for distance, and Griffin was born again hard as one of the 300."
No one even paid attention to the physical transformation. Rafael lamented his empty box of fries. "Are the other ladies who show up around here as much fun?"
Tom gave the visiting leader of The Alliance a strange, inquiring look. "You know Julia."
"Okay, just wondering," he said, watching as Charles returned to his normal form, and reached out to finish the fries that Vargas wanted so badly. "The Duchess can be a handful. Not even remotely what I meant, guys."
Rafael tossed a look at Mack. "Your turn in the confessional, Mackenzie. If you had to do the 'fake wife' thing, who would choose?"
Mack sat back in his chair. "Hmm. Okay. The girl I'd choose – and I swear upon a stack of Bibles and my grandmother that if any of you ever say this to any of them and especially her, I'll turn you into a charcoal briquette – is Daria."
The other guys exploded with laughter. "You have some nerve, Mackenzie!" Rafael cackled. "And you're talking about my choice-!"
"Not even if you paid me – well, not anymore!" Charles chimed in. "The time was when I'd have killed to go out with Daria, but the way she is now - with psychic powers-? Get real! "
"No – just think about it," Mack said, holding his hands out. "She could handle anyone she came across, she'd never blow your cover, no matter what anyone said or did, and she projects that she'll make a really good wife! When you get to know her, she's really gentle, and she's got this tiny, perfect little smile... Anyone who talks to Daria will go away thinking that I made a great choice, and that I'm lucky to have gotten this one!"
"Yeah, yeah," Tom said, inwardly smiling as he just had his feelings about Daria's suitability as a potential wife confirmed by someone totally different from him. "You just want to be 'the animal trainer...'
Mack looked in Tom's direction, confused. "What?"
"Jane told me about how the women on Daria's mother's side of the family are, well, more than a bit wild when it comes to, well..." Tom told him. "She said that when Daria's family went to her cousin Erin's wedding, her dad and some other guy started talking about how all Barksdale women are 'tigers in the sack'.
"Well, David Allen said that it was him kissing her that stopped Daria from stomping him into the ground with that psychic blast she has," Rafael observed. "Once he did, everything she had went right into that lip-lock. He said, 'the word of the day is 'spinner.' Leda's still has trouble walking in a straight line if you mention Daria to her. Talk about 'even the girls want her'...'"
Rafael looked about the table with pleading eyes. Mack shook his head before handing the cadet the last order of fries from the Cluster Burger bag. and Rafael, grinning, stuffed several into his mouth.
"Thanks, Mack," Rafael said, swirling a foursome of fries in ketchup before gobbling them down. "Ah... Daria's your only telepath, right?"
Charles' mind flashed back quickly to his adventure with Daria and the Planesrangers. "Yes," he said. "Thank God."
"Not so much," Rafael corrected him. "ALL telepaths are 'tigers in the sack' – or at least house cats put out of the house at night. Didn't you hear about what happened when Daria went off with all of those other telepaths at 'the Axe'?"
Tom' eyes went wide. "So...Mack likes the quiet ones," he said, enjoying the trapped look on Mack's face and the stunned look on Charles'. "It's always the quiet ones that get wild on you."
Mack started to protest, but the sound of a knock at the door before it opened gave him the escape hatch he needed. "Colonel?"
"I brought you another dose of 'flush', Sloane," Kyle Armalin said, stepping into the room. "I see you're having a bit of a visit... so, which of the girls are you talking about now?"
"Well, Rafe just let us know that one of the hotter girls over at the Academy has an identical twin sister," Mack said, smiling in a way that made Armalin shake his head.
In Quinn Morgendorffer's room, Quinn and her sister Daria, along with Jane Lane, Julia Carlyle, Stacy Rowe, Maryann Lyter (who had also come along to visit Julia, and now sat with an indecently pleased look on her face), Tiffany Blum-Deckler and Jodie Landon watched the television screen, as Fran Lawrence stood off to one side.
"Fran – you will dismantle the entire internal surveillance net you set up," Quinn said, her voice holding no negative emotion as she spoke. 'The minute after we take Appleton down."
"After the boys stop digging their own graves," Julia rang in. Oh, the next time I see you, Cadet Farrington...! You're going to have to make the first move yourself, for once. You could have asked me out yourself, instead of not talking to me for a month, except for when you had to – and trashing Jackson in the simulators wasn't necessary, either.
Oh, and I'll make sure to find a perfect way to prank you for your comments, too, Rafael. 'I can be a handful,' eh? Yeah - as if we all don't know about you doing Jell-O shots off Maryann's tummy last Christmas.
The tall redhead brushed her hair back, and her jade eyes narrowed as she focused in on Tom. As for you, you prick, Julia continued, her thoughts becoming caustic, better check the temperature in Hell... because it'll never be cold enough to let you touch me.
Amen to that, sister, Quinn thought quite loudly, as she watched the way that Julia looked at Tom.
<<Not if I see either of them first, Carlyle,>> Daria mentally projected to her new teammate, suppressing her smile at catching the last part of Julia's thoughts. <<'Spinner', eh? 'House cat put out after dark', am I? Oh, God, I just realized something – Jane just heard that. >>
"Is that a tongue hanging out on the floor, Miss Morgendorffer?" Jane laughed, noticing how her best friend's eyes had kept drifting back to Mack's image and drawing the attention of the others back to Daria. "Oh, dear, our little girl's becoming a woman..."
Daria refused to turn and face the sudden surge of laughter, or the overly pleased expression on Jane's face. "Shut up."
Jane wasn't about to let the teasing end. "I've noticed that you haven't moved from that spot, amiga, Shall we send out and restock on 'the quicker-picker upper'?"
The bespectacled Legionnaire whirled about and tossed a throw pillow at Jane, who dodged the projectile by leaping upwards and sticking to the ceiling like a spider. "Nice trick," Maryann said, managing to pull her eyes away from the screen to glance upwards as Jane lowered herself to the floor. "Got any more pizza left?"
"Back there," Jane said, pointing to the stack of four pizza boxes on the kitchen counter. "Hurry up – the Colonel's about to leave, and they'll start talking trash again!"
As Maryann rushed back with a pizza box, she accidentally bumped into Stacy, who was already annoyed by Mack and Tom's opinions – but felt strangely warmed inside by Charles's defense of her. "Hey, watch it!"
"Looks like all of the guys already do, furball," Maryann said, winking as she favored Stacy with a brilliant smile. "Join the movement. Want a piece?"
"Uh!...I...." It took a moment for Stacy to remember the double sausage and pepperoni pizza a few inches from her hand. "Hmm? Oh! Oh, yes. I'd love some."
Maryann giggled, and as she turned back to the screen, Stacy bit into her slice of pizza and chewed slowly, suddenly unnerved by the way her stomach was doing flip-flops every time she looked at their guest - just the way it did that time she happened to see Tom naked...