"All right, ladies and gentlemen. We no longer have Jean Grey- Summers and Storm to cater to our needs, so we're going to have to cook for ourselves." I, for one, would not miss Storm's sprout-and-spinach stuffed whole grain pitas. "And so, we have a schedule." And what a schedule it was. Everyone had their own color. Menus were carefully mapped out, depending on who was cooking, with little calorie and fat gram counts next to them. There was a food pyramid on the bottom.
"Whatever happened to 'fend for ourselves'?" Tab asked, spinning a timebomb around her index finger.
"Not cost-effective. Unbalanced meals, high calorie, low nutrition. You are fighting machines. Not college students."
"We're fighting machines in need of high-octane fuel," I protested. "Like pizza."
"Try some high-octane bread," Dom suggested. "Cheaper and half the calories. Maybe we can find something protein-enriched." Uh-huh.
"Did Cable put you up to this? We know you enjoy a good junk food splurge as much as the rest of this." For the first time since I've met her, Domino looked unsettled.
"We'll deal with this later. On to the training schedule..."
Dom's schedule kind of deteriorated in terms of breakfast and lunch. No one wanted to eat what the cook for the day had made anyway, so they just scrounged up something they wanted. Dinner wasn't too bad. Especially when Terry cooked. She has more cooking talent in her little finger than all the rest of us put together. Not that Bobby and I don't kick ass at the grill, but, as Dom so aptly puts it, grilling isn't cooking: It's setting meat aflame. Speaking of aflame...
"What the hell?" I ran into the kitchen where smoke was billowing out of the oven. I waved the smoke away and reached over to turn the oven off.
"Saints!" Terry came pushing in beside me, grabbing a set of oven mitts, and pulling a pot roast from the stove. Or rather, the charred remains of what used to be a pot roast. "Ric! Ye pushed the oven up t'475? What were ye thinkin'?" I blinked at her.
"I pushed the oven up? I just came in here." She stared at me, hands on her hips. "Pot roasts cook at 375. I checked the settin's on the oven meself. If you didn't turn it up, who did?"
Well, we got pizza that night, but that didn't answer the question of the pot roast, (which Terry was still secretly blaming me for), and my books. I decided to do a little sleuthing. I dragged Tabitha to the library with me and made her help me find old newspaper articles about the hotel on microfilm. We started when it was built, its grand opening, read about the balls and dinners held in the reception rooms, the decline of business, the closing, and finally the sale to the people we bought it from. It never mentioned a ghost.
"Did you really expect it to?" Tab asked on the way back.
"I expected something. Not...nothing."
"D'oh!" Shatterstar's sword embedded itself in the metal next to my head.
"Your concentration is erratic, Julio," 'Star informed me, pulling his sword from the floor.
"Naw, really?" I grumbled, getting up.
"Is this a consequence of your obsession with the remaining essences of our new headquarters' former guests?"
"Huh?" 'Star pulled me to my feet.
"I believe you refer to them as 'ghosts'."
"Why didn't you just say so?"
'Star just looked at me. "I believe I did."
I sighed. "Sorry. I guess I just wasn't listening very well."
"Would you like to talk about it?"
Did I want to talk about it? I was basing all my suspicions on a girl who may or may not have appeared on my bed, a pile of books on the floor, and a burnt pot roast.
"No...not really." 'Star looked at me for a moment, then dropped the subject.
"Is there a Red Sox game on later?" he asked.
"Yeah, 'gainst the Pirates. Two o'clock."
"I will be there."
"'Kay. See you then?"
"Indubitably, barring an emergency."
I nodded and stood up.
"I believe I should take a shower, now."
I couldn't help it, I had to say it: "I believe that, too." 'Star looked at me. Some days, he just doesn't get it.
"Hey, guys, we want to watch the Sox."
"Tough. We're watching reruns of 'Magnum, P.I.'." Eighty rooms, eighty-five bathrooms (finally enough to go around), two kitchens, a pool (empty) and even some (somewhat dilapidated) tennis courts, but only one television. Someone has some lousy planning skills.
"Tabby. C'mon. We've seen every episode of that show. At least twice. This game is only going to happen once."
"No, it won't," Bobby said, not tearing his eyes from the screen, where Higgins was holding Magnum's rubber chicken and wrinkling his nose in disgust. "It'll be rerun on every news show from now 'til the next game."
"Well, 'Magnum' is going to be on everyday at the same exact time, doing the same exact thing he did the last time this episode was on."
"Hey, you're the one who thinks he's a detective. Why don't you stick around and see how a real man solves a mystery. It sure ain't with microfilm."
"Oh, yeah, DaCosta?" That remark made me kind of mad. "Is that why you're so hooked on that show? You wanna be a real man, too?"
"Look, Rictor--" I let him throw the first punch, but he sure didn't get first blood.
All that little exercise accomplished was a lecture on the stupidity of testosterone, compliments of Domino, and chore assignments. For my part in the 'dispute', I was awarded the job of vacuuming. Bobby got to wash the windows. I grumbled as I unwrapped a cord of indeterminate length and plugged it in. Our vacuum was a big brown lump, sort of like a cross betweena mini zamboni and an ice cream vendor's cart, that came with the hotel. It looked at least a hundred years old. I couldn't imagine how it was going to clean this entire hotel without blowing up. That was a cheerful thought. We didn't have any other vacuum cleaner. If this one broke down early, maybe I wouldn't have to finish. I liked that idea.
No such luck. As it roared to life, I realized this had to be one seriously juiced up machine. As it dragged me down the hall, I realized I was in one serious shitload of trouble. I pulled back on the handle with all my strength and managed to leverage my feet onto the ground. I was still skidding across the floor. Three rooms later, cord finally stopped unwinding from the spool and stretched taut before popping out of the wall circuit, cutting off the power. I slumped to the floor, breathing hard. It took me almost fifteen minutes to gather up the entire cord and wind it back on the spool. The vacuum cleaner went back in the closet. And Dom and I had a little talk about shopping for new appliances.
I would come to regret that little talk. Cable protested, saying that we needed appliances with 'more power' to handle the hotel, and X-Force in general. We let him try the vacuum cleaner. It became spare parts for his arm. The rest of us went to ValueWorld.
"I like this one. I can ride on it."
"That's a lawn mower, not a vacuum cleaner."
"But it makes me feel tall." I looked up at Tabby perched on a ride- on mower, which was sitting on a platform.
"There's a reason for that," I told her, hiking my foot up onto the knee-level platform.
"You're not talking 'bout that itty bitty li'l step are you?" I nodded, slowly. She sighed and hopped off it. "I see," she grumbled. "Make fun of the short people."
"How about this one?" Bobby held up this little red thing. "It's a Dirt Demon."
"Dirt Devil," Jimmy cut in. "Why isn't Terry here? She knows about this stuff."
"She didn't get in a fight over Magnum, P.I.," Tabitha informed him.
"Neither did we, why are we here?"
"To keep them from killing each other. And sure, Bobby, if you want to get that Dirt Devil, go to town, but don't forget, this place has umpteen million square feet of carpeting, and that's an awful small vacuum to crawl over all that floor space with." It scares me when she almost makes sense.
"Where is Terry, anyway?" I asked, curiously. She was the team leader now, wasn't she? And this was a team outing, was it not?
"She's out doing something with Deadpool," Jimmy grumbled. I blinked at him.
"He's everywhere. I dunno." Obviously, Jimmy didn't want to talk about it.
After much more bickering and reasoning on the subject, we finally bought a somewhat largish machine that didn't seem to have anywhere near the awesome power wielded by its predecessor. We made Jimmy carry it to the car.
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