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[Fiction] Amped -- Fast Food [submitted for canon consideration]


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“All this house hunting has me starved, Carver. I’m gonna go grab a bite to eat. Back soon!”

Carver starts to raise her hand in response; by the time it clears the table, the front door is swinging closed.

Traffic stands still as Amped leisurely wanders down Michigan Avenue, enjoying the distinctive look and feel of the Windy City and pondering what to eat. Hmmm…what to scarf down today. Popeye’s? Backyard Burgers? Oh…I know – Subway! Stepping around glacial pedestrians and over a frozen dog, he makes his way through the tangled Chicago crowds and into the familiar yellow purveyor of sandwiches. “Only 6 grams of fat!” screams a placard held by a life-sized cutout of some idiot who ate nothing but Subway sandwiches for a year, a couple of decades back. “Yeah, like that’d kill me,” mutters Amped. “Well at least the place is empty; that’ll speed things up.”

Behind the glass counter stands a thirty-something assistant manager with an acne-scarred face that makes all too clear that he’ll never make manager. With a surprised and not entirely comfortable look, he ponderously opens his mouth and asks, “Whhhhaaaattt … ccaaaaaannn ... Iiiiii ...” Amped sighs, looking over the various veggies and cold cuts behind the glass. “… ggeeeeettt ... yyyoooouuuu?”

Forcing himself to speak slowly, Amped says, “I’ll have a 12-inch turkey sub on honey wheat, extra mayo, swiss cheese, hold the onions.”

The wage-slave – Ron, by his nametag – blinks in slow motion a couple of times, gradually nods, and then begins working on the sandwich. Amped heads for the door as Ron’s hand crawls toward the bread knife.

Outside, the blue nova worms his way through the masses of humanity, eventually deciding that the crowds are thick enough that the streets are a better bet. He heads out onto La Salle Avenue, stopping on the way to check out the creative grill décor on a cement truck as it inches its way toward him, and starts jogging between the lanes until he gets to Lakeshore Park. Casually stepping between the crawling cars, he saunters out to the shore, petting a seagull that has just taken wing as he walks by it.

The sky is that deep blue that has only fought its way back into the city in recent years, as the older cars have gradually been replaced by new hypercombustion models, and Amped relaxes, laying back on a bench watching a jet heading for O’Hare gradually creep across the sky. When it finally vanishes behind the John Hancock tower, he figures it is probably time to start heading back.

Heading back up La Salle, there’s a music store set into the corner of one of the classic old brick-&-morter skyscrapers. Amped glances at his watch; “yeah, I’ve got enough time.” He ducks in, riffling through the stacks. “Two bucks for a used Ramstein? Can’t let that one go by.” He heads for the counter; with practiced motions, he runs the case over both scanner and demagnetizer, tucks a couple crumpled bills into the young co-ed cashier’s hand, and heads out the door; he’s well up the street before she realizes that she’s holding payment for a sale.

Ducking back into the Subway, Amped is just in time to see Ron close the sandwich and start, ever so slowly, to reach for the wrapping paper. With painfully deliberate slowness, Amped says, “No, that’s OK; I’ll take it unwrapped.” He sets a ten-spot on the counter, plucks the sandwich from Ron’s plastic-gloved hands, and takes a bite as he heads out the door. Between bites, a muffled voice, far too fast for Ron to make out, mutters, “took long enough.”

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