Ms. Victory, Stardust, Tara, and Synn were glad to be home. When they told fellow members Nightveil, Colt, She-Cat, and Rayda about the whole thing their friends almost couldn’t believe their eyes, but when they saw Dr. Heinrich Rittmeist in custody, all doubts disappeared.
“So you were in that parallel universe all that time, and you didn’t get any of us a souvenir?” teased Colt.
Synn shrugged as she said, “I would’ve, but Ms. Victory was being such a tightwad. We were at this planetarium, and she didn’t want to buy a single thing at the gift shop!”
“Well, I felt bad,” replied Ms. Victory. “It wasn’t our money, it was what Galaxy Ranger lent us while she and Stardust were trying to find us a way home. It didn’t feel right spending every penny she gave us.”
“You did the right thing, Jen,” added Tara. “Synn’s just razzing you because you’re so straight laced sometimes.”
“Galaxy Ranger sounded like a nice person, and a tough heroine,” commented Nightveil. “I’m sure we could’ve use someone like her to shore up our ranks.”
“Yes, she was very intelligent, intense, and possessed a considerable balance of speed, strength, and firepower,” said Stardust. “And she accomplished the impossible.”
“How’s that?” asked She-Cat.
“She got all of us to share the same bathroom in a neat and organized manner,” stated Stardust.
“No way,” replied She-Cat in disbelief. “You’ve GOT to be kidding me.”
“No, she really did. Sincerely!” insisted Synn. “She made us draw straws.”
“Cute,” said Rayda as she and the rest got a chuckle.
“Overall, though, in our timeline you were only gone for a few hours after your skirmish with Battlezone,” said Nightveil. “How long were you in that parallel world?”
“About a day, I think,” answered Ms. Victory. “So many things there were identical to ours, and yet, so many things were different.”
“Well, we’re glad you’re all back, and having Rittmeist in custody is an added bonus,” said Colt.
* * *
The rest of the day was some private time for the respective FemForce members. She-Cat worked out in the headquarters gym, Ms. Victory went with Nightveil for some shopping at some arcane and supernatural themed stores as a change of pace, Rayda headed out to meet with her agent, Colt practiced firing on the weapons range, Synn relaxed in her room watching soap operas, and Stardust was practicing in the FemForce danger room.
It was about 4 PM when She-Cat passed by the danger room, seeing Stardust successfully complete a combat scenario. She-Cat was wiping off the sweat with a towel and popped her head inside as Stardust landed.
“Hey, Dusty, what’re you doing for dinner?” asked She-Cat.
“I had not thought that far ahead, why?” replied Stardust.
“Why don’t you come with me to that new Italian place that opened up, Salvatore’s?” offered She-Cat. “It’s not far from here.”
“There are dozens of places like that in town. Why that one in particular?” asked Stardust.
“Well, it’s got culture, yeah, that’s it, it’s really chic and the food’s really good there, too,” explained She-Cat.
“How would you know? It has just opened and from the tone of your voice, it implies that you have never been there before,” reminded Stardust politely.
“Ah, shoot, ya got me, Dusty,” said She-Cat with a giggle. “I got a promo offer that says that if I bring a friend I get 50% off my meal at Salvatore’s.”
“That sounds more like it,” said Stardust with a smile. “I’ll meet you in the headquarters lobby in an hour.”
* * *
At about 5 PM She-Cat and Stardust were dressed to impress enroute to Salvatore’s in She-Cat’s car, a high-powered, sanguine red Dodge Stealth as she zoomed down the expressway at a high speed.
“Jessica, please drive defensively,” said Stardust as she held onto the armrest tightly.
“You know, Dusty, the best defense is a good offense,” replied She-Cat as she hit the accelerator again to pass a couple more cars. “YEEEEEEHAAAAAAA!!!!”
“I knew I should’ve insisted more on driving…” thought Stardust.
Minutes later, She-Cat and Stardust pulled into the parking lot of Salvatore’s, where the valets greeted them and opened the car doors for Stardust and She-Cat.
“Here ya go, kid,” said She-Cat as she tossed him the keys, her fiery eyes flashing directly into his. “Don’t even think about joy-riding in my wheels, get me?”
“Yes, ma’am,” said the valet as he momentarily quivered.
Both were a bit surprised at the outward appearance of Salvatore’s, which really was a high class restaurant that made She-Cat feel a little bit of the bum’s rush as they opened the front door and unrolled the red carpet for them.
“Good evening,” greeted the headwaiter. “Welcome to Salvatore’s. How many in your party?”
“Two,” answered She-Cat.
“Right this way. A table on the balcony, perhaps?”
“Um…sure,” replied Stardust as the head waiter led them up the grand concourse to a second tier array of tables, allowing them to overlook the entire restaurant and observe the beautiful paintings and Italian art decorating the restaurant, including the ceiling itself.
“Enjoy your dining experience,” said the headwaiter pleasantly as he handed them the menu and wine list. “Your waiter will be with you shortly.”
“What do you think?” said She-Cat.
“Extremely high class,” commented Stardust as she observed the various art decorations. “I just hope the food matches the ambience.”
As another waiter passed by their table, Stardust briefly motioned her over for a question.
“Excuse me, those art pieces you have on display in this restaurant, are they the originals or replicas?” asked Stardust.
“Those are the originals, ma’am. But don’t worry, they’re all wired into an alarm system, so they won’t get stolen,” explained the waiter.
“Interesting.” said Stardust.
* * *
“You sure you can bring all that stuff out at once, Tom? That’s a big load of pasta,” said Chris, one of the waiters as Tom mounted several plates of Italian dishes onto his tray and raised them up on his shoulder.
“Yeah, no problem. I brought out twice this amount earlier this week for the lunch crowd,” replied Tom confidently as he walked out onto the restaurant floor with the oversized tray filled with exotic pasta dishes.
“Aw, nuts!” commented a customer at a nearby table as he accidentally spilled his glass goblet of ice water. The majority of the water spilled on the table and soaked the tablecloth as a few ice cubes rolled onto the floor.
“No problem, sir. We’ll move you and your family to a new table,” said another waiter as he helped the customer and his family move while another began policing up the small mess.
As Tom passed by the table, he avoided the family as they walked to another table, the other two waiters, but slipped on the ice cubes.
“OH NO…..!!!!” cried out Tom as he lost his balance and fell forward, as the massive tray of Italian pasta dishes flew across and landed en masse onto one of the artifact pieces kept on display in the restaurant, a bronze mask. The bronze mask began to glow with a strange green light, as the pasta noodles, sauce, and meats began coalescing into a body as arms, legs, and torso of pasta of all shapes and sizes formed.
“AAAAAAHHHH!!!!!” shrieked Tom in terror as he fled into the kitchen. “IT’S ALIVE!!! IT’S ALIVE!!!”
“Dusty, do you see what I see?” muttered She-Cat in partial disbelief as she noticed the man-sized pasta monster taking shape.
“I see it, but I do not believe it,” replied Stardust.
“BRAAAAAAAAAAAGGGHHH!!!!” roared the pasta monster.
“Okay, now I believe it,” said Stardust.
“I’ll get him outside into the parking lot. You finish him off,” said She-Cat.
“Understood,” answered Stardust as the two got up from their table. She-Cat removed her high heels and ripped her skirt partially, allowing her legs free range of motion as Stardust simply went out the fire escape and took to the air as the restaurant employees and customers fled out the other emergency exits.
“OUT YOU GO!” yelled out She-Cat as she picked up a table and charged the pasta monster, pressing the wide area surface against him as she shoved, and forced him out of the restaurant doors to the outside parking lot, where Stardust was overhead.
“NOW, DUSTY! NAIL ‘EM!” said She-Cat as Stardust fired an energy blast straight into the pasta monster. Instead of blowing it up, though, her star energy somehow supercharged it as it grew from about a 4 feet tall to a staggering 20 feet tall!
“BWAH-HA-HA-HA-HA!!!!!” bellowed the pasta monster.
“Oh dear,” muttered Stardust embarrassingly.
“@@**!^^%$$$##!!!!!!” cursed She-Cat over the turn of events.
“RRRRAAAAGGGGHHHH!!!!” roared the giant pasta monster as it grabbed She-Cat, ensnaring her with its sinewy body of noodles.
“HEY! LEMME GO, YOU OVERSIZED BLOB OF LINGUINI!!!!” protested She-Cat.
“SHE-CAT!!!!” yelled out Stardust as she instinctively fired another energy blast at the giant pasta monster, foolishly forgetting what the effect was momentarily as the creature grew even more, and was now 30 feet tall!
“WILL YA STOP FEEDIN’ HIM, DUSTY??!!!!” screamed She-Cat as she clawed away as the pasta, freeing her hands.
“Sorry!” said Stardust. “We need to find its power source! The artifact!”
“Ugh…this ain’t gonna be pretty…” muttered She-Cat as she slipped out of the giant pasta monster’s grip and dove into its chest cavity, scrapping, cutting, even eating her way through to try and find the artifact.
“HO-HO-HO!!!!” bellowed the pasta monster as it engulfed She-Cat.
“NO!!!!” yelled out Stardust as she powerlessly hovered over the lumbering giant pasta monster, knowing all too well her powers would only make it larger.
Just then She-Cat lunged out of the massive pasta monster’s torso, clutching the magic artifact that started the whole mess to begin with as she fell downward and was caught by Stardust. Separated from the artifact, the giant pasta monster shrunk and collapsed into a messy pile of sauce and wet noodles.
“Thanks, Dusty,” said She-Cat with a measure of mischief as the two heroines began shaking off the messy globs of pasta and sauce from their bodies. “So, what do you think?”
“The encounter at this restaurant is a persuasive argument for the low-carbohydrate diet Earthlings have been raving about,” replied Stardust sternly. “I will leave it at that.”
* * *
It was about 9 PM back at FemForce Headquarters when She-Cat and Stardust closed things out at Salvatore’s and cleaned themselves up. Both were in bathrobes in the lounge when Colt sauntered by, catching their latest escapade on a news special report.
“Well, at least you didn’t destroy anything this time,” teased Colt.
“Funny, runt,” replied She-Cat.
“Was the place any good?” asked Colt.
“I really do not know,” answered Stardust. “The monster appeared just as our meal arrived, so we never had a chance to eat it between fighting and cleaning up. The aroma was enticing, though.”
“Don’t worry, we’ll get another chance,” said She-Cat.
“How’s that?” asked Colt.
“I do not understand, either,” said Stardust.
“Well, it turns out our little run-in brought some big-name publicity for the place, so much so the owners gave us free dinners at Salvatore’s and guaranteed reservations for a year,” explained She-Cat.
Colt threw her arms up and laughed as she said, “Why am I not surprised…?”