Part 8

by CM Towns

   JESSICA DOLORES JAMES, or Jessie to her friends, was finished with her work out. Showered and dressed-ready for the rest of the day. Jessie stood five foot nine, taller than the average Latina girl. She had medium length raven black hair, brown eyes, was obviously in great shape and had a face people described as ‘strong but pretty.’ Jessie had a Wonder Woman tattoo on her left shoulder and a tribal tattoo on her right wrist. That tattoo was designed around an alien marker branded into her by her enemy/ally/bitch-that-deserves-to-die, the MISTRESS IZAM MIZER.
   Jessie’s surname, and her height for that matter, was from her dads side. More specifically her dads father. A man whose ancestry was a mix of Norwegian, Swedish, Dutch, Irish, and English. Her grandfather stood over six foot five, and felt like giant when she was younger. He would go on about how there was viking blood in the family genes. Jessie remembered her grandfather fondly-a sports writer who tried his hand at the business of professional wrestling when in his twenties. He use to hassle her dad, DIEGO, and uncle MANNY about being wrestlers. ‘Euro-luchadors’ he would joke as his two sons were half Mexican.
   Jessie yawned. She only got a few hours of sleep. She and the others arrived at the base a little after two in the morning. While Araminta was asleep the others stayed up. Frank and Elijah eager for news while Reed just continued with his video games. Kid Victory and Red Sprite obliged Elijah and Frank, giving them what little they discovered with promises of more after they go through the newly acquired files. Jessie was more interested in Reed, who she got out of the theater and into his new bedroom for the night. She knew his fear of sleep-which is why he liked having the TV on as background noise, so Jessie stayed with him, sleeping on the top bunk. The kid needed someone to take care of him and Jessie appointed herself and Elijah to the task.

   Jessie started to make her way out the gym. It was nice sized facility with up to date equipment, a ring, punching bags and speed bags. There was a room for treadmills, electric bikes and steppers. Plus a swimming pool and hot tub just below plus the showers and lockers. Jessie smirked. The headquarters was tricked out. She exited and walked back toward Reed’s room. She looked over to one of the doors to the cafeteria. Sally and Elijah were inside making a big breakfast for the seven of them. Jessie liked Sally’s cooking as did her whole family, which is why back home she does most the cooking.
   Jessie turned the corner and saw Araminta enter one of the restrooms. Jessie leaned up against the wall and waited, interested in talking with the magical girl. Jessie was reminded of their encounter a few nights ago. The tip came up from one of Blackwell’s contacts in regard to certain suspicious vehicles. Once Reina Titán found the van in questions it confirmed that some Teiwaz snatchers were riding in black vans with banners claiming to be from Ace Electricians. The confirmation was able to nail a few more Teiwaz bastards but the Super Nazi’s were quick to change logos and blend back in. After securing the premises and re-rescuing Araminta from a Teiwaz prick-who did not have the common courtesy to stay down-she checked Araminta’s squat and determined she was not some sort of elaborate plant.
   When Araminta exited she was stunned to see Jessie standing there. Jessie smiled and said simply, “Hey.”
   “You must be Reina! Thank you so much for helping me the other night! Thank you!” Araminta said while shaking her hand and than pausing to admire her ink.
   “No problem. Was just following up on some tips in that area. You can call me Jessie by the way,” she said.
   “Your parents must have flip out when you got your tattoos?” Araminta asked.
   “Nah-my dad did these. Besides-he was younger than me when he got his first tattoo. My mom was fifteen when she got her first one,” Jessie explained. Araminta’s eyes seem to open wider on that bit of trivia. Jessie knew, and figured Araminta was a bit knowledgeable enough to know, that every fictional version of Reina to appear in movies, TV, and comics had no tattoos.
   “The guys treating you well?” Jessie asked.
   “Everyone’s been nice. Reed’s a little bratty sometimes with sharing the theater but he’s okay,” Araminta said.
   “Reed needs a little work. Need to get that boy some manners so he’ll be like his new brothers,” Jessie said.
   Araminta laughed a little. “You are different than the way they play you in movies and TV. At least the ones I’ve seen.”
   “Besides the fact I’m clearly not a white girl?” joked Jessie with a left tilt of her head.
   “Of course that but the way they portray you as super tough or serious. You seem so natural. Plus Elijah speaks so fondly of you. Says you play in a band and like wrestling.”
   “Giving away too much. I think he’s crushing on me. Do you agree?” Jessie joked while looking around. “Like you’re crushing on Frank.”
   “What?” Araminta’s eyes went surprised and she exclaimed-“No!”
    “Girls than?” Jessie asked and Araminta’s eyes widen and she started to stumble her words. “I’m messing with,” Jessie continued. “Elijah told me you seem to warm up to him. All that time running and hiding you don’t get the chance to make too many friends. Let alone boys. Let alone pierced boys in ripped jeans with mohawks. You stick around with us, we’ll correct that. Get you some girlfriends too if thats your thing,” Jessie said.
   Araminta ignored part of Jessie’s teasing and jumped to one thing she said. “Correct? How?”
   Jessie smiled. “Don’t worry about it. Worry about the workouts we’re gonna put you through to make you a bona fide superhero.”
   “I’m not much of a fighter.”
   “Neither was Sprite once,” said Jessie. “Yeah. Toughest person I’ve ever known. Yet there was a time when she could barley throw a punch,” Jessie said raising her first. “It might take time but you stick with us you’ll be a soldier quick because this is a soldiers unit. Now, I ain’t gonna kick you out. Not my style-but this is what we’re here for.”
   “I’m not sure that’s really the life for me,” she said looking down. Jessie was about to say something but a ringing bell stopped her. Araminta inquired, “What’s that?”
   “Time for breakfast,” Jessie said with a smile leading her into the cafeteria. Elijah was behind the counter putting out some of the spread when they walk in. “What do we got, Beastly?”
   Elijah answered, “Well canary, and kitten, we got pancakes. Regular and blueberry since my fellow chef knows your preference. Bacon, sausage, toast with a few jam spreads, scrambled eggs, little boxes of cereal and milk. Organic obviously.”
   Out walked Sally to put out some scones before being introduced to Araminta.
“I look forward to working with you. Jessie and I worked up a training program. We will start later so I suggest getting a good meal. Utilizing one’s abilities works up an appetite,” she said.
   “Training program? But-” Araminta was interrupted by Jessie’s hand on her shoulder.
   “Its good to be able to know your strengths and to handle yourself in case someone tries snatching you again. That’s just a rule of thumb so that if you don’t stay with us you’ll be more equipped to handle yourself,” Jessie assured her.
   “Are we going to train too?” Elijah said with a big smile.
   Jessie saw that he was trying to flirt and decided to play with him. She asked Sally, in Mexican-Spanish, if Elijah had been bothering her with questions. After Sally answered her Jessie told Sally to look at him turn away and chuckle. She did just that and Elijah was confused by the whole affair. Jessie got her food and side stepped Elijah’s curious inquires with, “Just girl talk, Beastly.”
   Jessie and Araminta settled in their seats and soon they were joined by the others.
   “Araminta, welcome aboard. Name’s Antoine,” Antoine said introducing himself. Jessie watched the two talk. Antoine was big smiles, jovial chuckle at the compliment, and generally a people person. Jessie still thought he was more of a thrill seeker than an actual hero but still respected his dedication and his skill.
   Frank came in after. Jessie thought he was cute. Seemed like a nice enough guy to her. They usually talked music and occasionally politics. Reed walked in right behind Frank, still tired and rubbing his eyes. He sat next to Jessie and she smiled at him and asked how he slept. She took a charm to the kid right away-something her dad once said about taking in strays.
   Elijah and Sally sat down last with Wolf in tow. Elijah was interesting to her. So well mannered, spoke in a fashion that was part Southern Gentleman and high society, and his attraction to her was extremely flattering. She believed it had to do with the night after they rescued him, where they sat down and shared a bottle of Jack Daniels. Jessie had been asked out before but never really courted which is what she thought Elijah was doing.
   “Here boy,” Elijah said giving Wolf some bacon and sausage.
   The group talked about adventures, school, music, movies, and everything in between. Araminta listened attentively, laughing and being in awe of the six individuals around her. Jessie and Antoine lead a lot of the conversations while Sally stayed silent mostly through out unless to comment or correct.
   Jessie got around to sharing one of her more lighthearted hero stories. “So there I was, standing in front of this beast from the depths of hell or something. It’s all knocked out and I’m doing my heroic pose cause that’s what heroes do. Am I right Antoine?” Jessie looked to him to agree.
   “Of course. One of the perks,” he said between bites of toast.
   “Then the damn thing sneezes and I get monster snot all over my backside. Dripping globs of thick mucus-blue and pink mucus. Gross shit,” Jessie said and there’s some laughter. “Now there’s Sally, staring at me as wide eyed as she could get. I saw her trying to fight it, trying to look away and suddenly BAM! This burst of laughter came out. You have to understand-Sally does not laugh like that. A chuckle here, a covered smile, but she burst out laughing. I was kinda disturbed,” Jessie admitted.
   “It was an memorable sight,” Sally said.
   They laugh and Araminta asked, “How did you guys meet?” of Antoine.
   “Fighting some guys in a warehouse with Kid Marvel and this robot bursts out of nowhere. I start working the strategy and suddenly she blasts in from the skylight and breaks the thing in a single punch. Next thing you know we’re out at a noodle place and she downs two bowls. Met Sally a few months later when they tracked some gun runners near my city,” Antoine explained.
   “Always an adventure in Kirby City,” Jessie commented.
   “With that note we should really be getting down to business,” Antoine said.
   “What’s on tap?” asked Frank.
   “Sally will work with Araminta and Frank in the garage. That routine makes sense for Sally and it helps Frank with his targeting,” he started then looked to Araminta and expanded, “It’s all about evading and blocking.”
   Antoine continued by saying, “I’ll work with Elijah in the gym, Jessie will take Reed out and find a nice area to work. Play fight. Whatever you need to have Reed stretch his robotic arms. We’ll get back together in a couple hours to talk about the case.”