005: Part 1

by CM Towns

   It was Saturday morning at Guard HQ located inside the Sekowsky Mountain at the edge of Cardy County. The high tech facility that was once designed and built by a militia of radicals and conspiracy theorists with serious financial support. The group was found out, arrested, and some very crafty individuals faked the destruction of the facility while redacted and erasing 99% of all information on it. This mystery group chose to hold onto the instillation for possible use in the future. That future arrived in the group of teenage superhumans and vigilantes who make it their home.
   Sally stood behind a folding table by the doorway of the theater room on the Living floor of the base. On the table were large, marked envelopes each with a name neatly written on. Sally turned to look behind her. Antoine and Kate were talking about some case, probably King. An enigma of a crime lord that one of Antoine’s rogues, Mr. Ash, claimed was the ruler of the world. Evidence on this persons existence was minimal but their was evidence to support the existence of a person or group called King. Antoine was rather fascinated with the case. Sally’s eyes veered toward Jessie who was loudly yawning. When she saw Sally looking in her direction Jessie gave her long time partner the thumbs up. Sally smiled and turned back to the door to greet the teammates.
   “Morning,” she said to a yawning Reed who walked in with Wolf at his heels. He grunted and took his envelope while Wolf got up, front paws on the table to greet Sally. She rubbed his head before the wolf left to follow Reed over to the far end of the theater where Jessie was.
   A few minutes after Reed a group started to make their way in. At the lead was Araminta, followed by Frank, who now had short hair rather than his mohawk. He was also wearing his new lip ring, vertical labret style. Just beside Frank was April O’Day, the spider woman of New Mexico. April had joined up with the Guard when the group was dealing with the Daga Cartel. Jessie praised Aprils research skills after their team up in New Mexico. She moved in soon after and assisted on a small domestic terrorist case, becoming quickly acclimated with the new changes in her life. At the end of the small group was one of the newest additions to the team-PEARL CARPENTER. Pearl had beautiful skin, long flowing black hair and striking brown eyes. Her physical characteristics made people wonder her racial identity and Pearl identified as Cherokee though she was mixed. Both parents were of Cherokee descent but she said their was Black, Anglo-Saxon, French and more mixed in.
   “Good morning,” Pearl beamed toward Sally, who nodded in response, as Pearl took the envelope with her name.

   Moment after the four found seats in the center of the theater walked in Aamil Khattak. Another recent addition who assisted the team during the Daga Cartel case. He had popped in and out since then but had not had an opportunity to assist on any new work. Sally handed him his envelope which Aamil looked into.
   Aamil said to her, “Ma’am.”
   Sally thought about that. Only two people referred to her as ma’am, and of those two Aamil did not give honorifics to any of his other superiors. The other one who called her ma’am just stepped into the theater-ARTURO VARGAS. Arturo was a thirteen year old Mexican who was a little husky with his hair shaved on the sides and back and styled on top. Art was the grandson of a high ranking Mexican general. That general was a contact of the Guard who asked that they take his grandson in and help him develop his power as well as train him in combat. He wanted the Guard to develop a Mexican hero to be showcased as a focal point for their future superhero team which was in development. Arturo inspected the envelope and spoke to Sally in Spanish. She responded to him by telling him to say it again but in English.
   “What is this for?” he struggled to say.
   “We will explain it in the orientation,” Sally said and then repeated the last word in Spanish and Art nodded. He took a seat next to Reed.
   “… So I totally knocked that sucker out. BOOM!” the voice was that of HUNTER MANLY. The auburn haired, hazel eyed, ripped jock looked like he came out of a teen movie. Sally admitted to herself that he was indeed handsome-though his loud nature turned her off. He gave her a nod and smile and took the envelope he was handed and went back to telling his story, “So this put one of their best out the game-”
   The one listening to the story was ERICA WELLMEN. The pale skinned redhead was of course familiar to Sally. The two crossed paths in the Guards first case against the Teiwaz. Erica, like their partner Elijah, was kidnapped. The circumstances of the two were vastly different. Erica was a superhuman with control over water. They brainwashed her to be a soldier until the Guard shut down their main base in Chicago. Elijah on the other hand did not have any apparent powers and was experimented on by mad scientists looking to experiment on humans for the development of artificial superpowers.
   “I’m last in, right? CPT,” joked EARTHA P. DAVIS. The deep brown skinned teen girl had braided hair, hips to kill and full lips. She heard Antoine remark to Jessie that he thought she was ‘hot.’ Sally did agree she was attractive.
   “CPT? Compton?” asked Sally familiar with the phrase in Southern California.
   “Oh-I forget you’re from Cali. No, Colored People Time. Its a bad joke,” she responded.
   “Oh. You’re not last-we still have Go left,” Sally responded. Beside her was Elijah, an important cog in the team whose done a wonderful job-along with Frank and Araminta-helping the new live in teammates get settled.
   “Go was really at the Street Fighter game,” Elijah said.
   “I’m here!” shouted from behind them. YASUHIKO GO (In Japan surnames come first) was half Japanese, half Korean. He had an ugly mustache and a fancy pompadour he constantly tended to. Go took the envelope with his left hand and moved his thumb and pointer finger over his mustache.
   With everyone settled in their seats Sally joined Antoine, Jessie and Kate in front of the big movie screen for the orientation.
   “Okay, okay-I’m sure we all generally know one another and if not there will be a lot of time later. But to review-I am Antoine Jackson-first in command of the Guard. Over here is Jessie-my second. Sally is third. This lady here is my longtime partner, Kate Stokes who will be addressed as the Professor when in the field. She’s our top intelligence officer, runs our tiny but effective Intelligence Hub. Some of you I hope will assist them here at the base,” Antoine said.
   “Is she the the fourth in command!?” shouted Hunter.
   “No-that’s Elijah whose seated with everyone,” Antoine motioned to Elijah.
   “Whose fifth?” Hunter followed up. Some of the others looked at him and he shrugged saying, “I want to know the hierarchy.”
   “Fifth is Reed,” Jessie announced.
   “Really? Really?” Frank said feeling slighted.
   “Come on-if we really are down to fifth in command its time to put your faith behind someone who will go in guns blazing,” Jessie argued.
   “Under my command I will take no sass,” Reed declared.
   “Moving on… the purpose of the Guard is defend our country, and for that matter the world, against the poison of evil,” stated Antoine with his fist shooting up to eye level for a little dramatic action that got a single cough in response.
   Jessie shook her head and whispered, “A little over the top, don’t you think?”
   “Agreed. Dial it back,” Kate chimed in.
   Antoine continued, “We fight bad guys. We protect people. That’s what we do. Now… Some of you will be living here. Others will be our reserve force. Pearl, Go and Hunter-will have to be picked up. Whatever the situation we expect everyone to get along. There’s going to be a lot of personalities, egos, and ideas and we hope that we can all be civil. I’m just saying that now because I hate dealing with people beefing with each other.”
   There were nods and agreements. Antoine went on, “The main purpose of this orientation-“
   Arturos hand rose. Sally nodded and he said, “Can you speak a little slower.”
   Antoine nodded. “The purpose-is to explain part of how our operation works. As well as what to expect in the next two and a half weeks. Sally? Kate?”
   Kate stepped forward, “In your envelopes you have noticed ID’s and passports along with some cash. Except those who have been here with us longest-they are already received similar. Now-the ID’s and passports are genuine. One ID for everyday life for those who need it and the other is a secondary identity to be used outside the state and on missions. If an officer runs it you will come up clean. These are valuable. Protect them.”
   “As members of the Guard,” Sally started, “You will be getting paid. Think of it as a part time minimum wage job.”
   “One with a high risk of death,” Erica spoke aloud.
   “Payment is decided on a combination of time with the team, living situation, outside work, and other issues. Payment is once a month, the fifteenth. For those living here at the base we have four accounts set up so you can use to order materials and goods. They will ship to our work center or be held at certain post offices we use for PO Boxes. Just inform us of delivery date. Suggestion-would be easier to have someone living off-base to order it for you. You will of course have to pay the buyer back or pay into our on base treasury,” Sally detailed.
   “The money that funds our operations originally came from goods that we took from the Teiwaz. Stolen treasure specifically,” Kate said.
   “I took,” Jessie corrected.
   “These goods were turned into money but we also make money elsewhere. We acquire it on missions as long as its not involved in the case. A bank robbery-the money is left alone. A drug bust-you see several thousand take it. It will be confiscated by the police or DEA anyway,” Kate said.
   “Questions?” Sally asked and hands went up.
   Pearl asked, “Isn’t the antiquities you sell hot?”
   “Yes and no. The Teiwaz are always on the look out for their stolen treasure but most countries are not actively pursuing until the piece goes into circulation. Pieces that are considered hot are sold at a discount. A five hundred-thousand piece becomes three hundred-fifty thousand. Twenty five percent to our partners-rest to us,” explained Sally.
   “Follow up,” Pearl said before they could call on anyone else, “How much does it cost to run this operation? Day to day or week to week.”
   “This facility was well put together and with the help of our associate Tesla it is fully functional at a reasonable cost. The generators include three alien machines working at about thirty-six percent. These are coupled with an underwater generator plus well situated solar panels using the finest in advanced tech. We are good for power. Advanced filter systems and excellent plumbing keep the water running smoothly. Most money we spend in house is on food, communications and fuel for vehicles such as the Tuskegee 1 and 2,” Antoine answered.
   “Yes,” Kate said pointing to Eartha.
   “Some of us have been tagged by the government-aren’t their computers gonna pick up on these ID’s?” inquired Eartha.
   “Look at the ID’s and passports again. There are a few slight differences. Earlobes, tint of eye color, chin-things you would not notice. That plus our buddies doing a little tinkering on files has changed a couple bits and pieces of info. So on the off chance a computer deems your picture a close enough match to what they have on file-their eye or blood test will come back negative. In fact-that will actually help in the future because it produces lesser likelihood of results. Myself and Sally have dealt with this, and when its the fourth time they’ve stopped you for possibly being a superhero you get let go quicker. I think last time they held us for half a day,” responded Jessie.
   Sally pointed to Aamil who asked, “So we are government men or not?”
   “We associate with a handful of people who work for the government but we do not work for the government,” Antoine stated.
   “Anymore questions?” Kate asked.
   “Whats this sheet of paper and the time listed on it?” asked April holding up a piece of paper.
   Jessie stepped forth, “That leads to the next part of this boring orientation. Listen up maggots-that paper specifies the time you need to hit the gym tomorrow. It’ll be in groups and we will be checking out what you can do-and no Hunter do not proceed to invite us to the gun show. Now, based on those results we are going to work out a structured gym routine. Or a more aggressive gym routine. As well as who works with who in combat training.
   “We also are working on developing powers. In some cases weapons training. Teaching you all how we do reports and monitor situations. Oh! Also team simulated combat in our training room which we are calling… The training room. Until someone comes up with a fancy name,” Jessie said before turning to Antoine and asking him, “Anything else?”
   “More questions?” he offered.
   “Costumes?” asked Eartha.
   “Our official costume designer will be here in a couple days to see you all dressed up in the outfits that are being manufactured. That way she can discuss alterations,” Jessie said before asking, “Next?”
   “If we suck at the training can we just op out?” asked Erica.
   “Nope,” Jessie looked around and pointed, “Reed?”
   “We done?”
   Jessie turned to Antoine who nodded.
   Reed shouted, “To the cafeteria! Snacks, drinks, and high fives.”