Part 23

by CM Towns

   Jessie and Go stood with their backs to the fence in the yard of the Manly household. Both had sodas in their hands and watched as the oldest sibling in the family, Alannah, was working the grill. The pair met her and the rest of Hunters family a few days ago. Alannah was the head of the household and in her mid twenties. She was the only of the four with black hair which made Jessie assume that she dyed it. Alannah had a few tattoos and piercings and it was easy to guess that once she was the rebellious one of the Manly children, until fate made it so that she would have to look after the family. The other daughters included Britney, the middle sister, who had just turned twenty. The youngest of the girls and the baby of the family was Rosemary, who was thirteen.
   Go was curious as to what happened to the parents but held his questions while Jessie was aware of their situation. The Guard, or rather a portion of the Guard, looked a bit deeper into their Hunter’s background than some of the other new teammates. Hunter had tried out for a spot in the government sponsored team Division-1, that made the team anxious. As it did with Eartha and Erica who had both been attempted recruits.
   Jessie reflected on the family situations of the parents, both having passed in a terrible situation. Alannah took on raising the family with the money left to them by insurance and support of grandparents plus working part time. Jessie could see she took her role seriously. This made her think about the families of her teammates that were met with tragedy. Sally, her partner and dear friend, lost her parents after arriving to Earth. Antoine lost his mother in a car crash. Reed’s father dead and mother frail in the explosion that gave him his powers. Araminta’s adoptive parents were murdered by the cult who was involved in her birth. Aamil’s parental situation, some would be surprised he does as well as he does. Jessie was not, Aamil was a strong one.
   Jessie then spied a look over at Go, family divorced and now living in Long Beach, California with his mom and some of her family. Pearls parents and Arturo’s parents were divorced as well. Frank’s parents were never married, breaking up when him and his sister were young. She thought about that. How her parents had an on and off relationship for years-her sister Lucita being her half sister. It was a combination of her status as a hero, Sally needing a new family, and her parents own issues and loneliness that brought them back together. It was an open relationship and that annoyed Jessie to some degree but she was lucky. As was Elijah and Eartha. Well, Eartha’s father was actually her step dad but she lived in a two parent household. April and Erica’s parents were also still together, but both were rejected. April for being who she is rather than the Adam O’Conner they wanted her to be. Erica, her parents just did not want to deal with having a superhuman (or rather magically inclined) daughter.
   “Deep in thought?” asked Go.
   “Yes I am. You?”
   “Was. Then decided to try and focus my brain power on how good the food will taste.”

   “Looks like the others are out,” Jessie said.
   Rosemary, an angular blond who was wearing her hair in pigtails (not a common hairstyle for girls over a certain age) was setting the outdoor table. Jessie guessed she would bloom into the kind of woman her older sisters became sometime in the near future. Hunter was helping Britney bring out some food. Britney looked like a popstar. Very pretty, long hair, incredible figure. Most men would mistake her for an airhead when she actually got full scholarship based on her academic record. Alannah said Britney wanted to be a lawyer.
   Hunter came over to the two and said, “Why you guys all over here? My family won’t bite.”
   “We didn’t want to get in the way,” Jessie said.
   “The food is almost ready so you won’t have to worry about that,” Hunter replied.
   “Why aren’t you grilling?” Jessie asked.
   “Alannah always grills,” Hunter explained.
   “Way to break with American tradition,” Jessie replied.
   “I’m surprise you care,” Go said.
   “Nothing more American than a white Texan dude manning the grill. If they had a red, white and blue apron it would be even better,” Jessie told him.
   “We have one of those. Don’t really bust it out until July 4th,” Hunter smiled.
   “In celebration of Franks birthday?” Jessie asked.
   “Of course. Has nothing to do with Independence Day,” Hunter said.
   “The Will Smith movie?” asked Go.
   “I hate you both,” Hunter replied.
   “Your sisters are all really pretty,” Jessie commented.
   “Yeah, good genes. Rosemary will have to beat of the boys with a bat in a year or so,” Hunter joked.
   “You going to supply the bat?” Go asked.
   “The bat, golf club, butterfly knife, whatever it takes,” Hunter answered.
   Go reached behind his back and pulled butterfly knife.
   “You can give her mine,” he handed to Hunter.
   “You carry a butterfly knife? With you power sword powers?” Hunter based a bit surprised.
   “I’m a juvenile delinquent from Japan. I either have to have a butterfly knife or a kendo stick,” joked Go.
   “I bet the Japanese girls were all on your cock,” laughed Hunter.
   “Yeah, but I preferred the boys,” Go admitted.
   Hunter started to cough. “Why?”
   Jessie smacked him in the back of the head.
   “I don’t mean it like that, I just… You know… You look like one of those old school bad boy types with your pompadour. If you like dudes, dude, that’s fine. But if I were you I’d be on Asian babes with no stop.”
   “Why aren’t you on all the Texan girls?” Jessie asked.
   “I would be, but secret identity. Got to find one who can cut me slack,” Hunter said looking to the food.
   “Someone who won’t be mad when you miss a date,” Jessie said.
   “Exactly. So what were you guys discussing? The Teiwaz? We did them pretty well. Or the stuff going on. Detroit, King or the Cult?” inquired Hunter.
   “Not really any of it.”
   “Nothing on King except Kid Victory saying we should focus on the more active threats. Teiwaz and the Cult. Mizer too,” Go said.
   “We got the Teiwaz number. Knocking out facility after facility. Their big mission-they won’t be able to pull off. The Way stuff-your girl and Pearl got us some goods. We’re going to crush them too. However I am a little worried on this Detroit stuff,” Hunter said.
   “Elijah said they are close to getting them” said Jessie.
   “It’s ready!” Alannah announced.
   Hunter handed Go the knife back and said, “You give this to my sis. I’d get into trouble if I tried.”
   Go nodded, took the knife back, as the three walked over to the table.
   “Bacon wrapped grilled hot dogs? Damn. I warn you, superhuman metabolism dictates I will eat all your food if I can,” warned Jessie.
   “That’s why I made so much. Lots of chicken and ribs too,” Alannah said.
   “But no hamburgers,” Britney said annoyed.
   “You and hamburgers,” Alannah stated.
   “My favorite food. I like two patties, American cheese, bacon, onion rings and drenched in hot wing sauce,” Britney told them.
   “That’s one hell of a burger,” Go said.
   “Hamburgers are my favorite food,” she replied getting some coleslaw. Go looked confused at it.
   “You never had coleslaw?” Rosemary asked.
   “No. Where I’m from we don’t really have American style bar-b-q,” Go told her.
   “So what do you guys grill up?” Hunter asked with food in his mouth and Alannah warned him about manners.
   “We’d grill all types of food but we don’t have this sort of stuff,” Go answered.
   “You’re part Korean right? I’ve had Korean bar-b-q, it’s good,” Alannah said.
   “I thought you were Japanese,” Rosemary said.
   “I’m both. My moms Korean, dads Japanese.”
   “Is there a big difference?” Rosemary asked.
   “There’s a lot of differences. The language, traditions, food-but Japan and Korea have had problems in the past. Koreans living in Japan can face discrimination,” Go told her.
   “That seems very strange. It always seemed to me Koreans and Japanese seemed the most similar compared to other Asians,” Alannah said.
   “Yeah… Lets not talk about the history of the two people. Bad things there,” Go said.
   “Alright,” Alannah said.
   “Your costume doesn’t have much style,” Rosemary told Go.
   Go laughed. “I’m just trying to look like a manga character.”
   “Your hair is cool. Very Elvis,” Alannah mentioned.
   “That’s how the yankii’s wear ’em in Japan,” Jessie told them.
   “Yankee’s?” Rosemary asked.
   “Yankii with two I’s. If you were to Americanize the word that is. Jessie’s saying I was a hoodlum. I’m bad news. Went to a bad school,” Go said.
   “They have bad schools in Japan? Their education system is one of the best in the world,” Britney said.
   “Top five but the educational system is like this-you have to do good early on. You do, you get admitted to a nice middle school, do good there, go to good high school. So if you suck, you go to average or even less then average. Me, I’m smart, it was the fights that got me into trouble,” Go said.
   “I have a friend who was into manga, those juvenile ones were some of her favorites,” Alannah said.
   Jessie had finished a second hot dog and grabbed her corn on the cob when she asked, “So what did you guys think about Hunter here and his dreams of saving the world?”
   “Thought he was an idiot,” Alannah said.
   “Still think he’s an idiot,” added Britney.
   “Hunter here is the prince of the family. It’s not common for the Manly family to have boys. Dad was the only boy of four children. His dad the youngest of six-all sisters. The Manly men try to get one boy to keep the name going,” Alannah said.
   “Technically any of ladies can do that,” Brit reminded her.
   “Well, yeah, but most men are not going to take a ladies name no matter how progressive they claim to be,” Alannah countered.
   “But Manly is a very manly surname,” Rosemary contributed.
   “What’s Hunter’s middle name? Is it also action hero stuff?” Go questioned before a bit of a chicken drumstick.
   “It’s Nicholas,” answered Rosemary.
   “I’m kind of disappointed,” Go said.
   “I am too because I was hoping he’d have an old fashion name like Percy or Milhouse. Something to complete throw of the epicness of the name Hunter Manly,” Jessie said.
   “So you guys went out last night, how was it? My brother any good at being a hero?” Brit questioned.
   Jessie finished a bite and answered, “He’s okay. Lots of enthusiasm.”
   “His fighting is pretty good, even as a complete copy of others,” Go added to what Jessie said.
   “When he started going on about being able to copy movements I didn’t believe him. Who could? It’s such an odd idea. Copying some fight moves in a movie? That’s not impressive. Learning how to be an amazing quarterback through watching so much football? A bit of a stretch. But he convinced us,” Britney told them.
   “How’d it pop up?” Jessie wondered.
   “It’s hard to explain. It doesn’t even make sense how,” Hunter replied.
   Go took a bite of the ribs and said, “This is excellent.”
   “Thanks,” Alannah smiled.
   “Well, it’s like this,” Hunter continued, “As a kid I loved mazes. Dad use to make them as sort of a hobby. I don’t know why, he just did.”
   “Just to keep us busy. He would make them, copy them, then hand them to us to do. They were difficult for a five or six year old,” Alannah added.
   “So I use to watch him do it, started trying to mimic him. Soon I started making bad copies. After that I studied his finished pieces and copy from them, then I could do it from memory,” Hunter went on.
   “You don’t have eidetic memory?” asked Go.
   “No. I can only really copy movements. Though I can also copy handwriting, drawings, stuff like that,” Hunter explained.
   “His art teachers were blown away with his pieces. We had to explain to them he can only copy others art,” Alannah said.
   “Enough about Hunter, we want to hear about you guys. The Guard. Like you Jessie, that interview you did was a big deal. Do you believe everything that you said?” Britney questioned before drinking a bit of her beer.
   “Yeah. Though I was angry before the interview,” Jessie responded.
   “So where do you stand on the NSA surveillance?” Brit inquired.
   “Wire tapping and watching potential criminals and terrorists is one thing, but treating everyone like a potential criminal is stupid. Besides-their tactics are causing some unrest overseas even with allies. They can announce changes to their policies but they don’t actually change much,” Jessie answered.
   “You know that for sure?”
   “I do.”
   “Where do you fall into with political views?” Britney asked.
   “C’mon Brit. I don’t want this falling into politics,” Hunter said.
   “I agree. Not at the dinner table,” Alannah said.
   “I don’t have a party affiliation. Left, right, liberal, libertarian-whatever. Its bullshit to me. People want to get a decent education, get a decent job, make enough money to pay bills and have some left over for fun. No one wants to to be discriminated against and told how to think or live. That’s what everyone of those politicians and parties should strive for,” Jessie said.
   Britney smiled and raised her drink to Jessie.
   “Are you really dating that Mr. Monster, guy?” Rosemary asked.
   “Yeah. He’s awesome,” Jessie said.
   Alannah wiped her mouth and asked with a smile, “A lot of hook ups in the team?”
   “Not really. Only two couples, maybe a third shortly,” Jessie said.
   “Really? Who?” Hunter asked.
   “Oh c’mon Hunter. You know who,” Go said.
   “Oh yes, the lesbians,” Hunter replied.