The hardest part of being an aviator in the Secret Corp is that no one can know that. You have to go into a bar, kick up a stool next to a beautiful dame, sip your beer and pretend you're just another world war slob out for a good night. You can't talk about anything that really matters to you...like how Einstein is working with you in developing weapons that can repel Nazi Messerschmitts from a distance...and more importantly...that your best friend and buddy, whom you have a love hate relationship with is Rocketman!
Jet wasn't the drinking type; he was just sociable. He had grown up in a tough part of New York City where being brown or black meant that you didn't get much yardage with the local cops and those women who saw you at night quickly stepped to the other side of the street and men...well, men he wouldn't even go into.
"So you see, Harold. I can call you Harold right?" He told the man seated next to him. "It's like this, here I am my folk's fresh from Africa about two hundred years ago, and my sister works on a cotton farm, as a manager and my little brother steals bicycles for a living. A mixed baggage. Right?"
The other man stared at him without speaking.
"So it's like this, you don't' want to get pegged for the bad things some of your family does. Every family has its black sheep, its Cain that strikes out into the desert to do mischief. I don't care what color you are. Difference is that the white man has this thing about power and domination. He over ran the Indians. Oh, you didn't know that? Yeah. He sure as hell did. They ran every good Indian tribe that tried to help them make a living into the wilderness to die and those that didn't volunteer were volunteered or eliminated."
The other man said nothing. He just stared.
"So here I am the modern version of Moses, but with no sea to part and no slaves to save. They've already been saved by the mighty prophet Lincoln. Trouble is, when he got about freeing us, he didn't get about freeing the hearts and minds of the men who had owned us. They fled into the wilderness of their dark hearts and pretended...well some did anyway...that it just hadn't happened."
"What's really cool is they formed these crazy block parties for us to welcome us into their neighborhoods and celebrate our new freedom. Complete with these beautiful huge crosses lit up with flames and all kinds of things...like young kids and women...you know those who have no need to be free. Just baggage."
The other man's face made no expression on those words, though you'd think they might. After all, Jet was spilling some pretty heavy baggage into his lap. Most black men tend to keep it inside, letting it burn there like a smoldering piece of charcoal. And let it stay there despite the ongoing treatment of black people...his, hers and your bathrooms...restaurants that had patrons who would gladly show you to the door if you entered...schools with his and their sides to it or none at all. Yeah, Lincoln had done well.
"So I said one day. Well, I can't change the way Americans view the color of my skin. I can't hate them. Because you don't hate dumb, ignorant and stupid people. You just ignore them or pray to God that someday they'll grow up and become real people and recognize that we have hearts and souls just like they do. Maybe even one day our kids will play with yours and marry each other. But no, I can see that might disturb you. The idea of mixing colors would be a terrible thing."
Jet turns away from the man and gazes into the mug of Schnapps that sits between his hands. He can see scars on his right hand. The bomb from three nights ago he wasn't quite fast enough to dodge. The scar on his right wrist. Some guy in a crazy jacket with a kamikaze stance had tried to sever it off in hopes of mounting it on his bizarre cross.
"Nope." Jet went on. "Life is like a box of chocolates. Except in this case. Real chocolates." He laughed. "Get it? Chocolates! That's me, babe! Me!"
Jet sighed and pushed his mug away. "This is no use. I'm just shooting my mouth off for nothing. You listen, but don't hear. What's the use of it?"
He stood up, shrugged his flak jacket back on and eyed the Nazi who sat on the stool next to where he stood. The soldier had been young like him, full of life and vigor, maybe even was a regular beer drinker. Had a girlfriend back home. Or this town. He didn't know. Never would. He had to shoot him before the young man could warn his friends in town they had guests.
"Damn! I hate this job!" Jet complained, eyeing the pooling blood that stained the bar where the young man's head lay, a bullet hole between his eyes. A look of astonishment on his face.
"I guess it really doesn't matter, does it, what I think? You fools are just like those A's back home who don't manage to get their thoughts past the color of my skin. You just shoot and ask questions later. It's the only way to deal with people smarter than you, isn't it?"
He pulled the young soldier's jacket up and over his face in respect. "You want to rule the world and make it a better place. Trouble is, your idea of better is somes idea of hell!"
He heard a loud noise behind him and spun around, his service revolver ready to fire.
Rocketman stood there, the visor on his helmet open so Jet could see his smile.
"Harry, one of these days when you sneak up on me like that I'm going to accidentally fill you full of holes."
Rocketman, Captain Harry Jackson, just shrugged, which wasn't easy in that heavy outfit he wore.
"You heard it all, didn't you?"
Harry nodded, which also wasn't easy in that heavy duty metallic outfit. Einstein and Tesla had been working at making it more flexible and lighter, but it had been a long road to travel. For both Harry and himself, Lieutenant Jet Barry.
"Don't beat yourself up over that dead Nazi, Jet."
"I'm not. And he's not a dead Nazi; he's a poor farmer who got stupid with the help of politics and people who care more about what they think than anyone else does. He and most of his other soldier friends. He just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time."
"Yeah. I suppose you're right, Jet." Harry acknowledged. "Maybe someday us."
"Maybe. But not soon if I can help it. I want to live long enough to see my people really free."
Harry gave him a sad look. "It's war time and the guys don't care that fight alongside you. Most of them anyway, but when we get back."
"Yeah. Back." Jet winced. "I don't like the sound of that word anymore. Back to what? Sitting in the back of the bus, his and our toilets, women that want you but holler rape if you look at them, men that consider us property."
"Hitler's our main target now, Jet. Not America."
Jet nodded. "I love America. I was born there, but that doesn't make me proud of how its people treat me and those of color."
Harry came closer, lifting his feet awkwardly. The weight of the suit was tremendous. It cracked the wooded floor and splintered it as he strode closer. "It will change one day, Jet. I swear it. And I'll be there right alongside you when we go back. I'll be pulling for you."
"It's going to take a helluva lot more souls than you, Harry, though God Bless you, I appreciate the thought."
"Look, Jet, one battle at a time. Okay. Let's win this one, and the next, we'll deal with when the time comes. Together."
Harry lifted his right hand and the metal glove on it flipped back and revealed his human hand. He stuck it out. Jet grinned, and then took it. "You are really going to scare the crap outta lot of white folks when they see us together back in Selma."
"I hope so." Harry said with a grin. "I hope so!"
They exited the German hofbrau and stood on the sidewalk outside. What was left of the city was in ruins and burning.
"I hate this job. War's hell and people can be devils." Harry said.
"Yeah. Don't I know it. And I especially hate it when you..."
Harry moved too fast for Jet to finish. Before he knew it, Harry had him in his arms and was hurtling skywards, the rockets on his back blasting them higher and higher.
As the clouds above came closer Jet shivered, but then he felt free again. Free like he never did on earth. Maybe this is what a soul felt like when it got wings, free from its mortal shell.
"Wahoo!" Jet yelled as he and the Rocketman shot above the German town and hurtled towards the distant Swiss Alps where their secret base was.