Sometimes you do an interview…and sometimes the interview looks back into you. Jet discovered this when she went for a ride recently with Ramses Jetstream.
It’s a warm, sticky afternoon; thankfully the car pulls up right on schedule. Bigger than any sedan built in the last three decades, it glides up to the curb like it was magnetically drawn there, the big V8 under the hood barely making a sound. The front passenger door opens and a brocaded blue interior offers a gush of decadent air conditioning with a hint of old-school refrigerant. The driver looks perfectly at home behind the wheel, She’s got short dyed-red hair and an upturned nose, but looks worldly enough to keep people from calling her pixie-ish. She smiles. “Hi, Ramses! Can I call you Ram? Welcome to the front seat of my car. My name’s Jet. Throw yourself in here and I’ll take you wherever you need to go.” The passenger door seems to close on its own. “Now tell me, if I was to ask you for the story of this week in your life in twenty words or less, how many salient details would I miss out on?”
“At least a hundred,” Ramses Jetstream says, and decides to save the revelation or joke about them being related (he ain’t sure which and which) till he’s sure she can get him to his destination. He trusts her, because anybody who looks worldly enough to keep people from calling her pixie-ish is trustworthy. The Imperial smells like bubble gum and cinnamon rolls. That helps too. “How’d you get an Eldritch car? I thought the pope had decommissioned those.” He glances at her. Jet’s mischievous eye-crinkles respond. “You can call me Ram,” he says.
“I don’t think His Holiness knows about this one. Old fella named Jacob Broken Arrow gave it to me, two days before a monster made of molten steel ate him. Said it belonged to me. It seems to like me well enough, that’s for sure. So how’s your week going? Who’s your current nemesis and what do you plan to do about him, her or it?”
“You’re not much for small talk.” This makes him like her. He and brother Milo had had a small break after their last victory, even though it didn’t feel like a victory. The world still sucked. Atlantis was still tucked away. Thoom sleepers were everywhere. Unfortunately, time had come for the Brothers Jetstream to do their Sun Ra: space was the place. “Peace mission,” says Ramses. “Aliens wanna blow up the Earth. We don’t want that to happen. Yet.”
“I’m with you. In the immortal words of the Tick: that’s where I keep all of my stuff! Did we do something to offend ‘em, or is it just business?”
“I can give you 51 reasons. Let’s just say steer clear of Nevada for a bit. Area’s about to be pimpin’ poppin’..”
She sighs, makes a right turn, and they’re driving on the Champs-Élysées, the massive car making space among diminutive Renaults and Peugeots like a bouncer easing his way through the crowd toward a troublemaker. “Is there anyone, on any plane, that humans can’t piss off?”
“Remind me to tell you about Leviathan one day.” He takes Paris in: it’s exactly like his favorite place on Earth–Atlantis–in precisely no way at all. The City of Love has always felt small to him, like no matter where he turned there was no room for him, and that’s just too damn poetic to have to deal with when all you wanted was to break into the Louvre again and replace the Mona Lisa (again) just for shits. Which is what he usually used a Paris trip for. But not this time out. No, this one, this was a recruitment drive. Literally. The pixie beside him (he was Ramses Jetstream, son of Hiram Percy and not the False Prophet Buford as he’d been led to believe, scourge of the reanimated dead, society ladies, and Master of the Slap of Fye; he could call her “pixie”)–the pixie in the sweetest Eldritch car on Earth had caught the attention of The Agents of Change more than once, but she seemed to always want to work alone. If what he and Milo felt coming was coming, that was no longer an option. The Brothers Jetstream needed…Jet.
Might have to work on her name though.
“I’m getting a familiar feeling in the air,” she says, her grin not faltering but her voice turning serious, “and I should tell you you’re not the first. It won’t work for you, though. Even if you take the car away from the little crippled chick, it’s not going to dance for you. It has to choose. It wouldn’t dance for old Jacob, either. Me and this car, we have a thing.”
“You sound like a couple ships captains I know,” says Ramses. “Ever heard ‘The Ballad of Desiree Quicho’? No? Well, when you meet her you will. Her husband, Captain Johnson Smoove, likes singing it. I wouldn’t think of getting between you and this car. I can tell it knows you, and I can tell it knows where you need to be, otherwise you wouldn’t be here with me. The Brothers Jetstream can always use someone who always knows where they need to be…even when they have no idea where they are. Ever been to Atlantis?”
“I can’t swim,” she replies, “but I wouldn’t be surprised if Outer Drive went there. I never checked, to be honest. Is that where we’re going?”
“No, but we’ll probably have to go back there. We’re rounding up…special people. Hopefully they’ll help. You’ve noticed the world is a particularly heinous shade of grey today, yes? Me and my brother are here to change that. I get the sense you know lots of special people. You up for a trip around the world to right a wrong or two, maybe readjust a ley line? Maybe even change a closed mind?” He feels the car vibrate appreciatively; Outer Drive knows where it needs to be, who it needs to transport there, and the shortest distance between the two. Raffic the Mad Buddha would fall in love with its chrome, leather, and sense of purpose instantly. Ramses Jetstream gives Jet, the wondrous pixie of powerful intent, a final respectful glance. “Sound fun?”
“I got a bad habit of joining good causes and getting in over my head,” she replies, “and my Saturday night’s not spoken for yet. If you need to pull some loud levers and tip some sacred cows, I’m game.”
Ramses smiles. “Consider the levers prepped for gripping.” He catches the tight smile she almost fails to let show and the extra anticipatory grip on the wheel. “Jet and the Jetstreams,” he says, then asks, “What do you think of the name ’Jaguar’?”
“I think that the fact that I have not parked on Mt. Everest and asked you to get out should be sufficient to confirm our agreement that you are never going to call me that to my face. So where to first?”
“Take a spin around the Louvre. After that, we visit the Blank.”
# # #
Zig Zag Claybourne is a Detroit-based author of fantastic and uplifting Afrofuturist works including The Brothers Jetstream: Leviathan, where you can find more of Ramses Jetstream’s captivating life experiences. There’s a sequel in the works, too, and we’re going to be all over it when it drops. For more of Zig Zag’s work and thoughts, go to Write On, Right On. Go. Absorb. Your world will be changed in ways subtle and magnificent.