J.E.D.I.: The Origin of Alexis Tano (1/2)
Slight Content Warning: Mentions of Dysfunctional Home/Domestic Violence and Child Neglect as it pertains to the plot.
The year is 2043.
The month is October.
The day is a Wednesday.
It is cold and slightly windy in the small town of Chili, Missouri. A car—a 2044 Honda Accord—drives down a street, and it parks at a building with a sign that reads "Chili Town Preschool". Out of the driver's side door stepped out a man with orange/yellow hair and sunglasses, clothed in a brown trench coat over a beige sweater and tan pants as he took a shot of his inhaler under his black paisley-print bandana, walking towards the preschool building. A woman in a cardigan set and floral skirt came out to meet him and asked, "Greetings, Sir. What can I do for you?"
In the playground in the back, there were children playing all sorts of games, from jump rope to hopscotch and ball games. Some children, however, were seated at the lunch tables with their colorful cartoon-themed tin lunchboxes, eating their homemade lunches. One girl in particular sat alone at one table as she opened her Strawberry Shortcake™-themed tin lunchbox, and pulled out a box of chicken nuggets and a packet of honey mustard sauce from home. She opened the packet, however, what she did next was unusual yet fascinating. Without even actually touching it, she made the chicken nugget float into the dipping packet, and then made it float up to her mouth, taking a bite. She did this repeatedly with the rest of the chicken nuggets, and also with some baby carrots, Goldfish™ crackers, and grapes. And it did not stop there; she managed to also stick the straw in her juice box all without actually using her hands and just making the items float. Of course, since she sat all alone, no one seemed to know about her unique talents.
"Everyone! Get in!" a voice called out, "The wind is picking up strength!"
A female teacher was motioning for the children to come in due to a high speed wind gust, but almost none of them seemed to listen since they were all busy playing with their games. At that moment, however, the sound of a tree trunk snapping could be heard, and it happened that a large tree was indeed breaking; the trunk was going to fall on some of the children if none of them got up and ran in immediately. The girl heard it, and ran over to the spot where the tree was about to fall, but just as the kids and teacher thought that the children were done for, they realized that the girl saved them; As she held up her arms, the entire tree was floating above her.
"Wow, that's super cool," one boy whispered to another boy.
The teachers were speechless. The mysterious man with the bandana stood there also watching, but instead of expressing shock, he sported a smile under the black paisley fabric.
“Did you see that? I know what I saw with my own two eyes.”
One of the teachers who witnessed the levitating tree was conversing with the man with the bandana. He seemed unfazed by the incident, but still was eager to ask questions.
“Who was that girl?” the man asked.
“Her name is Alexis Tano,” the teacher answered, “She usually sits by herself and seems rather shy.”
“Is this the first time you’ve witnessed something like this?” the man continued.
“Actually, yes,” the teacher replied, “Maybe that’s why she’s so shy, but she saved those children’s lives. By the way, I’m Olivia Stuyvesant, and you are—”
“Preston Kelsey,” the man answered, “Incidents like these are nothing new to me; in fact, I search for them. I can sense these things; she may be one of us.”
“What do you mean, Mr. Kelsey?” Olivia asked.
“I am from the Academy of Justice, Excellence, Defense, and Intelligence in Manhattan,” Preston explained, “And I’m on the High Council. One of my main tasks is to find children like her, whom we call ‘Espers’ and send them letters of recommendation to our Academy. Bring her before me.”
As the daycare classes were ending, Olivia had Preston come in and speak to Alexis.
“Alexis,” Olivia started, “This man has come from a very important institution in New York City. He saw you save the children from the falling tree and wishes to speak with you.”
Alexis stepped forward, and Preston gave her a handshake as he lowered his bandana. “Nice to meet you, Alexis Tano,” he started, “You did a brave thing back there.”
Alexis looked up at him. “Thanks,” she uttered.
“How long had you had or known about your abilities?” Preston asked her.
Alexis froze for a moment, but then managed to speak again, “I like to make my food and toys float, but no one knew about them until today.”
“Yes, but when did your first notice them?” Preston asked again.
Alexis remained quiet, “I just, they just, showed up,” she spoke.
Preston seemed to study Alexis for a moment. He sensed that there was something she was not telling him, or rather, afraid to tell him.
“They manifested by accident, didn’t they?” Preston asked, “You were scared, and I also feel that you’re not loved by your family.”
At that moment, Alexis began to tremble. “How do you know that my parents don’t love me?!” she cried.
“I am like you, sweetie,” Preston explained, “I have powers too, and they are more advanced because of training and refinement. I can sense your feelings. You can tell me anything.”
Alexis still cried. “They fight every night. Daddy works late all the time, saying he has to stay overtime. Mommy only drops me off and picks me up; she appears to always be half-awake. She won’t be here until three hours from now, and she’ll just go pick up some fast food and we’ll eat. When Dad gets home, they’ll start fighting again.”
“I see,” Preston understood, “It must be terrible to have parents that only fight and don’t pay you much attention.”
Alexis managed to stop crying a little, “One night, Mom and Dad were so angry and hitting each other so much, that I started crying. Mommy yelled at me to shut up, and all of a sudden, they floated off the ground as I cried, and so did many things around the house. They all fell down after I stopped crying that night.”
The memory of that day flashed back into Alexis’ mind. Mr. and Mrs. Tano, her parents, were in the middle of a heated argument; black eyes and bruises covered their bodies. The shouting was incessant. Alexis sat on the couch, crying as she held on to a plush doll.
“YOU SHUT UP THIS IS OUR ISSUE!” Mrs. Tano yelled at her daughter, but it only made it worse. That’s when the couple started levitating off the ground, and a variety of home decor started floating inexplicably as well. Only when Alexis managed to calm down did everything stop levitating and fall to the floor.
Preston penned down his notes on a notepad. “Aside from the yelling, have your parents ever hit you or caused you any physical harm that was not restrained discipline?” he asked, “And by restrained discipline, I mean getting spanked for misbehaving.”
“No,” Alexis answered, “Mommy’s lazy and all she does is drink all the grape juice and sleep on the couch with the TV on until she realizes she’s three hours late to pick me up, then she just drives like crazy to some fast food restaurant to get dinner and eat in the hope that Dad will be home early, only for him to arrive past my bedtime, and then they begin another fight.”
“I gotta tell someone about this,” Olivia panicked.
“I advise against it,” Preston warned the teacher, “I can take care of this.”
“This little girl just confessed to living in a household of neglect, endangerment, and a vicious cycle of domestic violence between her parents!” Olivia recounted, “Someone should call the police and CPS!”
“If you call CPS, then I might just lose my chance to bring her to the Academy in Manhattan,” Preston tried to reason with her, “And it’ll take forever to wade through the paperwork to pull her out of foster care. I’ll handle the matter with my agents; she has a better shot at life in a prestigious academy in Manhattan than to be transferred from family to family, and with her abilities, I just can’t risk it. Please, say nothing about this to anyone.”
Olivia remained silent. A car pulled up haphazardly in the loading zone, and a woman emerged from the car, stumbling about.
“That’s Mommy, I have to go,” Alexis told Olivia and Preston.
“You don’t really want to go home, do you?” Preston asked.
Alexis paused again. “No,” she answered, “but I have to.”
Alexis walked down the hall to the main entrance where the loading zone was located. Olivia and Preston followed, with the latter running up to Mrs. Tano.
“Woman, you don’t look so well,” Preston noted, “I could get you medical care.”
“Nah, it’s fine,” Mrs. Tano mumbled, somewhat dazed, “My baby girl and I are gonna get some KFC tonight.”
“No, I insist,” Preston continued, waving his hand in front of Mrs. Tano, “Please, let me drive you safely to your destination.”
The dazed woman appeared spaced out. “Okay, I will let you drive me and Alexis to KFC,” she uttered, somewhat mindlessly.
Preston helped Mrs. Tano into the passenger seat, and buckled Alexis in her car seat in the back. He bid farewell to Olivia, telling her, “Thank you for your time. And may God be with you.”
With Alexis and Mrs. Tano in the car, Preston input directions on the car’s navigational computer to get to the nearest KFC. The sun was setting fast, creating a medium-dark blue sky which faded into orange at the horizon. Preston pulled out a mobile phone from one of his coat pockets, and began to dial a number. As the dial tone sounded, he pressed a button that read “3rDimension” and the screen displayed a message that read “Lay phone flat now”. A blue hologram of a person projected from the phone’s camera lens.
“Master Kelsey?” asked the projection.
“I have found the Esper presence in this town,” Preston replied, “Female, about three years of age. It appears she lives in a dysfunctional household. We must remove her as soon as possible and fly her to Manhattan immediately.”
“Do you know their address?” asked the agent.
“As of now, no,” Preston answered, “I’ll get back to you once I find out the information from either the girl or her mother.”
The sunset progressed faster into the evening. Olivia got into her hover car and drove away from the preschool. Meanwhile, after picking up some KFC, Preston drove into the residential area, which was populated by house after house.
“Alexis, what’s your address?” Preston inquired.
“20089 Shauntae Street,” Alexis answered.
Preston input the address into the GPS computer again, with the voice speaking “Make a U-turn, then in 500 ft. turn right onto Willoughby Street.” Once he got to 20089 Shauntae Street, he dropped off the girl and her mother. Meanwhile, the man stayed outside. He dialed his agents again via “3rDimension”.
“I have the address to the girl’s home,” Preston relayed the information to the hologram projection, “20089 Shauntae Street. Also, I left my 2044 Honda Accord at the preschool; you can use your skeleton keys to access it and drive it over to the location.”
At home, Alexis nibbled on some popcorn chicken as she sat at the table; her mother on a side adjacent as she drank what appeared to be an entire smoothie with a pungent scent.
“So, how was your day?” Mrs. Tano mumbled, taking a bite out of a biscuit.
“Well, I saved my friend’s lives,” Alexis began, “And I met a superhero who was really nice.”
“That’s nice,” Mrs. Tano answered, taking another sip of her smoothie.
A doorbell rang. It was Alexis’ father, Mr. Tano. At his mere sight, Mrs. Tano got up again and stormed towards her husband.
“Why so early? Did you get your ‘appointment’ with that Jennifer Duvall secretary rejected all of a sudden?!” Mrs. Tano fumed.
“Hey, at least I’m not three hours late for dinner!” Mr. Tano shouted.
“I’m not heating it up!” Mrs. Tano screamed.
“I can do it myself, and then throw it in your face!” Mr. Tano yelled back, “Remind me again why I even married you?!”
And thus, another fight had begun. As the couple argued and hit each other, Alexis got up from her seat and climbed upstairs. She held onto an assortment of plush dolls, when she heard the crash of a glass and her mother’s voice screaming “THAT WAS MY FAVORITE GLASS!!!”, followed by the sound of punches being thrown.
Outside the home, Preston observed the situation. A van was parked across the street, also observing what was going on. The Honda Accord arrived on the scene just in time. Preston walked to the house on the left and knocked. He was approached by a couple.
“Hello, Sir. Who are you?” asked the woman.
“My name is Preston Kelsey, and I’m with the Academy,” Preston replied, “I got a tip about domestic violence in the house next door, is that true?”
“They be arguin’ n’ fightin’ ev’ry night,” the woman answered, “By the way, I’m Nia Putnam, and this is my husband Jerome. The Tanos got a baby girl, but it seems they don’t even care about her. Don’t know why I haven’t called CPS already.”
“You need not call them,” Preston answered, “I’m working on getting that girl removed from the premises. She has a better future in the Academy. Thank you for your time, Nia.”
Preston proceeded to call his agents. A team of suited men and women emerged from the van and knocked on the Tanos’ door. The door was answered by Mr. Tano, who asked, “Who in the world are you freaks and what are you doing here?!”
“Sir, we received a tip about ongoing domestic violence at this address, and possible child neglect and endangerment,” one of the agents began, “We have no choice but to remove the child from this premises; we feel her life in is danger if she remains here.”
“NOT MY BABY GIRL!!!!!!!!!!” Mrs. Tano wailed, fallen on the floor, “THIS IS ALL YOUR FAULT!”
“HOW IS IT MINE, YOU CRAZY BRAT?!!!!” Mr. Tano slapped his wife as he stepped on a medication packet. Mrs. Tano continued to scream, “NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!”
Preston and his agents entered the home. While the couple continued to fight as the agents tried to subdue them, he made his way upstairs and found Alexis in her room, which was barely decorated, and her closet only contained about three outfits aside from the pajamas she had on.
“Mister Kelsey!” Alexis exclaimed.
“Come with me, we’re getting you out of here,” Preston told Alexis. She took one doll with her as her hero led her down the stairs. The agents followed suit as they made their way out of the house. However, as they tried to leave, Mr. and Mrs. Tano trampled each other chasing after the agents. Nia and Jerome came out of their house to watch.
“YOU GIVE OUR DAUGHTER BACK!” screamed Mr. Tano, “WE’VE NEVER EVEN LAID ONE HARMFUL HAND ON HER!!!”
“Your constant, violent quarreling is already a danger to your child,” Preston answered, “You have failed to care for her. She is now in our custody.”
As Mr. and Mrs. Tano thrashed and screamed at Preston and his agents, the man handed Alexis to one of the other agents and waved his hands in front of the couple. Suddenly, the couple seemed to stop their violence temporarily.
“You will cease this violence and return to your home immediately,” Preston commanded, waving his hands in their faces.
Mr. and Mrs. Tano appeared to blank out. The two then spoke in unison, “We will cease this violence and return home immediately.” The couple turned around, and slowly walked back to their house. Nia and Jerome were in disbelief as they watched the event which had occurred in their neighborhood.
“I’mma gonna call the cops on them,” Nia told Jerome, “So those loons can finally be locked up and not have to argue anymore.”
Alexis was now seated in a carseat in Preston’s Honda Accord. She took a look out the window and at the town she called home; the small shops, the fast food restaurants that were on every block and corner, the gas stations, the dingy apartment buildings. Eventually, the car took a road she had not seen before; an open field with some industrial businesses here and there, and apparently a large plane hangar in the distance. Preston drove towards the hangar, where apparently many private jets were parked. This was not like the airport, where people bought tickets and waited in terminals before being called to board a flight and it was always bustling with people from various places. Here, smaller planes were reserved and prepared for people and private parties traveling about.
“Where are we going Master Kelsey?” Alexis asked.
“Manhattan, where the Academy is,” Preston replied, “You’re gonna love it, Little Lexi.”
As the two, along with Preston’s agents, walked across the runways, they came upon a light blue plane with a beige underside divided by a gold stripe. A logo resembling a twinkling star with wings adorned the sides towards the rear, with the abbreviation “J.E.D.I.” placed to the left of the winged star logo.
“This is it, Little Lexi,” Preston told Alexis, “From this point, we are heading to the Academy.”
Alexis nodded. The team walked up the ramp and into the plane. Everyone was promptly seated, as a stewardess went through the safety drill. Shortly after, the captain was cleared to go, and the plane lifted off and flew into the night sky.
As Preston looked out the window, Alexis was attended by some of the stewardesses, who gave her some bite-sized apple slices and vegetables, along with a cup of water, and also a blanket to stay warm. In the cockpit, the captain alerted the passengers: “Everyone, fasten your seat belts, we are about to engage hyperdrive to NYC.”
Preston helped secure Alexis in her seat, and them himself. The captain pressed a large blue button with a starburst-like icon on it, which caused the plane to accelerate into a vortex. In what was less than 20 minutes, the plane emerged from the vortex and entered the airspace above New York City. The clock had jumped a time zone as well, since New York was one hour ahead of Missouri. The plane the descended over another private hangar, this one located in the outskirts of the borough of Queens.
Preston, Alexis, and the agents all got off the plane. A yellow taxi cab with a checkered stripe across it was parked on the runway. The agents got in another van and hovered off into the city.
“Here, take this,” Preston told the taxi driver as he handed him some cash.
“Ey, that’ll do,” the taxi driver replied, “Hop on, where are we goin’?”
“Washington Heights, Manhattan,” Preston told the driver, “J.E.D.I. Academy, to be precise.”
Preston and Alexis got in the taxi and put on their seat belts. The cab then drove off onto a road towards Manhattan.
Start spreading the news, I’m leaving today. I want to be a part of it, New York, New York...
The city was bustling with its endless traffic and bright lights. People walked about on the streets as well. For the first time in her life, Alexis’ eyes lit up with wonder and fascination at the sight of all the signs, from the Times Square screens to the Subway signs. To cut through some of the traffic, the taxi elevated a few stories over ground level and sped through some clearer hover traffic.
“And that was ‘New York, New York,’ by the legendary Frank Sinatra,” a voice announced on the taxi’s radio as they drove past the UN building, “And now, to the news! For starters, Global Republic Chancellor Valorum’s polling numbers have gone up 25% this month alone... he is doing quite well with the people as of lately...”
“I’ve never seen a city so big before,” Alexis told herself.
“Ey guys, we’re here!” the taxi driver alerted.
The taxi had arrived in the vicinity of a large building; even bigger that all the other buildings in the sprawling city. It was like two trapezoidal prisms stacked on each other, with five spires, four on the corners and one in the center, standing tall and proud as they overlooked the city. A grand staircase overlooked by four winged golden statues greeted all who entered this place. Preston and Alexis got off and prepared to take on the daunting task of ascending the staircase.
“You know, Little Lexi,” Preston started, “I’ll carry you myself up these steps.”
Preston picked up Alexis and began to walk up the staircase. Other people were going up with him as well; these were other students and teachers at the Academy heading inside for the night. Some even held conversations amongst themselves. Once they got to the main entryway, Preston and Alexis were greeted by four long banners hanging over the grand entrance. The four banners read “Justice”, “Excellence”, “Defense”, and “Intelligence” in a vertical direction, spelling its characteristic acronym, J.E.D.I., in the horizontal direction.
The halls were huge, spacious, enormous, yet all so elegant, despite being mainly brown and gold with a few accents of color. Mahogany pillars supported the high ceilings of the main concourses. The place had such an air of dignity yet serenity to it. Preston approached one of the teachers and asked him, “Which way to the J.E.D.I. nurseries?”
“Take a left and follow the arrows under the ‘Nurseries’ signs,” the teacher advised.
Preston turned towards another hallway, following the signs that indicated the directions to the nurseries. Along the way, he was met by one of the female caretakers.
“Master Kelsey,” the caretaker approached him, “I see you’ve brought a youngling.”
“Yes, Miss,” Preston answered, “Has strong potential and was found living in a dysfunctional household. She’s here now, safe and sound.”
“Oh, okay,” the caretaker replied, “All younglings are safe and welcome here at the J.E.D.I. Academy.”
The caretaker took Alexis from Preston, who waved goodbye to her as he ran back to the main concourse, and this time taking the path to the J.E.D.I. dormitories. In the nurseries, the caretaker carried Alexis to a small, empty bed and tucked her in. The preschool-aged girl quickly fell asleep with her plush toy in hand.