Fifteen minutes later and with an escort from an elderly secretary that was not too pleased with the interruption, Michael found the orientation room on the 2nd floor. As he neared the door, he could hear screaming from inside. Michael decided it would be better to just slip inside and find an open seat, preferably in the back.
Michael opened the door and was surprised. It looked like a typical office meeting room, the ugly ceiling tiles with the can lights and the indestructible carpet but there were no chairs, no tables, no desks, just eight people facing away from him, standing as straight as possible in a line, shoulder to shoulder, with their arms to their sides. The two large JTF agents in the room wore the common black jumpsuit that most people recognized but with a hat that looked like the state police’s large round black hat. The black JTF agent stood to the side, his arms folded with a very unhappy look on his face. The white JTF agent was standing only a few inches in front of the group. He was the one Michael heard shouting because he was still shouting obscenities at the short black male in the line.
“Deal with it recruit!” the agent finished yelling.
Michael noticed the pile of luggage bags thrown haphazardly in the corner to the right when the screaming stopped.
“Hey, shit-for-brains,” Michael heard to his left. He turned his head and saw both JTF agents walking towards him. These guys were more than large, they were huge, 6’5” and 250 pounds easily.
“Yes, you.” They continued to approach. “What right do you think you have to interrupt my orientation? Answer me, moron, or my partner will drop kick your ass through that window!” The JTF agent’s volume was much higher now.
“I’m Michael Larson, um, sir?” stuttered Michael. “I was told to be here.”
“Sir?” mocked the white JTF agent, “Sir? Agent Edwards, did this worthless piece of shit just call me, sir?”
“I believe so, Agent Prescott,” answered Agent Edwards in a very flat tone and deep voice. The man had a permanent scowl on his face.
Agent Prescott continued to approach Michael, his lips rolled in and his eyes blazing. Michael thought he had a very large chin with a much too small mustache as the brim of Agent Prescott’s hat hit him right between the eyes.
“Well, well, if it isn’t our sleeping beauty,” taunted Agent Prescott. “What’s the matter, princess, get in a fight last night while drinking?”
Michael was ready to show Agent Prescott the letter from Director Lehrer with the wrong time but decided it would be best to keep quiet. Accusing the agent’s boss’s boss’s boss of being a childish prick was probably not a good way to start his time with the JTF.
“No…Agent Prescott. I thought the start time was at 9 am. I was informed that I was wrong when I was detained at the gate and rushed over here.”
Agent Prescott reminded himself to have a talk with the guards tonight. No one injures his recruits but him or Edwards. He narrowed his eyes as he began to speak again, each word emphasized with another smack between Michael’s eyes with his hat.
“So you show up late to my orientation and looking like something my cat dragged through his litter box. Congratulations, princess, you are now on the top of my recycle list. Get in line with the other worthless recruits. Now!”
Michael felt Agent Edwards grab his bag and toss it on the top of the pile with the rest of the bags. He did not watch it for very long as he was rushed to the center of the room to stand next to a young woman with strawberry blond hair and small circular glasses.Her eyes were stuck looking at the wall in front of her.
Agent Prescott walked back in front of the line of recruits, brushing Michael’s left shoulder. Agent Edwards came around to the front of the group from the other side of the line.
“Recruits, “ barked Agent Edwards, looking left and right to make sure he had the attention of everyone in line. He seemed to pause.
“Recruit Shipley, don’t you eyeball me again or I will knock your ass out.” Michael was not sure which one was Shipley but he silently thanked him for taking the focus off him for at least a few seconds.
“Each of you was tested to determine your Enhanced category and type. You are all here because the United States government has determined your powers will benefit this great republic. Agent Prescott and I disagree with our nation but we do what we are told. And we are told to make JTF agents out of worthless Enhanced like you. Welcome to training.”
As Agent Edwards spoke, Agent Prescott walked down the line, getting very close to each recruit. He was near the end of the line when he screamed again.
“You have something to say Recruit Jurgens?” screamed Agent Prescott. Michael could not see who he was talking to but the name Jurgens was very familiar.
James and Elizabeth Jurgens were Enhanced royalty, if there was such a thing. James Jurgen, callsign Judge, was a category 4 Tank and Flyer at the apex of every Enhanced chart.
After Atomic Power obliterated Los Angeles, James Jurgen was the Hero the United States turned to for help. For weeks after Apocalypse, he worked tirelessly flying from Southern California to the Army field hospital in Bakersfield. He saved over 871 people and several trillion dollars worth of equipment. He also put an end to the gang violence that plagued Chicago for decades. The Windy City still has its own share of murders but the numbers are nowhere near the rate before Judge decided to clean it up. The Judge was the target of many criminal organizations, some with very powerful Enhanced involved, but he has always emerged victorious. Some call him the Enhanced Eliot Ness, the greatest Untouchable.
And then there was Elizabeth Jurgens, callsign Jury. Where Judge was known for his strength and commanding presence, Jury was known for her grace and beauty. Jury, a category 4 Mentalist, grew up in Las Vegas working as a showgirl by day and an Enhanced at night. She was known for her ability to pull minor details from victims and witnesses to help law enforcement solve the most difficult crimes. When she was on the front line fighting with Judge, she used her telepathic powers to confuse, control, or weaken their opponents. Michael had found several online forums where people debated if Judge or Jury was the strongest. He knew he would get killed by Judge in a second but there was just something about Mentalists that scared him. Jury was criticized years ago for lobotomizing the Enhanced criminal Train during one of her solo outings while Judge was on a JTF mission. In her defense, telepathic skills will not deter a powerful and determined Enhanced psychopath. And Train was about to drop a loaded fuel tanker on top of her.
According to their best-selling autobiography, Judge and Jury had met and married a few years before Apocalypse. They met while Jury was providing counseling to female immigrants smuggled over the border as part of a sex trade ring and Judge was working with the Border Patrol to arrest the gang members involved. Their whirlwind courtship and marriage made national news for months and covered by gossip tabloids and several television stations. Jury eventually moved from her modest apartment in Las Vegas to Chicago to be with her new husband. They immediately endorsed the Enhanced Public Safety Act, arguing that Enhanced were not gods or monsters, but Americans with abilities to help Americans. When the JTF formed, they were the first to work on a mixed Enhanced – mundane team. They also worked closely with Harris Industries to develop the JTF armor to protect the mundane agents against Enhanced criminals.
Michael had read everything he could find online about Judge and Jury after his trial and sentencing to the JTF, hoping to glean any wisdom from their speeches and writings. It was not hard to find. They were the second and third most popular Enhanced and the number one team, with several dozen fan websites and newsletters. Their appearances at conventions across the country always sold out. They were inspirational and very positive about the JTF. Michael thought Director Lehrer’s poor attitude was not a reflection on the JTF, but of a cowardly man upstaged by real JTF agents that made a difference every day. Unfortunately, Lehrer’s type of poison always drips down so you will get people like the guards outside. Michael decided to just avoid negatives like that and focus on helping people. And all that came crashing down in two words, Scott Jurgens.
The number one most popular Enhanced was Scott Jurgens, callsign Justice. He was the only child of Judge and Jury and had a cult following of teenage girls like no other Enhanced, music group, or anything. Although he was not a certified agent yet, he had worked on many famous JTF cases with his mom and dad since his Reveal at age 10. The media loved the tall, good-looking, blond Enhanced that was part quarterback, part model. He was the heir to the throne and his every move followed by his entranced thralls. Michael had focused on his parent’s earliest comments about the JTF and developing Enhanced powers, missing the many articles about their son starting the JTF training in Indianapolis.
“Agent Edwards, when did the JTF become a refuge for convicted felons?” asked Recruit Jurgens at the other end of the line of recruits. Michael heard several recruits snicker and knew his chance of making Enhanced friends just went out the window. Someone had told Justice.
“Recruit,” answered Agent Edwards, the tone of his voice obviously very unhappy that Jurgens leaked sensitive information, “how someone is recruited in the JTF is none of your damn business. You may not like it but, in fact, I don’t care. This group will be your training class unless you want to quit now. There’s the door.” Agent Edward’s arm snapped over Recruit Jurgen’s shoulder pointing to the door Michael had just entered. Both agents had agreed earlier to keep Recruit Larson’s unusual recruiting method quiet but it was out now so it would be squashed. This type of conflict could ruin an entire training class.
“I am here to protect and serve, Agent Edwards,” replied Recruit Jurgens.
“Good, Recruit Jurgens,” replied the JTF agent, “Now shut up and listen to Agent Prescott before I decide to recycle you anyways.”
“Understood,” replied the blonde recruit in a very tense tone.