Portal – Chapter 12

They marched to one of the buildings clustered in the middle of Butler, where orientation was held in the morning. They were in one of the old university classrooms, a whiteboard was mounted on the front wall of the entire classroom. The high tables and chairs reminded Michael of his chemistry class.

“You maggots stay here,” said Agent Edwards, “Dr. Carlson will arrive in a few minutes.”

When the door shut and the Agents were out of the room, a collective sigh was heard around the room.

“I barely got to eat,” said the Cuban woman. Michael still did not know most of their names.

“Why don’t you thank the felon,” replied Justice loudly. “The fact he is here has made us late all day.”

“What are you complaining about, Justice?” said the woman with glasses next to Michael. “This is the JTF, not Fort Leavenworth.”

“I know where we are, Recruit Tyler,” Justice spoke very angrily. “I’ve been wondering for several days why the JTF let Larson in. He did something to piss off a lot of people.”

The female recruit that Justice had been flirting with all day turned her head from Michael to Justice.

“And you know all this, how, Scott?” she asked.

“Alaina, you don’t go to battle without scouting the competition,” he replied confidently. “Our recruit training team stands between joining the major crimes units and working public relations events. If the team is weak or doesn’t work well together, the chances for top-tier recruitment just disappeared. They don’t recruit Enhanced that can’t hack it.”

Alaina looked up Michael. Even bald-headed, Michael thought she was still beautiful.

“There is no way any major crimes team will want to look at a recruit class with a felon,” he continued to explain.

“Is this true?” she asked, interrupting Justice. She leaned over to look down the row of desks at Michael on the other end.

“Yes,” Michael replied, “Justice can read. The entire team is judged as well as the individual recruits according to the brochures.” Several recruits laughed.

“The first part, smartass,” Justice growled. “Why are you here and not in Fort Leavenworth with the other criminals. Why is your file sealed?”

The entire group turned around and looked at Michael. Scott looked pleased to have focused the attention on Michael’s criminal history.

“I was convicted of Unauthorized Use, Failure to Register, and Burglary with Enhanced Powers,” Michael confessed as he squirmed in his seat. He was very uncomfortable and embarrassed discussing the last eight  months. “ I guess the judge felt sorry for me since my Reveal was only a year ago. He sent me here instead of jail.”

“Wow,” spoke the recruit next to Michael, Recruit Tyler, as Justice called her. “I didn’t think a Reveal that late was possible.”

“My cousins in Syria say that most Enhanced there have a late Reveal but still before 16,” spoke the recruit on the near side of Recruit Shipley.

“It is similar in China,” added Recruit Chung. “Even though there are many more people in China, the number of Enhanced is less than half the United States. They have yet to see a Category 4.”

“Fidel’s lieutenant that started the civil war in Cuba was barely a 2,” said the Enhanced woman next to Recruit Chung.

“Judge Ronald Thompson,” said Recruit Shipley, suddenly, breaking the chain of thought, “was the presiding judge. Even Director Lehrer was entered as a witness according to the DOJ database. That must have been a helluva look on his face when the judge sent you here.”

“You have no idea,” laughed Michael. “How the hell do you know all this?”

“I’m a Computer Empath. Name’s Terrence Shipley, callsign, Net.”

Michael already liked Net. At least one of the Enhanced in his class was not a dick.

“Michael Larson, callsign, uh, don’t have one.”

“Don’t worry, it will come to you,” laughed Net. “By the way, Justice is right. Your JTF file is sealed completely, like Top Secret SCI type sealed. What for?”

“They said I’m a new type of Teleporter and wanted to keep others from snooping around until they studied me. Like you?”

Net laughed, “Nah, no worries. I can break into almost any system but I don’t do classified systems.”

“You two girls finished?” asked Justice, unhappy that Michael’s criminal record was not as important to everyone else.

“What the hell is your problem, Scott?” asked Michael in a tone mockingly similar to the way Alaina pronounced his name. Michael regretted saying it like that immediately when Alaina turned her head and faced the front of the room again.

“Bro, you need to relax,” laughed Net to Justice. “You’ve got a tier 1 slot already. The JTF field teams are salivating over you.”

“I’m not your, bro, Net,” said Justice angrily. “Why don’t you just shut up and let your girlfriend talk for himself?”

Net was not going to let this go. “At least he’s not here because he has daddy issues.”

Michael knew that Net had just pushed the wrong button. Justice was angry before but now he was livid and turning a new shade of red. He leaned closer to the smaller recruit, who he easily outweighed by 100 pounds and towered over by 6 inches.

“You shouldn’t talk about Daddy issues, Net,” fumed Justice. “Not when yours is doing 25 years at Leavenworth for wire fraud and embezzlement. You share the same power as your father, don’t you?”

“No one is better than my old man at what we do,” Net muttered quietly.

Michael stood up. Justice was pushing the limits too far. Net was not responsible for what his dad did. The smaller Enhanced looked like he was ready to physically strike Justice. It would not be a good idea. Justice obviously was not about to back down now either and was used to bullying his way. He looked directly at Michael over the heads of the five recruits between them.

“You have something to say, felon?”

“Sure do, ass..,” Michael started.

Alaina quickly leaned over to Justice and grabbed his wrist.

“You need to stop, Scott,” she said forcefully.

Justice’s head turned around from Michael to Alaina. She did not appear very happy at all.

“Do you pendejos think this machismo crap is going to impress anyone?” asked the Cuban recruit, throwing up her hands.

“Very nicely put, Recruit Alvarado,” said a new voice near the door at the back of the room, “A bit more colorful than I would have used, but the message would have been the same.”