Portal – Chapter 13

Michael turned around, a woman in her forties holding several binders had walked in during the argument. A thin woman wearing a grey wool knee length skirt with blue silk blouse with oval glasses low on her nose was evaluating the new group of trainees. Her hair was professionally dyed a light brown so not a single strand of grey hair was showing, even though she probably had seen the first one 10 years ago and her nails were professionally manicured by one of the local Vietnamese salons. She had the stereotypical lab coat covering her blouse that Michael suspected was more for a first impression rather than function. She was practical and only wore flats today since the walk to the classroom from her office across the quad was murder in heels.

“Well, anyone,” she said like a mother scolding her children. All the recruits were watching her, including Alaina who was restraining her fury. The woman walked down the center aisle towards the front of the classroom, the light tapping of her shoes filling the now silent room.

“To answer you, Recruit Alvarado, yes, they do think their machismo will get attention.” She mockingly emphasized machismo while looking at Michael and Scott.

“But it’s not completely their fault. You see, Tanks, like Recruit Jurgens here have an increased amount of testosterone that fuels their increased mass, strength, and relience. It does not effect an Enhanced exactly the same way it does mundanes. The entire body of a Tank is working as one unit to build a stronger body, much stronger than originally designed, to keep the Tank from tearing himself apart from the inside. Unfortunately, the increased testosterone effects still can lead to aggression and the desire to dominate others. That is why Tanks are the most common Enhanced type in the criminal world.”

The woman dropped her binders on the desk in the front of the class. “But don’t worry, we will discuss those tendencies during our sessions together and fix them.” The woman smiled at Justice who had returned to his seat, never taking his eyes off the newcomer. Alaina leaned away from him in disgust.

“As for Recruit Larson, he knows that Recruit Jurgens could probably kill him within a few seconds.” Justice seemed to smile for a second then realized that probably would not be a good idea in front of the psychologist.

“Enhanced in the lower categories have an heightened sympathetic nervous system, the fight or flight mechanism. This why the mad scientist type criminals usually flee when they are stressed in combat. Unfortunately for Recruit Larson, this mechanism appears stuck on fight, likely from childhood trauma. We will be discussing that behavior in our sessions, as well.”

Michael was back in his seat as the psychologist diagnosed him in front of the recruit team. Although he did not disagree with anything she said, he still did not like her. She might not be a Mentalist but she was close enough. She was also pushing in too many places he was not ready to discuss.

“By the way, I’m Doctor Tricia Carlson, the psychologist assigned to this training team. It is a pleasure to meet you all.” She appeared to be the happiest person in the room.

The way she smiled after that introduction just made her more creepy, thought Michael.

“Now, let’s get down to business…”

After a two hour discussion of the psychological effects of a Reveal, Doctor Carlson led the team in a stress reduction exercise. She turned off the lights and had the team close their eyes. She used her calming voice to encourage open minds and deep thoughts. As she started to discuss walking down a path in the forest, Michael fell asleep. He knew this exercise well, performing it in his Psychology 101 class last year, so he knew what to expect and what to write later for the creepy psychologist lady. He knew sleep was going to be precious in his training time so might as well start stocking up.

Fifteen minutes later, he told his body to wake up before he hit REM sleep. He heard the psychologist encouraging the team to return from their journey, fresh and free of their negative energies. Michael definitely felt a lot better too but for different reasons. He saw Justice look over at him, not quite as pissed but he knew that things would be settled at a later time. Justice next glanced at Alaina but she would not look at him.

“I want to encourage you all to practise this exercise,” said Dr. Carlson sincerely. “Working at the JTF is very stressful and we want you in top physical and mental condition.”

Michael smiled as if he was paying attention. He still could not shake his dislike for this woman. She seemed nice but maybe she reminded him too much of his mother, if she had not become an alcoholic bitch and hate the world.

“Okay, now something very important,” the doctor said with a more serious tone than she had used before. “Do any of you know why mental health experts are so involved with Enhanced?”

Recruit Chung spoke up first, “God complex?” Michael was about to answer the same thing.

“That is what most people think,” replied Dr. Carlson, “but that is hardly a unique condition to Enhanced. The feeling of superiority and infallibility does not require Enhanced powers or the Middle East would have stopped fighting centuries ago. We might not have the power to destroy a city like your father,” gesturing to Justice, “but plenty of mundanes believe they speak for God or other greater powers. These people are far more dangerous than any deranged Enhanced.”

Michael shifted as did many others in the group. The power of faith, especially when used to enslave and corrupt, has been a common thing in human history. Many people argued that the Enhanced proved God was real, others said it proved he was not. Michael did not think it proved anything but he did not go to church very often as a child. His mom was usually too drunk to take him and he was always afraid she would scream at Jesus in the middle of a sermon.

“The reason I am here is Enhanced Emotional Degradation Syndrome,  EEDS for short,” she continued. “EEDS is a psychological condition that causes, typically in the more powerful Enhanced, a disconnection from humanity. They will no longer empathize or socialize with others, especially mundanes. They will become recluses and only interact, reluctantly, with other Enhanced they are very familiar with.”

“Looks like you are safe, Larson,” Justice quipped. Michael gave him a sneer and a middle finger salute. Dr. Carlson shook her head and scribbled something in her notebook.

“So, we’re destined to hide out in a Batcave or a Fortress of Solitude?” asked the short male recruit that previously had curly hair. Michael noticed he seemed the shyest of the group  and the least open about himself.

“Those are good analogies, Recruit McCloud, but Batman would not be considered Enhanced. He is a mundane and his behavior was induced by the murder of his parents, rather than a mental degradation.”

Since Enhanced were first officially revealed by government scientists in the 1960’s, the popularity of comic books only increased. The popular Enhanced have their own comics, some fighting alongside Superman, Spiderman, and other fictional characters, but these types of comics were often used as a medium to discuss the real-life issues faced by Enhanced and the real fears that mundanes had of Enhanced. Some comic book companies published only ‘Enhanced Horror’ stories where the Enhanced enslaved the mundane world. These usually involved grotesque murders of mundane men with mundane women reduced to pleasure slaves and breeding stock for Enhanced children.

“However, Superman is a good example. He’s alien but raised by humans. We are all he knows. He should not exhibit isolationist tendencies. His awkwardness as Clark Kent is intentional, not to hide his identity, or he would use a better disguise than simple glasses. He simply feels different from the rest of humanity. The isolation is not the primary concern of EEDS. In fact, some researchers think it is nature’s way of keeping powerful Enhanced from causing the extinction of mundane mankind. The problem is EEDS also includes a fixation, a drive on a narrow-focused path. Remember Superman’s truth, justice, and the American Way? Would that really work?”