Portal – Chapter 15

“Welcome to the Hinkle close-quarter and urban combat facility,” said Agent Prescott proudly. “This building once held basketball games, but is now is one of the most sophisticated JTF simulators.”

Michael looked at the building. It did not seem overly large for a sports arena but the semicircle roof and the red bricks were very typical of Midwest architecture. This was a true fieldhouse. For a moment, he wished he could have seen the Butler Bulldogs play basketball here. That would never happen since the team had been disbanded a decade ago when the school went bankrupt.

As they walked in the facility, Michael immediately noticed the walls outside were not the same as the inside. While the facade of the structure appeared to be red brick, the door frame and the entire facility interior appeared to have 12 inches of reinforced concrete. The JTF had been very busy retrofitting this building to support Enhance combat. In the area they gathered, a mock 3-story urban building with balconies and exterior fire escapes had been constructed along the fieldhouse walls with an asphalt street, fire hydrants, trees, and even a couple of old cars below them. Michael noticed the training buildings were the same reinforced concrete with black burn marks all over.

“This is our Exterior Urban Training simulator or the EUT. The Flyers and Elementalists usually like this area the most. Michael was still unsure which recruits in his class were Flyers, Tanks, or anything except for Justice and Net. Everyone knew Justice’s powers were Speedster and Tank. He was already classified as a very high category 3 and likely to join the elite category 4 in the next year. Many wondered if he would eventually join Atomic Power at the category 5 level.

The training class was milling around, examining the structures inside. Michael noticed sensors and cameras all over the walls. He bet Net could have a field day with this place.

“We keep your powers secret intentionally,” Prescott continued to the scattered group. “This is the high-stress exercise that all Enhanced must participate in. While all of you exhibit Enhanced powers to qualify for training, we need to know, psychologically, you can handle using your powers while under duress.”

Agent Edwards began to speak at the other end of the EUT. Michael guessed he was standing near the centerline of the old basketball court.

“Over here is the Building Interior Training simulator or the BIT. We can simulate three floors from an office skyscraper to a residential or commercial building. The Tanks, Speedsters, and Mentalists will like this area.”

Michael looked at the large structure that took up the far end of the building. The exterior walls were painted black and appeared to be made out of wood. Indoors, the Enhanced were normally at a disadvantage. Speedsters and Tanks in action usually meant walls and support structures were unintentionally breached and destroyed. Mundanes did not appreciate when their homes collapsed around them. JTF procedures often required a Tank or Speedster to create a new opening to catch the target on the other side off-guard. For the Mentalists, the walls and rooms would provide great cover for  their telepathic abilities while they detect others nearby. Both areas would be advantageous for a Teleporter to jump around  but Michael knew he was screwed. His small portals were not going to be useful in any type of close-combat role.

As the recruits surveyed the training areas, JTF technicians were busy assisting the recruits put on a black chest harness. As the technician adjusted the many straps and snaps for a snug fit,  Michael thought it looked like something the military would use to carry ammunition. When the technician was done, Michael was told to turn around. He felt the technician attach something to the back of the harness.

“Strapped to your back is your life disk for this exercise. If the device is removed from it’s base, you are considered dead and out of the exercise. Your powers are permitted for this exercise but we do have rules. You will remember that everyone and everything in this room is the property of the United  States government. Therefore, you will not needlessly destroy the training area or permanently damage each other. You and your powers will stay inside the training area at all times. Anyone who goes outside of the designated area or uses a power that breaches the designated area, will have violated a direct order. Leveling my building will make me very unhappy, recruits, and it will also earn you a one-way ticket to Fort Leavenworth. Do you understand?”

The recruits had heard this question all day. Agents Prescott and Edwards would often ask, ‘do you understand?’ and the correct responses were ‘affirmative’ or ‘negative’. Michael made the mistake of using ‘yes, sir’ during their visit to supply and was subsequently yelled at by the agents for 15 minutes. Michael could see Justice’s face the entire time with a large grin.

“Affirmative,” they spoke together. Brief and concise responses were essential to good combat communication.

“Good,” responded Edwards. “We will give you a little bit of intelligence on your targets. Speak your full name and callsign when called. Recruit Alvarado!”

“Mariposa Alvarado, callsign Turbulence.”

“Recruit Chung!”

“Wei Chung, callsign Solid Copy.”

“Recruit Grayson!”

“Alaina Grayson, callsign,” she paused. It was one of those awkward pauses as Alaina stuttered for a few seconds. For her, it was a lifetime. Agent Prescott broke up the silence by jumping directly in front of her.

“What the hell is the matter Recruit Grayson?” Prescott yelled. “Say your damn callsign!”

“Callsign Lady Justice”

Michael kept his composure and laughed on the inside. Net was not so tactful.

“Seriously?” Net asked looking over at Alaina. She turned and looked back at him.

“Yes, Net. Callsign, Lady Justice. Deal with it,” she replied angrily. Michael caught her glancing at him. He could see her face had turned a bright shade of red. Justice was a different shade of red while staring at Net.

“Shut up, Recruit Shipley!” demanded Prescott as he walked away from Alaina. Edwards continued to read the names.

“Recruit Jurgens!”

“Scott Jurgens, callsign Justice.” Some of the red left his face as he spoke his callsign aloud.

Callsign Douche, Michael thought.

“Recruit Mahmoud!”

“Khaleel Mahmoud, callsign Scimitar.”

“Recruit McCloud!”

“Jason McCloud, callsign Cortex.” Michael looked at the short Enhanced and narrowed his eyes.

“Recruit Shipley!”

“Terrence Shipley, callsign Net.”

“Recruit Tyler!”

“Kimberly Tyler, callsign Trauma.”

“We found our healer,” said Net in a sing-song voice. Michael really liked this guy. Edwards just ignored him and continued.

“And our late recruit, Recruit Larson!”

“Michael Larson, callsign,” Michael paused. He was going to say Portal but that sounded like some lame-ass name for a video game.

“Callsign to be determined.” Edwards did not ignore him. He look directly at Michael.

“Alright smartass, you are callsign Princess until I determine otherwise,” he said. Edwards may have made the joke but he did not show any emotion about it. Michael glanced around the recruit team. For the first time all day, Justice and Net were both laughing at the same time. Even Alaina seemed to find it funny.

The recruits had formed a circle, almost like a loose football huddle, as they spoke their names and callsigns with Agents Prescott and Edwards in the middle. It was Agent Prescott’s turn to speak. He looked around and made sure all the recruits had their eyes on him.

“Now, we could simply appoint a team leader for this training class but we like to make JTF agents earn their rewards and titles. The team leader will get to eat first, eat the longest, assign duties, and be recognized as the person in charge of you worthless maggots.”

“Agent Prescott,” asked Trauma, “you still haven’t told us the mission or targets.”

Prescott gave the recruits a rare smile. “I just did. You are to engage each other and the last one with with their life disk is Team Leader.” Justice cracked his knuckles and flexed his arms. He knew all the powers in this room, but one, were inferior to his. He would be team leader after defeating everyone, including Alaina, and would make life hell for Net and Larson.

“You have two minutes to find a starting position. Go!”