Portal – Chapter 20

Agent Prescott was the first to notice the flickering problem in the system but did not think much about it. Lady Justice’s lightning was far more powerful than they had initially calculated. The EMP after-effect was fuzzing every computer system in the building, including the JTF server in the side room. Agent Edwards was busy monitoring the fight between Justice and Scimitar.

“Scimitar, effective defensive skills but lacking offensive capabilities,” Edwards noted on his voice recorder. “Hostage-rescue or riot control. Oh, she’s sneaky. Hey Jay, check out Trauma. She just grabbed Scimitar’s disk while Justice was admiring Lady’s handiwork.”

“Scimitar has been eliminated,” announced Edwards in the microphone.

“Justice, powerful, sadistic, needs focus, empathy, control,” Edwards continued on his recorder as Agent Prescott walked over.

“Get out of there,” Prescott whispered. He was supposed to take a non-bias role as the Enhanced instructor but he still did not want to see the Healer get hurt by Justice. Unfortunately, the guy was nothing like his dad and enjoyed lording over everyone else, mundane or Enhanced. He was going to be almost as difficult as that smartass Larson.

“She’s done now,” Edwards commented. He was about to get on the microphone and yell at Justice for his brutality but Trauma needed this experience. If she wanted time in the field, she needed to know how to bounce back from physical pain.

“Trauma has been eliminated.”

Prescott noticed the screen on the top right. Cortex had finally tracked down Larson.

“Get ready, E. Larson is about to go down,” Prescott proclaimed. He did not dislike Larson, he was obviously very resourceful, but at Category 1, he had no business here with the JTF and the other Enhanced. His portals were unique but hardly threatening. The Director should have kicked him out first thing this morning but his ego was bruised after Larson’s trial. Unfortunately, the recruit was going to pay for it.

The screen went blank.

“What’s going on?” Prescott asked looking around. The monitors started flicking off and on. Prescott knew immediately they were under cyber attack.

“Dammit. Net is in the system, E,” Prescott yelled as he tried to enter his override command in the system.

<ACCESS DENIED> BTW YOUR SECURITY SUCKS

When the monitored restarted, Cortex and Larson were in too very different positions. Edwards could not believe it.

“How did Larson get to Cortex? He should be flat on his face.” Edwards had personally tested Cortex a few months ago. His sensory deprivation attack was extremely effective, even to Enhanced. He was likely as strong as Nightmare.

“Better call him off,” suggested Prescott. “Larson’s going feral.”

As Edwards jumped on the mic to scold Larson, Prescott returned to scanning the monitors for the other recruits still in training. Solid Copy, Justice, and Lady. Where the hell was Net hiding?

Jimi Hendrix started playing at full volume over the PA system. Prescott just sighed in acceptance.

The red phone in the booth rang. Many on the JTF training staff called it the batphone because it looked like the phone on the old TV show. Only one person had access to that line, the big boss. He would not be calling during a simulation unless something was extremely important.

“Hinkle. This is Agent Prescott,” answered Prescott.

“Agent Prescott,” stated a calm Director Lehrer, “Why is every computer in this building streaming music?”

“Very clever, Terrence,” muttered Prescott.

Net was a calculated risk for the JTF. His father is one of the most notorious cyber criminals ever captured by the agency. The amount of money Firewall stole was in the billions. His web extended across the globe to various banks and investment firms. The Swiss officials who seized his bank accounts refused to return the money.

When Net was initially tested, he was already considered a Category 2. His natural ability to talk to computers was second to none, even his old man. The boy will be the first Category 4 Computer Empath and the JTF wanted him working on their side. No data will be safe from him. The automated functions of the President’s nuclear football were removed after Net was tested.

“Just turn it off!” Lehrer screamed at the unlucky IT guy who reported to his office. Prescott turned down the volume as Lehrer screamed several more obscenities at his computer and the JTF network in general.

Prescott looked at the monitors searching for the camera on Net’s location. It took a few moments but the rafter cams had pinpointed Net. The little hacker was smart and nimble, obviously trying to stay hidden from the remaining powerful Enhanced and use the building to his advantage. Prescott panned the camera down and grinned. Oh, this should be interesting.

“Director Lehrer, I don’t think you’ll have to listen to that music much longer.”