Portal – Chapter 22

Net was finally happy. He was streaming classic rock over the PA system in an effort to hide his movements. He was hoping that Justice and Lady Justice practiced in a gym or dojo with few distractions. He added the synthesized voice just to piss off Team Justice.

Net did not think Larson was a threat to him unless they got in a fist fight. He had found several police reports about a Michael Larson of Indianapolis engaged in altercations with his mother’s boyfriends. Larson was no Justice, but he was impressive by his resilience before his Reveal. At school, Terrence was teased and harassed a few times, but that stopped quickly. A few, quick edits to a student record can get the attention of a lot of people. The bully would claim innocence to their newly discovered crimes but Net was always careful to leave no digital fingerprints. He wondered if his tormentors learned their lesson at the alternative schools he sent them to. He hoped they enjoyed their own little piece of hell.

The computer system inside the Hinkle building was very well protected from average hackers by several firewalls, but he had learned from the best. His dad was the best Computer Empath in the world on either side of the judicial system. The family was in a financial meltdown and could not pay the bills when his dad broke into several banks and started wiring money to dummy accounts all over the world. At first he justified his actions to himself by saying he had helped a lot of people in his life and was due, but, eventually, the power to build his own financial empire and ruin others became too great. He got sloppy and did not hide his tracks well enough. The JTF had their own Computer Empaths that were sniffing their way along the trail his dad was making and eventually they caught him. He did not fight the arresting officers and did not ask for leniency from the judge, the same judge that sent Recruit Larson here. He did ask the JTF test to his son because he just had his Reveal. The JTF was eager to add the son of Firewall to their Cyberwarfare Division. Net received his acceptance letter to the JTF training almost 7 years later, the day he graduated high school.

Net was hiding in the rafters, desperate to avoid a direct fight, especially with Justice and Lady Justice. He still laughed when he said that name. Girls go for the big and dumb, he guessed. When Prescott announced they would fight each other, Net immediately accessed the JTF database to learn everything he could about his training class. Although he said he did not hack classified computers, he treated this situation as a real and punched through every system he could locate, classified or not. Recruit Larson’s file was still locked up but everyone else was wide open. Justice and Lady Justice were very bad matchups for him.

Unfortunately, the woman with the stupid name was now staring at him from across the EUT. Net had watched the end of her fight with Turbulence and was not surprised when Lady Justice used lightning, Turbulence was going to feel that one. Instead of giving Lady Justice the chance to goes all Zeus on him, he turned on the EUT sprinkler system which doubled as the rain simulator. She might have more difficulty hitting him with the water pouring down and low visibility.

She did not go for the lightning. It would not kill him but Net would fall and she would likely damage the building’s electrical system. Lady Justice did not have Justice’s speed but it was not needed. The building was small and Net was only a few hundred feet away.

As she flew towards Net, perched like a spider in the rafters, he turned on the gas pipes to full. The gas was used to simulate building fires during training but Net held back ignition. The flammable vapors filled the area as Lady Justice approached. When the building sensors indicated a good concentration in the room and Lady Justice was over a gas pipe, Net sent the signal to the ignitor. The blast rocked the building and launched the flying Lady Justice into the steel beams above. She missed hitting the support beams by inches with her head, which she knew would have ended her chances at Team Leader, but still slammed against the steel sheeting, creating a Lady Justice-sized dent.

The daughter of Orbital Strike had trained many times for these types of attacks during sparring practice. Lady Justice stopped her freespin nosedive and concentrated on maintaining altitude. She took a moment to relocate Net as her ears stopped ringing and vision cleared. He was trying to move on the rafters to hide back in the BIT but he would never make it.

Lady Justice flew through the burning fires and grabbed Net, trying to break his grip. She knew should could hold him until they landed but that was not the point. Net and Larson had both embarrassed her several times today and probably thought she was a pathetic damsel-in-distress. The Computer Empath would be her example. Net felt himself slipping after Lady Justice pulled again and he grabbed a wet steel crossbar.

“You’re done Net, turn it all off,” she demanded. She might not have any hair left but her clothes were soaked and she smelled like a BBQ grill. Net knew he could not hold on much longer and would need her help to get down. He told the computer to kill the water and fire.

“Alaina, help me!” Net screamed. Lady Justice was not in the mood to help anyone, least of all him. The callsign was not her choice but he would use it like everyone else.

“Try again, Net,” she responded sharply. Net glimpsed at her angry eyes as he struggled to keep his grip. He did not need Cortex to know what she meant.

“Lady, Lady Justice, please. Oh shit!”

Net lost his grip and gravity took over. From over three stories up, he knew he would not die, at least, that’s what the research papers all stated. Enhanced can easily survive damage that would kill mundanes but that does not mean most actually tested it. Everyone, even Enhanced, had a threshold, and leaving Sir Isaac Newton to drive the bus was not a good way to live a long life. The sounds from his mouth went up several octaves as the rafters rapidly retreated. Only a few feet up, he felt a hard tug up but still hit the concrete floor hard enough to knock the wind out of him. Lady Justice was leaning over him as he arched his back and coughed.

“I may have a stupid name,” she vented, allowing her anger over how the name was chosen for her to fuel the rage, “but I didn’t just scream like a little bitch all the way down.” She roughly flipped the still wheezing Net and yanked his disk free.

The speaker was silent for a few moments.

“Do we have control? Yes? Well, Net has been eliminated.”