Michael slowly opened his eyes, feeling a stiff mattress and itchy sheets around him. The air in this room was cool so he guessed this was the infirmary, even before he opened his eyes and confirmed it. The windows were dark so only a few hours had passed since the exercise.
“Well, look who decided to join the land of the living,” said a deep voice. Michael looked up to see a thin bald man with a white goatee looking back down at him.
“Welcome back, Michael,” said a familiar voice. Trauma, was on the other side of the bed, her face showing relief.
“Hi, Trauma,” Michael said weakly. He had never felt like this before when testing his powers.
“You can call me Kim. We’re not in the field,” she replied softly. “Michael, this Dr. Dillon but his codename is Preacher.”
Michael knew that name. Dr. Charles Dillon was a licensed physician and a minister at one of the largest churches just north of Indianapolis. He was also a Category 4 Healer, one of the most powerful. One of the biggest misconceptions was healers can heal the sick, rid diseases, and cure cancer. They cannot. A healer can only put a body back together they way it was, not the way the person wants it. The category ranking of a healer is determined by the severity of injury the Enhanced can heal. As he heard Preacher himself say it once, ‘Healers are just poor imitators of the original and the best.’
He did not know Preacher worked directly with the JTF, but it made sense. They had contact with all Enhanced, regardless of category or type. Someone as talented as Preacher would be invaluable to any organization. Michael knew Preacher visited the low-income housing areas of Indianapolis at least once a week and was known to make house-calls in serious cases. Many people in the Midwest came to Indianapolis just to visit him.
“I’ve seen you before, Preacher,” Michael said slowly. “You were in my neighborhood a few times.”
“Ah,” said the Healer, “a local boy. Do you know why you are here?”
Michael laughed but his head was still pounding. “Because a judge thought it would be funny to annoy Director Lehrer?”
Preacher and Kim both look at him confused, outsiders to the joke.
“Nevermind,” Michael responded to their silent reactions. “I passed out again at the end of the exercise. I made a portal too big and I’m paying the price. How long was I out this time?”
Michael could tell Preacher and Kim were both hesitating on the answer. Kim broke the silence first.
“Michael, this has happened before? How long were you unconscious?” She had deep lines of concern on her face.
“I stopped experimenting when I got arrested. I didn’t think the JTF would view it too kindly since I was awaiting trial. I was out for almost 18 hours the last time.”
The story was not even close to national news but locally, many mundanes and especially the Enhanced community, followed Michael’s trial closely. The Indianapolis Times opinion section was flooded with outraged letters from mundanes that demanded the JTF send Michael to Fort Leavenworth. Not a single letter supported his second chance defending the people.
“Mr. Larson, are you telling me you overcharged, on purpose?” asked Preacher incredulously.
“Michael, do you know how dangerous that is?” interrupted Kim, her voice cracking slightly. “Every so often, we hear of Enhanced overcharging and dying.”
Preachers held up his hand in a calming motion for Kim. He could tell she was upset.
“It’s okay, my dear,” spoke Preacher showing years of a calming demeanor. “It does happen but less frequently, thank the Lord. We have been educating the E-communty about the hidden dangers of their powers. “
Preacher looked grimly at his patient in bed as he spoke. “Michael, it has been almost 26 hours since you collapsed. The JTF has put the class on a 48 hour hold while they investigated what happened. Agents Prescott and Edwards were suspended.”
“You can tell them don’t bother,” Michael answered with resignation, “I’m power restricted. I looked it up last year, the joys of my late Reveal.”
Preacher shook his head. “You are not exhibiting the symptoms of a restricted. You are getting worse by doing the same thing each time. Powers are consistent and we ran a CT scan on you while you were unconscious. Your brain activity is erratic, even for a new Enhanced. Part of your brain is doing one thing and another part is doing something else.”
“Sorry Doc, I don’t know anything about that. I’ve never had any problems before the powers showed up.”
“We will keep monitoring you tonight. My newest student has been eager to learn everything she can.” Preacher looked at Kim as she busied herself marking the tape.”If your vitals stay healthy, you’ll be released in the morning but under strict orders not to stress your powers again until we can learn more about your power restriction.”
“Got it, Doc. I’m hoping we won’t be doing that again for awhile,” Michael retorted.
“Take care, Michael,” Kim said smiling. “I’m glad you’re coming back. I’ll let Terrence and the Team Leader know. They were here earlier asking for an update.”
Michael sat back and tried to get comfortable. He really hoped this was all worth it He called the hospital cafeteria and ordered dinner. His stomach was quite unhappy by the lack of food.
He pushed the TV power button on the side of his bed. It looked a news channel.
“…Enhanced protestors of the group calling themselves The Freemen, clashed with police and JTF agents in Washington D.C. today. The Freemen are upset about the 12-year-old who was shot and killed by police in Oregon when he launched an energy attack in a local shopping mall.”
“The boy simply lost control,” yelled one of the protestors to the camera. “If the government would let us help our own, we could have prevented his power spike. Instead, they shoot us down like dogs.”
The TV report returned to the newscaster in the studio.
“The protest was peaceful until The Freemen began using their powers on law enforcement. The police defended themselves using a variety of weapons until The Freemen were broken.”
A video of police and Harris armored JTF agents chasing down the protesters appeared over the newscaster’s shoulder.
“Two protesters were killed during the fighting while several policemen were injured. The JTF continues to investigate The Freemen as many on Capitol Hill have called them domestic terrorists.”
The video faded and was replaced by an image of Justice posing in full costume holding a car over his head. Technically, none of the recruits were allowed to wear a costume since they were not certified agents yet but the JTF made an exception for Judge and Jury.
“In celebrity news, Scott Jurgens, that hunky Enhanced known as Justice and is truly a superhero, had his first combat test yesterday according to JTF officials. His training class sparred against each other and Justice defeated three other recruits, the most of anyone, including two at the same time. He accidentally stepped out of bounds during his final match and was disqualified. His opponent, too exhausted to continue, quit and was eliminated. Sources tell us that Justice’s mysterious girlfriend, the previously unknown Lady Justice, was declared the winner. Way to go Scott for your great effort and getting the big W for your lady.”
Michael turned the TV off before his food arrived and he vomited.