Portal – Chapter 31

“And eight,” said Scimitar as he pulled the weight bar up.

Five of the male recruits class were in the gym, part of the required strength training. Scimitar and Michael were at the bench press, Cortex and Net on the incline press, and Justice on the leg press with a stack of 100 lb plates attached. The room smelled of sweat, the air moist with each strain of muscle. The old radio in the corner on a crooked shelf was twenty years old, at least, with a broken cassette and record player but the radio tuner still worked and nobody cared enough to replace it. The local rock station was blaring in the small, cinder block room, making conversation between stations nearly impossible. Justice had no need for a spot partner, no one else could even approach his level of strength, and no one really wanted to be around him for very long. Michael and Scimitar paired up since they were both roughly the same size and lifted the same weights. Net and Cortex, although stronger than mundane men, were the weakest of the group and teamed up.

The door to the gym opened, allowing light inside and the humid, sticky air out. The recruits turned to see Solid Copy enter, dressed for his workout with sour look on his face. He nodded to Justice, who nodded back, a rare sign of respect from Justice to anyone else not named Lady Justice or a JTF Agent. Michael had noticed that after the simulation, Justice and Solid Copy had become friends, if that was possible for the egotistical ass to have friends. More than once Justice had declared Solid Copy the only other recruit worthy to join Team Justice.

As he turned down the radio, Michael called to Solid Copy.

“Hey Solid, why aren’t you with the Flyers?” he asked. “You can turn into anything you want.”

“ I know Justice would prefer one of us with them to keep an eye on Dart,” said Scimitar as the group laughed. Scimitar gave a playful wink as Justice stopped his workout and got up from the machine.

“I don’t worry about anything, Scimitar,” Justice said confidently, “not a broken wrist or some jackass with OCD hitting on my girlfriend.”

Scimitar touched his wrists without thinking, still hearing the metal snapping. He still imagined the pain that he would have felt after if not for Trauma. He still owed her a huge favor. He would take her out to dinner when liberty came up but she was constantly busy with Preacher or running tests on Larson. He was the big news around the JTF. It had been a long time since someone was designated a Prototype.

“He can’t fly very well,” Net answered assuredly. He had looked up the evaluations of all the recruits during the simulation.

Everyone in the room turned to look at Terrence except Solid Copy, his head down as he picked up free weights.

“What are you talking about?” asked Michael incredulously. “He smacked the hell out of Justice as Turbulence during the sim.”

“He’s right,” Solid replied as he began moving the weights. “Scimitar, how long did it take you to form your swords after your Reveal?”

“About a year,” Scimitar added as he lay down on the bench.  Michael finally noticed and jumped back to the spotter position. “I started with a mace looking thing and worked up to edged weapons.”

“How long until you took control of your first network, Net?” Solid Copy continued.

“6 weeks. Pissed off a lot of Russians too.”

Solid Copy paused for a moment and tilted his head.

“Cortex just told me it took him 8 months before he could use telepathy reliably,” he said, answering Michael’s question. “I’m a Morpher, not a Flyer or Elementalist or Mentalist. Those Enhanced live that way all the time. I only experience it when I shapeshift into someone with the power. We’re infiltrators on the JTF side, assassins on the other. ”

Michael was startled as Solid Copy shifted into a new shape, it was him. He was looking at himself from an angle he had never seen before in the mirror. Solid Copy looked up and dropped the dumbbell to the floor. As he stood up, he made a movement with his hand that Michael knew, he was trying to open a portal.

But nothing appeared.

“The weird thing is I can’t mimic your power, Larson. I can do everyone else, Justice, Scimitar, even Net, I’m nowhere near as good, but not you. Why? What the hell are you?”

“He’s a freak.”

The sound of the voice was a shock to everyone, Cortex rarely talked, a recommendation from hist tutor, Nightmare. Everyone suspected that something happened between Cortex and Larson during their fight but all evidence had been destroyed by Net. This was the first time Cortex had vocally expressed his dislike for Larson in front of the group. Usually, it was icy stares or avoidance.

“See, even the dweeb thinks you don’t belong,” said Justice, laughing as he returned to the press machine.

Michael went back to spotting for Scimitar but could feel Cortex burning holes in the back of his head. He could not remember how he defeated the Mentalist, the Enhanced power inside him had taken over. He would have killed Cortex if the dynamic duo had not intervened.

You are a danger to all of us, Michael heard in his mind.

Michael ignored the thoughts as he helped Scimitar put the bar back on the rack. It was not the first time he heard them from the powerful Mentalist. He would rather leave Cortex alone than provoke him into something they both would regret. He was fascinated watching Solid Copy shift back into his normal Chinese body.

When the recruits finished and walked outside, Lady Justice was slowly descending to land. She had left with Dart and Turbulence several hours ago for a final flight.

As she walked towards them, Michael noticed her body was completely covered in sweat and she was walking without the usual poise. He knew something had happened during training and she was upset about it.

Justice strolled up casually, eager to remind the losers that he was the Alpha dog here, not Dart.

“Welcome back,” Justice said happily as he leaned over to kiss Lady Justice. He wanted the crowd to see him with Alaina, especially with the green training suit hugging her gorgeous body.

Alaina wanted to remind Scott about rules of PDA but, at the moment, she did not care. She was too tired and angry to argue as she softly returned his kiss. As their lips parted, she looked again for Larson but he had walked away, leaving Net and the others hollering for Justice and Lady Justice to get a room.