Portal – Chapter 39

Lady Justice and Turbulence floated down together, aiming for the middle of the Bravo deployment zone next to the command Stryker. She had spotted the Bravo company CO and wanted to update him.

“Sir, the air threats have been eliminated,” Lady called as they were near touchdown.

It had taken both of them to pick up an unconscious Jet Stream, the Enhanced criminal larger than either of the women. They needed to get him into Bravo’s custody before he woke up and dissipated again.

“This one is an Air Elementalist,” Turbulence added as they landed. Agents descended quickly upon Jet Stream, cuffing him, and dragging him to the prisoner vehicle.

“Get him in the tank and make sure it stays pressure sealed.” Lady Justice noticed that when Lieutenant Caldwell spoke, everyone listened. She envied him, remembering Larson’s dismissive behavior. “Good job, Lady J, Turbulence. That explosion was a hell of a thing to watch from here.”

As Lady Justice took off her helmet, she continued her report. “Turbulence will remain on combat patrol and make sure they don’t have anymore flyers dropping bombs on us.” She did not really  believe the colony had any more Flyers but Turbulence should not remain on the ground near Bravo company until she healed. She was lying to a JTF officer, a very serious offense, but she did not want to reveal Mari’s weakness.

“Very well,” replied Caldwell.

Lady Justice nodded her head up as Turbulence took to the skies again.

“Sir, that Enhanced we brought back is Jet Stream.” Lady Justice could still feel her hands shake slightly. The Enhanced criminal had almost killed her and would have if not for Turbulence.

“The Eco Twin?” Caldwell asked, not liking where this conversation was going.

The Eco Twins were prominent environmental activists for many years before they turned criminals. They gained infamy, as well as the JTF’s attention, for breaking into animal testing laboratories and destroying logging facilities. Then they turned to murder. Mother Nature would track down business executives at conferences and retreats and entice them to invite her back to their room. Once there, she would open the window for Jet Stream to enter and suffocate them. Initially, the causes of death were ruled natural but police eventually spotted similarities at the crime scenes. When video surveillance was compared, the same woman was at each location. When the JTF issued warrants for their arrest, Mother Nature and Jet Stream went public with their threats to all corporations.

“That means Mother Nature is running around here, somewhere,” stated Lady Justice. After the fight with Jet Stream, she was not looking forward to a confrontation with another powerful Elementalist. Mother Nature was known as eccentric and very alluring to men.

“We got a call from Team Four earlier that they were hung up in vegetation on the north side. We sent Solid Copy to help them out. Probably her work.”

“I should go too,” Lady Justice started.

“No,” the CO said, holding out his arm in front of her. “ I need you to remain here and coordinate with your team, not on the ground and out of the fight looking for Four. Solid Copy will find them. You have to trust your people if you want them to trust you.”

“Hey, Lady Justice!” yelled Net from inside the command Stryker before sticking his head out of the side hatch. “Your wish is my command. We have one JTF drone inbound from Indianapolis.”

“Great,” said Lady Justice, happy to finally receive good news, “you made contact with Indy? What did they say? When are they arriving?”

“Not exactly,” replied Net slowly, unsure how his Team Leader and the Bravo CO might react. “Take a look.” Net pointed to the top of the HQ Stryker. Several large vines littered it, some wrapped tightly around the satellite dishes and other radio antennas.

“We were hooked up and ready to go when these vines started pulling on the roof, damn near flipping the Stryker. They must have slithered up the side when everyone was busy ducking or working. They grabbed the SatCom dish first and ripped it off. Then, they went for the HF antennas and tore them off too.”

Lady Justice examined the vines to make sure they were  not moving anymore. She knew this was Mother Nature’s work, likely to keep Bravo company from calling in reinforcements.

Net waited for Lady Justice to finish her inspection before continuing. “Roberts got on top of the vehicle and started cutting the vines away when he took a round in the chest. He’s lucky Trauma was here or he’d be dead right now.”

She  glanced over to the triage area where several JTF personnel were being treated for injuries. Lady Justice saw Roberts in the only cot with the others sitting in the grass with a Stryker between them and the campsite. So far, they were lucky and had no fatalities.

Net gestured towards the campsite. “I figured a place this big must have a connection to the outside world so I started scanning wireless frequencies and I picked up a faint signal. I took over their server and started transmitting a distress signal to Indianapolis. No one responded. I guess they were expecting us to use the radios.”

Net could hear Lieutenant Caldwell mumble under his breath, cursing everyone, from the custodial staff to Director Lehrer himself, back in Indianapolis.

“God helps those that help themselves. I searched the JTF network and found a drone in the air that I could borrow. 117 was in orbit around the airport when I faked an internal malfunction that caused a reboot. While it restarted, I uploaded a new navigation point in it’s flight computer. It should be here soon.”

“Recruit,” stated the Bravo CO, “in the JTF, when someone borrows an asset without authorization, we call that appropriating. Good work. Can you talk to the drone?”

“Sure but it’s on lockdown,” replied Net, disappointed. He was hoping that the drone would accept him as a superuser by the time it got here but the encryption was strong and his connection sucked. “Only the camera is active.”

“Transmit this,” said the Bravo CO, “Caldwell Bravo Mike India November Four Six Zero Authorize.”

As Net sent the code, he became curious. “What did I authorize it to do?”

“I just added a mountain of paperwork when we get back but you now have full control over that drone. Get on that camera and target those machine guns.” The Bravo CO walked away from the Stryker with Lady Justice still following.

“Affirmative, Bravo Niner.”

Net added an extra packet to his transmission, a hidden command that would upload the drone’s programming to his private server to examine later at his leisure. The JTF kept the existence of the armed drone program a secret for many years. He wanted to know why.