Portal – Chapter 4

Eight Months Ago

After the debacle of the sorority party, Michael focused solely on working as many hours as possible at the airport over the summer. His friends at school had left, returning to the relative safety of their own communities. No one stayed in the city unless they could not get out. He routinely asked for double shifts and was happy to receive the extra money. It helped Michael take his mind off the fact that he was an Enhanced.

After his Reveal, when not working, Michael was secretly exploring his power. He figured out he could create  portals, two holes that appeared out of nowhere and were physically connected, even over long distances. He could throw something in one and it would come out the other. The harder he threw something in, the harder it came out.

Michael used the extra money from work to buy his first cellphone that he could use to talk to friends but also research his power on the internet. He found several papers on wormholes, tunneling, and multidimensional theories from astrophysicists and theoretical scientists, but he found nothing about any Enhanced with his power. There were many teleporters out there, often used as government couriers or scouts for combat teams, that could physically move from location to location, some powerful enough to take others with them, but none of them created portals to do it. He was afraid of the JTF. They would want to know why he waited so long to inform them of his powers as required by law. His Reveal was so late, they would likely not believe him.

He also researched the debilitating effects his powers always produced. He had to keep the portals small, about the size of a softball, or become nauseous and then unconscious.  Even normal use of his power created disorientation. He had to take an unexpected work absence when he did not wake up for almost 16 hours the first time he created a large portal. There were many Enhanced that would be very powerful if they did not have side-effects with their powers. At least once a year, a power restricted Enhanced would die when they pushed their powers too far. Last month, an Enhanced in Texas, a terraformer, was shaping the land for new construction when he suffered a massive heart attack. He was behind schedule and tried to cut corners and work faster than he should. His powers simply killed him for it.

After working a double shift at the airport, Michael had to walk the five miles from the airport to his studio after sundown. He usually got a ride from the company shuttle but he was late to the station. The public buses stopped running a few hours earlier and taxis refused to run after dark. Only the crazy, criminal, or law enforcement in heavily armored vehicles drove at this hour so Michael decided not to hitchhike. After two miles, he began to feel the effects of not eating for 30 hours. His tuition, his rent, and his cellphone bills were all paid up but his food budget was light this week. He needed to stretch his money for a few days more so he decided to eat every other day. The last meal he had was  dinner before his double shift yesterday morning. He knew he needed to eat to make it home.

He spotted a convenience store across the street. As he got closer, he noticed not all the lights were on. It was closed. Very few stores were 24 hours anymore. He did not see any other buildings around except a closed down gas station with graffiti and weeds covering it. Michael leaned against the glass door to get a better view inside. In the back, he saw racks of donuts and chips that he could use to get him through the walk home and the rest of the week. He got his ass kicked over these powers so he deserved some simple donuts for the trouble.

Michael sat down on the concrete sidewalk, his legs shaped in a V facing the glass door and giving him a perfect view of the goodies. He could feel the discomfort as the first portal opened, just large enough to fit his arm through. He looked in the store and the second portal appeared on the wall just behind the rack of donuts. He felt his head pounding and his ears ringing as it opened. Michael looked in the hole next to him and could tell the other hole was a little too high. He mentally imagined the hold moving lower as it did. From the first hole, he could see the top of the donuts rack. He reached in the first hole, grabbed the donuts, and pulled his arm and the donuts back out. As he set the donuts down next to him, he noticed another pack was visible in the hole. It was a long trip home and he was tired of his life without money or even simple things, like money. Michael reached in a little further this time to grab the second pack. He heard the pistol safeties click and noticed two red lasers on him.

“Stop right there,” demanded a voice. Michael’s hand was still in the hole when the cops and the firearms pointing at him caught his peripheral vision. “Don’t do a damn thing or we’ll blow your brains all over the sidewalk. Understood?”

Michael understood, even without the command. The two 9mm barrels pointed at him with the business end was all he needed to know.

“Without moving,“ began the first cop, “tell me your power and what are you doing.”

Michael hesitated for a moment. He knew Miranda rights did not cover Enhanced powers according to court precedent. The courts believed that powers were the equivalent to a weapon and posed an imminent threat until it could be established they were not. In Michael’s U.S. Constitution class last semester, they discussed the topic several times.

Two FBI agents had been charged with the murder of the Howling Shee after killing her while she was handcuffed. They had repeatedly asked her the level of her power but she would not respond. When they tried to put her in the car, she screamed and her power shattered the windows of every car in the parking lot. The two agents, fearing for their lives, shot the Howling Shee repeatedly until she dropped. The JTF later confirmed her power could only shatter fragile inanimate objects like glass or porcelain but was ineffective against living tissue. She was also a claustrophobic according to her psychological report. The prosecutors claimed the shooting was an illegal escalation of force. The lawyers for the defense claimed the agents had repeatedly attempted to understand her power and should fall under the Miranda Rights public safety exception. The courts found the agents not guilty and Miranda rights no longer protected Enhanced.

Michael knew he had three choices, don’t move and wait for the JTF to bring a Mentalist to probe his mind, try to run, or tell the truth. Most people, including Enhanced, feared the Mentalist type Enhanced. The were usually very strange people with access to everyone’s darkest fantasies and fears. The 4th Amendment protected mundanes from random readings but Enhanced were under far more scrutiny. Since Apocalypse, the government has increasingly used Mentalists, in the name of public safety, to randomly probe known Enhanced. It made mundanes feel better, according to polls, but a lot of the Enhanced were adamantly opposed. Many Enhanced civil rights protested loudly proclaiming the government was overreaching and lacked any accountability. Michael considered running but he did not know if he was bulletproof. Some Enhanced were impervious to small arms, even rifles, but this was not the best time to test that theory. With two options down, Michael did the smartest thing he did all night, he told the entire truth about craving the donuts and using his powers to steal them.

After Michael finished his story and verifying the other portal and his arm were actually in the store, the police allowed him to slowly pull his arm back through. As he removed his arm, a black armored carrier arrived with the letters JTF emblazoned in bright yellow on the side. A four man team slinging M4 rifles stepped out, two talking to the IMPD officers, two handcuffing and walking Michael to the back of the JTF vehicle.

The rear hatch opened with a loud creak as the heavy steel doors tugged on the hinges. Michael immediately noticed the high voltage sticker and read the written warning about electrifying the entire prisoner transport area in the event of an attack. As the JTF agents sat him down on the hard steel bench, clamping his arms in heavy metal ring behind him, one of the guards spoke.

“In case you decide to rabbit, you won’t get far. Try hiding from a camera at 10,000 feet,” he continued, pulling the chain behind Michael’s back up to put more pressure on his shoulder ligaments. “And then add new felony charges. You have the right to shut up now. Exercise that right until we get back to processing. Understood?”

Michael simply nodded. He knew the guys from the JTF did not screw around and they always had an Enhanced agent for backup somewhere. He also knew he was going to jail.