Portal – Chapter 44

Once the site was secured, Net used the camp computer to email spam the entire JTF staff in Indianapolis with instructions to send reinforcements to Crawfordsville. A V-22 Osprey airlifted Trauma, Scimitar, the injured agents and colonists out. A second Osprey with Preacher transported the most seriously injured.

Most everyone was quiet on the ride home, even Justice. Agent Edwards noticed he picked the seat directly across from Larson instead of next to Lady Justice. Most of the noise cane from Net listing off the Enhanced, JTF Agents, and mundanes murdered by Mother Nature and Jet Stream over the years. Edwards only shook his head as he noticed Turbulence, who took the seat next to Lady Justice, looking at herself in the mirror. She defeated one of the most wanted criminals in the country and she worried about her makeup. Edwards just shook his head and focused on helping Prescott navigate the convoy home.

After they returned to JTF headquarters, Agent Edwards escorted the recruits to the dormitory and  ordered them to report for a mission debriefing in one hour. Agent Prescott was overseeing the transfer of all the Enhanced prisoners to their holding cells before their departure for Fort Leavenworth. Jet Stream and Mother Nature were too dangerous to stay in Indianapolis. Once Fort Leavenworth had custody of a prisoner, the local divisions had very little access to them. Prescott and Edwards wanted some answers first, they owed it to the guys in Bravo company. Mother Nature was a nutcase and Jet Stream could avoid mental interrogations using his powers. That left the other Flyer that Lady Justice shot down. Nightmare arrived with the Ospreys and rode back in the prisoner vehicle. That provided her plenty of time to get the answers they wanted.

“What did Nightmare say?” asked Edwards, walking quickly up to Prescott after leaving the dormitory.

“The Flyer is just a local,” stated Prescott. “He was married to one of the mundanes in the camp. Cortex and Larson found the dead wife and his daughter in one of the sewer pipes. The daughter is with Child Protective Services now but moved to a JTF facility after a checkup. The E-specs think she has a high chance of a Reveal in a few years.”

“Where the hell did they get that kind of firepower? Not many gunsmiths around anymore to build those PKs and AKs. And a working M113?”

Prescott look pensive. He wondered the same thing but the answer just lead to more questions. “All that came courtesy of Jet Stream and Mother Nature. They took over the camp about six months ago, hiding out after they made the most wanted list. The colonists were afraid of them but they had a steady supply of weapons for the mundanes to use. Local gangs plagued the colony until they showed up.”

Edwards shook his head. This is not what he wanted to hear. Mother Nature was a raging lunatic, still screaming her revenge on Larson. Jet Stream was in the pressure tank. He would not be unsealed until arrival at Fort Leavenworth and out of their custody. Nightmare would search for evidence from one of the memories of the mundanes, but Jet Stream and Mother Nature would have been very careful to protect their source, likely another very powerful Enhanced. They were at a dead-end for now.

“What about the old man?” asked Edwards. “Maybe he can help. We’ve already risked our asses for him.”

“I’ll check and ask for any connections Jet Stream and Mother Nature might have in the criminal world. If there is even a chance Herr Metall is involved, I want to know.” Prescott clenched his teeth in anger.

“Jay,” Edwards pressed, “Herr Metall hasn’t been seen in years. This looks like something right up his alley and all of us want to drop that son-of-a-bitch in a dark hole, but he’s ancient news.”

“I know. I know,”  Prescott said resigned. “What do we do about Larson? The E-specs are taking a closer look at him now. The idiot put himself on the radar by taking out Mother Nature and the M113.”

“He has a hero complex,” said Edwards. “I’ll take care of that.”

“Make sure he remembers that heroes get others killed.” Prescott was suddenly quiet as two JTF agents walked by, buzzing about the battle of Crawfordsville as they called it. Prescott and Edwards just nodded as they waited for them to walk away.

When the agents opened the door at the end of the hall and left the building, Prescott turned back to his partner. “Are you buying Justice’s story? When has he ever backed down from a fight, Enhanced or mundane? His disappearance royally screwed things up.”

“Don’t even think about it,” Edwards warned, knowing his partner was looking for any excuse to have Justice examined by Nightmare. “You know he’s at level where even Nightmare would have difficulty. It would take someone like his mother to crack him open and Director Lehrer’s signature. She would never agree to it and he would not want to tarnish his golden boy’s reputation.

“So what’s the deal between his parents and Lehrer?” Prescott was boiling inside. The politics in the JTF were out of control and going to get people killed. When Congress first established the JTF after Apocalypse, the new agency was specifically tasked to avoid all politics and focus only on the safety of American citizens from Enhanced threats. Fifteen years later, the agency was just another bureaucracy drowning in red tape.

“More like Jury and Lehrer,” Edwards corrected. “She was one of the few Enhanced growing up that never concealed her identity from law enforcement. She worked in San Diego for Harris Industries when the company first started making armor. Her work in Vegas impressed Christian Harris and he wanted her on his team.”

“She worked on the Harris armor?” Prescott asked. He was not surprised Edwards knew everything about Jury. He was a long time fan, one of millions, and probably had her posters on his wall as a teenager like every other male with raging hormones. Jury had an impressive marketing team, fan club, makeup line, shoe endorsements, everything. She was a living model for a comic book heroine, tight outfit and all the right curves. Judge was always more serious and shunned the public sensationalism after Detroit. He was always the boy scout, looking out for America first.

“Not sure about directly responsible but I know she worked there when they developed it. She still did work for the Feds and local police, traveled all around. Then some tabloid reporter claimed Jury was regularly visiting Los Angeles to meet a mundane boyfriend.”

“Lehrer?” asked Prescott astonished. “No way. She’s way out of his league. He’s a pencil pusher.”

“Well, he was with the FBI and stationed in Los Angeles at the time. They’ve been working on cases ever since.”

Prescott laughed, shaking his head. “No way she’s screwing around on Judge with Lehrer. Did the reporter know who it was?”

“He never got the chance.”

“Why not?”

“He was flying down to Harris Industries for an interview when one of Herr Metall’s lackeys,  a Elementalist named Hellstorm, took out the plane, killed everyone on board. Atomic Power tracked him down later.”

“Why did he kill the reporter?” Herr Metall had an endless supply of criminal Enhanced willing to work for him. He was known in the criminal world to pay top dollar for useful powers.

“He said Herr Metall was angry at the reporter for claiming Jury was dating a mundane, that whole ‘Enhanced über alles’ garbage he always spouted. I think Metall just had a hard-on for her and angry it wasn’t him. It must have really pissed him off when she married Judge and he couldn’t do a damn thing about it.”

“It’s too bad he didn’t burn up in Detroit.”

“C’mon, Jay, we have to get ready for the debriefing. Lehrer is coming in since this has D.C.’s attention.”