“Score another one for the good guys,” cheered Indianapolis’s most popular newswoman. “Our hunky hero, Justice, along with Team Justice, joined the elite men and women of Bravo Company to take down another colony of law-breakers, this time near Crawfordsville. While Justice cleaned up the criminal Enhanced filth on the ground and Lady Justice took the trash out in the skies, Bravo company successfully assaulted the campsite with minimal casualties to mundanes on either side. The Enhanced criminals terrorizing the colony were arrested and the mundanes living under their tyranny were liberated. Many children were rescued and several were identified for testing by JTF officials for carrying the Enhanced gene. Good job to our boys in armor!”
“I can still see the bodies of the dead.”
Michael was uncomfortable sitting on the leather chair in Dr. Carlson’s office, the team’s psychologist. After the mission, every recruit was ordered to spend time with her, telling the good doctor all about their feelings about the mission. It was rumored that Justice became agitated during his session and he broke the couch she had since the beginning of her practice. Michael had noticed the chair was far less comfortable and had not passed the broken-in stage yet.
“And what do you feel when you think about the dead people you saw in the campsite,” Dr. Carlson asked, her perfect salon nails tapping audibly on her tablet as she wrote down her notes. Michael hated that noise, it reminded him of the broken air conditioner in his mother’s apartment. She was too drunk to buy a new one for months and it was hot during the summer. When he opened the window to let in cooler air, mosquitoes, fireflies, and ants invaded the filthy kitchen. His mom screamed bloody murder and locked herself in the bedroom. Her boyfriend tried to punch Michael but ended up with a broken hand. He always wondered how the idiot managed to do that. He packed up belongings and left that evening. His mother didn’t get out of bed for a week.
“I feel sorry for the people. We were trying to help. The violence, well, I grew up with that.” Michael was very nonchalant about the gunfire during the operation. He had witnessed similar things growing up in inner Indianapolis. One of the neighbors had his gut slit open after a night of poker with friends. Another neighbor had his head blown off by a shotgun at a pea-shake house nearby. It was the violence he saw after they had entered the campsite that disturbed him. Many people had died from gunshot wounds from the JTF but they found several families, some with small children, dead, killed by their own parent. The parent finished the gruesome task by taking their own life. They were so afraid of the JTF that they would rather die. It was all so pointless.
“I know it is hard Michael, but sometimes people believe the conspiracies and not face reality. Without the JTF, we are doomed. The Enhanced vigilantes before Apocalypse tried to help but all they did was make things worse. They used violence to stop violence. We use violence, when necessary, to prevent violence. You see the difference?”
“I guess,” he lied. The JTF in Crawfordsville just made it worse, not better for those innocent people. The Enhanced criminals had a choice and deserved what was coming for them, a long prison sentence at Leavenworth. Those kids did not deserve to die.
“I have the reports from Bravo company and Lady Justice.” Dr. Carlson said, trying to change the subject. She could see in Michael’s body language that he was conflicted by the mission and needed time to understand the role of the JTF in law enforcement.
Here it comes, Michael thought.
He was not worried about what the Bravo CO might say about him, he did save two members of Team Four and eliminate the M113 plus capture Mother Nature with Solid Copy’s help. It was Alaina’s review that concerned him. He had disobeyed her explicit order to stay with the Stryker and ran off to be a hero anyways. He was damn lucky Mother Nature did not kill him.
“Recruit Michael Larson, callsign Princess, exhibited adaptability and determination when he found Team Four entangled by Mother Nature and freed them. He flawlessly executed his orders to protect the mundane agents against a Earth Elementalist, even disobeying an order to retreat by Team Leader Four. Recruit Larson also exemplified himself by using his powers to eliminate an armored enemy vehicle so JTF agents could enter the campsite at Crawfordsville. Recruit Larson should be recognized for his exceptional bravery, honor, and loyalty. His actions are a reflection upon himself and uphold the highest traditions of the Joint Task Force.”
Michael noticed Dr. Carlson was smiling as she read the report.
“And what did Lady Justice have to say?” Michael asked.
“That is her report, Michael,” Dr. Carlson answered, glancing at the other report. “Lieutenant Caldwell wrote pretty much the same thing in his.”
“Wow.” Michael was not sure what to say. He was sure Alaina was going to bust him or request he was recycled for disobeying his team leader. He noticed she was staring at him on the way home. She was not thinking of ways to get rid of him?
“Are you still having the nightmares?” asked Dr. Carlson, her voice almost motherly.
Michael hated this topic. Since his Reveal, the nightly terrors started. They were mostly an inconvenience but from time to time, he woke up drenched in sweat and shaking like after the simulation. Lately, the dreams were always the same.
“Yeah, but it’s no big deal. I don’t like the scientists poking and prodding me and the tests hurt but a woman is always there. She’s there until her boss comes in, some guy in a suit. I can’t focus on the faces though. I tried your suggestions to control the dreams, but it didn’t help much. Sorry.”
Dr. Carlson listened intently to Michael’s story. He was not the first Enhanced to have this fear. Several of the recruits were also showing signs of post-traumatic stress, most notably, Justice. Even with his training from Judge and Jury, he was not ready to face mundanes armed with weapons capable of harming his teammates. He felt guilty for Lady Justice’s injuries by Jet Stream while he was chasing the colony Speedster. When she had pressed him about his time out of contact with Bravo company, he became enraged and destroyed the couch. Dr. Carlson told him it was okay, that Lady Justice was strong and he was following orders.
“Michael, many Enhanced fear that the government or some corporation will experiment on them to learn their secrets. The United Nations banned Enhanced experimentation decades ago along with outlawing Enhanced soldiers in the military, but we still read about rogue nations performing gruesome experiments on people they suspect carry the Enhanced gene. But like all the others, they will fail.The Enhanced genetic code cannot be replicated. Your nightmares are common and they will pass as you become more accustomed to the Enhanced life. You have such potential with the JTF to do good for everyone. Stay focused on that goal.”