The phone rang almost ten times without an answer or voice-mail. Michael was about hangup when he heard the familiar voice on the other side.
“Hey, Michael,” Net said, his voice difficult to hear by the music behind him. “How’s mom?”
“She’s good but planning on spending her evening with someone else.”
Net laughed. “She’ll cancel them for you. Don’t worry. “
“That’s the thing, I don’t want her to. She deserves a life now away from all this.”
“Understood. There is a reason few Enhanced actually want to join the JTF. Most of the agents are douchebags, real power-tripping dicks. We have to deal with them early on since one or both parents have powers. There is always tales of an agent too rough during questioning or other little stunts they like to pull to trip up an Enhanced. It leaves most of us with a bad impression of the agency. And that’s why we are usually considered outcasts by other Enhanced. We are traitors, Brownshirts to our kind.”
Michael paused for a moment. According to the JTF, Judge and Jury were rockstars of the JTF, admired by the other Enhanced. Net obviously thought otherwise. From his limited experience, Michael knew most of the recruits thought Justice was an asshole. He would definitely agree with them but it partly stemmed from the JTF pushing an agenda with their golden boy. The whole system was screwed up, pitting Enhanced versus Enhanced and Enhanced versus mundane.
“I’ve been an outcast my whole life, Net. I think my mom has suffered enough without worrying if I’m going to get my head bashed in on the next assignment. She needs to have her life back to rebuild what she lost in Los Angeles. ”
As Michael passed one of the many highrise housing projects, he could hear a lot of loud music and shouting. If Michael and his mom were kicked out of their apartment down the street, they would likely have to wait for months, if not years, to get space in one of these hell-holes. Michael looked at the building and thought homelessness might be a better option than living there.
“… do now?” Net asked. The music from the building and from Net’s side of the phone made it difficult to hear.
“What?” Michael yelled in the telephone, unable to make out Net’s question.
Michael looked around and found the source of the music. Someone had parked a car, an old Buick with rust eating away the fender and sideboards, with the doors wide open in the alley behind the building. The alley was covered in graffiti, marking the territory for the 38th Street Boyz. The trash dumpsters were overflowing, the contents all over the alley, blowing on the street, and up against the fences.
As he turned the corner of the cinderblock wall to look straight down the alley, Michael saw three men, their backs turned to him, looking at another man laying prone, clutching his stomach and rocking softly back and forth on the pavement. The man closest said something to the prone man before he stepped back and kicked him in the gut as the other two laughed. They were using the music to drown out the screams from their victim. This type of crime was a common scene in his old neighborhood; rival gangs fighting for drug territory, arguments over women or old debts, and sometimes just random violence.
One of the men standing saw Michael watching. He pulled on his friends shirt to draw his attention to the end of the alley while walking to the car. He reached in and killed the stereo.
“Hey! You got a problem, bitch?” One of the men yelled walking closer to Michael.
“Michael, Michael!” Net yelled in the phone. “You still there? What’s going on?” Now that the music was from the car was not playing anymore, Michael could hear Net clearly.
“Hang on, Terrence.” Michael said slowly. “I have an assault here.”
“Michael,” Terrence said, “listen to me. Get out of there, right now.”
“No way!” Michael answered angrily. “The guy needs help.” He was tired, tired of these assholes ruling the streets while those in power hid behind their fences, security guards, and checkpoints. They did not give a rat’s ass about the people in the city that suffered because of their stupid policies. At least when the Enhance were around, the criminals had something to fear.
“Trust me…” Net started but Michael never heard it. The voice of his power woke up, the first time it had done so since the mission. He could feel himself falling down his consciousness as the power took control over his sensory functions, scanning for threats. Michael had missed it the first time but the guy walking towards him had a slight sag in his pants on the right side. The power immediately suspected he was carrying a pistol, most likely .38 caliber or 9mm. The muzzle velocities and energy tables flashed in Michael’s mind. He could not remember learning that information. The power nicknamed the man approaching as target Alpha, the man kicking the prone man as Bravo, and the man at the car as Charlie.
“…the cops won’t care. You are Enhanced…” Net continued shouting in the phone, worried when Michael did not respond.
“You deaf?” Alpha asked. With numbers on his side and superior firepower at his waistband, Alpha , a black male wearing a dirty blue hoodie, despite the warm temperatures, did not seem too worried about the interruption. Michael’s face was emotionless.
“What?” Michael asked confused, looking at Alpha, who was a few feet in front of him. The voice retreated back to where it resided in Michael’s consciousness.
“You are seriously fucked up, aren’t you?” Alpha laughed. “ Walk your dumb-ass away and go smoke your stuff somewhere else.” Charlie was laughing at the car while Bravo continued to kick the prone man. In the concrete jungle, the strong survived and the weak died screaming.
“Michael!” yelled Net again. “Get your feet moving now. Metro will be there in thirty seconds.”
“I’m going. I’m going.” Michael assured Net, aware of his surroundings again. Alpha seemed satisfied with the answer, believing Michael was talking to him. He turned around to his friends, hollering and laughing as he walked towards the car.
Michael walked away, hearing the prone man scream several more times. He wanted to turn around but Net demanded he keep moving.
Suddenly, a dozen Metro police cars roared up to the alleyway and streets. Officers jumped out of their vehicles, weapons drawn, and shouted orders to everyone in the area. Bravo jumped the wall while several officers chased him. He was captured down the block by one of the K-9 units.
Michael never saw any of it.
“What the hell was that?” Michael asked as half of the Metro police department descended down to this area. The police rarely responded to calls that quickly in this neighborhood.
“You didn’t answer, man, so I called in a report on your phone’s GPS. I asked the Metro dispatch computer nicely to make it a priority-1 call.
A priority-1 call was the first call answered and reserved for dignitaries and VIPs. Michael knew Net just risked prison by using his power to hack the system.
“One of the guys saw me and wanted to scare me off.”
“And that’s good, too. You don’t understand. You’re an Enhanced, which means the JTF owns your ass. You are not like the mundanes. You use your power and it’s jail-time, especially for you.” For one of the few times, Michael thought Net actually sounded serious.
“That’s stupid. What about self-defense and all that? I’m not going to let some asshole put a bullet in my head.” Michael could feel the voice inside pushing angrily against his mind. It really wanted to hurt the criminals, all of them.
“You get in a fight, you’ll kill a mundane. You are still a baby, only a year since your Reveal. You can barely control your power.” Michael thought about the voice, his inexperience. This was not a unique problem and something every Enhanced must overcome. It made him feel a lot better knowing he was not alone.
“I almost broke the arm of my mom’s date,” Michael admitted sheepishly.
Michael could hear Net stifling a laugh. “And that would be a great introduction. Anyways, get your butt up here and join us. We’ll keep you out of trouble. Kim and our great and fearless Team Leader have already asked about you. Both seemed, shall we say, disappointed, you were not here. Are we encroaching on Justice’s territory?”
“You’re imagining things, Net,” Michael laughed.
Alaina was way out of his league plus a jealous boyfriend that could tear him apart did not make it any easier. Kim was probably getting non-stop attention from Khaleel anyways. His interest in her was made from day one. She was the only one that did not see it.
“I was heading up there to join you,” Michael continued. “ From the sound of it, you are not in the hookah bar anymore.” The music playing behind Net was most-definitely not Arabic.
“And you would be right, my brother. We are next door at Sands where there are some seriously fine women just waiting to meet my acquaintance. I’ll ask if they have an ugly sister at home for you.” Net sound very sure of himself.
“Copy, Net. I’ll be there in 30.”