The club was already packed with people when Michael arrived. Although it was still evening, the nightlife started early due to the gangs and violence on the streets at night. Most people were home and locked away behind steel security doors by midnight – after that, you rolled the dice.
Michael had no trouble finding the group. Several mundane women were standing around the table talking to Justice, Alaina and Mariposa chatting to the side . Out on the dance floor, Net was flirting with a pretty dark-haired girl in a short blue dress. In heels, she was taller than Net by a couple of inches. He had tapped in the club security feed with his power, simply raising his hand to say ‘Hi’ to Michael with his back still turned as he came into view. Michael waved back as Net returned to his dance partner. Solid Copy was also on the dance floor, dancing with a group of girls, likely local University students.
“Well, well, well,” spoke a familiar voice. Justice was signing an autograph for a mundane when he looked up and saw Michael at the table. “If it isn’t the boy wonder.”
“You caught me.” Michael snipped, “Just make sure you call me Tim. You’re the only Dick around here, Justice.”
Justice narrowed his eyes before laughing. The flea was talking back to the big dog again. He ignored Michael and resumed his conversation with the female fan.
Alaina thought she heard Michael’s voice behind her and turned around.
“You made it, great,” she said, moving closer. Michael noticed Scott’s eyes followed her, a predator following his prey. “Terrence said you called.”
“Yeah, Mom’s busy for the night so here I am.” Michael smiled back. Everyone’s hair was still short but growing back in, Alaina’s hair vibrant and gorgeous red. Michael had to admit she looked beautiful in her black short-sleeved tea dress with red roses embroidered on the shoulders. She was less glitzy than most of the women here but was the most beautiful.
Michael felt a hug on his back. “Hi, Michael,” the cute Kentucky-accented girl behind him squealed. He turned around to see Kim, wearing a bright yellow top, blue jeans, and boots, all the things needed for a country girl to have a good time. He nodded to Khaleel in a white shirt and blue jeans trailing her. Khaleel nodded in return.
“Where’s Cor…I mean Jason?” Michael asked. Although their identities were known to authorities, the recruits were asked not to use their callsigns in public. Justice was known on-sight but the others were to remain quietly in the background.
Mariposa stood up and pointed to another room. “Flying on Cloud-9 after he got the phone number of our waitress. Now, he’s busy hustling the pool tables in back.”
Michael laughed. If the mundanes knew he could move the balls with his mind, there would be a riot. Maybe a little lesson from the Mentalist would help mend their gambling ways.
“I’m going to get a drink,” Mariposa stated as she walked away. “You guys want anything?”
“I’m good,” Michael said, holding up his hand.
As Mariposa walked over to the closest bar, the guys immediately swarmed around her. Michael knew she would not pay for a single drink tonight.
Michael smiled as he realized he had friends here. He could do without Justice, but the rest of them were just like him, struggling to understand the world and not get killed in the line of duty. He was finally allowed to be himself, not stigmatized by a drunk mother and dead-beat dad, wherever he was.
“Kim,” Michael said playfully, “I do believe I owe you a dance.” Kim’s eyes lit up as she reached out and grabbed Michael’s hand.
“Most definitely, hon,” she said, excitedly. Michael looked at Khaleel. He knew the Morpher was very interested in the team Healer and wanted to limit the drama. He had enough of that with Team Justice.
Khaleel simply smiled and nodded his head to the dance floor. He knew that until the JTF assigned them a unit after graduation, the likelihood of any relationship between the team members, besides the always-exceptions of Justice and Lady Justice, was very small. He and Trauma would be assigned to an Enhanced law-enforcement team, hopefully in the same location. Michael was still classified a Prototype, and according to Trauma, would remain in Indianapolis until he could be classified. She mentioned Director Lehrer was very interested in Preacher’s reports on him. Khaleel was patient and could wait.
Michael and Kim, hand in hand, progressed slowly through the crowded dance floor to Net and Solid Copy. When they finally reached them, the song turned slow. Net disappointed his current dance partner when he mentioned another girl was waiting for the next dance. She walked away but not before giving him her number. Net slipped the piece of paper away before his new partner, a Filipino girl, joined him.
“What can I say, it’s a curse,” he laughed to Michael as the new dance partner arrived.
Michael grinned before turning back and looking down to Kim; she was several inches shorter than him, even in boots.
“You enjoy the food next door?” Michael asked, not sure how the out-of-towners handled the traditional Arabic food. It was not steak and eggs.
“It was really good,” Kim said smiling. “We had pita bread, humus, baba ganoush, and a lot of other things I can’t pronounce. The owner was a friend of Khaleel’s and really treated us nicely. They even had a belly dancer come over. His daughter was a pretty little thing and our server. Jason couldn’t stop looking at her. We pushed him enough to ask for her phone number.”
Michael laughed. Cortex was not very tall so finding a girl shorter than him was probably a challenge. Most men, Net excluded, did not like chasing taller women. Cortex was very shy and introverted around Kim, Mariposa, and Alaina. She must have been special.
After the first simulation, Cortex was very cold to Michael, especially after Justice teased him mercilessly about getting punched-out by a Category 1. Mentalists were not usually good hand-to-hand fighters because they did not need to be. No Enhanced tried to fight a Mentalist up close, it was the quickest way to lose. Most Mentalist powers were based on range, the closer you were, the more powerful their influence. Tanks avoided Mentalists at all costs.
When they got back from Crawfordsville, Cortex opened up a little. They shared their horror at the destruction of innocent lives. Caldwell restricted the others from entering the camp after the discovery of the first bodies. Although the recruits knew that many killed in the camp were children, they never saw them.
“We had a lot of fun. Khaleel was a great guide.” Kim still had her arms around Michael’s neck while looking across the dance floor, smiling at Khaleel as she said his name. He returned it with a mock salute.
“He’s a good man and saved a lot of agents.” Michael said absently, his power starting to buzz again.