Jason enjoyed taking money from these college jocks. They always looked down on the smaller guys like him until they found out he was an Enhanced. After that, they would suck up to him as a phony friend or avoid him completely. It never occurred to the morons, as a Mentalist, he knew exactly what they thought of him.
One guy in the group, Todd, particularly irked Jason. This asshole repeatedly thought about last weekend when he raped a freshmen after spiking her drink. He had done it multiple times at the University and never got caught. Jason was going to make sure he went home with no money and Enhanced-induced night terrors; he would dream of getting his offending member cut-off slowly by his rape victims for weeks.
Despite that, Jason was having a good time, the first in weeks. He did not enjoy the JTF training. He was not physically strong and not very good in the hand to hand drills. Everyone knew he could use his Mentalist skills to take out any threat, but the JTF, especially the dynamic duo as Michael called them, were adamant on physical training exercises. They wanted all members of the recruit class able to fight with or without their abilities. Some Enhanced, JTF agents and criminals, had the ability to nullify powers including Mentalist-based. Jason understood the purpose but still did not enjoy getting thrown around the room by mundane instructors in armor.
Jason put his hand in his pocket, reassuring himself that the phone number given to him earlier in the evening was still there. At the restaurant next door, he had a huge plate of tabouli and baklava or baklawa, as the Arabs pronounced it, served by the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. Amira was a friend of Khaleel’s and the owner’s daughter. The local Arab community was skeptical of Khaleel because he was Enhanced. It only got worse for him when he joined the JTF but Amira’s family seemed more understanding.
Jason knew why after Amira quickly ran back and forth from the kitchen to the table to serve everyone’s food. She was a low Category 1 Speedster. No one else noticed her moving quickly at the table, but as a Mentalist, Jason was sensitized to Enhanced using their powers. She talked to Jason for some time after the meal was served about what the JTF did to unregistered Enhanced. He could sense her fear. Many communities that escaped oppressive government regimes, like Amira’s family, were very reluctant to trust any government. The Enhanced Caliphate taking over the Middle East was known as one of the worst offenders of the rights of anyone that did not submit to their demands.
Jason thought about Sniffers, Mentalists that specialized in identifying Enhanced powers and categorizing them. They were used by the JTF when interviewing individuals that had a recent Reveal and those that were unregistered and in custody. Maybe he would request to join them to help Amira and others like her avoid detection. They did not deserve to go to jail.
“Pay the man, Todd,” said one of the other guys at the table. This time Todd did not need a telekinetic push to lose the game, he did it all on his own. Jason had already helped Todd’s wallet become lighter this evening after losing the last seven games.
“Ah, damn it,” Todd complained. “My luck just sucks. Are you sure this table isn’t lopsided?”
“Just shut-up and rack…,” one of the others started but Jason was no longer listening. He turned his head towards the front of the club, the dance floor. So far, the general mood was typical of a bar – sex, alcohol, and relationships on most everyone’s mind. Jason had to quit listening to Justice after some of his vivid fantasies with the mundane girls asking for autographs. But something was not right; a volcano was building up and about to explode.
“Where you going?” one of the drunk jocks asked as Jason bolted to the pool room entrance. He scanned to room visually but also telepathically to find the source of his worry. He immediately spotted Alaina. She was beautiful in the spotlights but much too extroverted and demanding for him. And Michael? She was dancing with Michael? This was not going to end well. It was Michael causing the psychic disturbance. He grabbed his head as Alaina scanned the crowd looking for Trauma, her face terrified.
Jason’s mind filled with images.
A beautiful woman in a sun dress with a smile on her face was holding his hand or actually, Michael’s hand, in the vision. They were at a park on top of a hill. Jason looked around. The Hollywood sign was nearby and three domes on a white building. He was at Griffith observatory in Los Angeles.
Jason’s view got lower as Michael got on one knee at the monument in front of the observatory. The woman’s face changed, her excitement level rising as tears started to flow from her eyes.
“Susan Larson, will you marry me?” Michael asked as he produced a diamond ring sparkling in the spring sun.
“What?” Jason said to no one confoundedly. Michael had never been married and Griffith observatory was nothing but a smoldering pile of rubble after Apocalypse. Why was he remembering this?
The woman squealed in happiness. “Of course I will. I love you.”
The image changed abruptly to Crawfordsville. Jason gasped as he saw the bodies of the children again, some young as one with the back of their heads blown off. This was Michael’s memory of entering one of the cabins. Jason saw himself on the other side of the room.
“Oh my God, Cortex” Michael said to the memory version of Cortex. “What the hell would drive a parent to do this?”
“Fear, Michael,” memory Cortex replied. “Parents do a lot of strange things when they fear for their children. The law clearly states that parents that do not register their Enhanced children will lose custody to the State.”
The image of the dead children became blurry as Michael’s eyes teared up. “We only made it worse,” he admitted.
The image grew darker this time and the emotion more powerful. It was the JTF building in Indianapolis; from the look of it, this was from Michael’s first day entering the campus late. Jason got angry as he experienced the JTF agents slamming Michael to the ground. Jason could feel every rock in the street.
The image changed again as Michael put his hand forward to shake hands with a guy in a suit. It was a younger Director Lehrer.
“Officer Collins, I’m Special Agent Lehrer with the FBI,” he said smiling. “They tell me you are the best sharpshooter the Academy has ever seen. I look forward to working with you on our more difficult apprehensions.”
Jason snapped out of the visions when he heard Alaina yelling for Trauma and Michael yelling at Alaina.
“Get the hell away from me!”
Jason started to shake as sweat dripped down his temple. His powers could hear it again, the voice he mentally heard in the simulator when Michael charged him. It was not a voice of reason or compassion. It was the voice of power, destruction, and death. Jason fell to his knees as the telepathic scream overloaded his Enhanced senses.
“I AM VENGEANCE!”