Preacher stood behind the one-way glass, feeling guilty about this deception, but he needed to test his theory. He hoped he was wrong. Michael Larson was an enigma but he was still a young man with very specific tendencies, especially around women.
“I was told that you have power test with a ping-pong ball. Please start the test as I let Doctor Dillon know you are here.”
The door to the testing room closed and the one to the observation room opened. Laura Kidwell walked in the dark room and shut it quickly before any light bounced off the glass.
“Doctor Dillon, I hope that was good enough,” she said quietly.
“Your deserve an Oscar, Miss Kidwell. Recruit Larson’s blood pressure just went up another ten percent. He believes you do not like him.”
Laura laughed softly, covering her mouth with her hands to reduce the volume.
“Far from it.” Compared to most male Enhanced, Recruit Larson was a saint. “Please apologize to him for me and let Michael know that I would say yes if he would like to go to dinner when the lockdown is over.”
This time Preacher chuckled. “I’m afraid, Miss Kildwell, that recruit has already been swept away by another young lady.”
“The red-head, right? Justice’s girlfriend?” asked Laura. Preacher nodded. “He’s living dangerously.”
“That he is,” answered Preacher.
“The Enhanced girls always get the cute ones!” she pouted. “If you need me, I’ll be at my desk.”
“Thank you again, Miss Kidwell, for your assistance.” Preacher briefly turned his head away from the observation room to give her a smile and nod.
As Laura walked out, Preacher returned to observing Michael.
“What are you doing, Mister Larson?” he said aloud. Michael appeared distracted for moment, the ping-pong ball bouncing in the corner. With a quick use of his power, it was back in his hand. He dropped it again.
“Okay, I’ll try it your way,” Michael said to himself.
Preacher turned on his digital recorder. “Patient appears to attempting a new technique encouraged by someone,” he whispered. “No one else is in the room but brain activity is spiking.” As the ball started increasing speed, Preacher leaned forward.
“Patient is somehow pushing the ping-pong ball beyond terminal velocity, mentalist or elementalist power? I’m not sure. The brain patterns are unusual.”
The ball was moving vertically and horizontally across the room, zipping in and out of portals appearing in different locations and angled in different directions. Amazingly, Michael was still controlling the ball, even though the ball was travelling too fast for Preacher to follow in the room.
Then Michael started moving. For the first time in his career, Preacher was unable to explain a power he could see. Michael created portals, he was not a speedster.
“Patient is moving at an extremely high rate around the room while opening portals for the ball. Patient is also showing signs of…”
Preacher ran from the observation room to the testing room yanking the handle down and pushing the door open as hard as he could.
“Michael!” he shouted.
Michael was looking at Preacher, confused by the interruption, when the ball slammed in the wall and kept going, a perfect circle remaining in the cinderblock. Preacher never saw the projectile, just the resulting hole appeared suddenly. Michael’s head slumped in trepidation.
“Ah, crap,” he said.
Preacher walked to the wall and peered out the hole. This should not have happened.
Michael looked at the old doctor. “I’m sorry, Preacher. I didn’t mean for that…I was just testing something new.”
Preacher collected his wits, trying not to allow his concern and fears impede his rational thoughts. “No, no, it’s fine, Michael. How are you feeling?”
“Besides like a moron for putting a hole in the wall? Great! The best I’ve felt in a long time.”
“Any shortness of breath? Any light-headedness?”
“No, sir. I feel fine.” Michael answered without hesitation. In fact, he felt like he could take on the world right now. He did not know where the voice was coming from but he definitely needed to thank him..err, it. He could actually do something awesome now. That ball was really moving.
“Please, tell Kidwell that I’m sorry about the wall and I’ll help fix it. Living with an angry alcoholic, you get pretty good at patching holes.”
“Michael, we need to talk in my office immediately. Come with me?” Preacher did not wait for answer before leaving the testing room.
As Michael followed and exited the room, he noticed Preacher leaning over one of the cubicle half-walls.
“Miss Kidwell, do you still have that contractor’s number from last week?” asked Preacher.
“Yes, Doctor Dillon,” she replied as she flipped through a stack of papers.
“Give him a call,” Preacher said as he walked away towards his office. “Tell him we have another hole.”
Michael tried to keep his head down as he walked about Kidwell’s desk to avoid her glare. He did not notice she was smiling at him.
“Why are the all the good ones hopelessly blind?” she said to herself before dialing the phone.
“One more thing,” yelled Preacher as he turned around, “call Security and let them know. They don’t like people showing up at the gate unannounced. Thanks.”
“No, they do not,” Michael confirmed.
As Michael walked in Preacher’s office, he noticed the multiple degrees and certificates from medical universities on the wall. He was a well-respected doctor and minister in the mundane and Enhanced circles.
“Please, shut the door,” Preacher said as he sat in his well used executive leather chair. Michael guessed it was over twenty years old with worn areas in the seat and armrest, but it fit Preacher perfectly.
Michael shut the door and sat down in the padded wood seat in front of the desk, not sure what was upsetting Preacher.
“Let’s cut to the chase, Recruit Larson. How did you do that?” Preach asked. He still could not believe what he had just witnessed.
“What? The ball?” Michael responded confused. The quick portal jumps would be a pretty good parlor trick, well, except for the part where he puts the super massive ping-pong ball through a wall, but the kids would probably enjoy it. In combat, it was somewhat useless he could sling rocks from a distance.
“Yes. How did you get the ball moving that fast? Did you have another Reveal? Elementalist? Mentalist?”
“No, no, Doc. I had…,” Michael hesitated. He was not sure if telling the JTF’s chief physician that he is taking lessons from the voice in his head was a good idea. There was more than one way to take a trip to Leavenworth. The psychiatric hospital housed some of the criminals too dangerous to sit in jail. Those inmates were drugged twenty-four hours a day to keep them from destroying the prison. “I had an epiphany that my powers are based on mass. My portals are created because I can create wormholes through critical mass. From there, I started experimenting.”
“So you changed the mass of the ball and made it fall faster,” Preacher reasoned. “And your Enhanced speed?”
“At first that was an accident, but it did give me the extra time to move the portal in front of that missile. I’m ”
“That’s how you did that. That also explains how you took out Mother Nature.” Preacher was ecstatic. This young man was a scientific breakthrough and he did not even realize it. “Michael, when you are moving around, how do you perceive the world?”
Michael shrugged his shoulders, not sure how to describe it. “I’m moving normally but everything around me is moving in slow-motion.”
Preacher jotted down a few notes. “Do you know how speedsters see the world?”
“Not really,” Michael said shaking his head. “I don’t get along very well with the only speedster on our team.”
“Yes, I’ve heard you and Recruit Jurgens have some compatibility issues. A speedster’s power is very different than yours. They move extremely fast, some even process events around them faster, but they are still bound by the same rules as the rest of us.”
“I don’t understand,” Michael admitted.
“Some category threes and fours can dodge bullets but they have to see the shooter. But if you shoot a speedster from the blind, they are as vulnerable as the rest of us. The sound of the shot comes after the bullet, no matter how fast you are. They have superspeed, not supervision, well, most of them don’t. With you, we might be looking at special relativity and theoretical physics. You are making time slow down.”
“Is that a good thing?” Michael shifted in his seat.
“Michael, you could be a new evolution of our kind. Enhanced powers break the laws of the physical universe but you appear to only bend them. You could be the biggest leap forward since Atomic Power.” Preacher suddenly stopped speaking and looked somberly at Michael. “But I have concerns. Your heart rate is over two hundred beats per minute right now. Your blood pressure is dangerously elevated.”
Michael squinted his eyes, not sure where Preacher was getting this information.
Preacher tapped the side of his temple with his finger several times. “My power. I can see every anatomy system, every nerve impulse inside you right now. If you were a mundane, I would be transporting you to Methodist right now.”
Michael leaned back as Preacher spoke. He didn’t feel sick. He needed to diffuse the worried tone in Preacher’s voice. “I’m happy to help you in any way I can. I’ll come here every day I can get away from my primary duties.”
Preacher rubbed his eyes. Michael noticed that the old doctor looked tired, his eyelids puffy.
“Sorry, I was at Methodist all night trying to help Agent Russell. The attacker severed his spine in a way I’ve never seen. I have no idea how to repair it. ”
“Russell? You mean Mark Russell in supply?” Michael asked.
“Yes, you know him?”
“Only in passing. He was less than happy on my first day when he had to find another set of uniforms for me.” Justice joked that Russell had a very high opinion of himself for a guy that was basically the JTF waterboy.
Preacher nodded. “It seems Agent Russell will have new challenges in his life. I’ll do the best I can but there are too many unanswered questions.”
Michael felt bad for Russell but there was nothing he could do for him. He was concerned that Kim was still not here.
“Where’s Trauma?” Michael asked. “She usually does my testing.”
Preacher looked down, his usual pleasant demeanor showing a hint of sadness.
“I’m sorry. She abruptly resigned from the infirmary this morning after the recall. She wants to focus on other possibilities for her powers.”
Michael tried to listen to Preacher but his mind wandered, looking for clues he might have missed. He knew Kim wanted to be more than just the team medic but she never mentioned her intention of leaving Preacher or that her powers could be used in other ways.
“I told her she could stay today until after your testing. She usually perks up every week about this time, but she firmly told me, no, and that she wanted to transfer immediately.”
Preacher paused to study Michael’s reaction closely. He knew Trauma was leaving some important details out as to why she was transferring but it was not his place to pry. Michael was his patient so he had more obligation to learn everything he could.
“Michael, did something happen that I need to know about? I’m your doctor first. You still have patient-doctor privilege with me, even in the JTF.”
Michael tried to remember if Trauma said anything to him last night about leaving. There was nothing. Why could he not remember what the hell happened?
“I checked on my mother before joining the others at Sands. Everyone was happy and having a good time. I danced first with Kim and then Alaina when the equipment exploded.”
“What did you do when the explosion occurred?” Preacher asked. He read the reports from Metro about the incident but the investigators still had no explanation for the equipment failure.
“I didn’t even know there was an explosion until the lieutenant mentioned it this morning,” Michael said shaking his head. “I blacked out at some point last night and woke up in a park several miles away. After that, I came right back to Butler.” Michael did not mention he had different clothes on when he woke up.
“Yes, I know. I pulled your records from your entry this morning. It seems you are very popular. There were several queries about your records today. I guess the investigators are checking each recruit to make sure you are not the killer.”
“I understand. I’m sorry Trauma left like that. I know she enjoyed working with you.”
“She needs to walk her own path.”
Michael nodded but he needed to find out what was going on. Why was everyone treating him like some sort of pariah? Did he get wasted last night and dance on the tables naked?
“Michael, I still have no idea how your powers work. You are ripping spacetime, something I did not think possible. It is a miracle you haven’t killed yourself overcharging. It almost killed you the first day of training. I’m afraid what will happen the next time. ”
Michael knew this conversation was going in a bad direction. “There is nothing wrong with me,” he pleaded.
“I’m pulling you from active duty until we can figure out what is going on. I’m sorry.”