Portal – Chapter 66

“Recruits, atten-shun!” shouted Agent Edwards to the recruits sitting in the classroom. In one fluid motion, the nine recruits stood up as one, their heels snapped together and fists closed at the side. “We have a very special guest today and you will pay attention. She has captured more Enhanced than most of you will ever meet. Crawfordsville was nothing compared to some of the shit storms this woman has walked out of. Now shut your mouths and listen carefully.”

As Jury walked in, she smiled at the recruits. “There is no need for that. We are all members of the same team now. Please sit.”

Several of the recruits relaxed and laughed with Jury as they sat down. Michael started to laugh but felt the buzz suddenly rush back.

Do not trust her, the voice said.

Michael remembered that Jury was beautiful and socially graceful but she also spawned that sociopath, Justice. She had to know her son was unable to function normally in society even around other Enhanced. The voice seemed satisfied and returned to whatever dark corner of Michael’s brain it lived in.

“If you fine gentlemen don’t mind, I would like to get to know the recruits. I’m afraid you still intimidate most of them. I’ll take care of them.”

Agents Prescott and Edwards understood they were dismissed and left without an argument. They normally would never leave the recruits without a training agent from Butler, but she was a special case and the Director invited her personally. There was not much they could do but comply.

As the door shut, Jury left the podium area and paced around the room. She had heard this class of recruits had some of the greatest potential in a long time. She knew Alaina was an extremely talented elementalist, hopefully not with her father’s poor leadership skills. If Net was anything like Firewall, he would be an incredible agent.

“Well now,” she began with the dazzling smile on her face that she was known for. “I know some of you and your parents. I have even worked with them on occasion.” Jury looked at Lady Justice and Net as both nodded back. “But the rest have come from other locations or have no legacy.”

Michael felt himself shift in his seat. He was the only first generation Enhanced in the room; everyone else had either a parent, grandparent, sibling, or extended family in the Enhanced world.

Jury reached out to quietly to feel the thoughts floating around the room. When she mentioned family, most people immediately thought of their loved ones. It was a natural reaction and something that needed to be trained out of the recruits. Openly transmitting thoughts about family and those close to you was a quick way to get them targeted by an enemy mentalist. Although the entire world knew Scott was her son, she still trained him hard in mental defenses. He was as good as any mentalist, other than her, at protecting his thoughts from mental attacks. He was shielding himself at the moment, as well as Cortex. She held her glance on the younger mentalist longer than the others sitting next to him. He might have potential.

“This is the JTF’s mission, ladies and gentlemen. We are here to protect mundanes and Enhanced.”

“Why do we need to protect Enhanced, ma’am?” asked Scimitar. Several eyes turned to him at his outburst. Jury felt her son’s thoughts of popping the interrupter in the mouth.

She had already reviewed Khaleel’s family’s asylum records from the Immigration and Naturalization Service before traveling to Indianapolis, but she knew that the mind always had more to tell. His family had escaped Enhanced persecution from The Caliphate, but she was looking for something more personal. It made things easier.

There it is, she thought triumphantly. He’s in love with that healer girl and resents her attraction for the prototype. Jury traced the mental path to the blond girl in glasses hiding in the back. She was trying to keep a low profile.

Jury quietly whispered to her. Why are you hiding, Trauma?

The ability to keep other Enhanced unaware of her mental powers was a lot more difficult than a mundane. Mundanes were unprepared and unskilled for mental warfare. These Enhanced, even as raw recruits, had minds that developed to use and defend against Enhanced powers. Jury could only brush the surface of the consciousness, quickly glance at the most powerful unguarded thoughts, and keep moving. If she tried to focus too much or pry into memories, the Enhanced would be alerted. Technically, what she was doing was not illegal but considered rude by most Enhanced.

I’m a coward and I can’t face him. We should have stood together against Scott. How did Michael survive that?

Something had happened between the prototype and her son, something extremely important. She looked down at Justice and Lady Justice noticing they were sitting several desks apart. Alaina’s shield was not as strong as Scott’s but Jury could not read any stray thoughts from her. Bill and Amanda had done an excellent job training her, even if they refused to speak to each other. Valkyrie was still angry at her brother for turning on The Old Guard after Detroit.

Jury looked up to Michael, who was sitting by himself in the back and felt a shiver run through her body. He looked familiar. She had reviewed his file before the briefing; his mom was a worthless drunk and his father unknown. He had no legacy but she was sure she knew him.

“Ma’am,” interrupted Scimitar again. “Are you okay?” Jury snapped out of her thoughts.

“Yes,” she said looking at Scimitar with a quick glance at Michael. “And you can call me Jury. I’m here as your advisor and a combat veteran, not an instructor.” Scimitar smiled.

“Jury, you said we need to protect Enhanced. Why?”

Jury regained her perfect poise and smiled at the Arab Enhanced. These recruits believed they were the epitome of perfection.

“Because despite how powerful you think you are, there are far more mundanes out there and they are constantly designing new weapons to use against us. If they all rise up to fight the Enhanced, there is not a damn thing we can do to stop them.”

“That’s a grim outlook, isn’t it?” replied Turbulence. “We are all fighting for the same thing.”

“I’m going to let you in on a little secret, ladies and gentlemen. Hidden deep within the classified portions of the Enhanced Public Safety Act is a contingency plan for Enhanced internment. You know those camps the Federal government created for the refugees of Southern California after Apocalypse? Those will be our new homes, permanently, if the contingency plan is ever put into place by the President.”

The recruits looked at each other, all except Michael. Jury noted that none of them looked at him directly but Trauma and Lady Justice were stealing quick glances during the briefing when he was not looking.

Jury had their attention and she did not want to lose it. “Now, we are going to go out there and find this murderer and bring him back here for all the mundanes to witness. If The Freemen are involved, we need to know about it. You’ve trained for this. Do not hesitate. Do not show mercy. These are not mundanes with a bolt gun. These are real killers, thugs, and anarchists who will destroy everything we have worked so hard to achieve.”

Jury smiled again, trying to diffuse the new tension in the room. No Enhanced liked knowing that information but it was the only way for them to understand what was at stake. The JTF must not fail.

“Now, let’s discuss how an Enhanced team works without the mundane agents getting in the way,” she announced trying to change the subject.

Jury looked up again to steal a glance at her son’s nemesis. He was an extremely attractive man. She could see why the blond girl was thinking constantly about him.

Tell me your secrets, Michael, Jury whispered.

A shield immediately went up around Michael. Jury was awed at the brilliance of it, her powers attuned to mental defenses. It was not well-formed or efficient but constructed of pure power. Prototypes were always tricky, but this was different. She had to know more.

No, an angry voice replied that only the mentalists heard. A psychic blast roared back along the mental path. Jury’s eyes went wide as she hastily constructed her own shield. She stumbled back as the blast reached her but quickly recovered after years of combat experience. She was stunned and  her own mental shield cracked. The prototype was still sitting at his desk and like the other recruits, not sure what he just witnessed.

Jason gaped in horror as the blast hit Jury. He had watched her quietly probe each recruit before Michael’s retaliation. It was extremely rude but the elder mentalist seemed to think she was above reproach.

But this confirmed his worst fear. The entity known as Vengeance was still in Michael. And Jury just pissed it off.

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