24 years ago
“Where will you go?” she asked.
Thomas looked up, his chiseled face red with anguish. He told himself that he had to be strong. This was not the life for him. He needed to get away from the military. He was leaving San Diego and moving to Los Angeles.
His unit had trained with the SWAT teams in urban warfare at Camp Pendleton over the last few weeks. During one of the live fire exercises, he bullseyed a shot that even the SWAT snipers said was impossible. Thomas mentioned that his enlistment time was up and he was looking for new opportunities. The LAPD offered him a huge bonus with advancement to SWAT after the academy. Not all heroes were Enhanced.
“Los Angeles. Elizabeth, I love you but I can’t stay here anymore. Hellstorm killed those people because of me. Leave with me, please. Start a practice in L.A. God knows you’ll have enough patients there.” She would be a reminder of this former life but she was worth it. They could get married and start a new life together in the open, like normal people. There would be no more sneaking around together.
She almost said yes. When they had met, she had delved deep in his consciousness looking for weakness like she always did. He was an attractive man but his mind sealed the deal with her. He had control over his fears and desires. He refused to allow any obstacle stand in his way. She had never met someone so mentally perfect before.
“I…I can’t,” she replied sobbing. She knew when Thomas walked out her door, he would never come back. “You don’t understand. They are talking about forcing Enhanced to register with the government. I revealed myself to the public but some Enhanced need to protect their families, especially their children. Registration will put everyone at risk.”
“Bella, this can’t go on forever. It’s only a matter of time until the government steps in.” When Thomas had interviewed with the LAPD officers, they praised the heroes like Atomic Power that worked closely with law enforcement on cases, but feared the secrecy of the Enhanced world. Some politicians, on the left and right, whipped up their supporters by calling Enhanced masked vigilantes. The ACLU was arguing in the California Supreme Court that Enhanced were only private citizens and did not have police powers.
“Thomas, my career, my life has been about helping people, especially other Enhanced. I can’t give that up.”
“But you keep me a secret,” Thomas responded. “We have to sneak away from San Diego so you won’t be recognized – Elizabeth DiMarco the superhero, champion of the weak.”
Thomas closed his eyes as exhaustion swept over his body, The sleepless nights were now compounded by the report from the FAA and FBI about Hellstorm. Herr Metall ordered those people to die because Elizabeth was dating him and the reporter discovered it. Her employer, Harris Industries, tried to defuse the situation by offering a tour of the San Diego facility to the paper but the reporter never made it off the plane or the two hundred other doomed victims.
Elizabeth watched Thomas as he rubbed his eyes. Out of his entire unit, he showed the greatest potential for evolution but he left the program. Now he wanted out of the military. That should not have been possible due to the subliminal conditioning, but it was undeniable. She feared what would happen to him if she reported the recovered memories he believed to be dreams. He knew about the experiments.
Thomas reached out and cupped Elizabeth’s soft hands. He leaned over and gently kissed her, tasting her tears on his lips.
“I’m sorry, bella. I have to go.” Thomas squeezed her hand one last time, praying she would come with him, but she did not move. She only bowed her head and sobbed quietly as he let go.
When the door closed, she knew she would never see the only man she ever loved again. Elizabeth walked to the phone on the wall and dialed the number she knew by heart. The connection was not on the local phone system, instead rewired over a special network away from the prying eyes of the government.
“It’s done,” Elizabeth said, her voice still soft as she tried to hide the sound of tears flowing down her cheeks. “He’s leaving and I’m staying, just like you wanted.”
“Elizabeth, Elizabeth,” said the man on the phone, “it’s for the best. We can’t have someone of your power with a mundane. You’re better than him. You ‘ll see that eventually, trust me.”
“He was different. You wouldn’t understand,” she said defensively. She knew it was hopeless to argue but she tried anyways. Thomas was special even if he was a mundane.
“Oh, I do know, Fräulein, I know all too well.”
“I’ve done what you asked. You will leave him alone,” Elizabeth demanded. She could feel her anger building and her control on her powers slipping. Several items around the room started to float.
“Ja, ja. I will not harm Thomas Collins. But let me make this clear, Fräulein. I will do everything in my power to keep our race alive. We must mate with our own, Elizabeth. We must reject the Untermenschen and keep our blood lines pure. The Evolved are just tools and not worthy to be gods. The Enhanced are the inheritors of the Earth.”