Portal – Chapter 71

“In local news,” said Indianapolis’s favorite reporter, “Metro police and the Joint Task Force of Indianapolis have announced a celebration tomorrow for the heroes of the current JTF recruit class. Justice, Lady Justice, and other recruits will be at Military Park tomorrow afternoon from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. for a meet and greet ceremony with the public and to thank them for their brave work against the dangerous colonists near Crawfordsville and assisting the Metro Police and Indianapolis Fire Department at the recent tragedy at the Sands club in Broad Ripple. And the special guest for the evening will be the legendary Jury, Elizabeth Jurgens. The JTF wants to remind all citizens that security will be extremely tight and no weapons are allowed. Get there early as everyone will be searched upon entry.”

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“Category four?” interrupted Mariposa, “Great. He was so much fun as one of us little guys.”

“You’re joking, right?” asked Solid Copy. Wei Chung had grown up in the tight-knit Chinese community of San Francisco after his family fled China. He had always been shy, especially around strangers. He detested public speaking, vomiting before each speech he made in debate class. It was the only class he nearly failed.

“No, Recruit Chung,” stated Director Lehrer annoyed. “Part of your duties as JTF Enhanced is to act as representatives of the Enhanced community, ambassadors of goodwill. Most of these people only know Enhanced as criminals and terrorists. They will get to meet you, a real hero, and maybe we can change their opinions of your kind.”

Net rolled his eyes. He had hacked the JTF network weeks ago and knew the government requested this dog and pony show as damage control against the viral videos coming out of cities like Kansas City and St. Louis. The situations there were deteriorating with rioting and looting commonplace. The Freemen were protesting in the streets against the treatment of Enhanced by the JTF. Pro-mundane activists descended on the protesters and ignited a week-long street battle. Armored JTF and Enhanced agents, including Judge, were slowly retaking the city, street by street. All sides were claiming atrocities committed by the other side. The videos just showed the bodies laying in the streets. The dead did not care.

“What do you need us to do, Director?” asked Alaina as she eyed Jury and Justice closely. They were both injured and extremely dirty. Whatever happened between them was serious.

Daniel swiveled his head, his demeanor demanding the recruits looked at him as he spoke. “Dress for the day is field uniforms. You are to remember you are JTF agents, always dedicated to the mission. You will answer all unclassified questions, no matter how stupid they are. Recruit Grayson, Recruits Jurgens, prepare a two-minute speech. You will not use any powers…”

Jury remembered her first public event with the Las Vegas police department and Border Patrol. She still had her mask at that time, afraid to reveal herself publicly. They had just busted a human trafficking ring and local officials honored her for her support on the case. She did not mention that she also killed the smugglers and perverts that preyed on the younger girls as she hunted them down.

“No flirting or PDA allowed with anyone,” Daniel said looking at Net. He just grinned in response.

“You will be nice and cordial. And I don’t care what you think about each other, you are a team to the media. The mundanes love superhero teams, so pretend you actually care about each other.”

Justice laughed.

“He’s talking to you, dumbass,” Net remarked looking at Justice.

Justice stepped menacingly forward. “I’m just warmed up, Net. How about we get to the main event?” Justice pounded his open palm with his fist. The sound was loud enough to get the attention of the armored JTF agents still with Jonathan. Several helmets swiveled to look at the recruits.

“Enough, Scott,” Alaina interjected angrily as electricity flowed down her arms pointed at Justice and Net. “We are going to be a team. Don’t like it? Get your gear and leave. Understand?”

Justice studied his former girlfriend. She was angry. He wondered if she would test to category four during the next round of assessments. After facing the angry lightning before, he knew she would always be a threat to him.

“I do, team leader.”

The sound of another laugh turned Alaina’s attention to Net. A spark jumped from her extended hand, hitting the smaller Computer Empath in the shoulder.

“Ow,” he yelped.

“That also means you, Terrence,” Alaina demanded. “That goes for everyone.” Each recruit nodded a head in agreement.

“Good, I’m glad we got that out-of-the-way,” a very dirty Jury remarked. “I was originally going to stay just for the celebration, but I think I will stay and mentor Cortex and Michael before I go, starting tomorrow. Dart reported that the potential for the class was incredible and I agree. I think you will find a lot of veterans will be interested in your recruits, Director.”

Alaina narrowed her eyes at Jury at the mention of Michael. She had no doubt that Jury sensed her attraction to him and was using it. She did not understand Jury’s interest in him.

“One more thing,” Daniel said, “Michael, Khaleel, tell you families to call my office for VIP tickets. You are part of the JTF now and we take care of our own.” And Susan Larson might hold the key to unlocking Michael’s potential. He needed to get her near Jury without raising suspicions.

Cortex felt the spike of anger from Jury when the Director mentioned the families. What did she have against them coming to the celebration? It gave him an idea.

“Director, can we invite a guest?” asked Cortex. “ I have someone I would like to invite who lives in the city.”

Alaina and Mari smiled at each other. They knew exactly who Cortex was going to call. A celebration honoring a date’s bravery was a good way to impress a girl.

Daniel did not want to raise suspicions. His staff was handling the paperwork so it would not inconvenience him. “Yes, Recruit McCloud. You can arrange it with my office.”