At 7:55 a.m., Michael was at Holcomb gardens, a nature preserve at the old Butler University, now a training area. Many of the rope courses created by the former students were still used by JTF agents. The gardens were once meticulously cared for, a picture-perfect location for a wedding, but now closed off to the public. When he asked for directions to the gardens, Michael was told he would be in the right spot once he found the fountain of Persephone. When he reached it, Jury was facing away from him, reading the inscription at the base of the goddess’ s statue. Michael looked at her again. She must wear the thinnest Harris armor suits available, her uniform hid everything, but showed off her glamorous model curves.
“Perfect, isn’t she?” asked Jury. “Persephone, the queen of the dead and the provider of the living.”
“Excuse me?” Michael responded.
Jury turned around, a smile on her face. “Our people, Michael, the Enhanced, are endangered. We have been pushed back into a corner, each step with the excuse it is for our own safety, for the good of the people, for everyone but our people.”
Michael shrugged his shoulders. Poll after poll indicated most mundanes would rather live in an Enhanced-free world. Wow, she was beautiful.
“Nothing to say?” she said as she walked closer, a fierce determined look on her face.
“Can’t you just read my thoughts, Jury?” Michael asked as his mentor approached him. Whomever designed her uniform got her measurements perfect.
“Maybe, but I don’t have to. I can see it on your face. I am a psychiatrist when not doing the JTF’s dirty work. And please, call me Elizabeth.”
Michael had read everything on Elizabeth he could find last night. Net was extremely helpful in finding some of the older information, including her Ph.D dissertation on the Enhanced psychological profile. Most of the information taught to new JTF agents during basic training originated from her studies over two decades ago.
“Okay, Elizabeth. If our people are in so much danger, why help the JTF? You’ve taken out some of the biggest threats to the mundanes.”
“You have to learn when and where to fight your battles, Michael. Do you think they would actually send me to Leavenworth?”
Michael looked at the beautiful woman only inches from him. Her hair smelled amazing and her skin was fragranced with expensive perfumes. He felt there was connection between them but did not understand why.
“No, they wouldn’t,” Michael responded. “You are loved by the people, the media, everyone. And you would be running that place in a week.”
“Exactly. And they know that. Enhanced like me don’t get a prison cell, we get a bullet to the head. You could ask Atomic Power about that if he wasn’t scattered all over California.”
“But that was just an accident.”
She knew she was risking a lot discussing this subject, but she wanted to know if Michael knew the truth.
“I knew Thomas Collins, Michael, the sniper who shot him. He never missed.”
“Wow, that is seriously messed up.” Michael had read the conspiracy theories. Some Enhanced claimed Atomic Power knew too much and the government wanted him silenced. Others said Atomic Power was just too dangerous and had to be eliminated. It served as a warning to other Enhanced that thought of seizing power.
Elizabeth noticed that Michael was not interested in the sniper, even when she mentioned his father’s name. He must not know his lineage.
“You know, this place is well-known for other things,” she grinned, trying to change subject. “Many recruits have met secretly at the fountain of Persephone to enjoy each other intimately. JTF training, especially for an Enhanced, is incredibly stressful.”
As Elizabeth spoke, Michael closed his eyes for a moment and imagined sneaking out here with Alaina for a midnight rendezvous, holding and kissing her for hours before returning to the dorms. He could feel her as he hungrily tasted her eager lips. As he ran his fingers through her hair, he realized it was not red, but dark brown. He kissed her again, her love and gentle touch easing the pains of the tests earlier that morning. The experimental procedures were unrelenting. If not for her, he would have dropped out weeks ago.
“Michael?” Elizabeth asked. “Are you okay?”
Michael shook his head, the memories of his daydream almost overpowering him.
“Sorry, just got lost in the moment. I didn’t know someplace this beautiful still existed in Indianapolis. They’ve bulldozed all the open spaces in the city to make room for all the refugees.”
“Things are not getting any better. Something will have to change before it does.”
Michael looked around but did not see anyone else. “Where’s Cortex? I mean, Recruit McCloud?”
Elizabeth laughed. “You dont’ have to be so formal with me. Cortex’s session is later. You both have mental powers but you are very different. He can externally project but his focus is mental combat. I have never felt such a gifted mind before. You, however, have no skills in mental combat but your projection is phenomenal. Your ability to create portals and according to Preacher’s notes, move at an accelerated rate, is the most fascinating prototype power I have seen in a long time.”
“So, what am I doing wrong?” Michael asked. “Why am I having so many problems making larger portals?”
“Despite what Preacher thinks, or anyone who is not a mentalist, your abilities are only part of the power. Your mind must know that it can do these things. You should have died when you experimented on your own after your Reveal, but your mind erected a barrier, a governor, to protect you. Now you need to get around those limitations. Let me help.”
Elizabeth stepped forward, her body pressed against Michael as she touched his temples gently with her fingertips. The mental barrier immediately erected over his mind, shielding her power from his memories. She knew she could break the barrier down eventually, but Michael would be aware of it.
Michael was amazed. Here was one of the most powerful Enhanced in the world and she was interested in his abilities. She could do anything. She was loved by everyone, but she wanted to be here and help him. Maybe Justice was just a bad fruit and she tried her best to control him. Fame does have a cost.
Do not trust her, the voice shouted.
Go away. She’s trying to help me not kill myself.
The first image jolted him. She was powerful and her visions, her experiences, her passions were also powerful. As he marveled at the beauty of the world through her eyes, the next image appeared and burned itself into his mind, then the next, the next, and the next. His mind was on fire as he delved into the secrets of the universe. She saw the connections, the interdependencies that binded everything. She saw sickness in the world as the Enhanced were systematically exterminated around the world or enslaved to the mad whims of mundanes. She could see the intricacies of creation itself. He finally realized his potential and his purpose. He would save them all.
Elizabeth smiled. Her Thomas would come back to her and no one would ever take him away again.