As Michael stepped out of the Stryker, he could see thousands of people inside Military Park cheering. All these people had turned out to congratulate the Enhanced recruits, it was almost overwhelming.
The crowds cheered as Lady Justice and Turbulence landed. Michael noticed that the loudest supporters for the flyers were definitely men. Several wives and girlfriends gave their significant others the evil eye as they loudly hollered for the two beautiful women. Net hugged several women off to the side. Michael recognized many of them were his dance partners from the club. After Justice, he was definitely the most popular male of the group.
“Hey! Hey! Mister!” yelled a small boy. Michael turned around to the crowd at the barricade. He could see a small pair of eyes looking directly at him.
“Hi there,” Michael responded. “Thanks for coming out.” It might be a bullshit public relations stunt, but it was not the kid’s fault. Michael remembered when he saw Judge and Jury when he was about the boy’s age. He thought they were perfect and wished they had been his parents.
“Are you an Enhanced,” the small brown hair boy asked. He was having trouble seeing over the security gate so Michael walked closer and kneeled down. The boy followed and studied him through the railing.
“I am.” Michael said smiling.
“Cool,” the boy shouted emphasizing the word. “Are you strong like Justice? Did you beat up the bad people outside the city?”
Michael could only remember the dead children lying in the floor of the cabin. He never spoke to Cortex, or any of the other recruits about that moment. He had enough trouble discussing it with the psychiatrist, Dr. Carlson.
He shook his head. “They were not all bad people. Mostly, they were just scared.”
“No, they weren’t. My daddy told me they were horrible people and deserved what the JTF did to them.” The boy stomped his foot as he emphasized his opinion. “Even the kids.”
Michael stood up as the voice roared in his mind. It was angry. He looked around at all the people joyously cheering in the park. They had no idea that those colonists just wanted to be left alone. Or maybe they did not care.
I will destroy them all, the voice said venomously.
What? No. They just need to know the truth.
They don’t care and they will burn in the fires of the abyss for it.
Shut the hell up before Cortex hears you!
He already has!
He has? What? The voice did not respond. Dammit, answer me!
Michael shook his head in frustration. The voice was having another tantrum. But what did Jason know about it? He would make sure to talk to the mentalist after the celebration and get some answers.
“Justice,” Alaina called. She pulled out a white envelope from one her hidden pockets sewn in the Harris suit. After she handed it to Justice, she immediately walked away. Alaina felt herself breathing again in relief after holding it for those few moments.
Justice alternated looking at the envelope and Alaina several times, confusion on his face. As he tried to open it, several JTF officials crowded around the recruits.
“Move to the stage, recruits,” ordered Agent Thorton making a pushing motion with his hands. The Enhanced eventually started moving towards the stage but only after Lieutenant Caldwell lead the way. He was their commander and they followed him, in battle or in front of the cameras. Solid Copy said it was pretty much the same thing to him.
The chairs were aligned in a semi-circle around the stage. Michael and Solid Copy were on the edges on one side, Cortex and Trauma were on the other wing. Justice and Lady Justice were directly in the middle sitting next to each other. Lieutenant Caldwell stood behind Michael and Agent Thorton stood behind Cortex. Jury stood behind her son while Director Lehrer directed all the recruits to their place. Michael glanced at Alaina. She had a very unhappy look on her face. She refused to look at Justice and turned her attention to Turbulence sitting to her right.
When everyone was seated, Director Lehrer put up his hands in a quieting motion to the crowd. Hushes were heard all across the thousands packed in front of the main stage.
“We love you, Justice,” shouted a teenage girl voice over the crowd.
“Thank you. Thank you, everyone. Yes, we love Justice too,” said a smiling Director Lehrer as he walked up to the podium.
“Fifteen years ago, when we started the Joint Task Force, many in the Enhanced community opposed us. It took dedication and professionalism to win them over, but here today, we all stand united in our effort to oppose those who threaten our safety.
The crowd erupted into chants for the JTF and cheers.
“But none of this could be possible without the men and women of Bravo company, mundane people just like the rest of us, that stood against the threat of the colonists and the hostile Enhanced they harbored.”
Michael narrowed his eyes at Lehrer. What a sack of shit! The colonists were victims of Jet Stream and Mother Nature too.
History is written by the victors, Michael. Do you think they really want to know what we saw there?
Michael looked at Cortex across the stage who was staring at him.
No, he admitted. What do you know …
We’ll talk later, Jason quickly added, he eyes motioning to Jury.
“It is my great pleasure to introduce the team leader of this remarkable recruit class, Lady Justice.” Director Lehrer stepped backward and motioned to Lady Justice. As she approached the podium, Lehrer moved around the chairs to stand next to Jury.
Alaina walked slowly to the podium with her head down and her prepared JTF-approved speech in her hand. She had butterflies all day thinking about her speech. It was filled with the typical thank you and I am proud to serve propaganda, but she also had another task. She needed to correct a mistake she made a year ago. She was not a bargaining chip for anyone. After a moment, she looked up to the crowd and smiled.
“Thank you everyone for coming. This event means so much to all the recruits. I have been blessed as the team leader for such a formidable team…”
As Alaina spoke, Michael looked around the stage. Director Lehrer was chatting with Jury, laughing with and occasionally hugging her. She had an annoyed look on her face as she shrugged off his arm and continued looking out to the crowd, probably looking for any threats and talking with Nightmare, who was undercover and mingling in the crowd. Michael watched Justice tear open the envelope given to him by Alaina. As he read the letter, his eyes narrowed and he clenched his fists, the steel chair deforming under pressure. Jury’s expression also changed but she never took her eyes off the crowd. She now had a deep scowl on her face. Justice quickly tore up the letter and leaned back in his chair folding his arms. Whatever Alaina wrote to him really pissed him off.
“…as we continue to grow as Enhanced, we continue to build relationships with the people that we protect and serve. Thank you.”
The crowd obediently clapped at the prepared stopping point of Alaina’s speech, Director Lehrer moved to escort her off the stage. Alaina waved him off. Lehrer frowned and pulled out the approved scripts. Did someone make a last-minute adjustment and not tell him?
“I have one more thing to add before the Honorable Mayor dazzles us with his speaking prowess. I have learned a lot since I began the JTF training about myself, my powers, and the people around me. I have learned that before I can be an effective member of a team, I have to be confident in myself.”
Many in the crowds looked at each other in confusion. Lady Justice’s lineage was the talk of the town for weeks. Every newspaper was trying to track down her family and find out where the powerful beauty, the new Jury, came from. Up until now, the JTF had prevented all background checks.
“Enhanced are not gods and definitely not infallible. We are human, flawed, like everyone else. My father made mistakes but like those that came before us here on this stage, he followed a simple belief. As it has been said many times, the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing. My father, and the other men and women like him, stood up against evil, some paying for it with their lives, not because the government gave permission but because it was the right thing to do. I have resigned from Team Justice and I no longer hold the name Lady Justice. I need to honor my lineage before I can honor myself. My name is Alaina Grayson. I am the daughter of William Grayson also known as Orbital Strike of The Old Guard. My callsign is Archangel.”