Paradox – Chapter 22

“It tastes like eggplant,” Justice said with his eyes close as he chewed the food. Amira stood in front of him holding a spoon. “I also taste some onions and tomatoes.”

Amira leaned back biting her lip as she anticipated his reaction. “So what do you think?”

“It’s good, damn good, really,” Justice replied emphasizing his enjoyment of the food by licking his lips. “I’m half Italian and I could see my mom’s family cooking something like this. What did you call it?”

The Arab girl smiled when Justice opened his eyes and looked at her. “Most people call it baba ghanoush. Many of the Mediterranean countries share similar dishes especially Greece, Lebanon, and Syria, but Italy is not that far away. I’m sure your mom and my mom probably have a lot of similar recipes.”

“I doubt it,” Justice said laughing and forcing a smile. “I said my mom’s family. Let’s just say Jury does not have many maternal instincts in her.” He thought of the brutal training techniques she used on him after his Reveal. He pushed those thoughts away by focusing on Amira who was wearing one of the outfits he purchased and delivered to her a few days ago. The green summer dress accentuated her fit body from the Enhanced workouts of a speedster. Justice caught himself staring more than once tonight during dinner.

“I’m sorry to hear that, Scott,” Amira said with a clear tone of sincerity. “In Arab families, the roles of the mother and father are still very traditional. Cooking is a mother’s duty to her family but my father also was a great cook. That’s why we opened the restaurant.”

Justice noticed that Amira’s voice changed from family pride to sadness when she mentioned her deceased father. He stood up, towering over the woman he trained for speed over the last several months. “Don’t get me wrong. In my family, the women were the primary cooks, but when your mom can turn your brain into soup and has a direct line to the President of the United States, things tend to get a little weird around dinner time. I rarely saw my parents anyways, shuffled from one nanny to another or a relative.”

“That is sad to hear. A child deserves the attention of the parents.”

“Yeah, but the world needs Judge and Jury too. They did…” Justice stopped talking when his phone buzzed on the table. He did not need to look at the caller ID, he already knew who it was by the buzz pattern, but he looked anyways. “One sec, it’s the office.”

Justice picked up the phone and walked to the kitchen. “What’s wrong, Scimitar?”

“How did you know it’s me?” Scimitar asked.

“Because this number is for emergency recalls and Thorton is too damn high and mighty to do it himself. Since you’re good buddies with him now, I knew you’d happy to do his grunt work.”

“Whatever, man. Where the hell are you?”

“It’s my time off and I’m having dinner. Even the great and powerful Justice has to eat like everyone else, you know.”

Scimitar paused. Justice knew that he did not like his authority challenged as the liaison between Bravo company and the Enhanced agents..

“Dinner is over,” he said after a few seconds. “Michael escaped a few hours ago and radar just picked up some weird shit going on up in Michigan. I’m already short one man so I need your dumb ass. Everyone’s returning to the Butler and gearing up for a little ride in the V-22s.”

“Larson escaped” Justice asked louder than he intended. He looked up and could see Amira watching him intensely. “He’s slipperier than I thought. Did your charming attitude already piss off someone on the team?”

“Looks who’s talking, asshole. You and I still have unfinished business for hurting Trauma last year. While you’ve been sulking like a little bitch since Cortex got himself killed, I’ve been training and leading the group with Bravo. I’m in charge, Justice, so get your ass back here now. That’s an order.”

“Aye aye, Captain.” Justice tapped end on his phone screen. “What a dick.”

Amira walked in the kitchen, her fingers clenched together. “I don’t like what I’ve heard about poor Khaleel. He’s always had a temper, but ever since … that day,” Amira said hesitating, “it has consumed him. It’s almost like his desire for leadership sometimes takes control of his judgement.”

“Yeah,” Justice said in agreement. “We’ve all changed but we have to learn how to handle the good and bad of the job. I’m not sure he has what it takes.”

Amira looked up at the taller Enhanced. “You don’t help the situation when you antagonize him, Scott. You should be leading by example. You’re a hero to a lot of people including me. We have enough evil assholes in this world. We don’t need another one.”

“I know, I know,” said Scott. “I’m trying to be good. It’s just not easy to change after so many years of holding it in and lashing out when I could. I don’t play well with others.”

“Is that why you hurt him on the first day?”

“He told you?”

“Yes. I wanted to know what it might be like if I didn’t have to hide my powers anymore.”

“You are Enhanced and all these stupid laws won’t change that. The mundanes don’t understand that we will never be like them.”

“But you put Enhanced in jail for breaking the law.”

“I like to call it agent’s discretion. I got called to the Riverwalk last month when a drunk elementalist created his own water show on the river. He was harmless, shooting off water jets and making fountains, but for his grand finale, he created a hundred foot water spout that freaked out the onlookers. They called the JTF and Thorton sent me. I found the guy and checked him out. He was registered and in the system, but I told him to go sober up at home and stop showing off his powers in public. He wasn’t hurting anyone and those people wanted to ruin his life.”

“What did you tell your superiors?”

Justice picked up his black jacket emblazoned with JTF on the back laying over the couch. “Thorton still has a major hard-on for my mom so he didn’t question when I said the guy ran off before I got there.”

“That was very brave of you, Scott, and the right thing to do.”

“I know, but it’s hard not to resent the mundanes. The guy was intoxicated, sure, but he didn’t deserve to lose his freedom for showing off.”

“They are still our family and friends. I won’t abandon the dream that one day we can all live together.”

“And that’s why you are a better person than me. Thank you for the food, Amira, but duty calls and I don’t want to keep Scimitar and his band of merry men waiting.”

As Justice sped away in a blur, Amira closed the door.

“You better come home, Scott Jurgens.”