“You don’t have to leave,” Nightmare said standing in Net’s dorm room. It was the first time she had ever visited his room, noting the lack of a television and computer that everyone else had standard in the room. When you can connect directly to the internet with your mind, you need hardware devices to slow down the process. What Net lacked in electronics, he made up in pictures of women in various states of undress. One of them even looked like Jury.
“Yeah, I do,” Net replied sharply. His usual aura of nonchalant faded a week ago when he was accused of and interrogated for Michael Larson’s escape, even forcibly mind-scanned by Nightmare, the woman who a minute ago barged in his room, no doubt sensing the waves of anger emanating from him.
Nightmare stomped her foot in frustration. She knew that Net’s current emotional and mental state were a direct result of what the JTF Director commanded her to do to Net. “You were cleared by the Board of Inquiry and released to active duty. Thorton can go screw himself now.”
Net ignored her as he reached around the mentalist from the training class ahead of his to pull out a dozen pair of underwear. “Don’t want to forget these,” he said waving his tighty-whities in Nightmare’s face.
“Dammit, Terrence!” Nightmare shouted. “Don’t let them win. If you run away now, they know that they can do whatever they want to us. They locked up Michael. They ran off Alaina and Mariposa after they saved all these damn mundanes. And now they are making you take some time off.”
“Thorton CAN go fuck himself,” Terrence said thinking about how the JTF Director will find his credit score a missing a few hundred points and his phone number added to several hundred robocall databases, “but I need to do this. Ever since the Battle of Indianapolis, this thing has been gnawing at me, pushing me to do something I just wanted to forget.”
“You were thinking about your mom, what’s so bad about that?” Nightmare asked confused. As a mentalist Net had a highly organized thought pattern that made it easier for her to read his thoughts, but as a computer empathy specialist, his thoughts were quick and often represented by numbers and letters. They did not make any sense to someone not a computer.
“First, stay out of here, babe,” Net said smiling while pointing his head. “Last time the foreplay was a little rough and frankly, I’m not into that freaky kind of shit. Nothing personal.” Nightmare felt a wave of shame and hurt rise up inside. She was not angry at Terrence for the comment, but at Thorton for forcing her to hurt him. “And I’m going to catch a hop out to see my mom, but afterwards, I’m going to fulfill a promise I made and go see my dad.”
“You’re going to Leavenworth?” Nightmare asked shocked. Enhanced did not visit Leavenworth, even for family or friends. Most of the criminals locked up at the old military base had no friends or family that would claim them and no Enhanced wanted a reminder of what waited for them if they illegally used their powers.
“Yes. I made a promise to Judge Thompson when he suggested I go see my dad. At first, I just blew it off thinking the judge just felt guilty, but after they found his wrecked car, I started thinking. He’s the one mundane even hardened Enhanced criminals feared and he gets killed by a damn building falling on him. What a way to go.”
“Why would he feel guilty about you? What does he care if you visit your old man?
Net paused as he remember the worst day of his life. “Because he sentenced my dad to Leavenworth,” he said with a huge sigh as he remembered his dad’s look of sadness as the JTF agents hauled him away in chains. “When my dad asked that I be tested for the JTF, Judge Thompson agreed and always kept an eye on me. He would stop by every few months to make sure mom was doing okay and I was staying out of trouble.”
Nightmare could feel the hurt coming from Net. Like happiness or anger, sadness was very powerful and hard to ignore for a trained mentalist. She smiled hoping her empathy would help. “That was nice of him.”
“Yeah, it was. For a few years, I thought he was sleeping with my mom.”
“And I’m guessing they weren’t?” Nightmare asked noticing the lack of anger or disappointment flowing from Net at Judge Thompson.
“No. When I confronted her about it, mom just said my dad and Judge Thompson were old acquaintances. The judge used to be a Indianapolis cop and my dad helped out a lot of the area departments when it involved cyber crimes. They knew each other back in the day.”
Nightmare nodded in satisfaction. “At least one mundane appreciated all the help the Enhanced have done for this country, even if he was the guy that sent us to Leavenworth.”
“He wasn’t a bad guy, just intense and very private. He told me a little about his days as a cop, but only if I asked. I think chasing bad guys was bad enough for him, but Enhanced criminals really made him lose hope. I’m sure he’s seen many horrible things as a result of our kind.”
“But he’s also seen the best from us. That sacrifice that he was prepared to make for public safety, Enhanced like Minotaur, The Great Wall, Photon, and others did make. At one time, we were all on the same team fighting these scumbags and it didn’t matter if you wore a badge or had permission from some politician. We all want the same thing – to live free without violence from criminals that carry a gun or have superpowers.”
Net stuffed several pair of socks into his bag quickly and picked up his bag. “It doesn’t matter anyways. Judge Thompson is dead and I need to go see my dad to get this off my back. Our little chat last week reminded me that I had better things to do than be here.”
Nightmare turned around as Net walked to the door. If he could read emotions like her, he would feel the nervousness and fear free-flowing everywhere from her body. “Are you sure about this?”
“I gotta do it, Amy. My old man needs to explain why he did it. He needs to tell me why he ruined his family.”
Nightmare knew what she had to do. “Hold on. You’re not going alone. I just need to get my go-bag.”
Net shook his head. “I don’t have time. The shuttle leaves in five minutes.”
“Are you kidding?” laughed Nightmare as she walked to the door. “I would have been long gone by the time you finished packing all your nasty underwear. Lehrer hates me and so does Thorton. That little weasel will be happy to hear that I’m using some of my leave. My bags are always packed. Things can change and you never know when you’ll need to run. I just need to grab it and send the leave-request email.”
“Already sent. And it was approved several days ago with mine,” Net said smiling.