Paradox – Chapter 40

Trauma exited the car looking up at the rebuilt Hinkle Close-Quarter and Urban Combat Facility. She pushed down the terror that always filled her when she neared the training facility, a reminder from her first experience in the building at the hands of Justice. She relaxed her clenched fists and controlled her breathing before she walked to the front door. She pressed her key card and then looked at the retina scanner before a buzzer sounded and the door unlocked.

As she walked in, a familiar face turned away surrounded by the members of Bravo company and others wearing battle dress uniforms with digital patterns.

“Ah, Trauma, at least you made it,” Gil Thorton said emphasizing the you, “unlike Mister Jurgens.”

“Sir?” Trauma asked confused. She had no idea the Director would be here or all these mundanes. “I received a message an hour ago from Scimitar to meet him here, but he didn’tt say what this was all about.”

Thorton smiled, his white teeth reminding Trauma more of the silly Chesire cat than a formidable warrior. “We want to show these Marines that are augmenting the JTF what they are facing. Scimitar volunteered to run through a new training scenario to help us out.”

“I’m sure he did,” Trauma said looking around at the Marines. She felt a cold chill creep through her. “Is Khaleel here? Can I see him?”

“Yes, but after the show,” Thorton said as he clapped his hands. “Agents, Marines, please follow me up to the observation booth and we’ll get started.”

The sounds of several dozen feet stomping on the metal steps up to the second level of Hinkle echoed in the narrow stairway, but Trauma heard none of it. She allowed all the mundanes to pass her up the stairs as she looked at each one. The new direction of the Bravo company was already troublesome, but the inclusion of military assets was clearly an escalation in the battle against illegal Enhanced. The Enhanced-rights groups, already protesting in several streets around the United States, would only fight that much harder now.

As she walked in the observation booth, Trauma glanced down to see Scimitar stretching in the EUT. He appeared to be in full combat gear which meant this scenario would be without any training equipment and more dangerous. Trauma leaned closer as her brain tried to process this new information..

What are you trying to prove, Khaleel? she asked silently. She was the only one watching Scimitar as Thorton gave the Marines the quick tour of the booth.

The new Hinkle looked somewhat different from the last time she trained in it, which was also before Jury and Justice wrecked most of the building. The official JTF explanation was the need for an updated facility to face the new Enhanced threats and a generous donation by the Jurgen Foundation to fund it without additional taxpayer expense, but according to Net after a some intel-gathering, the U.S. government was furious with Jury and Justice and wanted to imprison them for destroying government property. Only an endorsement letter by Secretary Lehrer to the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Defense Subcommittee kept the Jurgens out of handcuffs. The Jurgens agreed to reimburse the government for the damages and promised never to use the facility again.

“Now, gentlemen,” Thorton said over the general chatter in the observation room, “you’ll see our volunteer, Agent Khaleel Mahmoud, callsign Scimitar, in our Exterior Urban Training simulator. Scimitar is a category three morpher with the ability to transform his upper extremities into metal objects, primarily weapons and shields, and was instrumental in holding off the Enhanced terrorists until JTF reinforcements could arrive and stabilize the situation.”

The battle you wanted to run away from, Trauma thought without turning around. Michael and Jason killed or incapacitated the ringleaders while the other Enhanced mopped up the rest of the gang. By the time the JTF showed up, only a few of the stragglers were remaining. The only thing Thorton did was transport an unconscious Michael to jail.

“The military trained you fine men to face the Caliphate and it’s Enhanced fighters, but here in the United States, we have an even bigger threat. We have more Enhanced than any other nation and our Enhanced are on average rated higher on the Enhanced Damage Capability Category Scale. That means we have to be ready to face that threat with greater force. And that’s why you are here, to be our greater force.”

Several Marines shouted “oorah”and hollered as Thorton just smiled. Trauma wanted to punch him for his Enhanced bigotry, but jail time did not appeal to her. She just turned back around and watched Khaleel give the thumbs up to Thorton.

“Now that we are ready,” the Director said giddy. “We can get this demonstration started.”

Trauma frowned as the lights in the booth darkened, the only illumination coming from the red LEDs strategically placed to reduce glare and distraction from the training personnel inside. The streetlights turned on in the EUT with the other typical outside lights as the roof spotlights dimmed. In a matter of a minute, the EUT transformed into one of the main city blocks in Indianapolis. During the entire time, Scimitar did not move.

“Starting the clocks. Beginning scenario one one x-ray,” said one of the technicians at the control panel. Trauma tried to remember which scenario they planned for her boyfriend, but had no idea what the x-ray variant could be. Scenario eleven was an ambush, a typical event in their line of work, but usually the scenarios had an alpha to echo suffix based on different variations of those scenarios. The x-ray variant was completely new.

“The Caliphate lacks the dangerous types of Enhanced,” Thorton continued, “most of their soldiers are tanks, category ones and a few twos.” He tapped the technician on the shoulder.

“Releasing the swarmbots,” the technician acknowledged.

Several hidden panels opened up on the training floor and remotely piloted robots emerged. These were basic wheeled or tracked robots, similar to the fighting bots shown on T.V., with a steel frame representing the enemy skeleton and powerful pneumatic actuators for the fists. They represented low-level tanks during Enhanced training and usually did not present much of a challenge.

During his first session, the only time he was allowed to train with them, Net immediately reprogrammed the robots to perform sex acts on each other instead of attacking the trainees. The technicians spent weeks wiping the hardware to remove Net’s new code.

When the JTF mundanes in power armor faced them, the results were not so decisive.

Twelve bots attacked Scimitar at different angles, but the morpher spun around and dodged the closest robot’s attack. In the blink of an eye, his right arm changed into a sledgehammer as he rolled back up to his feet. Using his body’s momentum, Scimitar slammed the hamme down, smashing the robot into the floor. Trauma winced at the damage. The technicians would be pissed that he destroyed it. Thorton’s enthusiasm said otherwise.

“Scimitar is a soldier – dedicated, focused, and he takes orders unlike some of the other of his kind. Our trained Enhanced like him, and Trauma over there, are more powerful than any of those religious fanatics.”

Trauma turned as the Director mentioned her name, but another robot slamming against the wall just below the observation booth refocused her attention back on Khaleel. With each body movement another shower of sparks filled the room. Scimitar continued to slash, bash, or impale each robot until he was the only one standing. And he was smiling.

He’s having fun, Trauma said shaking her head. This was a dog and pony show for the Director. He just wanted to demonstrate to the servicemen how his trained Enhanced would do stupid pet tricks on command.

“But we also must be train to face our enemies, foreign and domestic, including Enhanced that have chosen to ignore our laws and put mundane lives at risk. Begin phase two.”

“Phase two, yes sir,” the technician said as he pressed several more buttons. Immediately, Trauma could hear the sound of jet engines starting.

Thorton did not let the loud noise stop his speech. “Some Enhanced have the gift of flight and some of those can even control the most deadly elements known. We must be ready to defeat these enemies and their allies.”

Trauma jumped as a drone roared across the observation window, the glass vibrating violently by the twin engines pushing the drone horizontally while providing vertical thrust and stabilization.

“Fire,” Thorton ordered.

Trauma felt the ionization and narrowed her eyes as the first bolt arced from a port just above the observation glass to the drone. The light filled the entire training facility and several Marines and agents put up an arm to shield their eyes. The bolt hit the drone who redirected it towards Scimitar. The morpher rolled left as the lightning bolt strafed across the ground leaving a smoking charred mark.

Trauma looked at the entranced Thorton who followed his drone as it moved to a new position. The man glowed with self-righteousness.

You’re not training Khaleel to catch criminals, Trauma screamed frantically in her mind, you’re training him to battle Archangel!