“Single file everyone.” A police woman in a reflective yellow vest was waving the group of survivors forward. “Don’t push or shove. Everyone will get through.”
Standing on the other side of the line was a Hero Kyoshi didn’t recognize, but she felt the man probe her mind.
<HCP.> She informed the Hero, who was only mildly surprised to get a reply from someone.
He gestured at her and two burly men in Army uniforms approached her.
From the average person’s perspective, the terrorist attack that disrupted Mr. Morningstar’s funeral was largely over. There was still the occasional gun shot, but that was the police using non-lethal weaponry to disperse looters. A large five block radius of Orlando was in a state of martial law, and the Governor had called in the National Guard to assist.
Small contingents of soldiers started arriving by teleporters outside Force Fields energy barriers. They quickly set up large concrete barriers as the foundation for checkpoints. Barbed wire was strung over them to deter anyone from trying to leap to freedom.
<No one is getting out of here without getting thoroughly checked.> She let the rest of her friends know.
She was keeping them informed of the errant thoughts from the hostage situation a quarter-mile away, but with her being singled out she needed all of her attention on the present.
The line parted for the soldiers as they approached her. “Ma’am, can you please come with us.” The soldiers were polite but tense. The Hero hadn’t given them anything but bare-bones information.
“Sure.” Kyoshi tried to relieve their anxiety by agreeing and smiling.
“I’m coming too.” Mason stepped up next to her. The soldiers might be big, but he was bigger.
“I don’t…” the soldier started, stopped, looked behind him at the Hero, and then nodded. “Fine. Follow me.” One soldier fell in behind them so they were sandwiched between two M4s.
The Hero didn’t come with them. His attention was refocused on the line of people exiting the area. The cops were checking IDs and he was checking thoughts to make sure they weren’t releasing any terrorists back into the city. Orlando couldn’t afford another hit today.
There was a small camouflage tent set up to the side. It had some hastily piled sandbags around the entrance, and two more soldiers were standing guard. They gave Mason and Kyoshi neutral looks as they passed. Inside the tent a curtain cut it in two. One side was filled with plastic tables holding computers and coffee. A quick looked showed they had predator drones circling the city and were doing a collateral damage assessment on a building surrounded by cops. A man with a golden leaf on the center of his uniform was yelling over the phone at someone, but the Mason and Kyoshi didn’t get to stick around. They were hurried into the other side where several people sat at desk opposite soldiers who were asking questions.
“Take a seat.” The soldier pointed at two empty tables in the corner where people were waiting to talk to them.
<It’s ok,> she told Mason.
Mason nodded and led the way. His interrogator was a small guy with a reassuring smile that he turned on the moment he saw Mason. Kyoshi’s didn’t smile. Her interrogator’s eyes narrowed as Kysohi took a seat across from her. Kyoshi had a full view of the room and everyone in it. She recognized some of the people sitting around talking.
“Name?” The interrogator wasted no time getting down to business.
“That’s an interesting name.”
Kyoshi wasn’t sure if that was a statement or question. “I’m half Japanese and half German.”
“Wilhelm and Sakura.”
The soldier had a laptop in front of her and started entering information on it. Kyoshi wanted to know what she was looking at, but the soldier’s mental guards were up, and after reading the room she knew it wasn’t a good time to pry. Motion near the flap caught her attention and another soldier brought Becca in.
The petite speedster’s emotions didn’t need deeper reading. Kyoshi’s friend was upset and hurting. Anika was still unconscious, but the doctors said she’d make a full recovery once a healer got around to see her. Whatever Becca had seen during the explosion, it was clearly weighing on her. Kyoshi wouldn’t ask until her friend had a little time to digest it all.
A second later the flap opened again and Angela was escorted in. Unlike Becca, the angelic shifter’s expression was just slightly better than pissed.
The realization hit Kyoshi a moment later. <They’re interrogating all the Supers.>
“Why are you in Orlando when your residence is in California?” the interrogator continued questioning.
“I go to West Private University.” Kyoshi stayed calm and didn’t let the growing unease show on her face.
“What are you studying?”
“Because I’m good at it.” Kyoshi bit her tongue as some of her irritation leaked out. “And I think the world needs good people to help others when they’re struggling.”
“How very noble.” The interrogator didn’t make it sound like a compliment.
“Did you have anything to do with the terrorist attack today?”
“Why were you here?”
“To pay my respects to a fallen Hero. Mr. Morningstar was a great man and I wanted to say goodbye.”
“Were you going to speak at the podium?”
“Because I wasn’t going to wait hours and hours in line.”
“So, you wanted to pay your respects but weren’t willing to wait to say anything.” The interrogator raised an eyebrow.
“I was being realistic. I have homework and other things to do today that preclude me from spending hours out here.”
“School stuff.” More irritation leaked into Kyoshi’s tone. She didn’t have a problem talking about HCP stuff with the Hero, but this unknown soldier was a different deal. If the woman had the authorization and access to know about her HCP status then she would know. If not, then Kyoshi wasn’t going to violate the SI clause of her contract.
“Can you be more specific?”
“Group project.” It wasn’t a lie. Her team was prepping for the next team competition.
The interrogator jotted more notes down.
“It’s none of your business.” Kyoshi overheard Angela giving the soldier a piece of her mind. She couldn’t blame her friend, this whole thing just felt weird.
Whatever the interrogator saw on her screen it seemed to satisfy whatever other questions she had. “We have your address. We’ll contact you if we have any follow up questions.”
To Kyoshi that sounded at lot like “we know where you live, so don’t leave town”. She got quickly to her feet and another soldier waved for her to follow him. He led her out the back of the tent to another check point. The guards here were carrying bulky machine guns instead of the M4s the other soldiers carried. They checked her license carefully and scanned the barcode on the back. There was a soft ping, and they handed it back to her.
“Have a nice day.” They didn’t sound like they meant it.
Kyoshi stepped past them into chaos. People were everywhere trying to find friends and loved ones. Cops and more soldiers were trying to keep order, but it was tough with so much emotion. Kyoshi looked up when she felt thoughts above her, and saw several soldering with weapons perched on rooftops and scanning the crowd.
“Hey,” Mason showed up a second later, and Becca and Angela not long after that.
“What was that all about?” Becca was hugging herself protectively, and Kyoshi knew it wasn’t because of the cold.
“Isn’t it obvious?” Angela was still a little worked up from everything. “Supers perpetrated the attack, so they’re scanning the crowd for anyone with powers, singling them out, and interrogating them.”
“Makes sense,” Mason shrugged. “They’re just making sure no one else was involved.”
“We’re HCP students, the Hero watching the check point knew that, and those interrogators sure as hell had the information from the DVA. I don’t know why they hassled us.”
“I do.” Mason nodded toward the frantic crowd. “I lived in New York just after Seif al-Din’s attack that took out half the Heroes in the city. It didn’t matter that Supers tried to stop the attack. The attack was a Super in the first place, and people resented all Supers for that. Same goes for the end of last semester. I was glad we were gone for the summer because it gave the city’s anger a chance to simmer, but after this we’re going to see hate crimes skyrocket and a lack of tolerance.”
“But we didn’t do anything?” Becca’s tone was confused.
“Doesn’t matter. We need to keep our heads down.” Already, a few heads were turning to judge Becca’s blue hair and Kyoshi’s clearly Super features. “Come on, let’s get out of here.”
Their hair and eyes might be drawing attention, but Mason’s mass made sure no one did anything about it. They called an Uber and got a ride back to campus, where they reported directly to the HCP. The staff was going to want full accountability of all the students before the end of the day, and they’d want to prepare them for what came next.
In two days the editor is starting Book 2 of The Harbinger Tales Saga! Make sure to pick up Book 1, The Harbinger Tales, before the release. You can get it for a few bucks or for free on kindle unlimited. Release date to follow as soon as i have it back! If military sci-fi is more your speed, the pick up Two Worlds: Rags & Riches.
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Great news! I’m also going to start up on Book 2 of the I’m on TDY from Hell series on Friday February 9th, so stay tuned 🙂
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