“Justice, grab Amira! She’s the one they want.” Cortex yelled as Cloak’s sword bit into his arm. The blade only penetrated an inch into his skin, but Cortex could feel his blood trickle down. The assassin grinned at his first success.
“You can run now, Cortex, and save yourself. No one would blame you,” said Cloak as he feinted and thrusted. His blade bounced off Cortex’s telekinetic shield. “Justice cannot save you and the girl.”
“Forget it,” Cortex said breathing more heavily, “I’m not going anywhere. And Justice is going to kick your ass.” He was having difficulty keeping his shield up. Cloak blasted it and followed with a strike from his sword. The more experienced assassin did not allow him a chance to counterattack with his own powers again between dodging and reinforcing his defenses.
“Do you think he is the first tank we have encountered?” Cloak asked. “No, I think Jury’s brat will learn something new today. No one is invincible.”
Cloak’s threat made Cortex worry about Justice for the first time. They were prepared and obviously well-financed by the look of their equipment. Someone was paying them a lot of money to hide Michael’s secret.
If he was not so busy trying to stay alive himself, Cortex would have shouted a warning, but Justice would have ignored it anyways. He hoped Justice would take this fight seriously before he got himself and Amira killed.
* * *
“Hey, loser, “Justice taunted to Dagger as he finally stood up, ”why don’t you fight a real Enhanced instead of hitting a girl?”
“If it isn’t the puta’s son, Justice,” Dagger answered. “What’s the matter, jealous? Oh, we’ve heard all about how the great Justice likes to push people around,” Dagger continued as he flipped the blades in a reverse grip. “Let’s see how you good you really are.”
Justice exploded with rage. He speed charged Dagger, trying to one-hit knockout like he did in the club, but as he approached, the shadow elementalist partially dissolved as his swing passed through him. Dagger quickly reformed as he slashed with his left arm across Justice’s exposed right shoulder. The JTF suit peeled apart and a line of blood opened up.
“Oh, that’s right,” Dagger laughed as Justice retreated holding his shoulder with his left hand, “these blades were made for Enhanced like you. Your fancy JTF suits and powers won’t help you now.”
He learned many years ago how to control his fear, but Justice worried. In all of his training with Judge, Jury, the tutors, and the JTF, no one had ever mentioned weapons that could bypass powers. Who did they work for?
Dagger slashed with his other hand but Justice grabbed him using his Enhanced speed. He squeezed the wrist as hard as he could but Dagger shifted his form and slipped out the bone-crushing grip and retreated.
“Here,” Amira said behind him. Justice turned around and grabbed the aluminum baseball bat, probably the family’s home defense, flying at him at a blurring speed and stood ready to use it on the elementalist. “Now knock the shit out of him,” Amira added.
Justice nodded at the other speedster. Amira was seriously outclassed in power and experience, but she did not run. Cortex’s girlfriend had courage and he could respect that. If they survived this night, he would keep her unregistered status a secret from the JTF. He would even offer to help her develop her powers.
But right now, he had a criminal to kill, if he could find him.
* * *
The sound of the approaching sirens was music to Cortex’s ears. He noticed Cloak look behind him out the hole in the wall as the sirens became louder. Although they were still many blocks away, he knew every JTF and Metro unit available would respond to his distress signal. He was sure that the mundanes on the streets were also busy dialing 911 after part of the building collapsed on them.
“Oh, you guys are screwed now, Cloak,” Cortex taunted as another sword thrust deflected off his shield. “The JTF has a nice dark place ready for people like you.”
“You assume we did not anticipate this,” Cloak said while tapping the earpiece that Cortex just noticed.
“When the JTF gets here, kill them,” he commanded calmly.
“What are you doing, Cloak?” Cortex asked. “Who’s helping you?”
“If you would have given us the girl, you would know. Now, your friends are going to die,” said Cloak with a gleeful smile.
Cortex screamed as he reformed his shield, splitting it in half and wrapping it around his hands. He swung as hard as he could at Cloak using his own telekinetic shield to deflect the first blow, then his sword for the second. When Cortex swung again, Cloak’s telekinetic shield shattered, the assassin launched across the room from the powerful punch.
Cortex burned with anger, his power holding the exhaustion back as he focused on the mission. Cloak did not look at the approaching Cortex, turning his head to the area where Justice was holding a baseball bat.
“Dagger, time to retreat,” he said to his hidden partner.
Cortex charged and punched again but Cloak vanished before he made contact.
* * *
Justice lowered the baseball bat. The open wound on his shoulder burned and he was beginning to feel light-headed. In all his battles, no one had ever opened him up this badly. His rapid-healing powers were not working and the bleeding continued. He only hoped Trauma or Preacher could do something.
And Preacher owed him big time for this.
“We have to get you out of here,” Justice muttered as he looked at Amira. Cloak and Dagger wanted her but they would be disappointed today. “We need pickup.”
Cortex nodded. The first responders were from Metro by the sound of their sirens.“They have someone helping them. Let’s get out of here and move downstairs.”
Justice and Amira moved to the door, crawling over the destruction, as Cortex continually scanned the apartment, a difficult task even if he was not exhausted. Cloak was a mentalist and could block him and Dagger in his shadow form was unreadable.
As they neared the destroyed frame of the front door, a pool of blackness hidden in the shadows suddenly formed into a familiar shape. Justice noticed the wicked knife just before it slashed at his leg, slicing in several inches. He went down as blood spilled out on the floor.
“Justice!” Amira cried as she moved in a blur to kneel at his side. She quickly looked over the injury before pressing her hands on the wound, Justice’s blood seeped through her fingers.
“Amira, get down,” Justice yelled. The speedsters moved in a blur as Amira flattened herself on the ground and Justice reached around his body.
* * *
The swirls of shadowy ink formed a semicircle in happiness. The deception worked as the JTF traitors walked into their ambush. He cut Justice down, slashing the femoral artery and removing him from the equation. He expected the target to run off into the hallway while he finished off the JTF speedster, but she turned around to help him. That just made this job a lot easier.
The girl turned her back to him as she placed her hands on Justice’s wounded leg. Dagger saw his opportunity and moved quickly, reforming as he raised the knife to kill her.
Justice shouted a warning and pushed the girl down as Dagger’s slashed. In a blur, the aluminum baseball bat, hidden on the other side of Justice’s large body, struck Dagger across the wrist, shattering the bones and forcing him to drop the blade. Before he realized what was happening and pulled back, the bat struck his shoulder, breaking it in two pieces from the powerful swing. Dagger slipped back into the shadow form and retreated before Justice split his skull..
* * *
He turned around when he felt the white-hair assassin’s presence again. The mentalist had patiently waited until Amira was distracted by Dagger’s attacks and now was trying to keep a semi-conscious and bleeding Justice alive. Neither Amira or Justice could move to get out-of-the-way. One of them was going to die.
Cortex did not hesitate and jumped between Cloak and Amira, shielding her as the assassin thrusted his sword. The blade punched deeply into his chest, splitting muscle and puncturing several organs. Cloak attempted to pull the sword out but Cortex grabbed the crossguard, pulling Cloak forward and off-balanced.
Stripped of his weapon, Cloak tried to retreat and disappear.
Cortex grinned as blood dripped from of the corners of his mouth. He siphoned all his remaining energy and hurled a kinetic blast, striking Cloak in the chest and rocketing him across the room in a wild spin. Cloak hit the edge of the hole in the wall with a loud thump before his body flipped several more times and landed in the middle of the street two stories below.
Cortex saw and heard none of it. His vision blackened and his ears only briefly heard Amira screaming his name.