Shattered glass covered the ground and the air choked with drywall dust. Michael stepped over a fallen beam as he climbed up the stairs following the GPS signal to Cortex’s EComm. He paused for a moment when the gunfire outside increased and worried about his friends. Everyone had a job to do and he needed to find Cortex and Justice. As much as he hated to admit it, they could really use the big moron right now. He loved this kind of fighting and could eliminate the shooters quickly.
He ducked as another bullet penetrated the stairwell wall through one of the apartments and ricocheted. It was stupid to duck, he could not dodge a bullet unless he slowed down time but even then, he still had to see the it coming. Most of these rounds suddenly appeared and zipped by him. He hoped the apartment residents were smart and stayed low to the ground.
It was not hard to find the apartment the signal was coming from. The frame hung loosely from the wall, someone obviously had ripped the door off the hinges.
“Lady…uh, Alaina, whatever you are calling yourself, are you there?” Nightmare yelled over the EComm.
Michael shook his head. Like most of the recruits, Archangel and Nightmare did not get along. Since she was technically a full agent, she outranked the recruits and never let them forget it, especially Alaina and Mariposa. Cortex told him that Nightmare feared her future in the agency. Net confirmed the suspicions when he hacked the JTF computer and found her exam scores and psych evaluations. Although she was a talented telepath, Nightmare had trouble forming connections with other people, especially women, and distrusted authority. Dr. Carlson noted on her chart that Nightmare came from a broken home and admitted she was a teenage runaway and prostitute. Before her 18th birthday, she completed her G.E.D, when not working on the streets, and applied at the JTF before she got killed by a rival pimp or john. No unit wanted the former street prostitute and the Director was losing his patience with her.
“Michael to Archangel, I found the apartment where the signal is coming from.” He waited for response but none came. “Archangel, did you copy my last?”
“We got it, Michael,” replied Net. “Archangel is about to whoop some ass out here. Let us know what you find. Net out.”
Alaina must be really pissed off right now, Michael thought. It was never a good idea to run silent on your team.
Suddenly the lights turned off and the entire building was dark before the dim emergency hallway lights clicked on. They did not provide adequate illumination to see much of anything, but at least they showed the way out of the building if it was on fire. The lack of light did not bother him, but the screaming from the residents now in darkness was distracting. He focused his mind on the task at hand and continued his duty. He used his powers to look around – he could see as he stretched out his senses into space-time, noticing the rodents and insects scurrying around the base of the walls and on the ceiling. Nothing could hide from physics, the domain of his powers.
But he could see it now, a large trail of blood on the wall and floor around the former apartment entrance. Whoever was bleeding was badly hurt. He hoped it was not Cortex or even Justice, well, maybe Justice would be okay to bleed a little. It is not like he would die, the guy was a category four tank. It would take a missile to hurt him. From the pattern on the wall, the injured person walked away from the room so that gave Michael some comfort.
He walked into the destroyed apartment and felt the warm, humid air against his sweating skin as light poured in from flashes of blue. From the humming sound and repeated cracks of thunder, Michael assumed Archangel was the source. She kept her power hidden most of the time, holding back even in live fire drills, but she was incredibly powerful as someone was about to find out.
Michael scanned the room as he filtered out the chaos from outside, watching debris continually fall out of the apartment through the hole in the wall with each step. The floor was still stable, the blast focused more horizontal than vertical, but whatever blew up the apartment was extremely powerful. Then, Michael noticed the blond-haired body laying on the floor across the room from him.
“Jason?” Michael yelled as he jumped over the small pile of debris between them. “Oh God, Jason?” He pushed his fingers against the mentalist’s neck looking for a pulse, but could not find it. He lightly grabbed the wrist and tried to feel again. Michael leaned over, putting his ear over Cortex’s mouth, listening for any sounds of breathing but there was none. He was dead.
“No, dammit, no,” Michael cried with his hand curled in a fist over his mouth. “Alaina, Terrance, anyone? I need help!”
Suddenly the entire room filled with a bright flash of light and heat poured in as the fireball reached into the sky. The apartment rumbled while the walls cracked and the decorations still hanging on the wall crashed to the floor. A bookcase next to Michael tipped over but slowed down until all motion stopped. The entire room slowed down, dust particles swinging slower each time back-and-forth in air currents until nothing moved in the room, even time, but the young man with tears flowing down his cheeks.
I’m sorry, Michael, the voice said.
Why do you care? He was my friend and you’re just the crazy voice in my head, Michael responded angrily. The voice was erratic and unpredictable in the help it offered. It repeated the same warning over and over.
I do care, Michael, more than you know. They killed Jason, just like Javier and the rest of my team. Michael suddenly felt his head was ready to explode. The voice was angry with every new word, every new thought. They incinerated all those people and they took her away from me.
Who are you? Michael asked as his vision darkened and a memory of his mother mentally appeared. She was beautiful with a large smile and watery eyes as she wore a stunning white wedding dress in a large, crowded church. Police officers in dress blue uniforms filled the pews. Michael suddenly remembered the words spoken that day.
I, Thomas Collins, take you, Susan Larson, to be my wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish; from this day forward until death do us part.
Oh my God, Michael whispered before he fell down the dark hole of his consciousness and his body screamed in rage.
A shimmering gravity wave rocketed out of Michael in a semi-circular pattern, pulverizing everything it touched. The force pushed the air from the room first, forcing the studs to bend, the walls to bulge, before finally reaching the critical breaking point and shattering into tiny pieces of splinters and powder. The floor and ceiling ripped from the support frames an eye blink before the support beams ripped apart, the atomic bonds severed, and the entire side of the structure exploded on the street. Portions of the building collapsed into the parking lots to the side, crushing cars, motorcycles, and trucks under tons of rubble as the balance of the building shifted.
The room was now open to the outside and he could see groups of people rushing the street, some holding makeshift weapons, others hurling whatever element they controlled in long-range attacks.
He smiled. Vengeance was here.