Maze paused as he climbed the last steps. Although his body remained in peak physical condition, even if his physical age was over 60, mentally, he was exhausted. He did not intend to tell the girl so much, but she looked so much like Valkyrie, the only woman he loved after his deceased wife. But he would not allow himself to think of Amanda anything other than a teammate, even when she confessed her desire to be more. He tried to explain his reasons to her brother when Valkyrie refused to talk to him afterwards, but it only solidified Orbital Strike’s distrust of him.
By the time Detroit came around, The Old Guard barely functioned as a team anyways. He saw the futures that did not include The Great Fire and in every single one, The Old Guard ceased to be a team in name and action afterwards. A new team, The Watchers lead by Orbital Strike, replaced The Old Guard and took up the mantle as the guardians of the midwest from Herr Metall, who always survived the Detroit Fire. Although most of the members and resources from The Old Guard shifted to The Watchers, unsurprisingly, he was never part of the team and neither was Valkyrie. The new team never lasted long, either, but Maze could never see why. Something happened in Detroit that prevented that future.
As he waited, he felt guilty for lying to Archangel. He told her that Michael must face his future without their interference, but he was here just for that reason. She would not understand what he had to do, none of them would.
Maze glanced at his watch, he had a few seconds to get ready. Once he started down this path, there was no turning back, the alternatives would mean the destruction of everyone.
When he looked up again, Michael was standing in front of him.
“Hello, son,” Maze said calmly as the blood soaked young man studied him.
“How did you know I would be here?” Michael asked.
“You should know. You gave a speech about theoretical Enhanced powers in 92 for law enforcement at the League of Cities convention. I was there.”
“So you’re a cop when you’re not out breaking fingers and kicking in criminal skulls?”
“I speculated you were a precog. You have the ability to see the future and plan your strategies from that knowledge.”
“And I seem to remember that most of the experts discredited your theory, said I was just a street vigilante with superstrength and superspeed.”
“Doesn’t matter what they said, I know I’m right. I studied your intel and your movements based on it. There was no way you could have completed some of your missions without knowledge of the future.”
“What if I were to tell you that I do have precognition, but I can also experience alternate timelines and learn from them.”
“Then I would say you were the most dangerous Enhanced alive.”
“The United States government might agree with you if they knew, but I am here to help you, one cop to another.”
Michael-Thomas relaxed as he looked around, always keeping Maze in front of him.
“Where the hell am I?” he asked.
“I presume one of the Southsiders told you that this is not Los Angeles,” Maze said without a hint of surprise.
“Yes. How did I get to Indianapolis? Did Herr Metall kidnap me? Where’s my wife, Sue Collins?”
Maze pitied the man in front of him, not the teenager that the JTF arrested for stealing the snacks, but his father, the conscious trapped in Michael’s body and unaware that 15 years had passed since his death.
“Thomas, I need you to remain calm and listen to me. Whatever you do, don’t let the voice inside take over, please. It is very important you stay focused on me.”
“What?” Michael-Thomas asked with eyes wide open, gaping at him. “How did you know? I only told Sue about the voice. Where is SHE?” Michael-Thomas stepped closer to Maze, his eyes flashing red for a moment.
Maze turned around, the path down the fire exit was clear if he needed to escape, but how far could he got against an Enhanced that was the master of spacetime.
“She’s here, Thomas, in Indianapolis, but she goes by Susan Larson now.”
“Why would she do that? She’s married to me. Why would she use her maiden name?”
“Because you’re dead.”
“Thomas, you’re dead. You died 15 years ago when Atomic Power exploded and incinerated most of the city of Los Angeles.”
“Atomic Power is the greatest hero of our time. Why would he destroy an entire city?”
“Because you shot him.”
“No…” Michael-Thomas said stumbling backwards, “Why? Why would I do that?”
“From what information I know, the President of the United States signed a kill order for Atomic Power and you accomplished the mission.”
“I couldn’t…I didn’t…” Thomas continued to mumble as he eyes burned a bright red and he grabbed his head.
“Yes, you did. Lehrer gave you the order and Jury told you it was your duty” said a new voice that echoed with the wails of the deceased. “You burned them and now the dead must be avenged.”
Maze slipped his hand to his waist and grabbed the handle to his sword. He knew this personality, Vengeance, could not be reasoned with, nor did it feel mercy, regret, or sorrow – it only felt hate. No Enhanced suffering from EEDS had ever recovered once it reached this stage.
“Everyone must die,” Vengeance said staring at Maze before charging, his fist powered by increased mass. He would kill the protector and then destroy his city.
Vengeance suddenly stopped his charge and looked down. The hilt of the Nanoblade rested against his chest just above the heart with the bloody blade protruding through his back. He could feel the blade draining him, as each drop of blood spilled on the rooftop, forcing him to release control. The red glow faded from Michael’s eyes as he slumped over.
“Why?” Michael asked as he tried to breathe. The fire in his chest was unbearable.
“I’m sorry, son, but it’s the only way,” Maze replied as he spun and pushed Michael backwards, his body sliding off the bloody sword and off the edge of the building roof.
* * *
The Stryker vehicles stopped and Agent Thorton opened the door to the lead vehicle. He walked directly to the body in the street, the person wearing a Harris fiber suit, and looked down as several armored agents exited the rear of the vehicles and rushed to join him. A pool of blood covered and surrounded the unmoving recruit.
“Well, well,” Thorton said chuckling as he squatted down and flipped the body over. “Look what we have here. Took on more than you could handle, didn’t you?”
Agent Thorton stood back up and looked at the armored agents around him. He was the senior agent on scene and now, he was in command of Bravo company. He would bring glory to the JTF and remind these freaks why homosapien is still the dominant species on the planet.
“All agents are to fan out, go door to door, and make sure the mundanes are safe. Shoot any of the Southsiders you find running around. They are all high on E-stims, so don’t take any chances. Round up the recruits still breathing and bring them back to headquarters under heavy guard. Drop Archangel off in my new office. She has a lot to answer for.” As the agents began to move forward, Thorton looked down and smiled..
“Michael Larson, you are under arrest for Enhanced murder and aggravated assault on a JTF agent.”