Paradox – Chapter 11

“Let me through,” shouted Director Thorton as he pushed his way into the high-security block. “Get out of the way.”

The Director wore grey sweatpants with a white undershirt and maroon jacket, completely mismatched and obvious alerted while in bed. He made good time to the JTF jail beating out everyone else who was not assigned to the night watch.

“Someone better have some answer as to why this jail cell is empty,” Director Thorton shouted at the JTF staff, some armored, some not. “Where the hell is my prisoner?”

Thorton stared at the weapon pointed at the bed in the cell. Several JTF technicians were furiously taking the outer panels apart to disarm it. Michael Larson was strapped to his bed every night, the 30 millimeter tube of death staring straight at him in the face. The bed had a pressure switch that would automatically fire the cannon when enough weight was either taken off or added to the table. There is no way Larson could have escaped without being obliterated.

“We’re checking on it, sir,” said one of the technicians as he connected his tablet to the cannon fire control computer.

“Listen up, everybody,” Thorton said looking around the room, “the recapture of Michael Larson is our number one mission as of right now. I don’t care who’s door we have to kick down, who we have put pressure on, but I want this prisoner back in his cell where he belongs.”

Thorton smiled when noticed that JTF agents nodded their heads in agreement. They recognized his importance. They needed his leadership.

“Someone run down to Bravo company and tell them to get suited up. I want them to go drag Larson’s drunk mother out of her bed and bring her down here. She’s going to give us the name of every friend that little shit associated with and then we are going to drag them here too. Where are the on-duty Enhanced?”

A small hand appeared from the back of the crowd, the black Harris fiber suit without Harris armor immediately branding the wearer as an Enhanced.

“Here, sir. Trauma and Scimitar,” said the blond Kentucky girl standing next to her boyfriend. They tried to hide the relationship but everyone, including the Director, knew about it. So far it had not interfered with their duties and it provided some good public relations after the fiasco created by Michael Larson.

“Trauma, good. Go wake up all the other Enhanced and tell them to suit up too. I am sending you out to scour the city. Contact any informants you have in the area and tell them the JTF will pay a large reward for any information leading to the recapture of Michael Larson. And tell Nightmare to get her ass to the interrogation rooms. She’s going to be busy interviewing all of our new guests.”

“Yes, sir,” Trauma said glancing at Scimitar momentarily before leaving.

“Director Thorton,” said the technician working on the cannon fire-control computer,” you’re going to want to see this.”

As the Director walked towards the kneeling technician holding the tablet plugged into the computer, he immediately noticed the screen full of red indicating non-functioning systems.

“What is that?” he asked pointing at the technician’s screen. “Why was the computer turned off? Who gave that order?” As the Director shouted, the technician detached the cable to the computer and stood next to the Director. He tapped several more screens before looking up at the scowling Director.

“I don’t know, sir. That’s the problem,” he answered. “The computer has been completely compromised. The command didn’t come from here and it definitely wasn’t from a normal computer. The entire system is fried and will have to be replaced.”

“Dammit,” Thorton swore as he thought of the new budget request that would be required to replace the weapon. “So it wasn’t just a hacker?”

“No,” said the technician a little calmer, “the amount of computing power to bypass our network security and the local firewalls to cause this amount of damage before we discovered and locked down the open ports could only mean an Enhanced computer empath.”

“Which we have on this very base,” Thorton growled as he spun around to find Scimitar. The Enhanced from the local Arab population was one of the few Enhanced he could actually trust. He was also emotionally stable, unlike Justice, and a true leader. Khaleel could be trusted to handle the things that needed to be done to keep America safe.

“Scimitar,” Thorton yelled across the room to the crowd congregated around the cell door. “Mister Shipley was the prisoner’s best friend during basic training. Correct?”

Scimitar thought about the accusation. Michael just screwed every Enhanced working for the JTF by escaping, but Net could have the entire group tossed in Leavenworth until they sorted out the traitors. He had to make sure the blame did not extend to him or Trauma.

“That is correct, sir,” Scimitar affirmed.

“Net is a criminal just like his dad it seems. Go pick him up and take him to the holding cells. We’re going to have a long talk about his activities this evening.”

“Yes, sir,” Scimitar answered promptly as he hurried away. He would not enjoy this task, but he would do anything to keep Trauma away from harm.

“I’ve got to report this to Washington,” Thorton said. “Get to work on the computer and someone call IT. We need to trace Net’s steps through the system. Who knows what else he damaged.”

As Thorton left the building, he dialed a familiar phone number. This would not be a pleasant call, but it was necessary.

“Yes, Thorton. What is it?” the man on the other side of the call answered.

“Sorry to wake you, Mister Secretary, but we have a priority one emergency here. Michael Larson escaped his cell.”

“That’s not possible,” Lehrer responded. “He was completely restrained and his powers are limited to visual range”

“He’s missing, Sir, and the gun’s computer was tampered with. I believe Terrence Shipley shutdown the system and aided in the prisoner’s escape. We’re bringing Net in for questioning now and I have Bravo mobilizing to bring in Larson’s mother.”

“Your screwup may work to our advantage, Thorton. When the military arrives, they are to join the search for Mister Larson. We’ll handle the announcement from here in Washington, but it’s time for the true American heroes to take back their country from these freaks. The battle of Indianapolis and Harris Industries have finally created us an equalizer.”

“Yes, Mister Secretary. I’ll make sure we’re ready.”

“And one more thing, Thorton. I’m reassigning Judge immediately to Indianapolis.”

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