Paradox – Chapter 15

Michael glanced up to the nearest hovering helicopter as he sprinted away from his hiding location. He noticed several dark figures rappelling from the helicopter that Terrorvolt just exited. More were likely coming from the other helicopter that moved into a position out of view. All of the departing figures carried weapons slung over their shoulder and appeared wearing customized Harris armor. Somehow, the criminals had their own version of the JTF’s best mundane protection. The Enhanced birdman still circled the site and another Enhanced raced through the forest. By the noise he made and the various directions it came from, it was likely a speedster.

The sounds of the rotating helicopter blades echoed between the trees the further he moved from the landing zone. The Enhanced criminals were not leaving as the helicopters moved into an orbit around the landing zone. The trees would help mask him against infrared, but Enhanced did not need specialized optics to see in the dark or over long distances. Terrorvolt would most certainly have optics installed in his domed helmet that would be several generations ahead of the best military glass.

Michael waited for the over flying helicopter to move away when he dashed across a small meadow to the safety of a crop of trees. There was a narrow two-lane road nearby that he spotted with the periscope portal before Terrorvolt arrived. It would provide him a quickest way away from the area. Without Alaina to mentally guide him again, he had no idea where his portals might take him if he could not clearly see the destination point.

The approaching treeline suddenly got a lot closer as a force pushed on Michael’s back. His feet left the ground as he became airborne and tumbled through several trees, his Enhanced body snapping the thick wood, before tumbling to a stop against a large boulder. He would definitely feel the bruises later, but he had more pressing concerns as  bright red boots appeared out of a blur and a pale skinned man with piercing blue eyes and striking red hair looked down at him.

“Hope you enjoyed the ride, buddy,” the red-headed man laughed, “I wanted to make sure you knew who was in charge now.”

Michael groaned as tried to push his chest off the grass-covered ground, but a heavy boot stomp shoved him back down.

“Now, be a good boy and stay put,” the speedster ordered before tapping his wrist communicator. Michael struggled to get to his feet but the speedster had him firmly pinned down.

“Hot Rod to Eagle, I got our squirrel,” he said before pausing as Eagle responded. “Yeah, I’ll bring him back for pickup. You just remember who did all the real work, babe.”

Hot Rod tapped his communicator again before looking down at Michael. “I don’t know what the big fuss is over you, Michael, but I’m not paid to care. The boss man wants you and I deliver. Don’t give me any problems and I won’t beat your ass down. Got it?”

“Whatever, asshole,” Michael said he glanced behind Hot Rod.

As the speedster tried to pull his prize to his feet, a portal appeared on the ground. Michael fell through it and landed in the middle of the meadow behind Hot Rod. The stunned speedster zipped around in blur briefly before looking behind him.

Hot Rod flexed his fingers and clenched his fit. “You know,” he stared as he walked menacingly towards Michael at a normal pace, “speedsters really hate you teleporters. You think all that  teleportation bullshit makes you special, better than us. But you forget one thing, you are still just as slow as the rest of them…”

Hot Rod became a blur before Michael could comprehend his threat. The speedster charged him and slammed his fist against Michael’s chest and retreated before Michael could swing in retaliation. Michael clench his teeth in pain as the shock of the impact spread throughout his body. He turned as Hot Rod decelerated back at his original location.

“Well, I will say you are a tough little bastard,” Hot Rod said as he shadow boxed an invisible opponent in front of him. “I figured you’d be a one pump chump. Maybe you will be worth the reward the boss man is paying for you.”

Michael moved to fighting stance anticipating the next attack. He could not attack Hot Rod without the speedster moving away so he needed to wait until the speedster made the next move.

“Who?” Michael asked stalling. “Who hired you?”

Hot Rod smiled. “That’s the thing about us criminals, Michael. You don’t live very long if you spill the master plan during a monologue. You’ll find out who he is when I take you to meet him.”

The speedster charged again as Michael reached out to his power. Time around him started to slow and the speedster deblurred. Hot Rod was fast, even faster than Justice, but they were on even footing now. Michael could also feel Vengeance waking up after a long slumber as his power coursed through him. He focused his willpower on his desire to see Alaina again to prevent the violent monster from taking control again.

Hot Rod smiled as he threw a hard right hook at Michael. This was like shooting fish in a barrel. But suddenly the easy score stepped back and his fist punched nothing but air. Hot Rod swung again, but Michael ducked the punch and delivered an open palm strike to Hot Rod’s sternum. The speedster stumbled backwards as the reality of Michael’s power hit him.

“What the fuck?” Hot Rod asked in normal time as he rubbed his chest area. “Teleporters are not speedsters.”

Michael sped time around him back to normal. Perhaps he could end this fight without one of them dead.

“I’m just special that way,” he said moving back into a fighting position. “Run off before you get hurt. Unless your name is Justice, speedsters don’t want to fight hand to hand. I grew up fighting in the streets, Hot Rod. Did you?”

“No, I didn’t,” Hot Rod responded as he pulled a weapon from the holster on his right thigh. “But I adapt well. Recognize this?” Hot Rod held out the white baton that looked more like a mace than tonfa that the mundane police carried. “The JTF likes to use them to beat the shit out our kind. Only fitting I return the favor.”

Michael thought briefly about the attack in his cell before the court appearance. The batons created by Harris Industries for the military against Enhanced. Although international law banned them from use against mundanes, the lawmakers at the United Nations neglected to outlaw the weapon against Enhanced. They emitted a powerful electrical charge that overloaded the neural system and caused excruciating pain throughout the victim’s body. Against Enhanced tanks, the weapon was useless due to the abilities of the type and medium to high category Enhanced were too dangerous to engage at close range. But against a low-level Enhanced, the weapon was an effective and painful controller.

“Yes, I know…,” Michael started as Vengeance mentally surged forward. The monster remembered every blow from the JTF guards that used the weapon after the first guard blind-sided him with the rifle butt stock.

I will burn them all in fire, Vengeance shouted in a voice that only Michael could hear.

No, Michael responded trying to hold back the inferno of hatred boiling up through him. You are just a disease.

Hot Rod watched momentarily as Michael grabbed his head. The valuable bounty appeared distracted enough as he speed charged forward and swung the baton that he stole from the first JTF agent he killed during an escape from jail. He kept the mundane weapon abhorred by the Enhanced when he realized that with Enhanced speed, it was far more useful. Harris Industries might be the biggest weapons manufacturer for the mundanes, but they also inadvertently made a powerful weapon for the Enhanced. The baton struck hard at superhuman speed. The bladed baton head slashed across Michael’s chest leaving an angry trail of blood as he tumbled across the meadow. Michael bounced off the ground but immediately tried to roll to his feet.

Hot Rod charged again before the teleporter could jump away. He dashed next to his victim and swung the baton at Michael’s shoulder. The boss only wanted his bounty alive, but he never said anything about no broken bones.

But the blow never landed. In a blur even to the speedster, Michael stood up and grabbed the weapon in mid strike. Like an unbreakable force, the baton and Hot Rod suddenly stopped moving, held back by Michael’s power.

A moment of shock passed as Hot Rod realized that his target was something different from any other Enhanced he knew. He even looked different now as the light of a thousand red suns burned in his eyes. His voice boomed in hatred and dripped in wrath.

“I am Vengeance,” Michael growled.