Paradox – Chapter 16

He could feel the cold floor pressing against his cheek when he opened his eyes. Whiteness, everything was white in the room, except for the old style television set playing in the corner and the man sitting motionless in the chair in front of it. A similar chair sat empty next to him.

Michael recognized this place. He visited it earlier when Alaina came to him before he woke up in a forest in the middle of nowhere Michigan. But now he was back here again.

“What am I doing here?” Michael asked the man watching television, the man who looked like him but with a fuller jaw line, shorter hair, and the letters U.S.M.C. tattooed on his forearm. The man did not answer, but only continued to watch the television screen.

Michael looked at the screen and recognized the weapon that Hot Rod had used on him. He felt the pains again from the JTF guards also using the baton in revenge for him killing their friend. The weapon appeared normal for a moment before it began to fold inwards. There was no sparkling lights or sounds, just obliteration to nonexistence. The television panned up to a horrified Hot Rod, his cocky and confident expression replaced by cold fear and confusion. Hot Rod tried to pull away but someone was holding him, the person holding the camera, and would not let him go.

“What the hell are you?” Hot Rod pleaded. “I’ll tell you anything. Just let me go!”

“I am the death of this world,” Michael heard his voice say, “but you will not see it, filth. You will perish today.”

Michael ran at the man sitting in the chair, but he did not look and continued to stare at the screen.

“What is this?” Michael screamed. “Why am I on the TV when I’m in here? Who’s that about to kill that speedster douchebag?”

The man in the chair turned to Michael. He had tears streaming down his eyes. “I’m sorry, son,” Thomas said as his voice cracked, “I tried to stop him, but he got out anyways. He’s too strong.”

“Wait,” Michael said looking around. “The last time I was here, there were two of you.”

“Yes,” the man said, “but she would not allow us to talk to you. I tried, son, but her mind is powerful, and she commanded us to remain silent.”

“What would you tell me? Sorry I missed everything in your life?”

“I have no memories after a certain point, Michael. I would not be there even if the real Thomas had lived.”

“After what point?” Michael asked confused.

Thomas sighed. This would be awkward no matter how he said it. “The night you were conceived.”

“Are you kidding me? I have memories in my head of you and my mom having sex?”

Thomas looked at his son his a focus that frightened Michael as he took a step towards his son. “Those memories are mine and locked away,” Thomas said tapping his own head. “You don’t get those. I loved your mother with everything in me and I will keep what belongs to me.”

“Like Elizabeth Jurgens?” Michael asked remembering the all-night love making with the woman who would become Jury. He remembered every kiss and every touch from the beautiful mentalist.

Thomas turned around and sat back down in his chair. He leaned back and looked up at his son.

“Since you have my memories, you know that she wasn’t married and it was before I met your mother. Without her, though, I wouldn’t have survived Project Evolution. I lost a lot of friends, but no one seemed to notice or care. She was the only one that cared about me.”

Michael sat down in Vengeance’s chair and leaned towards his father. “Why did you do volunteer? Why did you let them experiment on you?”

Thomas looked down as he tried to answer. “They said they could make me better, to make me a better soldier for my country. For me, better meant not being different anymore, to be a mundane.”

Michael was stunned. “Are you out of your mind? Why would you think being a mundane would be better?”

“Do you have my memories of how your grandfather reacted to my powers?”

Michael remembered Vengeance torturing him with the memory, but was not sure it was real until now. “Yes, I’ve had a few flashbacks when he caught me…you using your powers while target shooting.”

“I remember that,” Thomas said. “He whipped me with his belt that night repeatedly when the bruises disappeared too quickly. He thought I had healing powers too.”

“Sorry.” Michael said. He wondered if Vengeance disguised as his grandfather would have done the same thing if the vision continued instead of waking up.

“That monster is in control again and he’s about to kill that speedster,” Thomas said nodding towards the television. Michael watched through Vengeance’s eyes as Hot Rod bounced off the ground. The criminal Enhanced bled from multiple lacerations including a large gash across his face. The speedster’s suit and Vengeance’s hand were covered in blood.

“Prepare for judgement,” Vengeance said without emotion. Michael remembered that was the same thing he said to Mark Russell before tearing his drinking buddy in half.

“So what do we do?” Michael asked. “I’m not a killer, Thomas. I’m not like you.”

“I did only what was necessary, Michael. There are some things worth killing for.”

Michael thought of Alaina. “Yeah. Maybe,” he admitted.

“I told you not to trust her, but she is the key here You remember that night Jury met with you for personal training?”

“You’re not jealous that your old flame wanted to spend time with me, are you?” Michael would have said more, but he could not remember much of that evening. Everything happened in such a blur. He just knew that he had more control over his power until he found Cortex dead and Vengeance took over and went on a rampage.

“Don’t be an idiot and just watch,” Thomas said. The television knob turned clockwise, each new station showing a different event in his life, but stopped when Elizabeth filled the screen. She looked beautiful that night. He could understand why his father fell for her charm.

“My dear sweet boy,” Jury said as she reached towards Michael, gently stroking his cheek. “You look so much like my Thomas. I have never loved another like him and I will not give him up again.”

Michael stood up and turned to his father. “This didn’t happen. I would have remembered it!” he shouted.

“These are your memories, son,” Thomas answered. “She can make you forget your name, your family, if she wanted to. She doesn’t know about everything though.”

“I would leave him, Thomas, to be with you again. It was a mistake to let you walk out that door, to let Herr Metall control me. If you would have only told me you were Enhanced we could have been together forever.”

“But all that is forgotten,” Jury said smiling at Michael. “We can start again and this time no one will keep us apart. Let Metall have his little war with the JTF and the mundanes. We’ll be too busy making love again on the beaches of Cozumel. Wouldn’t that be wonderful?”

“I will purge you with fire, whore,” Michael heard his voice say. “I will enjoy destroying you and your son.”

Jury’s smile disappeared and was replaced with an angry stare.

“So you finally speak, creature,” Jury said. “What is your name?”

“I am the wrath and fury of this world. I am Vengeance.”

Jury closed her eyes for a moment.

“You are not as strong as the last one,” Vengeance warned as his voice slipped away.

“That will keep you quiet for now, Vengeance,” Jury said as she opened her eyes and smiled. “You will not have my Thomas.”

As she leaned forward on the television screen, Michael could almost remember smelling her sweet perfume so close to him. “You are stronger than him, Michael, and the created will never be more than the creator. Your power made Vengeance and only you control it. Focus on who you are, the man I fell in love with, and the beast will be tamed.” The memory of Jury faded from the screen as she leaned forward. Did she kiss him that night?