Paradox – Chapter 17

“Hot Rod to Eagle, I got our squirrel,” squawked the radio in Screaming Eagle’s ear.

“Copy,” she replied to the speedster as she positioned her body vertically to hover. “Maybe you’re not as useless as I thought. Wrap him up and get him ready for transport back to Chicago.”

“Yeah, I’ll bring him back for pickup. You just remember who did all the real work, babe.”

Screaming Eagle focused her vision, far superior to any mundane and almost as powerful as the optics in Terrorvolt’s suit, on twin beams of light racing up the two lane road that split the forest. The forest was closed at night so there should not be any visitors.. The driver of the vehicle handled the corners at a high rate of speed with ease and floored it on the straightaways. Whoever it was, they appeared to be in a big hurry and approaching the operation area.

“Red squad, we have an unknown tango approaching from the road. Intercept and interrogate. Find out who they are then put a bullet in their head.”

“Roger,” said one of the soldiers in Harris armor. Eagle did not know which was which, and did not really care, since they were only mundanes. But they knew their place among the superior race. The only person with a shorter lifespan than a Enhanced that failed Herr Metall was a mundane that disobeyed his orders.

“You catch that, Hawk?” Eagle asked over her headset as she continued to watch the car as the soldiers cut through the trees.

“Got it,” Nighthawk replied with the muffled sounds of the helicopter blades whirling in the background. “If the driver has a radio, I won’t let him transmit or receive.”

“Good. Now where is Terrorvolt?”

* * *

“Do you remember now?” Thomas asked his son as the television went blank. “The most powerful mentalist in the world said you can beat him, and she would not lie if it would get me back.”

Michael wanted to ask about more that night, but decided not to approach the awkward subject about his dad’s former girlfriend.

“Yes. I thought I blacked out that night because of the training.”

Thomas nodded. “When you are angry, feel fear, or doubt yourself, that is when Vengeance is strongest. You had little control during your Reveal, but as a man, you have to decide who you want to be – the frightened Enhanced waiting for your one-way trip to Leavenworth or a hero this world needs.”

“I’m no hero. They don’t exist anymore,” Michael said as the TV resumed viewing the world from Vengeance’s perspective, “but there is no way I’m going to let this crazy asshole ruin my life.”

“Good enough for me,” Thomas said with a smile. “Now focus.”

* * *

The ground vibrated with each step and the trees parted as the lumbering hulk of a machine approached Michael. He was not sure if this was the real world or another part of his brain until he looked down. The red-headed speedster lay unmoving bleeding profusely at his feet.

“Why did you stop?” asked the armored suit over an external intercom. “You were about to kill him, but you stopped. Why?”

Michael put a hand over his eyes to shade them from the bright spotlights designed to blind and confuse the enemy. If the Enhanced in front of him wanted to attack, he would have already. He had surprise and observed the change from Vengeance to Michael.

“Didn’t he come with you, Terrorvolt?” Michael asked confused as he tried to find the cockpit to the machine. He knew the wanted scientist was somewhere in the machine that stood twice as tall as him and three times as wide, but he was not sure where.

The man was a genius – a master builder and tactician. Michael could not remember his real name, a physicist from Stanford, Cal Tech, or somewhere out West, before he built the first version of the Terrorvolt armor and turned to crime to fund his experimentation in the early 1990s. Although not as powerful as Epicenter, the evil scientist somehow evaded capture from Atomic Power and Jury because he never stayed in one place long enough to force an encounter. Thomas, his father, ran into him once during a bank robbery call Michael recalled as if it was his own memory, but watched helplessly as the armored suit tore open the vault and flew away. The armor was impenetrable to rifles and he could not find a window to drop in a portal.

The intercom clicked again before Terrorvolt spoke again. “Yes, this imbecile was part of my party, but our goals are not the same. In fact, they are mutually exclusive.”

“What do you mean? Why are you here? What do you want with me?” Michael yelled at Terrorvolt.

The voice on the intercom laughed. “I asked myself that same question, Michael. Why would Herr Metall pay so much money for a weak cat one that got himself locked up for killing a fat, stupid agent?”

Michael glanced to his left and right waiting for a trap, but nothing appeared.

“The U.S. government is not the only one with computer empathy, like Firewall or Net. I did my own digging and found a classified interview with Justice about your case and reports from that JTF doctor, Preacher. There are many things the police are not releasing about you, Michael. I wanted to know why so I joined this mission. But, now I know.”

“Whatever you think you know, Terrorvolt, I’m a nobody, just a JTF wanted man like you.”

Terrorvolt laughed again. “Don’t lie to me, Michael. I won’t lie to you. I scanned you as you disposed of that piece of garbage.” Terrovolt pointed to the unconscious Hot Rod. “The energy coming from body, the Hawking radiation, spiked all my meters. Uncontrolled, you could rip the planet apart.”

“It’s a good thing I’m not a piece of shit criminal like you then.”

“Perhaps, but I can hide you from Herr Metall, the JTF, everyone. I want to study your abilities and perhaps then we can push our civilization to the stars. The Enhanced can leave this world to the filthy mundanes so they can fight their way to extinction while we thrive out there.” An armored hand point to the sky.

Michael thought about the offer, even as Vengeance and even Thomas screamed in his mind. Vengeance wanted to tear the suit open and rip the man inside in half. Thomas just wanted to put a bullet in him.

“You better make your decision soon, Michael,” Terrorvolt said without any signs of anxiety, fear, or hate. “My radar detects Screaming Eagle approaching.”