Paradox – Chapter 19

Indianapolis – 35 years ago

It was a spoil of war from the early days. A serial rapist terrorized the near north side of Indianapolis, sneaking into the dormitory rooms and apartments of female students at Butler, back when it was a university, and sneaking out before anyone realized what happened. At first, police thought he was just another sick criminal likely with grievances against women – he would always carve the letter X on his victims to mark his victory.

While still a street cop, Ronald answered a call about shots fired in a nearby house that converted into multiple apartments for students. When he arrived, the other residents dressed in the typical nighttime attire were red-faced and crying. When Ronald walked into the victim’s apartment, a naked female body lay in a pool of fresh blood oozing from the X carved in her throat. Next to the body was a small handgun with several empty shell casings next to it.

From the witness testimonies and crime scene investigators, the victim had fought back against the attacker after he raped her. As he attempted to carve the X in her body, initially on the shoulder according to the stab wounds found by the coroner, the victim escaped and grabbed her pistol. She fired several rounds that alerted the neighbors. Instead, he slashed the woman’s throat and carved his signature mark in her throat as she lay bleeding to death. Like always, he slipped out before anyone saw him. At least two rounds struck the rapist, but they did not stop him. The found the blunted rounds in the victim’s bedroom on the floor, but due to the lack of blood or any genetic evidence, investigators believed he was wearing a vest. Ronald knew different. The rapist was Enhanced, strong enough to be bulletproof with the power to evade capture.

The horrific crimes terrified the city and many Butler students transferred to other colleges to get away from the violence. For weeks, Maze focused his powers to find the rapist. He waded through clues in future newspapers and television broadcasts to find the next target location. Finally, he saw it. Maze knew where he would strike next.

Ronald took time off from work that day. He put his badge away in the dresser as he slipped on his special clothes designed for him – removing the blue for the black. He was an enforcer, a vigilante, for the innocent lives the lunatic had destroyed. The Enhanced criminals did not fear most mundane law enforcement so they will learn to fear him. He would work outside of the law when it was necessary to remove the Enhanced criminals that believed they were above it.

As he waited in his concealed location, Maze almost missed the approaching rapist. If not for a branch shaking back and forth on it’s own, he would have. He looked again at the tree limb shaking when he noticed the faint outline of a person crouched over passing by and approaching the front door. The outline was nearly invisible. Maze doubted mundanes could see it and likely most Enhanced would ignore it, but there it was. The front door lock only lasted a few seconds before it opened and the rapists slipped in the dark room. Maze jumped down from his hiding spot and followed.

He stayed in the shadows of the dark house. With the cloak ability, the rapist likely did not worry about the shadow areas to move faster on his victims. Although he had an unregistered .45 on his hip, a throwdown, and a Bowie knife on the other hip, Maze knew this Enhanced required a different approach. He might get lucky with a shot to the inside of the mouth but the rapist might also get away and go underground. Everything needed to breathe and Maze pulled out the hardened steel chain he had made for tanks.

The near-invisible Enhanced crouched at a door in the hallway. From the sounds and smells coming from the room, the victim was taking a bath. The rapist waited for her to finish before striking. Maze would not let him get that chance. He determined where the head and neck of the Enhanced was located as he approached from the shadows. The rapist never looked up, he was too fixated on his nude victim in the bathtub, when the chain wrapped around his neck. Maze pulled as hard as he could while applying pressure against the target’s lower spine with his foot.

“Surprise,” Maze muttered clenching his teeth to the small, translucent ball trapped by the chain that he knew was the head. “You won’t be hurting any more people.”

“Hello,” the woman cried from in the bathroom as the water sloshed around in the tub. “Is anyone there?”

By the time she climbed out of the bathtub, wrapped a towel around her body, and opened the partly closed-door, her home was empty.

* * *

The rapist blinked several times as his vision returned and he sat up. The world was still blurry when he felt a powerful fist strike him on the cheek. His head rocked back before snapping forward again.

“Wake up, asshole,” a man dressed in black said to him as he swung again. Each punch hurt more than he had ever experienced, especially since his power first emerged a decade ago. “You better start talking before I throw you off the building.”

The rapist looked behind him into the black darkness above and below. The man punching him did not lie. He sat at the edge of a skyscraper with the street several hundred feet below him.

“What? What do you want with me?” he asked the man in black.

“Who are you?” the man demanded.

The rapist laughed. Finally someone realized that he existed, but it was too late. He existed to punish everyone that ignored him, who rejected him. He had the power to take anything he wanted. They no longer could say no to him.

“I’ll ask one more time before you go flying,” the man growled at him.

“I don’t have a name, man in black. I’m the person that no one remembers, that they ignore and forget. I am Mister Nobody.”

The man struck Nobody again in the gut, lighter this time, but the blow still hurt.

“Well, I won’t forget you. Your invisible cloak and tools? Where did you get them?”

The man seemed less angry. Perhaps he was reasonable and they could strike a deal when all this was done. A man of action with a man of science could do wonderful and terrible things to the world that betrayed them.

“I made them. I’m an inventor of things that keep you from being noticed. If you let me go, perhaps I could work for you? I can build you anything you might need. I’ve heard of you, man in black. Everyone says you’re like a maze to figure out your motives.”

The man did not strike him this time. He reached forward and undid the lock holding the chain around Nobdoby’s neck. As the chain slid off and clanked against the rocky rooftop, Noboby rubbed the bruised areas of his skin around his neck.

“I knew you could be reasonable,” Noboby said with the smile of relief. “People like us need to stick together. One day a storm will come and all Enhanced will need to decide which side they are on. Now, what kind of items do you require?”

Maze looked down at the cloak. “I already have it.”

“What?” the man asked with fear in his eyes as Maze spun and kicked him in the chest. Nobody stumbled backwards and went over the edge of the building.

Maze would not give his name to the police. He would just be another forgotten suicide statistic on a government report. Would anyone at Butler even notice that one of the Chemistry grad students was missing? Noboby doubted it. Only Maze would remember him. For some reason, that thought did not bring Noboby comfort when his body shattered all over the concrete.

* * *

Present Day

Maze spun hard to the left just before the soldier behind him fired the rifle at his head. He knew the shot was coming. He had seen it hours ago as he raced the car up from Indianapolis. With a push of the button, the Nanoblade sprung out of the hilt and Maze slashed up, slicing the rifle receiver in two pieces and severing his attempted killer’s left hand from his body. As the soldier realized what happened, he dropped the rifle, clutched the bloody stump on his left forearm, and screamed. Maze used the confusion to jump over the trunk of the car to the other side before the other soldiers could see what happened. They would fire in three seconds and he would be killed if he remained exposed. As Maze knelt, he activated the cloak.

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