Paradox – Chapter 24

Even with the engines turned forward like a conventional aircraft, the V-22 Osprey bounced up and down in the turbulence. The aircraft was filled to maximum capacity with men in Harris armor and other in the standard JTF Enhanced suits. Justice squeezed his way between two soldiers from Bravo company.

“You’ll never make it through, Justice,” Trauma said standing in front of him. “Scimitar and Director Thornton wants everyone to stay put until touchdown.”

“Shutup and wait for orders,” said Justice as he rolled his eyes. “In other words, we have no idea what the hell is going on and we are stalling until we pull our heads out.”

“Why do you do that?” Trauma asked looking back at Scimitar. “Why do you always doubt his ability to command? Don’t criticize when you were too chicken shit to step up.”

“It’s not like that,” Justice pleaded, “I swear.”

“Then why? He’s trying his best but the only thing anyone does is give him a hard time.”

“Because I don’t think he’s the right person for the job.”

“And who would be your choice? Why am I asking? You, of course.”

“No, I’m not. I have too much baggage and I’m tired of everyone expecting me to be my mother and father. And I have a lot of other things going on right now.”

“Scott Jurgens, you almost sound like a real person,” Trauma said emphasizing her strong Kentucky accent. “Is that why you’ve been gone so much? Dealing with your other things?”

“It’s my business, Trauma,” Justice replied in a tone that left no doubt she should leave it alone.

The Osprey suddenly bounced up and down as the aircraft nacelles began turned upwards and the aircraft slowed down.

“Believe it or not, Justice, I do care. I’m the team medic and that includes mental health. Preacher is still pissed at me, but he stills wants me to practice my healing skills when I can.”

“This is not something you can take away with your powers.”

“I know,” said Trauma as she looked around the aircraft and remembered all the missing faces. “But sometimes just talking to someone is all you need.”

“Thanks. I’ll think about it. So how did Larson get out? Did he break the bars and make a dash for the hills?”

“I don’t think he can anything like that. When we saw him in court, he looked pretty roughed up.”

Justice flexed his fingers as he remembered punching Larson in the nightclub. He shattered almost every bone in his hand before his quick healing ability repaired the damage. “Killing cops doesn’t make you popular with the guards,” he admitted.

“No, they think Net tampered with the security system and let him go.”

Justice laughed aloud. “Scimitar said he was one man short and I didn’t see the dweeb when we loaded.”

“It’s crazy, I know, but they have Net back in the holding cells.”

“Net might be a pain in the ass, but he’s not stupid. There is no way he did it even if his boyfriend was locked up,” Justice said trying to break up the seriousness of the conversation. “With his old man at Leavenworth, he would have known that he can’t crap without someone watching him. No, no way.”

Trauma glanced out the window and noticed the approaching ground. She checked her equipment bag as part of her landing checklist. “Amy said the same thing,” said Trauma thinking about the conversation with Nightmare. “She did a total scan on him and said he’s clean. He thinks someone is trying to frame his dad.”

“Touchdown in thirty seconds,” Scimitar announced over the network.

“Firewall is the only computer empath stronger than him. Let the investigators figure it out. They’ll get the dweeb out. But we need to find Michael and get him back in before one of the agents decides that a cop killer is not worth a trip to court.”

“I’ve already felt a spike in aggression from the agents, much higher than our other missions. If I had to guess, they are anticipating a fight. I don’t think Michael is going to walk out of here alive.”

Justice leaned towards Trauma. “Then it is our job to make sure that he does.”

Justice leaned back as Scimitar approached with Solid Copy behind him. The Chinese Enhanced did not make eye contact as Justice glanced at his missing hand. As a shifter, Solid Copy could not use a prosthetic hand. The transformation always popped it off.

“We just got satellite imagery from the site,” Scimitar said tapping on his E-Comm. as a three dimensional hologram appeared. The three other Enhanced circled around.

“Whatever happened there was not pretty. We’ve identified at least one wrecked aircraft, most likely a helo,” Scimitar said pointing to a red and white blob flickering. Some of the surrounding trees also appeared to be burning. “We also have multiple bodies over here in the road.”

“Any idea who they are,” Solid Copy asked as he studied the map. “You said radar was blank until the satellites suddenly picked up the wreckage and another bird leaving the scene.”

“No sure,” Scimitar replied, “but the top brass is holding everyone back until we arrive, which should be in about two minutes.”

“Why not? We’re expendable,” Justice said flippantly. He knew Scimitar disagreed with his belief that the JTF thought they were acceptable losses in the war against criminal Enhanced.

Scimitar turned off the map. “Cut the bullshit, Justice, and get your head in the game. You will exit first and assess the landing zone and then make your way up to the burning wreckage. Solid Copy will take your form. He and I will follow you and assist should Larson become hostile.”

“I should be with you, Khaleel,” Trauma interrupted. “Michael might be confused or scared. If you send two Justices after him, he will fight.”

“Not my call, Trauma,” he said in a tone of finality. It was not his decision but he did not disagree with it either. Michael Larson was dangerous and needed to be treated as such. “You will go with a squad to the bodies. Patch up anyone you can and get us some answers.”

“But I can help…”

Scimitar put his hand up. “No. You have your orders. Just do what you are told.” Scimitar walked away towards the Bravo commander before she could say anything.

“Don’t worry, Trauma,” Solid Copy said as he started to shift into Justice. From the missing stump, a new Justice hand appeared. “Michael Larson is not my enemy. The people that took my hand also murdered Cortex. They are my enemy and only they will be treated as such.”

“Thanks, Wei,” Trauma said smiling to the Justice clone.

“Time to earn your pay, ladies,” shouted Agent Thorton over the intercom as the Osprey landed and the rear hatch opened. “Go. Go. Go.”