Paradox – Chapter 26

Detroit – 15 Years Ago

A warm autumn breeze blew along the Detroit river over the staging area just out of Riverside park. Orbital Strike smiled as the threat of rain diminished throughout the afternoon as every major hero from east of the Mississippi river assembled in the Motor City to take down most of the FBI’s most-wanted Enhanced criminals including Herr Metall. The needed this victory after the destruction in Los Angeles and increasing calls for federal regulations of Enhanced activity.

Despite the press releases afterwards, the decision to elect Bill Grayson the new leader of The Old Guard was neither unanimous or without consequences. Although he had clear support from the active team members, Valkyrie nominated Maze in absentia. Since Judge’s decision to permanently leave The Old Guard, the team saw very little of Maze and never during missions, but that did not stop Maze’s former lover, Orbital Strike’s sister, from reminding everyone that Maze was the decision-maker even when the world believed Judge called all the shots. Her words were enough to convince two of the reserve members, Firewall and Clean Slate, to vote for Maze, but everyone else made the right decision to elect him.

Orbital Strike looked up in the sky to see the formerly most famous member of The Old Guard flying over the north side of the city. With two quick flashes of fire from his cupped palm, he signaled Judge’s landing location and waited for his old friend. Valkyrie was wrong about many things. Judge and Maze might get all the headlines, one for his incredible strength, power, and looks, not to mention his gorgeous wife and perfect new son, and the other for his mysterious origins and the fear his name produced in criminal Enhanced, but Judge and Orbital Strike were best friends and he was the person James Jurgens trusted most. Maze was an enigma, even to his own teammates, and lately he was unreliable.

Orbital Strike pushed those thoughts into the back of his mind as he greeted his old friend. Several excited voices around the park grew louder as the large man touched down

“Bill, good to see you,” Judge said cheerfully, clasping the wrist of his former teammate in a traditional warrior’s greeting.

“Evening, James. Thanks for coming on short notice. How’s your wife and boy?” Orbital Strike asked. He tried to persuade Judge to bring Jury in The Old Guard but she refused. She wanted to start a new life with Judge as a couple. Bill understood that desire. His own wife, Carolyn, was a mundane but he hoped for his daughter. He wished that one day he could team up with Alaina and pass on the family legacy.

“Liz and Scott are doing wonderful and send their best,” Judge said as other Enhanced heroes greeted him.

Orbital Strike pushed the crowd back as the number of welcomers increased. “Please tell her that we’re sorry we haven’t stopped by since Scott’s birthday party.”

Judge continued to shake hands like a skilled politician, never missing a greeting or handshake. “Think nothing about it. Jury has a full schedule with the survivors from Los Angeles. Things are going to get bad for all of us for a while but it will die down eventually.  Some of the more radical mundanes are screaming at the politicians and calling us vigilantes, but when we drag Herr Metall in front of the cameras, all that nonsense will stop.”

Orbital Strike became visibly annoyed as the crowed of welcomers interrupted his conversation. “Okay everyone,” Orbital Strike said motioning to the crowd. “leave the man alone so we can get to work.” Several people in the crowd laughed as they returned to their groups.

When the final welcomer walked away, Orbital Strike pointed to the warehouse down the riverbank. “It’s that big one there,” he said as Judge joined him.

“Did you contact him?” Judge said focusing on the building. Judge did not have to mention who ‘him’ was. Orbital Strike knew exactly who Judge meant.

He sighed as he remembered the phone call. “Yes, but he flat-out told me no. He also told me that I should call off the raid.”

“Interesting,” Judge said as he smacked his lips in frustration as he continued to focus on the target building. “I guess I’ve dealt with Maze for so long that I’ve forgotten how difficult he can be. Don’t be too hard on him. Maze has quirks, but he’s the best strategist I’ve ever known. He’ll come around eventually.”

“He’s finished with The Old Guard, James,” said Orbital Strike quietly. “At the next meeting I’m moving to expel him from our ranks.”

“That is your right, of course, but let’s get this crisis resolved before we create a new one.”

“Agreed,” said Orbital Strike glancing back to the assault teams, counting out each member. Satisfied that everyone had arrived and was in position, he turned to Judge.

“James, you, Minotaur, and The Great Wall are to hit the building first. Make as much noise as you can and engage anyone that doesn’t surrender. Watch out for The Enforcer. We haven’t seen him for some time but don’t take any chances. Clean Slate is with Terminal Velocity and will come in behind you. Let him handle any mentals. He’s not Jury, but he can stall them long enough for one of us to engage.”

“And your sister?” Judge asked nodding to Valkyrie who floated a few feet above the ground on the other side of Minotaur and The  Great Wall. “I doubt your intentions have escaped her notice.”

“She’s on reserve and will keep anyone from escaping. She’ll do what’s best for the team even if she hates me.”

Orbital Strike tapped his radio microphone.

“Ladies and gentlemen, this will be a night remembered in history.” Orbital Strike was confident. They had surprise and they had the largest concentration of heroes ever assembled. For too long, he lived under the shadow of the powerful Judge, the mysterious Maze, and the beautiful Valkyrie.  It was his time to finally shine and make the world a better place.

“Take off and wait for Firewall to take down the grid. When the lights got out, hit them hard.”

“You got it,” Judge said with a smile and two finger salute as he lifted off and headed north.

* * *

The lights on the Ambassador Bridge were the first to darken, then Riverside Park, and finally the industrial park including Herr Metall’s warehouse.

Minotaur and The Great Wall were traditional tanks, firmly grounded on the Earth and hulking behemoths. As they built up speed running towards the building, the ground and the even the river trembled from their heavy footsteps. The man across the river could feel the thumping as they quickly crossed the city park into the industrial area. The man looked to his right as he waited for Judge to appear a few seconds later. The big man was right on time as all three tanks hit the building at the same time knocking down the north facing wall.

The man turned away and walked to his still running car parked on the side of the road. In a few minutes the entire area would be shrouded by fire and death. He had seen it over and over in his dreams and there was nothing he could do to stop it. He tried. He tried to warn Orbital Strike not to attack, but Bill Grayson always pushed forward without ever considering the consequences. His fire elemental powers matched his personality.

As he drove away, Maze hoped the children of The Old Guard lived long enough to fix the mistakes their predecessors just made.