Paradox – Chapter 3

As the metal detector beeped, Scimitar curled his lip and looked back to Trauma. They had a day off and they should be spending it together, but instead, they were at the courthouse. The guards eyes widened when they saw the holstered pistol on Trauma’s hip, but relaxed when they both pulled out their JTF identification cards.

Scimitar could wear a pistol too but declined, like most Enhanced, to use mundane weapons. The U.S. government considered them law enforcement officers, but JTF Enhanced agents were primarily tasked to engage other Enhanced, people like them, with superpowers. He had enough control over his powers and could use them against a mundane and not kill them. Trauma nearly killed a mundane agent during a VIP extraction when she incapacitated him during the exercise. The courts had repeatedly rejected arguments of self-defense, even by Enhanced JTF agents, when an Enhanced killed or seriously injured a mundane with powers. Scimitar understood the logic. The free use of powers to fight armed mundanes helped create the vigilante groups that peaked in popularity in the 1980s and eventually lead to the destruction of Detroit. If Trauma used a gun until she learned to control her offensive powers, the higher-ups were okay with that.

As the security guards waved them through the side gate reserved for law enforcement and judges, Scimitar grabbed Trauma’s hand. “Why are we here, Kim? It’s not like we can do anything. Do you still have that flame for him?”

Trauma turned around with a smile. “You don’t have to worry, hun, about me and Michael. That ship sailed some time ago. But he is our friend and we should support him, especially when we’ve all lost so much.”

“He’s a killer,” Scimitar said trying to keep his voice quiet. Trauma narrowed her eyes. “Net pulled the files on his case. He massacred that mundane and Russell was lucky he didn’t get splattered all over that alley, not that it matters now.”

“He also saved Amira,” Trauma responded, “you know, your friend. That asshole, Russell, and his partner were going to do horrible things to her. They got what they deserved.”

Scimitar shook his head. “Maybe, but where is she now? For all we know, Michael killed her when he flipped out after Cortex sacrificed himself to save her. He probably is responsible for some of those deaths in her building too, but with all the fighting, we have no idea who caused what damage.”

Trauma reached up and touched Scimitar’s face. She could easily increase the serotonin levels in his brain to increase his happiness temporarily, but that would not stop Khaleel’s distrust of Michael. “Michael didn’t kill anyone that night. Don’t you understand that?”

“Fine. Vengeance probably killed her, just like he did all those Southsiders tearing up Amira’s neighborhood. There wasn’t much left after he crushed or whatever he did to them. Michael, Vengeance, whatever needs to be locked away before more innocent people die.”

“I don’t believe that, Khaleel. Michael saved a lot of people in Crawfordsville including a mundane squad. Something is not right about all this and the Director, sorry, the Secretary is not telling us everything.”

“Listen to you,” Scimitar said, “you sound like one of those crazy rebels. The government is trying to help us, all of us. Sometimes they need to take certain actions to keep everyone safe. Do you want a group like the Caliphate or the Russians to hit our shores with a horde of Enhanced? Do you know what would happen?”

Trauma looked down. “I know it would be a disaster but I don’t like this path either. Even if we win, we all lose.”

“C’mon,” Scimitar said nodding towards the courtroom, “they’re about to start.”

As they sat down, Scimitar scanned the room noting the four armed armored JTF agents positioned around the courtroom and the lack of Michael at the defendant’s desk. For security reasons, they must be holding him in the back until the trial started. Unlike most Enhanced trials, the gallery was packed and they could only find seats in the last row, which suited Scimitar. He wanted to keep a low profile from the reporters in the room because Kim distrusted most of the media journalists. She believed they were propagandists for the government and not an independent force to protect the civil liberties of Enhanced.

After the night the Southsiders hit Indianapolis, the JTF public relations department pushed the remaining training team in front of the cameras to calm the public after the devastating attack. They thought Justice would be the obvious choice as the team spokesman, but Cortex’s death hit Scott the hardest. He was in the room when it happened and he blamed himself for the death. Justice repeatedly turned down interviews and isolated himself, never going to dinner with the team or hanging out on days off. Net did a few podcasts for the JTF website, but he had little interest in traditional journalists while Solid Copy was in the hospital and unavailable. Trauma did a few interviews with Preacher but primarily for medical journals. Scimitar stepped forward and became the face of the JTF Enhanced that saved Indianapolis, his face plastered on nightly news shows and newspapers across the country for weeks. This was the deadliest Enhanced involved operation in a long time and the people wanted all the details. Some supporters even called it the return of the Golden-Age Enhanced superheroes. The JTF squashed that talk immediately.

“All rise for the Honorable Judge Henrietta Rey,” called the bailiff. The noise level increased as the crowd stood. Everyone was eager to see the Enhanced that slaughtered so many mundanes during the fight.

“Please be seated,” Judge Rey said as she sat down in her large chair behind the bench. “Security, bring in the defendant.”

The double doors on the side of the courtroom opened. Michael, dressed in an orange prison suit, held his head down low, only looking at the defendant’s desk where his attorney, Eugene Stein, waited, as the four armored agents pushed him forward followed by Windspeed. The Enhanced agent looked unconcerned as scanned the crowd, standing tall as the people’s hero.

“The guards around the courtroom adrenaline levers just spiked,” Trauma whispered to Scimitar. “They really are afraid that Michael will go crazy again. But something is wrong.” Trauma concentrated on Michael. “He’s been recently hurt.”

“What?” Scimitar asked. “How can you tell?” Trauma’s powers were steadily growing stronger thanks to the watchful eye of Preacher, the powerful JTF Enhanced healer stationed at Butler. While treating the wounded from the Battle of Indianapolis, he taught her how to scan someone using only her Enhanced powers. She mastered the talent within days with the number of injured available to practice.

“There are signs, neurological and physical, when Enhanced use their powers including regeneration. I can definitely see them in Michael. And his guards do not share the elevated state of fear that the others do. They are almost euphoric like someone who just climbed a mountain or shot their first deer. I think they hurt him.”

“Nothing we can do about it,” Scimitar warned. “I know you want to help but stay out of it. Secretary Lehrer promised to keep Internal Affairs out of the performance reviews if we help him put Michael away. It’s the safest course of action.”

Trauma looked at Scimitar for a minute and nodded in defeat. She and others in her class were now full agents because the former Director ran interference for them. Net caused millions of dollars in damage when he hacked the power grid. Some areas of the city were dark for weeks afterward. Nightmare used her powers to compel one of the Southsiders to jump off the top of the building to his death. Even Trauma faced serious charges of disobeying a direct order from Agent Thorton until Lehrer made everything disappear.

“I sometimes wonder if Mari and Alaina got the better deal when they were told to leave,” Trauma whispered.

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