“What?” screamed Bill Grayson as he ran to the window and pulled open the blinds. “Why would you call the JTF, Amanda? They’ll arrest Alaina because of them!” Bill rubbed his face as his eyes darted between his uninvited guests.
“Unlike you, brother dear, I have never cooperated with the JTF even when threatened with prison. Maze?”
Maze leaned forward and closed his eyes briefly before reopening them. “They are almost here. Bill, they don’t want Archangel. They only want Michael.”
Bill laughed. “Isn’t that comforting, but Daniel Lehrer is not known for compassion. If he thinks my daughter can be used as leverage on his monster, he’ll take her. I sure as hell didn’t call them.”
“Hey!” Michael and Alaina shouted together.
“This doesn’t make any sense,” Amanda replied confused.
“I’m only trying to protect my family, Bill continued ignoring the protests and looking at his sister, “including you. I didn’t help the JTF after Detroit until they promised you immunity. They wanted to prosecute everyone, except their golden boy Judge, of course, for the mundanes deaths. I was the leader of the raid and responsible for the failure. I had to make the hard decision and I did. No regrets.”
“This doesn’t make any sense,” Amanda replied. “Maze? You said Bill would call the JTF soon after I arrived.”
Maze shook his head, the cloak flipping over left and right. “I believe I said the JTF will arrive shortly after you and Bill are reunited.”
“I called them,” said a meek voice from the kitchen. Carolyn Grayson walked towards the group of Enhanced gathered in her house never taking her eyes off her husband. “Just after they arrived, I was put in touch with a man named Thorton.”
Michael felt the sudden push of Vengeance inside as Alaina’s mother mentioned Thorton’s name. As Daniel Lehrer’s chief minion in Indianapolis, Gil Thorton accompanied his boss on the many late night interrogations.
“My God, Carolyn,” Bill said shaking his hands at his wife, “do you know what you have done?”
“I’m saving our daughter from these people,” Carolyn screamed as her face contorted in anger. “Something you are incapable of doing. They shouldn’t be here, Bill, and you should have removed them. This boy is responsible for Alaina’s dismissal from the JTF.”
Actually, Alaina hiding Mariposa’s weakness to bullets got her kicked out of the JTF, thought Michael, but he figured it was best not to mention that. Alaina’s mother was acting on fear now and was not thinking rationally.
“You should have told me, first, before you called the JTF,” Bill pleaded. “Thorton will bring the big guns.”
“The government will help us and I’m doing what is best for Alaina,” replied Carolyn before she stormed away. One of the doors in the back of the house slammed shut a few moments later.
“Not all of them,” Maze interjected. “Herr Metall is using technology that the JTF developed. Someone in the government is supplying him.”
Bill turned to face his old partner. “That old conspiracy theory about the government working with Enhanced criminals has been repeated for decades, Maze. Even Judge and Jury said it was not true.”
“Perhaps, but Metall is using Equalizers the JTF developed. Someone is supplying him with the latest anti-Enhanced tech.”
“We’ll deal with that later, Maze,” replied Bill as he opened the door, “right now you and Michael have to leave. I won’t turn you in, but you can’t be here when Thorton arrives.”
“Alaina,” Michael said grabbing the hand of the red-haired elementalist, “I’m sorry we endangered your family. I’ll come back when I can…”
Alaina pulled her hand away and followed her mother to the back of the house before he could finish. Michael expected to hear another door slam but it was quiet for a few moments.
“I guess that settles it, then,” Bill said breaking the awkward silence. “Time to go.”
Maze smiled under his cloak when he spotted movement in the rear hallway. “Things are not always as they seem.”
Alaina reappeared with a bag and her jacket. “I had to grab my things first. You’re not leaving me again, Michael.”
“But, Alaina, no!” Bill cried.
“Sorry, Daddy, but I’ve got to do this. We can’t save the world by hiding out in Michigan.”
“Let’s get going,” Maze said holding the door open for Michael and Alaina, “it’s a long trip back to Indianapolis.” As Maze tried to follow, Bill Grayson grabbed his cloak.
“I can’t stop her, Maze,” Bill said with grinding teeth and clenched fists, “but if anything happens to her, I will hunt you down. The JTF will find only your ashes.”
“Remember that feeling, Orbital Strike. We may need it one day.” Maze tapped Bill’s arm with the Nanoblade’s hilt. The fire elementalist released him and watched his daughter walk away.
“Let them go, Bill,” Amanda said hugging her brother from behind. She knew her brother feared for his daughter, but she smiled in pride. “She was born to be hero and she needs to do this.
“Maze! Wait!” Michael said suddenly turning around. “Orbital Strike never finished the story. How did the fire start? Where did Herr Metall go?”
“You’ll have to ask him the next time you meet, but we need to…” The elder Enhanced suddenly stumbled and leaned forward.
“Maze?” Michael and Alaina asked as they reached out to support him.
“Run, Michael,” Maze whispered.
“What?” Michael asked leaning closer. “What did you say?”
Maze ignored the helping hands as he grabbed the cloak and wrapped it around him. Even standing next to him, Michael could barely see the outline of his near-invisible mentor.
“Run, Michael. They’re here!”