Paradox – Chapter 31

“Two minutes, sir,” the copilot said over his shoulder.

Director Thorton nodded as he patted the copilot’s shoulder. “Drop the ramp now,” he ordered over the radio.

The flight engineer responded with a quick acknowledgement and moved to the controls. “Clear the ramps! Clear the ramps! Door opening!”

The V-22 Osprey bumped and rattled as it rapidly descended and required headsets for anyone inside due to the loud environment. The noise inside grew louder, first from the high-pitch whine of the hydraulic ramp in the rear of the aircraft as it lowered, and then from the sound of the rushing wind. Director Thorton watched as the ramp descend into position before giving a thumbs up to Scimitar. The Enhanced agents stood up from their seats on the jump seats and stood in front of the open door.

“You guys ready?” asked Scimitar as he checked and rechecked Justice and Solid Copy, who shapeshifted in Justice moments before. When both nodded, Scimitar attached the safety cable to Justice to one of the hooks on the ramp floor while Trauma snapped the cable attached to Solid Copy on the ring. “If we do our job, everyone will make it home tonight.”

“Yeah, but what about Michael and Alaina?” Trauma asked as she saftey checked the line and attachment.

“Their fates are in their hands,” Scimitar replied trying to avoid looking at his girlfriend. Even though her romantic feelings for Michael had faded, she empathized with his current situation, adding Alaina to the mix only created more complications. “If they do the right thing and surrender, we’ll have no problems.” Although he didn’t have a grudge against Alaina, Scimitar hoped Michael would struggle just enough to require his services.

“We’ll do our best to keep the situation under control,” Solid Copy answered as he and Trauma continued to safety check the harness. “We’ll only use the force needed to subdue Michael if Vengeance emerges. I don’t think Alaina would hurt any of us. Agreed, Justice?” Solid Copy looked over at his drop partner.

“Yeah, sure, about Michael. I won’t hurt him any more than necessary to arrest him. But if you piss off Alaina enough, she’ll do a lot more than hurt you,” said Scott reminding them of her power. He still had random nightmares of the heat and raw power from Archangel’s lightning when she thought he had killed Michael at the dance club. Instead, all he did was send Michael off into a homicidal rampage that cost a mundane his life and a JTF supply officer his career.

“But what about them?” Trauma asked as Bravo team checked and rechecked their assault rifles. In the months since the Battle of Indianapolis, every surviving member of Bravo team was reassigned and a new handpicked by Secretary Lehrer agent replaced him.

When one of the agents sitting in the jump seat next to the ramp released the magazine from his M4 rifle, Trauma shuddered when she saw the bright green glow indicating they were loaded with Equalizer rounds. “I don’t’ think they will take any chances and will shoot Michael and Alaina if they do anything suspicious.”

The headset radio squawked to life. “My teams will eliminate all threats the Enhanced pose to mundanes,” Director Thorton interrupted, “but Mister Larson is to be captured alive. Those are the orders from the SecDef’s office. Justice and Solid Copy will focus solely on the fugitive and arrest him. Neither of them can fly or has ranged weapons to suppress Archangel. They will ignore any other threats at the location and leave any other threats to us.”

“Sir, do you really think Orbital Strike would attack us?” Scimitar asked.

“One way or another, his daughter was involved in the fugitive’s escape and she will be coming back to Indianapolis with us. I don’t know how Bill Grayson will react, but do not underestimate him. He is more powerful and more experienced than any of you. If he decides to become violent, Bravo team will handle him.” Thorton did not mention that Bravo would also eliminate Maze at the first opportunity, another order that came directly from the SecDef’s office.

Justice wanted to speak up and defend his father’s best-friend, but his Solid Copy-clone slapped on the shoulder first. Wei knew the history between the members of The Old Guard better than anyone else on the team.

“Scimitar, when we land, deploy your shield to hold off any range attack from the elementalists. If she cooperates, Miss Grayson will be escorted to the V-22. Are we clear?”

“Yes, sir,” shouted all the members of Bravo team.

“Yes, sir,” added Scimitar alone.

* * *.

“Run, Michael. They’re here!”

As the aircraft approached the house, Michael look up to see the nose flare up and the engine nacelles began to switch from horizontal to vertical flight. Whoever was in charge of the aircraft wanted to get here in a hurry and was trying to slow down. The ramp door was down and two people just jumped out. They were far too low to use a parachute and would impact the ground. Almost immediately after jumping from the aircraft, two large plumes of dust burst from the impact zones on the front lawn and driveway. The aircraft turned hard right as it continued to bleed it’s horizontal speed.

Michael look around him but Maze had disappeared. Alaina screamed as two Justices, the original and obviously Solid Copy, emerged from the impact craters. Her father and aunt rushed out the door with Bill Grayson yelling for his daughter to retreat inside. Alaina responded by ignoring him.

“Run, you idiot. They want you not the girl,” whispered the nothingness of the wind.

Michael was not a speedster like Justice; he manipulated space-time around him to slow the flow of time as he moved at superhuman speeds. Michael red-shifted and hurled himself toward the woods away from the impacts and away from Justice and Solid Copy. Justice immediately shifted into pursuit and zoomed between Alaina, Bill, and Amanda before anyone could react.

Solid Copy released Justice’s invulnerability power and focused on his speed before he could begin his own pursuit into the woods. Solid Copy glanced at Archangel as he raced by her following Justice’s trail of tossed dirt and foliage. Alaina was afraid, but did not realize yet that Michael was no longer behind her or she would have done more to stop Justice and him. Wei Chung turned his gaze back to resume the chase but did not see the twenty foot wall of ice rip out of the ground and appear in his path soon enough to avoid it. He was in a full run, borrowing Justice’s superspeed, when he impacted the side of the ice wall.