The brown branches and the green leaves were only blurs as Justice zipped between the trees in the forest in pursuit of his target. He missed running outside the city, but avoided it since the disastrous mission to Crawfordsville last year. He still had the nightmares about the mission, mostly with him running in pools of blood and the JTF arresting him for murder. He deserved it, he guessed, but no one would care even if he admitted it. The JTF would never prosecute him and his mother would make sure the latest family stain stayed out of the media. He had a privileged life so why did he feel so shitty about it?
But now he had a job to do. Michael was fast, faster than most speedsters in the JTF, but he was also inexperienced and unable or unwilling to use his other powers at the same time. Michael had super strength as Justice also learned last year when he broke his hand, but Michael avoided obstacles, running around them, and not through them, like Justice did. Every time Justice bulldozed straight through a tree, fence, or even an abandoned structure, well, Justice hoped it was vacant, he closed the gap even more and made the capture even more inevitable. Michael was also unfamiliar with the terrain and did not stray too far away from the Grayson home. Justice used to run these woods when he and Alaina were kids and remembered them fondly.
“Stop running, Michael,” he shouted as hard as he could. “I’m not going to hurt you. I promise.”
Michael turned around to look at Justice and suddenly stopped. The world in front of him warped, stretching like a giant water droplet, before snapping back to the center and reforming with the Enhanced fugitive standing in the middle and now facing him. In the blink of an eye, Justice stopped and kept his distance.
“You shouldn’t have come,” Michael said in an almost robotic voice. Michael’s eyes appeared to almost look through him.
At first, Justice was not sure that voice actually came from his former rival. Michael was the class clown and, at first, a joke to think he belonged in the JTF, but he proved to be a formidable soldier. He was creative in the use of his powers, but that made him dangerous now. But it was the monster inside him, the neurological disorder that took over the brain’s rational functions that frightened Justice the most and pushed him to send the fugitive back to jail. His former rival needed help to keep everyone safe. He knew the destruction the creature Vengeance was capable of causing. The city of Indianapolis still bore the scars of his rampage six months ago. Now that Alaina was involved, it was even more important for Michael to be locked away.
“Just come back with me and I’ll use my contacts to make sure Alaina doesn’t get charged.”
Michael laughed, his voice deep and echoing. “I’m not going back, Justice. They have no intention of helping me. They want to use me as a weapon. No, they want to use Vengeance as a weapon. They think they can control his rage and unleash it on the Enhanced that fight back here and in Europe.”
Justice raised his arms with open palms in disbelief. “Against the Caliphate? That’s illegal. They promised us you were being treated by the best Enhanced neurologists in the country. They promised…”
“They are trying to condition me, Scott,” Michael shouted. He was angry, Justice noted, angry and afraid. That made him even more dangerous and the field around them rumbled sharply with his rage.
“This is not what Alaina would want,” Justice countered. “I’ll call my dad. I’ll call Judge and he’ll make sure you are taken care of. He looks after our own, Michael, and he’ll make sure they don’t get what they want.”
“You don’t get it. Everyone has their own ideas on the perfect solution to the Enhanced problem, Judge and Jury included. I will not be a pawn or a puppet for either side. Please, this wasn’t Alaina’s fault. I came here on my own. Don’t let them hurt her.”
Justice stepped forward as he stretched out a hand pleadingly. “You can’t escape and you’ll just make it worse for yourself and Alaina.”
“Goodbye, Scott,” Michael said as turned and formed a portal. Justice could not see where the exit was located. If Michael and Vengeance stepped through the wormhole, he would never find them again.
Michael stepped in the portal, but felt an iron grip around his wrist before he could enter completely.
“Sorry, bud, but I’m doing this for your own good.”
Michael spun around and the fear drained from his face, replaced only with rage. He swung hard with a left hook, but Justice speed dodged it and countered. Scott punched twice to the body and followed with an elbow strike to the cheek, forcing Michael to retreat back.
“While you’ve been sitting in jail, I’ve been training.” Justice thought of Amira. She focused him on training and not partying or chasing the cameras. He would never let those two assassins, or anyone, even the JTF, hurt her again. “My overconfidence beat me last time, but I won’t make that mistake twice. You’re going to have to fight or let me escort you back to the bird. I would prefer the peaceful way”
“You’re not as dumb as you look then” Michael said as he tried to clear his vision, “but my answer has not changed.” In a redshift blur, Michael charged Justice and smashed his shoulder into the poster boy for the JTF.
The larger Enhanced went airborne. Justice’s instincts took over as he spun his body to land on his feet. His size 13 boots dug deep holes in the soft forest dirt to stop his momentum and provided a platform to hurl himself back at the fugitive. Justice raised his fist to strike, but he instead hooked his arm under Michael’s armpit and flipped him over his hip. Michael tried to compensate by shifting his mass to his legs to prevent the throw, but Justice was too fast. The increased mass only whipped Michael’s legs around faster.
Michael landed hard, the extra mass in his body forcing the air from his lungs. Justice did not hesitate as he rotated his body and locked his powerful legs around Michael’s neck and forcing Michael into an armbar.
“I might not be able to punch you, but I will drag your unconscious butt back to the Osprey if I have to,” Justice said in short breaths. Michael was strong, and getting stronger as he got angrier, and it was taking all his strength to hold him down. Justice was certain that Michael’s eyes were also starting to glow.
The noise of a weapon unsheathing forced Justice’s attention away from Michael. He did not hear the pair approach, but once he noticed Alaina, electricity crackling down her body, with the large man completely cloaked and holding a large bladed weapon now pointed at his neck, Justice guessed they took the scenic route and flew in from the Grayson home.
“Enough of that, son,” said the cloaked man. “The boy is coming with us.”