Paradox – Chapter 37

With each step, the crunching rocks below the trio grew louder and each foot forward dragged along the ground a little more. Occasionally they passed a car still on the highway, but all of them had run out of gas years ago and the people inside probably tried their luck on foot, and likely perished in the nearby forests. Very few freeways and interstates still operated in the Midwest, only the most heavily traveled around

“You know, I could just fly up ahead and find you two another car,” Alaina said without looking at Maze or Michael behind her. “We are in the middle of nowhere surrounded by junk heaps.” Alaina kicked the nearest car with a loud thump, but stopped before she struck again. In the back seat she noticed a rear-facing car seat with several baby toys strewn recklessly around. Whomever fled from this vehicle had a small child. Both were likely dead and dirt now.

Maze walked by Alaina still staring into the vehicle. “And when you fly over the wrong house or a JTF drone catches your unauthorized flight, what will you do when they descend on us like flies?”

Michael also passed silently around Alaina, his thoughts filled with memories of his own evacuation with his mother when Los Angeles was contaminated by Atomic Power’s destruction.

The red-headed Enhanced pulled her view away from the old car seat to follow Maze. “I thought you were some sort of super-psychic and could see the future. You would know if they see me.”

“It doesn’t work like that,” Maze said as he pressed on, refusing to stop or look behind. “People are patterns. I can see those patterns and accurately predict the future, but only if I am involved. If you fly away, I will not be with you to see the new patterns you’ll create.”

“And that’s why you couldn’t predict Los Angeles,” Michael interrupted, but you knew what would happen in Detroit. You were there when Orbital Strike planned the mission.”

Maze sighed but his chest heaving was hidden beneath the thick cloak. “Yes.”

“Why didn’t you tell my dad your powers? You could have prevented the whole thing if you just told him your little secret. He was supposed to be your teammate, Maze, not your enemy, and you screwed him over and the entire time to protect yourself.”

Michael and Alaina stopped and look at each other and stopped but Maze kept walking.

“Dammit, Maze, if I’m going to work with you, I need to know I can trust you. I’ve already thrown away my future and any chance my dad will ever have to redeem himself for your little crusade. Tell me why you didn’t stop them!”

Maze stopped moving but did not turn around. If Alaina and Michael had not been watching him before, he would have disappeared in the rising fog.

“Maze, are you okay?” Michael asked after several second elapsed and the old Enhanced did not respond.

“I wanted to stop him, Archangel, I honestly did, but I couldn’t. There are some powers out there even greater than the Enhanced.”

Alaina looked at Michael, a puzzled look on her face with an arching brow before turning back to Maze. “What do you mean? You can see the future. You can fix the mistakes before they even happen!”

The hooded cloak rocked back and forth in a fervent motion of displeasure. “It’s not what you think. God…fate…destiny, whatever you want to call it, does not care and does not make exceptions. I can glimpse a shadow here or there, but I am only a whisper in the great tragedy of this existence.” Maze looked at Michael as he remembered his vision of the boy destroying the city he loved. “I tried to force my will once on the future and it cost me everything I love. I will not do that again for anyone.”

Maze started walking again. Michael and Alaina raced up before he could disappear.

“That is why I did not stop Orbital Strike from making the biggest mistake of his life. The consequences of my actions would be a lot worse.” Maze suddenly stopped and turned around, his hot breath steaming out of the dark pits around his neck. “I have given up more than you will ever know, Archangel.”

Michael glanced at Alain and then Maze, his survival instincts sharpened by years of living with a violent drunk screaming that only a small spark was needed for a bloody fight to begin his two allies. He would not bet on either side coming out the victor. Both already carried deep scars.

“Everyone just calm down,” Michael said trying to imitate his mom’s first rehab counselor. “We are all on the same team and want the same thing, the truth. Maze, you carry a huge grudge against Alaina’s dad, I get that, but she’s not her father and she’s only trying to understand what happened. You heroes from the old times did a lot of wonderful things together, but your egos and differences need to be put aside. Remember, we’ve had no one but the JTF tell us, repeatedly, that we are only assets to serve the greater good, and expendable ones. All the secretive bullshit might have worked for you in the past, but right now, we need to know that we are your new A team.”

Maze grunted but did not immediately argue with Michael’s logic.

“And Alaina, you got dumped on because you are the daughter of the biggest Enhanced fuck up in history. You got labeled right along with him when everyone found out. I know that feeling all too well, even more now that I know my dad shot Atomic Power. It’s only a matter of time before my benevolent jailer releases that information to the public.”

Alaina unclenched her fists and leaned back, her aggressive posture fading away. “I just want to know what happened and the only person that will tell me the truth is him.”

“Which is why Maze is going to tell us more about his past and where he came from, not because he wants to, but because I am trusting your life to him. If he can’t, then Alaina and I will move on to anywhere but Indianapolis. Are we clear?”

Alaina nodded. Michael looked at Maze, hoping the stubborn, old judge would not force his hand. Michael did not want to leave, but he would not betray Alaina either.

“Agreed,” the words muttered from the cloak.

“We might as well find a place to camp,” Alaina said swiveling her head back and forth. “The fog is getting thicker and I’m sure the JTF drones are watching for groups traveling at night.”

Michael scanned the area trying to find a sign or marker but only several rusty cars and concrete rubble surrounded him. “I just wish we had some idea where we were.”

“Fort Wayne,” Maze replied with confidence.