Paradox – Prelude II

Maze already knew what he would find as he climbed through the bedroom window. In every iteration of this moment of time, the new husband was already dead, his head turned at an awkward angle and his eyes staring into nothingness. He was not sure who killed him but he had his suspicions with the lack of external injuries. He also knew that his former friend and Old Guard partner, Judge, was in the next room trying to calm down Michael.

“Where is she?” Michael yelled, his voice muffled through the thin walls of the apartment. “I know you are working for Lehrer!”

Maze felt his heart skip every time Michael called the Defense Secretary Lehrer by his last name. Michael was losing control with Thomas’s personal animosity for the Special Agent Daniel Lehrer that he worked with in Los Angeles coming out through his son. That was not his biggest concern. Vengeance was also clawing his way back to control the young man. That beast had no regards for human life. It only wanted to destroy.

“Listen, Michael,” Judge said in his powerful, booming voice, “I don’t know what the rebel Enhanced have told you, but the JTF are the good guys and I’m only here to help you. We took your mother into protective custody for her own safety, to keep her away from the rebels that would use her to control you.”

Maze stayed in the shadows of the hallways as Michael stepped closer to Judge. The young man was angry, his body shaking with fear and anguish at the loss of another loved one by the people that were charged with protecting them.

“Is that what they are telling you? Is that how they keep you on your leash? Duty? Pride? They killed Cortex and they killed one of their own because she was trying to warn me. Lehrer and the JTF must be stopped.”

Judge shook his head with a saddened eyes. “Michael, don’t make me fight you. Come back to JTF headquarters with me and I’ll make sure they do not hurt you or anyone else. I’ll make sure she is released from protective custody immediately. With you no longer on the streets, your loved ones have nothing to fear. I also promise you Archangel will be given a fair trial.”

Maze remembered the first time he visited this point in time, and the pain of his body being ripped apart. He instinctively dove to the ground. He had tried bravado at first, announcing his presence to Judge and Michael, but Michael either did not see him, or did not care, and released his power anyways.

“You are a fool, Judge!” Michael shouted and waved his arms. The furniture and the walls blasted outwards and were crushed by an intense gravity wave. Large splits in the floor and remaining walls appeared as the wood, metal, and concrete crumbled from the intense pressures.

“You give me no choice, Michael. For the good of the people and this nation, I have been authorized to use any means necessary including lethal force. I’m sorry.”

Maze noticed the confusion and fear in Michael’s eyes as Judge attacked. The young man was trying to regain control of the unrelenting force inside him but it was a losing battle. Justice’s father was the most-powerful known Enhanced, but he never was the most adept at the subtle things. Judge had no idea about Michael’s personality disorder created by the illegal experiments done on his father and passed genetically to his son nor would his handlers admit to their criminal behavior to him. The U.S. government wanted a more powerful weapon to combat the Enhanced programs developed by the other nations. Now they have one, but they could not control it. Neither could Michael.

Judge’s fist slammed into Michael. The young man roared as his body has hurled through several walls of sheet rock and launched out of the apartment into the complex parking lot.

Maze would only have a minute before Michael would return, his eyes blazing red, and his body completely taken over by the entity known as Vengeance. He already knew the result of this battle between Judge and Vengeance, the total destruction of everything nearby. These titans would not stop once they started until one of them was dead. He could not allow that battle to happen.

Judge’s head quickly snapped to the side as Maze purposefully stepped on broken boards.

“What are you doing here, Maze?” Judge asked his former partner. Many commentators during the golden years of Enhanced crime fighting compared them to the fictional Batman and Superman, the brains and the brawn.

“I’m trying to stop you from making a mistake,” Maze said as he continued to approach Judge. “The JTF, the Feds, they created this mess and they want us to clean it up, as always.”

Judge shook his head. “No, they want me to pick up the mess you and the rebel Enhanced have created. I’m on the side of law and justice. You are a criminal.”

“I’m trying to save the lives of the people the government and you are supposed to protect. Vengeance is a weapon they created and they need you to quietly cover it up.”

“I’m doing my job, Maze,” Judge snarled. “It’s something you left behind a long time ago.”

“No, my friend, my duty has always been clear.”

As Judge tried to answer, Maze slashed at him with the Nanoblade, the Enhanced created metal slicing deep into the Judge’s arm. Blood squirted out as Judge backed away.

“So, you have Herr Metall’s weapon,” the Judge said holding his arm, his face in shock from Maze’s weapon of choice and the sight of his flowing blood. “You were my friend but now only my enemy. And I am the Judge!” This was his rally call and repeated countless times by children all over the world.

As Maze charged to attack, Judge slammed his hands together, a booming thunderclap rocking the damaged apartment and sending Maze flying across the room. As he landed, the Nanoblade flew out of his grip and slide into the small kitchen.

“And this is my judgement,” Judge said walking over to Maze, his arm already healed and his boot up for the final blow. “You are too dangerous to live in society, Maze, and no jail can hold you. May you be judged fairly in whatever afterlife you believe in.”

Maze saw the portal appear first since he knew where it would appear from earlier visions. The Judge, focused on delivering justice, did not turn. The hero felt the crushing punch to the head as Vengeance emerged and launched his attack. The force of the impact destroyed the weakened floor and Maze felt his body free fall and impact the ground one story below. Judge and Vengeance disappeared into the cloud of rubble but the sounds of their deadly battle echoed throughout the city.

Before he slid into the blackness from internal injuries and blood loss, Maze watched the city he loved, the city he protected for so many years, fall in flames and destruction. He never saw who won the fight, or if either warrior survived, but he knew thousands of innocent people died and that he had failed.