Many thanks to the usual suspects for the beta. Pairing:
A post VS3 adventure. Chapter 11
Logan hit a single key on the computer, severing the satellite link, and half turned to face whatever came in the door. Max swung around and up onto her feet, her elbow connecting hard with the first man in the door. He collapsed to the ground outside the van with a gasp. She wasn’t so lucky with the second. He hit her with a blast from his taser that sent her flying back into the table.
“Max!” Logan was reaching for his gun, but he was too late. Two more men boarded the vehicle, one holding a gun to Lydecker’s head even as he reached to free his weapon, and the other knocking Logan out with a quick blow to the side of the head.
Max came around a few minutes later to find herself securely tied to a chair. She shook her head and looked around, seeing Logan still unconscious in his wheelchair and Lydecker, also tied to his chair, watching her with shrewd blue eyes. She ignored Lydecker and concentrated all her strength and energy on one heave in an attempt to break her bonds. The plastic ties bit into her flesh painfully, but held for the time being, although she thought they might have stretched a little. They had not only tied her hands together behind her back, but also to the stem that held the seat back. They had, however, left her legs free, and she reached out a toe and kicked at the wheelchair, trying to get Logan's attention. "Wake up!" She waited hopefully. “Hey, wake up!” She gave the chair a harder kick. This time it creaked and rocked slightly. Logan’s eyes slowly opened.
“Well, this is another fine mess you’ve gotten us into, Stanley,” Max smiled at him ironically.
Logan winced and attempted to straighten up – no easy matter with his hands tied behind his back.
“Anybody got any thoughts on how we can get outta here?” Max asked. Logan shook his head in response, while Lydecker maintained his stony silence. Max was slowly working at her bonds, gradually stretching the tight bands of plastic, but it was tough going, even for her.
The door of the van slid open and all three turned their heads toward the sound. “Well, what do we have here?” the speaker smiled coldly. “How are you doing, Don? Sorry you didn’t join us now?”
Lydecker snorted derisively. “I’ll never join your little group, and you know it.”
The intruder was a trim guy in his late forties with curly light brown hair, and dressed in fatigues. He stood alertly just outside the van, out of range of Max’s feet, studying the three of them with cold blue eyes. “I must say, I never expected to find you in company with a cripple and a breeder.” Max winced at the description and glanced briefly at Logan, who was staring at the man impassively. She knew from experience that he didn’t really care what anyone said about him, but as soon as they passed a comment about her, his blood pressure started to rise.
“You won’t win,” stated Lydecker firmly.
“Really? My team is already rounding up your strike team inside the building.”
“Yeah, right.” Max’s tone was heavily sarcastic.
“Sorry we missed you in the market the other day. I believe you and your friend put on quite an impressive display. You’d have been spared a lot of discomfort if you’d come along quietly.”
Max rolled her eyes. “Who the hell are you?”
The man nodded at Logan. “I take it you’re the one who hacked into our system. That was good work.” Logan’s face remained expressionless. “Pity it was all for nothing.”
“If you say so,” responded Lydecker.
The door slid shut again, and the three of them were alone once more. “You have such nice friends,” commented Max dryly.
“He was never a friend of mine,” Lydecker responded, his loathing rising to the surface.
“Who is he, exactly?” asked Logan finally.
“Name’s Reid. Formerly of Manticore. He’s one of Renfro’s pets from across the country.”
“Ah, now that explains his bubbly,” Max grunted, “light-hearted,” she continued, “personality.” Max’s shoulders heaved for a third and final time, and she finally extracted her hands from behind her, shaking them to restore circulation and giving a triumphant grin. There were bleeding strips on her wrists where she’d forced her hands apart, stretching the plastic ties. Logan frowned at the sight, but didn’t comment, as Max seemed totally unconcerned. All she did was rub her wrists and say, “They gotta get a better supplier for those things. The one they’re usin’ just ain’t cuttin’ it.” She raised an eyebrow. “Either of you got a knife?”
“Front right pocket,” responded Lydecker. “On the keychain.”
“They left you your keys? Tsk tsk, how inefficient.”
Max stood up quickly and almost immediately put out a hand for support as she was assailed by a wave of dizziness. She found the edge of the table and stood there swaying, her face drained of color. Logan caught the change and asked, immediately concerned, “You okay?”
She closed her eyes and nodded, choking back the bile that threatened to erupt. “I’m fine…just got up too quickly.”
Logan wasn’t appeased by her words – he still looked at her in concern. She ignored him and stuck a hand into Lydecker’s pocket, coming up with a large bunch of keys on a metal ring. She quickly sorted out a small Swiss Army Knife from the bunch and opened out the blade.
She was standing behind Logan, hacking away at the tough plastic wrapped around his wrists, when they all heard the distant sound of a small explosion and some desultory gunfire. It sharpened her resolution and she quickly sawed through the plastic.
Zack and Alec blurred along the corridor with one of the female transgenics they had already released from her bonds – a tall, striking ash-blonde with lightly freckled skin. They'd left one of the others to deal with the remainder and were now in a race against time to save the babies. The threat had been made to gas them all if any of the females attempted to escape, and Cassie didn't believe that was an idle threat.
Original Cindy jerked awake in bed, feeling suddenly afraid. The previous afternoon, every second messenger had asked her about Max, and even Normal had asked after her sistah-girl. She didn't have any answers for them. Cindy gave up trying to sleep and made a cup of coffee. She stood beside the big picture windows in the living room of the apartment, looking out at the darkness.
Cassie launched herself at the locked door of the nursery, bursting the lock. The babies were unattended, and gas was already pouring out of a vent in the ceiling. There was no time for finesse. The three of them started roughly shoving the dozen or so plastic cribs out into the hall, pushing them away from the creeping death.
"This all there is?" Alec asked, as the last squalling infant, a tiny baby labeled 498A on a card taped to the top of the crib, made it outside.
"Yeah," answered Cassie, shutting the door behind them as best she could on buckled hinges. "For a breeding program, they sure haven't had much success so far."
“Certainly looks that way.” Alec snickered and rubbed his chest, remembering Max’s reaction to another “breeding” program, then he lifted one of the doors into place, sealing the gap a bit more.
A group of freed X-series females rounded the corner, while Syl and Krit arrived from the opposite end of the corridor.
“We need to blow this joint before they start cauterizing,” Syl said seriously.
Max stood on Logan’s lap, peering out through the air vent in the ceiling of the van. She’d tried the table first, but had been at full stretch in order to get close enough to push the vent up. There wasn’t much she could see – it was dark and her view was straight over the roof of the van, but she could at least hear some of what transpired outside.
She had heard a series of smaller bangs that seemed to come from the direction of the complex. “Sounds like they’re blowing the place up,” she said quietly, concern etched into every feature. She tuned her hearing, picking out Reid’s voice – shouting.
“…I don’t care what they did! Lock it down! Now!”
“Oh boy, he sure is pissed,” she commented. She shifted her weight, wobbling on her precarious perch. Logan tightened his grip on her legs, steadying her. “You okay down there?” she asked softly.
Max released her grip on the lip of the air vent, put a hand on Logan’s shoulder and awkwardly stepped down.
“What’s the plan, boys?” she asked, feeling more confident.
Max quietly slid the van door open and quickly wrapped an arm around the guard outside, dropping him gently to the ground, unconscious. She gestured for Lydecker to get down. Lydecker disarmed the guard, quickly disappearing behind the van and into the woods. Her presence outside the van was quickly noticed, despite the silence of her exit. Three "soldiers" came running. Sorry, baby, this is gonna be a rough ride,
she thought, crouching into a fighting stance. Two of the men closed with her, while the third made the mistake of getting too close to the van. Logan launched himself out the doorway, wheelchair and all, bringing him to the ground with a bone-jarring thud, the wheelchair tumbling down on top of them. The soldier immediately tried to heave him off. Logan leaned forward, an arm across his opponent's shoulders and pulled his right arm behind him, bending it up – painfully judging by the grunt – and effectively immobilizing him for the present.
Max still had her hands full with the other two. She could feel that her coordination was off – almost as if she hadn’t completely shaken her earlier dizziness. Logan was helpless to do anything but watch as she reeled under a couple of blows, but then she seemed to rally. She threw one of her opponents in a high arc behind her and knocked the other flying with a hard right, then spun around, fist held high, feeling a third presence behind her.
“Hey, Max, it’s only me,” quipped Alec, putting out a restraining hand to stop her. “There’s no need to get violent.”
She relaxed her stance and looked around her. The clearing was suddenly full of transgenics: pregnant and not so pregnant females, mothers with babies (including one with a twin held in each arm). Zack was on his knees trussing Logan’s prisoner, while Logan was righting the wheelchair and preparing to climb back in. Max watched him shove the seat cushion into position and roughly lock the brakes with his fist. She caught his eye and was rewarded with smile and a shrug in response. “Those jet thrusters came in handy, Superman,” she called.
He shrugged again. “You’re the superhero, I’m the sidekick…”
Zack looked up and caught the by-play, initially scowling but then smiling to himself. Max looked around as the others cleaned up, taking a quick inventory. Lydecker was still missing, but his two men, Morrison and Jackson, had two men under guard beside the bus. Syl and Krit were also not present, but a short broadcast on Zack’s two-way radio announced that they were heading out of the facility and would be with them in a few minutes.
Alec had one of Max’s “victims” on his stomach and was making use of the man’s own restraints on him.
A single loud shot rang out from close by. Every head turned in the direction of the sound. That's when the reaction hit Max. She felt her vision close in and put a hand on Alec's shoulder to steady herself as a wave of dizziness swept over her. Her stomach rebelled.
"Whoa, Max," Alec looked up at her curiously, sensing the change as she leaned on him. "Logan!" Alec's call was none too soon, as Max bent over and the contents of her stomach hit the ground. Alec was appalled, and Logan looked across in alarm, seeing Alec supporting a doubled-over Max as she held his shoulder for support. Logan completed the transfer in record time, and quickly trundled across. He became aware that dawn was approaching. It was light enough to see Max's pallor, that she was shaking. She looked at Logan through the veil of her hair, her expression totally miserable.
"Hey, you okay?" Logan asked gently. He gestured for her to sit on his lap, relieving Alec of his role as her support.
"Sorry, Logan," she said softly. She gave a small, sad sniff. "I don't know what's wrong."
"Hey, it's okay." In sickness and in health, Max, he almost added. He rubbed her back as she leaned into him. "I think the sooner we get home the better," he added.
"Yeah, I…I want to go home, too."
"Ness has some medical training," Zack was saying, introducing Max to a dark-haired, olive-skinned transgenic, who carried an infant on her hip. "Won't you let her look at you?" Zack looked at her in consternation. She'd sat quietly on Logan's lap for a few minutes, then hesitantly walked back to the van, where she sat in the doorway, her head against the cool metal of the doorframe. Her head still swam, and she was aware of flickering lights on the periphery of her visual field, although they seemed to be clearing.
"Zack, I just want to go home," she said, firmly resisting.
His clothing covered in blood, although he seemed otherwise intact, Lydecker marched into the clearing followed by Syl and Krit. They both looked at Max curiously as Zack and Ness both spoke to her.
"Max, what harm can it do if I just take a quick look at you?" Ness asked calmly.
Logan grimly pushed his way over to them. "Max, please?" he asked.
"Go away, all of you." She swung her legs up into the van and sat cross-legged, her back against the wall. "Just leave me alone, I'll be fine."
Logan flicked his eyes to indicate that the other two should leave him. He hoisted himself up into the doorway of the van and leaned back on his hands. Max glanced at him, then looked away.
"You want to tell me what's going on here?" Logan asked gently.
"Nothing. I'm just sick of them all mothering me. I'm fine. I just want to go home." She turned her head to face him, her eyes boring in.
Logan took her hand in his. "They care about you. I care about you." Even in the dim light, he could see how pale she looked. Her hand was shaking. "Look, if you won't do this for Zack, will you do it for me? Please?" Logan's expression was troubled.
"What about all those others out there?" She jerked her chin in the direction of the other transgenics.
"They haven't been involved in hand-to-hand combat with GI Joe and his friend."
"True." She leaned back against the wall and nodded. "Okay, I'll talk to her," she said wearily.
Logan's lips twitched into a tiny grin and he immediately slid back down into the wheelchair. "Thanks, Max."
She shrugged. "No big dealio."
Original Cindy wheeled her bike out of the apartment and headed off to work. She felt less than enthusiastic after her sleepless night, and almost turned around as soon as she hit the street and felt the drizzle on her face. The rain matched her mood. She was feeling blue. "I hope you're all right, boo," she said to the Space Needle, catching a glimpse of its tall profile. She felt unnerved, as if something was wrong, but couldn't put her finger on it. With one last look at the threatening sky, she mounted the bike and rode down the street.Chapter 12
Cassie jumped down from the van and immediately walked across to Zack, who nodded and smiled, a quick flash of white teeth. Logan looked at him anxiously, then was distracted as Max climbed out of the back of the van and walked across to him. “You gonna travel steerage again, or would you prefer first class this time?”
Logan looked at her enquiringly, not quite grasping her meaning, “And that means…”
“We’re bustin’ outta here, baby…homeward bound,” she grinned.
Alec walked over to them, having been approached by Zack. He held Logan’s computer in his hands. “This was in one of the other vehicles.”
“You people ready to go?”
Logan gestured with his hand. “Sure. Just give us a minute.” He looked back at Max. “So, you’re good to go?”
“Yeah,” she looked away quickly as Zack called her name. Logan took this as his opportunity to check the logistics of climbing into the front of the van. It was going to be a tight squeeze for the three of them, but doable.
Logan relaxed into the drive back as soon as they hit the blacktop. It was tight in the front of the van. Logan was squeezed into the middle of the seat with Alec and Max on either side, but it was better than traveling in the back.
The sun was well and truly up on a crisp morning by the time they were ready to go. It was with a kind of wonder that Logan started up Bessie’s engine and started down the dirt track. Alec immediately scrunched up a sweater to use as a pillow and stretched out across the back seat. He was asleep – lightly snoring, if it could have been heard over the roar of the engine – within minutes. She sat quietly beside Logan, her hand resting on his thigh. He couldn’t feel it, but the glance he flicked down and the quick upward turning of his lips when she put it there meant he knew. She closed her eyes. God, I’m tired,
she thought. I don’t know how Logan’s still functioning.
She wriggled in the seat, making herself more comfortable. Even without following Lydecker’s convoluted directions, it was going to take some three or more hours to get back home. The roads were not what they were in the early days of the century. Home. How soon do I tell him we’re not actually going home yet?
she pondered. Just breathe, Max. It’ll all be good. I just hope we get back to Seattle on time. Cassie said it'd be hours yet – just the early stages, but you never know.
She couldn’t help the intruding thought that a long night was going to become an even longer day.
“Bip bip bip.” Original Cindy could hear Normal’s voice even before she entered the building. She almost turned around there and then, but for the fact another messenger pulled up behind her.
“Ah, look who decided to grace us with her presence – late as usual,” Normal commented as she walked the bike down the ramp. He tossed her a package. “458 Madison…scoot.”
“In a minute, Normal,” she responded automatically, heading for her locker.
“You wanna stop and get a bite?” Logan asked.
Max shook her head, “No thanks.”
“What, you’re not hungry?”
“Not right now.”
He looked at her quickly and caught her looking at him oddly. “You okay?”
“I’m fine.” She shifted uncomfortably, smothering a grunt. “At least, I will be…” she looked at him hesitantly.
Logan pondered her statement for a moment. “Okay…” he said slowly. He pursed his lips and stared at the road ahead. “Besides, it’ll be good to get home.”
Okay, Max, here goes. “We’re not going home – at least, not yet.”
Logan pursed his lips again. “We’re not?” He glanced at her curiously again. “Where are we going?”
Max paused before speaking. “Metro Medical,” she replied, with half a smile.
The car swerved sharply.
“Squirrel?” she asked, her smile broadening.
“Ah, no, no squirrel…just…” Logan had to think for a moment, half stunned, then he broke into a glowing smile. “You do mean?”
“Yeah, that’s exactly what I mean,” she smiled shyly in reply as Logan upped the speed a notch. It was starting to rain. The downpour increased in strength the closer they got to home.
“Hey, what gives, man?” asked Alec, pushing himself back onto the seat of the car, from which he’d partially fallen when Logan swerved.
“Nothin’, Alec,” responded Max. “Go back to sleep.”
“Sure, Max.” He yawned, adjusted the sweater he was leaning on, and closed his eyes again.
Max looked across at Logan, who was smothering a laugh at Alec’s total lack of concern. His expression suddenly turned serious as he said softly, “Will this be okay, I mean…it’s a little early, isn’t it?”
“Cassie said nothing to worry about – two to three weeks is nothing major. And you told me yourself that you were in a hurry to be born.”
“Yeah, I was. But I mean…will we get there in time?”
“Logan, it’ll be fine. Honest. We’ve got hours…yet.”
“No, I’m not sure, I’m just hopin’,” she quipped.
They drove in silence for a while. Max, studying Logan’s profile, realized how tired he looked. His eyes were red-rimmed and there was a deep cut on his cheek where he’d been struck by the gun butt earlier, and his glasses looked a little out of shape. She thought that he badly needed to shave…the scruff was past the point of being respectable. "You okay?" he asked her. "Max?"
He glanced at her again, concern replacing the weariCassie in his expression. “You gonna call Sam?”
She nodded and reached for the phone, detaching it from the hands-free unit on the dashboard. Her own phone was in her back pack, which Alec had slung into the back. Max spoke to Logan’s surgeon in a soft voice. He’d been the only doctor they trusted to be directly involved – who knew Max’s history – and he would see to it that all went well, even though this was not his specialty. “What about Original Cindy?”
Max looked at her watch. “She’ll be at work.” Max called the number of her friend’s pager and keyed in the phone number. “There, satisfied?” she asked.
He nodded and slowed the car, seeing a glimpse of blue in the rear view mirror. It wouldn’t do to be pulled over for speeding. The motorcycle whizzed past, lights flashing, and Logan gunned the motor again, re-engaged the cruise control and dropped his hand down to his leg, feeling for Max’s hand. He left it there, resting lightly on top.
Original Cindy’s mood, and her feeling that something wasn’t quite right, didn’t improve as the morning went on. She delivered her packages, but was surly in the extreme.
“Hey, what’s up with you?” Sketchy asked, when she’d threatened to put the smack down for the third time. “I didn’t do nothin’. You get up on the wrong side’a bed or something?”
”Hmmf,” she sniffed. “You wouldn’t understand.”
“Argh…I’m not gonna put up with this.” Sketchy gathered up his sandwich, climbed over the railing and dropped down onto the sofa on the lower level of Jam Pony.
Original Cindy sighed and walked down the stairs to join him. “Sorry, Sketchy. Guess I’m kinda out of sorts today. Just had this feeling in my bones…you know…that somethin’s goin’ down…”
Sketchy rolled his eyes. “Women!”
She smacked him, not too gently, in the shoulder with her fist, and laughed for the first time all day.
Logan tapped his hand impatiently on the steering wheel. The line of traffic into Tacoma stretched as far as the eye could see – a combination of construction and a sector point had slowed the mid-morning traffic to a crawl.
Max felt a stronger contraction course through her. Logan quickly looked at her, catching the look of intense concentration on her face. Her fingers grasped his leg tightly, although he couldn’t feel it.
"Logan, I'll tell you when I’m not, right?"
"Okay." He looked hurt by her reaction.
"Sorry, just not used to being…"
Alec stirred. "Hey, guys, what's goin' on?"
"Wow, Sleeping Beauty's awake."
"Ah, construction and we're almost at the first sector point," Logan replied, ignoring Max's sarcasm.
"Sorry, haven't stopped anywhere."
Alec grumbled in response and turned his body to sit up in the seat properly instead of lying across it. He yawned and stretched expansively. Max dialed the number of Original Cindy's pager again, then tried to call Jam Pony, but the line was either busy or there was some other problem, because all she got was a loud buzzing on the line.
Original Cindy's pager beeped and blinked where she'd left it on the kitchen counter that morning.
"What's with the phones today?" Max asked, slamming Logan's phone shut. She'd just left a third message on the pager and tried Jam Pony again.
"Ah, gotta love Post-Pulse technology."
Max glared and reached forward to put the phone back in its bracket.Chapter 13
Logan waited anxiously outside the door of the public bathroom, impatiently waiting for Max. “Max…” He tapped hesitantly on the door. “You okay in there?” There was the sound of a flush and then running water before Max emerged shaking water from her hands.
“No towels,” she said by way of explanation and rolled her eyes. She took a couple of steps, then hesitated, putting a hand against the wall for support.
She put her free hand up in a “wait” gesture and took a couple of deep breaths. “I’m okay, really,” she said, seeing Logan’s worried expression. As if to prove a point, she set off firmly, but more slowly, down the corridor to the elevator. Sam had been going to meet them at reception, but when a call to his pager failed to gain a response, Logan had suggested that they go up to his office on the second floor.
Max, lost in her thoughts, didn't really register that Logan was having problems with locomotion until she caught him peering intently at one of the wheels while they waited for the elevator.
"I don't know. Chair's a bit…wonky."
"Yeah, you know, not running like it should…wonky."
"I know the meaning of the word. Just never thought I’d hear you use it."
"Anyway, you did try to teach it to fly. Must've bent it or something."
"Yeah, or something…"
The ping of the elevator caused them to drop the discussion. They waited while the passengers exited before entering. "Ya know, this would be just the wrong time for a brown-out," commented Max.
"Hospital's got a generator," Logan smiled back. He straightened up wearily, looking up at her as she leaned against the side wall.
"Ya know, a couple of days ago, I promised myself that I was gonna kick your ass for what you did."
"I'm…not so sure," she said thoughtfully, rubbing her back. "Still, you should have told me what was going on."
"You're right, Max, I should’ve, and then you'd have tried to stop me going…and…" Logan's tone was biting.
"Right," she nodded. "But there's some chance we wouldn't be…I'm sorry, I shouldn't have said that." She'd seen the stricken expression on his face. She shrugged. "These things happen. Babies come when they're ready…and maybe you should be kicking my ass instead," she said grinning.
The elevator came to a halt and the doors opened, putting a stop to further talk.
"Mr Cale, Mrs Cale," Sam's receptionist smiled brightly at the disheveled pair as they entered the office. "Dr Carr said for you to wait in his office. He'll be here shortly."
Honestly, Max thought, looking at both herself and Logan, We look like a pair of punks. Logan had a large purple bruise on his cheek with a deep, open cut running through the center. The swelling caused an imperfection that upset the symmetry of his face. He looked exhausted. There was dirt from the forest floor on the knees of his jeans. She suspected that she didn't look much better.
Max, entering Sam's office, immediately looked for a chair and noted that she had exactly three choices – Sam's desk chair, the examination table or a standard, hospital-issue clunker of a wheelchair shoved into a corner. To Logan's amusement, she roughly kicked up the footrests on the wheelchair and sat there, figuring Sam would want his chair at some stage. She leaned her head against the wall and closed her eyes. "God, I'm so tired," she groaned.
Logan snorted. "I thought you didn't sleep."
She grinned back at him, eyes still closed. "Riiggghttt…"
"Guess not many of Sam's patients need chairs," he said, looking back over his shoulder as he heard a familiar voice from outside.
Sam bustled in and closed the door behind him. Logan swiveled to face the doctor and Max opened her eyes and straightened up. "Hey, Sam."
"Hey, Logan. You look like hell – both of you."
"Gee, thanks, Sam," responded Logan.
"What the hell have you been doing?"
"Believe me, you don't want to know," replied Max. She grimaced and took a deep breath.
Sam looked at her, his expression concerned. "Up on the table, let's take a look at you."
Max nodded compliantly. "I…know this isn't really your field, and I really appreciate what you're doing."
Sam nodded briskly, pushing up Max's sleeve so he could take her blood pressure. "I haven't really done this since I was an intern, but I have assisted at a few deliveries – patients of mine…"
"Right," she replied hesitantly.
"And there's some help coming from Terminal City…just in case."
Max smiled and relaxed, while Logan hovered nervously, watching Sam's examination.
"Okay," Sam gave Max a hand to sit up on the narrow table. "I'll get my secretary to deal with a few formalities and we'll get you into a room." He stuck his head out the door and issued a couple of instructions to his secretary.
He walked around Logan and leaned back against his desk, legs crossed. "I don't think I need to confirm what you already know. It'll be a while yet – you're still in the first stage. I know it's a little early, but everything should be fine."
Max nodded and Logan took her hand, feeling relieved.
"Now, while we're waiting, do you want me to clean up that cut?" Sam asked Logan, gesturing at his face.
"Might as well."
"You two look like…"
"I know. I'm surprised they let us in," acknowledged Logan with a wry expression.
"And I take it the exoskeleton…"
Sam tipped some antiseptic solution out of a bottle onto a pad of cotton and proceeded to gently clean the cut. Logan grimaced as the astringent solution hit the open wound. He finished up by holding the two sides of the cut together with a butterfly bandage. "That should be okay, I hope. You probably should have a couple of stitches there…"
"But knowing me and needles…"
"Coward," commented Max, causing Logan to glare at her.
The button on the telephone lit up and the phone buzzed softly. Sam took the call.
"Thanks, Sarah. You can go when you're ready." He hung up and looked at them. "Okay, got a room, let's go."
Sam escorted them to a private room and then left them alone, after suggesting that Max make use of the shower and change into the oh-so-elegant hospital gown a nurse handed to her. She pulled a wry face and said she would. He promised to be back in a while, but he had patients to see, and…
Logan waited for Max to emerge from the tiny private bathroom, tiredly staring out the window at a bleak, gray sky as he did. His head throbbed – partly as a result of being hit, partly as a result of a day and a half without sleep. Exhaustion was seeping into his very bones. He felt tired and hungry. Neither of them had eaten since the night before.
Max came out of the bathroom, her hair still wrapped in a towel, and smiled. "Hot shower and I'm good to go." She flicked a glance at the bed, but instead sank into a chair next to Logan. "So," she said.
"So," Logan responded.
She leaned back in the chair and rolled her head, easing the kinks in her neck, which persisted despite the shower. The water hadn't really been that hot, just barely tepid.
"You want me to massage your back?" Logan asked.
"Mmm, that would be nice." She swung around sideways on the chair as he moved back alongside, leaning her shoulder against its high back. Logan adjusted the position of the wheelchair so that he was as close as he could get and locked the brakes. He rubbed his hands together briefly to warm them up and then started working on her neck, pressing his thumbs into the tight muscles on either side. Max leaned back into him, creating more pressure. She wondered whether Zack and the others had managed to get the mistreated and misled female transgenics to safety, and her brows knit as she considered how they got themselves caught like that, and who was the sperm donor. Cassie had said during their brief conversation that they weren't using ordinary human sperm, but that they had some special donor.
Logan paused in his ministrations to undo the back of the gown, a ticklish movement that raised goosebumps in Max’s flesh and sent a tingle down her spine. She took a deep breath as she felt a contraction starting. They were becoming stronger, slowly but surely. Sam had said to them both several times that, with Max's odd genetics, he wasn't sure what to expect when delivery time came, so to come to the hospital sooner rather than later…well here they were…Logan shifted his point of operation further down. Max found it soothing. He was good at this, had always been good at it, but Max and Bling had taught him a few more techniques that made it even better. "Relax, Max, you're so tense…" His long, strong fingers kneaded the tight muscles. Her back had been aching on and off since that day in the markets – was that four or three or five days ago, she couldn't remember. She was tired and afraid – afraid of what she had done, afraid of what was to come. She moaned softly, a combination of pain and pleasure.
"Did I hurt you?" Logan asked, concerned.
"No, that's good, keep going, please…"
He grinned and exhaled a warm, sharp breath across her shoulder.
Alec had been trying to track down Original Cindy for several hours. He had gotten hold of Marianne Cale easily enough. She said she’d wait at her office until he dropped off both Max’s gear and Original Cindy, but Original Cindy was proving elusive, and she wasn’t answering her pager. He turned the car in the direction of Jam Pony, parked and forced his way down the ramp against a tide of riders just heading out on late runs. “Yo, Normal, you seen OC anywhere?”
“Do I look like her social secretary?” Normal replied crankily.
“What’s up with you?” asked Alec, unaccustomed to Normal taking out his moods on him.
“She hasn’t come back from her last run, surprise, surprise,” Normal responded, then muttered half under his breath, “Probably won’t. I’m understaffed as it is…”
“And where the fire truck is Max?”
Alec turned to go. “Metro Medical, if you must know.” With that, Alec strode back up the ramp, ignoring Normal’s startled stare and considering his options as he left. He walked down the road to Crash – it was early, but at least he could leave a message there for her to call Logan’s phone.
A stop at the apartment on Waverly revealed why Original Cindy wasn’t answering her pager. With a soft, “Damn,” he picked it up from the counter, looked at it, and put it down again. He grabbed a soda from the fridge and made himself comfortable on the sofa while he thought about what to do next. Feeling himself starting to doze off, he straightened up and left the apartment abruptly, leaving the empty soda can on the coffee table. He decided to head for the penthouse – at least he could collect Max’s bag from there while he waited. That’s when Logan’s phone finally rang. “Hello?”
“Alec, what’s up? What’re you doing with Logan’s phone? Why’ve you been leaving messages for me at Crash?
“Where have you been? I’ve been looking for you everywhere!”
“I had some stuff to take care of,” she answered vaguely. “What’s so urgent? And what have you done with my girl?”
“She’s at Metro Medical with Logan.”
“Oh…is she all right?”
“Yeah, but she wants you there. Where are you?” Alec could hear voices and loud music in the background.
“I’ll pick you up outside.”
Max gently removed her hand from Logan’s grasp and slid out of the bed. Darkness had already covered the scene outside, which was lit by pinpricks of lights from the buildings, streets and cars. Logan stirred, rustling the sheets. She’d sent him out for a while to get some dinner an hour or so earlier, amused by the growling of his stomach. On his return, he’d sat with her, head nodding, just holding her hand, until he couldn’t keep his eyes open any longer. His head had dropped down to his arm on the side of the bed, and he’d dozed off.
Max stared at the peaceful night scene, then turned to look at the exhausted man, smiling. He looked so peaceful. She took a step back toward the bed, then stopped as a strong contraction coursed through her. "Oh, hell," she said, putting a hand out to steady herself against the window frame. She felt moisture running down her leg, the trickle soon becoming a gush. "Logan! Logan! Wake up!"
"Hmm? Max?" He sat up slowly.
Max froze, looking at him in consternation, not sure how she should be reacting – embarrassed…annoyed…afraid. "I...ah…I feel like I just peed my pants," she said, her expression wry.
Logan hit the call button to summon a nurse, then came around the side of the bed. He picked up the still damp towel she’d used earlier from the back of the chair and sat there, unsure what to do next. “Um, Logan, you wanna give me a hand here.”
“Give me the towel,” she said. She roughly scrubbed herself down, leaning her weight on the windowsill then dropped the towel on the floor and swizzed it around with her foot and kicked it into the corner.
A nurse appeared at the door as Max kicked the towel away. She took Logan’s shoulder firmly, grimacing and leaning heavily for the couple of steps back to the bed.
Logan looked at the woman and said, “Can you page Sam Carr, please? Now!”Chapter 14
By the time Alec dropped Original Cindy outside Marianne Cale’s fancy downtown office, it was well after closing time. The lawyer had evidently been waiting for them as she immediately let herself out of the locked building and ushered OC in the direction of a silver Mercedes parked on the street. Original Cindy’s eyes widened when she realized that Marianne was also pregnant, although obviously not as advanced as Max, but she refrained from commenting.
The two women walked into the hospital just as the announcement signaling the end of visiting hours sounded, and asked for Max by name. The receptionist gave them the room number and floor, then said, “But visiting hours are over.”
Original Cindy held up the suitcase she was carrying. “I got her stuff.”
The receptionist pointed in the direction of the elevators. “Room 354 and I didn’t see you.”
Original Cindy nodded, “Thanks.”
Max’s room seemed to be full of people. OC recognized the field medic from Terminal City, and there was a bald-headed man she rightly assumed to be the doctor. Logan was holding Max’s hand, or maybe she was holding his – Cindy wasn’t sure. Max looked at the two newcomers helplessly. “Logan?” she ground out.
Logan looked over his shoulder to see who it was. “Waiting room down the hall,” he mouthed. Marianne nodded and steered OC back down the hall.
This is whack, thought Original Cindy, pouring herself and Marianne coffee from the machine. First sistah-girl disappears for, like, a week, and now this? Looks like this is gonna be a long night.
"Logan, wake up," Marianne's voice insisted. He was so tired. He didn't want to wake up, but then she jabbed him in the shoulder, hard, and he was forced to open his eyes. "Come on, Sleeping Beauty, you're home."
"Oh, thanks, Marianne." He pushed himself upright, away from the car door, and waited while she popped the trunk and brought around the pieces of the wheelchair for him to assemble. He took a moment to look behind him curiously and realized that she'd already dropped off Original Cindy at her place. He transferred tiredly and said, "Thanks for the ride, Marianne. Goodnight."
Marianne grinned at his retreating back. "Goodnight, Logan. Get some sleep," she said gently.
"Thanks, I will."
She watched him push up to the front door and fumble in his pocket for Max's keys. Once he'd swiped the card through the slot to open the electric doors and given her a brief wave, she turned to go. Logan made his slow way to the elevator and then up to the penthouse, jerking awake with a start when the elevator pinged. He dully registered that the apartment door wasn't locked and realized why when he saw Alec's prostrate form asleep on the sofa, wrapped in a blanket. Logan was happy to see that Alec had brought the exoskeleton upstairs and left it propped against the wall in the exercise room. He made his way to the bedroom, where he tossed Zack's shoes into the corner, put his glasses on the night stand, transferred, and proceeded to go to sleep still fully dressed.
Max gazed at the fine crop of dark-colored down on her son's head. The few short hours of sleep she'd had through the early hours of the morning had left her feeling refreshed. Thanks, Manticore. I guess there's something to be said for screwed genetics, after all,
she thought, running her finger over the baby’s tiny, perfect hand.
"…still asleep." The voices came from the kitchen – two of them – Alec and…someone else…talking softly. Logan opened his eyes unwillingly, blinking into the bright sunlight spilling from the window. It bathed the room in golden light. He reached for his glasses and squinted into the brightness to read his watch, discovering that it was nearly 9:00 am already. He slowly pushed up into a sitting position and let his legs dangle over the side of the bed. He flexed his aching hand where Max had squeezed it during the course of the night's events. She doesn’t know her own strength, he reflected ruefully. After completing a slow transfer and shoving on some shoes, he looked down at his rumpled clothes and sighed, then decided that’d keep until later. Considering the events of the last few days, a few creases were of little importance. He slowly made his way out to the kitchen to find Alec and Zack drinking coffee. Alec automatically poured out another cup. His appearance caused a lull in the conversation. Logan sat quietly, waiting for the caffeine to kick in. Zack and Alec looked at each other and grinned, feeling a little embarrassed.
“Well?” asked Zack finally.
“Hmmm? Well what?” Logan responded, still only half awake.
“How does it feel?”
“How does what feel?”
Zack rolled his eyes, thinking that Logan really was being excessively stupid this morning, more so than usual for a stubborn ordinary who had driven his sister so far off course that she’d placed her life in danger every day by staying with him. “To be a father? I mean, you wouldn’t have come home…”
Logan grinned sheepishly. “Pretty good. I…ah…can’t offer you a cigar or anything, but…”
“So, did Hiram get a proper name? I mean, Hiram…where the hell does that come from?” This time, it was Alec speaking.
“Long story,” Logan responded, thinking that, in this case, the real name of Fearless Fly was actually pretty apt. Hiram had had an exciting entry to the world. “And yes, Hiram has a proper name.”
“Aren’t you gonna tell us?”
Logan looked at the two men, a mischievous glint in his eye and said with deadly seriousness, “George Herbert Walker Cale…”
“Apparently, the last few days have scrambled Logan’s brain,” commented Alec.
“No, I just think he doesn’t want to tell us.”
Logan nodded. “Now, Zack, you’re obviously here at the crack of dawn for a reason.” Logan suddenly snapped into serious mode.
“I need you to set up a couple of fake IDs. By the way, after you guys left, one of the others led us to a bunker at the back of the complex and we found a male transgenic. He’s not in very good shape. Not sure if he’ll make it.”
“Okay…” Logan gently placed his coffee cup on the counter and pushed himself in the direction of the computer room. There was a package on the desk next to his keyboard. He pushed it out of the way and started the system up. Zack and Alec had both followed him through. “What do you need, Zack?”
“Good morning.” The woman’s voice was overly cheery as she roughly dumped a dinner tray on the table, startling the baby, who pulled away in protest, and provoking an angry look from Max. Well, at least we know you can hear, little one, she thought.
Max restrained herself to saying, “Thanks,” and sat the baby up, gently rubbing his back. She realized that she’d taken in a lot more than she thought by observing Gem and her little girl and from the odd occasions she’d babysat the baby, born in the upper rooms of Jam Pony X-Press. He burped loudly. She grinned at the sound and settled him comfortably in the crook of her arm. She took a quick peek under one of the metal lids on the tray to see what was on the menu, wrinkled her nose and sighed happily. “Hospital food, just what a girl needs.”
“Thanks, Logan, and give my best to Max,” Zack said, about to leave.
“Hang on a moment.” He turned back in the direction of the bedroom. “Thanks for the loan.” He held out the borrowed shoes he’d worn for the last few days.
“Oh, you can keep them.” Zack looked at him sheepishly. “They aren’t mine. I…ah…found them in the closet at the farmhouse.”
Logan chuckled. “Well, thanks all the same.”
Logan was alone in the apartment again. He gazed out the big picture windows in the living room at the daytime view of Seattle, a soft expression on his face, idly tapping the wheel of his chair. He’d eaten, showered, and puttered about the apartment for a couple of hours, and now he was just mulling over the last few days. Considering all that could have gone wrong, he believed they’d been lucky to get off so lightly. The captured transgenics were all safe; Max was safe; he was a dad…That thought brought a really soppy grin. A dad. Me? He still wondered, in his more doubting moments, why Max was with him, why she hadn’t chosen someone more like her. He fondled the tiny jumpsuit he’d found in the kitchen, feeling the softness of the fabric, touching the tiny flight of ducks across the front. He’d carried it with him to the windows, stretching it out along his thigh. It was so tiny, so perfect, like the baby who would eventually wear it. He'd held the child briefly last night, before Max chased him away, full of the pride of all new fathers. He folded the jumpsuit and left it in the kitchen before grabbing his jacket and keys.
He glanced at the exoskeleton. The box on his desk had contained the replacement chip, but there hadn’t yet been time to effect any repairs. There were more pressing things right now. Max would be pleased at his shift in priorities, he guessed. She didn't understand his fixation with walking, didn't care whether he was upright, towering above her, or whether she was the one who was upright towering above him. It just didn't matter to her.
Logan heard the voices long before he reached Max’s room. The laughter and chatter carried down the corridor. He pushed the door open on a roomful of people. Original Cindy leaned against the foot of the bed. Zack was gazing thoughtfully out the window while Krit looked over Syl’s shoulder at the baby. Max, curled up on the bed, looked on, smiling, while her sister held the infant carefully. There was a large bunch of flowers on the nightstand with a card attached. He strained to read it, but the distance was too great.
“If I’d know there was gonna be a party,” he said, “I’d have brought beer and crackers.”
Zack looked on indulgently and grinned. “Okay, guys, we better get moving.” He crossed the room to Max and kissed her on the cheek. “Take care, Max.”
“You too, Zack,” Max replied. Syl, with some reluctance, handed back the baby. “Take care, big sister,” Max said, grasping her shoulder in a rough, one-handed embrace.
“You too, little sister,” she replied with a smile. Krit simply gave her a pat on the shoulder before following the other two in the direction of the door.
“Good luck, Zack,” said Logan.
“There’s no such thing as luck,” Zack responded, giving his stock reply.
“Luck is a matter of preparation meeting opportunity,” Logan replied with a grin, earning an ironic nod in response from the X5.
Cindy looked at Max with regret. “Gotta go, sistah girl. They’re my ride back to Sector 5.”
“Logan could take you.”
Cindy looked at him. “Na, you two need some time.”
“Thanks for coming, OC.”
“You just take care of your boys. I’ll see ya soon enough.”
“Late, girl.” Max watched her go.
With the room emptied of bodies, Logan took the opportunity to move around to the other side of the bed. He reached up and turned the card attached to the flowers, eyes widening in surprise at the name Reagan Ronald. Shaking his head, he turned the card back under and reversed slightly, taking a position near the window. Max slid down from the bed and gently settled the baby in the crook of his father's arm, making sure his head was supported, and, ignoring Logan's startled, almost scared, expression, she disappeared into the bathroom. "I'd been waiting for them all to go," she said by way of explanation when she came out, flicking water from her hands. She sat down on Logan's lap, settling herself with an arm around the back of his neck, and sighed in contentment. “Alone at last.”
“Yeah.” Logan kissed her hair. “At last.”
"So," she said. "How's the wonkiness today?"
Logan shrugged. "Still wonky."
Max snorted a laugh. She reached her hand up and couldn't resist touching Logan's face – clean-shaven for the first time in days. "Mmm, nice. Smooth as silk, soft as a baby's…" She left the words unsaid, the faintest hint of a grin on her face.
"How are you feeling?"
"My hormones are racing a thousand miles an hour. I'm up and down like a yoyo. But now you're here, all things considered, I'm okay. I heal fast, anyway.”
The baby stirred, scratching at air with delicate pink fingers tipped with tiny sharp nails that barely peeked out the top of the blue baby blanket in which he was wrapped. He opened unfocused blue eyes and gazed up at his doting parents.
“Welcome to this broken world, Ben Jack Cale,” said Max softly.
Logan gave a vaguely satisfied grin, and echoed her words, “Yeah, welcome to the broken world.”THE END…OR IS IT?
I'd just like to say a great big thank you for everyone who has stopped by to read or review or to offer support in this project. You are what keeps me writing.Headlong Chapters 1-5Headlong Chapters 6-10