Chapter Eleven – Just Another Day

2020, Post-Pulse Seattle, Washington – Present Day

Max stopped short. She heard a heated conversation coming from the kitchen. Best not to enter before hearing what was being said. The cautionary inner voice told her to tread carefully.

Asha was arguing with Logan.

“I refuse to stay in the same house with her, Logan! She’s an animal! She could have killed me last night! Don’t you even care about that?”

“Of course I do, Asha! I’m not unfeeling! But Max is important. I can’t do this without her. Bringing Manticore down is so much more important now that I know just how terrible things were. It’s not just personal to me anymore, Asha. It’s something I want to do for Max, with Max.”

“Oh, so you are choosing her over me?! I can’t believe this! I thought you loved me, Logan.”

“What are you talking about! Of course I love you! I even asked you to marry me a few days ago, and what did you tell me? You weren’t ready.

“Yeah, and it has everything to do with Max! I’ve seen the way you look at her. Look, I’m leaving. Think about this, about what you’ll be losing, Logan. ‘Cuz once I’m gone, I’m not coming back.”

Asha stormed out of the kitchen seconds after Max pressed herself flat against the wall. It wouldn’t do to be caught listening in on private discussions. She couldn’t help but feel pleased. Max couldn’t stand Asha. And Logan was proving to be better than she’d hoped. Having an ally was a rare and precious commodity and now that she’d found that in Logan,  Max intended to make good use of him.

Max entered the kitchen after she heard the front door slam.

She smiled at Logan. “‘Morning!” she said cheerfully.

Logan plastered a fake smile on his face and replied “Good morning, Max. Want some breakfast?” He pointed toward a pile of pancakes and maple syrup on the table.

“Wow, pancakes? What’s the occasion?” she asked happily. Pancakes! God, it’s been ages… She sat down at the table and dug in with relish.

“Do I need a special occasion to make breakfast? I just thought you could use cheering up this morning. So…” Logan smiled sheepishly, a genuine smile that lit up his pleasant, intellectual face.

Max grinned, mouth full of blueberry pancakes. “Where on earth did you find blueberries! They’re practically impossible to come by! God, I love blueberries!”

“I have my sources.” Logan grinned back. He reached for a newspaper and settled down at the table with a cup of coffee. “So, what are your plans for today?”

“Nothing special. I need more Tryptophan, but other than that, I’m cool. Mind if I lounge around?”

“Tryptophan?” Logan was confused. He looked at Max blankly.

“A dietary supplement. Helps with the seizures.” Max spoke between mouthfuls. “I generally get it down on South Market, but lately its been harder and harder to find. I have to try my contact again today.”

“Maybe I can help you out there. I’ve got friends at the hospital. I’ll make a few calls.” Logan didn’t look up from his paper. Anyone observing them would see a normal household and two people enjoying Sunday breakfast. Max studied Logan over the paper and noted he had a kind face. Gentle, even. He wasn’t how she pictured a freedom fighter.

“Logan? When did you start with the Eyes Only gig?” Max wiped her mouth with a napkin and downed a glass of milk.

He looked up finally and looked at her thoughtfully. “Well, it started after Valerie and I got divorced.”

“You were married?” she asked incredulously. He didn’t look old enough to have been married and divorced. “You so don’t look the type. More like a…lone warrior or something.”

“Valerie was…an alcoholic.” Logan closed his eyes in remembrance of his disastrous marriage. Thank god we didn’t have any kids. “The relationship was rocky pretty much from the start. But she was from a good family and my father…if you knew my parents you would understand why it was important for me to stay with her. When I finally broke away, they disowned me.”

Max waved a hand around as she replied “Looks like you done good for yourself.”

“Trust fund.” Logan grinned cheekily. “It helps.”

“I’m sure it does.” Max mocked him. “Spoiled rich boy gone rebel. I like it.”

They laughed together as they cleared the dishes and cleaned up.

Logan turned to Max. “Since you’re not doing anything today maybe you can help me out.”

“Whadaya need?” Max was leaning against the counter, drinking juice from a container, watching Logan out of the corner of her eye. He motioned to her to follow. She walked after him into his office, the juice container never leaving her mouth.

Logan sat down at his computer and opened some files on-screen. “Diego Santos. Guatemalan Mafia honcho. He’s been smuggling illegal substances into the states through the Seattle shipping yard. In particular, a drug called Galyphenamine. I’ve got intel from a reliable source that a shipment is due around lunchtime today.”

“What does it do?”

“Induces a paralysis-like effect. It’s a new drug, used in complicated medical procedures where it’s imperative that the patient be stationary during surgery. The Guatemalan Mafia has been stealing it and selling to the highest bidders. My man on the inside says that Vividyne Labs is one of the bidders. They want it for use on test subjects.”

Max looked at Logan in confusion. “What’s Vividyne Labs?”

Logan looked pointedly at Max and replied softly. “A front for Manticore.”

“What do I need to do?” Max’s voice was determined. She would do anything if it would help cripple Manticore.

Max listened carefully to the instructions and directions to the meet. She left the room without a word and went into her bedroom. Changing into ‘kick-ass’ gear, she debated whether or not to take a gun. She hated them but she knew that sometimes a gun could mean the difference between life and death. And in a situation where she had to choose between the two she undoubtedly preferred to live. She opened the drawer of her nightstand and withdrew her .45 and pocketed an extra clip.

Snapping her holsters in place around her waist and right ankle, Max sheathed knives, a couple grenades and her gun in their respective compartments. Lowering her vest and pant leg to cover the evidence she quickly left the room.

She popped into Logan’s office before leaving. “Okay, we set?”

“I’ll be on comms.” He handed her an earpiece which she carefully inserted. She then attached the miniscule mic he gave her to her collar. It was as close to transparent as they came and almost unnoticeable.

“Where do you get this stuff? Its better than any of the equipment I’ve even been able to get hold of.” She threw an appreciative glance Logan’s way.

“Like I said, I have my sources.” he said slyly with a wink. “Top of the line, advanced military. You like it?”

“Oooh, yeah. And the big man’s secretive! Big Bad Logan.” Tapping his mic lightly she grinned at him. “Hear you loud and clear.”

“Good. Remember, you have to get that package to this address.” Logan slipped her a piece of paper. She scanned it quickly, committing it to memory.

“Got it. I’m heading out. Any last minute info?”

He shook his head. “We really should wait, Max. We don’t have enough intel…” she cocked her head and raised an eyebrow and he sighed in defeat. “Be careful.”

“Always.” she shot back with a grin. And in an instant she was gone.

Logan looked after her thoughtfully. Max was an enigma, a mystery. One he planned to solve.

He leaned forward and went to work. “Okay, Max. Let me know when you’re in position.”

“Copy that.” Logan smiled at her response.

“You gonna use that military jargon on every mission?” he asked jokingly.

“I’m a soldier, Mr. Cale.” she snorted in reply. “Part of my training. If you prefer endearments, go find that girlfriend of yours. I’m sure she’d be happy to talk dirty to you.”

“Aw, c’mon Max! Can’t we at least try having…what would you call it? Comms sex?” he flirted playfully. Asha be damned.

“You men are all the same! But if you’re desperate I could always give you Kendra’s number.” Max giggled helplessly at the thought. Kendra would totally buy it, she knew without a doubt. Her former roommate was a sex-crazed nymphomaniac.

“No thanks! Besides, you know I love Asha.” Logan’s voice crackled over the radio.

“Hey, you brought it up buddy! Not me.” Silence. “Okay. I’m at the pier. Who exactly am I looking for anyway? Yeah, yeah, that Santos guy. But how will I recognize him?”

“All I know is that he should be arriving on the Santa Maria II.” Logan sighed. He wished he had better intel, but Max had insisted on leaving right away to make it in time for the exchange.

“Right. So I look for a slime ball meeting with a sleaze?” Max sniggered. “Got it. Going radio silent, over.”

“Copy that.” Logan smiled at his own response. This undercover stuff was addictive. He’d done numerous hacks and broadcasts and met with any number of unsavory characters as Eyes Only. And he’d gone on missions and worked with the S1W, but none of them talked the talk quite like Max.

A sharp ‘clank’ roused him from his thoughts. “Max? Max, what’s happening?”

“Shit!” came the garbled reply. The radio was crackling and noise came in short bursts. It sounded like gunfire. “It was a set-up!” More static, more quick bursts of sound. And then, “Oh god, no! NO! NOOOOOOOOOOO!”

“Max! What the hell is going on?!” Logan was frantic. Max’s shrill screams pierced him like a knife. “Max, are you okay?”

“Find…brothers…Zack…” The radio was sputtering but Logan could hear the sound of blows, grunts and gasps of pain. “…them…Mant-” Then the air hissed from her lungs and the rest of her words fell flat.

The radio spit and fizzled and Logan lost all communication with Max.

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