Of Journals & Journeys (AU M/L, YTEEN) Ch. 62 Pg 22 - 12 / 29 [COMPLETE]

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Misha
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Re: Of Journals & Journeys (AU M/L, YTEEN) Ch. 9 Pg 4 - 9/16

Post by Misha » Wed Sep 17, 2014 9:35 pm

Ah, this is one of my favorite chapters :mrgreen: Do you guys have any fave scenes so far?



Journal entry 6, March 30th, 2011


It's hard not to keep staring at the calendar, counting how many days go by, wondering if tonight's the night. Two weeks have passed since I last saw him, and although it doesn't mean he'll be standing in the doorway tomorrow, it does mean chances are he'll be here this week.

Lately, I've been wondering more and more what does he do between our meetings? Does he work for the CIA or the FBI? Does he spend endless hours being debriefed? And does he travel around the world, coming and going from exotic locations?

What sort of life does Max have, really?



Chapter Ten
True Colors



"Tell me you have something." The desperation in Max's words was thinly veiled in his voice, and full blown in his eyes. Liz had been about to turn off the lights when he'd come literally around the corner.

Something's changed, she thought fleetingly, her hand still on the light switch. She'd been that close to leaving.

"I've just ordered some fancy new equipment to run some new tests," she said, her eyes taking in Max's body as she moved to stand in front of him. He'd lost weight in the two weeks since she'd seen him, and he looked even more exhausted than last time.

"So that's a no," he said dejectedly, leaning against his doorframe, as she'd come to think of his usual spot. All it was missing was a plaque saying I belong to Max to make it official. The lights flickered for a moment, making her look up.

"Not exactly," Liz corrected, placing her purse on the counter and moving back to her lab station. Max followed her inside. "What it means is that I've discarded a lot of obvious possibilities, and now I'm concentrating on drug groups. I do have the list of questions if you have the time…?"

"God, I forgot about the video and your samples," he said as he sat down on the stool next to hers, opening a drawer and getting a syringe out.

"Is… is everything okay?" Liz asked, sure her questions would be ignored.

"I'm just tired," he said dismissively while she went to her office to get the questions. She'd spent fourteen days editing and re-editing that list, but she was still nervous about it. Max was never the answering type.

He'd filled two vials of blood by the time she sat down. Curiously, he was drinking coffee from a Starbucks cup when she came back, most likely bought from the store a block away. It was a little sign that civilization still existed outside the shadowy confines of her lab.

He doesn't look good, she noticed privately. Max was never a bundle of joy, but he was never this down either.

"Let me guess, black with no sugar?" she asked teasingly, trying to get him away from the cloud of problems that hung over his head.

"Black, yes, with lots of sugar," he corrected, raising the cup in silent cheers. "There's not enough sugar on Earth," he added, sipping it again. It dissipated some of the tension in his shoulders.

"You really should get more rest," she said, looking him in the eye, the sheet of paper in her hands forgotten for one second.

"Now that he's gone, I will," he answered in a quiet tone. So many nameless people were around him, and she had no way to follow. "So, shoot."

"Okay… Okay… How many doses did they give you before you felt addicted to it?"

Max's hand moved reflexively on the cup, gripping it harder. The lights acted up again, flickering as if a power outage was imminent.

"About a month, I guess…" Max said, ignoring their electrical problem, "I didn't really feel any addiction between shots, so I wouldn't know."

"Four doses, once a week, then?" she asked, writing it down.

"Four… maybe six… not more than that," he was thoughtful, nursing his cup. "But you've got to understand, my metabolism is really different. Some things affect me really fast, some don't even make a dent."

It can never be easy with you, can it?

"Has it ever given you any reactions? A rash… nausea… headaches?"

He winced at that, his hand gripping the cup even tighter.

"No, it never—" he raised the cup to his lips as he searched for the right answer, "All it does is stop me from going into withdrawal." He sipped, and as he did, something strange started to happen to the cup. Strange enough for Liz to stare at it.

It's a trick of the light, she told herself, the green trademark color of the cup suddenly looking rather red.

"What?" Max asked a second later, clearly unaware of what was happening to his coffee. Following her line of sight, he turned to look at the cup, his face stunned for a moment. "Oh…" It was yellow now.

"How—ho—" Liz tried to ask, stuck. Max looked at the cup more intently, the yellow turning to dark green once more. She stepped back, her eyes glued to his hands.

"Doctor, it's nothing—"

A thousand thoughts ran through her mind. Mostly about what those hands could do, mostly about how much she didn't know about him. She stood up before her mind could consciously arrive to the conclusion that he wasn't human, therefore, she wasn't safe.

She almost tripped on her way back, trying to escape to somewhere, anywhere, as far as she could go.

"Stay away from me!" she whispered. The lights flickered once more.

"I'm the same man I was two months ago."

And that's just it, isn't it? I have no idea what kind of man you are.

She shook her head as he slowly rose from the stool, his eyes almost miserable, almost—

He yawned. He yawned in that way people do when they'd been working for far too many hours, so that the only thing they can think of is sleep. He yawned with completely disregard for her mounting terror. He yawned because he was clearly at the end of his rope, at the end of caring anymore.

She felt rather stupid, staring at him as he tried to shut his mouth, tears of tiredness escaping down his cheeks. Down to his molecular level, he was nothing like her, but here, standing in front of her, he was as human as the next guy.

It hit her like a high speed train. "They've been using you."

All her fears evaporated at that one realization. He could—he could what? What would it take to change the physical color of a structure? Her scientific mind got lost in the details, but it didn't derail her from the truth of it all. "They've been using you so hard you can barely stay awake."

"Yeah, that's it in a nutshell," he said with a tired, dark chuckle. He sighed deeply, resigned. "But the man behind that is gone. Unfortunately, he left me with some control issues. I didn't mean to startle you."

It all came back to her in a rush. From the first moment she saw him, all the way to the here and now with the cup incident. It all made sense. "This is why you're running."

"This is why they leashed me," he corrected her, sitting down again. "It's all rather complicated, and I wish I had the focus right now to explain it, but suffice it to say that this changes nothing. I can do some magic tricks, don't think of it beyond that."

"Don't think of it beyond that? Are you kidding me? Two minutes ago I would have said that what you did was impossible. Now I can't even think fast enough to try to come up with ideas of how it works."

"That's not what should matter to you," Max said in a rather threatening way.

"But don't you see? Understanding how it all happens will help us get the answers you're looking for faster!"

"Understanding it—What do you think I did the last two weeks?" the question had enough bitterness to stop Liz short. "That’s what they’re trying to do. That's what they're always trying to do. You're not going to understand it, Dr. Parker. You'll have the samples, and I'll answer your questions. But forget about what you just saw."

Max stood up, the cup still in his hand. He looked so much older than when he'd come through that door back in January; he had practically aged before her eyes right now at implying how much everyone wanted a piece of him. He turned to leave, as he always did.

"Max?" she asked to his back.

"Do you have more questions?" he asked flatly, not looking at her.

Yes, twenty-six, but you don't need this right now, do you?

"No. Just… Be careful."
"There's addiction, and there's Roswell!"

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Re: Of Journals & Journeys (AU M/L, YTEEN) Ch. 10 Pg 5 - 9/1

Post by Misha » Thu Sep 18, 2014 8:40 pm

Ah, I know, I know, if Max were to sit down and explain, and be nice about it, everything would be so much easier... If only he didn't have gigantic trust issues...



April 7th, 2011 – Day 1639 and counting

Something changed a week ago. Something I'm not sure if I it like or not, and while I try to decide it—to understand the risks of it—I'm trapped. I can't go to her until I make a choice, I can't search for a way out, I can't trust that I'm making the right choice. I can't—God! It's as if I'm unable to concentrate for more than thirty seconds before thoughts of that cup, the flickering light bulb, and the smell of disinfectant start playing in my memory again and again.

I can't stop hearing Parker's warning about being careful. It's the way she said it, without her really knowing what I'm up against, that haunts me. I was expecting the rejection, and of course, the hunger in her eyes to take me apart in as many pieces as she could.

I expected the fear, I prepared for it, but I never expected it to dissolve so fast. The way her eyes went from sheer terror to utter understanding is unnerving, almost as if she could see through my soul. I've never heard anyone besides Frank and Maggs say be careful and mean it. And I can't let myself think she means it.

The crazy thing is, all she saw was me changing the color of a cup. What would she think if she knew about all my powers?

Or what I do with them?



Chapter Eleven
Snapshot



"The primary target will be at point D at 1100 hours," Captain Meyers explained to Max. "The team will cover your entry through point C, from here, here, and here. Our window of opportunity will be limited to three and a half minutes, tops."

Max's eyes followed the blueprints, the team leader's voice confident. He'd already scanned them with all the exits and evacuation routes, but reviewing the plan with the whole team was always necessary. His life depended on these men and women doing their job with deadly precision. In an operation like this, timing was everything.

"The secondary target will be at point E, but we're not hopeful about getting that far. The security system codes would require more time than we've got."

Says you, Max thought, visualizing what he had to do. Dozens upon dozens of surveillance photos were neatly stacked by his side. He'd been studying them from the moment he got on the plane until the moment he entered the makeshift headquarters. It was a good plan, far better than half the missions Max had done.

Stationed three blocks away from their objective, the adrenaline of the upcoming mission started to run in his veins. All in all, he'd be less than four hours in this foreign country. He wondered absently what it would be like to be a tourist. To actually get to know a little about where he was.

The review went on for fifteen more minutes. Once it ended, they had half an hour before showtime.

Going to the corner, Max changed his clothes into a guard's uniform, taking his time in the task of undressing and dressing again. It helped calm his nerves and keep his mind clear.

"What exactly do you do?" the guy in front of him asked. It was not an unusual question, but it often came with the envy and arrogance of older Black Ops. This time the question was curious. It came from their team's hacker.

"I bypass security in a way no one else can," Max answered truthfully. "You'll see."

"We've been planning this thing for months," the hacker said, passing his hands over his blond hair. "And then they told us we've gotten ourselves a 'specialist', whatever that means. I'm even contemplating hacking your file just to see why suddenly everyone in the high command was so happy."

"You can do that?" Max asked, a ray of hope forming and then fading. He couldn't risk asking anyone getting to his files. He couldn't let anyone know how badly he wanted them.

"I... I think I'm not going to answer that," the guy said slowly, looking rather afraid.

"But it could be done, right?" Max pressed. With everything that had happened with Summers and Parker, he hadn't had much time to go back to his hacking studies. Needless to say, progress was slow.

"Damn straight it can be done! There's no perfect system, no impenetrable fortress, just people who give up too soon. Everything can be hacked, my friend, if you have the... dedication and mental skills, of course."

"Of course."

"And so you know, with or without you, we would've solved that security system issue sooner or later."

"Right."

Max started tying his boots. He could fuse the laces together and stopped worrying about them, but this was the part he liked the best. His fingers moved methodically, passing the laces through every hoop and every twist.

"Tell you what, let's make this interesting," the hacker said, maybe getting frustrated with Max's lack of sharing about his work secrets, maybe because this was his way of keeping calm. "If you can get to the target without me figuring out how, I'll hack whatever you want. Your girlfriend's e-mail? Someone's bank account? Oh! Criminal records!"

"If you can get my file, I'll be impressed enough," Max answered without thinking, tying the laces tight with one last yank.

The guy smiled, clearly interested in the bargain.

By the time Max reached point B forty minutes later, he could feel the hacker's eyes on his back as if he were really behind him.

What will happen if he does get my file? Max wondered nervously, waiting for the diversion which would take the real guards away. The cameras would go on a loop next, and he'd be free to move to his target's location then.

If I tell him not to do it now, I'll only make him more curious.

The red light on top of the camera blinked three times, the sign that he was good to go. From this moment on, he had three minutes and twenty seconds to go in and get out. That was two minutes ten seconds more than his target had to live.
"There's addiction, and there's Roswell!"

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Re: Of Journals & Journeys (AU M/L, YTEEN) Ch. 11 Pg 5 - 9/1

Post by Misha » Fri Sep 19, 2014 8:32 pm

Something nice to lighten the mood :)


Journal entry 7, April 21st, 2011


It's funny how things change. Or rather, how our perception of them changes. It's the same doorframe, but now it's his doorframe. They are the same strange blood cells, except now they hold far more secrets than I thought.

The same DNA, except maybe the non-human part of it starts to look more alien than synthetic.

The same calendar, but as the days pass by and he doesn't come back, I might be staring at the last time I ever saw him.

I don't know what exactly I saw that night three weeks ago, but I know the way he looked at me—as if I were some sort of traitor. I know I told him to be careful, but did he listen?

How many people does he have to listen to?




Chapter Twelve
Friends



"Oh my God! Oh my God! Oh my God!" The high-pitched voice of her best friend in the world sounded misplaced in the quiet lab.

"Maria!" Liz exclaimed, leaving her microscope behind as she met and hugged the blonde with the fiery green eyes. "I was going to pick you up tomorrow!"

"I know! I got a plane earlier, and there's still time to go out for take-out!"

Yes, sure. There's also enough time for Max to come, too.

Squashing those thoughts to the back of her mind, Liz started the process of shutting the lab down, securing the samples, turning off equipment. All the while, Maria was speaking a million miles per hour about how her business was doing, the guys she'd been dating, and the crappy food on the plane. The normalcy that her words brought was priceless for Liz's nerves.

She'd missed Maria a lot.

"So, tell me. Are there any hot lab techs around?"

"Maria! I'm their boss!"

"Aha! There are hot lab techs around, then!"

Liz hesitated at that. Between the blood tests and the glares, and the endless questions and the color changing cup, she had seen enough of Max's biceps. Whatever he was being used for, he was kept in good shape.

God, I'm a terrible person for thinking that.

"Spill!" Maria squealed, picking up on Liz's silence, if not in her inner turmoil.

"He's not— I mean, he's so not—"

"Boyfriend material? What? Is he liked married or something?"

You can bet he's or something.

"He's just not around. He kinda… sorta… travels a lot," she finished. She was such a terrible liar, she was sure Maria was going to see through it. In fact, Maria was so good at it, she was going to read on her face every single time Max had stood on that doorframe, every secret he had told her, even know what type of hybrid he was.

"A mystery man! How exciting!"

Or not.

"How come Alex hasn't said anything about this? Are you keeping Mr. Perfect in the shadows?"

Liz swallowed. She was pretty sure Max would not be amused if he knew she talked about him in this way. Or any way.

"He's not Mr. Perfect. If anything, he just stormed off the office three weeks ago and hasn't called back."

But then again, he's not around to hear me talk about him. She wasn't going to tell Maria anything further than this, but opening up about how frustrated and worried she was about Max helped her soul. Just a few words, just a few half-truths to get it off her chest.

"Oh. My. God. You're dating him!"

No, I'm taking him apart, molecule by molecule. Isn't that romantic?

"No! I'm helping him with something. Besides, even if he didn't have all this baggage, and if he didn't have that attitude, and if he actually were around, he's so not interested in me."

Especially if he thinks all I see in him are blood cells and DNA sequences.

"Gay?"

God, I hope not.

Liz sighed, her hand reaching for the switch to turn off the light, ready to leave Max's ghost behind in the lab and have a girls' night out.

"You're impossible," she said to Maria.

"You know what's impossible?" her friend asked, all playfulness gone. "Alex told me he's been seeing you connected on Skype at these hours for months. That's how I knew you'd be at work and not at home. You can't work all the time and have no life, Liz. This isn't good for you. Even world- renowned scientists who will find the cure for cancer need to socialize, and do something other than just look at microscopes. This guy, you probably barely look at him before ducking down to your experiments and notes."

Liz paused, just before she turned the lights off. Maria stood in the doorframe, and Liz imagined Max there, looking at her with those piercing eyes of his, asking for help.

"I'm working on something important," she said quietly.

"You always are," Maria said with a smile and a sigh, walking down the hall as Liz finally turned the lights off. "All I'm saying is look beyond the microscope once in a while."

Trust me, Maria. It's not me who doesn't want to know what's beyond the darn microscope. Not by any chance.
"There's addiction, and there's Roswell!"

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Re: Of Journals & Journeys (AU M/L, YTEEN) Ch. 12 Pg 6 - 9/1

Post by Misha » Sat Sep 20, 2014 9:00 pm

Yay! New readers!! WELCOME!! :mrgreen:


April 29th, 2011 – Day 1661 and counting

There's something strange about coming back to Parker's lab. The last time I was here, she saw me using my powers and I didn't exactly leave with a smile on my face. Her be careful still echoes in my ears, though.

Along my unease that now more than ever she'll see me as a rat lab and nothing else.

For the last five months, Frank has believed I've developed an unhealthy love for Starbucks, since every single day that I'm off duty I make a point of buying the largest cup of coffee and show it around. As alibis go, this is the most ridiculously thin one I've ever worked with, but God, it's working.

Parker's lab is thirty miles away from headquarters, and her Starbucks is the closest one to us. Once I knew I wanted her as Plan B, I started working around a reason to be here. A reason to stop by.

This way, the GPS on my Jeep shows that I'm really close to home, innocently enjoying a cup of coffee and maybe some cake. Nothing hiding here, guys. I'm being a nice, well-behaved boy.

I've been here five nights in a row this week, just keeping my Starbucks routine, not even glancing at the white, squared building where Parker has been working late nights. From here, I can see her office on the third floor, the lights on, even if I'm really trying to not look at them.

She's waiting for me.

And I think I'm ready to face her.



Chapter Thirteen
Touch



It had been ingrained in his brain to be silent. Every step, every breath, every movement of his body was trained to be quiet and efficient. Walking the three floors and approaching her lab station was done in the same manner as he would approach a target, though tonight of all nights, he was acutely aware of how strongly his heart beat, of how slowly time seemed to be moving.

She was there, bent over the microscope, slightly frowning while she absently moved her hair behind her ear. She always did that.

"You know, I think I have good news this time," she said without looking up. He froze.

"No, not that kind of news. God, Maria, you barely left last week!"

He let out his breath with relief. Out there, during a mission, detection would mean death or torture. He'd never been caught, and although Parker was not going to shoot him on sight, the idea that he'd been careless enough for a civilian to hear him coming would have been disturbing.

You're driving me nuts!

She looked up right then, smiling at whatever "Maria" told her. He braced for the fear to show up. He braced for something drastic, a change in their dynamics. He braced for something awful.

Her smile lost some of it carefree quality, but it didn't leave her lips either. "You know, something has just come up. I'll call you later, okay?"

She unplugged the earbuds faster than her friend could have said good-bye.

"I have great news!" she said, signaling with a hand for him to come in while she went to her own office.

His heart nearly stopped at that. He didn't dare to hope she'd found it. All thoughts about what she had seen of his powers, about the fear she should be feeling, about everything became a moot point. The whole world seemed to stop at the prospect of Parker finally finding his cure.

"The new equipment arrived this morning and I got access to some pretty amazing libraries on novel drugs!" she exclaimed, coming out of the office with a manual on some lab machine. "I think I found the general drug group. It should all be downhill from here."

Air rushed out of his lungs as his mind processed this new information. A breakthrough. Not the answer. Not the drug, and much less the antidote to the poison that ran in his veins, but clearly an important step.

"It suddenly occurred to me,” she continued, all excited now, “every time you give me blood samples, you just stab the needle into your arm, with no fear of infection. You don't get sick, do you? I'm willing to bet you heal fast as well."

He opened his mouth to say something, but to either confirm or deny, he wasn't sure.

"You do," she stated, following his lack of response, "and that's the problem. Usually, this group of drugs has nasty side effects, like nausea and vomiting. But since your body is healing, it must kill all the side effects before they have a chance to manifest. And voila! I'm finally making some progress!"

"You are?" he finally managed to say, his legs feeling rubbery all of a sudden.

"I might have an answer in a couple of weeks," she said confidently.

"A couple of weeks," he whispered, his mind racing through the implications. He needed to move things, to plan escape routes. Plant false leads. Freedom was so close it was a dizzying thought. He didn't know if he should laugh, or flee to set things in motion.

He sat down on the closest stool, feeling heavier.

"Well, with trial time, and some other aspects, it might be a few months until the final result. I mean, I know what I'm doing, but having that answer would clear the way to get you off it. Max?"

He heard her words, but he wasn't really listening to her. In his mind, he saw Frank for the last time. His room. The planes and the missions and life as he knew it. All of it was being left behind.

He was scared. He was excited. He couldn't decide which.

"Max?"

He had no idea what he would do. What he wanted to do once he was out. What was he good at? Where would he hide for the rest of his life?

"Here, I think you need a bit of sugar," Parker said, suddenly in front of him with a glass of something. Cherry Coke. It tasted like heaven.

"Thank you."

"Sure."

They were quiet for a minute.

"Max," Parker started, "I will discover that drug, but it might take longer than I want."

"I know," he murmured, feeling more like himself with every sip.

"Are you all right?"

He took a deep breath. "Yeah, yeah. It's just overwhelming," he paused, not looking at her but at some remote future that was full of uncertainty. "I guess I didn't really believe it could happen. I've suddenly realized that—that I have no idea what I'm going to do after I leave."

She picked up her stool and carried it to where he was finishing his soda. She sat down next to him and said nothing, but all the same, Max could feel her eyes on him.

"What?" he asked, feeling self-conscious.

"What else can you do?" she asked simply, shrugging a little. A spark in her eyes reminded him of Frank, the same way he used to look at Max when he was a kid, exploring the possibilities of his mind. Max was used to being the experimental subject, and he guessed it was only natural Parker would be eager to know. He was unique, after all.

"A lot of things," he said, quietly. Reality had a nasty way of invading his life, usually in the form of someone with a lab coat. "But you're right, about the healing and not getting sick."

"And changing colors," she said, with an encouraging smile. "I spent, like, a hundred hours obsessing on that," she confessed, blushing slightly. "And the flickering lights? Tell me that was you?!"

Her eagerness confused him. Shouldn't she be cautious and fearful about what he was? About what he could do? For the first time since he had come into this lab, he actually wanted to talk to her, to show off his abilities, and as soon as he realized that, the more mixed up his feelings became.

"That was… unintentional."

Her smile faltered at that. "Max? Can you tell me what happened?"

"I sometimes have these surges of—"

"Not with the lights," she said in all seriousness. "Those weeks. Before the last time you came, I mean. You were really, really stressed out and looking pretty bad. I know they were using you. Can you tell me what happened?"

No.

"Max?"

"Summers believes I'm not being pushed hard enough," he said instead. He wanted to shut his mouth, he just couldn't. These emotions—these goddamn contradictory emotions tore him apart in that moment. She shouldn't be friendly, but she was, and for once in his life he wanted a friend. He wanted to tell someone that deep down he wasn't happy with Frank, or the tests, or his missions. For once he wanted to voice something that made him feel guilty, even if he couldn't explain why.

"Frank doesn't really understand how I do what I do, so even when Summers is not around, they keep doing tests, theorizing and telling each other good job. Except when I'm in the field, of course. Then it's all about the mission and getting results. It's what I do, it's what I'm really good at," he said, unable to find words to what he felt. Unwilling to look deeper into these thoughts. "But I'm fine with it," he added, convincing himself that no matter what, he could deal with it all. "I'm different. They made me."

"Hey," she said, leaning closer to him. "They don't own you."

"You don't run from people who don't own you, doctor." He looked at her, really looked at her, willing her to understand what she should have known all along: he was a prisoner, yes, but he was also a project, a subject that no one wanted to let go.

"What did they do to you that you can't see you're not fine?" she asked in a whisper, reaching for his hand.

He barely registered the touch of her hand on his. Instead, he found himself watching a much younger version of Parker, one who was working as a waitress, her eyes locked on two men who were arguing with a gun. The sound of the shot was deafening, and the pain in his abdomen immediate.

He moved backwards, breaking clear from her touch and whatever that vision had been. He half-fell from the stool, his head spinning as he tried to get his bearings again. Cold sweat broke out on his skin.

"What's wrong?" Parker asked, all worried eyes, trying to catch him before he fell for sure. He caught his balance at the last second, breathing hard.

"Max? Are you okay?"

No. Definitely not. He had no idea what had just happened, but he was not about to say that.

"I— I gotta go."

He left, all the euphoria and uncertainty about his new future evaporating. If Frank discovered he'd stumbled upon a new power, life as Max knew it was over.
"There's addiction, and there's Roswell!"

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Re: Of Journals & Journeys (AU M/L, YTEEN) Ch. 13 Pg 6 - 9/2

Post by Misha » Sun Sep 21, 2014 10:05 pm

Ok guys, last part before I go dark for a while... Let's shake thing a little bit so you want to come back :mrgreen:



Journal entry 8, May 29th, 2011

Somehow, I know it's my fault. I don't know what I said or what I did, but the look on Max's face as he stumbled out of the lab a month ago is burned into my mind the same way the shooting at the Crashdown Café is.

I keep telling myself that he'll come tonight. That maybe tomorrow when I arrive early at the office, he'll be waiting in his doorframe, a Starbucks cup in his hands and an apologetic smile on his lips.

I don't think I've ever seen him smile.

I don't think I ever will.



Chapter Fourteen
Double-Take



Liz's routine was simple: Get to work half an hour early every morning to ensure her research was secure. Do the day's trials as fast as she could. Take a quick lunch while discarding one theory or the other about Max's mystery drug. Work, work, work during the afternoon hours, and stop pretending she cared about any of that that at 5:00pm. The serious work started at that time, and she would usually end up leaving the lab at eight. Or nine.

Or ten.

She'd promised herself 10pm was the limit. If Max couldn't bother to come earlier, she wouldn't lose more sleep over him and the whole situation, either. As days became weeks, and then turned into a full month, she seriously reconsidered the curfew. Would Max come around midnight?

Her grilled cheese sandwich had gone cold as she went over some lab results. She still had six minutes of her lunch hour to dedicate to the puzzle that had taken over her life almost six months ago.

The numbers suddenly made sense.

She blinked, the pencil she was using to make notations paralyzed. It actually, truly made sense.

Oh. My. God.

She couldn't breathe. Some part of her mind told her she couldn't be sure just yet. That she was just setting herself up for disappointment. Some number, some test result, something must be wrong.

"Oh my God…" she whispered, her eyes going wider. It took her a second to rip out the page full of scribbles from her notepad and start a new one. Her eyes went to her computer screen a minute later, her fingers not clicking fast enough to keep with her racing thoughts.

There were a million ways she could be wrong, but her heart told her she wasn't. The more she tried to rein in her emotions, the more she felt like yelling Eureka! at the top of her lungs. She'd cracked it. She discovered the right group, she was narrowing it to the last compounds. She still had a dozen variables to figure out, but Yes! I did it! I—

"Dr. Parker?" someone knocked on her open door, and Liz whirled around with an impossibly huge grin, feeling ecstatic.

She froze again.

The man in front of her was Max, but not really. Liz stared at him, her eyes finding the differences at the same rate her smile faded. He looked… older. His eyes didn't hold the same "back-off" vibe that her Max's did. This Max was friendlier, his body language open, his taste in clothing different, colorful. The bright blue shirt and his khaki trousers gave him an easygoing air that Max sorely lacked.

"Is there a problem?" her boss asked, appearing from behind. OldMax frowned at her, and then turned to look at William.

"I might have startled your department head," he said with a smile, turning to look at her.

"Oh, Elizabeth. Sorry for the abrupt interruption," William said, smiling as well. "Let me introduce you to our new partner, John Herschel."

Like the astronaut? Liz numbly thought. John extended his hand with a friendly smile –the smile Max had never given her— and she automatically extended hers. His handshake was firm, his hand warm. It lasted a little bit longer than a usual handshake would, and his eyes seemed to glaze over for a couple of seconds. Maybe he'd remembered something?

Her boss was talking, giving compliments to her work and the advances she'd made in the past few months. Advances made partly thanks to Max's blood results and a few creative ideas she'd used to discover the drug that kept him on a leash.

She kept looking at John, expecting some sign that he was Max in some sort of disguise. What if he ages super fast when he reaches a threshold? Is that what he meant when he said he had two ages? Is Max dying?

"I'd love to invite our star researcher to lunch?" John hinted, thoroughly ignoring the leftovers of her take-out lunch. She'd barely eaten, and her double-crossing stomach grumbled right that second.

"Of course, of course! Let me arrange something and we can be on our way."

William left, which was exactly what John wanted. His sweet, friendly demeanor evaporated as he casually closed the door.

"You've seen him." It wasn't a question.

"I—I don't know wh—"

"Listen, and listen carefully. I've been waiting for an opportunity like this for twenty years. You think I would risk coming this close to the base if I wasn't reasonably sure he's around here?"

Silence. The intensity of his words, the way he placed his hands on her desk, anxiously trying to make her understand—that was pure Max. She swallowed, her eyes filling with tears of fear.

"He's in more danger than you can possibly imagine. In a few months, they'll take him out. They won't risk him escaping the same way I did. I thought I was already too late."

She blinked. Was this a trap? How could there possibly be two Maxes?

She shook her head, one last attempt to deny him answers. He leaned closer to her, the menacing vibes becoming desperate.

"Don't let him die," he whispered, the intensity of his eyes paralyzing her.

She didn't know what to do. Heck, she didn't even understand what was happening right this moment, the four walls of her office contracting into a claustrophobic space. She couldn't breathe, and the thought that Max was in a dark room somewhere, equally unable to breathe and slowly dying, drove her to act.

"They're drugging him," she whispered. A tear escaped her eye, and she wiped it out a second later. "There's no way he can escape with that running through his system."

A shadow passed over his face. His arms relaxes on her desk and he stood up straight again.

"That's what they told me. And here I am. Free."

"How—when—does Max know about you?"

The door opened, William cheerfully talking on his phone. "Hang on a sec. Okay guys, we're good to go."

"I can't wait to get to know you," John said with a smile that sent chills down her spine.

Half an hour later, all three of them were seated and chatting, a casual lunch among colleagues. Boy, can looks deceive…

"I can't claim it's all me, though," John said as the waitress left with their orders. "The mastermind behind everything is my wife. There I was, lost in life, wandering aimlessly… desperate for answers. And I found her, tucked between a microscope and a DNA sequencer. She had all the answers and then some."

William could have been wallpaper for all John cared, and Liz was starting to forget her boss was around as well. He made it sound poetic and metaphorical, but Liz knew better. He was describing the relationship between her and Max, although the golden band on his left hand gave her pause. Could this story be true?

"You hear that, Doctor? It can still happen to you!" William said laughing out loud. Spending time with my boss is a nightmare, she thought, sipping her orange juice, suppressing her evil eye. Her boss's cellphone rang again as it had been doing all lunch long. "Excuse me," he said after checking the number, this time walking away for some privacy.

"What are you doing?" Liz asked in a whispered tone.

"I'm trying to save my brother. Or the closest thing we have to brothers. He was barely out of his pod when I escaped. I didn't know he'd been taken out until the day I left…"

"What? What?"

John stopped, frowning. "How much has he told you?"

"Nothing!" she said, desperate for answers. John arched an eyebrow in disbelief. "He said he was the only one. I don't think he knows much about anything."

"He is the last one… I guess it stands to reason they wouldn't tell him about me."

"How many of you are out there?" John went as far as opening his mouth before her boss returned.

"And I'm back! What did I miss?"

"Oh, nothing, really. I was telling Doctor Parker about my little brother. We're like twins, really, if you don't count the age difference."

"How old is he?" William asked, glimpsing at his phone.

"Sometimes, it feels like he's twenty years younger." They both laughed. Liz busied herself with the dessert menu. "Anyway, Doctor, I know my wife has some research you might find useful. I'll tell her to send it your way."

Liz looked at him, her eyes going round.

"Is there—I mean… Is there any chance it can come with a clean sample?"

"Anything we can stamp a patent on?" William asked, smiling. Her boss was a capable administrator, but he was clueless when it came to scientific terminology. In fact, she was pretty sure she could start asking John everything she needed to know about biochemistry and William wouldn't bat an eye. Besides, he was annoyingly alert about his phone. Max's brother didn't seem to care.

"You could patent it, but then I'll have to kill you."

Liz went cold. William just laughed harder. John smiled broadly, the waitress coming back with their order.

"I'm pretty sure we can arrange a sample," John said, answering her original question. "I seem to carry a healthy supply around, anyway." Her boss laughed less loudly, obviously not following. But Liz and John understood perfectly: she needed his blood. If he was Max's brother—Max's twin, if that could be possible—it would be like winning the lottery.

William started talking about the business part of the lab, and John humored him. He was, after all, investing a lot of capital. She tried to follow the conversation, but all she could do was picture Max: smiling, carefree, wearing something that wasn't black or leather. Seeing him in broad daylight for once. She wanted that. God, she wanted that so much.

John caught her staring at him, and smiled. "How about a toast?"

"To partners!" William said immediately, raising his glass before Liz or John could do the same.

"To friendships!" John said with the same enthusiasm, turning to look at her.

"To answers," she said with a tiny smile.

"To answers, indeed," he agreed.

She nodded, wondering if she was smiling because she believed him, or because he reminded her of Max.
"There's addiction, and there's Roswell!"

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Re: Of Journals & Journeys (AU M/L, YTEEN) Ch. 14 Pg 7 - 9/2

Post by Misha » Fri Oct 03, 2014 10:20 pm

Woa! So feeling the love here! :mrgreen:



June 2nd, 2011 – Day 1705 and counting

The last time I discovered a new power, I was so delighted I couldn't see the hungry eyes of those around me. Even Frank was so enthusiastic devising the tests that it all felt like a party. Of course, once Summers found out—once the tests started to get really intense, my cheerfulness evaporated.

Back then it was only tests. If they know what I'm doing now, I won't be able to see daylight for months. Parker was right, this people don't own me, but that won't stop them from tearing me apart.



Chapter Fifteen
The Best Lies



Max had never been prone to hugs, handshakes, or touching as a general rule, which made avoiding them easier.

It had started with Parker a month ago. What he'd seen when he'd touched her — the dinner, the aliens painted on the wall, the shooting — it could all be traced back to an incident back in 1999 in Roswell, New Mexico, Parker's hometown. She'd been shot and spent a few weeks at the hospital. He touched his abdomen, remembering all too well the pain of the bullet piercing his skin.

The whole article was meaningless after that. The flash had been real, he didn't need Parker to corroborate it. The problem was his newfound power hadn't stopped.

After Parker, every other person he touched sent him an image, a scene, usually of a very stressful moment in their lives. Two weeks ago, it started happening with objects.

Today, he wore gloves.

"You seem… different," Frank remarked as he prepared the syringe with the amber drug, his weekly fix.

"I guess I still haven't shaken off Summers's last visit," Max lied, taking the question in a stride. In truth, he was weary. Avoiding touching people was relatively easy. Avoiding touching objects was impossible. Even opening a door could lead to a dizzying trip into the past, and coming out of those visions always left him with a sense that he wasn't all out just yet.

"Maybe I should—I was thinking that maybe you can give me the videos from a few years back. If I can see what I struggled with before, I might be able to find another way. Think of something new, maybe?"

"Hm…" Frank said, looking at him. "You're tense."

Understatement.

"It's the thing with the changing molecular structures without touching them. I know we've tried a lot of things and there's nothing else that we can do. That power is just not there. I just wish there was a way to shut Summers up, you know? Prove to him that I'm not hiding anything. That I've reached my limit."

The best lies, he'd been taught, were the ones that were based on truth. It seemed the principle also applied to alibis and escape plans. Prove to them that I'm not only eager to cooperate but that there's nothing left in me for them to poke around—and then prove them wrong.

"What is making you think this?"

Frank placed the syringe down and looked at Max in a clinical way. Max lowered his eyes.

"What if next time, he follows through with his threats and takes you away? I'm not stupid, Frank. I know I owe you a lot of the freedoms I have, and that Summers won't hesitate to take them away. Is this whole thing for nothing?" he asked, signaling the syringe and hunching his shoulders.

"I won't deny you have valid concerns, but what brought this up? Summers comes around often enough that you should be used to it. To his way of doing things."

The thing about the drug was that no one was sure of its long term side effects. And paranoia was high on that list. Max had read about it eons ago, and Frank's questioning brought it all back to his mind.

"A cup of coffee," Max answered, calming himself down. Maybe there was far more truth than lies in his alibi. "It occurred to me a few weeks ago how fragile my Starbucks routine is. If Summers takes you away, he'll take that cup and everything it represents in a heartbeat, too."

Frank put his hand on his shoulder. "It won't happen. Stop worrying about these things, okay? You've been having a lot of work, and it's not going to get any lighter. We have briefing tomorrow morning for your next assignment."

It took all of Max's will not to flinch at the contact. And all his training to remain impassive when he got the flash.

Review the notes again! Frank argued with Summers in this same office, both looking younger. I don't care what you accomplished with yours! I won't push Max in that direction!

It was over before Frank stopped talking.

Yours?

"So, ready for your shot?"

Max nodded, blinking to get his bearings.

"You do know you can talk to me about anything, right?" Frank asked while holding Max's arm. "I might not have all the answers, or solve all the problems, but I'm a good listener."

Oh, now that you mention it, any good ideas on what can I do with my life once I escape from this prison?

"Sure, Frank. Thanks."

It was a bittersweet moment to say thanks while the drug was injected on his blood stream. At least he was getting better at lying.

"By the way, I've been meaning to ask. Why the gloves?"
"There's addiction, and there's Roswell!"

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Re: Of Journals & Journeys (AU M/L, YTEEN) Ch. 15 Pg 8 - 10/

Post by Misha » Tue Oct 14, 2014 11:18 pm

Back with a tiny part :)



June 3rd, 2011 – Day 1706 and counting


It's not easy to admit that I'm scared. Having no one to help me understand, to help me control these visions —flashes for lack of a better word— it's harder than I thought. What if they never stop? What if they only get worse?



Chapter Sixteen
Mirage



"Are we boring you?" Major McMillan asked him with a steely look in his eyes. Max wasn't easily startled, and he hid it well as he focused on the blueprints.

"I think we have a better option—we go this route," he explained, pointing at the opposite side of what they've been talking for the past half an hour.

Briefing was no laughing matter. His life depended on this, and there was no way he could afford to be distracted. The problem was the chair he sat in was giving him random flashes every few minutes. All kinds of people, all kinds of thoughts and discussions. That he could keep his own reality straight was a miracle of epic proportions.

"We can't use that route, because the security system cannot be disabled remotely."

"I'll disable it," he answered, his eyes following the route. He'd noticed it at the beginning of the meeting, before the flashes had started. Once his mind was split in ten different directions, he hadn't dared to bring it up.

The commanding officer smirked. "Sure you'll disable it. Now, this route will—"

"If he says he'll do it, it means he'll do it," Frank said from his corner, all serious business. It was rare to see him interjecting in a briefing, but it also saved Max from awkward explanations. Since hardly anyone had clearance to know what he could do, it left him in a position where they had to trust him because he said so. In his experience, no one believed him because he said so. At least not this early on in the planning. Frank endorsing his route meant they at least had to listen to him.

"Once I disable the security system, your men can take positions here and here. I'll go this route, get behind the target's study. How much time can you buy me?"

The leader watched him with skepticism, and then turned to look at Frank with a raised eyebrow.

"Are you kidding me? We've been gathering intel and planning this mission for over a year. There's no way you can go that way. What are you going to do?"

"I'll wave my hand and will it open," Max deadpanned. Frank did not look amused.

"If you don't want his services, gentlemen," Frank said with all the calm in the world, "by all means, we can end this meeting now."

After four years of undercover missions and countless targets, he should be used to this kind of session. In the end, despite their misgivings and their frustration at not having the clearance to know what Max could do, they always caved. No one could argue with four years of missions achieved and targets eliminated. His reputation preceded him.

"If you can disable that security system, where would you need us?" the commander relented, quite unhappy. He moved beside Max, touching his shoulder as he examined the blueprints from Max's point of view.

I'm not letting you die! McMillan shouted to one of his men. Walls disappeared, desert took its place. Death was everywhere, in every corner, in every shadow. Shots and shouts and so much pain. He was never going to get out of here alive.

"I—I'd suggest here," Max pointed out, blinking rapidly.

"How about here?" the older man asked, raising an eyebrow.

Keep it together, Max, or you're going to get yourself killed.

All he had to do was get a hold of this new power. Like every one of his powers, it was only a matter of practice. Only a matter of time.
"There's addiction, and there's Roswell!"

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Re: Of Journals & Journeys (AU M/L, YTEEN) Ch. 16 Pg 9 - 10/

Post by Misha » Fri Oct 17, 2014 6:47 pm

Let's see what's been happening on the other side :wink:




Journal entry 9, June 4th, 2011

I knew I should have skipped town the minute Max left my lab back in January. The fact that today marks our 6 month "anniversary" is not only ironic, but a sobering thought. I can't claim I didn't know accepting Max's proposition was dangerous. Working with his twin older brother, though…

There's no turning back, is there?



Chapter Seventeen
Special Delivery



Five days ago, Liz's research had been interrupted when John Herschel had walked into her office, turning her perception upside down. This time, when the interruption came, it was less dramatic, but much more important.

"Sign here, please?" the guy said, pointing out a line at the end of the UPS form. Special Delivery was written in bold red letters that for one moment morphed in her imagination to FOR YOUR EYES ONLY.

Maybe CLASSIFIED? What was the correct level for this kind of thing?

All she had for sender was a P.O. Box somewhere in Florida, but it might as well have a neon sign proclaiming "JOHN HERSCHEL". What was special about this delivery was that it contained a refrigeration unit and a separate box. The research, she thought, eagerly signing two more places, her eyes glancing at her newfound treasures.

The delivery man said thanks and left. Outside, a couple of technicians looked her way, and then got back to their own research. Lately, she'd been getting so many deliveries, to the point it was no longer a novelty.

Closing the door behind her and locking it, Liz didn't waste a minute to open the refrigeration unit. A note was the first thing she saw:

I hope it's clean enough

The calligraphy was decidedly male. Taking it out, she hoped for a vial of blood. She got six, along with other fluid samples. The three last times Max had been here, he'd been too stressed out with whatever testing they were doing to him to leave anything behind but blood.

She inspected them to make sure nothing was broken, and placed them in her fridge. She went for the other box. This one didn't have a note inside, but as soon as she started to go through the pages, she knew the handwriting on this one was female. Someone did help you, huh? she absently thought, pouring the two hundred pages or so of data onto her desktop.

It wasn't organized in any way, shape, or form. In fact, it looked as if someone had hastily thrown them in the box. Granted, not every scientist out there shared her passion for color-keying everything for her convenience, but a little hint of what she was looking at would have been greatly appreciated.

She looked at her watch. Lunch hour was over. Reports needed to be finished, e-mails to be sent. She bit her lip, and with an exasperated sigh put everything back. She would work on it in three hours. All she needed was patience.
"There's addiction, and there's Roswell!"

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Re: Of Journals & Journeys (AU M/L, YTEEN) Ch. 17 Pg 9 - 10/

Post by Misha » Mon Oct 20, 2014 1:46 pm

Thanks for the reviews!! They keep the Muse happy :mrgreen:


Journal entry 10, June 5th, 2011

I have no idea who is the woman who wrote all these notes, but I feel a strange kind of sisterhood with her. Did John appear one night out of nowhere and present her with an impossible enigma? Was he as imposing and brooding as Max is? I hope he was, because he seems to be a great guy and doing fine. Gives me hope for Max's future, once he's away from that place.

Whoever she is, I gotta hand it to her: she did all of this twenty years ago, and John is still around. Unfortunately, Max is not around, hasn't been for five weeks now. Wouldn't it be ironic if, just when he's so close to getting his answers, he's taken away?

Of course, I can't think like that. Max is too smart to let himself be caught. I still won't feel right until he crosses that doorframe, all brooding and mysterious, demanding my report.

God, Max! Where are you?



Chapter Eighteen
Doorframe



Few things were more calming to Liz Parker than solving puzzles. Or organizing. Sprawled in front of her, she had six different piles of pages, multi-colored post-its sticking out everywhere —including her hair— two sharpies, three different colored highlighters, and all the patience in the world.

The humming of her laptop was the only sound around while she read all the data, formulas, and biochemistry stats. All these pages were barely the tip of the iceberg, and although they didn't tell her all the story, they did tell her how it ended: John was free.

She looked up at the door as she'd done every once in a while in the last five hours. Her watch said it was close to midnight, perfect for Max to make a shadowy entrance. When she spotted him there, watching her from his favorite place, she had to blink a couple of times to make sure it wasn't her imagination.

"You're back!" she said with delight, standing up.

"I wish I was always greeted with such enthusiasm," he said, coming into the light. "Although I gotta be honest here: It's been a while since someone wanted a piece of me under the microscope, Liz."

Her spirits plummeted faster than lead.

"You're not—you're not Max," she whispered, all her energy gone. John picked up on it instantly.

"I'm sorry. I take it he hasn't come in a few days?"

"Five weeks," she whispered, sitting down once more, visibly deflated. "I've been working since yesterday on the files you sent me. I'm halfway through organizing them."

"Then you know the drug won't kill him. Going through the withdrawal was no sunshine, but—"

"They changed it," she stated, picking a sheet of paper with the drug composition.

"What?"

"I haven't left the lab since your packages arrived yesterday. I did a comparison between your samples and Max's. It's not the same thing they used on you. It's close, but not the same."

God, she was tired. Her eyes felt gritty and her brain cells were this close to going on a strike. That she didn't have good news just plain sucked.

"You look tired, doctor. Here, let me help you," he said in a quiet way, getting closer to her. "It's a little trick I discovered when my wife was working on the puzzle."

He placed his hand on her shoulder, and she instantly felt warmth. "It'll take a minute. How long have you known Max?" he asked, while the warmth spread through her shoulder blades. It felt wonderful.

"Since January," she answered, turning to look at his hand. "He asked me to look at his blood and, if I was interested after that, to help him find the drug."

"And you did."

"Any scientist in his or her right mind would. I bet your wife was thrilled."

"She kicked me out of her lab, actually. But in her defense, I was stealing from her."

The warmth spread all over her back, dissipating all cramps and tense muscles. "What are you doing?" she asked with curiosity, feeling her drowsiness recede.

"A little bit of magic," he said with a small smile. "It might feel wonderful now, but is no replacement for a good night's sleep, doctor. Is there any way you can contact Max?"

She shook her head. "I'm worried. He's never been gone this long. And he knew I was close to finding his answer on our last visit. Something scared him, though. I—he—this thing with his powers happened and I got scared, but then he freaked out for no apparent reason and—Look, I'm not even sure what I'm trying to say here. John, do you think he's still alive?"

She hated to say it out loud. Voicing her fear made it feel real; a fear that had been running in the back of her mind for thirty six hours now. Maybe for five weeks straight.

"I refuse to believe Fate would be so cruel as to let me get this close, just to lose him," he said, taking his hand away.

"He really is your brother," she said, looking at John closely. "I mean, it doesn't make sense, not with the age difference. Yet you two have identical DNA. Is he like—like your clone?"

John smiled sadly at that. "I believe we both are."

Liz's eyes opened wide. "Who is the original?" she asked. John shrugged in answer.

"Max said he was a hybrid," Liz said, finally talking about the wild theories that her mind had been entertaining for so many months. "And… well… I—I know it sounds crazy, but there's something…" she paused, staring at him, "something not human in there…" she whispered.

"I think my wife phrased it something like, 'You're not from around here, are you?' So, do you believe in aliens, doctor?"

She shook her head slightly, not even blinking. "Out there in the universe? Definitely. In here, standing right in front of me?" the last word came out scratchy.

"Would it be better if we are only half alien? Technically, we're not even half. We're almost entirely human. It's very little that differentiates us from you. I can bring you my x-rays next time," he teased her, but Liz took a step back. It all made sense, and then it didn't. This created far more questions than any answers. It solved the puzzle of his cells, and to an extent, of the origin of his powers. It also explained why someone would want him on a leash.

It didn't explain what they were doing to him right now, though her imagination was ready to supply those answers.

It didn't tell her where he was now. Or when was he coming back.

"I think," John said, taking his own step back, "that this is enough information for today. Go to bed, doctor. You are no good to Max if you can't see straight." He turned to leave.

"Wait!" She wanted to know every detail. She wanted to sit him down and ask him a million questions. She wanted to be brave and she wanted him to know it.

"You never answered my question: Do you think he's alive?"

"Yes."

And with that, he was gone.
"There's addiction, and there's Roswell!"

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Re: Of Journals & Journeys (AU M/L, YTEEN) Ch. 18 Pg 10 - 10

Post by Misha » Tue Dec 02, 2014 9:35 pm

Okay begonia, you convinced me :lol:

Sorry for any typos or weird grammar. I did try to catch it all :) If you spot anything, feel free to point it out 8)





June 23rd, 2011 – Day 1726 and counting


Getting the hang of a new power is like learning a new combat skill. It hurts like hell, you make stupid mistakes, and it feels like you're never going to make any progress. Until one day, your body moves fluidly, your muscles aren't sore anymore, and you know what you are supposed to do.

And boy, am I getting good at this.



Chapter Nineteen
Resolution


"You should've seen his face when I got back!" Max said laughing as he opened his bottle of water. "He was so hoping I would fail at the security system. Rather anti-patriotic if you ask me," Max added before taking a swig.

"You gotta admit, those guys analyze these things for months. It's not their fault they can't 'wave their hand and will it to open'," Frank quoted him with a stern look.

"I said I was sorry," Max said with a tinge of annoyance. "It's not like they believe me… I wasn't even caught on video."

Frank never joked about his powers when it came to other people working with him. The logic was quiet straightforward: if they discovered Max's "superpowers" in the middle of an incursion, they would either be scared out of their minds or have false expectations about what he could do. Both scenarios led to the mission failing miserable with a few casualties, including himself.

"Thank God for small favors," Frank murmured, sipping his coffee. The smell was wonderful. It reminded Max of Starbucks… and Parker. The last time he'd seen her had been almost two months ago. He couldn't risk going to her without controlling this new power, and especially without being able to explain why he had run out of her lab. She was bound to ask questions, a million ones.

"Speaking of something else," Frank said, "do you still want the videos when you were first training?"

Frank thought Max wanted to see how he'd first learned to use his powers. In reality, Max had promised Parker he would get her his withdrawal videos, but those were from four years ago, meaning they were not in Frank's computer right now. Hacking into the main server was out of the question, so the possibility of getting old videos was also the possibility of getting a window to the files he truly wanted.

"Sure. Maybe something from… ten? Twelve years ago?" he said, shrugging. At sixteen, his telekinesis had been barely under control. His grasp on molecular manipulation had been his major concern back then. Maybe he could get the exact formula to Parker. He wasn't looking forward to give her his withdrawals videos, but whatever helped her get closer to the truth was game. He only had to get access and a reason to be connected to the database.

"Okay, I'll get them this week. Maybe I'll see something I missed, too. It's not like there's a manual on how to train your very gifted kid."

I don't care what you accomplished with yours, I won't push Max in that direction!

The flash echoed in Max's mind. In the three weeks since that had happened, he'd seldom thought about it —too many other flashes to think about— but it was hard to forget that elusive yours when Frank talked about how special he was.

The phone rang. Two minutes later, Frank hung up and excused himself. Someone needed him somewhere else, leaving Max in his office without a second glance. It was as if the Universe were presenting him with the opportunity to find his files on a silver platter.

"Don't rush into things…" he muttered to himself, taking another swig at the bottle, his eyes glued to the back of the monitor. Slowly, almost magnetically, he turned his attention towards Frank's abandoned cup of coffee. If he touched it, the possibility of getting his answers could literally be at his fingertips.

So far, he'd been good at minimizing the amount of flashes he got daily, from twelve or fifteen, to about three or four. The next logical step was to will them to happen. Since he'd been avoiding them as much as he could, the idea of reversing his approach to getting flashes—to take the offensive instead of the defensive—was not exactly a happy thought.

Since he could remember, Max had been pushed out of his comfort zone. It didn't mean he was eager to try this, far from it. Doubt consumed him: Did he try to use this power or not?

Did he want to touch that mug?

What if he didn't like what he saw?

What if he couldn't keep his mouth shut about what he saw?

What if knowing these things about Frank would change their dynamic?

Ignorance was bliss for a good reason. Plus, did he really need to know? All he really needed was the computer, the files, and get them to Parker.

Frank entered the office a moment later, finding Max exactly where he'd been less than ten minutes before. "Oh! You still need anything? I didn't know you were waiting for me," Frank asked, going to his desk and opening a drawer.

"Just taking it easy," Max answered, finishing his water. They had another briefing meeting in two hours, and he still needed to finish a few things on his last mission's report. "I should be going," he said out loud, standing up.

"Hey, can you do me a favor and take these to Bernice on the second floor?" Frank asked, stacking a dozen manila folders on his desk. "You know her?"

"Tall, blond, really thick glasses?" Max asked, extending his hand to receive the package.

"The one and only. Tell her—"

Frank's words died the instant Max got the files, replaced instead by a dozen flashes, too fast for him to comprehend any, too dizzying to keep his balance. He dropped the folders all over the desk, steadying himself on the chair before he could hit the floor.

"Woa there, are you okay?" Frank asked with concern, while Max tried to smile and wave his way out of it.

"Yeah, yeah… I just… lost my balance, that's all…"

Frank didn't buy it. Max looked down at the folders, afraid of picking them up. He stared at them as if they were snakes, but if he was going to get some semblance of nothing-is-wrong-here, he had to keep going.

"So, tell Bernice what?" he asked, picking the files one by one, willing himself to stop any incoming flashes. So far, so good.

Frank placed his hand on Max's shoulder then, and the flash almost knocked Max down.

"Give him a reason to come back. He can be useful to you in so many other fields," Maggs was arguing with a committee, not making much of a case.

A General watched her intently, and then shifted his eyes to Frank.

"Frank, you know the subject better than anyone. Is he ready to be trained?"

"He'll object to more sensitive missions," Frank said reluctantly. "He's not a killer."

"That's what they all say," Summers said from a dark corner. "He just needs motivation."

On his chair, Frank nodded in agreement.


Max moved a step back, wanting—needing this to end. The files threatened to fall again, but he managed to regain his balance.

"Are you sure you're okay?" Frank asked, retreating his hand.

"It's been a crappy day, that's all," Max said automatically, his heart beating in his ears too loud. Not Frank, was all he could think about. God, not Frank!
Last edited by Misha on Tue Dec 02, 2014 9:53 pm, edited 1 time in total.
"There's addiction, and there's Roswell!"

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