bog Disclaimer- Max Steel belongs to Mattel and various animation companies, not to me. "Blaze of Glory" belongs to Jon Bon Jovi and his band. Most of the events of this fanfic are my own invention, inspired by things said by the former head writer for Max Steel. This fanfic is rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America for violence and language, not to mention character death. But don't worry- it's no one we didn't expect.

Blaze of Glory


I wake up in the morning,
And I raise my weary head.
I've got an old coat for a pillow
And the earth was last night's bed.
I don't know where I'm going;
Only God knows where I've been.
I'm a devil on the run, a six-gun lover,
A candle in the wind, yeah.

Colombia
1983

You know, maybe I'm getting a little too old for this, Jim McGrath mused, pushing jungle vegetation out of his path. He'd spent last night curled up in a small hollow in the ground, covered with plants and vines to keep out of sight, and he was definitely feeling the after-effects this morning. It was just a little stiffness, and he'd worked it out quickly, but it was just another reminder that time was marching on.
And speaking of time... the sound of voices from somewhere nearby reminded him that he still had problems to deal with, specifically problems in the form of several terrorists.
Wasn't this supposed to be an INFORMATION gathering mission? In and out, piece of cake. Man, Jeff is NEVER gonna let me live this down... It had been quite simple in theory. Go to Columbia and find out whatever he could about the fledgling terrorist organization that had been active in the area, an organization by the name of DREAD. Well, Jim had found quite a bit out about them... namely that they were awfully well-organized for a bunch of guys nobody had heard of until six months ago. And now they were trying to make sure he didn't get out of the jungle alive.
"Donde esta?" At the whisper behind him, Jim crouched a little lower into the vegetation. The DREAD agents had been chasing him for several days, and he had to admire their tenacity. Especially since the squad had started with ten men and they were down to four.
Off to his left, Jim heard a sudden rustle, followed by the sound of some venomous Spanish cursing. Obviously one of the terrorists had stumbled on the vine traps that he had strewn across his path. That was at least one broken ankle, and his pursuers were down to three.
"Diabolo!" That brought a grin from Jim. They'd started calling him "devil" about the second day of the chase. He took it as a compliment.
Seeing his pursuers' attention was focused on their suspended comrade, Jim took the opportunity to make a break for it, running without a clear destination in mind. Behind him, he could hear some startled cries and then automatic weapons fired in his direction.
His headlong flight soon brought him to the edge of a cliff, with a river running below. Looking over the edge, he judged that the drop was about twenty feet. A quick check over his shoulder showed the muzzle flashes of his pursuers gaining on him. He took a deep breath, his mind flashing to the three-year-old boy he'd left at home in the care of his best friend.
"Aw, hell, you only live once."
He jumped.


When you're brought into this world,
They say you're born in sin.
Well, at least they gave me something
I didn't have to steal or have to win.
Well they tell me that I'm wanted,
Yeah, I'm a wanted man.

N-Tek
1983

"Get out of here, McGrath, and don't let me see your face again for another two months at least!" the gray-haired woman ordered, practically shoving Jim out of the medbay. Turning around, Jim blew the doctor a kiss.
"Whatever you say, Mary," he replied, winking.
Mary Williams shook her head. "Beat it, McGrath. Go HOME." She slammed the door in his face, quite impressive, considering they were sliding doors.
Turning around, Jim found himself face to face with Jeff Smith and Chuck Marshak, both of them regarding him with a combination of amusement and disgust. He flashed them one of his trademark grins.
"Hi, guys. Come to congratulate me?"
Marshak raised an eyebrow. "On two broken ribs, a dislocated shoulder, and inhaling half of a South American river? Congratulations are not what I had in mind."
"Hey, it comes with the territory. Secret agents and hospital bills go hand in hand."
The older agent snorted. "You don't see ME in there every mission, do you? You need to quit driving yourself so hard, Jim. You're already N-Tek's best-- and you have a kid to think about, remember?"
Choosing not to respond to that, Jim turned towards his best friend. "Jeff. What brings you down from the rarefied atmosphere of administration? Usually you leave the lectures to Chuck."
"Yeah, well, I thought you should hear this from me, instead. You really managed to piss someone off with this little stunt, Jim... word is it there's a hundred-thousand dollar bounty on your head now." Folding his arms across his chest, Jeff stared at his friend.
"So what else is new?" Jim just laughed. "Ivan Vostok has been swearing to have my head on a platter for years. You both worry too much."
As he headed for the parking lot, his two friends watched him go in concern.

I'm a goat in your stable,
I'm what Cain was to Abel,
Mister, catch me if you can.


Paris
1984

"Damn it, Jeff," Jim hissed, teeth clenched. "Director of Operations is supposed to be a DESK JOB."
Jefferson Smith laughed weakly. "And... send you out... on this... without backup? Dream on."
Growling, Jim pressed harder against the wound in his friend's abdomen. "Shut up," he ordered. "You're supposed to sit behind a desk, do paperwork, tell all us poor schmucks where to go and when. That does not include taking a bullet for my scrawny butt!"
"Scrawny... WHITE... butt," Jeff corrected. "And you're still... my partner, damn it. Plus I'm your boss. So don't tell... me what to do."
"Nathanson should never have promoted you. You're getting way too bossy."
"Yeah, well... you never could... take orders." Jeff batted feebly at his friend. "The med team's on its way. You've got to get Vostok."
Jim's eyebrows shot up. "You've got to be kidding me! You've been shot, Jeff. I'm not leaving you here!"
Serious brown eyes caught and held his. "If you don't, there... won't be anything for the med team to save. That gas bomb..."
Jeff didn't have to finish. Jim had been well briefed on the effects of the nerve gas that Ivan Vostok was threatening to unleash on the city of Paris. With the bomb located on top of the Eiffel Tower, and the prevailing wind currents, most of the city would be dead in a matter of hours.
Cursing, Jim gestured to one of the tourists who hadn't fled when Vostok's men had started shooting. "Keep pressure on this," he ordered, putting the man's hand over the makeshift dressing that covered Jeff's wound. Then, standing, Jim quickly changed clips in his .45.
"Jim." Halfway to the elevator, Jeff's voice stopped him. "Quit blaming yourself... for this, or I'll... kick your ass."
Jim threw his best friend a weak smile. "Yeah, you and what army, Smith?" Then he was gone.

I'm going down in a blaze of glory.
Take me now but know the truth.
I'm going down in a blaze of glory.
And Lord I never drew first but I drew first blood.
I'm no-one's son, call me young gun.

"Ivan!" Even as he yelled, Jim was throwing himself sideways, anticipating the spray of bullets that would follow.
"I underestimated you again, McGrath," the Russian called, as the echo of metal on metal died away. "I didn't think you'd make it this far."
Crouched behind a metal retaining wall, Jim slipped stealthily to one side. "Sorry to disappoint you, Ivan," he replied, the echoes making his position impossible to pinpoint. "Tell me something, why all this? I mean, I always knew you were slime, but mass murder never really seemed to be your style."
Vostok chuckled. "The world is changing, McGrath, and we, we must change with it. I have a new employer, and he has paid quite well for this little venture."
"New employer? No, wait, let me guess. The mysterious John Dread?"
"You always were a quick one, McGrath. But you're not quick enough. In three minutes, the gas canisters will open, covering all of Paris in toxic fog. The gas is heavier than air, so you and I will survive. But all those people down on the ground..." The terrorist chuckled. "How does it feel to fail for the first time?"
Jim grinned, but it was thin and feral, a far cry from his usual good humor. "Three minutes left, Ivan. I haven't lost yet." Throwing himself forward into a shoulder roll, he quickly cleared the barrier, surprising Vostok, who hadn't expected any type of frontal assault. Before the Russian could bring his weapon to bear, Jim had sighted and fired, taking his old enemy through the head with one shot. Another minute, and he'd defused the timing mechanism on the gas canisters.
Suddenly all the adrenaline drained out of Jim's body, and he slumped to the floor. Faintly below, he could hear the sounds of a clean-up squad making their way up the tower, but he paid them no attention. Instead, he simply stared at the body that lay, motionless, a few feet away.
He'd never liked killing, though he'd done it before, when there was a need. But he'd expected at least to feel relieved at the conclusion of his long battle. Instead, he was just tired.
So very tired indeed.


You ask about my conscience,
And I offer you my soul.
You ask if I'll grow to be a wise man.
Well, I ask if I'll grow old
You ask me if I've known love
And what its like to sing songs in the rain.
Well, I've seen love come, I've seen it shot down
I've seen it die in vain.

N-Tek
1984

"Jim?" The lightly accented voice drew Jim's attention from the cup of steaming black liquid in front of him. He looked up to see Marco Nathanson standing beside him, looking somewhat out of place in the stark N-Tek cafeteria. The company's founder was holding two ceramic mugs and staring with undisguised loathing at the Styrofoam cup that Jim had been contemplating.
"Yeah, Marco?" the field agent asked wearily, straightening up. "What can I do for you?"
Sliding into the seat across from Jim, Nathanson pushed one of the mugs across the table. "First of all, you can dispose of that noxious substance masquerading as coffee, before it eats through the cup and goes on a rampage."
Jim needed no further encouragement. The head of N-Tek was widely known to be a coffee connoisseur, and a chance to sample the products of his personal coffeemaker was easily better than trying to drink the sludge the cafeteria sold. Tossing his cup in the nearest trash can, he noticed with tired amusement that the stuff actually WAS beginning to eat through the Styrofoam. That was the only good thing you could say about the cafeteria coffee; it was STRONG.
"So, what's up?" Jim asked, returning to his seat. He took a sip of the contents of his mug and closed his eyes in appreciation.
"Well, to tell you the truth, Jim, I've been a bit concerned about you," his boss replied. "Ever since that incident with Vostok in Paris, you've been... a bit on edge. Jefferson has made a full recovery, has he not?"
For a long moment, Jim just stared into his mug. Then, with a deep sigh, he looked up, into the eyes of one of the few people he really trusted.
"Yeah, Jeff's fine; back in action and nagging away. It's just... he scared me, Marco. Badly. My parents died before I was in high school... I spent four years living with an aunt who couldn't have cared less what I did. And then Molly... Molly went, and left me all alone with Josh. What the hell do I know about raising a kid? I just panicked."
"Well..." Nathanson hesitated. "Jim, perhaps it's time you gave some thought to getting out of the field. Your injury rate has been unusually high as of late, and frankly, it's been worrying me a bit."
Jim's dark eyes flashed. "You think I'm slipping?" he asked, frowning.
The older man shook his head. "It's not that, Jim. I think perhaps you're no longer as focused on your own well being as you should be. Ever since Molly died, in fact, you've been borderline self-destructive. I think perhaps it's time we moved you into another position. You have Josh to think of, you know. And Molly wouldn't want you doing this to yourself."
Jim pushed himself away from the table, chair screeching over the linoleum. "Yeah... but Molly's dead." He stalked out of the room, not even bothering to finish his coffee.

Shot down in a blaze of glory.
Take me now but know the truth.
Cause I'm going down in blaze of glory.
Lord I never drew first but I drew first blood.
I'm the devil's son, call me young gun.

"You're WHAT?" Jefferson Smith stared at his friend in astonishment. "You, behind a desk? Never happen."
Jim rubbed at his forehead, trying to ease the tension. "I didn't say I was going to do it, just that I was THINKING about it. And I wouldn't be behind a desk all the time... I'd still be in the field. Just not quite as often, and in a bit more of a command capacity. Besides, isn't this what everyone's been nagging me about? Getting a job where Josh will be able to depend on having me around?"
"Yeah, but not at the cost of being miserable. Jim, you and I both know you live on adrenaline. You'd never be able to take being out of the spotlight."
"I don't know, Jeff... maybe I'm burning out. I've been so tired recently... Maybe I've been chasing the adrenaline so long, I've forgotten what real life is like. I've always figured that in the end, I'd go out with a bang. I don't want that anymore. My son barely knows me, Jeff... I know what it's like to be without a father. I don't want that for Josh."
Jeff rested a hand on his friend's shoulder. "I can't make this decision for you, Jim. But you know that whatever you decide, I'll be there for you."
Jim smiled. "I know, Jeff. I've always known."

Each night I go to bed,
I pray the Lord my soul to keep.
No, I ain't looking for forgiveness
But before I'm six foot deep

I hate this thing. Jim McGrath scowled, tapping at the keyboard of the Demon, his personal computer workstation. The thing was supposed to save time and paper by displaying files in electronic format, but he could never get the stupid thing to do what he wanted. It was a running joke at N-Tek that the thing was more his arch-enemy than Vostok had ever been.
To make matters worse, it was late and most of the tech staff had gone home for the day. He probably ought to leave too, but if he was going to take that promotion Nathanson was offering, he wanted to deal with this DREAD problem once and for all.
Everywhere he turned these days, he was running across that organization or its mysterious founder. No one had ever seen John Dread, but he seemed to be putting together a terrorist group with phenomenal speed. Intellectually, Jim knew that he could turn the case over to another operative when he got promoted, but he hated leaving loose ends. Besides, it had always been one of his greatest flaws-- he tended to let things get personal.
When the first file disappeared off his screen, Jim groaned, wondering what he'd done to offend the Demon now. When the second and third files started vanishing, though, he realized that it wasn't him. Someone was deleting all the files that had to do with DREAD off of the mainframe. A few keystrokes ran a quick check on the authorization code... only to come back negative. But only one person had a high enough authorization to do that...
Suddenly facts came together like lightning in Jim's brain. The way DREAD always seemed to be one step ahead of N-Tek, no matter what they did. John Dread's phenomenal connections and organizational skills, not to mention total lack of a past. Someone who knew the terrorism business that well had to have a history... on one side or the other.
Leaping to his feet, Jim ran out the door, heading for the room where the mainframe was kept.

Lord, I gotta ask a favor
And I hope you'll understand,

Please, please, let me be wrong, Jim prayed, running through the halls. Let him have some explanation, something... anything.

Cause I've lived life to the fullest.
Let this boy die like a man.

Jim raced through the door of the computer room, and felt his heart sink in his chest. Marco Nathanson, head of N-Tek, and the man who had been a second father to him, was dressed all in black, typing furiously on the interface to the mainframe. Black wraparound sunglasses covered his eyes.
"Why'd you do it, Marco?" Jim asked quietly, stepping through the door. Nathanson turned around, the gun in his hand glimmering in the dim light.
"Jim, Jim," he shook his head. "I was so hoping it wouldn't be you."

Staring down a bullet,
Let me make my final stand.


Shot down in a blaze of glory.
Take me now, but know the truth.
I'm going down in a blaze of glory.

The explosion destroyed almost an eighth of N-Tek headquarters, six floors in all. So late at night, the building was mostly empty, but still, the death toll was a major blow. All told, fifteen people were killed that night, including Marco Nathanson and Jim McGrath.
The sound of the explosion could be heard all over Del Oro Bay. Jefferson Smith, hearing the rumble from the beach house where he was babysitting, knew what he had lost even before the call came in. It had been, after all, only a matter of time.

Lord I never drew first but I drew first blood.

And upstairs, four-year-old Josh McGrath was awakened by the noise, and padded to the window, where he watched the flames reflected in the sky. He stood there, awestruck, for some time.

And I'm no-one's son, call me young gun.
I'm a young gun
Young gun, young gun...