"Oww.... You don't have to
shout, Rache. I can hear you just fine."
"You weren't responding, Mr.
Steel. Not that I expect you to, after being caught in that avalanche... how
"You tell me. You're the one
with the readouts, remember?"
"Oh, yes. This takes a bit of
getting used to. Now, let's see. According to this, you have some minor
internal injuries, but the probes are already taking care of them. And... Max,
"Now that one, I felt. How bad
"A bad sprain. Looks like some
cartilage is torn. Your probes should have already taken care of it--"
"Except that they're already
working overtime on the internal injuries, not to mention keeping me from
freezing to death. Hell of a way to spend Christmas Eve."
"Any sign of the Mercury
Brigade member you were chasing?"
"Lemme flip on my light and
"... Oh dear. I'd say he's
"Real dead. Can I turn off the
"Does it ever get any
"Seeing things like that? I'll
be honest with you, Max... No. No, it doesn't."
"Good. If I ever stop being
bothered by things like that, I'll be turning into Smiley."
"Nice to know you have so much
faith in me."
"I always have, Max."
"Mmm. So, what's a nice girl
like you doing on a link like this?"
"Mr. Steel, that is the
corniest line I have ever heard you deliver. And that's going quite a distance,
"I'm hurt, Rachel. And you're
evading the question."
"Shouldn't you be conserving
"Nope. I can feel a breeze on
my face, so there's an opening SOMEWHERE. I'm just not in any shape to go
looking for it."
"You should stay in one place
anyway. I dispatched a team after you as soon as the avalanche occurred.
They'll find you more easily that way."
"Rachel. I'm stuck in a
crevasse in the Cascades, buried under a ton of snow with a sprained ankle and
a corpse. Stop dancing around and give me something else to think about."
*Sigh.* "Max, you already know
the answer to that. Berto and Cat had already left on his flight for Colombia
when the assassination threat came in. They needed you, you needed a monitor. I
"That's what I mean, Rache. Why
you? Not generally part of the duties for Director of Operations."
"Well, I do have some
experience dealing with you and your abilities. I assume you would prefer
someone who had an idea what they were doing."
"But why weren't you already on
a plane home for the holidays?"
"That wasn't an option this
"Too much paperwork?"
"Something like that... To tell
you the truth, Max, no. I just... I can't face the holidays with my parents. I
can't face my parents, period. They drive me insane."
"What's the problem?"
"They think my job at a sports
equipment company-- heck, my entire time in America-- is 'just a phase' I'm
going through. Every time I talk to them, they try and convince me to come home
and marry one of those 'nice young men' they have picked out for me. I'm just
not up to it this year."
"Don't be. I'm used to it. So,
what were your plans for Christmas this year?"
"Same as every year. Head up to
Dad's family's big Chistmas celebration at Gram and Grampa's house in the
mountains. Eat myself into a coma, get pounced on by rugrats, that sort of
thing. Dad already left... I told him I'd take the Hawk up when I was done
here. Guess I'm gonna be a little late, huh?"
"We've already called him, Max.
It took a lot of convincing to get him to stay put until we got you out."
"Mmm. Rachel, how're my
"My T-juice levels. How are
"Um... why do you ask?"
"Because I'm COLD, Rache. I'm
not supposed to be cold..."
"Your levels are lower than
normal, Max. Nothing life-threatening yet, but I'd guess the probes have
dropped climate control from the list of necessary abilities."
"I can just hear Dad now...
'Maybe this will teach you to wear a coat when you go out.'"
"Max, stay awake. You can't go
"Believe it or not, Rachel, I'm
well aware of that. I passed survival training, just like you did. Where's that
rescue team, anyway?"
"They've followed your signal,
Max, but it's a very big snowfield, and those tracers are only so accurate.
They have to sweep by hand. Don't worry, it won't be much longer."
"Sure. So, what are you
*chuckle* "Hey, gotta keep warm
somehow. One of your business suits, I'm sure, but which one? That pinky-purple
"The color, Mr. Steel, is
called 'mauve,' and actually, no. I'm wearing the navy blue one."
"Rats. The other one's got a
shorter skirt. What color's the blouse?"
"Gray. Dark gray. Completely
"Ha ha, Rache."
"Oh, and by the way, Mr.
Steel... my underwear is green. Hunter green."
"Just trying to keep you
"So... tell me more about your
Christmas plans. You do this every year?"
"For as long as I can remember.
Every Christmas, Dad and I'd pack up the car and go to Gram and Grampa's for
three or four days. There's this huge feast... more food than you've ever seen
in your life, Rache. Traditional stuff like turkey and mashed potatoes, and
some family favorites like Aunt Sandra's chili con carne. The deserts are
"Oh lord, stop it. I don't
think Berto would appreciate me drooling on his console."
"You know... why don't you come
up with us, Rachel? If you don't already have plans, I mean."
"Oh, no, I wouldn't want to
"Rachel, you wouldn't...
wouldn't be imposing. The house is huge, and Gram always has extra futons and
sleeping bags for unexpected guests. Dad brought Jim home the first year they
met, and she never even blinked an eye."
"She must be an interesting
"Ninety-four years old and
still into everything. She's got a cane, but she uses it more for whapping
errant relatives than to actually walk. You'd love her, Rache. If they'd had
N-Tek when she was young, she'd probably have been running it inside of a
"So that's where Smith gets
"Max, stay awake, I'm losing
you. Damn it, where is that team?"
"'M here. What were we talking
"The Smith family Christmas
"Oh yeah. Say you'll-- *yawn*
come up? Come on, Rachel, they'll instantly adopt you. My aunts'll feed you
into oblivion, my cousins will flirt, and Gram will probably haul out the naked
baby pictures. Blackmail material."
"I'll think about it, all
"Can't ask 'nymore than that...
hey, Rachel? 'm not cold 'nymore..."
"Max! Max Steel, you answer me
right now. JOSH!"
"We've found the kid. He looks
like a Popsicle, but he's breathing. We're loading him onto the plane now.
Heading back to base, ETA twenty minutes."
"Thank God. I'll call Smith...
he'll want to be here."
"Acknowledged. And Rachel? It's
after midnight... Merry Christmas."
"Yes... it is, isn't it? Merry