This is my idea for what could happen in the season premiere. I know, some of it may not make sense, but I needed closure. Please tell me what you think.

Max awoke the moment she heard a hand on the doorknob. She hated waking up. In her dreams, she could be happy and safe, at home. But not anymore. Now when she woke up, all she felt was anger, confusion, and terror. She had been there for days, but she would never get used to the smell of the sterile medical supplies and the cold, lonely feel of the room. She was still confined to the hospital-style room, although she wasn't secured to the bed anymore and had been allowed to walk around the room freely. Everything she needed to do to stay alive was performed within this one little room and its adjoining bathroom. Eating, bathing, and sleeping. That's all she did, all she could do. She had spoken to the mysterious new head of Manticore several times, but refused to cooperate with anything she suggested. She would die before they reprogrammed her into one of their merciless killing machines again.

The doorknob turned, and Max opened her eyes. Probably another shot, she figured. Her arm had begun to go numb from all the injections, and she was quickly tiring of being their being a guinea pig. She knew they were only using her to try and save Manticore. With the DNA lab completely trashed, they didn't have much left to experiment with, and thus they couldn't create a new X series. They preferred live tissue samples, as Max had often 'donated', but they would take what they could get. Poor Zack. She imagined they had his remains scattered about in jars somewhere. He deserved better than that, much better. But as much as she wanted to have Zack back, she had no intention of sharing a shelf with him. She had to get out.

Max was shaken from her thoughts when the door swung open. Madame X walked in without looking at Max and moved to the side of the doorway. Behind her was a short, chubby man she had never seen before. He wasn't a doctor or a soldier. He was wearing a casual suit, and looked like a businessman of some sort. She figured he was probably an investor, stockholder, or whatever, but she could never remember seeing a civilian in Manticore, even since she was a little kid.

"This is X-5 452, one of original prototype soldiers of the X-5 series," Madame X informed the man. "She was part of the group that escaped back in '09, but we've recently managed to recapture her and several others." The two stood several feet from Max, who didn't even bother to acknowledge their presence. Instead she stared straight up at the ceiling, concentrating on thinking of nothing.

"I see," replied the man, showing little interest. "How is her health?" he asked, glancing at a clipboard containing Max's vitals.

"She underwent a heart transplant several days ago, but her body is already back to near-perfect condition," Madame X explained.

"Well, that's certainly good news," he replied dryly. "I'm sure you're aware we will only invest if there's considerable proof of your soldiers' powers. It would be in your best interest to keep them healthy."

So he was an investor. From the looks of it, he was probably some middleman between Manticore and some unheard of overseas government looking for the latest in biological soldiers. Max was being sold to highest bidder. Beneath her sheets, she clenched her fists to help contain her rage.

"I have promised a demonstration, and you will no doubt be pleased. Perhaps we can set the date in a week or two..." she tried her best to coax the man into a deal.

"My country will not wait long. Conflict is brewing on our borders, and we must be ready for war within the month. I would like a demonstration next week," he demanded.

"Great," thought Max. "Not only am I being auctioned off like a piece of old furniture, now they want to put me up for display. Yeah, I'll give him a demonstration. How about I demonstrate shoving my foot up your ass?!" she asked silently, still not looking at the two over near the door.

"Then... Next week it shall be," Madame X uneasily agreed. "Would you care to see the other X-5's we have in containment?"

"Yes," the man replied, "But first I wish to speak with the soldier alone."

Madame X gave him a questioning look, as Max would have done if she hadn't been concentrating on her anger.

"May I ask why, sir?"

"I want to be sure she is as advanced psychologically as she is physically. And I don't wish to have input from a controlling third party in the process." He glared at her.

"Very well, sir. I'll be in the corridor when you're finished." She said, and left quietly, shutting the door behind her.

Max had to smile to herself a little. It was like this man had some sort of authority of Madame X. The man waited until the door was completely shut until he moved over to Max's bed.

"Max, I presume?" he asked casually. She didn't answer, but wondered how he knew her name. "Max, I'm a friend." She still didn't answer. "Of Logan's."

At his name, her eyes opened wide and her body tensed, but her expression didn't change. Could this be some sort of trap? Had Manticore found out about Logan? This was either extremely good, or catastrophical.

"Max, please trust me. I am who I say I am," he continued. "But make no display of emotion, good or bad. There are cameras watching our every move, no doubt."

She still didn't answer, fearing they really had found out about Logan and Eyes Only, and that this was some twisted plot to turn her.

The man chuckled a bit. "He did warn me you were stubborn. Here, I have something to prove my word."

He reached into his coat pocket and retrieved a small piece of scribbled paper. He unfolded the paper and read it quietly. It was Logan's poem! At the sound of the words, Max relaxed and for the first time looked directly at the man. Only she and Logan knew about that poem. He really was telling the truth.

"Someone's angel," he finished, and stuck the paper back in his pocket. "Believe me now?"

"Maybe," she said cautiously, but with a small smile. "Logan really sent you?" He nodded. Max sat up in the bed. "Is he okay?" was the first question that came to her mind. "Damn," she thought, "I really do care about him."

"He's been a little shaken up, but I think he's more worried about you. That's why he sent me." He paused, and smiled a little embarrassed. "Please forgive me, I haven't introduced myself. My name is Jonathan Green, Logan's friend of twelve years. He's explained to me your current situation, and I'll try to help as best I can." He extended his hand to her.

"Max Guevara," she said politely, and shook his hand.

"Pleased to meet you. Now, Logan had some information he wanted me to share with you. He said he's been discussing the current predicament with a man named... Oh, what was it...? Lighter, Lyder?"

"Lydecker," she filled in the name for him. It was the first time in her life she had even thought about his name without total despise.

"Ah, yes. Anyway, Logan said he, Lydecker, and several of the other X-5's have been planning a rescue mission since the day you were captured. They haven't figured out all the details yet, but they'll let you know as soon as they plan to take action. He never said how." Green walked around the bed as he spoke, motioning with his hands as if he were interrogating Max so that the security cameras wouldn't record anything unusual about his visit. He obviously wasn't new at this. Max wondered how Logan had come to know people like this.

"And, Max," he added, "Logan also expressed deep concern for your well being. It's obvious Manticore isn't doing so well financially anymore. That's why I'm being treated like royalty around here. They're so eager for dough they'd do just about anything for it. My point is, this organization is falling, so hang in there." He glanced at his watch. "Well, I should be going now. Good luck," he said quietly, and turned toward the door.

"Wait," Max pleaded, and he turned to face her. "Please tell Logan they'll never turn me, and make sure he doesn't do anything stupid, no matter what happens." He nodded, and walked out the door, again assuming his role as a wealthy businessman.

"I'm sorry," she heard Madame X apologize out in the hall as the two began walking down the hall. "She hasn't said much since we put her in containment, but I promise that will change once we begin reprogramming..."

Their conversation drifted slowly out of her hearing range, and Max laid back on the bed. There was still hope. And Logan would soon find out she was still alive. She smiled and closed her eyes, thinking of him. Slowly, she returned to her sleep.

Logan leaned back in his chair and rubbed his eyes under his glasses. He had been in front of his computer for the past nine and a half hours, trying to find something that would get him into Manticore. God, he missed Max. It hadn't even been a week since the cruel hand of fate took her from him, and he was already on the edge of an emotional breakdown. He closed his eyes and sighed. Max had to be alive, he just knew it. He adjusted his glasses on the bridge of his nose and forced himself back to work. He wouldn't give up his quest until he got somewhere. Just as he was beginning to continue scouring the online world, he heard a knock at his door. He jumped slightly, having gotten so used to the dead quiet of the apartment. It had always seemed quieter then usual since Max was gone.

He stood slowly and stretched his aching legs, then staggered over to the door. It was past two in the morning, and he hadn't been expecting anyone. He opened the door to see the face of his friend, Mr. Green. He blinked several times and stood frozen in front of the open doorway. Suddenly he realized the importance of his visitor. Logan had asked him to try and get into Manticore two days ago. Returning from his mission, Jonathan's information would prove either relieving or life shattering. Logan instantly feared the worst.

"Hello," Jonathan greeted him in a completely neutral tone.

"Hey," Logan responded absently, still standing motionless.

"May I come in?" he asked, becoming unsure if everything was all right.

Logan snapped back to reality and replied, "Oh, yes, of course." He moved to let the man through. "Sorry, I haven't been thinking straight lately."

Mr. Green moved into the room and stood several feet from Logan as he closed the door. "You're worried about her," he commented sympathetically.

"What did you find?" Logan asked, unaffected by his observation.

"Well, my friend, you may relax. I assure you Max is alive and doing fine. Well, relatively speaking."

Logan felt like a huge weight had been lifted from his shoulders when he heard the news, and instantly broke out in tears. "Oh, God! Thank you!" he exclaimed, relieved. He took a step forward and embraced his friend. "Thank you, Jon! Thank you!" They both knew that, while part of his thanks certainly went to Jon for the wonderful news, Logan had been thanking Max. He had thanked Max for being alive, and staying alive. For helping him stay alive. "Thank you..."

"Now, now lad, that's alright," Jonathan spoke after a moment of silence. Logan moved away from him and wiped the tears from his eyes.

"I just... God, I'm so glad Max is okay. I don't know what I would have done if..." He trailed off, shaking his head.

"Logan," he continued as he moved over to the living room table, "I may have more good news. During my tour of their facilities, I managed to acquire the blueprints to the building."

Logan broke out of his trance and followed Mr. Green. "How on Earth did you manage that?" he asked, a little surprised.

Jonathan chuckled. "You can manage to do a great deal of things when people think you're giving them forty-million dollars."

Logan smiled, drying the last of his tears away. There was an instant improvement in his mood after he learned of Max's well being. He leaned over the table to inspect the document his friend had just unrolled. "Huh," he muttered with astonishment. "Thank you, Jon. This will be very helpful."

"This," he placed his finger on a small room labeled 'Med Lab C', "Is where Max is being held. The Manticore supervisor informed me that she was almost done her recuperation from the surgery, and they plan to start reprogramming soon, probably tomorrow."

"Surgery for the gunshot wound to her chest?" Logan asked.

"Yes, apparently they gave her a new heart. And I suppose they wanted to keep her there for some other med tests to make sure she was... How did she put it? 'Operational for combat training exercises.'"

Logan was busy looking over the blueprints. Manticore had looked bigger from the outside, but he saw the building design was actually rather simple. He located on the paper where the DNA lab used to be and chuckled to himself.

"And this," Jonathan continued, placing his finger on a room in another wing of the building, "Is where they're holding another prisoner. Zack, I believe she called him."

Logan had nearly forgotten about Zack. Lydecker had said the X-7's shot Zack, but he didn't know if they had killed him, and apparently they hadn't. "Med Lab F," he read the room's title out loud. "Wonder why they're being kept so far apart."

Green shrugged. "I don't know, I guess they don't want them interacting and planning to break out. Again." He suggested with a lighthearted laugh.

Logan smiled. "They're going to be so disappointed," he said with an obviously false sympathy.

Glancing at his watch, Jonathan stepped back from the table and stretched. "Oh my, it's 2:30!" he exclaimed. "I'd love to stay and explain everything, Logan, but I really must be going. My wife is probably worried sick." Logan nodded and accompanied him to the door. "I left several other papers - financial statistics, corporate policies, and the like - on the table under the blueprints. I hope you can find some use for them."

"Shouldn't be a problem," Logan responded. "And thanks again, Jon. You have no idea how much this means to me."

"I think I have a pretty good idea," he replied, his expression showing he understood Logan's love and worry for Max. He opened the door and was about to turn down the hall when he spun around and faced Logan. "Oh, one more thing." Logan raised his eyebrows in interest. "I was able to talk with Max for a few moments. She gave me a message to relay to you. Something along the lines of, 'I'm fine, Logan, so don't do anything stupid.'"

Logan blushed. "I won't," he said, as if he were talking directly to Max. "Later." Jonathan tipped his hat and started down the hall to the elevator.

As he closed the door, he felt the sense of relief rush over him again, and he wanted nothing more than to jump back at the computer and continue his work. He noticed, however, that he had gotten so tired it was becoming difficult for him to stand anymore. He decided to sleep for a while. Bling promised he would be over at seven the next morning and he could continue planning then. Logan rolled the blueprints and other papers back up and put them on the computer desk, then turned off the lights. He made his way groggily to the bedroom and changed. Removing the exoskeleton, he climbed slowly into bed and immediately fell asleep. Knowing Max was okay, at least for the time being, he slept well.

"You're looking well."

Max was lying in bed on her back, staring straight at the ceiling again. She found it impossible to sleep anymore, so she decided to count the cracks in the ceiling. Of course, with her supercomputer brain it didn't take long. When she finished counting she would start over again from the beginning. It was the most entertaining activity she could find. As Madame X, stepping inside the room, closed the door and commented on Max's appearance, she still remained completely stiff on the bed, concentrating on her counting.

"You've been healed for days, apparently. No reason to keep you locked up in here for no cause. We should begin reprogramming soon," she said with an evil smirk.

At the last sentence, Max abandoned her counting and looked directly at Madame X. "Nah, we can skip that part," she said with thick sarcasm. "Just gimme a gun, let me go, and I'll be happy to join your little army."

Madame X plastered a fake smile on her face and glanced at Max's heart monitors. "Actually, I suppose that's what we'll do."

Max hadn't expected that kind of comeback, and was taken a little off guard. She just stared at the woman, waiting for a further explanation, but received only an identically unrevealing stare in return. "All right, I give up," she finally said. "What are you talking about?"

"Well, X-5 452," she began, knowing how much Max hated to be called by her number. "Since you and your siblings broke out years ago, we've made some rather innovative technological advancements. One of them, which I'm particularly proud of, is the use of extraordinary pharmaceuticals to restructure your mind." Max's eyes widened. "And the best part," she began to laugh, "Is that you never even knew we were doing it." Madame X attempted to pass it off as light humor, but Max's blood was boiling.

So why didn't she do anything? She could kill the bitch in two seconds, maybe less. Just jump up, grab her by the throat, and crack the base of her neck with one hand, and her biggest problem would instantly disappear. "Damn it, Max, what is wrong with you?" she thought. She tried to move to attack her, but it was like her body wouldn't respond.

"Why do you think we've kept you here?" Madame X interrupted Max's internal struggle. "We both know you've been fine since the day after the transplant, but you've been in medical for two weeks. Do you really think I'd set foot in the same room as you without having you restrained? Honestly, do I look stupid?" She was laughing at Max pitifully by now. Normally, Max couldn't have resisted answering such a rhetorical question, but she had become paralyzed with fear. "We only have a few more doses left, 452," she continued. "And then... Then you will receive your first mission. Normally there's a waiting period to make sure the drugs have had complete effect, but I want Lydecker dead as soon as possible. And unfortunately, you're the only one who knows where he's hiding."

Max had become more terrified than ever. She lay like stone in her bed, not blinking, barely breathing. She would be sent to kill Lydecker. The only place she knew to check for Lydecker was Logan's apartment. And if she had to go to Logan's apartment to kill Lydecker, it meant she would have to kill... Logan. She suddenly struggled with herself physically, straining as if she were tied down, yet nothing held her. Nothing except the inhumane new Manticore drugs introduced to her bloodstream.

"You seem to be having a rough time excepting this. It'll still be a day or two before you finally realize this is your ultimate purpose. You are a soldier. You were made a soldier, and you will always be a soldier," she coaxed Max, who stopped her struggle and lay still again. "I'll let you get some rest now," Madame X concluded after a long pause, and walked out the door.

"Oh my God, I have to warn Logan," she thought once she was alone again. "But how?" The question loomed in her mind for hours, considering every available resource. She was finding it harder and harder to think of her own free will. There was absolutely no communication between her and the outside world when she was in Manticore. Her only hope now was another visit from her friend, Mr. Green.

"I'd like to see your soldiers again," requested Mr. Green. He had returned for a second tour of the facility a few days later. He explained that he had been unsure of investing after seeing Max's attitude on his first visit. The truth was, he hated Manticore. He had been relieved to exit the building after his first time there. It was so dark and cold, almost inhuman. And he had witnessed the experimentations. "Research," they called it. He had vowed never to set foot on its ground ever again. However, he couldn't let down Logan. Consequently, he found himself walking these horrid corridors once more, at the request of his beloved friend. Logan had asked him to check back in with Max and tell her he was devising a plan to get her out.

"Of course," Madame X responded, only to happy to lead him to Max's containment cell. She had moved from the med lab the day after his first visit. "I'm sure you'll be pleased at X-5 452's improvement."

"Improvement?" he questioned as they walked.

"Yes, while being treated medically we had also begun mentally reprogramming her through the use of drug therapy. It has proven much more efficient than the older methods." She was trying to convince him Manticore had progressed and was worthy of funding. "In fact, her treatment is nearly finished. I'm sure you'll be pleased," she reiterated.

"And the other soldier?"

"There have been... complications..." He gave her an odd look. "Here we are," she announced, glad to change the subject. She retrieved an electronic keycard from her suit pocket and swiped it through the slot on the door.

Max heard the door open and immediately stood to attention. "X-5 452, present for duty," she reported before the door had even opened completely.

"Ah, see there?" Madame X mused to Mr. Green. "Fully obedient and willing. Perhaps a week or two of physical reconditioning and she will be ready for duty." Jonathan pretended to be impressed, but inside he was scared as hell. Only several days ago he had spoken to Max, and now she was a completely different person. A soldier.

"At ease, soldier," Madame X commanded.

"Yes, ma'am," came the swift reply. Max obeyed and stood with legs slightly parted and hands behind her back, but she remained staring directly forward, awaiting her next command.

"Mr. Green would like a word with you," she continued, and turned to face the man. "She's all yours. I'll be waiting down the hall." She spoke and exited the room.

He waited a moment, and then addressed Max. "Max?" She didn't respond. "Um... X-5 452?"

"Sir, yes sir?" came her immediate and focused reply.

"It's me, remember? Jonathan Green?" Silence. "Max, don't you remember?" Still no answer. He was getting nervous and looked away from her. "Oh, God. Maybe Logan was right..."

"Logan..." she suddenly whispered.

He turned back to her, hoping she was still the same Max he had met earlier. "Yes, Logan. Do you remember?"

"There's a folder containing several papers on the table to your left," she said quietly, still not looking at him. "Please... Take it and give it to Logan. I can't explain anymore, just do it."

He looked puzzled, but reluctantly crossed the room and retrieved the folder. "What is it?" he asked, glancing it over, checking for markings but finding none. She didn't answer. He folded it in half and stuck it in the inside pocket of his suit. "Hang in there, Max," he pleaded.

"Yes, sir." There was still a little Max left in her. Thank God.

He smiled and gave her a little salute to play along, then exited the room. Max sat down on the bed and blinked a few times. This was her - and Logan's - last hope.

Jonathan met Madame X at the end of the hall, where she had promised she'd be. She was talking to a guard, saying something about transporting Max somewhere for training. She dismissed the guard and turned to face him.

"All went well, I assume?" she asked, with an overly satisfied smile.

"Yes," he replied simply. "May I speak to the other one now, as well?"

Her smile disappeared. "I'm sorry, but I'm due to attend a board meeting. Perhaps another time." She led back to the lobby as they discussed "financial obligations".

"Logan? Yo, Logan? You here?" Bling called out, wandering through the apartment. He had been checking up on Logan more frequently since Max had been captured, making sure he didn't do anything drastic, as he had come so close to doing in the past.

"In here, Bling," came the answer from the computer room. Bling walked down the hall and entered the doorway to see Logan still in pajamas, typing like mad in front of the computer.

"Geez, Logan, it's eleven o'clock! You getting dressed today?"



"Maybe. If I get a lead I might be able to take a break for a few minutes."

Bling walked over and stood behind Logan, trying to follow what was coming up on the screen. "What are you working on?" he asked quietly, saving the clothing issue for later. He could tell Logan was very focused.

"Cracking the Manticore databases. There's some pretty heavy encryption that will take a while to crack, and that's after I sort through the integrated firewalls, fake addressed, and disconnected ports. I need the clearance ID numbers and information before we can gain access to the building. Obviously Lydecker's wouldn't work anymore, even if I knew where the hell he is," Logan was still reading the screen and typing furiously as he talked.

"Okay..." came Bling's slow reply. He paused. "We?"

"Yes, us. Me and any X5's I can get a hold of. You're welcome to join the party too, if you like." He stopped typing momentarily and turned in his chair to face Bling.

"What will you be doing?"

"Attacking Manticore and rescuing Max."

"You plan to attack Manticore with a handful of soldiers and rescue Max? I believe you tried that before and it didn't go to smoothly."

"Then what SHOULD, I do, Bling?!" He slammed his fist down on the desk. "I can't let her die, for God's sake!" His yelling was interrupted by a knock at the door. Relieved, Bling jogged over and opened to reveal Mr. Green. Logan followed, and greeted the man.

"Jon, great to see you again," Logan spoke as he made his way to the door, releasing his anger. "Any good news?"

"I'm not sure," he said and walked into the living room.

"What do you mean?"

"Well, when I went to visit Max, she was acting like a soldier. She stood still the whole time and never even looked at me. She didn't even seem like the same person I met before."

Logan instantly feared the worst. They had reprogrammed her, and he may have very well lost her forever. He doubted she would even remember him, and that was if he was lucky. Otherwise, they'd probably send her off to kill Eyes Only, and it would be the end. How was he supposed to fight Max? The woman he would give anything for would be the one to put a bullet through his brain. The irony made him sick.

"However," Jonathan interrupted him from his thoughts, "She did give me this folder." He pulled the envelope of papers from his coat and unfolded it. "I haven't opened it yet. I figured it would be best if you read it first." He held it up to him, showing that it was still sealed.

"Thanks," he said, reaching for the folder. He tore it open and sat down to examine its contents. Inside, he found some of Max's medical charts from the past week, and behind them was a hand-written note. A tear escaped from his eye as he read it silently.

"Dear Logan,
I don't have much time left. They've started reprogramming me with drugs and it won't be long until I can't think right anymore. I've resisted as much as I could, but it's not something I can easily fight. Pretty soon I'll be back to the way Manticore wants me, back to a heartless soldier. I know my first mission will be to kill Lydecker, and unfortunately that means there's a good chance I'll come after you. I have no idea when I'll be sent. It could be a week, could be months. God, Logan, I'm sorry. Please don't be there when I come. I'll have no control over what I do. I'm sorry. I love you. I don't want to kill you. Run.
Love, Max."

The bottom of the letter had several watermarks from Max's tears, and now Logan's tears joined hers on the paper. Bling moved to comfort him, but Logan simply folded the paper and stuck it back in the envelope. Wiping away his tears, he held the folder and stood up.

"Thank you, Jon. Thank you very much."

"You're welcome, Logan. If there's anything else I can do for you, please don't hesitate to ask."

"Jon, you've already done for me than I should ever have asked you to. I'm in your debt."

Jon smiled and stood, stretching. "Well, I suppose I'll be on my way then." Logan accompanied him to the door. The two men shook hands and then Jon left, leaving only Bling to comfort a very quiet and secluded Logan.

"Anything you want to talk about?" he asked after a while. Logan was sitting back on the couch, deep in thought.

"No... Thanks," he replied absently.

"You sure?"


"Okay. Well, how about some lunch?"

"Sounds great, but I have to run an errand. Maybe when I get back."

"Where you going?"

"South Market. I'll be back in an hour tops." Bling gave him a look that expressed his disbelief. "I need to talk to a contact who has a shop there," he explained. Bling still looked concerned. "Don't worry," he said, going to get his coat. "I'm not going to do anything stupid. Just getting a few things for Max's welcome-back party. Looks like we won't have to go in and get her after all." Bling opened his mouth to ask a question, but Logan was out the door before a single word had escaped his mouth.

"Well, well, Logan Cale! Long time, no see!" Logan was greeted by a vender at end of a street in South Market. The man looked very much like Logan, but considerably shorter and clean-shaven.

"Hey, Chris," he greeted the man as they shook hands.

"Gosh, what's it been? Two, three years?"

"Something like that, yeah. Listen, I need a favor."

"Sure, what's up?"

"You still dealing sector police equipment and weaponry?"

His eyes shifted from side to side. "Maybe. Who wants to know?" he joked.

"Me," Logan answered. "I need some stuff in the way of protection."

The vender took on a more serious tone. "Man, I told you working for that Eyes Only guy would get you in trouble."

Logan brushed off the comment. "What do you have?"

Chris glanced around the almost deserted street, then motioned Logan to follow him into an old shed behind the stand. Once the two men had entered, he opened a trunk to reveal a wide assortment of handguns, knives, riot gear, and other various wartime devices. Logan was grimly impressed with the collection.

"I need something with good stopping power." He sorted through the goods. "But nothing lethal."

"How about this?" He held out a small tazer.

"Preferably something with a longer range," he said after examining the weapon.

"Alright, how about this then?" Chris put down the tazer and retrieved what looked like a handgun. Logan took it and turned it over in his hands.

"Forty-foot projection stun gun," the vender announced proudly. "Shoots two tethered probes at your target and releases a 500,000 volt blast. One to five seconds later, they're lying on the floor unconscious."

Logan looked up. "What happens after five seconds?"

"Any more than five seconds would probably kill a normal person."

"Unfortunately I'm not dealing with a normal person," he muttered. "What do you have in the way of restraints?"

Chris paused for a moment, then walked over to a closet in the corner and motioned Logan to follow. "Hmmm..." Chris said, sorting through his inventory. "I've got some repelling cord in here that should to the trick. Thousand-pound test. You could tie down and elephant with this stuff."

"Great, I'll take it. And the gun. How much?"

"Well, to anyone else I'd say $200," he began, walking back to his safe near the front of the shed. "But for you, $150."

"Thanks," Logan mumbled in good humor and paid the man.

Suddenly Chris took on a serious tone. "Now listen, man. You take care of yourself alright?"

"You too," Logan replied. "Great seeing you again. Later."

Chris nodded and turned to help a waiting customer.

"I can't believe I'm doing this," Logan muttered to himself as he walked back to his car.

"You are to terminate the target, and any subject who tries to prevent you from doing so. You may not fail this mission. Is that understood?" Madame X spoke calmly to Max in the briefing room.

"Yes, ma'am!" Max answered quickly and loudly, as she had been taught to do.

"You have eighteen hours to complete your objective, soldier. Dismissed."

Max raised a hand to salute, then quickly departed. "We'll see who's in charge now, Deck," Madame X thought as she watched Max leave for her mission preparation.

This was the night. He could feel it. Logan had barely gotten a wink of sleep any night of the past two weeks. He had stayed up till past sunrise, armed and ready, waiting for Max to come. Bling had stayed by his side every night, loyal to the end, and not trusting him to take out Max alone. Logan's heart rate grew faster slowly as the sun began to set. Bling had tried to calm him down with stories from his high school years, but Logan was more nervous than usual tonight. He was sure this was the night.

Presently, Bling busied himself in the kitchen, cleaning the counter for what had to be the thirtieth time that night. When Logan got nervous, it made Bling nervous. Logan sat on the couch in front of the television, impatiently flipping through the channels, looking for something other than infomercials at this late hour.

Suddenly, he heard a noise outside the penthouse door. This was so soft, it could have been a pin drop, but Logan heard it. He looked over to Bling, who apparently had heard nothing. Bling looked back at him and mouthed "Is she here?". Logan slowly nodded, and Bling disappeared into the dining room. Logan slowly stood, his legs sore from sitting for hours, and crept toward the hallway. He stopped and faced the door, standing there like a deer caught in the headlights.

Slowly, the door opened. Max. She was dressed in military fatigues from head to toe, with a lock pick in one hand and a semi-automatic equipped with a silencer in the other. She looked terrifyingly confident in her abilities. Not cocky or sarcastic, but solemn, as an executioner might look before flipping the switch.

"Max," he whispered, his body tensing in preparation for the unknown. His heart fell to his stomach.

She stood up straight and stepped slowly into the apartment, her expression unchanging. She closed the door behind her and stood facing Logan, hands at her sides. She remained silent.

"Max," Logan repeated. "Max, it's me, Logan. Do you remember?"

Still silence.

"Max, please remember!" Logan's legs started to wobble as he bit back his tears.

Still, she said nothing, but her expression slowly changed to sadness.

"Max, please! You have to remember me!" Logan was nearly shouting now, not in fear for his own life, but afraid that he really had lost Max forever.

Slowly, Max raised her unsteady hand holding the gun and pointed it directly at Logan's forehead. "You should have run," she stated quietly with a sincere but unwanted sympathy.

"Max... No... Please!"

Max winced as a single gunshot was heard throughout the building.

Bling emerged slowly from around the corner several seconds later, after Max's body had quit convulsing. Max was lying unconscious on the floor and Logan rushed over to her. Bling removed the two tazer probes as Logan cradled her head. "God, Max, what have they done to you?"

"We should get her secured before she comes to," Bling suggested.

"Right," Logan agreed, wiping away a tear.

The two men carried Max into the guest bedroom and placed her on the prepared bed. Logan had tied the rope to the bedposts tightly and it was ready in case they had to act fast. Bling tied Max's feet as Logan secured her hands. Bling double and triple checked all of the knots before patting Logan on the shoulder and leaving the room. He could tell he needed some time alone with Max.

"Damn it, Max," he began as he sat down on the bed next to her. "It's all my fault. I should have checked the locks in Manticore better. I should have been more prepared for a retreat. I should have done SOMETHING better. I just..." He bowed his head and began to weep, facing away from Max. "I shouldn't have let you go on that mission to find Tinga. I shouldn't have let you get shot. I should've gotten you to a hospital..." He trailed off, finding the memories to painful to revisit. "And now I may have lost you forever." He turned around to pet Max's head softly. "I may have lost the woman I love with all my heart." He sank into a chair and buried his head in his hands again, sobbing softly. Leaning back in frustration, all the emotional and physical tension finally caught up with him, and he fell asleep.

Logan awoke to the sound of Max struggling against her bonds a few nights later. This had become a common occurrence during the past week, but usually Max was acting like a soldier, barking orders to release her and whatnot. This time, she was quiet. He stood up and faced her, but her eyes weren't open. He looked at a clock on the nightstand. It was only 4:00 in the morning. He looked back at Max, smiling to himself at her beauty, but his smile disappeared when she realized she was having a nightmare. He knelt by the bed and held Max's hand.

"Logan," she mumbled in her sleep.

"I'm here, Max" Logan responded softly, thankful to hear her say his name.

"No... Leave me... Save yourself... Not worth it..."

"Max, I'm here. You're okay."

"Logan..." Max's voice calmed when she heard his, and her eyes slowly fluttered open. "Where am I," she asked groggily.

"You're safe," he said softly. "You're home." Logan laughed inside when he thought of his apartment as Max's home. He wished it were.

"Oh, Logan... I never told you... I love you..."

"I love you too, Max. Everything's okay..."

Max tilted her head back and drifted back to sleep. Logan sat himself back in his chair and smiled warmly at Max's sleeping figure. Had she meant to say that or was it just an effect of the drugs? More importantly, had he meant what he said? On the surface, he denied it, but deep inside, he knew it was true. He loved Max. But all that mattered to him now was that she was coming back to being her old self again. Logan resumed his sleeping position again and instantly dozed off.

"You wanna tell me what kind of sick fantasies you lived out by tying me down like this?"

Logan opened his eyes the next morning and looked over to see Max smiling widely at him. The sun had risen to begin a beautiful morning outside. Everything was quiet, with the exception of Max's pleasantly familiar sarcastic whine.


"Yeah, it's me." She tugged at her arms. "How about a little help here?" As was custom for her, Max disguised her immense joy with a light sarcasm.

"Oh, God, Max! You're back!" Logan jumped out of his chair and stood looking over her, making sure it wasn't a dream. He had a huge smile on his face, and so did Max.

"Hey, can I - ?" Logan cut her off with a deep kiss, which she gladly accepted. Logan broke the kiss only when the bedroom door opened and a groggy but alarmed Bling tumbled inside the room, gun drawn. Bling had been staying over every night since Max returned, in case she broke free and Logan needed help. He had heard Logan's cry and rushed to his aid.

"What happened?" he asked.

"Max is back!" he exclaimed and motioned to Max.

"Max! Thank God!" He moved to her side and bent down to hug her tightly for a moment, then stood back up next to Logan. Both of them were wearing relieved smiles.

"I missed you guys too," she began, "But could one of you untie me now?"

They all laughed, and Bling and Logan began to untie her. She stretched as her appendages were released, and finally stood up in front of Logan when she was completely free. He gazed down into her eyes with love, and she returned it.

Breaking the silent bond, Max jumped into Logan's arms and wrapped her legs around him in a full-body hug. This almost sent him tumbling backward, but Bling was there to steady him.

"I'm so glad to be back, Logan!"

"And I'm glad to have you back," he replied, still holding her.

She buried her head into his shoulder, and spoke softly. "I'm sorry, Logan..."

"It's not your fault," he assured her immediately.

"But if you hadn't..."

"Don't worry about it. It's over now."

Max lifted her head and looked Logan in the eye. He could see a small tear running down her cheek. He wasn't sure what to do, so he kissed her. Apparently he did the right thing, because Max tightened her embrace and didn't let their mouths part until he was gasping for air. Bling stood in the corner, amused.

"So, what do we do now?" Logan finally managed to ask after regaining his breath.

"I have an idea," Max said with a twinkle in her eye. "How about breakfast?"

They laughed, and Logan set her down on her feet and motioned Bling to follow them to the kitchen.

Twenty minutes later, Logan had whipped up a gourmet breakfast for three, and they were all eating hungrily. Max and Logan kept gazing at each other intently between breaks to shove food in their mouths. There would be time for questions later. Right now, they just wanted to appreciate the reality of Max being back to her normal self. After breakfast was finished, Bling offered to clean up and winked at Logan. He had purposely given them some time alone to talk.

The pair journeyed to the living room and sat down side by side on the couch. There was a long silence as they stared at each other again, not daring to blink and wake up from a wonderful dream. But this was real. Finally, Max spoke.

"Have any clothes that might fit me?" she asked and smiled, motioning to her Manticore-issue combat uniform.

"Sure," he replied, and led her to his bedroom. He selected several shirts and sweatpants from his dresser and placed them on the bed. "See if any of these fit," he said, still smiling foolishly. To his amazement, Max was already starting to undress as he turned to face her. Underneath the military uniform, she had a white tank and shorts on. Logan stood there with his mouth hanging open.

"Thanks," she said, looking up and handing him her clothes. Her smile grew wider when she noticed him checking her out.

Logan took the clothes from her hand and momentarily gained enough control over himself to ask what she wanted him to do with them. Max's smile disappeared for a moment. "Burn them," she said, staring at the hated garments, and instantly returned to her cheery mood when she looked back at Logan. He smiled and threw them in a trashcan.

"Now, you gonna watch me undress or can I get a little privacy so I can take a shower?"

Logan opened his mouth, loaded with a witty comeback, when Max clamped a hand over it. "Just go!" she shouted and pushed him out the door playfully. She shut the door and stripped off the remainder of her clothes, then threw them into the trashcan as well. She didn't want anything that reminded her of Manticore. She then proceeded to take a long, hot shower.

Logan was in the kitchen talking with Bling over coffee as Max walked out of his room. She was wearing a very loose-fitting shirt, and, he noticed, a pair of his boxers, not sweatpants. Her hair was damp and a little curly, hung freely behind her head. "Didn't figure you as a smiley-face kinda guy," she spoke, pointing to the pattern on the shorts.

Logan blushed, and not just because of the underwear, but the fact that it was his underwear and she was wearing it. He was too busy with that realization to notice Bling grinning from ear to ear next to him.

"So... What do we do now?" she asked, sitting down at the table. She paused. "How long have I been here?"

Logan decided it was time for a long talk. He knew Max would want to know every detail of what happened since she'd been shot. "About a week," he answered, grabbing his cup of coffee and sitting down at the table opposite from her.

"A week?!"

"Uh huh."

"How long was I at Manticore?"

"Twenty-three days."

"That's awfully accurate."

"I kept count." Logan's voice lowered and he appeared to be recalling something. "Believe me, I kept count."

Max smiled sheepishly. "Sorry to keep you waiting." Her smile disappeared. "You checked me for tracking bugs, right?"

Logan broke from his thoughts. "Hmm? Oh, yeah. I borrowed some equipment from Sebastian. You're clean."

"Good." She paused. "How did you feed me?" Max was extremely curious about how Logan kept her healthy through the past week.

He laughed at the question. "Carefully. We had to keep you sedated enough from trying to attack me, but still conscious enough to swallow."

Max had so many questions in her head, she couldn't figure out which ones to ask first. She thought about asking how she went to the bathroom, but decided to save that for a less stressful time. "What about my friends? What did you tell them?"

"We told Original Cindy what happened, and after getting over the shock, she said she would make up a cover story to tell Kendra and everyone at work."

Logan had his hands spread out on the table, and Max suddenly placed hers over his gently. "Thank you, Logan," she whispered, a small tear forming in her eye. She looked up. "You too, Bling." He gave a little nod.

"You're welcome, Max," Logan said, turning his hands over to hold Max's lightly.

"What about Krit and Syl?" Max asked after staring lovingly at Logan for a bit.

"They made it out fine. They left the next day, saying they were gonna head out to the Midwest." He paused. "Zack..."

"Zack's dead," Max cut him off. "He sacrificed himself so I could live." She looked like she could burst out in tears at any moment.

Logan turned to look up at Bling, who also had a questioning look on his face. "Max," he continued after look back at Max's bowed head, "You remember Jonathan? Mr. Green?"

"Yeah," came the muffled reply.

"Well, he said the first time he was there, he talked to Zack."

Max's head shot up, her face now much brighter. "He did?"

"Yeah. Blonde hair, blue eyes, anal tone. Had to be him."

Max laughed and squeezed Logan's hands. "Oh, thank you!" Not wanting to be separated by the table anymore, Max stood up and walked over to Logan to hug him. "Thank you..."

Logan stood to meet the embrace. "Thank you, Max. For being alive."

Bling watched the couple and couldn't help but shed a tear. They were so happy holding each other. After a while, he decided it'd be best for him to leave. He put down his empty coffee mug and ventured into the living room. After noticing Bling's absence a few moments later, Logan pulled away slightly from Max so he could face her.

"You okay?" he asked a very tearful Max.

"Yeah. Thanks to you."

Logan pulled her back to his chest, and they stood in silence for a very long time. Max finally broke the silence with another line of questioning.

"Logan?" she muffed softly against his chest.


"What if they come back for me?"

"They won't. I won't let them. Not again."

"You're gonna fight off n entire army for me?" Her voice was familiarly skeptical, but happy.

"For you? Sure. I mean, hey, I have my legs back don't I?"

She laughed, and finally pulled away from Logan, her tears having dried up. "By the way... What ever happened to Lydecker?"

"He was fine," Logan informed her as they moved to the living room to join Bling. "Until about two weeks ago. I guess the realization finally dawned on him that two of his 'kids' had been taken away from him. He was here at the apartment, going over the mission we were planning when it hit him." Max was about to scold him for even thinking of attacking Manticore on her account, but decided to let him continue. "The poor guy broke down and staggered out of here, mumbling something about revenge. I tried to stop him but I was too slow. That was the last I've heard of him since."

Max sat down on the couch across from Bling. "I guess somewhere under his pain-in-the-ass soldier exterior, Lydecker really did have a heart," she said quietly, half to herself.

Logan nodded and sat down next to her. He looked over to Bling, who was busying himself reading a magazine. Then he turned his focus to Max, whom he hadn't realized had snuggled up next to him. He sat there with his arm around her for a while, letting the reality of the situation settle in completely. After a comfortable silence, he announced, "Well, I think that coffee has gotten through my system." He stood up and stretched. "I'll be right back," he promised, then walked down the hall toward the bathroom. Max smiled, but as soon as he had closed the door, she turned to Bling.

"What did he do?" she asked simply.

"Hmm?" Bling looked up from his reading material.

"After I was gone... Did Logan do anything...?"

Bling immediately saw what she was trying to ask. "He was probably upset enough to have wanted to, but he didn't. I think somewhere inside he knew you were alive. That must be what kept him going, I guess." Max smiled. "The day after your brother and sister left, Logan started working on a plan to get you out of Manticore. Hacking into their networks, talking to contacts, trying to formulate some sort of strategy. Logan was so obsessed with finding you, he would have burned himself out if I hadn't made stop for a few hours a day to sleep."

"Thanks again, Bling."

"No problem." He returned to his magazine as Logan entered the room.

"So..." he began.

"So.." Max echoed, happy as ever to see him.

"Bring home any souvenirs from your trip?" Logan had meant it as a joke, but regretted asking the question as soon as it left his mouth. To his relief, Max nodded.

"Yeah, actually. I'm not sure I'd call it a souvenir, but they gave me some stuff to stop my seizures. Permanently. Amazing how much their medical technology can progress after a few years." Max laughed a little and Logan reclaimed his spot on the couch next to her. She stopped laughing when she asked her next question, though. "Speaking of medication... Do you think there's any chance I'll turn back into a soldier?" She was holding Logan's wrist, and he could tell she was nervous. "I mean, I have no idea what they did to change me, or if it will come back."

"No," he told her sincerely. "I had Sebastian look at the medical charts you gave me. He said that the drug was meant to be given every five or six days, and its effect would wear off in that time if you didn't receive another dose. Eventually, your body would have become independent of the medicine, and you would function like a machine naturally. Kind of the opposite of getting hooked on something, I guess." He paused. "But luckily, Manticore sent you out too early and the drug lost effect after a week. Thank God."

Max and Logan were locked in another gaze, which she eventually broke with a soft kiss on his cheek. She then got up, without explaining her quick act of affection, and announced she was going to call Original Cindy. They had a lot they needed to talk about, plus she needed her clothes. Although, she didn't admit she didn't mind wearing Logan's. After calling her roommate, Cindy wasted no time in getting to the penthouse, and the four people talked for the hours following the girls' joyous reunion. Logan had fixed the group lunch, and then dinner. It wasn't until slightly before midnight Original Cindy decided it was time to go.

"Unless you want to sleep over here," she taunted. Max threw a sofa pillow at her, blushing.

"No, as much fun as it sounds," she winked at Logan. "I can't wait to get back home."

She and Logan gathered up the various plates and cups left over from dessert and carried them into the kitchen. Glancing around, Max noticed her Manticore handgun in one of the open cupboards in the kitchen. She remembered how she had almost shot Logan again, and she almost dropped the plates she was carrying. Then she remembered a dream she had right before she returned to normal. It wasn't really a dream, but a flashback. She remembered Logan holding her in his hands, and she was dieing. She felt as if she had died again, but she heard Logan talking to her while she was asleep.

"Did you mean it?" max suddenly asked.

"Mean what?" Logan asked, diverting his attention from the cups he was placing in the dishwasher.

"When I was sleeping. You said... Never mind." She set the plates on the counter and turned to walk away, but Logan grabbed her by the wrist. She stopped, but didn't turn to face him.

"Yeah, I meant it."

"Thanks," she said still facing away from him. She didn't want him to see the huge smile she had on her face.

"Come on, Max!" She heard Cindy call from the front door. "I don't want to get stopped by the sector police for breaking curfew again!"

Max slowly walked out of the room, leaving Logan happily putting away the rest of the dishes. When he was finished, he quickly rejoined the group at the open front door.

"Well... I guess everything's almost back to normal," Bling commented.

"Yeah," Max agreed. "Almost." She glanced at Logan with a hidden smile.

"Speaking of Normal," Original Cindy butted in. "We have work tomorrow, boo. Which means we had better not sleep in. You think Normal would give you a break just because you were tortured for weeks in a secret government facility?"

Max laughed. "You're right. I guess we better get going." She looked over to Logan, who was looking down at the floor. "Bye, Logan." She stepped up to him unexpectedly and planted a kiss on his cheek. Cindy bit her tongue to hold in her amusement. "See ya, Bling." She gave Bling quick hug and the two women stepped into the elevator.

"Later, Max," Bling called after them as the doors shut. Logan was standing a little shocked in the hallway. Max had kissed him, in public. Did this mean something new for their relationship?

"Yeah, bye," he finally replied to the closed doors. He stood motionless for a moment, then turned to a wildly grinning Bling. "What?"

"I told ya, man," he mused.

"Uh huh, right. Mind helping me straighten up the place before you leave?"


About half an hour later, after Bling had gone home and Logan was getting ready for bed, the phone rang. Logan reluctantly picked it up, not wanting anything to spoil the great mood he was in. It was Max, though, which just made him happier.

"Hey, Logan."

"Hey. What's up?"

"Just wanted to... Say goodnight."


"Well... goodnight."

"Goodnight. Oh, Max?"


"How about dinner tomorrow at seven?"

"Sounds great. See you then."