Here's my Gift offering on the last day of Christmas for Lisa and for Annie. This is highly experimental. My little brain could only come up with one main plot so here's a tag-team offering. I tried separating the 2 halves, but it was way too much work to read it that way. The names refer to the sections that are my replies to the requests. I tried my best to honor their requests in each individual section. (e.g. Annie is pro-Bling and Lisa is anti-Bling.) See if I succeeded (Details of the request listed at the end of the story. Love to hear what you think.
Lisa: Part I
"I went by the post-office box on Tenth Street, but they didn't have anything for you," Max addressed the air as she stepped into the apartment and let the door click gently behind her. "Logan?"
Max moved quietly through the apartment, pushing open the sliding panel to the computer room.
"Logan? The post-office?"
The usually neat room was a maze of equipment. The monitors had been disconnected from their stands and lined up along one wall with their cables stretched across the room. Various drives and other larger pieces were stacked on the table and all around it. Some of the drives had been opened up, their boards laid neatly in a row beside them. A fan had been propped up against one wall, but its blades lay still. The heat was stifling.
Logan's long legs stuck out from under the mass of equipment. His voice came out from somewhere under the table.
"Max… I thought you were going to be working today. I should have told you not to go to the P.O. box. I haven't ordered anything for a while."
Max ducked her head down to look underneath the table, but Logan had retreated further under it. Shrugging, she straddled one of the chairs and propped her chin on her hands, leaning against its back.
"What are you doing under there anyway?"
"I've been having problems re-directing the cable hacks through different dummy servers. I couldn't find the bad connection. I had to take all of them down and re-check every connection."
Max raised her eyebrows at the scraping sounds of equipment being shifted around and the sound of Logan's voice, swearing softly.
"Need a hand?"
"No, no. I've got it," Logan said a little too loudly. His head popped up from behind the table as he pushed himself back into his chair. Logan ducked behind a monitor again, but not before Max caught a glimpse of bare skin.
"I've had to keep all the equipment on, and the fan gave out a while ago…where is that damn shirt?"
Finally, Logan emerged from behind desk, bumping over the cables on the ground, his collar still askew. His shirt clung to him and beads of sweat still stood out on his skin.
"I thought you were working today, Max?"
"I was. But I've been off for an hour…or don't you notice the sun going down anymore?"
Logan ran a hand through his damp hair, standing it even more on end. He picked up a small black box from his lap and tossed it to Max.
"I've been trying all day to make it work, but it's just not going to happen. The router needs to be replaced. Only problem is that the one I need is out of date now. It can't be ordered and the only guy who carries it is a guy named Chuck down in the Rat Trap. The guy's a bit of a conspiracy theorist. He refuses to sell anything to anyone he doesn't know personally."
"Well, that settles it, Logan. Conspiracy theorists are your specialty. You should get along fine with Chuck. And you definitely don't need me."
Max glanced down at her pager.
"Looks like Normal's paging me back for that double shift I offered to do. Later."
And with that, Max was out the door. Logan stripped off his shirt, tossed it onto the pile of equipment and headed to the shower.
Logan leaned back against the shower wall, letting the hot water stream down his face. He imagined himself coming up with a smart remark of some kind and tossing his shirt playfully at Max…instead of hiding under the table. Still, he smiled to himself, Max did look like she was trying to steal a look at him. Things seemed to be finally settling down again for them. It had been a long time since his mind had made that leap to thinking about holding Max in his arms. The night they had gone riding on her Ninja had held so much promise. But only a few nights later, he had begun to feel the strength slowly fading from his legs, taking with it, the strength to continue the first halting steps of any romance.
That night, they had raced through the streets, whooping and yelling. It had felt so good to have the wind whipping by, to feel her arms around him. They had traced over and over the empty streets of South Seattle until Logan had turned to go over the Spokane Street bridge.
"Where are you going? We might not be able to get before the sector police make their final sweep," Max shouted over the noise of the bike.
Logan ignored her. Didn't he want to show her what he meant by speed? Didn't he say that he wanted to go fast? They raced over the deserted bridge, skidded around the sign that marked the end of the patrolled area, and rolled slowly along the deserted row of restaurants that had once been some of Seattle's finest. Even when some of the nicer places in downtown Seattle had reopened, these landmark waterfront restaurants along Elliot Bay had remained shuttered. West Seattle was too far away for the overworked police force to patrol, so it had remained dark.
Laughing at Logan's efforts to thread the heavy bike along the broken boardwalk, they finally pulled up in next to one of the deserted buildings.
"This used to be one of my favorite date restaurants before the Pulse. Of course, I'm talking way back, back when I cared more about the view than about the food," he offered.
"I didn't know that was possible, Logan Cale."
Breathlessly, they stowed the Ninja among the overgrown bushes that hid the harbor from their view. Climbing over a low wall, Logan slowly led the way up a narrow flight of steps to the roof. He had forgotten that he had only walked across the room for the first time that morning, so he had to grip the hand rail tightly as he pulled each foot up one step at a time. Still, his slow progress didn't dampen his excitement. He felt the strength returning to his legs and he welcomed it, even if it was slow going.
Finally, they reached the top. The last section of steps that led up to the bell-tower was closed, but they had climbed into the balcony and stood leaning against the tower.
"Now, that's not a view of Seattle that you see every day."
Before the Pulse, this had been the most photographed view of the Seattle skyline. Even now, although there were far fewer lights than before '09, the lights of the tallest buildings around Lake Washington still twinkled, reflecting off the bay. Up close, one could see that most of the neon signs were missing half their letters and most of the buildings were boarded up, but from far away, the effect was still magical.
"I'd forgotten how tall you were."
"So you said."
She bent her head down against the cold wind. He cradled her face in his hands, raising it up to look at her.
"You did this, Max," he whispered. His lips slid down, skimming over her eyelids, kissing her cheek. Her lips felt hot against his. Everything else faded away. The cold of the wind. The cold of the hard stone against his back.
Shyly, reluctantly, they both pulled away.
"I think we should get back, before the sector police catch us over here, Logan"
"I guess there is tomorrow."
But there hadn't been a tomorrow. Zack had come and his legs had gone. And even the shy excitement Logan had felt during those late nights of chess and dinner had proved elusive. At first, he had mourned the loss of his brief freedom from the chair. Even more acutely, he felt awkward about having cared so much about walking, about feeling that everything really had changed just because he had gotten out of the chair. Especially when Max had said it didn't matter to her.
Logan reached over to turn off the water. Maybe Max was ready to try being "like that." Or maybe Max had been ready all along, just waiting for him to get his head on straight.
Annie: Part II
"Are you sure that's the only way to get the router, Bling?"
Logan and Bling were working on a last-ditch attempt to fix the system. Logan only saw Bling occasionally now, when he called on him to help with an Eyes Only project. After Dr. Vertes had been killed, Logan had told Bling that he would be taking over his own physical therapy. Max had protested, worried that this abrupt move came so closely on the heels of the incident with Mrs. Moreno. Bling had shrugged, seeing that Logan's mind was set. He seemed to see it for what it was, a chance for his friend to lick his wounds, a chance for him to come to terms with himself. By all measures, it seemed that Logan had been keeping up his end of the bargain. His mobility in and out of the chair continued to improve and he seemed to have little trouble with range of motion or spasms. So, Max and Bling had let it go.
"Logan, I told you, I tried to talk to Chuck about my going down there to pick it up for you, but he refused to even talk to me. He says Logan Cale has to come down there, or there's no deal. What's your problem with going down there anyway?"
"Nothing. No problem."
The Rat Trap had once been a part of a brand new underground mall and department store, connected to one of Seattle's subway stations. It was the perfect solution to Seattle's daunting rain and its burgeoning population. But the Pulse had halted all constructed in the city and the shiny department store had never been used.
Instead, one by one, other vendors had moved into the space. From the very beginning, sellers of electronics, sound equipment, and all kinds of computer gadgetry had found it an attractive place to set up shop. The original construction had been planned for high-end jewelry and other expensive items, so each small section had pull-down gates that kept the smaller items safe overnight. And if the gates weren't enough, there were plenty of armed body guards for hire for extra protection.
Every stall was crammed with electronics equipment of all kinds. Most of the parts were used, or reconditioned in some way. Some of the new parts were pirated or looted from office buildings during the Pulse, but times were tough and customers of the Rat Trap didn't ask questions. There were piles of televisions, radios, car stereos, satellite dishes and printers. Massive flat screen monitors sat next to wrenches and plastic housing for wires and endless miles of power cords and cables. Plenty of equipment carried the DOJ/Property of the US Government stamp too, but buyers turned a blind eye to that too.
Chuck had been setting up shop in the Rat Trap for a couple of years now. For most of that time, he had lived there too. At first, he hadn't been able to afford protection detail for his merchandise. Then, as his business grew, he hadn't trusted anyone else to wield a gun around his stuff.
Chuck specialized in surveillance equipment. As an ex-Marine, he had started out acquiring microphones and dated high frequency scramblers from his buddies overseas. He sold bugging equipment and tiny com links, small enough for Secret Service use.
Logan Cale had been a regular customer. He had always communicated by email or phone. Usually, Chuck only conducted business in person, but he made an exception for Cale because he had paid him very well. Brash and cocky, Cale always knew what he wanted. He wasn't afraid to drive a hard bargain, but he also knew when he was asking for a rare find. Then,he paid top dollar. Chuck kept joking about meeting Cale face to face, but he had always gotten the brush-off. Maybe he had offended Cale in some way because he hadn't heard from him in 6 months.
As Max had said, conspiracy theorists were Logan's specialty.
"That's precisely the problem," Logan thought. Logan knew how Chuck's mind worked. And something about him made Logan nervous. Chuck was slightly paranoid and very smart, a dangerous combination around Eyes Only. Once, Chuck had made a pointed remark about Eyes Only and how easy it might be to figure out who was behind the red, white and blue mask. Logan had avoided calling him for a long time after that.
Six months ago, he had needed long range "bugs" to move Lauren and Sophy into witness protection. It just so happened that Peter had gone to see Chuck on the fateful day of the shooting. Logas felt reasonably sure that Chuck had no connection to Bruno and Mayor Steckler, but he had avoided sending Max or Bling to him so far. Instead, he had been ordering everything by mail to secure post-office boxes. Now, with the downfall of Cale Industries, the scarcity of funds and quality equipment had driven him back to the Trap, but Chuck still made him nervous.
Chuck was a compiler of statistics. He kept stats and spreadsheets on everything. And Eyes Only was his little pet project. Secretly, he admired the guy (if indeed he was a guy - one should always keep an open mind when trying to solve a mystery). In particular, he reasoned that Eyes Only had eluded capture only because he had a very sophisticated method for hacking into the cable system and retreating undetected. He further reasoned that such sophisticated hacking would mean that Eyes Only had to come in contact with the Rat Trap on a regular basis.
So, he kept tabs on what types of equipment he and his buddies sold. He looked for blips in the purchases that coincided with big Eyes Only busts. So far, his most likely suspects had turned out to be a lot more boring than the super hero personalities he had created for them. The only interesting character so far was Logan Cale and that was only because the guy did buy things that Eyes Only might need and because he absolutely refused to come down to the Rat Trap himself.
Maybe Cale was hiding something. When he heard from Cale again after six long months, Chuck took a chance and insisted that the man come down himself for the pickup. To his delight, Cale had agreed.
"Have the piece ready, I'll come down on Thursday.
Logan picked his way through Market Street, headed for the tunnel that led to the Rat Trap. He knew better than to leave the Aztek unattended nearby, so he had ridden the bus to Market. The Rat Trap had a dozen entrances and he had picked the one that would get him closest to Chuck's stall. He rolled onto one of the rare working escalators and tried to ignore the hawkers who perched themselves along the narrow ledge next to the handrail. Even on the escalator, it was impossible to avoid the crush of people selling gadgets and solar battery chargers.
When the underground mall had first been built, it had sported wide ramps which led slowly down to the subway station. Of course, no one had controlled the growth of the black market electronics maze after the Pulse, so the cramped stalls crowded every inch of space. Logan passed a group of men cheering and throwing bets down as they raced remote-controlled cars around an abandoned fountain. Around another corner, he spied an entire floor devoted to boxes of mid-twentieth century long-playing records (he was quite proud of himself for remembering that term). In the center of the room, someone had strung a dozen record players together so that sound from each LP could be fed into a computer to create a surreal mix as they played backwards and forwards.
And, of course, there were rows and rows of computer parts. Boxes of boards to build a computer of any size. Enormous bins of ports and connectors. As a teenager and college student, Logan had spent hours in the Rat Trap. He had even worked there for a few months, learning and acquiring free equipment. Logan had never been to Chuck's section. It was supposed to have been the ornate underground entrance to one of Seattle's biggest hotels, but it had been left unfinished. However, as the Rat Trap had expanded and everyone needed more space, the industrious vendors had fixed it up as best they could.
Logan could see Chuck's booth far down the row. The equipment here was more expensive and many of the booths had bodyguards with guns prominently displayed. Steps had been built haphazardly and Logan bumped down them, making his way more and more slowly.
Annie: Part VI
Chuck sat on a stool in the back of his booth, swinging his feet absently. It was Thursday and business had been slow. He had been trying to guess what Logan Cale might look like. For all his aggressive business tactics and conspiracy theorizing, Chuck was quite an unassuming figure. His pushed his straight brown hair away from his face and folded his lanky frame back onto the stool. He thought he saw someone who might be Cale, but when the man went into another stall, he sat back down.
One likely candidate, dressed in a black overcoat and hat moved slowly towards Chuck. He had almost made up his mind to approach the man, when he heard someone calling his name.
"Hey, Chuck. I think you're holding something for me."
A man in a wheelchair was waving an arm from about halfway down the aisle. Chuck made his way toward the man, who had come down the handful of steps and was now looking with some trepidation at the half dozen of so left.
"Cale's the name. I'm here for a pickup." Logan offered his hand and shook Chuck's warmly.
"Oh, yeah. Sure. I've got it right here." Chuck turned quickly back to his desk, trying to hide his disappointment. How could he have been so stupid? There were lots of reasons why a man might not want to come all the way down to the Rat Trap. It didn't mean that he was Eyes Only. And here he had forced this man to wheel his way all the way down through this maze only to go back up again.
For his part, Logan looked the young man up and down and found he didn't look as intimidating as he had anticipated. He had to admit that it felt pretty good to be down here again.
"Here it is. Check it over and I'll wrap it up for you." Chuck said, handing over the small plastic and metal box.
Logan looked it over, handed it back and glanced around the dimly lit room as he waited.
In the far corner in another stall, he glimpsed a familiar figure, thumbing through rows of pirated digital flash drive films.
"What's Sketchy doing here?" he thought. The adjacent stall held mostly sound equipment, massive speakers, car stereos, surround-sound systems.
Two rows away, a couple of men, were starting to argue with the bodyguard about a piece of equipment.
"Get out of there, Sketchy," Logan silently willed.
Now, another man pushed his way over to Sketchy. Just as he passed him, Logan saw him shove a squarish grey box into Sketchy courier bag. Logan tried to shout a warning to Sketchy, but the first two men rushed toward Sketchy and pushed him hard into the bodyguard.
The grey box fell onto the floor.
The bodyguard started shouting at Sketchy. Another bodyguard joined him. They threw Sketchy roughly onto the ground, kicking him and shouting. The first two men, slipped out of the store grabbing a couple of PDA's on the way out. Chuck looked around uneasily. He had seen what had happened, but he hated to get involved. After all, he sometimes depended on these hired guns himself.
The goons dragged the young man towards the back of the store as struggled to get away. Out of the corner of his eye, Chuck saw Cale slide across the aisle to the front counter of the sound stereo booth. All the attention was directed morbidly at the fight, but Cale seemed to be typing something hurriedly on one of the display laptops. Chuck squinted at the screen, reading "The Godfather" on it.
"What the hell is Cale doing?" he thought.
One of the guards was now removing his coat, shouting at the young man, before returning to pummeling him.
Cale selected a couple of packages from the wall next to the counter and ripped them open. He pulled out a cable and connected the laptop to a soundboard next to the counter. He tore off the wrapping on the other cable and plugged it into the 5 foot high speaker sitting near the entrance of the booth.
The two goons seemed to pause to take a breath.
At that moment, Cale shouted, "Sketchy, get out now!"
Cale reached hit a button on the display laptop and the ear-splitting sound of gunfire erupted in the store. It came from all around the walls of the store, the walls lined with top-of-the-line car stereo speakers. The sound emanating from the 5-foot speaker echoed off the walls and shook the glass.
Everyone hit the ground. The three bodyguards crawled behind the counters, drawing their weapons and firing wildly at the walls.
Sketchy didn't need a second invitation. Grabbing his courier bag, he slid under the nearest table and leaped over the next two. He hit the ground running and didn't look back.
The gunfire ended as abruptly as it began as the familiar Godfather theme from the toll booth scene began to play from the countless speakers surrounding them. The three gunmen climbed out from behind the counters and looked around in confusion before one of them put a fist through the laptop on the counter, cutting off the song mid-note. Everyone else turned slowly back to his business. The owner of the stereo store shouted to the gunmen to take a break to "cool off."
Chuck looked around for any sign of Cale, but he had disappeared. Surely, he couldn't have escaped as quickly as the fleeing young man.
Twenty minutes later, Chuck was still mulling over the events of the morning. He flagged down a young girl selling coffee and crossed over to her. He was holding his cup as the girl filled it with boiling coffee when he happened to glance across the aisle at the speaker store. The 5-foot speaker was being pushed aside. Logan Cale wheeled out from behind it, and shoved it neatly back into place.
"Wait!" Chuck yelled, nearly scalding his hand. He grabbed his coffee from the girl and sprinted back to his booth.
"Wait!" Chuck yelled again. Cale moved smoothly around the corner and was swallowed by the crowd. On the counter, sat a neatly rolled wad of cash. Cale's package was gone.
Lisa: Part VII – Denouement
Max sat perched on a stool in Logan's kitchen.
"Saw your hack on those electronics assembly sweatshops," she blew on her hot chocolate to cool it. "I guess that means you got the part you needed from that guy in the Rat Trap."
"Yeah, no problem." Logan leaned over the stove to pour himself a cup.
"I talked to Sketchy today. He said some huge shootout went down there this morning. He barely got out of there without getting a few holes put in him," Max sipped her drink slowly and peered at Logan over the edge of her cup. "You wouldn't know anything about that would you?"
"No, ma'am. Must have happened before I got there, I waited until it stopped raining before I headed down there." Logan moved over to the window and warmed his hands on the cup in his lap.
He stared out over the skyline. "Oh, look, the sun's even coming out now."
Annie: Part VIII – Denouenouement
Chuck stared at the surveillance video. All the images were of the back of the man's head.
"Come on, turn around," he urged the man on the screen. The wheelchair remained stubbornly turned away.
"All right, last chance." He downloaded the image off the tiny webcam he had mounted under the counter.
He chewed his lip as he stared at the screen. He cropped the shot and enlarged it. He slid it over, next to the still shot of the familiar eyes above the red-white-and-blue banner and superimposed the two images.
Things You Don't Want to See:
2)Monsters like the one that stopped Max and Logan getting together in S2
3)Above all no virus
1)Max and Logan and UST
2)Logan back story of any kind
3)Return visit by Bling?
4)Alec and Logan having some sort of serious talk- sorry, no
5) Joshua but only if he can be treated decently.- couldn't find a way to get him in
Things You Don't Want to See:
1) excessive injury angst
2)more than 2 paragraphs or 3 lines of dialogue devoted to Bling – not in HER section
3) anything set more that a few months post freak nation -
1) A story about what happened after the motorcycle ride in Rising -yes
2) some kissing that isn't totally angsty (a little is ok)
3) one of max's friends gets into trouble and needs rescuing
4) sunshine when nobody was expecting it
5) bonus point for finding a creative way to get logan out of some of his clothes
PS…I'm also totally fine with author's choice if these prompts don't speak to you.