Notes...

A-Rog: No worries. And I'm trying. I expanding on Dynamo's powers a tad, but I'm not planning on making him unstoppable, just better able to take a blow.

BitchAmI: Expect her to sing more than anyone will want her to. Ever.

HokkaidoMaster: Maybe not crushes, but a foundation to work from.

Ember Ice: Spelling is fixed. Ava and Kitty becoming friends was something I made up on the fly.

Blue-Red-Ninja/lordoftoast: I Shadow's powers and fighting style would be like a toned down Alex Mercer from Prototype. Only with less people getting eaten alive.

Cloudy-TheNightMareQueen: Thank you.

Chapter IV: Press Release

Rogue let off a soft growl at the end of the school day, walking out the front door. Lance had stepped up his attempts to win Kitty over and while she wasn't swept off her feet she was noticing him. Why was beyond her, but she did.

Lance was the quintessential bad boy, a jerk with a heart of gold. The problem was his upbringing was going from foster home to foster home, living under abusive men and stern men who meant well but didn't know how to deal with Lance. He came out the other end bitter and, while not broken, severely cracked with that heart of gold buried under a lifetime of negativity. He was more than willing to bully and use force to get his way and to cheat to get ahead. There was a hidden sensitive side in him and Rogue honestly though he could be a good fit for Kitty, if and only if he matured and quit being a thug.

Given Lance's company, the Brotherhood, was not a shining example of the best mankind had to offer it wouldn't happen anytime soon, she'd bet.

"You look like someone pissed in your Fruit Loops this morning." She heard, turning to see Risty there.

"It's nothing, don't worry about it." Rogue replied waving it off. She turned to look forwards, seeing Reese pull up front with his car, a dark blue Dodge Charger. He gave it two honks before sticking his head out the window.

"Hey, I thought we are all going to the mall, what you ladies doing?" He called out. "Standing around looking pretty?"

"Of course." Risty giggled out, running to the car, going to the passenger side. "Shotgun!"

"Whatever." Rogue let off as she hoped into the back seat. "To the mall, chauffer!" She jokingly let off.

"As you wish, milady." Reese joking replied as he drove off, laughing a bit as the car rolled off down the road.

"Well, well, isn't someone in a chipper mood?" Risty said, smirking lightly. "Something good happen?"

"Yeah. I found three fifty in change lost in the couch." Reese replied, smirking back. The truth was he and Ava had driven off on a tip from one of Maxwell's sources the other night. He knew Alex and Rayn were doing something as well, but he wasn't sure what. Either way, Spartan and Tempest had found one hell of a stash house and busted a small drug ring.

That was enough to make him happy, particularly after the attack on the field two nights ago. The icing was Commissioner Armstrong was on camera with a reporter on the scene, claiming his officers made the bust, only to have one of his junior officers come up to him, on camera, with a card Spartan had left.

All broadcasted on TV that morning.

He hoped that the officer kept his job but it was nice to see that bulldog get knocked down a few pegs.

"What about you two?" Reese asked as he made a turn. "Anything good happen?"

"Well yes." Risty began, smiling. "I woke up, went to the bathroom and had a wonderful bowel movement."

"Okay, seriously, next one of you who mentions what you do in a bathroom that does not involve a sex toy is getting kicked out of the car." Reese said, wincing. "While the car is moving."

"Does a blow-dryer count?"

"No."

"Dang."

Rogue let off a soft chuckle in the back. "Sorry sugar, no toys for this girl. All hands on."

"...Thank you; I'll have that image in my head tonight. And the next night." Reese let off, sighing. "Maybe a few more nights while performing... something in the bathroom."

"I thought you broke up with Rosie Palms." Rogue joked, Risty snickering in turn.

"Yeah. Turns out she's a lesbian and wants in your panties." Reese shot back, Risty's snickering picking up.

"What if I ain't got any?" Rogue replied, smirking in his rear view mirror.

"...Then you should wear shorter skirts."

"Oh my god..." Risty let out as she broke into laughter. "Keep it up and I'll rock the car off the road!"

"That'd suck." Reese agreed. "The obituaries would read 'Rogue, Reese and Risty. Killed and murdered. By Rosie Palms.'"

Laughter filled the car as Rogue clutched at her sides. After the attack by the Exo-Suits and Lance's obsession with Kitty it was good to laugh.

MAX-MAX-MAX-MAX

Scott sighed as he tossed his books into the back seat of his car as he watched Rogue pile into the car with her friend. If there was one good thing from the other night it was that both Reese and Risty weren't present. Rogue would have been devastated if she made two friends only for them to be hurt right away.

The girl's soccer team, meanwhile, was in one sorry state. Both Jean and Taryn were going to be out of commission for a week or more at least, meaning they would miss the finals leaving the team without two of their best players along with another two players who were injured. In addition the team's coach was trampled in the mayhem and the assistant coach was struck in the back with a piece of wooden shrapnel that lodged itself next to his heart.

He was recovering now, but word was it was very touch and go.

And then there was the fact that they were going against the Lodestar High School's team. With their mascot being the Cougar their school was billing the upcoming match as the Hungry Cougars against the Wounded Hawks.

Principal Kelly, however, refused to let the team lie down and die. The rest of the team emerged from the pep rally with little to no injuries. He took the team aside and began a small speech that started with 'teamwork; it makes the dream work.' As of now Sally Floras and Tammy Underlay were taking the forward and midfield roles Jean and Taryn had while Maxine Sola and a girl he can't say he knew, Penny Westward, took Floras' and Underlay's places.

Who took their places warming the bench was something Scott decided not to ask.

Lastly Kelly put Jean and Taryn back on the team. Although with Jean's cracked ribs and Taryn's wounded ankle meant neither could play they were still the two best players on the team so the Principal appointed them as the temporary Coach and Assistant Coach. Jean had gotten down to work, taking over the duties while Taryn helped as best she could while using crutches to get around. Between the two of them and the shuffle in the team's ranks they had gone from the Wounded Hawks to Bandaged but Battle Ready Hawks. The team was pulling together and the girls were working their collective asses off to get ready for a match against a healthy and top tier team.

"Scott! Hold up!" He heard as he reached for the car door. He paused, turning about, seeing Taryn hobble towards him on her crutches, her right foot off the ground. He smiled a bit, noting the pom-poms stapled to the sides of the crutches at the middle and near the top, yet another show of team spirit.

"Taryn! Are you feeling better?" He asked, leaning against his car as she stopped before him.

"I'd feel better if I could play." She said, sighing as she set her foot down, wincing softly.

"I know. Jean's was complaining almost non-stop until Kelly made her the Coach." He said, shaking his head. "I think with something to focus her energy on she'll feel like she's pulling her weight and not staying on the sidelines."

"Yeah, I bet." She replied, smiling a bit before blushing. "Ah, listen, Scott, I never got the chance to thank you for helping me that night." She tucked a strand of hair behind her ear before continuing. "You were a real life saver back there."

"Well, you were in trouble, I was able to help." Scott said, smiling as he reached over, pushing off the car the set a hand on her shoulder. "Sides, it was hectic. I just wish I could have done more than that..."

"Come on Scott, you were there..." Taryn replied gesturing to the field, still full of holes. The girl's team was reduced to practicing in the elementary school's field and Kelly had asked their teachers to allow them to go off and practice and get in shape for the game. "They had battle suits! With guns! And rockets!" She set a hand on Scott's, pulling it off her shoulder and holding it in her hands, squeezing. "MAX Force could only stand up to them because they had powers and even then they had trouble. You could have gotten hurt or worse... I... It would be a lot worse on everyone if that happened..."

Scott had to bite back the fact that he had powers, but she had a point. Even if he could get into the fight after being so disoriented from the near rocket hit, Evan and Jean were out, Rogue would have been useless and it would have been up to him, Kurt and Kitty. And aside from Kitty their effects against the battle armour was anyone's guess while MAX Force, while he didn't see most of the battle, got the job done.

"Besides, even if they're superheroes, you're my hero." Taryn finished up as Scott blushed softly, coughing lightly.

"Ah, well, thank you." Scott let off, smiling a bit, trying not to look like goof. "I wish I knew what to say to that."

Taryn laughed a bit at that, blushing back a little. "It's okay. I was hoping, well, I want to repay you a bit so, well, you got time tomorrow night? Dinner on me?"

"Ummm, well, sure." Scott replied, taking his hand back to rub the back of his neck. "Uh, when should I pick you up?"

"Can it be around seven?"

"Sure, of course."

MAX-MAX-MAX-MAX

"Yahhhhoooo!" Kitty let off as she clutched Ava's sides, on the back of her Harley as they rode down the road to Xavier's. They had struck up something of an odd friendship. On one hand Ava was a girly girl like she was, interested in clothes, painting toe nails and trendy clothing. On the other she was also a tomboy who didn't slap and hair pull in fights, didn't mind a little grease on her hands and loved riding fast and hard. The best way, Kitty decided, to describe Ava was a girlish tomboy.

"Not even cracking her hard!" Ava let off as she gave the V-Rod more gas before slowing down and turning into the gates. She rather liked Kitty, which was odd. Normally she tended to annoy other girls. She was a very big flirt, and she knew it annoyed the hell out of most girls she had known. And then there was the fact that she was, in her and others opinion, a grade A hottie. If girls were put on the meat market she would be labelled Top, Grade A Sirloin. She had a sweet ass, big boobs, long legs, a pretty face, toned body and great hair; a total package. She knew it, and had no qualms about wrapping hormonal boys about her finger with it.

Kitty, meanwhile, wasn't put off by it, or at least hid it well. She was friendly, nice and sweet and would be the ideal personality for most guys. She wasn't as hot as Ava was though, almost flat chested to be honest, but she had an adorable quality that was very endearing. All she needed was a push up bra.

Ava pulled up by the front door as Kitty hoped off, setting the helmet onto the back of the bike, securing it. "Thanks for the ride." Kitty said, smiling as Ava gave her a thumbs up.

"No problems. Gotta jet." Ava replied before riding off, heading back to and out of the gates.

"That was a nice bike." Logan let off as he walked over. "Not my colour, but nice bike."

"Oh, that was Ava." Kitty said, before walking to the door of the mansion. "She's cool." She added before phasing past the door, into the building.

MAX-MAX-MAX-MAX

"Okay, seriously, I am not a pack mule." Reese insisted as he groaned. Really, he thought, two girls off shopping? He should have known better. He was carrying six bags of cosmetics, clothes and assorted items. Two were Rogue's, four were Risty's, and none were his.

At least the two girls had figured it might be an idea to put in a token effort and carried a bag each as they walked to the dressing area of the next store.

"Oh relax lover." Risty said, jokingly. "Sides, we're almost done. I just need a new skirt. Saw it online the other day. Maybe a second if something catches the eye."

"Oh goodie." Reese let off sighing before his phone began to vibrate lightly

You make me smile like the sun

Fall outta bed

Sing like a bird

"Aw, man..." He let off, trying to move the three bags on his right arm to the other to free it up.

Dizzy in my head

Spin like a record

"Here." Rogue said, grabbing the bags as Reese reached to his side, pulling the phone out of it's holster.

Crazy on a Sunday night

You make me dance like a fool

"Hello." Reese said once he got his phone, the disguised MAX Activator, to his head.

"Reese, how's it going?" He heard, Maxwell on the other side.

"Not too bad, just being used as bag rack." Reese replied as he and Rogue waited as Risty walked off into the store, searching for her skirts. "What ya need?"

"Work related." Maxwell replied. "Nothing pressing, there is no rush. I just need to go over something with you when you get back."

"Oh? What's that?" Reese asked as Risty came back with the skirts, laying them on a bench as she began studying them.

"Nothing I want to go on about until we're face to face. Don't worry, have fun with your friends."

"I get ya, just figured I'd ask. "See ya later."

"Goodbye."

"What was that about?" Rogue asked as Reese set his phone away.

"Not sure. Mister Maxwell wants to get a hold of me when I get back." He replied, Risty grabbing a skirt and taking into the changing booth. "Doesn't sound pressing, whatever it is."

"If you need to go we can tell Risty we're grabbing a bite tomorrow." Rogue said, pointing a thumb at the change room.

"Nah, it's cool." Reese said, waving his hand. "Sides, I promised you two a dinner... at a fast food joint, yes, but still, dinner."

"Mister Director, where is my close up?" They heard, turning to face Risty who has posing in the skirt.

Well a 'skirt' may have been a generous description of the piece of black cloth, Reese thought as she turned about. It was more like a belt of fabric that covered... not a lot.

"...Bend forwards a bit, see how it acts." Reese said, figuring Risty would just blow him off.

Surprisingly she did bend forwards.

"Red thong? Really?" Rogue asked, eyebrow raised slightly.

"Hate the panty-lines." She said before walking back into the changing room, leaving her two friends.

"... I didn't think she'd bend over." Reese admitted.

"Me either." Rogue added, nodding.

"...Got a nice ass though."

"Mine's nicer."

"Yeah, it is. But I haven't seen it in a thong."

"And you never will."

MAX-MAX-MAX-MAX

"Need a hand up there?" Conrad asked as he jogged up to the van on the side of the road. He was walking back to the mansion, about to make his turn towards his home as he saw the van. One of the back tires was deflated and flat as a board. He saw someone, a woman by the looks of it, pulling something out of the back, or at least trying too.

"No, I don't need help, ah damn..." She let off, clutching her ribs and stepping back into the open back door of the van.

"You okay?" Conrad asked, concerned as he approached a bit closer. When she turned her face he recognized her.

He asked about her the other day in the hall. This was the girl he rescued as Shadow that night on the field, Jean Grey. "You're Jean, right? Heard you got banged up during the, well..."

"I'm okay. Just a couple of cracked ribs, that's all it is, really." Jean said reassuringly, giving a soft smile. "They're not giving me too much trouble." She assured him, waving him off.

This was a beautiful girl. He thought Ava was a hottie, but Jean was another thing altogether; great body, great smile and that hair.

If she ever cut it short someone was being arrested for crimes against humanity.

And from what he heard she was also nice and friendly, always a bonus. "Let me help you with that. Replacing a tire can't be fun with your side kicked in." He said reaching in to the carjack, pulling it out.

"Look, really, I can do this." Jean said, setting her hands on her hips. On one hand she didn't really want to change the tire, let alone change it with injured ribs, but she didn't need to seem like some incapable little girl either.

"I'm sure you can." Conrad said as he pulled out the spare tire as well. "But if you hurt yourself I'd feel bad about it later." He said as he knelt down, setting up the jack.

"...Okay, you win, oh shining knight." Jean said, sighing and letting her arms fall to her sides.

"Ha, ha." Conrad let off as he started to crank the jack. "Just don't expect an oil change with it. You want that done, see Ava."

"Who?" Jean asked as the van lifted up.

"We go to Maxwell's together." Conrad replied, shrugging once the tire was off the ground. "She's a decent mechanic too. She actually knows what a transmission is for." He said joked as he moved to the flattened wheel, using another tool to undo the nuts before pulling the tire off. After rolling the new tire over he lifted it up, setting it on the axel. "But my dad popped tires like gum, so this is something I know like the back of my hand." He added as he secured the nuts into place. Once that was done he went back to the jack, lowered the vehicle and started setting the tools and now flat tire back. "There, done. No pain even."

"Thanks." Jean said, letting her hand go past he hair as she smiled. As much as she hated to admit it, she was thankful. She would have taken longer, and it would have been hell on the ribs.

"Oh, d-don't worry about it." Conrad replied, trying not to flush. God she was hot. And damn that smile was just as hot...

It was an effort to not melt into a puddle. "Anyway, I should be going. Just make sure to get the tire fixed, with a patch up it should still be good."

"Hey, wait." Jean called out as Conrad started down the way he came. "I didn't get your name!"

"Conrad! Conrad Wolfe! Maybe I'll see you around!" He said before jogging along the side of the road before turning off.

"Um, yeah. Bye now." Jean said as she went back to the van, climbing inside and turning on the van. Actually, now that she thought of it, she really was thankful, and he was kinda cute.

"Hmm, if he's available maybe I can set him up with someone." She thought as she started back down the road. Really, he was cute and seemed nice enough, so it couldn't hurt.

Speaking of which, she really needed to thank Duncan as well for the flowers and chocolate. She knew it wasn't just a 'get well soon' gift, he was making up for flirting with that girl, who at least stopped goading him on when Jean caught her attention. Not that it stopped him, but he seemed to get the mistake he made and was making up for it.

MAX-MAX-MAX-MAX

After dropping off Risty and her mountain of things, followed by dropping off Rogue and her mole hill of things, he had returned home. It was just past six thirty as he went up to secret passage way. He entered the code, went down the elevator and then went to the War Room. Walking in he saw Maxwell sitting at the back of the room, watching a news cast that was muted. The caption of 'Heroes or Horrors?' was on the bottom of the screen as the battle from the field played on the TV.

"We got the attention of the public." Maxwell started as he turned to face Reese. "But we didn't capture as many imaginations as much as I hoped; seems we've got a few people unnerved."

"Wait, really?" Reese said as he leaned against a desk. "I've heard nothing but good in the locker rooms at school."

"Teenagers and adults think along different lines." Maxwell explained as he turned to Reese. "Teens want to be cool and fit in while impressing their peers, standing out. Most of all they want to believe the impossible is possible. Adults are more sceptical; they more jaded, more set in their ways, more prone to reject change. But they are still reasonable. They can be made to see that change is not bad, that they need not always be jaded and sceptical. Teens and children believe in MAX Force, but the adults are divided. Some see the good, others only see bad."

"I get ya, I get ya." Reese said, waving his hands. "So, what's the plan?"

"Well I don't have one." Maxwell admitted as he turned back to the screen. "I talked to Smith, Parson and Sims but we've come up with nothing."

"Shouldn't we talk to the press?" Reese asked, pushing off the desk and walking next to his mentor.

"We agreed that has to be done, but if we schedule an interview, even through discreet channels, the police may pick up on it." Maxwell clarified.

"So, we don't use channels." Reese said, pointing to the screen. "There has got to be dozens of reporters and journalists that would give their right arm to interview us. And a lot of them are just starting out and would love the story that could make their careers."

"Ah, now I see..." Maxwell replied, grinning. "Don't look for a forest when all you need is a tree. I'll do some research; find one who seems trustworthy enough."

"Make sure whoever it is isn't a pushover." Reese added. "I'd hate answering hard questions, but they'll need to be asked."

"True, true." Maxwell said as he smiled. "Now watch a man at work."

MAX-MAX-MAX-MAX

"Thank you for coming so quickly." Xavier began as his X-Men sat inside the mansion's library after dinner, all looking over at him. Logan leaned against a wall as Ororo stood by her nephew. "Since we've had a few day to recuperate I believe now is the best time to discuss our approach to MAX Force. I was hoping we had some ideas by now." He said, as each of the X-Men looked over a collection of folders of pictures of the superhero team. "Logan, did your contact have anything for you."

"Two things." Logan said, chewing on a toothpick. "The first is jack, and the other would get me slapped by Ororo if I brought it up in polite company. Turns out he was hoping I had more info then him."

"Sounds about par for course so far." Xavier said, sighing.

"I do know a lot of people in the school think they really are heroes." Scott began. "Hell, last I heard a few members of the computer club were making a website and trying to get every piece of info they could on them. I asked to take a look, but I had to give my first hand accounts on the field to see what they had."

"Anything?"

"Some, but not very much." He admitted as he pulled out two pictures from a folder, one with the armoured one and the blue haired female. "One of the geeks said his father works as a prison guard and heard a couple inmates talking. He couldn't find the warden to pass on the info so he e-mailed it. Said geek looked over his e-mail." Scott pointed to the armoured one. "This guy is called Spartan." Then he pointed to the female. "And she's Tempest. Spartan, from what the geek got, is the leader of the team and Tempest was arguing over something with him. One of inmates seemed to think she was his second in command, or at least she thinks she is." Scott shrugged as he leaned back. "They were arguing over whether or not it was worth burning down the stash house they were busting. Spartan put his foot down and said they were letting the cops handle it."

"Well, it's something..." Xavier said, sighing. "That leaves four unnamed. But we know who the leader is."

"Perhaps we should find a way to speak with him." Ororo began, using a hand to gesture. "If we were to talk with him, expose our concerns for what their actions might do to all of us."

"I somehow doubt words will stop them." Xavier began, folding his hands before him. "However it would allow us to understand their motives which may lead us into stopping their activities."

"Hey, I just noticed something!" Kitty exclaimed, pointing at a picture of the blonde haired one.

"What, what do you see?" Evan let off, moving to look over her shoulder. It was a picture of the blonde MAX Force member in a convenience store, kicking a guy in the face while another swung a crowbar at her head. The next pictures were of the blonde getting hit then kicking the crowbar guy in the nuts before kneeing him in the face, all without even flinching from the blow.

"They're all wearing masks!" Kitty exclaimed looking up.

Everyone groaned with Evan falling back into his seat. "Yeah, thank you for pointing out the obvious..."

"No, that's not what I meant." Kitty began. "I mean, they wear masks... to protect their identities."

"And where are you going with this?" Xavier asked, curious.

"Why don't we wear masks?" Kitty asked.

The room went silent.

"...Uhhh... She's got a point." Rogue drawled off as she looked at Xavier. "I mean, why don't we wear masks? I mean Logan's got one, and Scott's visor may as well count as one, and Kurt wouldn't need one... but what about me, Jean, Kitty, Ororo and Evan?"

"Well our costumes were meant only for the purposes of training, not actually going out in public in." Xavier explained.

"And how many times have we been fighting in public areas or in the open, out where people can see us?" Kurt asked, lifting a hand.

"... Ororo, if you would kindly alter our uniforms from now on?" Xavier asked as Ororo gave a nod.

"I'll start tomorrow."

"Is there anything else we can think of?" Xavier asked as he looked about the table.

"Nien." Kurt said as he sighed. "Much as I hate to say it, we'd need them to come out and talk to get anything else."

"With luck like ours it's a given that will be sooner rather than later." Xavier replied, shaking his head.

MAX-MAX-MAX-MAX

"You got a date?" Rogue let off as she looked over Scott as they walked out of the exercise room. The sun was going down over the horizon, the two doing a workout before the night engulfed the landscape. "With Taryn?"

"Well, I didn't think saying no was a good idea." Scott replied, shrugging. "Besides, it doesn't mean anything will come of it." He said, shrugging. Rogue narrowed her eyes a bit.

He still had eyes for Jean. Little miss perfect Jean, who already had a boyfriend. Maybe he finally decided it wasn't worth pining over her and it was time to move on?

Maybe if she had some control over her powers he wouldn't look so far for romance. Maybe look at what was right next to him even.

She shook her head after that thought. As big of a crush as she had on the young man, it wasn't worth pining over him either. She couldn't touch anyone without hurting or even killing them and she couldn't expect him to wait for years to be able to do the things a guy would want to with a girl.

Hell, if she could get control of her powers she would have a hard time getting control of herself to keep from grabbing the first cute boy she saw and raping him, or at least shoving her tongue down his throat.

It was easy to talk about abstaining from sex if you could stop abstaining when you want. It was another thing when the choice wasn't yours.

"Something the matter?" Scott asked, looking back at her.

"I'm fine, really." She said in her southern twang. His eyebrows came together in worry, looking concerned. As much as she appreciated the worry she knew that if he told him what she was thinking it would burden him more than he needed to be.

Then again she had another problem that she could pass on that he might be able to help with and disguise her real issues. "Lance has been making passes at Kitty again." She began, stopping in the hall. "She hasn't flirted back yet, but from what she's saying she's starting to warm up to him. Maybe not enough to date, but I'll tell you this now... If guys think with their dicks when it comes to a pretty face, then girls think with their clits when it comes to a cutie. And Lance is easy on the eyes, like it or not."

Scott snorted and crossed his arms. "Great..." He let off. Scott and Lance had not met under good circumstances and every time they met it was like two bulls butting heads to decide the one that would lead the herd. "We should go make sure Alvers backs off her." He let off, cracking his knuckles.

"I don't think you two getting into a fight will help much." Rogue let off. "And telling Kitty that he ain't right for her won't help; she'll just fight us on it and date him to prove a point. We need to get Kitty's attention on something else."

"What about someone else?" Scott asked, looking back.

"Maybe..." Rogue said, nodding as she cupped her chin. It made sense. If she could find Kitty a boyfriend then it would give her someone to focus her romantic attentions on instead of the Brotherhood's de facto leader. Lance wouldn't stop pursing the girl, but if Kitty had a boyfriend then she would give less attention to Lance. There was the issue of Lance trying to scare the guy off, but if Kitty put her foot down it might make him back away.

"I agree, we get her a suitor and he'll get the lion's share of her attention but Lance would try to spook the guy." Rogue said, laying out her thoughts out. "So we need someone who won't be scared off by Lance, at least not until Kitty tells him off for trying to scare him. You know anyone?"

"Good point." Scott admitted as he started to think. "Paul is out... Ricardo is out... Hmm, Joe is a love'em and leave'em type, that'll do more harm than good..."

"Come on Scott, you gotta know someone." Rogue stressed. "It ain't like I know a lot of guys."

"Yeah, except Reese." Scott replied, stroking his chin in thought.

Rogue looked up at him, blinking for a moment. She mouthed her friend's name for a moment before groaning and palming her face. "Gaaawd, I am such an idiot."

"What, what is it?" Scott asked, confused as Rogue looked back up at him before dragging her hand down her face.

"Reese!" She replied, grinning a bit. "I can set her up with Reese! I know he ain't gonna just back off if Lance tries to get in his face. Hell, Maxwell has a guy over there teaching Krav Maga to his students, so it ain't like Reese doesn't know how to handle himself. And I know Kitty thinks he's hot." Rogue started rubbing her gloves together. "I'm sure if I ask nicely enough he'd be more than happy to go out with her, and I should be able to make the sale to Kitty."

"Sounds like you didn't really need any help." Scott said, smiling back. "You just needed something to bounce ideas of off."

"Well I appreciate it." Rogue let off before running off.

MAX-MAX-MAX-MAX

"We're going to what?" Alex let off before downing a piece of chicken, covered in sweet and sour sauce, dragged though chicken flavoured rice.

"Meet a reporter." Maxwell repeated. They were gathered around the table for a quick meeting, Alex having some of the leftovers from dinner earlier.

Ava glared at Alex as he downed some more Chinese food. She was green with envy! He could eat anything he wanted, have seconds and thirds and still, still he was incapable of putting on an ounce of fat.

She actually watched what she ate damn it! Her hot as hell body needed nothing but the best to be as sexy as it was!

"Right now there is a lot of guessing and misgiving about us." Reese said, looking over his team. "We'll operate better if people can trust us and know we're here for them. An interview is the best bet to clear the air."

"I've arranged things for tomorrow night." Maxwell said, smiling a bit. He used a small vortex to deliver a MAX Force card to the reporter's living room table. "Her name is Sally Floyd. She was an up and coming newspaper journalist until she found herself pregnant. Bad story; her boyfriend was killed by a gang member because of a mistaken identity, her job was on shaky ground because she was pregnant, then the fetus was miscarried. She turned to a bottle and lost her job. She's since joined Alcoholics Anonymous and landed a job in reporting again, this time for the six o' clock. She's done a few on camera gigs, but most of it was off camera."

"Wait..." Cassie began, raising a hand. "Am I correct as to assume we are going to trust the narrative of MAX Force into the hands of an individual who is still recuperating from substance abuse and may or may not commence mistreatment of the consumption of alcohol again if she is to visit further misfortune?"

"...Can I get that in smaller words?" Alex asked after a moment.

"She's asking if we're planning to let a former drunk tell our story." Reese replied.

"Well why couldn't she just say that?" Alex let off before chewing another bite of his food.

"The reason..." Maxwell began, cutting off Cassie rebuttal "Is that we need someone who we know won't try and call the cops on us. This is too big a story, and this woman needs a big break to get her career, and life, back on track." He began, leaning forwards. "I've looked over her work. She's tough but fair. She's only a bit... unfair when she is drunk. And all my sources say she's riding the wagon." The stories she wrote while drunk were easy to spot.

They'd involved calling World War Two veterans 'out of touch' for not being on Facebook. Thankfully that one was never printed.

"You think this is a good call, Reese?" Conrad asked, turning to face their field leader who nodded.

"Yeah, pretty much." He replied. "I mean, face it, everyone knows the name MAX Force, but they don't know who Spartan is or Dynamo, or even Tempest. We are fighting to show people that metahumans are nothing to be afraid of and that we can be a force for the better. But to do that we need the public's trust."

"Reese will be the front man for the interview when it comes to the group." Maxwell added. "The rest of you will probably be asked questions directly about yourselves, depending on what Miss Floyd wants for her interview. Remember, reveal nothing that will compromise your real identity, but be honest and upfront. Don't be afraid to say 'I can't answer that question' if you're asked something that would compromise you, but otherwise be yourselves. Make them know that under the costumes what they can't see are six people who believe in the good humankind can do. And the good metahumankind can do."

MAX-MAX-MAX-MAX

You make me smile like the sun

Fall outta bed

Sing like a bird

"Hello?" Reese let off as he answered his phone, setting the katana on his bed as he walked to the window. The katana in question was just a wall hanger, it looked real but it was as dull as a butter knife.

He was still looking for an older one, pre twentieth century if he could.

"Hey there sugar." Rogue answered, setting her voice in a sultry tone. "Lookin' for somethin' sexy?"

"Rogue..." Reese sighed. "I thought I told you... I'm not having phone sex with you; I can't get my dick through the line."

Rogue gave off the bark of laughter he expected, himself grinning as well. That was the best thing about Rogue and Risty; he didn't need to be the serious, straight laced, clean cut good guy. He could use a few dirty jokes and suggestive flirts and both would joke right back at him in turn.

"Well dang nab it, I thought I was getting a good time tonight!" Rogue let off, giggling a bit. "Seriously though, listen. I want to set you up on a date."

"Aw, come on Rogue, you know I don't do the goth poetry sessions." Reese replied back, smiling a bit into the phone.

"Ha, ha. That was so funny I forgot to laugh." Rogue replied, deadpan but still with a twinge of humour. "No, I don't me with me, dumbass, with Kitty."

"Kitty?" Reese let off as he thought, walking back to his bed and sitting down. "Ah, that cute one right? Brunette? Ponytail? Nice little ass?"

"That's her." Rogue replied. "I've been thinking she could use a hook up and I know you could use a hook up. Come on, what'dya say? I know she's free tomorrow night..."

"Love to, but I got a full plate tomorrow night." Reese admitted, shaking his head. "But I think it's worth a shot... Think she'll swing Friday night?"

"I think she can manage that."

"What are you, her secretary?" Reese asked, smirking as he tried to make his voice as deadpanned as he could. "Do you schedule in time for her to polish the pearl too?"

"Polish the pearl? What the hell does that mea... Oh... Oh!" He heard Rogue laugh on the other end of the line as she got the joke.

There were so many girls that would be pissed if he made that one with them. "Yes, but we had to cut back because of lack of lube."

"Damn the global lube shortages..." Reese let off, chuckling. "Okay, I can do Friday then. Sevenish?"

"Sevenish is great! Have fun! Try not to get her stuck in a tree."

"Can I get her stuck in a bush?"

"No."

"Dang it."

MAX-MAX-MAX-MAX

"You set me up on a date?" Kitty asked sitting on her bed in her shared room, an eyebrow raised as Rogue calmly combed her hair, watching herself in the mirror, both in pyjamas.

"Yup." Rogue answered as she gave extra attention to the white streak at the front. Why did she have it anyway? Was it because of her X-Gene or some other weird quirk of genetics?

It wasn't dyed in like some people thought though.

"Well... Why?" Kitty asked as Rogue shrugged.

"Why not?" Rogue replied as she set the comb down, Kitty staring back with a slight glare. She sighed as she realized Kitty was rejecting that as an answer. "Look, I figured I'd be nice okay. He and Risty are the best friends I made on my own, and I kinda of want to see them happy. You're my roommate and I want to see you happy. If this works out well, then two birds, one stone."

Kitty halted her glare as she thought that over. She had to admit that Rogue had a point; and she had never had a boyfriend before. Hell the only person who really showed an interest in her over other girls was Lance and that relationship was... complicated. Particularly since he tried to use her powers to get test answers and tried to kill her and her family on the day they met. Then there was the fact that the Brotherhood and X-Men were constantly fighting each other. And then there was the stunt he pulled during the assembly.

On the other hand he did have a sensitive side that he showed under all the bitterness and part of her nurturing instinct really wanted to cultivate that and help better him. On top of that he was a hot bad boy and a rebel. She was torn, but she knew that changing him for the better would be a lot of work.

Reese was another kind of guy all together who, the few times the two had shared words, came off a lot like Scott. Serious, take charge and lead by example. He was honest and polite but made no bones about his opinion if pressed and seemed to be a bit stubborn. On the other hand from what Rogue had told her he could tell some very dirty jokes and once he let his guard down could be a bit like Kurt, joking and playful. He was also pretty cute himself, his features were more boyish than Lance's but no less handsome and charming, and seemed about as fit.

"Well, I guess it's worth a shot." Kitty said, smiling as she drew her knees to her chest. "When is it for?"

"Friday." Rogue said as she moved to her bed, pulling the covers away. "Seven o' clock."

"Cool. Can't wait." Kitty said as each of them crawled into their respective beds before turning out their nightstand lights.

Rogue let herself smirk in the darkness. That was easier than she expected, and if everything went according to plan Lance would be left looking for another girl.

She hoped.

MAX-MAX-MAX-MAX

Thursday night. Scott's car parked in front of the Fujioka household. He looked over himself in the car's mirror, adjusting his blue, button up shirt to make sure he was presentable.

Well, he was told it was blue. To his view it was red. Actually since he got his glasses he only recognized two colours, red and black.

Sometimes he felt like he would kill to remember what exactly the colour blue looked like.

He stepped out of the car and cradled a bundle of flowers in his left hand, walking to the front door as he tried to remember what he could about Taryn's parents. Her mother was born in America but was of Japanese decent and her father moved to the country and went to Alaska to crab fish. After five years he moved to Bayville, acquired a business license and started a small computer company. He met Taryn's future mother when she came in to repair her computer. The business has since been soaring, and they fell into a whirlwind romance.

Her mother was an artist who had done a few good pieces, but wasn't well known. She did earn the household extra spending cash though. Overall it left Taryn with an upper middle class life style and well off. He raised his hand, knocking twice. After a moment of waiting the door opened. He looked down at the man who stood there, smiling a bit. He was a couple inches shorter than Scott was but looked fit and only had a hint of grey in his hair. "Mister Fujioka." Scott said as he held out a hand. The man smiled, shaking it in and overly friendly manner.

"Scott, yes?" He said, laughing a bit, his accent still heavily accented even after years of living in America. "And please, call me Shinji. You saved my daughter; you don't need to be a stranger here!"

"Ah, well thank you Mister, ah, Shinji." Scott said as Shinji gestured for him to step inside. Scott walked in, Shinji leaving the door open. "Alice! Look who's here!"

"Scott's here?" He heard, seeing a woman walk out of the kitchen, wearing a dress with an apron overtop of it. "Ah, good to meet you." She said, walking over and hugging Scott for a moment. Alice smiled as she stepped back as he got a good look at her. She had a slender figure with small but perky breasts and a face that looked a bit like her daughter's, only a small amount of wrinkles and thinner lips being the differences he could make out.

"Well, I can see where Taryn get's all her good looks from." Scott said as Shinji patted his shoulder, the woman blushing.

"Too bad she's claimed, huh?" Shinji joked, smiling back. "All seriousness though, we do thank you for saving our daughter. She is the world to us and we would have been devastated if we lost her."

"I'm just glad I was able to help." Scott replied as he shifted the flowers to his other arm. "And that... half the hawk was blown apart. It was kinda heavy."

Alice giggled a bit at the joke as small thumps sounded on the stairs, making Scott turn his head.

Taryn was descending, slowly, with her crutches in one hand the other on the rail. She was dressed in a nice, knee length skirt and a lighter coloured blouse with a dark vest over it. She had flat soled shoes on her feet. Once on the bottom of the stairs she set the crutches under her arms, smiling as she hobbled over.

She looked like an angel, a wounded, Japanese angel.

If only he could figure out what colours she was wearing...

"Oh, right." Scott said, mostly to himself as he held out the bundle of flowers. The way her face lit up, a smile beaming as she took them, told him the last minute stop to Ororo's attic had been worth it.

"Oh, they are beautiful..." She cooed as she held them to her nose. "Uh, Mom... Is there a vase we could..."

"Allow me." Alice said as she took the bundle from her daughter, taking it to the kitchen.

"Well, we ready to go Scott?" Taryn asked as Scott nodded.

"Um, I guess I'd be expected to offer my arm, but given the circumstances..." Scott began as Taryn giggled softly.

"The offer is appreciated."

MAX-MAX-MAX-MAX

Sally Floyd was a reporter for the Channel Six news looking for her big break and hoping that this is what would get her career, and life, back on track.

Since graduating college she had planned to go into reporting but had wound up falling for a handsome man who just so happened to be twelve years older and a professor. It was a love story that you could write a book on. Her parents had demanded that she break off with him and after refusing they stopped speaking with her.

She wound up with a job at the Alternative Newspaper and was working her way up when her pregnancy stuck. It made her job a bit shaky, and her boss hated her but respected her enough to keep her on while she started to focus on the growing baby. Her boyfriend promised to stand by her, and she even suspected he was going to pop the big question soon. Then he was mistaken for some gang leader and shot dead in the street by two young punks in the street.

The police said he had a ring in his coat pocket.

That was bad enough, and put her into mourning. She turned to her parent's for support and found none; only dismissals and rejection for dating someone they didn't approve of. At least she had his growing child though as a memory of him.

Then a man on the subway carelessly pushed her, stomach first into the guardrail.

She miscarried only days later. The double dose of heartbreak was followed up by her work declining in quality leading to her boss firing her. She had lost her love, her baby and her job.

She wondered if anyone would blame her for drinking.

She carried on as an independent journalist, finding work where she could but at best she was able to pay the bills, at worst she had least had beer money. One night wound up being her rock bottom; two guys in a dingy bar that were more than happy to liquor her up. Once she was good and drunk they took her outback of the bar in order to rape her.

It was funny. Sometimes when she got drunk off her ass she couldn't remember a damned thing later and others she could recall everything down to the smallest detail. This was one of the times where she remembered everything as she did her intoxicated best to fight off the two men to no avail.

Then some short, stocky guy with hairy arms just walked up and beat the daylights out of both of them. He was handsome in a rugged way and said his name was Logan. Helped her up, let her heave her stomach up onto the alleyway, then led her to a coffee shop, bought her a brew of dark and a donut. After a while of pressing she sobbed out her story. And all he did was sit and listen, offer a pat on the arm to continue and let her cry herself into her coffee.

Maybe it was because she was still drunk, but she felt better after letting all of it out. And then along came the stern talking too, like a gruff uncle to an unruly niece. He basically told her she needed help, and the sort she wouldn't find at the bottom of a bottle and said in no uncertain terms she needed to go into rehab or at least Alcoholics Anonymous. Deciding on the latter she went in the very next morning.

It was still a struggle coming to terms with everything, but since her boyfriend died she found one thing she was lacking; support. With that she had been able to at least piece herself back into something that looked human and went back into journalism. Most of the papers, however, weren't interested in hiring her but one of her new friends at AA was a producer on the Channel Six News and offered her a job to get back on her feet.

She'd thrown everything she could into her new job since then and had, when no one else was available, been on camera as an on scene reporter. She had started to work her way up to a regular on camera spot when her supervisor, William Dickson, passed her over for Candy Dames.

Candy was an airhead that had trouble pronouncing more complex words and once called Hilary Clinton, unbelievably, Hill-o-ray Clunt-ton.

There were two reasons she kept her job; one Dickson was a dick. In fact, depending on the person talking about him, he was either called The Dick or Dick-less, and the man seemed to try to keep anyone he could that had half a brain from rising up to a higher position. The other was that Candy was hot.

If you could take Taylor Swift's face, transplant it onto a Baywatch era's Pamela Anderson's body and gave her Paris Hilton's hair you would, in a nutshell, have Candy Dames. Her image was also in the dictionary right next to the phrase 'dumb blonde', but kept her job by serving The Dick, on her knees, in a locked room.

Bitch.

That left the still attractive but not as smoking hot Sally Floyd playing second fiddle to a woman who couldn't remember how many stars was on the flag of the country she was a citizen of.

It was enough to make her want a beer. God she had to fight the urge. She was pretty, but not as pretty as Candy. And she only had a large B cup, not the surgically enhanced double Ds Candy did. And Candy had long, shiny blonde hair, but she just had black hair that was well kept but never changed from an unruly mop.

The Dick, though, made a very critical error; he knocked up the boss' daughter. That alone didn't get him fired, but it made the boss watch him more closely. It didn't take long for him to notice that Dick was screwing everyone under him around and not much longer to fire him. The new supervisor kept Candy around for awhile, tried to make her improve and when that failed showed her the door; a door Sally could get her foot into. The only problem was she was jockeying for position and one of her biggest competitors was doing a story on MAX Force and the attack by the thugs in powered armour, with interviews from members of the Bayville High School Girl's Soccer Team, and rumour was it was turning into quite the read with a lot of focus going into the soccer team doing their best to get into fighting shape. She had been looking for something to cover, but aside from the latest pop star scandal had nothing that would hold a candle.

Then she found a little card on her table and knew she had something that might not just win her the job, it might make her career.

It was one of MAX Force's calling cards. On the back of it was a time, hotel address and number, room number she guessed, and a simple command; bring a camcorder. It was either a gift from the heavens or the cruellest prank anyone could ever play on her. Either way she had everything to gain; which was what brought her here, standing outside the Suite Royal Hotel in Bayville, one of the finest in the eastern seaboard.

"Sally, I don't know about this..." Lucy Walker, her camerawoman, said as she held her large camera bag in one hand. "What if... It's a trap of some kind? Like you have a real crazy stalker out to get you?"

"You're paranoid Lucy." Sally deadpanned as she turned to face her friend.

"Well it just seems too good to be true." Lucy insisted pointing at the hotel. "I mean what if it is a trap."

"It's not a trap Lucy." Sally groaned. "At worst it's a practical joke on a larger scale." She added before walking towards the doors. "Now come on, let's see if this is legit."

"Oh boy..." Lucy sighed before following her friend. She knew she wasn't the best cameraperson, but she tried. But when it came down to it she was capable, but between plain looks and being surrounded by more competent people she wasn't on a fast track upwards. Still Lucy was Sally's friend, the two had been getting coffee together since Sally joined Channel Six, so it seemed right to the reporter to trust her with camera. Lucy just hoped it didn't lead them into trouble.

MAX-MAX-MAX-MAX

"Oh my god, he did that?" Taryn laughed out a bit, hiding her mouth behind her hand as it changed to a giggle.

"Unfortunately..." Scott sighed, shaking his head, but still smiling a bit. "Kurt's like that, practical joker... Like the little brother you always wanted, and want to give back every now and again."

"But still, setting all the clocks back two hours?"

"Yeah, and everyone was cranky." Scott let of, his eyes rolling. "Have you seen Jean at four thirty in the morning and cranky? It's not a nice sight."

"I can imagine." She said as she had finally gotten her giggles under control. So far, for her, it had turned out to be a nice night and a good way to lead into tomorrow's road trip against the Lodestar High School team. It was a bit worrisome, Lodestar and Bayville were two of the top teams in the region and with the disaster at the pre-game rally it was a wonder that the team was in as good of a shape as it was. If anything she had to give it to Kelly; the team was in a depressed state and he had given a boot to each of their asses to get them moving again. Between the team shuffle and her and Jean working on tactics and the Principal getting the game changed to Saturday rather than Wednesday due to circumstances the Bayville team stood a chance of winning, but it didn't change that the team was still in a weakened condition with Lodestar acting the role of the Cougar, circling the prey.

Maybe Bayville would lose, but not without a fight.

"It gets a little wild in there sometimes, I gotta admit." Scott let off as he finished his food before sliding the plate to the side. "So, how's the ankle coming along?"

"Better, actually." Taryn admitted, leaning forwards. "Still hurts when I put weight on it, but getting better each day. I think next week I can limp around without the crutches."

"That'll be great." He replied, smiling. "Jean probably won't be cleared for two weeks though. She's going to be very stir crazy once the championships are over."

"Ugh, I bet." Taryn groaned. "Hell, I am stir crazy. Getting around on crutches sucks." It had been a bit better since Scott, the gentleman that he was, got the doors for her and helped with her seat.

Chivalry lived, it seemed.

MAX-MAX-MAX-MAX

The elevator opened up allowing Sally and Lucy to walk out into the hall. Everything in sight looked expensive. Red carpets with gold coloured designs on the trim, wooden panels on the wall that looked to be stained oak, wallpaper with ornamental designs, chandeliers on the ceiling...

There was no expense spared here.

Eventually they came up to the room that was listed on the card. Letting off a sigh Sally raised her hand. "Now or never." She said, knocking twice firmly.

"Well, no one's home." Lucy said before a second was even up. "So maybe the card was a joke and-"

The door opened up, cutting her off. Sally gulped.

"Oh, hey there." Dynamo greeted, holding a shish kabob in one hand that had shrimp, beef, pork and assorted vegetables on it. "You ever try the room service in this joint? It's great!"

"...Oh god..." Lucy let off.

MAX-MAX-MAX-MAX

There were new releases, movies that they could have gone and seen, enjoyed in a theatre with the unhealthy popcorn and it's butter substitutes but Scott had a better idea, stopping at a video rental store and browsing for any good DVDs. He and Taryn found one on sale for under five dollars, a nineteen ninety one comedy called 'Hot Shots!' compete with the exclamation mark. Then he parked his car, just outside of Bayville with a view of the ocean, plugged in a ten inch screen portable DVD player and popped it in. They had enough sodas and snacks to last the video.

Both of them had spent the movie laughing at each joke, pun and punch line both visual and verbal. The movie was a parody of Top Gun and was absurd, staring Charlie Sheen before he went off on drug fuelled rants as a Tom Cruise act-alike. They laughed at it all, the dog that always got sat on, using jet fighters as cars, frying breakfast on a woman's belly... Even if it was somewhat stupid it was laughed at. At the end of the film both agreed that they needed so see the sequel, and even made arrangements for the next week.

The car ride back to her house was uneventful, save a few laughs and snickers, remembering odd parts of the movie. Once they got there he helped her out of the car and walked her back to the door, bidding each other a good night with the girl giving him a kiss on the cheek before departing.

That had left Scott driving home and thinking on his life to that point. He had been orphaned in a rather tragic accident. He didn't remember much of it, a plane, his parents ushering him and his brother Alex to the door, strapping them to the only parachute then pushing them from the aircraft. After that it was really foggy. The parachute deployed, then he knew that he fell, away from his brother and the parachute. He woke up a week later, bandaged and in a hospital, lucky to be alive. After Alex was declared missing and with no where else to go he was moved into a St. Louis orphanage. As one of the older children in the orphanage he was pressed into helping keep the younger children in line and making sure they were taken care of. It was a tough responsibility, but he did his best. Then one day he was outside, skipping stones in a river when his first optic blast shot out, blowing a tree trunk apart.

His powers had activated. At first it seemed random; a blast here, a blast there and never with his consent or approval. The day after Professor Charles Xavier had come to his orphanage and had adopted him. He took him to his plane, the original Blackbird, to move to Bayville.

One large hole in the hull and one near landing later, the original Blackbird was retired.

Xavier explained to him what was happening to him; that he was a mutant with a special ability that was now activating; the power of creating and channelling optic blasts through his eyes. It was his gift. Xavier did his best to help teach him the control and skills needed to keep this power under wraps, but as time went on it only became worse. They would almost never turn on as he wished and instead continued firing at random. Then they would turn into streams of power for a few seconds, then a few more, then a full minute. Finally an exasperated Xavier did a CAT scan on his head to see if they could solve the problem.

He totalled the machine, but they found the problem.

When he fell away from his brother during the escape from the doomed plane he fell onto a rock, dealing a severe blow to the back of his head. It had caused a minute amount of brain damage that, had he not been a mutant, would have had absolutely no effect on him. But the damaged part was responsible for the control and manipulation of his powers; it was essentially his optic blasts on/off switch and the damage had glued, stapled and duct taped it to the on position. And with his power developing more and more the only way he had to control his powers was to close his eyes.

Some gift that turned out to be; now he wished he could give it back.

During this time both Logan and Ororo were constant helpful companions during his worst times. Ororo was the sweet mother he could lean on when things became to much and he needed to be soothed and Logan was there like a stern uncle, giving him a kick in the ass anytime he let himself get down, pushing him into taking his life by the horns and making him too busy to be depressed.

After two months of blindness a new arrival came, Jean Grey. She herself had problems with her powers, mainly that they were causing her massive headaches. Xavier, being a telepath, could not only sympathize with her but knew how best to assist her and her telekinetic powers. With a companion his own age he felt more of a reason to push forward past his problems. In the meantime Xavier did his best to find a way to help his first student while he played with the new girl.

She started suspecting that he could see when he kept winning Marco Polo against her. Logan's blind training was very, very good. They played and roughhoused a bit; she was a bit of a tomboy back then, truth be told, but whenever he was lost or needed any help with something even his blind training couldn't overcome she was by his side, helping him every step of the way. They shared a bond that ran deep.

A year later Xavier had given him his first pair of ruby quartz glasses and when he donned them and they cancelled out his powers he felt relief. Sure, everything was red but at least he could see. Once he knew that his now permanent optic blasts were contained he turned to look at Jean.

Holy crap was she pretty. Puberty was setting in and while he wasn't sure about much of anything when it came to girls he was sure this was the girl he wanted to be with him, but he never knew how to express it. Then came high school and the tomboy was gone and she showed a much more feminine, girly side that drew him in like a moth to a flame.

It also drew in Duncan Matthews who didn't hesitate in flirting with and asking out Jean.

It was as if he was punched in the gut, seeing his friend, his crush, his girl dating another guy. Then he realized that she wasn't his girl, she was Duncan's because he had the guts to ask her out while he couldn't spit it out.

After the other students came to the mansion and the fights with the Brotherhood, finding his brother again, the event with Magneto and MAX Force's arrival nothing had changed between them. She was his crush and he was, to her, the brother-like best friend that she could rely on and depend on, but not date. After pinning over her for so long he had to face a simple fact; she was going to be with Duncan for the foreseeable future. And after he saved Taryn during the attack he was forced to make a choice, one he doubted Taryn even knew she pushed onto him; continue pining over Jean who would never see him the way he saw her, or cut his losses and at least see if things could work with Taryn. After all she was pretty, attractive and was more than open about the fact that she was attracted to him. After some thought he made the choice; it was worth giving things with Taryn an honest try. As much as he wanted Jean he couldn't wait forever for her.

And it had turned out quite well. She had been a good, if somewhat bit clingy, company and he had gotten his, honestly, first kiss. It was on the cheek, yes, but it counted. It wasn't enough to make him shunt Jean from his heart, but Taryn had found a way in. As he parked his car he ran a hand past his hair. Things were looking up.

Had he took a moment to look up he may have seen Jean in the window, leaning on the frame with arms crossed, looking down at him sternly. After a moment she sighed, walking away.

MAX-MAX-MAX-MAX

Sally let off a sigh as Lucy finished putting microphones on all of the MAX Force members and setting up her small lights. She had their leader demonstrate his powers in person before anything else to be sure that, yes, it was real, and no, it was not a hoax or prank. They made small talk after the leader dissipated his sword and while Lucy readied everyone before setting up her camera and giving her a thumb up. Sally took a last moment to adjust her blue pantsuit, standing before the camera.

"Okay then, let's start. Start camera in three, two... This is Sally Floyd for the six o' clock news. For almost two weeks now we've had a team of empowered superheroes fighting crime and saving citizens. They have not, however, made any statements to the press or public. That is, until now." She let off, stepping out of the camera's view.

Spartan was standing in the middle of the room, arms folding behind his back as he looked over at Sally. Shadow sat on the desk, hands flat on it. Dynamo sat at a table further back, Electra seated on the table. Blondie and Tempest sat on the edge of the bed, the former with crossed legs and the later toying with a small, six inch tornado in one hand.

"There are a lot of questions to ask you, but the first is simply... What are your names?" Sally asked as the leader smiled at her under his helm.

"We haven't had a moment to wait around and shake hands I guess." He said, shrugging. "I'm Spartan. This is Blondie, Tempest, Shadow, Dynamo and Electra." He said, pointing to each with one hand before putting it behind his back again. "Together we are MAX Force."

"This leads me to the next question that needs to be asked." Sally said as she gestured with a hand. "You call yourself the Metahuman Action Xtreme Force, but what exactly is a metahuman? Did you get bathed in odd chemicals, a science experiment, bathed in cosmic radiation or are you... aliens?"

"We were all born on this planet, I assure you." Spartan said, smiling a bit humorously. "Metahumans have a gene that most people don't have, we are born with it. But we do not have our powers at birth; typically they begin to manifest around puberty."

"Does the gene unlock itself the moment a meta goes through puberty?" Sally asked as Spartan shook his head.

"No. It occurs around puberty, but puberty itself is not the trigger. It can happen before puberty begins or after it has begun. You can be ten years old or sixteen years old when it goes active. It can also turn on normally or be induced by stress or fear. There isn't one single thing that the gene responds to; it's a number of factors."

"So are you saying that... anyone we know is potentially a meta?"

"Yes." Spartan answered quickly. "But you need to know that we are still a very small minority. As far as we know a tenth of all active metahumans are in this room as we speak. At most we don't think there are more than one hundred of us around the world with, maybe, another one or two thousand that have yet to have their gene activate or have recessive genes that are more likely to never activate."

"Is there... a community of metas?" Sally asked after a moment, Spartan shaking his head.

"There's very few of us. As far as we know there is only two other active metahuman groups and both are staying quiet."

"Why is that?" Sally asked, tucking a lock of hair behind her ear. "Why is it that they are doing nothing, but you're... dressing up in uniforms and risking your lives?"

"They are staying hidden because they are, to be blunt, afraid."

"Afraid of what?" Sally asked, blinking in confusion. "If the battle on Bayville High School's field was any indication you don't have much to fear."

"On the contrary, history has been a rather brutal teacher." Spartan replied, sighing. "Look at the Jews. For hundreds, thousands of years even they were shunned or considered sub-human before it all lead up to the Nazi Concentration Camps. That is an extreme example, I admit, but humanity has a bad habit of fearing what's different, and we are very different."

"You're afraid that, as a new minority, that you or your fellow metas will be targeted for hate crimes." It was not a question, Sally knew. What she said was a statement.

"Exactly." Spartan added with a nod. "In truth the only difference between me and another man on the street are my powers. I have dreams, I have wants. I have strong points and I have faults. But some people won't see that; they'll see that I'm different and base every judgment they have of me on that."

"I have to admit the point, but I have a point to make in turn." Sally began, Spartan nodding. "Normal people cannot destroy military grade weaponry without weapons. You are, forgive me, living weapons."

"You're forgiven." Spartan said. "And I can't argue the point. But that's a second reason for us; policing our own." He raised a hand to silence Sally as he continued. "I recognize that MAX Force is not sanctioned by, well, anyone really, but we can handle other metas. In addition we are not judge, jury or executioner. We stop and detain criminals, human or metahuman. We leave everything else to the legal system."

"But how can you expect to detain metahuman criminals?" Sally asked, looking the team over. "I, for one, can't picture any jail holding any of you for long."

"We are, through anonymous developers, looking for ways to disable a metahuman's powers." He replied, nodding. "Although we have nothing functioning yet there is a prototype planned and they know the science to make it work. Once we have tested it and confirmed it is harmless to use for long term periods, save negating a metahuman's powers, we will release it to the proper authorities."

"Authorities who will try and arrest you." Sally added. "Commissioner Armstrong has vowed, numerous times, to arrest and jail you as much as anyone you catch."

"We are disappointed by that, yes." Spartan replied. "We wish he was a bit more open minded about us, and we would be open to a working relationship with him and the BPD. I realise he is doing what he thinks is the right thing to do, and I can't fault him for it."

"That brings up another question I have." Sally added as Lucy zoomed in on Spartan. "Why dress up as superheroes in the first place? Why fight crime? Just... why?"

"We are here because of that fear I mentioned earlier." Spartan said, sighing. "Metahumans are a potential force for good. We can, by working with normal human beings, make the world a better place. And MAX Force is, what you might call, a showcase. We can help and many of us are willing and want to help. We are here to tell people that metahumans are among you, but we do not need to be feared. MAX Force is here to set the example and to inform people, not just normal humans but metahuman's whose powers are emerging. Many who manifest powers don't know what's going on, why they are making objects, why they can control the weather, why they can't be hurt. When my powers first came to me I nearly screamed. I didn't know how it happened; I just wanted to cut a piece of paper, and all of a sudden I made a pair of scissors. I was confused, I was afraid. I thought I was a freak. It wasn't until I was brought to the person who thought me about my powers that I was not a freak and I didn't need to be afraid. It takes time and effort but my powers do not control me, I control them; that they may be a part of me, but they are not all of who I am. That I may have powers, I may be meta, but I am human. Metahuman."

"A lot of conviction." Sally admitted. "But by that means there are those of you who would just as soon rob banks that stop bank robberies."

"Yes, but powers are, in some ways, no different than if you randomly gave someone a gun that they could take anywhere." Spartan explained. "You could rob a bank with it. Or you could use it to stop a crime and defend others. You can go out to the woods and shoot a deer to eat it. You could just go out to the middle of nowhere and just shoot at a target. Or you could do nothing with it, not doing good or evil with it. We need the public's help with this, to not only make sure that new metahumans can train to use their abilities safely but to make sure they are not persecuted or abused because of or for their powers."

"You honestly worry that normal people would be able to hurt someone who might, I don't know, is able to shoot lasers from their eyes?"

"We might be powerful, but we are not invincible or un-killable. You'd be surprised what a normal, non-empowered human being can do with the right motivation."

"This from a group that does not include normal humans." Sally pointed out.

"On the contrary, although metahumans are the ones who do the fighting we are assisted by three unpowered individuals." Spartan replied. "Two of them will remain nameless, but one operates under the call sign Skyway. She pilots our aircraft the Impact."

"One of the others must supply all your equipment and supplies then."

"I cannot answer that for reasons of confidentiality." Spartan answered curtly. "I will say this; we all believe in what we fight for; peace between metahumans and normal humans and that we can end a racial war before one can even spark."

"I see. Is there any last statement you'd like to make to the public?"

"Yes." Spartan said before moving his arms before him, gesturing with his words. "I know there are many of you, listening to this that support MAX Force. To all of you I want to say; thank you. Thank you for believing in us and trusting us, and we will do our best to make sure that your faith is well placed. I also know many of you do not support us and do not trust us at all. To you I say I understand your stance. I only hope that we can change your minds and show you that we all mean well. To those of you who are in law enforcement I say we are here to help you. We cannot replace you, and in no one's mind should we. We may be called superheroes, but you are heroes each day you walk out to do your jobs. To those who make laws and enforce them in the court of law I say that metahumans should not expect or receive preferential treatment save for difficulties with their powers in which I hope you show understanding. And to everyone I say this; we are metahumans. We are among you, but you need not fear us or hate us. We are in need of your support, not only so we may become productive members of society but to understand who we are and what we can do. And one last thing; thank you for you're time."

"And cut it there." Sally said, nodding to Lucy. "I'll make my final statement later, once I've... digested everything."

"Well, I think it went well." Dynamo stated as he turned to Spartan. "Can I finish the food now?"

"Yeah. Sure." Spartan sighed before looking back at Sally. "Damned bottomless pit..."

MAX-MAX-MAX-MAX

"Think it'll be on TV soon?" Conrad said as the team emerged from the hidden elevator and into the hallway, the door shutting behind them.

"Well they might have to edit it for TV, but she said she'd fight anything from being taken out of context." Reese replied, referring to Sally. "Either way I think it went better than I expected."

"Yeah, speaking of the power dampeners, how they coming Cassie?" Rayn asked as they all stopped in the hall.

"Well, we do know that a specific pulse of low radiation, specifically a harmless variant of cosmic radiation, can neutralize a metahuman's power, however it requires to be at the specific pulse and wavelength." Cassie began, taping her chin. "In addition we are still miniaturizing it to a manageable size that can be used for both on field apprehension of unlawful metahumans, but also those with powers that are unmanageable or unable to be used with safety. In addition there is a matter of cost to consider, since we expect law enforcement to manufacture them independently."

"...So, it's coming." Rayn deadpanned after a moment.

"Yes, it is."

"Look, it's been a night, we did the interview, and we nailed a jewel thief on the way home..." Reese listed off as he walked down the hall. "Let's call it a night and be done with it."

"Yeah, it's Friday tomorrow." Alex let off. "Which means the weekend! Oh, and deals on that burger joint!"

"Figures he'd think about food..." Ava sighed.