Diary Entries: The Return

Chapter Two: Josh's Entry

Josh McGrath walked into the main bedroom in his beach house. What a day this had been. First he'd been in New York then he'd escaped a accident on the university campus, been ambushed by a young fan of his wanting his help and finally he'd ended up playing follow the leader with John Dread who had somehow survived the destruction of his super plane and had kidnapped Pete in order to blackmail him into giving him some max probes. Pete finding out that he was Max Steel had been inevitable after that.

Josh wasn't wearing much now just a blue towelling robe having just come out of the shower that had eased the pain from the inevitable bruises and muscle strains that he'd picked up today. They would be gone by morning – the max probes would see to that – but until then he would have to put up with the dull but annoying aches and pains just like everyone else did. He sat down at the desk near the bed and pulled out his diary – he'd kept one for years just like Pete did and picked up a pen from on the side. He opened the diary to the next free page and proceeded to right about the events of the day.

Dear Mom and Dad

What a day this has been. It all started out quiet normally – or at least as normal as things are for me these days.

I was about to go for my regular morning run when I was called into N'Tek – some members of the Mercury Brigade had hijacked a bus in New York me and Rachel had to go deal with it. Nothing beats the feeling of flying with a jetpack on your back and gliding over and between the buildings of New York. It was spectacular though Rach was her usual all business self. She does on half take the fun out of being a secret agent.

Anyway we soon stopped the bad guys - the Mercury Brigade thugs are easy to beat - but the bus breaking system was damaged when one of the brigade members accidentally lasered it during the fight and it took Rachel's best driving skills and some nanotech heroics from me to bring it to a stop just before we could crash into the river Hudson.

When we got back to headquarters Jefferson informed us that Rachel had been promoted to fill in the role vacated by the defection of Jean Mairot – I can't believe I once counted that man as a friend. Unfortunately we had no time to celebrate, as Rachel immediately had to go to Russia and stop Smiley from getting his cybernetic hands on some nuclear warheads. It didn't surprise me that Psycho was still alive – I swear he has to be part cat as he seams to have at least nine lives - what does it take to kill him he's been knocked off a shuttle into space, been in the crater of a volcano as it was about to blow its stack and covered in a genetically engineered fungus yet somehow he always comes back. Equally unfortunate is the fact that her promotion makes Rachel my new boss – real bummer she's going to be on my case 24/7 now – as if she wasn't anyway but now she's going to be worse.

Well after that I was chatting with Berto in the ops room. Berto introduced me to his new pet a robotic dog he'd built himself – why can't Berto go to a pet store like everyone else when he want's a pet – which promptly went haywire and smashed into one of the walls which promptly smashed it to bits. It was then that I realised I was supposed to meet Pete and the rec centre for a work out so I had to dash off leaving Berto to put his cyberpooch back together.

Unfortunately I got to the rec centre just as Pete was leaving having finished his work out. I fabricated the reason for my tardiness – I'm used to doing that by now, though sometimes I do wish that I could tell my friends the real reasons why I am sometimes late or don't show up at all – and arranged to meet up with him later and share a pizza like we always used to. It was at that moment that this ornamental stone pedestal nearly landed on us fortunately I heard it before it could fall off the roof of the the rec centre and pushed myself and Pete out of the way. While Pete went off somewhat rattled I examined the stone before calling campus security. They thought it was an accident – the ornamental pedestals have fallen down in the past – but they couldn't see what I could scrape marks on the base of the pedestal – it was pushed.

Berto wanted to tell Jefferson about it but I convinced him not to – I don't want to be yanked out of school. It was then that I met Joe – a ten-year-old fan of mine who wanted my help with some fundraising and coaching for the junior extreme sports team she was part of. Since I've always wanted a kid sister I agreed to help. Berto called me a pushover but then I've always had a soft spot for little kids – being a secret agent hasn't bread that out of me.

Anyway I went to Pete's study room to take the order for the kind of pizza he wanted. He wasn't there but the door was open. When I went inside he spoke to me through a portable vidcom unit – someone who knew I was Max Steel had snatched him. It turned out that that someone was John Dread – how he survived the destruction of his super plane I do not know he must have taken impossible escape lessons from Pyscho.

Anyway he blackmailed me into getting him some max probes and the backup research data in exchange for Pete's life – he also jammed my communications with Berto and gave me just an hour to get what he wanted. I had no choice but I also saw that it was an opportunity to get Dread. His obsession with recreating my nanotech systems is becoming very predictable, and correspondingly easy to manipulate.

It took some doing – I was almost caught by Yevshenko – but I was able to remove a sample of unstable max probes from the MX lab – everytime I go in that room and see that vat of nanoprobes I remember the pain I experienced that day when Psycho shattered the vat and drenched me in nanoprobes. I got to Del Oro's hydroelectric dam just in time only to find it was merely a waypoint. After having had to make my way through a water intake pipe that Dread activated while I was inside it I found myself outside the airport where Dread promptly phoned me and told me I had a plane to catch.  It was a jumbo that was just taxing to take off.

I barely made it. I had to go turbo for the second time in five minutes in order to do so. That coupled with the extended use of my stealth ability while inside N'Tek had drained my T-juice levels I was down to thirty-percent energy reserve and I was definitely feeling the drain.

I realised immediately that Dread was making me waste T-juice on purpose so that I would be weaker when we eventually met. It was at that point that he phoned me again and told me to jump out the plane while it was over an abandoned copper mine in the middle of the Californian desert. I did just that using a tarpaulin as a parachute – after all even I couldn't withstand a fall from that height. I may have superpowers but I'm not invincible.

The parachute tore just before I reached the ground and I landed hard. Had I been normal I am sure I would have broke my neck, as it was I was merely knocked senseless for a few seconds.

When I could think straight again I found Dread standing over me with a laser pistol pointed at my head. I stood up and forced Dread to show me Pete before I gave him the nanoprobes and disk. He did so and Pete was somewhat shocked when he saw my altered appearance – I knew then that I would soon have to tell my friend the truth about me.

It was just as Dread was leaving that he revealed that he'd left a 'gift' with Pete. When I used the vidcom unit's zoom out mode I saw that Pete was chained to a time bomb. I raced into the mine to rescue him but I soon found myself at a fork and unsure which way to go. So I called out and said something that Pete would normally try to knock my block off for saying.

He called for help in return from the right tunnel. The tunnel collapsed under me and I found myself in a second tunnel – I could hear the bomb ticking on the other side and I could tell from the sound that it was coming towards the end of its countdown sequence. So I went turbo and broke through the wall.

The look on Pete's face when he saw me was priceless. The first words he said to me was that Dread was right and I was a superhero. This amused me and as I tried to disarm the bomb I corrected him and said that I was a secret agent. I was unable to disarm the bomb Dread had equipped it with an anti-tampering mechanism that would detonate it immediately if I tried. Had I had more time I would have been able to bypass the anti-tamper mechanism but there was barely a minute left on the clock so I simply broke Pete's chains – disengaged turbo mode and we ran to the mines old lift. My eyesight revealed that the lift mechanism no longer worked so I had to go turbo again in order to break the anchor point on the top of the lift cage. The force of the counterweight pulling on the other end pulled me and Pete up as if we weighed nothing.

Unfortunately at that moment the bomb exploded, the concussion wave throwing us well clear of the mine as it erupted into a fireball.

I could barely move. Getting me and Pete out of the mine had used up almost all of my remaining T-juice. Fortunately for me Berto showed up in a Hawk and that moment with a new piece of kit – a portable transphasic regenerator. The look on Pete's face when he saw Berto was priceless you could tell that he was thinking was anyone else he knew a secret agent I think he was half expecting someone else like Laura to show up. Berto's regenerator worked as planned – it doesn't have the ability to do a full recharge in one go but it was enough to get my energy levels back to forty percent.

We then took off after Dread. We caught his speeding car shortly thereafter. As we neared I heard him saying to himself that nothing was sweeter than the taste of revenge so I replied that I preferred banana splits myself. The look on his scarred face when he saw me was priceless – I wish'd that I'd had a camera to take a picture, I've never seen Dread so amazed before. It's a wonder that he didn't lose control of his car.

Anyway I went turbo for the last time of the mission and leaped from the back of the Hawk to the bonnet of his car. He tried to stop me with his laser pistol but he couldn't aim very well and drive at the same time. I was easily able to send the car flying through the air to crash land upside down not far off. I walked over disengaging turbo mode as I did it. I commented to Berto that it had been a successful field test of his new regenerator. Then I bent down and looked through the torn away side panel at Dread who was hanging upside down strapped in his seat the nanoprobe test tube and disk lay on the floor under his head. It was then that I told him the truth – that I had used one of his own tactics against him and provided him with useless nanoprobes and the research data was just my term paper – which only got C by the way. After all why can't the good guys pull a double cross on the bad guys once in awhile? Especially when the leave themselves wide open for it.

When I stood back up Pete informed me that I should have told him that I had such a cool day job. In response I told him that I could not that the stakes were to high for me to reveal my secret to anyone outside of N'Tek. When he asked what his options were I told him truthfully that N'Tek could either blank his memory of the whole incident, or the secret could remain between the three of us. Pete agreed with the latter.

When I questioned Berto about how he'd found me with Dread jamming my bio link he told me that he'd merely looked for my unique transphasic energy signature. He also told me off for not telling him what was going on.  After all weren't partners supposed to look out for one another?

Anyway I then flipped Dread's car back upright and we wrestled him out and put him in a pair of stun cuffs. Those things are not nice if you try to escape them, I should know Berto used me as guinea pig for the things during the testing phase. Berto called in Behemoth, which was flying on autopilot, and we took our prisoner and Pete onboard. Now Pete – who normally hates flying though he loves plane watching – was amazed by huge transport plane – just like I was when Rachel and Chuck first showed it to me.

Anyway we dropped Pete off outside the university and took Dread to N'Tek. Jefferson was ecstatic when we frog-marched our prisoner into his office. Jake and Sophia took Dread to a holding cell while Jeff called in a helicopter to take Dread to maximum security. While this was going on I went into the main transphasic regenerator and Berto recharged me. After that there was a longer than normal debriefing but me and Berto had prepared for that and were able to keep Pete's participation in Dread's capture a secret.

It was later that I saw Pete again. I went to his study room – carrying a pizza covered with his favourite toppings. As we ate we talked a lot about the days events. Now that Pete knows that I'm Max Steel he wants to know everything about my abilities. I don't mind his curiosity if our positions were reversed I would pester him with questions as well. I just have to make clear to him that I will not use my abilities while outside Max mode though I am fully capable of doing so.

It will be good however to have Pete to confide in. I know that I can talk to Jeff, Berto, Chuck and even Rachel anytime I want but there all N'Tek and I've needed someone with an outsiders perspective to talk to. Pete fits the bill perfectly. I am glad that he knows now.

I just wish that I could one day reveal the truth to Laura. Then I might finally be able to get her back.

Josh put his pen down and sat back a moment. As normal after he'd been writing about a day in his double life his eyes wandered over to the photograph of his parents that he kept beside his bed. He often wondered what Jim and Molly McGrath would have thought about his career choice if they'd lived. His father especially – since he'd been an agent himself. Would he be happy that I've followed him, Josh thought, that I'm a secret agent to. Would he have supported me when I asked to join N'Tek? Or would he have been against it like dad was. God how I miss them.

Then his eyes drifted over to another photo that he hadn't bothered to put away. It was a photo of him and Laura taken before their relationship had taken a turn for the worst. He still loved her, and he knew she still loved him. But the trust was gone. Laura had misinterpreted his relationship with Rachel and he was unable to tell her the truth about it or why Rachel had kissed him that one time. Laura didn't trust him anymore. And that hurt him far more than any thing else could. God I wish I could tell her, he thought, she would understand then. At least I think she would. And maybe then we could be happy again. Or would she reject me, think of me as a superpowered freak. I couldn't handle it if she rejected me. I just couldn't. Feeling tears starting to come to his eyes Josh looked away from the photo and closed his diary before putting it away.

Then he got up, turned off the lights – he didn't really need them to see in the dark. His nanotech-enhanced eyes could penetrate the night easily, he could see as well at night as he could in the day but as was normal he couldn't see colours just shapes and shades of light and dark – just like normal people did when their eyes were adapted for night time seeing. He just saw things much more clearly. Normal people saw them as blurry images he saw them as razor sharp images like he saw everything.

Moving over to the bed he shrugged off his towelling robe and clambered into bed. Within seconds he was fast asleep and dreaming of Laura and the happy times he had once shared with her and hoped to one-day share again.

The End