2007-07-05: Price Of Passage


Max_icon.gif Nova_icon.gif

Summary: Max is freed, after one small favour.

Date It Happened: 5th of July, 2007

Price of Passage

Hartsdale, NY - Primatech - Cells

Max is still seated at his desk, working on the same crossword he was scribbling at when Mr. Winters visited him earlier today. It's quite a bit closer to completion, but there are still several sizable gaps. He's taken off his suit jacket and folded it neatly over the back of his chair, and his shirt cuffs have been rolled up crisply so they won't be stained with graphite. From the look of things, he's going to a fair amount of trouble to keep the outfit clean and presentable.

Stomp stomp stomp. The familiar sounds of Nova's footfalls start to echo in the corridor, echoed by a few others. Security = excursion, perhaps? Time will tell. When she enters the room, she enters alone, door shut behind her, however, so it's a toss up. She's dressed in slacks, boots, plain undershirt beneath the same bulky denim jacket she'd worn when first meeting Max. As outdated and masculine as usual. Her gaze shifts from Max's crossword, then back to him, and he gets a chin up. "Agent Swan," she greets - not something she's called him before.

Max pushes back from his desk and stands to greet Nova. He's nothing if not well-mannered. Her use of official title doesn't go unnoticed, though his only response is to raise his eyebrows slightly and incline his head. "Agent Armstrong," he replies cordially, clasping his hands behind his back. "What can I do for you today?"

"Well, you can earn yourself a ticket out of here for the last time," Nova says, a flash of challenge in her eyes. Not quite a negative thing, to her, but the world is a perpetual confrontation in the first place. "Sound good?" A flicker of a smile, hands sliding into the pockets of her jacket.

It's a struggle for Max to keep his face impassive. He is not a man who takes well to confinement. The scar at the corner of his mouth twitches once. Twice. "You have my undivided attention," he purrs. "Though in this case, the word 'earn' has an ominous ring to it." He shoots a suspicious glance in Nova's direction, but is unable to completely conceal his curiousity.

Nova shrugs a little, but meets that look flatly, not about to deny it. "You have something that we'd like you to turn over to us," she says, plainly. "Information that'd come in handy. You've seen enough of Doctor Suresh's research to work that one out." She angles herself towards the door, but doesn't yet move to unlock or open it, still watching him. "The plan is, you take me to wherever you've hidden it."

"You want my reasearch?" Max's blue eyes go wide with surprise and a hint of dismay. It's easily the most emotion he's even shown in Nova's presence. He recovers quickly, but for a moment he appears uniquely vulnerable. "That's my life's work. Decades of notes and experiments…" He trails off. The muscles in his jaw clench and unclench several times. Instead of shocked, his visage is now flat and emotionless. "I see. The price of passage." Stuck between a rock and a hard motherfucker, he sucks in a slow breath, lets it out, then nods and picks up his jacket. "Agreed."

Throughout, she watches him carefully, noting his reactions and preparing whatever argument is necessary. But in a way, she doesn't expect this to be too hard. Keep a man in a cage for long enough, he'll… gain some perspective. Nova nods to him when he agrees, and turns her back to unlock the door. She's not about to reassure him that he made the right decision - it's really the only decision there is. Besides, she can't sympathise with that kind of attachment. "Congratulations," she says, swinging the door open and stepping aside for him. "You're a free man."

Max takes his time, savoring the moment. He shrugs into his jacket and carefully tugs the lapels straight, then buttons it. As soon as he steps into the hall he snuffles in a deep whiff of air through his nose. He hasn't spent a terribly long amount of time in his cell, but it's been long enough. Having been cut off from his powers and kept on a starvation ration of painkillers was far more devastating in the end. He nods once, settling some internal conflict, then turns back to meet his partner's eyes. "Let's go. I'm ready to see the sun."

The door is shut, and Nova flicks a switch. Inside the cell, the previously ever-present fluorescent lights switch off without drama, pitching the interior into darkness. Nova meets Max's eyes, and then grins at him. "It hasn't changed since you last saw it, mate," she says in a rare moment of dry humour, before moving on out. Security flanks the pair as they walk down the corridor, leaving behind the cell for a final time.

Battery Park - NYC…

"Almost have it…" Max is bent over with one arm crammed deep inside a public mail drop on the street. His questing fingers grope around the metal interior of the mailbox until he locates the memory stick taped far back where casual lookers would never find it. "There!" With a quick jerk, he tears it free. He stands and offers it to Nova, but not without reluctance. "That's it. Every experiment, every theory. It's all on that little piece of silicon."

A mailbox. Of all things. Nova just shakes her in a little disbelief as she watches him. She had been all over New York, trying to track this thing in as many places it had been recorded that Max frequented, and it's taped inside a freaking mailbox. When Max finally rights himself and offers out the memory stick, Nova wipes that look of irritation off her face quickly, and takes the device, looking it over before dropping it into a pocket. "Don't think the higher ups won't be grateful," she says. "You, along with this, will prove to be a valuable asset." It sounds as though she's paraphrasing - certainly not her words. "You're no longer required to take the medication you've been given, your abilities should start to come back in a couple of days." She raises an eyebrow at him. "Don't go crazy with it, we've had issues with discretion in the past."

Max wets his lips with the tip of his tongue. The thought of having his powers back is enticing, to say the least. For him, being without them is like not having the use of one hand. Still, he nods. "Yes. I seem to recall there being issues with a young woman who likes to play in the dirt. I assure you, I'll not be so unprofessional." He meets Nova eyes and offers his hand, aknowledging her as an equal. And why shouldn't he? She brought him in. She kicked his ass not once, but twice. He grins. "I look forward to working with you, Agent Armstrong."

No telling him twice, then, and Nova nods her satisfaction at this answer. When he takes the initiative and offers his hand out, she responds with professional enthusiasm, palm meeting his audibly and a little stingingly, as can only be expected from her. "Likewise," she says, giving his hand a very firm squeeze before releasing it. It's then she takes out a slim wallet from the pocket of her slacks, flicks through it, and holds out a card. It's plain, with bare-bones contact details - specifically, her's. When he takes it, she starts to walk, beckoning him to do so with her. "We have a facility in Kirby Plaza," she says, keeping her voice casual and conversational so that anyone that passes briefly by would dismiss her words. "You're expected to check in in the evenings." Glance. "Protocol. The leash'll slacken once it's over with."

Max accepts the card and looks it over, then slips it into his inside jacket pocket. "I'm not thrilled with the idea," he admits. "But it's understandable. I expect I spend much of my time in the Hartsdale facility collaborating with Dr. Suresh. When we aren't in the field, that is." He glances over at Nova, keeping pace with her and matching the tone of his voice to hers.

"It'll ease," Nova says with a small shrug almost undetectable under that jacket. "This isn't like joining any organisation that even has a name. We try not to exist. Need to make sure the recruits understand that. It happened with me and I wasn't even kidnapped." She flashes him a grin, still quietly victorious over this accomplishment of her's.

Max nods again, this time more agreeably. He even grins back. "I'll behave myself and follow the rules. Anything for a steak and real bed. I was going crazy for lack of creature comforts." He reaches up to stroke his beard thoughtfully. "Speaking of which, I'm going to have to stop and pick up some things on the way to the complex."

"No doubt," Nova says, not about to pry. Lord knows the man has had enough constant monitoring over the past week or so. "Do you need cash?"

"I have some stashed," Max replies. His grin takes on a wry twist. "Besides, I never take money from a pretty lady."

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