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By Sue Kesler and Jodi Goldfinger
(Sue wrote the first two sections, which comprise part #1. I wrote part #2. Sue part#3. Me part #4. Sue, part #5, and I finished up with the final two sections. which comprise part #6)
The dirt was still fresh, the smell of new earth pungent in the air. 99 stared down at the gravesite with a silent awe. There was no tombstone yet, revealing the newness of the situation.
Her entire body was taut with the effort to control her sorrow. Moisture glistened in her eyes. A sigh escaped. 99 looked up from the grave in front of her to watch the sunset.
"I don't know what to say," she murmured. "I never thought I'd be standing at your graveside, talking to you like this. I know you're not really here, but it's the closest I can get." She paused, her eyes stinging with tears.
The images of that fateful incident played in her mind in a slow, painful motion.
"Why did you have to die? Why now?." She murmured, under her breath, a long-suffering sigh in her voice.
Her hand scooped down and grasped a handful of earth. Letting the dirt trickle out of her clenched fist and fall gently back down to the ground. 99 bowed her head and let the memories finally wash over her.
Beside her stood Max. Hands folded in front of him, quiet and reserved as he sympathetically looked toward 99.
They stood in silence for a time; each lost in their own thoughts and remembrances. Eventually, hesitantly, Max turned to 99.
"I never wanted you to go through this 99 and if I could turn back time, God knows. I would." Max paused and closed his eyes, "I'm so sorry."
99 did not acknowledge Max as she stood stone-faced staring down at the grave.
Max tried once more to explain, "You probably don't want to hear that with each passing day it gets easier. But it will. It has to." He began to struggle for words. "I wish I could. I know that you." Max paused, "I want to help you get through this 99. but I don't know how"
Max buried his face into his hands as he was experiencing his own sadness and grief.
Max felt a hand on his shoulder and didn't need to turn to see whom it belonged to. The man remained silent, simply standing just a little behind him, not saying a word and knowing that he didn't need to. His presence was overbearing enough without the need for words to further enhance it.
Max felt a sense of clam pass over him as he straightened up, "I need to know if she's going to be alright," Max asked as he looked over to 99.
The man took a deep breath then spoke quietly, "It will take some time but she will get through this. You needn't worry about her, she is a strong woman"
Max looked unconvinced and the sadness on his face was evident. The man came around and stood beside Max. They both looked towards 99, as the man spoke. "She will live a long and healthy life but she will never marry again nor fall in love with another. She will
quit CONTROL and then go to live with her mother for a while." he paused. "Her. and the baby." The man continued.
His words hit Max full force so much that he couldn't speak for a moment. Max's eyes widened as he managed to stammer out, "Th-the w-what?"
"She is going to have a baby Max. Your baby" The man said, rather amused at Max's awkwardness.
"99's. going to have a baby? My baby?" Max said still dazed. He began to shake his head, "But how. how is that possible?"
"The night before you went on your mission" the man said stating fact.
A puzzled look came over Max, "You know about that night?"
The man replied with a decisive nod.
A faint smile briefly touched Max's lips as he remembered that night. "Does she know?"
The man shook his head, "No, it's much too soon, not for a few more weeks. It will be a turning point in her life and it will help her carry on without you."
Suddenly Max could sense the life that was
beginning inside 99, he began to know it's future. It would be a boy; she would name it
after him and he would be the spitting image of Max. He would be told about his father,
growing to be strong to carry on his father's
99 titled her head and studied the unmarked patch of earth that would be Max's final resting spot.
"I love you, now and for all eternity." She kissed the white rose in her hand and tossed it down on the dirt, landing where his heart would be.
Before she could leave, she paused once again and kneeled beside his grave, no longer crying, though her grief was evident on her face. "Help me say. Goodbye"
The man reached out and patted Max gently on the arm. Max turned toward him.
"One more moment please" Max pleaded.
The man gave a nod.
Max looked down at 99. Dropping to one knee beside the grave, he looked upon her angelic face, the blue eyes that had captured him from the first glance were closed to his vision. Max felt something in his chest tighten painfully at the thought of leaving her.
"The time has come for me to move on 99. I wouldn't change one single thing about my life. If I were to live again, I would have made the exact same choices, for I have nothing to regret. If I could change something, I would've changed me leaving so early. My love for you will follow me through eternity. I will carry you with me forever, until its time for us to meet again."
Kneeling there she almost felt at peace, as if he was there with her, watching over her. She could feel his love even though he was dead and deep down; the feeling comforted her.
99 looked up to see the car waiting for her. She slowly rose and turned to leave but hesitated for a moment. "Goodbye my Love." 99 whispered, her voice at near braking point. No one could have loved you more than I did. Than I'll always do till my dying day and beyond."
Max watched the love of his life walk away and quickly turned to the man.
"I can't let her go, please. I need to
stay with her" Max said desperately.
"I'm sorry that's not possible" the man said taking hold of Max's arm.
"But she's having my child, I want to see my child. I DON'T WANT TO GO!!" Max shook loose the man's grip as Max shouted at 99. "99, COME BACK. DON'T LEAVE ME."
Max bolted straight up from bed thrashing with his arms, "99 NO, NO I NEED YOU. I WANT TO SEE MY CHILD. YOU CAN'T MAKE ME GO!!"
Max's sudden outburst woke 99 out of a dead sleep as she grabbed on to Max to wake him up.
"MAX! Wake up! MAX!," she screamed, shaking him even harder.
Max's eyes opened wide as he was breathing heavily and covered in sweat. He was disoriented but soon focused on 99 face.
"Max you're ok, you're ok, I'm here." She said calmly holding his face in her hands.
Max looked around and found he was in his apartment and in his own bed. He glanced at the clock by the bed. It was in the morning.
"99, I just had a horrible dream" he put his head into his hands letting go a long slow breath. "it seemed so real"
99 held Max. " It must have been some dream. Tell me what it was"
Max settled back against the headboard, "I died on the mission that I'm going on today. There was a funeral and you were standing by my gravesite. I was next to you but you couldn't see me or hear me. You were so upset and I couldn't do anything about it. Then this man came to take me with him. I was so worried about you but he told me you would be all right. Then he told me.." Max paused.
"Told you what?" 99 inquired.
Max took her hand in his, "He told me. you were going to have a baby."
99 raised one eyebrow, "Well, isn't that interesting. But I got news for you, I'm not pregnant" she smiled.
"The baby was conceived the night before the mission." He said putting the pieces together. "And last night, we made love."
"Max, we make love all the time." 99 paused for a moment as she realized something. "Come to think of it. Well, everything happened so fast last night. I just didn't have time."
"Time for what?" he asked.
"For any precautions. My diaphragm, Max. I didn't put it in."
Max's face dropped at the reality of the situation.
99 gave an exasperated sigh, "Oh Max, the chances of me getting.."
Max finished her sentence, "Pregnant? "But you could have become pregnant last night."
She shrugged her shoulders "Oh I suppose if.." 99 rolled her eyes, "Max, you're reading way too much into this. It was just a dream, you've known you were going on this mission for the last couple weeks, its only natural that you would have dreams about it"
"I can't go on that mission 99, I have a bad feeling about it"
"Max, you can't just not go, you have your orders"
"Do you want to see me killed?" he exclaimed.
"Oh of course not. Max. listen to me carefully, it was only a dream." She explained.
"No" he said shaking his head, "It was more than that, it's a premonition." Max got up and started to get dressed. "I going tell the Chief to take me off this mission"
99 gave Max a look of concern "He's not going to take you off this mission just because of some dream you had"
"He's got to." Max flatly stated, "I'm gonna die if I don't"
Max shook his head, trying to clear the blood from his eyes. He succeeded just in time to see the Kaos agents black gloved hand coming at his face again. There was a shearing pain as it connected with his left eye, forcing his head to the right and adding to the blinding headache he already had.
All right, Mr. Smart, are you going to tell us what we want to know or would you like me to continue?
Max shook his head.
The Kaos agent swung his fist back again, but was stopped by a calm voice.
Thats enough for now. Take him back and let him think about it for a bit.
Why dont we finish him off now?
Because its time for dinner and Im hungry. I dont want to spoil my appetite.
The man shrugged. He untied Max from the chair and dragged him down the hall to the room where he was being held captive. He threw him in, slammed the door and locked it.
Max slowly sat up. He dragged himself over to the small sink in the corner of the room and splashed water on his face, grimacing as the cool water stung the cuts and bruises on his face.
Oh, 99, I need you . . . He moaned.
He stumbled across the room and fell onto the small, single bed. He laid an arm gently over his eyes and didnt even try to hold back the tears.
This was his last case. He had argued hotly with the Chief about taking him off the case. The Chief flatly refused and came close to calling Max a coward. His mind had raced after that, thinking there had to be some way he could get through it. But here he was, his body covered with bruises from the Kaos agents torture. They had started on his face in the last session. He ran his fingers over it, feeling the cuts and the swelling that had closed his left eye. Yes, they would kill him, they would beat him to death. He gave a deep, sorrowful sigh . . . he would miss 99, and he would never see his child.
The door swung open. Max winced at the sound, but refused to move.
Do what you have to do, He said. Just get it over with . . .
Get up, Max, we gotta get out of here, A very familiar voice whispered.
Max opened his eyes in shock. 99!? He frowned as he tried to focus on her. She was dressed in a dark shirt and pants, a machine pistol at her hip.
Come on, Max, get up! 99 whispered, pulling on his arm.
She put one of his arms around her shoulder and helped him to his feet, putting an arm around his waist. He swayed wearily. Larabee, I need help, She called out.
Larabee came into the room, carrying a machine gun. He grabbed Max the same as 99 and, between them, they dragged him out of the room.
They hurried down the hall and around a corner. Near the ceiling at the end of the hallway was a vent, large enough for a man to crawl through.
Max reached up as 99 and Larabee lifted him up. Revived, he turned around and reached out a hand out to 99. Larabee boosted her up and Max grabbed her arms, pulling her up into the vent.
There was a sudden shout from down the hallway. Larabee turned just in time to see four Kaos agents turn the corner.
Go! Get out of here! He said, motioning to 99.
No way! Max said, pushing past 99 and reaching out a hand to Larabee.
Get going! Larabee shouted, ignoring the hand Max held out.
A shot rang out. It hit Larabee in the upper thigh and he went down. Max made a move to help, but Larabee waved him off.
GO!!! He yelled. Youve got to go!
Not without you! Max said.
GO!! Larabee said, struggling to his feet and disappearing from view. More shots were heard, and the scuffling of feet.
Max felt 99 tugging on him from behind.
We cant leave him, 99, Max wept. We cant!
Weve got to go, Max. If we dont well all be captured.
99, we . . .
99 pulled on him. With one last, sorrowful glance into the hallway, Max reluctantly followed 99. They weaved their way through the maze of air ducts until they came to a large vent that lead to the outside.
This is the way we came in, 99 said, easily pulling away the covering. She hopped out onto the ground, Max close behind her.
Come on, 99, lets go back and see if we can find him, Max said.
A Claxton horn rang out and the yard was suddenly filled with lights, swinging back and forth over the lawn.
99 tugged on Maxs arm. He stared at her for a moment, then reluctantly followed.
They zigzagged their way across the lawn to the brick wall surrounding the compound. Crouching low, they followed the wall until they came to a spot where the bricks had been pulled away to make a small opening. They crawled through the hole and hurried away into the surrounding woods, the sound of the alarm fading in the distance.
After putting a good distance between themselves and the Kaos compound, Max and 99 stopped to catch their breath.
99, weve got to go back.
Max, we cant.
Do you hear what youre saying?
Yes, 99 said shortly, I know exactly what Im saying. Lets go.
99, whats wrong with you? Max said, taking hold of her hand and pulling her up short.
99 threw her arms around him, pulling him close. Oh, Max, She cried, clinging to him tightly. I thought Id lost you.
Max winced, but put his arms around her. They slowly sank to the mossy surface of the forest. Max held her tightly, ignoring the pain from the bruises. He gently stroked her hair as she wept on his shoulder. His love for her came out in waves, far stronger than he had ever felt in his life, and he held her even tighter. And she responded in kind.
Oh, Max, I love you.
I love you, 99. More than anything in the whole world.
They sat that way for several minutes, holding each other tight.
Oh, Max . . . Larabee . . .
I know, I know, Max said sadly.
99 lifted her face from his shoulder and, for the first time, got a good look at his face.
Oh my God!!! Oh, Max, weve got to get you to the hospital.
Yeah, I think that might be a good idea, Max agreed. He looked back in the direction of the installation. Larabee . . . He whispered. He turned back to 99. Weve got to go back.
99 helped Max to his feet. We cant. Max, please, trust me.
With her help, they staggered on for a short distance until they came to a dirt road. Parked, almost in the trees, was a Control tracking car. 99 pulled the keys out of her pocket and opened the door. They got in and 99 drove away slowly, with the lights off.
After driving a mile or so, they came to a paved road. 99 flipped on the lights and turned right. She followed the road for several miles until it connected with I-95. She headed North.
I was going to come alone, but I knew I had to tell someone what my plans were in case something happened, 99 said. She paused for a moment as she pulled off into a rest area. She parked and turned off the engine.
So I told Larabee. He insisted on coming with me. He made me promise not to stop if something happened to him. He said to get you out, Her voice trailed off.
Got me out, but we left him there to die, Max said, more sarcastically than he meant to.
I DIDNT WANT TO LEAVE HIM!! 99 yelled in anger. You think I wanted to leave him? Do you actually believe that?
Max shook his head. No, of course not, 99 He said softly. His head was throbbing. He buried his face in his hands and moaned. "We need to get back to CONTROL" He said quietly.
Max was lying on the lab table at CONTROL
headquarters while one of the Doctor's tended his injuries. What he had found while he was
cleaning Max's wounds were obvious signs of torture. Here were bruises, burns and cuts
99 just hung up the phone, "I called the Chief, he'll be right down" 99 looked over to the doctor, "Will he going to be ok"
The doctor was checking the deep cut over Max's right eye. "He'll be fine," the doctor said to her with a reassuring smile. "You've got one tough husband here 99, it'll take more than a few bruises and a banged up face to keep him down"
The doctor placed his hand on Max's arm, "Sorry 86, but you need a few stitches over that eye, I can't numb that area so it's going to be a little painful"
Max nodded "It's ok Doc, like you said, I'm tough. Go ahead"
99 stood off to one side, watching the Doctor prepare the needle. As the first stitch made its way into his skin, Max grabbed on to the side of the table and gritted his teeth. She walked up to Max's side. She whispered two words. "Hold on." 99 quickly held his hand as he squeezed it tightly with each pass of the needle going into him.
The doctor finished quickly and placed a bandage over the stitches. "That should do it"
Max looked deep into her eyes, "We have
to go back to rescue Larabee"
"Don't you worry about that now, we'll get him out, I'll talk to the Chief about the next plan of action"
Suddenly the Chief plowed through the doors of the lab.
"I want to know whose idea this
was?" he shouted impatiently.
"It was mine Chief" 99 said as she stepped forward, her shoulders stiffening.
"Who gave you permission to get involved Agent 99?" he said sternly.
"No one gave me permission. I just thought it might be a good idea to save my husband from getting killed" she shot back.
"99 you had no business taking it upon yourself to go in there. and dragging another one of my agents with you"
"I didn't drag anyone anywhere, Larabee went of his own free will"
The Chief took a big breath, "99, I want to talk to you outside" The Chief went out the door as 99 went up to Max, "Don't worry, I'll straighten this all out. His bark is worse than his bite." she said smiling tenderly at Max.
As 99 started to turn, Max grabbed her hand, "99. you need to know something about this mission." Max started to explain.
The Chief poked his head back into the lab,
"99, I'm waiting."
99 nodded back at the Chief. She turned toward Max and caressed his arm, "I'll be right back Love"
99 walked out to the other room. The Chief
sat at the desk in the corner with his hands folded in front of him. She didn't wait for
the Chief to ask her questions.
"I'm sorry Chief but I wasn't going to sit idly by and wait for Max to be killed. I know you're angry."
Angry?" he interrupted, "You think I'm angry with you?" He leaned forward practically skewering 99 with his glare.
"No, 99, this goes way beyond angry."
"I don't understand Chief, why are you upset with me saving Max's life?"
He stopped and took a deep breath in order to calm himself.
"99, let me try and explain." the Chief said rubbing the back of his neck. "This mission Max was on. His orders were to be captured. not to be rescued"
99 gave a blank stare trying to understand what the Chief was saying.
"What do you mean, captured? He never told me he was going on this mission as a... decoy. You know what happens to decoys"
"He was under strict orders not to discuss this with anyone, not even you 99."
It was all starting to make sense to her now.
"No wonder he had that dream about him
being killed on this mission, he knew what he was going into. Chief, how could you
send Max on a mission like this knowing what the outcome would be?"
"It wasn't my decision to send Max on this mission, it came from higher up in the agency. For reasons, I don't even know, they chose him especially for this. Yes 99, he knew that he would be put through torture and eventually be put to death." The Chief leaned back
and folded his arms in front of him, "And now that Max has been rescued, you have put this mission into jeopardy."
99 stood in front of him taking a defiant
stance. "I don't care. Did you take a good look at him? They beat
him very badly. If I didn't get to him when I did, he'd be dead by now and then what good
would he be to this 'mission' " 99 informed him.
The Chief's raised his hand up to the bridge of this nose and let out a deep sigh.
There was a long silence between them.
"So now what happens" she hesitantly asked.
The Chief looked at 99 then stood up, "99, you've interfered with an important mission, I have no choice than to order both of you back to that KAOS hideout, rescue Larabee and have Max get recaptured.
"Recaptured? You realize what your
saying Chief? You're telling me to help put a
death sentence on Max, I can't do it" 99 stood defiantly, her eyes blazed with angry
fire "I won't do it"
The Chief walked around and stood in front of 99, "Agent 99, that is a direct order, you either obey it. Or I have no choice than to put you under arrest"
No you wont, Maxs voice came from behind them.
They both turned to see Max standing in the doorway.
Max, Ive had to do a lot of explaining, The Chief said as Max entered the room. You know I have no choice. 99 had no right to come in and rescue you. You knew the rules.
Yes, I knew the rules, and now Im going to read YOU a few rules. Max said.
Youre going to what? You do realize who youre talking to, dont you?
99 and the Chief stared at Max open-mouthed, stunned. Neither or them had ever seen him so angry.
Max went over to the desk and leaned over it. He poked his finger in the Chiefs face, glaring at him.
Heres my rule. Dont you ever, EVER, threaten to arrest Agent 99. Shes a skillful, loyal agent. One of the best youve got, better than me.
That has nothing to do with whats happened.
Who gave you those orders to send me?
I cant tell you.
I cant tell you, Max mimicked.
Max . . . The Chief warned.
Max crossed his arms. I want to know. I have a right to know.
According to the Control manual, only
the President of the
The Chief said nothing.
Listen, you pompous, thickheaded pencil pusher. You claim youre The Chief Of Control, but it appears you arent.
99 was surprised by Maxs retort. She knew he was angry with the Chief. He had been angry with him on other occasions, but he had never raised his voice at him or called him names.
The Chief, on the other hand, didnt seem in the least troubled by the insult and refused to speak.
Max. Chief . . . She began.
A phone sitting on the desk rang, interrupting her. The Chief answered. Chief speaking. He listened for several minutes, the look on his face going from indifferent to angry. WHAT?? How could he . . . He gave Max and 99 a look.
The voice on the phone continued. The Chiefs expression changed again, this time going from angry to resigned.
All right, He sighed, Thank you.
Without giving Max and 99 even a cursory glance, he made a call.
When the person on the other end answered, he said, It didnt go exactly as we planned, Sir, but it was successful and thats all that matters. Yes, Sir. No, Sir. Yes, Ill make sure.
He hung up and turned to Max and 99.
Well, you two can go home.
Max and 99 stared at him in confusion.
Go home? 99 asked.
Yes, go home. We just intercepted a Kaos communiqué. The phony information that Max was supposed to pass to Kaos was received. Theyre headed in the wrong direction, as we hoped, He gave Max a hard stare. You werent supposed to tell anyone about this.
I didnt, Max was so confused, he couldnt think of anything to say.
Larabee gave them the false information. Theyre holding him, waiting to see if the information proves valid. Hes become our decoy. Max, you know whats going to happen to him when they find out the information is phony.
Oh, Lord . . . 99 said.
Max, you disobeyed the rules. You, and your beautiful and loyal wife, are on suspension.
Max and 99 were more confused than ever.
I dont know what youre talking about! What rules did I break? Max asked.
You told Larabee the plan.
I did not!!! Max said.
Then how did he find out? You and I were the only ones that knew.
Wheres the file on the case? Max asked.
Its locked in my office safe, The Chief replied.
Chief, you know Larabee has access to your safe, 99 said.
I changed the combination.
He knew I was going on a mission. Did he know anything about it? Max asked.
He must have gotten into the safe, Max said.
Cant you remember anything for more than sixty seconds, Max? I told you, he didnt have . . . Oh, no, The Chief raised his hand to the bridge of this nose again.
What? 99 asked.
I accidentally gave him the combination right after our meeting, Max. It was force of habit. I always give him the combination.
99 groaned and rolled her eyes. Oh, for Heavens sake, Chief. And you say Max doesnt remember anything!
99, be quiet, The Chief warned.
99 glared at him. Youre always so quick to blame Max . . .
The complete case file is in the safe? Max interrupted.
Then he knew that I was going to my death, Max said softly.
He had no intention of getting out, 99 said. Thats why he wouldnt take your hand, Max. Somehow he knew the fake information hadnt gotten out yet, so he helped us escape and took your place. But I dont understand why.
Max sat down on the corner of the desk, thinking. He was hurt and angry by the Chiefs apparent lack of concern for him, and Larabee. For some reason he was willing to let one, or both, of his best friends die. He buried his face in his hands.
Max, are you all right, Love? 99 asked, putting a hand on his shoulder.
I dont know, He lowered his hands and gave her a weak smile.
99 gently stroked his face.
Go home, The Chief said. Ill see you in the morning for debriefing. After that, you both go on suspension. He stood up and pointed at them. And no, I repeat, NO rescue attempts. I WILL arrest you both. Do you understand THAT English, Max?
Good. Ill see you in the morning. He left the room.
Max and 99 went to their office, closing and locking the door behind them so no one could walk in on them.
Okay, Max, where do we start?
Weve got to get him out of there before they kill him. Weve got extra supplies in the closet, lets look and see what weve got. But first . . . He sat down wearily on the couch, pulling 99 down beside him. Ive got to sit down for a moment.
Are you dizzy, Max?
No more than usual.
99, Ive come to a realization over the last few weeks.
You know how important being a spy is to me.
Max shook his head. I dont know how I feel anymore. About anything. Except us.
99 put her hand on the back of his neck.
99, I wish youd let me go in alone, just in case . . .
No, Max, we go in together.
But, 99, what if you are pregnant?
We dont KNOW that.
Max rubbed his forehead.
Max, listen to me. I honestly dont know if I could go on without you, Her eyes filled with tears, but she put up her hand to stop his interruption. Hear me out. Think about it for a moment. Put yourself in my place. Would you let me go by myself?
No, but . . .
And dont give me any of that youre a woman crap. You just told the Chief I was a skillful and loyal agent, didnt you?
Well, then, knowing that the possibility existed that you would never see me again, how would you feel?
I could no more live without you than you could without me, Max said softly, almost too softly to be heard, his eyes filling.
Then what would you do? 99 asked.
Max looked into 99s eyes, shook his head slowly and smiled. Youre really incredible, you know that?
I just love you. Weve stuck together for years, why should that change, just because were married?
It shouldnt, Max agreed.
Then nothing changes. Were partners, through and through, to the end. Agreed?
Max nodded. Agreed . . . with one exception.
99 gave him a quizzical look.
If we ever find out youre pregnant, the agreement is null and void. It has to be.
99 looked away. Max took her face in his hands and turned her back to face him.
99 sighed. Yes, Max.
Max gathered her into his arms and kissed her. A deep, long, loving kiss that she responded to with equal ardor, their tears mingling. They sat for several minutes, holding each other close, reassured by their feelings of love for each other..
Max rubbed his chin, "I'm confused,
Sweetheart, what's up with the Chief? I've never seen him act like that
"I don't know, Love. And what about Larabee? What made him put his life on the line for us like that?"
Max's eyes started to narrow, "I think I know."
99 looked at him. "You do?" She asked. "What?"
"The morning of the mission, I told the
Chief that I had this feeling something wasn't right with this mission. He wanted an
explanation so I told him I had this dream, that I died and that you were going to have a
baby. The Chief wasn't exactly sympathetic toward my dilemma. I seem to remember Larabee was in the office at
the time. 99, I think he put his life on the line cause of what I told the Chief."
"That would explain the sudden act of heroism on his part, if he thought I was having a baby he wouldn't want you to be in a situation"
"It's just not right, I'd never be able to live with myself if.
"We won't let that happen Max" 99 looked at her watch, "We don't have much time, we need to get back into the headquarters and find Larabee"
"And hope he's still alive" Max continued.
Max and 99 got the necessary equipment needed to get into the KAOS headquarters and headed back.
Max could see the headquarters, which was situated five miles off the interstate, from the woods surrounding the building.
"They interrogated me in a small room
in the basement on the north side of the building. That's probably where they are keeping
Larabee. The false information he gave them was the same I was going to give them. We have just 3 hours before they find out its
Max drew out a map of the building and proceeded to instruct 99 as to their plan of action.
"If something happens to me, you need to get out of here as fast as you can" Max instructed her.
"Max, I thought we agreed that if either of us gets caught, we stay together."
"I know. but 99, I don't want to risk having anything happen to you just in case you're."
99 quickly cut in, "I don't care Max, I'm not leaving no matter what"
The look on her face told Max not to push the issue. Hopefully they would all get out alive. Max and 99 made their way past the guards at the gate by bypassing the alarm on the fence. They moved swiftly towards the building; slipping from shadow to shadow.
Halfway there he paused and drew out another detonation device. The plan was to activate them to divert attention once they got Larabee.
Max approached the building and hesitated in the shadows near the entrance.
A KAOS guard was approaching. Max tensed, and as the man passed he grabbed him and pulled him into the shadows. Holding his knife at the man's throat with one hand and using the other to twist his arm painfully behind his back, Max hissed into his ear.
"Be quiet and you won't die!"
The guard paled and sweat broke out on his forehead.
"You will tell me where your prisoner is being held!" Max tighten his grip on the man's arm, twisting it.
"I-I am a l-loyal f-follower of." the guard warbled.
"KAOS!" Max pressed the blade closer to the man's throat. A trickle of blood ran down his neck. "You're going to be a dead follower soon!" he whispered. "Is that what you want?"
Half-fainting from fear, the man swallowed carefully. "The basement" he whispered. "Third door from the stairwell"
"Bright man, you get to live," said Max and he let the man go and swiftly knocked him out with a judo chop to the neck.
Quietly they made their way into the building, down the stairwell to the basement.
Max tapped 99 on the shoulder to indicate that was the interrogation room. Then pointed past that to the cell where he was held. 99 nodded in confirmation.
Max crept up to the cell but once inside was
surprised to find that Larabee was not inside.
"They must have him in the interrogation room" Max looked around the room spotting a grate in the ceiling, "let's sneak up this air duct and find out what's going on in the interrogation room."
Max climbed up the shaft as 99 followed. Max carefully crawled his way to the room where voices were present. Max brought up his hand behind him to halt 99, then proceeded to look though the air-condition grate. Max squinted to see what was going on then focused on what was a shocking revelation. Max's mouth dropped open as he looked behind him to 99.
99 could tell something was wrong by his look and scooted closer to see. When 99 looked through the grate she gave a gasp and put her hand up to her mouth. Everything they heard and saw was something they didn't even expect. Max motioned to 99 to go back
to the cell area.
"I can't believe it Max, it just can't be" 99 said with frustration in her voice.
Max began to pace the floor, "If someone told me. I wouldn't have believed it unless I saw it with my own eyes." Max paused, "Larabee. a double agent."
"This all seems so unreal. Maybe we are making a mistake."
"Its no mistake 99, you heard them talking about the plans and Larabee playing cards and laughing. They don't treat CONTROL agents that way unless you were one of them"
"Now what do we do?" 99 asked.
"We call the Chief, then we get out of here as quickly as possible."
Max took off his shoe to dial when a KAOS guard burst into the room catching Max and 99 off guard.
"Stop right there, hands up and put
that shoe back on your foot" the guard barked out, holding his gun on them.
Max took a deep breath and slowly put his shoe back on. Max and 99 stood with their hands up waiting for the onslaught of agents to descend upon them.
The KAOS guard shouted down the hall to come to the holding room. All at once, two KAOS commanders and three agents including Larabee came in to see what the
ruckus was about.
"Well ,well, Mr. Smart. Couldn't stay away huh? And you brought someone with you, how nice" smirked the head KAOS man. "Larabee, your friends came back to "rescue" you." The head man walked over to Max standing just inches from his face. "Now that you know our little secret, I'm sorry you won't be around to see how our plans turn out but I can tell you the bad guys win"
Max turned to face Larabee, "I know exactly how it turns out. No wonder you wanted to help 99 rescue me. You get the correct plans from the Chief's safe then go with 99 to rescue me. Then while 99 and I escape you faked getting shot to make us think you were captured. KAOS sends a fake communiqué that gets intercepted by CONTROL to say KAOS has the false information. CONTROL is now sent on a wild goose chase not knowing that your agents are headed to the right location.
The head man started to applaud, "Very clever Smart, we could have use a man like you at KAOS but I'm sorry to say, you're time.. is.. up" The head man motioned to the guard, "Take these two out to the edge of the woods and eliminate them, then dump their bodies in the lake."
Max bolted forward only to be subdued by the guard, "Let my wife go, she's expecting a baby" Max shouted out the KAOS man rolled his eyes, "Just what we need another CONTROL agent in the world. Sorry, no can do"
The guard began to tie Max's hands behind his back then and 99's. The head man started to leave when he turned to Larabee, Side Head, "Care to say goodbye? I mean you did work with them even if they were on the wrong side"
Larabee walked over to Max, "You should have never come back, your loyalty overwhelms me. Sorry Max, 99. Nothing personal, just business"
The other KAOS agents laughed and slapped Larabee's back as they made their way back to the poker game.
Larabee leaned over to the guard handing him
a twenty-dollar bill, "Make it quick, I don't want them to suffer"
The guard seeing the twenty gave a salute to Larabee as he went out the door.
"Ok, march." Instructed the guard.
Max and 99 walked in front of the guard, out
the building and past the gate to the woods.
"99, I'm sorry about all this. This isn't fair to you." Max sadly said.
"Max, an agreement is an agreement. I don't want to go on without you."
Max gave a sympathetic smile as they walked deeper into the woods.
"If I could just get free, I could jump
the guard but these ropes are too tight." he whispered to 99.
"Both of you, stop right there." ordered the guard.
Max and 99 stopped then turned around to face him.
"You're going to kill her knowing she's pregnant? What kind of man are you?" Max said with disgust.
"I have my orders," the guard said coldly as he looked down and checked the clip in his gun.
Max knew if he was going to save 99 and possibly the life of his baby he'd have to make a risky move.
Max lunged forward and kicked the gun from the guard's hand and then swung his other leg around to kick the guard backward off his feet. 99 ran over to the gun and kicked it into some foliage. With Max's hands still tied behind him, it made it difficult to get any leverage as he struggled to make his stance. The guard slowly got up looking for his gun, "Your pal Larabee gave me twenty bucks to kill you quickly but now I think I'm gonna take my time."
The guard ran toward Max and tackled him. 99 got behind the guard and threw her body into his knocking him off Max. Max quickly got up and kicked the guard in the face causing him to land near the edge of the lake. The guard again got up and tackled
Max. 99 came toward him but this time the guard shoved her away, losing her footing and fell over a stump. The guard grabbed Max by the arms and threw him into the lake. The guard got over Max's back and began to hold his head under the water.
"This will teach you to mess around with KAOS" the guard growled.
Max struggled against the guard, kicking and
splashing for all he was worth. He gasped and choked as water entered his mouth instead of
air. His body was too worn to fight back anymore even though his mind told him to keep
going. Max tried to fight against the
heavy weight on his back. His lungs began shrinking, as the air wasn't received. His head felt tingly from lack of oxygen. He tried to move but his arms but they were tied. He couldn't see because the guard on top of him was splashing and creating bubbles in the water. He tried to breathe through those bubbles, but it didn't seem to work. After a few moments, Max stopped struggling.
"MAX!!!" screamed 99 from the shore.
Max's body went limp as the KAOS agent let him go. Suddenly a shot rang out and the KAOS guard fell face first into the water. 99 turned around to see Larabee holding the smoking gun.
"Oh God, please hurry, get him out of there!" 99 cried out.
Larabee ran into the water and retrieved Max, pulling his lifeless body to shore.
He place Max on the ground and turned him over on his stomach pushing with all his force against Max's back trying to get the water out of his lungs.
"Breathe Damn you, don't you die on me now." Larabee yelled.
99 stood helpless as Larabee worked feverishly on Max. She began to see how Max's dream was becoming a reality.
It was about 2 minutes later that Larabee gave up, thinking he was too late, when Max began to cough violently, spitting out about a gallon of lake water. He gasped for air, breathing hard and sputtering more water from his mouth. He turned on his side and coughed again, spitting out more lake water than he thought possible. He slowly raised himself to his hands and knees and continued to cough. He leaned back, drew in a long, deep breath of fresh air, then leaned forward again, coughing and spewing more water from his lungs.
99 raced to his side. MAX! she screamed, dropping down beside him.
Max held up a hand, indicating that he was okay. He drew another deep breath, coughing and sneezing, the water coming out of his mouth and nose. Finally, he sat back and continued to take in deep breaths of precious oxygen.
Max, Max, are you okay? 99 asked again, putting a hand on his arm.
Max nodded, water dripping from his hair into his face. 99 pulled down her sleeve and wiped the water from his face and hair.
Oh, Max. Oh, my Love . . . She put her arms around him and held him as if she would never let go.
Max, still hacking, put an arm around her. 99, shhh, its okay, its okay . . . He coughed again, choking up more lake water; it ran down 99s back.
Sorry about that.
99 ignored the lukewarm water running down her back and looked into his face. Oh, Max, I thought your dream had come true, right in front of me, She said, wiping water from his face and hair with her hands. She hugged him, relishing the feel of his breathing.
Help me up, 99.
99 helped Max to his feet. He looked up at Larabee. Thanks, He said, leaning against her for support.
Dont thank me. Get going.
What about you?
Im staying, Ive got a game to finish.
I have several hundred questions to ask you about that, 99 said.
You dont have time to ask questions Im not gonna answer anyway.
Youre a double agent, Max said.
Good thinking, Max, Larabee said, imitating 99.
99 gave him a hard, hurt, disappointed look. All this time. Now we know how Kaos has been finding out about our activities.
No, you dont get it.
What dont we get? Max asked.
Larabee look around furtively, then took a deep breath. Listen. All right, yes, Ive been feeding information to Kaos, He lowered his voice. My job as the Chiefs assistant was perfect. Kaos gave me a lot of money to turn traitor, but what they dont know is theyve been getting false information. Oh, we gave them some legitimate bits of information to keep the ruse going, but in return I got a lot of information for Control about Kaos. And by the way, Max, Kaos has the false information. That cover isnt blown. The information was received.
So you arent a Kaos agent? Max asked.
No! I came to help get you out because I overheard your conversation with the Chief about 99. As serious as this all is, I still couldnt let you die, Max.
As serious as all what is? 99 asked.
Larabee looked at Max. You didnt tell her?
I dont know, Max said seriously. All he gave me was the bogus information. He said thats all I needed to know. That and the fate of the whole civilized world was at stake. Whats going on?
A rustling sound came from behind Larabee. He glanced over his shoulder. Someones coming. He pulled out his gun and pointed it at them as two Kaos agents came out of the forest.
Hey, Larabee! Whatcha got there? The first Kaos agent asked.
I caught my two Control buddies. They killed Frankie, Larabee said, pointing to the body floating in the lake.
You made a real bad mistake, Maxie, The second Kaos agent said. Keep your gun on him Larabee, were gonna have us a little fun. He leered at 99.
You lay one finger on her and I swear Ill kill you, Max said angrily.
Now how do you propose to do that? The first agent sneered. When were holding the guns?
He grabbed Max around the neck and pulled him away, pressing a gun against his forehead. Make one move and Ill blow your head off. Youre gonna watch.
The second Kaos agent grabbed 99 and shoved her to the ground. He grinned in her face. Youre going to like this, Mrs. Smart.
Despite her fear, 99 responded sarcastically. You have an awfully high opinion of yourself, dont you? She spit in his face.
The agent wiped at his face. Oh, youve really asked for it now, He said.
A shot rang out. The second Kaos fell sideways, away from 99, a bullet hole in the side of his head.
Larabee and the first Kaos fired at each other at the same time. Max dove to the ground as 99 screamed out his name.
The bullet hit Larabee in the left chest, spinning him around. But Larabees bullet also found its target. The two men fell at the same time, Larabee near the lapping water of the lake.
Max quickly checked the Kaos agent, he was dead. He pulled the gun from his hand and ran over to Larabee. 99 was already there, gently turning him over. Max tore off part of Larabees shirt and pressed it against the wound.
Were gonna get you out of here.
Larabee shook his head. Youve got to go. They must have heard the shots.
No, way, 99 said.
A rustling of branches caught their attention. Max swung around and, still crouching and aimed the gun in the direction of the sound.
The Chief, Henderson and a dozen other Control agents burst into the clearing near the lake.
You seven men, The Chief said, pointing. Go to the house and get everyone rounded up. You and you,
He continued. You guard the
perimeter. You, He said pointing to the remaining man, Go
back to the ambulance and get the stretcher.
Henderson and the doctor knelt beside Larabee.
Larabee needs help fast, 99 said. It almost sounded too stupid.
The Chief glared at them. Are either of you injured?
Max and 99 shook their heads.
Then get out of the way. He ordered.
Max pulled 99 aside and they watched as the doctor stabilized Larabee for the ride back to headquarters.
Is there anything we can we do to help? Max asked.
The Chief stood up. I think you two have helped enough.
Henderson, the remaining Control agent and The Chief lifted Larabee onto the stretcher and headed towards the cars. Max and 99 followed a short distance behind.
Oh, Max, do you think hell make it?
I dont know, 99, hes hurt pretty bad.
The Chief overheard their conversation and pulled up short so they could catch up.
You two get in the car with me, I want to have a talk with the both of you. He quickened his pace and caught up with the stretcher, which was being loaded into an ambulance, disguised as a bakery truck.
Oh, boy, 99 said. Were really in trouble this time.
Im always in trouble. If I ever did anything right it would be a miracle, Max replied.
Max and 99 got into the back seat of the Chiefs black car. Max in the middle.
No, Max, 99 said tearfully. This whole thing was my idea. If Larabee doesnt make it, its my fault.
Max took her hand. 99, I think were all at fault on this one.
The Control agent that had helped carry Larabee got behind the wheel as the Chief got into back seat with Max and 99. He motioned for him to follow the bakery truck then raised the privacy window between the front and back seats. He turned back to Max and 99.
Larabee made the decision to come with you. That put his position as a double agent on the line. He didnt have to do it. And he didnt have to save you back there either. He could have kept quiet, kept himself safe. But he chose not to. Yes, youre all to blame, but 99, most of the blame falls right on you. If you had stayed put, everything would have gone according to plan.
And Max would be dead! 99 snapped.
And now Larabee may die. Fair tradeoff, I guess.
I didnt ask him to come, it was HIS idea. You think I dont feel bad enough as it is? 99 yelled.
But not as bad as if Max had died, The Chief said sarcastically. Right? Am I right?
Thats not a fair question! 99 wept.
Max, caught literally in the middle if this argument, rubbed his eyes tiredly.
Youre no innocent in this either, Agent 86, The Chief said. If you had kept your mouth shut when you had that silly dream, 99 would have never come after you.
Max slowly lowered his hand and stared at the Chief. What?
You heard me.
Max shook his head in hurt frustration. Chief, I admit that we were wrong in nearly every decision we made on this case, but Ill be darned if youre going to tell me what I can and cant tell 99 in the privacy of our own bed. Whats going on? Whats so important about this mission that its changed you into . . . into, well, someone different? Larabee told me the false information was out, the cover wasnt blown, the information was received.
He told you that? The Chiefs eyes lit up.
And those were his exact words, Max?
The Chief gave a long sigh of relief. Thank, God! Larabee
was the only one who knew how the message was to be received, even I didnt know. All I knew was that password. All right, heres the deal. Its a bomb.
An atomic bomb. So compact, so small,
it can be carried in your wallet like a drivers license. But it has enough power to incinerate a city the
Max and 99 were shocked, and quiet, as the cars pulled into Controls secret headquarters. As they got out of the car, the doctor came up to the Chief and whispered something to him. The Chief lowered his head for a moment, then came back to Max and 99, his head still hanging. He didnt make it . . .
Several weeks had passed since Larabees death. Max insisted on giving the eulogy and have given a speech that had brought tears to everyone there.
The Chief had held off on any punishment on Max and 99 until after Larabees funeral. But two days after the funeral, he had called them to his office for a meeting. He had begun by telling Max he was angry that he had left the installation, left Larabee there to take his place and gone back. But he had also added that he was glad Max had not been killed.
He saved the majority of his wrath, however, for 99. He told her she was wrong in every single move she had made, not matter what her reasons may have been. First, she had disobeyed orders not to go after Max, but had gone anyway, taking Larabee with her. Then, after being told not to go back to rescue Larabee, she had gone, dragging Max with her. Max interrupted that he had gone of his own free, that he was not about to let her go in alone. The Chief motioned for him to be quiet. He was so angry with her, so disappointed, that he was almost incoherent. Then he suspended them both, for a month, without pay.
They both got part time jobs for two weeks at the diner around the corner from their apartment. They worked mornings, covering for two employees who were on vacation. Max worked the counter while 99 served the tables. It became a game between them to see who could bring home the most tips.
With ten days left on their suspension, the two employees returned and they were out of work again. Luckily they were both fairly frugal and had enough money to get them through until the suspension was lifted.
Max paced the apartment. He looked at the clock and frowned, it was after nine. 99 had had an appointment that day with the Control doctor, then she had had to stop at the Chiefs office and give yet another deposition on what had happened at the Kaos installation. Max knew when 99 called before her appointment that the silly and unneeded statement was probably going to take most of the afternoon. The Chief had called around six and told him she was still talking to the powers that be, but probably wouldnt be much longer.
Max stopped at the bar and picked up the blue, stuffed bear he had bought at the store just that morning. He smiled, knowing 99s first response was going to be, What makes you think its going to be a boy?
The door opened and 99 entered. Max quickly hid the bear behind his back and turned to her. One look at her face told him . . .
Were not going to have a baby, Max, She said tearfully, sitting down on the sofa.
Max hid the bear on one of the bar stools and sat beside her, taking her into his arms. Whats going on? He asked, gently touching her face.
He said it was due to the stress of what had gone on for the last month or so. Once everything gets back to normal . . . She gave him a sad smile.
Its okay, 99.
Oh, Max . . . She buried her face in his shoulder and wept. Everything seems to be going wrong lately.
I know, I know.
Max, Im so tired. I just want to go to bed.
99 started up the stairs toward the bedroom. She suddenly stopped, frowning. She reached over and picked up the stuffed bear from its seat at the bar. She looked at it for a moment, then looked at Max.
99 hugged the bear. So, when we do have a baby, what makes you think its going to be a boy?
Max grinned sheepishly and shrugged . . .
Max wasnt sure where he was. He looked around, suddenly remembering. Oh, Lord, had it all been a dream? A flash from the past?
Max felt a hand on his shoulder and, at first, he felt he didn't need to turn to see whom it belonged to. The man remained silent, simply standing just a little behind him, not saying a word and knowing that he didn't need to. His presence was overbearing enough without the need for words to further enhance it.
But Max did turn. His eyes met the mans with a look of sadness.
Oh, Larabee, Im so sorry. What can I do?
You cant do anything. I just want to tell you that its okay.
But the dream. The dream is different. Why?
Max was utterly confused. I dont understand.
Larabee smiled at him. You dont need to. I have to go now, Max.
Max, I have to go.
One thing, please . . .
Max glanced over at 99, then turned back to Larabee. Shes not pregnant, did you know that?
Im going to miss you, Max said, his eyes filling.
Ill miss you too. But Ill be around, watching over you. Keep trying for that baby, Max.
Max raised an eyebrow. You gonna be watching over us then too? He asked.
Larabee smiled, shook his head and laughed. No, Max. He said. He put a hand on Maxs shoulder again. Good bye, my friend. He waved and walked away.
LARABEE WAIT! Max yelled.
LARABEE! PLEASE, DONT GO!
Max, Max, wake up.
Max sat up, desperately trying to get his bearings. 99 turned on the reading light behind the bed.
Max . . .
99? What? He nervously ran his fingers through his hair, his eyes darting around the room.
Max, you were dreaming.
It was that dream again, 99, only it, it . . . it was different.
99 was suddenly terrified You had the dream again? She asked, her face paled slightly.
Yeah, but it was different.
Max began telling 99 about the dream, but his emotions got the better of him and he burst into tears. 99 pulled him into her arms and they held each, weeping for the loss of their friend.
99 kissed him. She gently stroked his hair, his face, talking to him gently. Did he say anything, Love?
Max sat up. He took a deep shuttering breath and wiped the tears from his eyes. Yes, he said hed watch over us.
99 smiled through her tears. Anything else?
Max grinned. He said to keep trying for the baby, He replied with a wink.
He watched in silent amusement as 99 stared at him, open-mouthed, as she grasped his meaning.
Yes, Im really going to miss you, Larabee, He thought. And then he laughed for the first time in days.
Max! 99 said, staring at him in shock. As she watched him snicker, she suddenly got it.
She rolled her eyes. Oh, Max . . .
Sue Kesler & Jodi Goldfinger
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