Caution to the Wind

From the Story Arc: My Brother's Keeper

Previous Story in the Arc: A Friend in Need by Komrad Vex (Friday, January 05, 2007)

(posted Friday, January 05, 2007)

Through the speaker, Orchid heard the conversation continue.

"Why would you do that, Pete?" Booster asked, as they walked toward the hall.

Vex sighed. "I asked you not to call me that. In any case, my hope is that Spencer will be able to lead me to who ever is really behind the death of the boy. I need to know the reason for his death."

Booster stopped walking. He reached out and grabbed Vex's arm, turning him around. "Jesus, Peter. Do you know how much trouble you could get in for this? I think you might be taking this a little too far. Maybe you should step back and let someone else look into it."

Vex looked away.

"I have to keep going, Max. I have to know who is behind all of this. I have a feeling there is more here than meets the eye."

Looking Max squarely in the eye, Vex asked, "Do you understand?"

Booster thought for a second. "I suppose so, but still, its a bit extreme. Couldn't you just question him in prison?"

Vex shook his head. "I fear that an interrogation in prison would yield very little. I have nothing to offer him in exchange for information and there is nothing stopping him from providing me with disinformation."

Max stood for a few moments, reflecting on the potential disaster about to unfold.
"What about a telepath?" He asked, obviously desperate for another solution.

Again, Vex shook his head. "I had considered that option, but it would be very difficult to convince a judge to violate someone's civil rights in that manner. Since he is already in Zigursky prison, it would be almost impossible to get near enough to him without official consent."

Booster pounded his fist into his palm in frustration. "Damnit, Peter! There has to be another way to get what you need. I refuse to believe that organizing the escape of a known felon is the only avenue available."

"Honestly Booster, this is the only option that is viable within the time constraints. If you are unhappy with the potential consequences that may be involved, I will understand if you decline." Vex said as he turned and began walking toward the reception area.

Max's face flushed as he stared at Vex walking away. "Hey! That's not very fair, Peter! You come in here asking me to put my ass on the line for some half baked idea you cooked up and then you give me shit for not jumping all over it! Excuse me for taking a minute to think about other possibilities and giving a little thought to what potential after affects this might have on my reputation, not to mention the JTF's."

Booster turned and stomped off in the direction of the lounge. He stopped, thinking of one more thing he wanted to say, getting angrier the more he thought about it, he shouted across the room at Vex's retreating form, "And for the record, don't pull your passive aggressive manipulation bullshit on me, I know you too well!"

Vex stopped dead in his tracks. He paused a moment, taking two deep, measured breaths and counting to ten backwards. Facing away from Booster he asked, "Are you finished?"

"Yeah, I am. If you want to do it, fine, but you're on your own."

"Fine.” Vex said as he began walking again, "I see our friendship has limits."

"You're damn right it does!” Booster spat angrily.
Turning around, he began to storm off again then stopped, turned back toward Vex and marched toward him angrily.

"On second thought, let me show the way out! I don't want you stealing anything on the way."

As the two men drew closer, their voices became more pronounced. Turning around in her chair, Orchid shut off the microphone just as they stepped through the partition behind the reception area. They both looked rather frazzled. She looked questioningly at the two of them. "What's going on?"

Both men began talking at once:
"He won't see reason."

"I'm just trying to help. You know that."

"You always go too far."

"I came here seeking the assistance of a long time comrade."

Orchid sat there, waiting for them to finish. Clearly they'd had this argument before, she thought.

The two men stared at her, waiting for her reaction. "Are you two always like this?" She paused for a second, then continued: "Why don't you just, I don't know, stick him back in the Zig when you're done? I mean, he might know something, right?"

Booster thought for a second. "If you're so dead set on doing this, then fine. But you're on your own. Just let me know if you find anything out."

"I see. I had hoped you'd be of more assistance. I'll keep in touch.” Vex said, looking more than a little hurt by the finality of Booster's refusal.

After a moment of watching Vex move toward the exit, Booster turned to say something to Orchid. His mouth opened, but the look on her face stopped him dead. He didn't want to admit it, but he knew exactly what she was thinking.

'If you can't trust your friends, who can you trust?'

"Peter! Wait!” he blurted.

"What exactly do you need me to do?"

Komrad Vex turned around and fixed them both with a warm smile.

Max sighed loudly, letting his shoulders drop, glancing between the two beaming faces.

"Don't look so happy you two. I'm sure we're gonna regret this in the long run.” he said.

Looking completely too satisfied with herself, Orchid got up from the desk and tried to slide into the back room unnoticed.

"Not so fast, Orchid", Booster said as he spun around, pointing at her accusingly. "If I'm in on this, then you're helping me. Consider it part of your training."

--------------------------------------------------

High above the security fence surrounding Zigursky prison, Booster Max and Black Orchid crouched low in one of the perimeter guard towers.

Peeking over the rail into the courtyard below, Orchid exhaled deeply and watched the steam of her breath rise into the night. Settling back on the floor, she rubbed her arms, trying to fight off the chill of the night.

"What are we supposed to be looking for anyway?” she asked impatiently.

Max shot her a wry smile and shivered visibly as he stood to see over the railing.

"Vex said our guy would be coming out that sewer access grate there.” he said as he pointed at a tube protruding from the base of the prison wall.

Orchid poked her head above the rail, "And how does he know our guy is going to come out of that access point? There are dozens of sewer access points in the prison yard."

A look of uncertainty flashed across Max's face and disappeared just as quickly. "Vex said he has a contact on the prison staff. He said the guy was gonna make this the easiest way for Beaumont to get out."

Orchid nodded, and sat quietly for a few minutes, trying to see if anything was going on inside.

The tall, thin windows let out some light, but didn't offer much of a view inside, from this distance anyway. "What are we going to do with this guy, after we get him out?"

"Vex wants us to follow him where ever he goes. He thinks he might lead us to whoever put him up to all this."

Booster sat on the floor, leaning against the rail of the tower and rummaged through the backpack he'd brought with him, eventually finding a thermos. He unscrewed the lid and rich smelling steam flowed out.

"You want some coffee? Made it fresh before we left HQ."

Orchid nodded her head. "Sure."

Max filled a cup and handed it to her.

"You know Orchid. I can tell your skills are getting better by the day and I get the feeling that it won't be long before you'll be moving on."

She looked at him quizzically as she took the cup from him. "Moving where? Everyone, all the heroes I know are here. Do you want me out of the JTF?"

"That's not it at all. All I'm saying is, I think you'll find a time when you aren't being challenged as much as you should be. And that will be the time when you'll have to cut us loose."

He looked into his cup longingly and swirled the coffee around.

"I gotta tell you, that is gonna be one of the toughest days I've had in a long time. You've been a hell of a student and I'm proud to know you."

Orchid smiled at the praise and thought for a few seconds. She'd enjoyed the couple months she'd been with the JTF, but he did have a point. Training was important, and they'd still be around

Down below, the grating sound of rusted metal being moved broke the silence. Max peeked over the rail. Emerging from a sewer access grate was a lone figure in a prison jumper.

He slowly put his coffee down and turned to Orchid, "It's show time."