”Maxine, why are you doing this?” I asked, deciding on being straightforward.
There was no answer for several seconds. Then mechanical-sounding voice said, “I am Marvelous Max, and I’m here to rescue you. Who is this… Maxine?”
“Rescue me? From what?” I asked.
“You have been deceived James Michael Somerset III. Your fiancée isn’t what she seems. She isn’t even human.” she replied.
“She might incinerate you for making accusations like that.” I replied wryly. “I know who Alma is, probably better than you do.”
“I see.” she stated.
I waited for her to say more for a time before asking “Is that all you had against her? If so, please place this thing somewhere near the city.”
“Are you aware of the types of business dealing your fiancée has?” she inquired.
“She’s cutthroat to say the least. Did you know she tried buying out my own father’s business?’ I questioned.
“No, but I was aware of your acquisition. Your fiancée is a very dangerous woman who associates with other dangerous people. You’re not safe around her.” she warned.
“Then if I prove capable of defending myself, you’ll stop with this absurd heroic pretense and leave?” I inquired.
The voice morpher stopped when she asked “James, are you really so determined to be rid of me?”
“Maxine, I believe you mean well, but I’m going to marry Alma. Nothing’s going to prevent me from marrying her.” I insisted. “On another note, you really should consider changing your methods. Calamity is very against your methods, seeing you as her nemesis. Kidnapping me isn’t going to sit well with her.”
“My methods? I only ever do what is necessary, James. What I’m doing will save the world in the long run. What does she do? Stop petty crimes?” demanded Maxine.
“She’s bagged drug lords too.” I told her.
“Drugs will always be supplied. She’s stopped nothing. James, I’m trying to save the entire world. Alma’s family and their associates are the ones really behind the terrible things in this world. They manipulate governments, control the businesses, and strip every last freedom from anyone who’s not one of them.” she insisted.
“You’re also helping them in various nefarious activities from what I’ve heard. Mila has quite an extensive file on you.” I replied, pressing a finger into the side of the cylinder in which she held me. I probably should hop out soon.
“They can’t be beaten from the outside. I needed to get into their network to stop them. I’m getting closer to stopping them. You’ll see.” she told me.
“No, I won’t. Maxine, you can’t win. Do you really think Alma would take issue with destroying your suit while you’re in it if she heard what you told me? She probably would, honestly. She’s actually one of the nice ones. You’ll just get yourself killed if the others tire of you.” I explained.
She confidently told me “They can’t kill me, and I can protect you.”
I was surprised that she actually believed what she said. What sort of ability did Maxine possess? Could she be like Portentia?
Intrigued, I asked “Why do you say you can’t be killed?”
“The same way that Calamity can’t. I was very surprised by her. How is it that you know her?” she inquired.
“We’ve spoken numerous times. She did save me from you, remember?” I teased.
“You weren’t in any danger from me, and she hardly knew how to fight at the time. I could have captured her easily.” she stated defensively. Then she sarcastically said, “I doubt she checks on everyone she ‘saves’.”
“She saved some of my family from some of Alma’s, so I’ve been grateful to her.” I admitted. Checking my phone, I said, “Well, thank you for the chat, but I see we’re outside of the city now. I’ll be leaving now.”
Foam seeped out of the walls of the capsule, hardening around me.
“I built this unit to capture Calamity, James. I didn’t want to immobilize you, but I can’t have you hurting yourself by attempting to escape.” she informed me.
I laughed and said, “Thank you for the consideration, Maxine. Goodbye.”
I used a spell to blow open the bottom of the capsule and another to cut the foam free. There was a small grove of trees beneath me, and I wasn’t seeing anyone on the ground near the grove to startle with my landing.
The sound of Maxine’s engines changed, so I glanced up and found her diving toward me. I rolled my eyes as I created a series of spells to speed me toward the ground while giving her turbulence. I had some inner debate over how to land. My body would certainly handle the impact at this speed, but I didn’t want to disturb the forest too much. Using air again was simple enough and wouldn’t be destructive.
Unfortunately, slowing my descent gently gave Maxine more time to catch up. As she reached for me, I grabbed the mechanical arm, maneuvered my legs to kick off the machine’s chest, and tore the arm in half as I kept my grip.
I tossed the glove to the side as I landed but felt bad about Maxine’s crash. I didn’t really want to hurt her, even if she healed like Portentia. There was a flash of light by her, and I briefly worried about an explosion. None came. With a small jump, I landed by her. “Sorry.” I told her. “I imagine you can still fly, since this isn’t the first time your machine lost a hand.”
“This is a new model, so the take off won’t be as shaky. What are you?” she inquired.
“I’m just a guy trying to help people through my business.” I replied.
“‘Just a guy’ wouldn’t be able to rip apart my machine with his bare hands. Are you like Alma? Part of that family?” she asked, pushing herself off the ground.
“No, not even distantly. You’d find me remarkably human if you checked my DNA.” I assured her. “I trust you’ll take my word that I’m in no danger now.”
“No, I won’t. That family is only part of the problem, James. I’ve heard rumors of beings that are even stronger.” she warned me.
“The eldest vampires? They’re attending my wedding. Or do you mean Death? She’s a friend as well.” I replied, wishing I could see Maxine’s face through her battered machine.
“You’re messing with me. Why? Can’t you see that I care about you?” she pleaded. “I could be so much more helpful to you than Lady Pendreigh.”
“No, you really couldn’t. I’m in love with her, Maxine. I’m going to marry her. You can’t stop this and really shouldn’t try. If you make a scene at my wedding, you’ll make far too many enemies. The eldest of the vampires really will be there. I imagine Adelmar will be attending as well. Though she might not be seen, I’m confident that Death will be watching. I know that you and Calamity feel invincible with your healing, but don’t push Death. She earned her name. If you don’t believe me, ask your contacts in Alma’s family. They’ll certainly tell you to stay away.” I warned her. I braced myself as Maxine suddenly launched into the air.
“James! Grab her!” called Portentia as she ran up behind me.
“Hi, Calamity. Is your day going well?” I asked after turning to face her.
She stopped by me, staring up at Maxine’s diminishing form. “Why didn’t you catch her?” she demanded. “She kidnapped you!”
“I did let her.” I admitted. Than I said, “You two might be related. She apparently heals like you do.”
“What!?” exclaimed Portentia, grabbing my arms as she stared up at me.
“She admitted it to me as she was explaining that she could protect me from Alma.” I explained.
Portentia laughed and said, “What a doofus! I couldn’t protect anyone from Alma, and I’m a superhero. Does she really think her fancy suits could do something to Alma?”
“Probably not, but she is creative. I’ll tell you about what she built to capture you when we get back to the house.” I replied. “Want a lift?”
She shrugged, so I scooped her up before sprinting home. I hoped Maxine would take my advice about not coming after me again, but I felt she had already gone too far. Portentia certainly wouldn’t let this go, and Alma had probably been informed already. If either of them decided to go after Maxine, Mila certainly would join them as well. Poor Maxine didn’t know what she was getting herself into.