1 Max explained that she was delivering two vials each of six different opiate derivatives in concentrated form. 12 vials, $1.2 million dollars. The synthesis process had a couple of hours to go, and so she sat Bane down in her chair and started taking measurements of his face.
“I’m going to do a 3-D model of your head so I can get the fit right. Part of the mask is rigid and part is flexible. Removing it won’t be a simple task, so I hope that’s all right. It better be.”
Bane was completely distracted. Max had a measuring tape spread across his head, but all he could see was her boobs. The T-shirt she wore was a tight V-neck and the woman had the audacity not to secure her weapons. Her cleavage looked like a place of unbelievable pleasure. The lab was cool and her nipples poked up like knobs on a console. For a moment, he was lost and all he wanted to do was follow instinct and latch on. He wondered if he had been breast-fed.
“Did you hear what I said?”
“I’m trying to explain how the mask is supposed to work…can you please pay attention?”
“If it’s all the same to you, you don’t really need to talk right now. I’m contemplating.”
“Are you trying to seduce me?”
Max coughed and dropped the measuring tape. She took two steps back and glared at him. “What—what did you just say?”
“I’ve noticed that you have a tendency to keep your breasts free instead of what normal women do.”
“What the hell are you doing staring at my titties?”
“You expect me not to stare at them? I am a man, you know. The moment you shoved them into my face, I couldn’t not see them.”
“I didn’t shove my—"
“After you pushed me down the other day, you reattached the mask and thrust them in my face. Of course I don’t mind, but…”
Max subconsciously covered her chest. Bane put up a hand. “I’d rather you not do that. Continue to be as you are, but know that I’m looking and wondering.”
“You’re a pervert!”
“You walk around me without a harness; what do you expect me to do? They’re not small.”
“I’m at home!!! Every woman is braless at home, you dick! You think we like walking around strapped up in those uncomfortable things? I’m not trying to seduce you…I wouldn’t have to TRY!!! If I wanted you, you’d be mine, trust and believe!”
“You wouldn’t have to try hard, I can assure you.” He actually chuckled.
Max closed her eyes. She wasn’t about to be baited into an argument. But she filed the information away for later use. “Do you want this mask?”
“I am curious about it.”
“Then shut the hell up. I won’t say anything else and I’ll leave you to your dirty little depraved fantasy, but if you lay a finger on me, I’ll murder you with this measuring tape.”
He closed his eyes. “As you were, then.”
She moved around his head, taking mental notes. The man had a big head and for the mask to fit properly, he was going to have to shave it.
“You’ll have to go bald.”
“Don’t whine, you pussy. I’m sure you will look fine. Take a look.” She started fiddling with her keyboard and an image of Bane’s head appeared on her computer screen. Then she used a stylus to drag the image over a glowing raised box. Another click of her keyboard and Bane was staring at a computer generated 3-D model of his head.
Her lab was far more sophisticated than he realized.
She started playing with the image. Layers of the mask began to appear, starting with the back of the head. “This will be made from a microfiber sleeve reinforced with carbon filaments. Note the tubes running along the jawline and over the skull. These will attach to your face plate here…and here. This part of the mask is made of leather so when it presses into your face, it won’t chaff your skin. The leather snaps into place against the microfiber here, leaving depressions for the dual canister delivery system. They will attach here…and here. There are dials on the canisters so that you can adjust the amount of gas you receive in case you decide you want to get up to some fuckery.”
“What makes you think I’d do that?”
“Please. Do I look like a fool to you? You look like you’ve whipped many an ass. You look like a boxer; like one of those bare-knuckle brawlers from back in the day. Like you’d break a neck or a back without thinking twice. Your ass-kicking days aren’t done. So again, you can dial up or down the amount of gas you’re getting, but I would caution you not to do it in front of your enemies. Weakness, remember.”
She turned and smiled at him. Bane couldn’t help but stare at her. The woman was brilliant. Then Max turned back to the image.
“The faceplate. I was thinking about the gas masks of WWII, but I thought it would be better to have individual tubes feeding your nose and your mouth. There will be 12 pipes, both short and long, curved to fit the protrusion of your nose and lips. It makes the mask look like the mouth of a gorilla. Personally, I think it would be a very cool look and you’re big enough to pull it off. You have to be bald because the microfiber must be secured against the skin.”
“I want to see your research on this.”
“You’re welcome to take a look at it. I have nothing to hide and I’ll show you everything so that you can work it yourself.” It was only fair.
“Now I have to input all of the measurements and my synthesizer should have it ready in…how long, Marchine?”
A computerized voice replied, “Twelve hours.”
Bane looked at the computer. “It talks?”
“Yes. Sometimes I get lonely and Marchine can be great company.” Max saved the data to a jump drive and handed it to Bane. “Use the computer in the library. Now I’m going to get some sleep. Please let me sleep this time.”
“It wasn’t I that woke you before.”
“I know. My phone is currently off. I have to get ready for my meeting tomorrow night.” She got up and walked towards the door, motioning for him to follow. “Why don’t you come with me?”
“Marcus dearly wants to meet Max. He’s been demanding it and I’ve been putting it off, but this time he insists or the deal won’t go down. I wasn’t sure how I was going to handle it, but you, you darling man, you’ve given me an answer. I need you to be me.”
Bane looked her over carefully and Max swallowed, startled at the intensity. “There is no way I can possibly be you, Max.”
“And why is that?”
“I’m a man, or has that escaped your notice?”
She chuckled and rubbed the back of her neck. “How could it when I had your balls in my hand the moment we actually met? No, you idiot. None of my clients are aware of my true identity. Max? You have no idea how comforting a unisex name can be, Bane. Anonymity in my line of work is necessary and the name Max is as secure as a warm blanket.” She closed her eyes and rubbed her arms, a creepy little smile on her face. “Besides, none of those assholes I work with would ever believe a woman could do the things I do.”
“You are a very unusual woman, Max.”
“Baby,” she said as she locked up the lab, “you have no idea.”
2 She stood in front of her bathroom mirror and removed her shirt. Every day she stared at her scars and every time she thought about her baby. She never took the test to determine the sex of the fetus because she didn’t care. All she wanted was her child and to lose it the way she had…every day was a compounded ache. She had been eight months pregnant when she got shot…
“What happened to you?”
“Bane!!! What the fuck!!! Get out of here!!!” She grabbed her shirt to cover her boobs.
He stared at her. Her breasts were as beautiful as he’d figured, but what he hadn’t expected were the scars on her abdomen. There was a half-moon under her navel, two round ones on either side of it, and a six-inch smiley about five inches below.
“What happened, Max?”
“I asked nicely. I asked nicely. You don’t listen! Why don’t you listen? Why do you irritate me so? Why? Why can’t you do what you’re told? You’re an inconsiderate fuckup and I know your mother hates you.”
“All that, sure,” he said. “None of which answers my question.”
“It’s none of your business.”
“It’s very much my business. I’m trusting you not to kill me with your drugs, but if you’ve got unresolved issues…”
“They are very much resolved, thank you.”
“Did you have a baby?” There were no indicators around her house that she had a child.
Max turned away from him. “You’re an evil, cruel man and I am going to swap out your canister for something lethal the moment you go to sleep.”
“You would have done that already. Where’s your child?”
“Somewhere in the harbor.”
“You had an abortion?”
“No.” She sucked her teeth. “I got shot; the bullet hit my uterus and I had to have an emergency C-section. I was butchered and my baby didn’t survive.”
“Who shot you?”
“Doesn’t matter. He’s dead.”
“A little something I like to call Kirrah. Kirrah’s odorless, tasteless and colorless, with a half-life of 2.38 minutes. She’s a nasty little concoction that leaves no traces. I put it in his food and drink. Better than what he deserved.”
“It was a…a girl.” She learned it after the surgery.
Bane was intrigued. This bit of story was fascinating. “Who is the father?”
“The bastard who shot me. She was his.”
“Did you care for him?”
“I didn’t give a shit about him. He was a means to an end. But I wanted my child.”
Bane stared at her. She had just admitting to killing a man. Sighing, Max turned away from him and he saw the gunshot wound on her lower back. He walked up to her and put his fingers on the scar, tenderly stroking it.
“Don’t do that. Don’t touch me.”
“I’m sorry for your loss.” Memories of his beloved Talia swarmed in his head. Getting her out of the Pit was the only thing that mattered, regardless as to the pain he felt having to give her up, or the beatdown he received afterward.
“Not as sorry as I am.” Max folded her arms over her breasts. “I don’t know if I’ll have a chance to be a mom again. But it was my fault; I chose to be with that dickhole so I have to own the consequences. Look, Bane…I’m really tired. I’ll send Erik to get you some clippers so that you can shave your head—"
“I prefer a straight razor.”
“A straight razor then. Are you going to be my decoy?”
“Your mask will be ready by then. Trial run, as it were. If you like it, I’ll make you a second one so that you will have backups. But there will have to be adjustments first.”
He absently continued to stroke the knot in her back. “I’m always going to want to know the real reason why you are being so kind to me. What do you want in return, Max? What is your last name?”
“Roth. But you’re not slick. If you’re going to Google me, you’ll find stuff about maximizing your IRAs. Max Roth is not my real name, but it will do for your purposes. And I’m really not that kind.”
“I want you,” he said. Knowing that she was a killer was a definite plus. Such traits were useful to him.
Max stiffened, taken by surprise. “Where did that come from?”
“My throat. I can repeat it if you didn’t hear me.”
“If it’s news you can’t handle, then pretend I didn’t say it.”
She was quiet for a long moment, enjoying the pressure on her back. He had strong fingers. Everything about him was strong; at least it looked that way.
“I need to rest. Please leave me alone.”
Bane backed away from her and left her in the bathroom.
3 The next day, he sat in the same chair as she examined the newly-made mask. She had two flat canisters full of his anesthetic and she was stretching the microfiber. Max had given him a small dosage of his painkiller, as the old apparatus would be in the way.
“Oil your head. Come on, lube up. Don’t act brand-new.”
He poured some warm oil in his hands and rubbed it over his newly-shaven head. Max stood in front of him, perky as ever, holding the microfiber cap. “Are you ready?”
Bane stared at her cleavage, not even trying to hide it. “Yes.”
She smiled. “Spread your legs. I have to get close for this. I need to make sure it fits right. I want you to wear it tonight and scare the hell out of Marcus.”
He spread his knees. Max looked at him as she edged her way in. “I’ll do my best not to shove my boobs in your face. Close your eyes if it bothers you.”
“I’ll do no such thing.”
Max sighed. “Dip your head.”
Bane lowered his head enough so that his face pressed against her chest. Max groaned as she slid the cap on. “Enjoy it while you can, perv.” She tugged and pulled, aligning the cap with his ears. Then she asked him to hold up his head and unscrewed the ends of the feed tubes.
“Okay, darling, it’s going to be a painful minute or so, but you can handle that, right?”
“More than you can handle my statement from last night.”
“Jeez, you’re such a douche. Okay, look at me.”
He looked at her. Without thought, Max ran an oily finger over Bane’s scarred nose and mouth. “It’s a shame, really, because you aren’t at all unattractive. I hope the monster who did this burns in a special kind of hell.” Then she attached the faceplate and secured it with the leather straps. Bane continued to entertain himself by wondering what it would feel like to bury his face between Max’s breasts, or to have one of her fat little nipples in his mouth. Such thoughts also kept the pain at bay. He was a man all day long and it had been a while since he relished the pleasures of a woman’s body. He was convinced that Max could provide him endless hours of enjoyment, both mentally and physically. In spite of her desire, she wasn’t quite ready for him just yet. But he intended to have her, ready or not.
Max connected the head and jaw tubes to the faceplate and tugged the leather straps until they were taut. She snapped them in place and affixed the canisters to the back of the mask and locked them down.
“Look at me,” she said again.
Bane raised his head and met her chocolate eyes.
“Is it uncomfortable?”
“It is quite snug, but I am not uncomfortable.” The shot was just enough, just.
“It’s got to conform to your head, so it’s going to be tight. Now I have to adjust the tubes around your mouth.”
She avoided his gaze as her fingers moved slowly and deliberately from right to left, turning the pipes until they locked in place. She then opened the canister valves and dialed them up until they were completely unobstructed.
“How is it?”
He closed his eyes. The gas shot directly up his nose and did not interfere with his exhalation as it had with the old breathing apparatus. The pain receded immediately. Yes, the fit was tight and he had to get used to being hairless, but it was far easier than walking around carrying the canisters on his back.
“Too much gas?”
“I’ll adjust it in a moment.”
Max took a step back and slid her hands in her back pockets. She was very pleased at her handiwork and glad that the big buffoon was so receptive. But he dropped a casual nuke into her lap by openly telling her that he desired her. It was so left of center, so unexpected that she couldn’t process it so shortly after talking about Kirrah. She couldn’t really call it a dick move; the man didn’t care at all about subtlety.
Bane put his hands on the back of his head and found the canisters. Slowly, he closed the valves until an acceptable stream of anesthetic gently blew into his nostrils.
Max held up a mirror. Bane stared at himself. The mask did look like the face of an ape. But it was menacing. Considering that he had plans, it would be an asset.
“The mixture of gases I used is going to make your voice sound a little weird, but how weird I can’t say. Say something to me.”
“What do you want me to say?”
“I don’t care; I just want to hear you speak.”
“Okay, your voice is starting to rise a little, but it’s more of a stretching out as opposed to ascension.”
Bane waited a moment. “Max Roth.”
She nodded. “Yeah…it’s definitely changing. Just keep talking.”
“I want you. I…want…you…”
Max stared at him. “You’ve been in my house for ten days and we’ve actually spoken to each other for maybe five of them.”
“I want you.”
“Basically we just met, is what I’m saying.”
“I don’t care.”
“I’ll have you, at some point,” he said. “You want me as well but you try to hide it. You’re playing games.”
“I didn’t realize you were such a cocky son-of-a-bitch. Just because you walk around like your balls drag the floor doesn’t mean a damn thing to me. You can’t have anything I don’t give you.”
“Don’t fight it,” he said. “Unless you want to make it fun. I can do fun.”
Max laughed in his face. “You’re hilarious!” She put a hand over her mouth to keep spittle from flying as she giggled. “You’re a complete hoot. I didn’t know you could be so funny. Enough with the bullshit. How do you feel?”
“Discomfort of the mask?”
“I can get used to it.”
“Good. Then that’s done. The canisters will need to be refreshed every 24 - 36 hours or so. I’ll have some replacements so you don’t have to worry about being caught unprepared. However, the pipes must be maintained for hygiene purposes. I strongly suggest that you take an injection like you’ve been doing and remove the mask so that they can be cleaned. I’ll show you how to do it. There’s no point in this if you don’t maintain the structural integrity of this thing. And you’re going to want to give your face and skull a break as well. My suggestion? Do all that alone, away from everyone else. A couple of hours are all you’ll need, but you must maintain the façade. You look fierce.”
“I am fierce,” he said. “I’m dangerous.”
“Of that I have no doubt,” Max said, shifting. Suddenly, she wanted to get away from Bane.