Max Arena

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Not Ever

11pm, 6th October (2 days later). Not Ever

Sheikh Abdullah stood motionless against the balcony railing, his white robes billowing gently in the late evening sea breeze, his visage angelic against the glittering backdrop of night. At this moment, all was quiet in the near midnight hour. Not even the ever-present chop of scouting helicopters sullied the silence. All lay still, but not asleep.

The Sheikh’s mind whirled like a dervish as it assessed a thousand different possibilities of what could happen from this day forth. Max had finally killed and he had done it in such a fashion that it concerned Abdullah, deeply. The man’s ferocity had been vicious and unbridled. He had given no quarter in the face of his disarmed and defenseless enemies, but it was not this merciless brutality that had Abdullah’s mind enthralled. It was Max’s purpose. Yes, he had killed, some may even say slaughtered, but he had done it with such clear and clinical intention. This was not the act of a man defending himself. This was the act of a killer. The act of a potential psychopath.

Behind Abdullah, Joe stepped over the threshold of the balcony, exiting from the lit interior of the living room and out into the hazy darkness of the night air to join him.

‘President Bartholomew has offered,’ Joe said as he walked up next to Abdullah, ‘to fly over and personally present his apologies to Max and ourselves. I tried to assure him that was not necessary, but he would not be dissuaded. He’ll be here day after tomorrow.’

’And his chief of staff?’ Abdullah asked. ‘In what predicament does Charles Ingot the Third find himself?’

Joe sighed and put his mobile phone back into his trousers pocket. ‘Incarcerated for treason, which is probably a life sentence regardless of what comes New Year’s Eve. You never did trust him did you?’

Abdullah shifted his gaze heavenward. ‘The man’s patriotism blinkered his perspective. He loved himself first and his country second with no place for a third. He needed something larger than himself to believe in to see the world for what it truly is.’

’And how do you see the world tonight, my friend?’ Joe asked. ‘You have hardly spoken for the last two days and although I know what troubles you for it troubles me also, I need you to help me think it through. I am the politician in this partnership. You are the expert on the human condition.’

Abdullah stood silently for a few moments, his gaze still roaming the night sky. His eyes found the constellation of Orion and traced its starry outline across the nocturnal vista. The Hunter stood eternally strong in the celestial realm, his club raised high, his sword on his belt and his shield held firmly out in front, his weapon clad form the most recognizable and famous of all the constellations. Perhaps, Abdullah thought, this ancient warrior now has a rival here on Earth?

’Max carries a conflict deep inside himself that none of us could ever understand,’ Abdullah finally said, lowering his gaze to search the shadows of the vast lawns. ‘While his mixed genetics have combined constructively to create the magnificent physical specimen that he is, that same cocktail of genetics has twisted his human emotions and his Nar’gellan instincts together and he is now wrestling to separate them. He knew that the moment he took a life, his alien blood would rise up against his human spirit. Max is on the brink of being overcome by his own demons and we are at the mercy of the outcome of that duel. ’

Joe nodded. It was what he had suspected. ‘If right now Max is fighting a battle against his own Nar’gellan lust for blood,’ Joe started, ‘how can we help him? What does he need to overcome this lust?’

‘Love,’ sounded a new voice behind them.

Joe turned to see Elsa standing on the threshold, her face shrouded in shadows, but her form haloed by an aura of light cast from inside the room. The Prime Minster unconsciously held his breath. Right now he felt like he was surrounded by angels, plotting the downfall of demons with the fate of the world as the prize. The moment ensnared him.

’Yes,’ said Abdullah, fluidly turning to face Elsa as she walked out onto the balcony to join them. ‘Love is what Max needs right now.’

Joe blinked and he regained his senses. ‘Are you suggesting Max needs love from others or his own love to beat his Nar’gellan impulses?’

‘Both,’ Elsa answered.

’And let’s be clear,’ Abdullah added, ’Max needs love not to overcome his alien instincts, but to balance his Nar’gellan blood. We still need the alien warrior inside Max to come forth when needed, but Max needs human love to keep it in check. It is time for Max to learn how to be both of this world and of another.’

Joe nodded again. Abdullah’s arched look noted the Prime Minister’s understanding and then he turned to Elsa. ‘If I may ask, where is Max now?’

’He’s with the kids,’ Elsa replied, crossing her arms against the slight chill in the breeze. ‘Jason had a bad dream and Max lay down with him to help him get back to sleep. Knowing Max, he’ll probably take the opportunity to crash with him for a few hours and then sneak into bed later.’

Abdullah nodded and then asked, ’And how are you?’ Abdullah asked.

Elsa cast a quick glance at the Sheikh to find his eyes shimmering in the diffuse light. Looking away over the railing and into the darkness, she rubbed her arms. ‘Getting a bit tenser every day. While I’ve known for years that this time was coming, nothing can prepare you for it. Not really. Up until now it’s all been theory, but as every day ends, it gets a little more real. I don’t think I’m ready yet to accept I could be losing Max in a couple of months’ time and to be honest, I’m not sure I’ll ever be ready.’

‘Time will tell,’ Abdullah said, ‘and you know that I and Joseph are always here to help carry your burden in whatever way we can.’

Elsa flicked her gaze back to Abdullah and found that same evocative look in his shimmering eyes, like starlight glittering off rippled water at the bottom of two deep wells. She knew that behind those eyes, there resided the mind of an extraordinary human being, capable of leading vast masses or touching the soul of a single person. Not for the first time, Elsa wondered if Abdullah’s involvement in their plight at this crucial point in the history of humanity was chance or actually divine intervention. If Elsa could have prayed for someone to come and help them right now, she would have prayed to God to send Abdullah. Goose bumps broke out on her skin.

‘I know,’ she said simply, ‘and don’t worry. I’ll be taking you up on that offer a few times before we get to the end.’

Abdullah bowed and placed his flat, upright palms together. Joe held his peace and indulged in the moment.

’Well, I’ll leave you two night owls to your politics,’ Elsa added. ‘I promised Kris I’d get up and watch her early session with Max tomorrow and we all know I’m not a morning person without a good night’s sleep.’

Masa`a al khair,’ Abdullah said. ‘Good night.’

’Good night, Abdullah,’ Elsa replied and then turning to Joe asked. ‘Will we see you tomorrow, Joe?’

‘In the morning, yes,’ Joe said in return, ‘but unfortunately I will be making my way back to Canberra around noon. Duty calls.’

’Okay. I’ll see you in the morning then. Good night.’

‘Good night, Elsa,’ Joe said smiling. ‘I hope you sleep well.’

Elsa smiled back and turned to walk from the balcony and back into the house. Abruptly, she stopped just inside the threshold and turned back. Joe looked up and saw again the aura enshrouding her. Abdullah also looked up.

’He’s okay you know?’ Elsa began. ‘Max I mean. I know he’s been a bit quiet the last couple of days since the incident, but give him a break. He just killed three men and that would shake up any of us. He’s been busy wrapping it around in his head in his own way, but he’s okay. He’s not about to lose the plot and go psycho or anything like that, so don’t worry about him. Max is fine, but what I said before is true. He needs to know he has everybody’s support and right now he knows that he does. Max has all the love he needs. As for him snapping out of it, my guess is tomorrow he’ll wake up and be the same old Max. Just wait and see.’

’We have been worried about him,’ Joe said gently.

’Well, don’t,’ Elsa offered back. ’He’s a good enough man for all of us and he will never let us down. Not ever. Worry about everything else, but don’t ever worry about Max.’

Abdullah bowed again, his silent action speaking louder than the words he could have spoken.

’Thank you, Elsa,’ Joe said. ‘Your words have earned our trust. Good night.’

Elsa cast her glance from man to man and then seeing their acceptance of her advice, turned and left. Joe and Abdullah stood silently for a few moments and then turned together to face each other. Abdullah spoke first.

’So, let us follow Elsa’s advice and find something else to worry about,’ he said.

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