September 10

Max tinkered with an updated design of the Exo-legs they'd begun working on at WayneTech. Having a team of people who were just as smart as him and with much more experience was truly a pleasure. Of course there were certain things that Max would not compromise on, much to the dismay of the adults, but some things had been updated.

Seeing how stubborn Max was, Bruce himself had told the other engineers to adhere closely to the boy's vision. That's not to say it couldn't be better, it could always be better. But at what cost?

Having that in mind, Max began development with the WayneTech engineers. Some were annoyed at having to follow his command, but he quickly proved that he knew what he was doing and talking about.

That garnered him, at least, some mutual respect.

Some of the guys he was working with were unsatisfied with the specs and power output of the device.

"It should be stronger! It should be faster! It can be better!" Those we're all true. But he wasn't making a super suit. He was making something for disabled people to regain something they'd lost. Nothing more, nothing less. It didn't have to be able to squat 1500+ pounds, it didn't need to be the most advanced, it didn't need to be any more than it already was.

Simple was cheap, and cheap meant more people could get their hands on it. The more people that could get it, the more that were helped. That's what he wanted to achieve here.

He shut down each and every modification that didn't fit. In the end he wound up with something that was exactly what he wanted it to be and then some.

One of the more experienced men suggested a carbon fiber reinforced plastic that added some durability and saved some weight, while keeping costs relatively low. With this, the design could be slimmed down a bit without losing any of its weather resistance or structural integrity.

Another had proposed the idea of a lithium

-ion battery instead of just a lithium battery. The difference was small, but huge for the average person. The standard lithium battery was a one time use and it only had enough juice to last just over 100 hours of continuous use. The lithium-ion had roughly the same run time, but it was rechargeable.

The end product was the sleek black beauty that he was placing his finishing touches on. Max admired the invention, noting that it looked like knee braces that extended up to the waits and down to the feet.

"When do you think we can begin testing?" Max asked one of the older men he worked with.

"Hopefully tomorrow. If everything is on track, we've got a few volunteers coming at around 12. Once we get a solid week of actual testing and make sure everything is safe, we may even be able to start production."

Max perked up at that, "That fast, huh? I expected this to be a much longer process…"

The man shrugged, "Normally yes, but you had a very clear rough draft that was already very usable. We just refined it a bit and now we have this," He gestured to their finished product, "The hard part is done, now we just have to make sure it works like we want and make any adjustments that are necessary."

"That makes me happy." He smiled, "I'll try to be back here by 12 tomorrow for the testing. That's not something I wanna miss."

The man he conversed with checked his watch, "You should probably get going then, it's almost 1 AM. Don't you have a curfew or something?"

The teens eyes widened, "ONE?! Why isn't this place closed?!" He scrambled grabbing all the things he brought with him.

"WayneTech runs 24 hours, I thought you'd know that."

"Oh man, I totally missed dinner… And Megan said she was making cookies for desert! Agh- Whatever, I'll be back tomorrow. Bye!" Max shuffled out of the room in a rush.

"Yea… Later." The man sighed, kids were just… Ugh.


September 14th, 9:30 AM

"Don't you have somewhere to be?" Conner asked in annoyance.

"Hmm, no… Not really. Does it make you uncomfortable that I watch you work? Oh, you might wanna adjust that line, it'll get caught if you don't." A week and some change had passed since Max had completed his AMD (Assisted Movement Device) and initial testing had gone very well. For the first few days, they tested for only a few hours at a time. But at the start of this past Monday, they had the volunteers stay on sight and try to use the AMD as they would at home.

They got to see just how user friendly it was while applying it to everyday life. Simulated everyday life at least. All that was left was to gather the final specks of data and wait for the OK to begin actual production.

This had left Max with a surplus of time, and since no one on the team had any specific requests, he was terribly bored. There were definitely things he could work on, his suit for example, but somehow bugging Superboy felt like it would be entertaining.

"You know, you crashed the bike I built you during the Amazo mission. You kinda owe me something."

Superboy seemed to shrink in on himself, "You said it was ok though…"

"I said that then… But now, I'm not so sure. Seems to me you're a pretty good mechanic, maybe you ought to pay me back."

Conner whipped his head back, "What? You didn't even pay for those! Batman fronted the expense!"

Max looked surprised before he clicked his tongue, "So you knew that…"

"Everyone does!"

"Well, whatever I guess. You still owe me, I gave you the best bike and you wrecked it…" Max went silent as he walked around to the other side of the bike and peeled off a fairing, exposing the other side of the motor.

Conner wasn't doing anything crazy, he'd just installed new brake pads and wanted to follow up with basic maintenance. The agenda called for a changing of the oil, the transmission fluid, and bleeding of the breaks. The hardest thing was switching the pads (which had already been done). Even though changing the fluids was arguably the easiest thing to do, it could be time consuming when you did it all at once.

Max enjoyed working on motors anyway. They were simple enough that he could tinker with them mindlessly. It was almost relaxing, going through these kinds of routine movements.

The younger teen placed a large bowl beneath the bike and with the crack of a nut, thick black oil poured out.

"How are things with M'gann…?" He asked

"M'gann? They're alright I guess." Conner sounded like he didn't really want to talk about it.

"Somehow, it's not very convincing when you say it like that."

The kryptonian sighed, "It's not really a big deal." He insisted, but Max simply stared at him unconvinced as he wiped his oil stained fingers on his shirt. "She's just- I don't know, she just has this idea that everything is so simple when it isn't!" He relented.

The brunette rose a brow, "Hmm, isn't it though? What could possibly be so complicated, you go to school, come back and fight crime. What's so hard?" He asked genuinely.

"..." Conner didn't answer, a mild scowl on his face.

Max oh'ed, realizing that it was more emotional than that, "... About Superman?"

"I don't really wanna talk about it."

"You don't even need that guy." Max said, "You're way-!"

"I don't wanna talk about it." The clone said a bit more forcefully. "You wouldn't understand anyway… You have a dad."

Max held his hands up in surrender, "Alright… Do you have the oil?"

Conner handed the bottle of preferred engine fluid over, "Sorry, let's talk about something else." The super teenager apologized for being so snappy.

"Sure!" They worked in silence for a moment, Max refilling the oil he drained and tightening both the exit and entrance. He then moved on to the transmission, following similar steps to the oil changing.

"Did you ask out Artemis? I saw you talking in the gym a few days ago."

The younger teen shook his head, "Sure didn't!" He seemed strangely happy about that.

"You make that sound like a good thing. You really plan to wait it out?"

Max shook his head, "Not really, but I got to thinking and realized that I've never really given Artemis a reason to like me."

"How do you mean?"

"The truth is, neither of us really know each other. Well, I know some stuff about her, but that's because I've been kinda interested in her from the start. I'm sure to her, I'm just the dorky lab rat that lives here. So I wanna take the time to show her I'm more than that. And when she acknowledges me, then I'll ask her out!" He explained jovially.

"Sounds complicated. But if you've got it all planned out, then good luck…" Conner kinda understood what he was saying, but he figured it really just boiled down to Max's insecurity with himself.

The clone wasn't one to judge though. If his younger friend felt that this was the way to win over his crush, then more power to him. He didn't really know any better himself.

"Try not to get yourself friendzoned."

"I'm surprised you know what that is… Please don't joke about it." Max said tensely. After that the two boys seemed content to work in silence.


September 18th, 6:00 PM

M'gann and Conner seemed a lot closer these days. Ever since they finished that mission going undercover in Belle Reve, the two aliens were almost inseparable.

It had gotten to the point that Max almost felt like he was third wheeling whenever they were around. So, he decided to head to the lab at WayneTech and check up on the testing. With the convenience of the Zeta Tubes, he could travel from Gotham back to the cave in literal seconds. So he wasn't worried about having to leave on a moment's notice.

Max sat at the edge of what looked like a physical rehabilitation room, a tablet in hand. His eyes skimmed the data while darting up to see various people working to get used to the AMD's they were issued.

They were of all shapes and sizes so that they could have the broadest sample size possible. Tall and short, thin and thick. Something that he hadn't taken into account was the differing body types. He was ignorant to have thought one size would fit all, but he and the team of scientists were quick to realize something like this couldn't be mass produced, it'd have to be tailored.

That of course had raised some issues of its own, but there were still certain things that could be prepared en masse.

"Max!" A man roughly 30 years old or so stiffly walked over to the boy. He kept a cam in hand, still unused to the artificial legs he wore.

Max perked up, "Mr. Abel! I'm glad they got you fitted!"

Cory Abel had been a neighbor to the West family for as long as the teen could remember. He was always kind and good natured, even putting up with Max and his impolite curiosity as a toddler.

Cory was one of the few that needed more specific measurements, he was deceptively tall.

"The guys here were quick about it, didn't take them more than a day! I'm afraid I'm having some problems adjusting though, haha! The other people look so natural with it and I'm still stumbling." He admired with embarrassment.

Max waved his concerns off, "I think you're doing perfectly fine. Yours is a little different from theirs, if you're having trouble it could indicate that one of the supports isn't working as intended. I'll look it over myself tonight!" He assured the man.

"I'd feel bad troubling you, I only came over here to thank you… Not to give you more work."

"Thank me? You don't have to, seeing that something I made is more or less working is all the thanks I need. I should probably be thanking you for agreeing to test them."

"How could I decline? It was an all expenses paid trip!" Truth be told, the man was nervous that he had to stay in Gotham of all places for a few days, but it wasn't so bad in the right areas.

"Bruce Wayne won't miss the money, so order all the room service you want!" Max snickered playfully.

"I always knew you were more devious than you let on!"


September 20th, 7:30 PM

Max observed the team from afar, they had team exercises that they went through about four times a week. It wasn't unlike a sports teams practice, they got together and drew up 'plays' and practiced executing them.

Kaldur called for a specific maneuver he dubbed 'bumblebee'. It involved using Artemis to lure an opponent into a compromising position, where Superboy would then sucker punch said opponent.

The dummy that had been set up stood no chance as Superboys fist tore through it.

"Uh sorry…" The kryptonian apologized.

Max waved it off and with the press of a button, another appeared with a hastily drawn face on it. He wasn't too interested in the practice itself, rather he focused on the teenaged heroes. Or more specifically, Aqualad.

"That one was good. Pair up and practice together. Since Robin isn't here, Kid and Artemis will be partners while Superboy and Miss Martian pair up." Aqualad instructed.

The tattooed young man hadn't been himself lately. He was always rather reserved, but kind and friendly when in company. Max couldn't put an exact time on it, but he knew it was recent that he'd noticed his friend started acting a little bit more distanced.

The atlantean seemed to observe them with cold calculation, his body language tense and conflicted. Max observed this in turn. Watching the watcher, as it were.

Aqualad let out a breath before relaxing, his expression softening.

"Something wrong Aqualad?"

He flinched in surprise, forgetting that the young West was there.

"Huh?" Kaldur turned to Max, "No, I was just thinking about…" He didn't finish his sentence, feeling like it was pointless to lie.

There were times Kaldur forgot just how intelligent Max was. Looking at his companions brown eyes, they gave off a feeling of just knowing. He briefly wondered how Max saw the world, was it all so simple and trivial?

He shook his head, no. He was just a kid, he was no different than Robin. He saw things just as they all did.

"Well, actually…" He hesitated to say it, but he didn't think Max was untrustworthy and he didn't know how much longer he could keep this particular secret to himself. "I've come across some information. It's possible that there is a mole in The Team."

Max widened his eyes briefly, "That's… Not good. Not good at all." He shifted his gaze to the others who worked diligently on the beach. Artemis and Wally bickered a bit, while Conner and M'gann seemed to enjoy each other's company.

One of these people was a mole? He couldn't see it, Robin couldn't be either. He was Batman's sidekick for god sake.

"Where did you get this information from?"

"The source, I can't vouch for its credibility… I heard it from Sportsmaster. I helped Speedy- Red Arrow," he corrected himself, "And Sportsmaster revealed that he had an inside man."

"You're right… Not a very credible source at all."

"To be honest, I'm not quite sure what to do. I don't think there's a double agent, but it's a risk right? I should investigate it, no matter how small the chances."

"And if it's a fake? If he knows about the team, then he's probably got some motive. If the plan is to cause inner conflict, then you'd be doing exactly as he wants. No one's ganna like having their allegiance questioned."

What a conundrum. The fact that Kaldur had told Max any of this at all proved that he was feeling cornered. The atlantean was intelligent and wouldn't have risked informing the mole otherwise.

"I know…" Kaldur said in soft irritation.

"Sorry that I can't be of more help…" Max apologized, "I'll let you know if I see anything strange."

Kaldur nodded and Max separated from the older teen. His stressed visage brought an old phrase to mind, 'Heavy is the head that lies the crown'.

"Perhaps Red Tornado will have some advice for me…" The atlantean thought. He didn't see anyone of his teammates as imposters, so for now he'd continue to put his trust in them.


September 22, 7:00 PM

Max fooled around in his trusty notebook. It was a simple sketch pad, although it's contents were far from simple. Each page had a concept that he'd thought up at some point, everything from his super suit, to little medic bots, and even little handcuffs.

He wondered if he'd live long enough to bring every one of his concepts to life. The sketch book was old and worn, but it housed each and every sliver of creativity the young man had.

Max tapped the lead of his pencil against the paper and crossed out the two bullet points he jotted. "No… I'd just run into the same issue that way." At the moment he was working on a variation of the nano-machines he put together not too long ago.

Claytronics and programmable matter had been a concept for some years now, but Max felt that he could really contribute something to the field if he could apply what research he already had to it. Something about it still felt incomplete though, perhaps he should talk to someone more experienced?

His mind immediately jumped to Serling Roquette, the scientist behind the development of 'The Fog'. She succeeded there so she certainly had some insight to offer.

The teen shook his head and shut the book, it wasn't all that serious anyways. The only thing it would really be useful for was 3D modeling things right in front of you, instead of virtually. It could be useful for engineers or architects, but it didn't have much purpose beyond that. At least, in Max's mind.

The door to his lab hissed open and in rolled Sphere, still styled with the flamey paint job it got out of black mail.

"What brings you here, Sphere?" The round robot beeped and Max patted it before his eyes seemed to sparkle, "You wouldn't have come by just have little old me see what's under that shell, would you?"

The ball of metal beeped in what could be interpreted as fright before backing away slowly.

"Don't be scared, I promise I'll be gentle." Max picked up a flathead and a hammer, a menacing aura contradicting his smile.

Sphere rolled in desperation, bursting out of the room. Max would have been in hot pursuit had he not run face first into a red, firm, metal torso.

"Ohh, ouch… Sorry Red, I didn't… Hey, you aren't Red Tornado." He realized. This robot was much more slim and feminine, having a swell to 'her' metallic bosom.

"No, I'm not." The subtle spark of flames told Max that she wasn't friendly either.

Acting on instinct, the small teen jumped to the side and rolled as a torrent of flames burst forth scorching spot he was previously. He froze for a moment as realized he was just attacked, and with deadly intent too.

"W-What should I do? I should run-! Wait if she's here, then where are the others?!" He thought in worry.

While he seemed to be frozen, Sphere came rolling a breakneck pace and smashed its body into the androids.

Firebot, as Max had decided to address it, flew down the hall skidding on the floor before catching its footing. It blasted off its feet at the two using its affinity with fire to propel itself forward. Max ducked beneath her, wincing as the flames licked skin.

"Sphere! In the lab!" Max ran to his lab, keeping it open so Superboy's pet robot followed after him. "Aiva, emergency lock! Set the threat level to red!"

The doors to his lab slammed shut just as Firebot rammed her shiny red head into it. Another layer of steel dropped down as extra protection, but judging by the pure heat he could feel bleeding through, he wasn't sure how long they'd hold.

"Mr. West, I can't seem to get in touch with any outside resources. Communications are down."

Sphere rolled around beeping erratically, clearly in worry.

Max was just as frantic, mind moving a million miles per hour. Of course there'd be some kind of communication interference, what a pain in the ass. The cave systems were garage, he should've been more insistent on having Aiva take over.

"Mr. West, door integrity at less than 50% and falling."

The brown haired kid looked over noting the glowing orange spot on the door. The crazy bot was melting through quicker than he anticipated.

"Pull out project Metal." He commanded, "I know it isn't done, but that's the only way I'll be able to protect myself right now."

The table parted lifting up the MKII, he wasn't able to come up with a more solid design since the last time so he was stuck using this one. To make matters worse, it was half torn apart so that he could try and make subtle changes.

Max stepped as close as he could to it and let Aiva speedily begin to assemble the suit on his body.

"You think you can help me out, Sphere?" His large, spherical, robot friend beeped in affirmation, "Great. When this robo lady gets through, I'm ganna smack her six ways to sunday. When you spot the opening go find the others, if they need help stay out of it until I get there. We're ganna have to work together here. Aiva, what do the zeta tube logs look like."

The little arms that helped him placed the final panel and Max walked up to the computer, hoping to gather as much information as he could.

"Unfortunately, I don't have access to that. Additionally, the cameras are all down. Destroyed, I'm afraid. I can, however, access the recordings."

Max perked over his shoulder the metal door warping with the heat, "Show just before they were destroyed, we don't have much time."

The AI did as instructed and Max watched as Kaldur subtly interrogated M'gann, Conner, and Wally. That got Max thinking.

The Firebot looked a hell of a lot like Red Tornado, where even was the big red tin can? Perhaps Kaldur was questioning the wrong people.

Max grimaced as he watched the four of them be surprised attacked by both fire and water, the cameras going out shortly after.

"That clears that up. Sphere change of plans, locate the others. They got attacked by water and fire, so there's a good chance there's another intruder. Don't engage. Gather the info you can and wait for me. We're not trying to defeat them, just make time so we can save the others or get help." He devised.

"I didn't see Robin or Artemis. Hopefully I can count on them for back up, when I need it." He thought.

Max breathed in deeply through his nose, the burning metal door smelled strongly. It reminded him of welding, but there were more important things to worry about right now.

He let out a shaky breath as his gauntleted hands picked up his helmet and placed it over his head, locking it in place. The systems booted up unstably, it shouldn't have been a surprise but Max grimaced at it nonetheless. He practically stripped the MKII after finding that it wasn't what he needed. It was very barebones at the moment.

"Mr. West, I don't have access to the suit at the moment and many of the regulatory systems are down," The AI dutifully informed her creator.

"I know, what is the estimated operational time?"

"Around 20-30 minutes. But you have to be mindful of overheating, we removed a lot of the heat shields to adjust the wiring."

Of course overheating would be the main problem when they were fighting a robot that could turn into a torch at any given moment.

"Lucky me." Max said sarcastically, his voice was slightly distorted due to the suit. He moved his arms, testing the mobility and twisted his back. "Remember Sphere, locate and gather information. Nothing else."

The sphere beeped and Max anxiously bounced in place. If there was a time to battle test his suit, it certainly wasn't right now, but not everything went according to plan. That was just one of life's rules.


Done!

I'm pretty excited for the next chapter, so hopefully I have that out shortly. This will finally be the start of Max's journey as a hero. Also, do you all like the timestamps? I think they'll help me keep a better track of things honestly, so I'll try to include them more often.

I don't have much to say here other than that. I'll see you next chapter!

Lataaa!